During lockdown I was lucky enough to be in my little flat in South London with my partner, my cat and a very teeny roof terrace. I was furloughed from my job within a matter of weeks and so very quickly my days became very empty – finally some space for music: a strange silver lining to a scary and isolating time. I listened to more music and I made more music, a whole album in fact. I noticed that I was writing songs that sounded old and listening to old songs again, I suppose because it was comforting and familiar in unfamiliar times. Rather than feeling the need to push forward I allowed myself the comfort of turning my back on time and looking back through the years of music that I have loved since I was a child. I would add that there are a couple of new tracks in this list – but they in themselves are filled with a beautiful nostalgia and seemed to speak easily to the older tracks too.
1. Neil Young – Out on the Weekend
This is one of my all time favourite Neil tracks. It breaks my heart every time. All his music is full of great open spaces to me, so it was magical to be transported out of a small flat and into some great expanse far away.
2. Fairport Convention/Sandy Denny – Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Her voice is truly heavenly in this track and the lyrics seemed to work well in the drifting Groundhog days of lockdown.
3. Bedouine – The Hum
This track, although a new release, is an old song. Written in 1972 by Margo Guryan the lyrics couldn’t be more perfect for the pandemic. Bedouine’s version of it is perfect – simple, funny & dark. I highly recommend you go and look up the lyrics to fully appreciate the brilliance of this track.
4. Elliot Smith – Angeles
It took me a while to get into Elliot Smith but now I am obsessed like a teenager. His writing and arrangements are so intricate and beautiful. I particularly love the progressions he writes. I have my phone alarm set to play Angeles to wake me up. I have been waking up to that track for half of my life! It came on in a TV series I was watching during lockdown and it confused me beyond belief, it has sort of become the soundtrack to my consciousness.
5. Sun Kil Moon – Alesund
I love a story song and what better time to get stuck into a really long track. This one is beautiful from start to finish, and again has a power of transportation – it takes me far away. I have never been to Alesund, I would love to go someday, listening to this track over the years has given me an idea of what it might be like.
6. Nina Simone – I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good
A Duke Ellington classic, sung and played by the genius Nine Simon. There’s a section in this song with one of my all-time favourite changes – I just thought about trying to describe at what point in the song it happens… but you should go and listen to the whole things anyway.
7. Aretha Franklin – Call me
I saw a ballet once that had this song in it, and I think I will forever have the dancers in mind when it plays. When I was very young, I was very obsessed with Aretha. She is the queen. Whenever I don’t know what I want to listen to I go back to her and everything is okay again.
8. Simon and Garfunkel – American Tune
I think that their other song about America is probably more famous – I love it too – but this one is more epic and more comforting, I think. It captures a world-weariness that set in over lockdown, the line “weary to my bones” comes to mind.
9. Nick Drake – Time Has Told Me
“Your tears they tell me
There’s really no way
Of ending your troubles
With things you can say..”
10. John Prine – Bruised Orange (chain of sorrow)
I don’t really think of myself as an angry person, but I do sometimes feel myself slipping into anger when it perhaps should be sadness. I can never make my mind up about anger. Is it helpful to feel like that in order to bring about change – yes. Equally, as wonderful John points out, “a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter..” I guess it has pros and cons. There is a lot of anger out and about at the moment and this song came back into my mind whilst reading streams and streams of deeply horrible tweets. We can be so cruel and unforgiving to each other – I’m sure it’s the internet and disconnection that aggravates it.
11. John Martyn – Don’t Want to Know
I was only going to do 10 songs but I had to include this one. It sums up where I got to by the end of lockdown: head in the sand, barely able to read the news. There’s only so much we each can take and people have different capacities for this stuff. I know I need to protect myself somewhat, we all do. We are no good to anyone if we don’t look after ourselves, and sometimes looking after yourself has to include limiting the amount of information we take in.