There are obviously a lot of songs that you listen to throughout your whole life. The question is what sticks to your mind? What do you actually hang on to? And what do you really remember several years down the line. I hate facebook chain mails and I hate how Buzzfeed et al tend to accumulate lists and sell them as journalism. What I liked about this particular idea though is that taking your time to think about this lays out a map of who you are. So this list is quite a personal one but I’m sure everyone out there can relate to some parts. Maybe you’ll even start thinking about your own list. 10 songs is not an awful lot but it narrows down the possibilities and forces you to make decisions. It’s like going back to the Beatles who only had 4-tracks to record some of the best pop music written. I’m not saying this is the grand list of pop, but it’s mine. It’s a big part of the soundtrack to my life so far.
1. Spider Murphy Gang – Schickeria
My love for Bayern Munich is no secret to most of my friends. But this song has nothing to do with the fanclub but with one of my earliest music memories. I can recall sitting on my dads leather chair as a small kid, singing along and miming playing the guitar to this. ‚Schickeria‘ is the opening song of the bands 1981 album ‚Dolce Vita‘, an album that spent 91(!) weeks in the German charts. It’s not the biggest hit, that was reserved for ‚Skandal im Sperrbezirk‘, a song about a callgirl in Munich. It was the first record I owned, after my parents handed me down the album on tape. It was a worn out, nicotine yellow tape and when I revisited the song recently, I have to admit, it’s not a song written for a young kid. I didn’t understand it back then, when Günther Sigl sang about people doing cocaine now rather than smoking weed. It’s a perfect time-capsule for the start of the 1980s, when hippies made way for the yuppi generation. When people became more concerned about their own wealth and well being than taking the streets against war or for equal rights. And unfortunately we still see and feel the remainders of that time today, I would argue.
2. The Offspring – Self Esteem
Back in the day, MTV still showed music videos, do you remember kids? I recall getting a glimpse of The Offspring’s ‚Pretty Fly (for a White guy)‘ and my sister calling it dirty because of how the girls at the pool were dancing. That was back in 1998 and maybe it even had something to do with my sister hating it, but I wanted to hear more. I somehow got hold of the album (either my mom bought it, or my aunt, I don’t remember for sure) and at the same day I stopped listening to my Backstreet Boys, Blümchen and Lou Bega CDs. Instead I started digging in my local department store for albums by Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords. It was not until a few years later, on a family holiday we spent in Berlin that I bought ‚Smash‘. By then I had spent numerous hours reading the lyrics in booklets looking up the meaning of English words I didnt understand. The record store that I bought this album at was a ‚World of Music‘ branch on Kuhrfürstendamm, the main high-street in Western Berlin. Unfortunately it followed the same fortune as Virgin Megastores or Tower Records did elsewhere. Back then I know until this day that my dad and me spotted former Germany international footballer Dariusz Wosz at the counter.
The song is a classic and I know all the words by heart, as do thousands of others. For me the song also sums up one of my biggest friendships back then. He had an older brother who was really into Offspring and that brought Johannes and me together. While he went on to prefer NOFX and other Fat Wreck bands, I started digging into Pennywise and the Epitaph catalogue, nurturing my interest in hardcore which then lead to other genres. But that’s another story.
Johannes moved to Switzerland and got involved in the local Hip-Hop scene, while it took me several more years until I let go off guitar music and opened my mind for pop, rap and even electro.
3. Hot Water Music – 220 Years
Up until this day there is no other album that I can listen to when I’m sad, and it makes me feel better. That I can listen to when I’m fine, and it makes me feel better. And that I can listen to when I’m happy and it makes me feel even better. My favorite way of listening to it is on the green marbled vinyl version (7th pressing, if I’m correct) with the crackling shortly before the song builds up for one last time. It was weird when I first listened to it on MP3 and all the little noises on the vinyl where not there any longer.
I bought it, back then together with the debut by Pennywise and ‚Opposite of December‘ by Poison the Well at a local record store. It became something of a habit to jump on my Vespa on Thursdays after school and drive to the shop next town to look for new arrivals or to pick up records the owner ordered for me. It was the beginning of my vinyl collection that has since vastly expanded and now clogs my living room.
