31 Songs

A couple of years ago I came across Michael Whitworth’s 31 Songs blog in which, every day for a month, he would post a short article about a song and his relationship to it. The exercise, as he described it, was

a way of trying out an approach that’s different from the scholarly writing that I do as a lecturer: freer, more impressionistic, more autobiographical, and more evaluative, though hopefully still imbued with a desire to get the facts right.  It was also a way of finding out how to write about popular music.

It struck me as a wonderful idea, not so much as a way of developing another style, parallel but different to academic writing, but as a way of acquiring certain habits that might, with luck, leach into one’s scholarly writing (not least writing a little every day).

Each day through January, I’ll post a short piece about a different song. As a guide, I’ll be following the labels Michael used, tho’ not necessarily in the same order, and subject to change at whim. Also, I don’t have the expertise to limit myself to a single artist like he did. It will, I hope, get me used to writing a bit more personally, a little less hampered by fear of the first person, or of making aesthetic judgments. And most of all, having badly fallen out of the habit when my children where born, it should serve as a New Year’s Resolution to find some time in my day for music.

1: The first record I bought: Scott Joplin, ‘Gladiolus Rag’
2: Guitar solo: The Pretenders, ‘Kid’

3: Title: Bert Jansch, ‘Tinker’s Blues’
4: On loudness: The Stooges, ‘Search and Destroy’
5: Reminds you of somewhere: St Etienne, ‘Mario’s Cafe’
6: Cover version: The Beach Boys, ‘Sloop John B’
7: A song with a name in the title: The Kinks, ‘Do You Remember Walter?’
8: A song about travelling: Glen Campbell, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’
9: Siren songs: The Sweet, ‘Block Buster!’
10: A song about a hat: Mississippi John Hurt, ‘Stack O’Lee Blues’
11: A song about death: David Bowie, ‘My Death’
12: Favourite song from least favourite album: Happy Mondays, ‘Stinkin Thinkin’
13: On interpretation: Nico, ‘These Days’
14: An instrumental: Joseph Spence, ‘There Will be a Happy Meeting in Glory’
15: Song from an album I liked less over time: Neil Young, ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’
16: A song about cities: Petula Clark, ‘Downtown’
17: Song with a number in the title: U2, “40”
18: Ending: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘She’s So Fine’
19: A song that makes you laugh out loud: Dexy’s Midnight Runners: ‘This is What She’s Like’
20: TV theme song: David Croft and Ronnie Hazlehurst: ‘Are You Being Served?’
21: A song about the blues: Nick Drake: ‘Black Eyed Dog’
22: Live Song: The Who: ‘Listening to You’ (Live at Woodstock)
23: Intro
24: Closer on an album
25: A song about music
26: Title alludes to a film
27: A song you disliked at first (but came to like)
28: Guest appearance
29: A song about the weather
30: A song with a day of the week in the title
31: If I could choose just one