Seventeen is the golden age. School is sort of tough, but it's sixth form which means you get to wear better clothes and can get away with nipping out for fags during classes. A proper working life is vaguely twinkling in the distance, but for the time being you can just ride out the haziest years of your teens.
Songs from then resonate in the most rose-tinted of ways: they remind you of when life was a generally simpler beast, full of first times and lost loves. Opportunity seemed to present itself at every corner and experience was greeted wide-eyed, but shot through with enough life nous for you to be able to process it properly.
Here’s the tunes that remind me of them glory days.
Ludacris - Growing Pains
A ridiculously sentimental hip-hop tune, with a lazy beat that lends it the kind of melancholy you only get when looking wistfully at years passed.
The lyrics comprise of Ludacris and Co reminiscing about the highs and lows of early days in the hood, of kicking it with your pals and the unshakeable desire to grow up. It’s also got one of the most eminently sing-a-longable chorus’ in memory: “We was trying so hard, hard to survive/No matter what we went through, it was me and crew/When we were kids.”
This always got played in my mate Nick’s 205; five of us crammed in, hoofing shotties that we’d hide in different car parks around town, eyes so bloodshot it looked like we’d been having a communal weep at the end-of-innocence undertones inherent in the song.
Stereophonics – Mr Writer
I know I know. I know. I KNOW. This is off J.E.E.P, the worst acronymic album title in history; one so blunt and rooted in sixth form idealogy that Wayne Rooney considered it profound enough to get tattooed. But this came out as I was getting to know the first girl I thought I loved. My mates and I used to go round Sally's house when her parents were out. We’d all get shitfaced before she and I went upstairs for sexual adventures that didn’t last very long. In the morning we used to get woken up by Sally's brother playing this really loud again and again, and I would curse him name whilst doing anything I could to bring her to the attention of my morning lob.
Sally left me for a barman we met on holiday, called Greg. Greg, if you’re reading this: I haven’t forgotten about you, pal.
Dead Prez- Hip Hop
The shuddering loop of its bassline was a staple in every free-house gathering around then, and yours truly could be found doing the outstretched hand bob that mates who knew about hip-hop all seemed to favour. Another car song, made all the more better coming out of the sub-woofer in Nick’s 205. A rattling back window was the ultimate LADEEZ-LOOK sign when you were cruising into the school car park, especially in summer when you could twin it with the arm-tensed-and-hooking-on-the-roof trick.
The Strokes- Last Nite
I remember sitting round my mate Dan’s house, prefacing playing this with a theory that it was probably the best song ever. If they didn’t agree with the conclusion, it surely meant that they were utter cunts and probably into Craig David. (‘Fill Me In’ was huge around then: I hated it, but having a listen back now it’s much better than Pied Piper.)
Much has been made of The Strokes being a hashmark moment in recent musical history, and that their debut album Is This It paved the way for every band playing ramshackle rock and roll 2001 thru 2011. I agree and think they should be rightly feted for this, even if The Pigeon Detectives are partly their fault.
Scooter- When I Was Young
Me and my mates did a two-weeker in Faliraki just before I was 18. For a week it was a teen dream, but by day 10 I wanted out and was greeting the morning like a suicide Tuesday at Westboro Church.
Worst of all was the shower of shit the barman in our hotel deemed appropriate to blast out of his speakers all day. This Supertramp cover really might be the worst song ever made. You remember the high-pitched vocals in Eiffel-65’s ‘Blue’, like they’ve autotuned a chipmunk with its knackers in a vice? Well that sounds positively operatic in comparison to this. My mate Paul fucking loved it, genuinely and without irony, and harmonied on the chorus every time as he swaggered round the pool, slicking his hair back with his favourite comb. Don’t see him anymore.
Ryan Adams- New York, New York
I found Gold-the album ‘New York, New York’ is lifted from- on the HMV Recommends rack that used to be halfway down my Maidstone store. This was in the years when the internet was in its relative infancy- music blogs were so-so. Pitchfork and DiS were there but babies, and Napster had just been shut down. Thus the Recommends rack was one rung below NME and Q when it came to finding out about new albums. To be honest, I just thought Adams looked cool on the cover, and this record seemed to sit in-between my Jeff Buckley infatuation, long-established Beatles love and first-stage Dylan tinkering.
Gold came out two weeks after 9/11, and it would be suitably grand to make some personal connection between the two (especially in light of MTV’s appropriation of the song as a demi-anthem in the wake of the events in New York) but that would be a bastardisation of the truth. However, what’s true is that nearly 13 years on it still sounds completely special; the undulating organ; the chaos in the final few bars; Adams happier than he’d be on record for a long time as he ruminated on moving on, but safekeeping a bit of himself in the city that stole his heart. Looking retrospectively, it was perfect for the time.