Tracy Chapman 'Tracy Chapman'
Up until the age of five or six, we frequented Aldborough on 'holiday' in a family group. I remember fish and chips, toy sail boats, and a pebbled beach. I remember being attacked by geese taller than me, pictures capturing the look of pure fear on my face. Fuck knows who was taking pictures rather than saving me, but something scarred me further.
Returning from a day out somewhere forgettable, it's dark and pissing down. A hard rain nightmare that scares a kid because it’s never going to end.
Including myself, five travel in our car, driven by my old man. To the side appears an old lady, hunched over in an attempt to walk home against the storm battering her. Alongside the sea front, she staggers. Should morning come, she'll still be walking, if the night refrains from killing her.
At five, I don't care for anyone I don't know. Everyone else in the car, naive, caring adults, are swayed by sympathy. My old man slows down, a window is wound down and the old lady, decrepit and drenched, is offered a lift home. I’m screaming in the back as I'm sat on someone's lap to make way for the stranger, the haggard woman who'll somehow now muster the strength to kill us all.
Tracy Chapman's 1988, self titled, debut album soundtracks this night and every Aldborough day. Alongside the inevitable 'Fast Car' (Dad's Ford Escort wasn't), listening to ‘Behind The Wall' startles now as it did then, all be it in a very different way. When Chapman sung "last night I heard the screaming" she heard me that night.
As the years passed the album remained on Dad's rotation. I finally believed that the voice of Chapman belonged to a woman, and listening to the lyrics rather than just hearing them, a truly awful tale unravels of domestic abuse. The song made me aware of such a darkness, Chapman's haunting vocal delivered through tears.
After the Gold Rush - Neil Young
The Sunday morning grey of the early Nineties winter is constant. Punctured by the pungent smells of industrial East London, my Dad drives me to Westward Boys next fixture in the Newham Youth League. Setting off from Holborn, we were often accompanied by Neil Young's 'After The Goldrush'.
I didn't like it then. Although I did wonder why Neil would only love his woman 'till the morning came.... The whiney vocals were more an annoyance, pinned down by repetitive plays which belied the fact that 'Gold Rush' had already been with my Dad for twenty years.
It seeped in. When I was found to care for music in my early teens, my old man was still playing the album as we drove to Saturday morning matches for my secondary school over Hackney Marshes. Lyrics were now ingrained without me ever realising it.
Delicately dark and beautiful, the story telling of 'Gold Rush' remains the Sunday morning album of choice.
''Hunky Dory' David Bowie
Late teens, and Oasis have introduced me to “proper music.” I've a thirst for everything they do, lapping up every release and scouring the newsagent for the merest hint of quote from Noel or Liam. Through this, you naturally discover musicians whom they held in high esteem themselves. From the Roses to Dylan.
As a B-side to 'D'you Know What I Mean', Noel covers 'Heroes' by David Bowie. I know my old man likes Bowie. He flicks through his precious LP's, as I would do from there on, looking for anything to open my expanding ears.
'Hunky Dory' is pulled out. A sublimely named album, the 'needle hits the groove' to 'Changes'. I've heard it before, but I didn't care until now, and now' 'Life on Mars?' is taking me away. Radio 2 wonderfully described it as "a cross between a Broadway Musical and a Salvador Dali painting".
A fantasy with a common frustration with the world at its lyrical core which a listener of any generation can relate to.
'Everything's shit, I've pissed off Mum and Dad, the movies do nothing for me, they don't provide an escape. Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow" and "the Lawman is beating up the wrong guy".
Fuck this - I'm going to Mars.