Our family song – Candylion by Gruff Rhys

My seventh music memory, one a day over seven days

Long journeys by car were a nightmare when our kids were toddlers. Nursery rhymes are great for getting the buggers to sleep. But they do grate as in-car audio entertainment, especially on a five-hour trip to Cornwall. Frére Jacques is a lovely tune. But it does lose its appeal after you’ve heard it three times before you’ve even hit Swindon.

We had a CD called Travelling Songs. It was a big favourite with everyone apart from me, the grouch at the wheel. Then in 2007, when the kids were five and three, Gruff Rhys released an album called Candylion. The title track is a little package of joy, a confection of perfection. It achieves that rare thing, a nursery rhyme that appeals to adults and children alike. I haven’t listened to the lyrics carefully, but the song seems innocent enough. It brings to life a fuzzy felt world where a lion roars the time and doesn’t eat anyone, where carnations rhyme with dalmatians. And that’s alright with me.

The kids are 14 and 11 now. And thankfully, they’re happier playing on their iPads than singing along to I’m a Little Teapot. Typically, the car CD player no longer works. I still listen to Candylion every day though – it’s my alarm song. Not a wise a choice as it always sends me back to sleep. But I can’t think of a better way to start the day.


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Our wedding song – It’s now or never by Elvis Presley

My sixth music memory, one a day over seven days

We wanted our wedding to be informal, light-hearted and fun. And we were lucky to hold it at Polhawn Fort on Rame Head in Cornwall. The fort was cosy, but had an air of solidity and grandeur. It also had the added benefit of not being a church.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the music for the day. I needed a song for Hazel’s entrance and her walk down the aisle. This was spot on for the occasion. It has a brief choral intro, which is almost holy in a pop kind of way. Think of a Gregorian chant transposed to the fifties and you’ll know what I mean. Then things relax before Elvis comes in and belts out ‘It’s now or never’… It had the desired effect. Reverent hush at the beginning followed by a bellyful of laughs.

When Hazel appeared I could feel myself welling up. I thought I was going to blub, and this had been my biggest fear about the day. I looked away until she was up close and next to me. We held hands, she smiled, and I knew that everything was going to be ok.


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My travelling song – E=MC2 by Big Audio Dynamite

My fifth music memory, one a day over seven days.

I struggled with freedom at Cassio College, but after working for two years as a Management Trainee at Nationwide Building Society, it was all I wanted. I resigned and went to Israel to live on a kibbutz in the Southern Negev Desert. I stayed nearly six months before tree planting in Northern Ontario, Canada.

The first line of E=MC2 captures the experience of travelling perfectly: ‘Somebody I never met but in a way I know.’ Strangers become friends. People you’d never meet in a million years on your own doorstep change the way you see the world. And then new friends introduce you to their friends, and one trip leads to another.

Whenever I hear this I think of wide open spaces and endless possibilities. For me, it’s about escape, adventure, and having an incredibly positive outlook on life. Life is there for the taking, so grab it by the balls.


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My lazy song – I’m only sleeping by The Beatles

My fourth music memory, one a day over seven days.

I left school to do my A Levels at Cassio College, Watford. We were treated like grown ups there, and could come and go as we pleased. This freedom of movement was both intoxicating and unnerving. I liked the fact that I could just come in for lessons and leave early. But it also felt strange, like I was bunking off. I was conflicted. I wanted to be treated like an adult, but I also took comfort in structure and routine.

I had one lesson on Wednesdays. It started at 11am and finished at 11.45. I had a lie in, but still found it hard to get up on time. I’ve never been a morning person, and have always felt more alert and alive in the night time.

‘I’m only sleeping’ isn’t the best song on Revolver, but it was the one I identified with most at that point in my life. It’s dreamy of course, but Lennon wrote it as a plea to be left alone. It’s world weary and melancholic. It struck a chord with me as I was lazy at Cassio, and didn’t work as hard as I could have done. And, if I’m honest, I was happier at school: surrounded by my childhood friends, constrained by rules and regulations, and not having to cope with my new found freedom.


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My dancing song – Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

The third of seven music memories, one a day over the next week.

I remember the first time I saw this on Top of the Pops. Kevin Rowland and the band were wearing dungarees and singing while walking through the back streets of Dublin. At least I think it was Dublin because this was Celtic Soul. They were Brummies though, so they were probably wandering round Wolverhampton.

It’s fair to say that this is not that popular these days. My friend Jane said she wanted to have it played as the first dance at her wedding. She was taking the piss.

But I loved it back in the early eighties. It put a spring in my step, and it got me up on the dance floor. This was a rare: I didn’t dance, couldn’t dance. But when this came on, I was up there with the best of them. And it was communal, like a modern day hokey cokey. There we we were, arm in arm, singing our tits off, drunk, swaying, sweaty, and happy.

There were no clubs back then. Not really. We went to discos in church halls. And I might not love ‘Eileen’ as much as I did, but it still makes me smile. We were young. We were silly. And we were just having fun.


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My drinking song – Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino

The second of seven music memories, one a day over the next week.

My older brother Steve took me down to his local for the first time. I was 16. The Gate in Bricket Wood was well-known for underage drinking. Ron the landlord was a fearsome craggy man carved out of flint. He didn’t like us youngsters one bit, but he liked our money, so an uneasy truce held sway.

Steve strode up to the bar and ordered a Light & Bitter. I went for a Lager Shandy. I slunk into the shadows of the snug, eager to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. The jukebox glowed in the corner, a beacon of light within the gloom. It had three decent tunes, one of them was Blueberry Hill. I popped my 10p into the slot, the turntable creaked into life, and Fats began to sing, ‘ I found my thrill…’

It’s all about sex of course, but for me, it’s all about drinking. A celebration of inebriation. That loose-limbed dumb burst of joy you get when you gulp down your first drink of the day. Drinkers of the world unite, I thought, you have nothing to lose but your brains.

I felt ten foot tall, and joined my brother at the bar.


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My first single – Tiger Feet by Mud

The first of seven music memories, one a day over the next week.

I head up to the record department on the first floor in WH Smith, Watford. It’s January 1974. I’m nine years old. The top selling album is Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, but I want the No.1 single.

I shuffle up to the counter, it’s made of pine and comes right up to my neck. I look up and say to the assistant, ‘Have you got Tiger Feet?’ She looks down slowly for comic effect. ‘No’, she says, ‘I haven’t got tiger feet.’ She laughs at her own gag. It’s a well-practised routine and she’s got it down to a tee. ‘But’, she adds, almost kindly, ‘you can have the single by Mud if you want.’ I’ve gone slightly red and gratefully accept her offer.

I’m glad to get away. And I think, the counter was so high, she could’ve had tiger feet for all I know.



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