The music is so intense, so heavy, so distorted yet so melodic, heartwarming and comforting. When I was still going to school I stumbled across the band on a Punk-O-Rama compilation and my first Hot Water Music Album was ‚A Flight and a Crash‘. At one point I started a little fanzine that I sold to some friends. For the second issue, that never got released, I interviewed two bands. One was Hot Water Music. I emailed No Idea Records and a week later I had an email from Chuck in my inbox. A band from the other side of the globe and touring the world actually took their time to answer my stupid, amateurish questions. I was baffled, buzzing and proud. My love for this band never vanished, even though their last couple of albums haven’t reached their older output.
4. The Killers – Mr Brightside
„Now she’s calling a cab, while he’s having a smoke and she’s having a drag now they’re going to bed…“ Three years of living in England don’t pass you without leaving their traces. But this song goes a year further back in my vita. I spent three weeks of my summer vacation at a language school in Barcelona to improve my Spanish. It didn’t really help my final exams, but it definitely shaped my future. I bumped into three people there who all told me that you could study popular music almost anywhere in the UK. One of them was a girl from Germany who lived in London back then. She was a couple years older but that didn’t stop me from kind of falling in love with her. We haven’t met since but kept in touch via email. We ended up writing an awful lot about music and attached cheesy emo song lyrics at the end of each email. She helped me with my university application and a year later I was packing my bags and moved to Liverpool.
Over there the song became the anthem of Thursday nights in a shit club that offered drinks for 1 pound (vodka redbull, shots, beer, you name it). Dressed up in shirts, my new friends and I sang our hearts out every week while I was imagining the scenes in that song happening to me. Almost ten years after I bought the album on CD I have just ordered a vinyl re-issue for 35 Euros…
5. Mineral – Gloria
It took my parents a few years until we finally got a broadband connection back home. From one day to the other I was offered endless opportunities for discovering new music. I jumped at it like a hungry lion on cocaine. Instead of using MP3.com & the free downloads you got off label websites, I could dig into the endless depth of the musical world. And through one of those channels this song ended up on the family computer. I loved how Chris Simpsons voice is hovering over this almost lo-fi noise production. How the drums are not sequenced, how they breathe and how the guitars make such a racket that this could have been a screamo track.
I think the first time I read about the band was in an old Greenhell mailorder catalogue. They actually took the time and reviewed all the records they were selling. An incredible resource and directory for the younger me. For me this is emo perfection. I bought the album as an audio-DVD (Crank records, what were you thinking??) and have ordered both albums vinyl re-issues. Next year I’m going to see them live in Berlin and I will be there singing along, hugging people and maybe even cry. This band has everything and the records constantly pop back up in my playlist. It’s timeless music for an elite circle of people. I hate elitism, but in music, I cherish my chosen few, always have, and always will.
6. Gui Boratto – No Turning Back
It would be an easy task to fill this list with guitar music. My music socialisation was build upon rock and later punk. But I would be a moron if I wouldn’t listen to other genres too. I took a very long time to come to terms with techno and dance music in general. Back in Liverpool my friends were really into that sort of thing and obviously I came along to some Chibuku parties, but I never understood it. That changed in 2010 when I met three of my UK friends in Berlin and we spent every night in another club. It was on the first night at a club called Weekend, while Tobi Neumann and Locodice were djing. I guess it must have been around three or four in the morning when we were dancing sourrounded by happy people, just moments before the first sunrays hit the city and the windows of the club. At that moment it hit me. I caught myself smiling. I threw my hands up and waited for the bass to drop.
It’s odd that the pure repetitive nature of a beat can evoke any kind of smile, but it did. I finally got it. ‚No Turning Back‘ hits the nail on its head for me. House and techno can carry a very sad or melancholic undertone. Since that night I have been to various clubs and lots of nights out here and I talked a lot to my friends about why Berlin is drawing techno folks from all around the globe. For me it has something to do with escapism. In a world that is speeding up more and more and where young people grow up with carrying the burden of uncertainty about their future, they love to come here and forget about their worries. To me there are quite a few parallels to my own musical past. There are similar qualities that I find in emo, punk and even in pop. And that’s why it has become an important part in my life as well.
7. Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce – Telephone
When I headed off to university, I considered myself open minded and I was convinced I knew a lot about music. Hell, was I wrong! Everything outside of my horizon was not worth listening to. But then we analysed Lady Gaga in class and watched this video. All of a sudden I realised how stupid I was to judge pop music as a lower form of art. I considered it as not authentic enough and too staged. It’s funny that listening and watching Lady Gaga, the queen of the theatrical, made me change that perception. I started taking it seriously again. Without this knowledge and this new perspective and open-mindedness, I wouldn’t be, who I am today and where I am today.
