Ian Rankin: 50 Songs I Love

His main character Rebus is a massive music fan but what does the author love? Van Morrison, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and the rest.
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His main character Rebus is a massive music fan but what does the author love? Van Morrison, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and the rest.

404

Off the top of my head. No rhyme or reason. Just a bunch of songs I could happily live with and which maybe meant something to me at some time in my life.

1. Soul Train - Swansway

This is just so darned catchy. I like a good cello riff.

2. German Film Star - The Passions 

Loved this from the first time I heard it. An underrated band. Dream-fuelled stuff.

3. Silver Machine - Hawkwind

Probably want this played at my funeral. One of the first singles I ever bought, and I still play it.

4. Metropolis - Kraftwerk

This harks back to student bedsits and wishing it was the future.

5. Ankle Shackles - King Creosote

A bit more cello here. Knockout recent song from KC.

6. Cloudbusting - Kate Bush

Oh, go on then, another cello if you must. Hypnotic.

7. United - Throbbing Gristle

The mellow sound of TG. A real winner.

8. Next - Alex Harvey

This song counted as sex education when I was 14. Version on OGWT knocked me out of my chair.

9. Solid Air - John Martyn

If you need just one toke-heavy song about Nick Drake...

10. Snow in San Anselmo - Van Morrison 

When I thought I was going off my nut on a beach in Scarborough, this reeled me in.


11. Step Right Up - Tom Waits

A song so brilliant, I wrote a story about it.

12. Sympathy for the Devil - Rolling Stones 

Just the perfect soundtrack to its times.

13. The Needle and the Damage Done - Neil Young

Mostly for the live version he did on MTV's Unplugged.

14. Death Is Not The End - Nick Cave

A song so good I named a novella after it. Then found out it was actually written by Dylan.

15. Dancing Barefoot - Patti Smith

A rare hit single for Ms Smith.

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16. Psycho Killer - Talking Heads

Made me wish I'd done better at French in school, so I could be as cool as my fellow Scot, David Byrne.

17. Atmosphere - Joy Division

I had a ticket to see them play Edinburgh. Then Ian Curtis killed himself and left this song behind.

18. I Travel - Simple Minds

Local heroes caught just prior to stadium success.

19. Exit Wounds - Jackie Leven

Troubadour and Celtic spirit. RIP Jackie.

20. A Case of Vinyl - Tim Burgess 

Lovely stuff, with added crackle, from an ace solo album.


21. Tinseltown - Blue Nile

A love song to Glasgow, expansive and knowing.

22. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

Laying Syd's ghost to rest.

23. Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot

A great voice and telling lyricist, so underrated.

24. Heroes - David Bowie

Because I heard the story from Tony Visconti's own mouth.

25. Perfect Day - Lou Reed

If you've ever had one, this captures how you probably felt.


26. Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles

Shows their debt to George Martin but also a wondrous piece of storytelling.

27. 5:15 - The Who

Standout few minutes from my favourite album of theirs.

28. Paranoid - Black Sabbath

Heavy metal's national anthem.

29. A Forest - The Cure

Soundtrack to a film you wish you'd seen.

30. Metal Guru - T Rex

It was always T Rex for me rather than Slade. Played this to death when I bought it.


31. Le Freak - Chic 

Disco grabbed me for a short time in my school teens. Might still dance to this.

32. I Feel Love - Donna Summer

Oh, all right, I'd dance to this one, too...

33. Green Onions - Booker T

He was how old when he wrote it? At that age, I was still reading Commando comics.

34. Wipe Out - Surfaris

My sister had an album of rock n roll songs, this was the one I loved.

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35. Miserlou - Dick Dale

Another great guitar instrumental.

36. Live and Let Die - Wings

Operatic and a rare, great James Bond theme.

37. The Saints Are Coming - The Skids

My local punk band; bounced around to this on many an occasion.

38. Connection - Montrose

Great cover of a not-great Stones song.

39. In A Broken Dream - Python Lee Jackson

Some of Rod Stewart's finest work.

40. In A Broken Dream - Kathryn Williams

Lovely version, redefines the song.

41. Everybody's Talking - Harry Nilsson

I love his voice and love the film (Midnight Cowboy).

42. Theme from The Persuaders - John Barry

Loved the TV show as a kid; terrific theme tune, too.

43. Willow's Song - Isobel Campbell

Breathtaking arrangement of song from The Wicker Man.

44. The Ace of Spades - Motörhead

Lemmy at full-throttle. Bracing.

45. Dreamer - Supertramp

From criminally under-rated Crime of the Century album.

46. The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again - Caravan

Pervy prog sugar-coated and sweet.

47. All the Young Dudes - Mott the Hoople

So much better than Bowie's original.

48. Medicine Show - BAD

Paving the way for Gorillaz.

49. No Time - The Saints

Garage doesn't get more furious than this.

50. The Copper Top - Aidan Moffat/Bill Wells

Unutterably moving and humane blast against old mortality.