Telephone is such a great song. It’s got a brilliant hookline and it plays with the rumors revolving around Gaga at that time. Beyonce adds a great vocal counterpart as well. And the video is so full of product placements that it’s almost too hard to bear. But there are brilliant references to pop culture, an art that hardly anyone has perfected as brilliantly as Gaga and her team. That’s what pop can offer and I love every second of it!
8. Jimmy Eat World – Blister
5 Euros. Five Euros, was all it cost me to buy one of the greatest records in my music collection. I picked it up at a second hand shop near my hometown. It’s one of those records that just keep on going. Later it became the record that played when I lost my virginity. The band wrote heavier songs later and they wrote bigger pop songs late, but ‚Clarity‘ was the record that saw a band and a producer meet and create something special. ‚Lucky Denver Mint‚ became a late 90s Emo classic, ‚12.23.95‘ has the cutes cheap drum programming ever, ‚Goodbye Sky Harbour‘ is probably the most progressive emo song out there and ‚Blister‘ became that one song that I needed to hear live.
I managed to see them for the first time during my time at university in Liverpool. I’ll never forget going crazy, when this song came on. Hardly anyone gave a flying fuck about the song but this one guy in a black leather jacket. We hugged, jumping up and down, singing along every word.
The autumn wind was blowing leaves off all the trees and rain was pouring down on us after the show. Combining this mood and the mood on ‚Clarity‘ reminds me a lot of the ‚Summer Crossing‚ by Steve Tesich that I must have read at some point between buying the record and seeing the band in Liverpool. The years have passed and I was becoming a proper adult. I guess that’s what ‚Clarity‘ still sums up best for me.
9. Sigur Rós – Hoppipolla
I got up early that morning, put the empty beer bottles from the night before in a bin, lit a smoke and brought my bags downstairs to my car. The sun was only up for an hour or so but the desert heat was approaching. I checked out and started the car. When I entered Josha Tree, there was hardly a soul there. In the three hours I drove through the national park, I only came across a handful other cars. When ‚Hoppipolla‘ came on I stopped the car at the side of the road and started to cry halfway through the song.
It is inexplicable how a song and a single moment can trigger such an emotional response. I had gone through a rough break-up half a year earlier and decided to travel through the US by myself. I thought that I had shed enough tears and that I had gotten to terms with the break up alright. But finding myself in the desert, completely alone, surrounded by breathtaking scenery I lost it. I was crying, I was shaking, but it was a really cleansing moment. I knew that I was losing a massive weight. I knew that I would never regret that I was really hurt. But I knew that it was all behind me. I can totally understand why bands opt to go near there and record some of their best music (oh my god, yes, I have to name U2 here). It’s a magical place and the song will forever be connected with that moment, that place and that time.
10. Curse – Kristallklarer Februar / Song für P.
I’m in Cologne for work, I randomly meet a German rapper who hasn’t released music in 6 years. While he is talking to my colleague, I’m thinking about how I wrote about him in my Bachelor thesis. Then we walk back to the hotel and he invites us up to his room. We sit down on his bed, he opens the last bottle of beer in his mini bar and hands it to us. It takes a few minutes for his laptop to start, then the first song. Silence. He puts the next song on, then the next. He sits there and watches our every reaction. He plays with his beard, he seems very settled but you can sense how excited he is. He takes a breath, then he tells us, that this is the first song he wrote for the album. He says that it’s the song about one of his best friends who passed away. We’re listening closely. The last seconds appear like the last breath, like a ghost leaving. These are some of the most intense 6 minutes of music I’ve ever heard. I have a massive lump in my throat. When I look over, I see someone else feels exactly the same way. We don’t have any words at this point. All we can say is thank you. He smiles, takes a deep breath and we’re leaving his room.
As we’re walkning down the hallway without him I’m still struggling to comprehend this situation. I feel absolutly drained by what just happened. At the same time my heart is jumping. It’s a perfect music moment. This is exactly why I love my job and why I love working in the music industry. It’s a special moment and they don’t come often.
This is what all these songs have ultimately lead me to. A carreer, something I earn my living with. And I’m incredibly lucky to be in a position where I can say that I made my passion and love my profession. That’s not something a lot of people can say about themselves. Thank you music!
Header pic from http://www.liveluvcreate.com/index.php?site=image&id=418510