I am indebted to a friend for this link which is awesome.
Whilst still at work, earlier on, I was asked to take part in a series of lessons that a retired teacher runs to, well, get Year 12 students discussing stuff. There is no curriculum as such, no exam, no real aim: just a series of lessons that asks difficult questions and occasionally provides answers. But there is also time and encouragement for students to take the lead and request stuff. This year I was requested to do Desert Island Discs, so of course I did because I have a monstrous ego and need to be validated.
Now, the list I chose for the lesson was not great. I agonised over it for a good month and was still playing with it (to the point of dropping two songs and bringing in two more on the fly) until the last minute. However, they were carefully curated and you may not be surprised by any of the choices. I shall share the list I shared then here today and then, maybe, share some other ones in a future post as I worked through the sort of things that I could have shared had it not been in the context of a school. As I'm sure is clear, there are parts of me that I am not thinking are particularly good ideas to share in normal conversation just yet. That sort of thing will be left to future generations, one hopes.
So, in the meantime, here's the list:
1. It's a Sin - Pet Shop Boys
I wanted to have at least one by the Pet Shop Boys, obviously, I am a big fangirl. And, also, it offered windows of opportunity to drop subtle hints. I initially wondered about using Why Don't We Live Together because of the amazing lyric "the woman in me shouts out / the man in me just smiles" but figured that the song was a bit long just for that line. Instead I went with the far less subtle It's a Sin because it was one of the earliest songs of their's that I liked (well, 1987, close enough) and it became very much the soundtrack to my internal monologue. I was dimly aware that it had to do with sexuality (it's about Tennant's homosexuality at his Catholic school) but mainly it summed up my own thoughts about, well, me. I wasn't homosexual but the idea that everything I did, do and will do being wrong was something that resonated. I didn't put it quite like that in the lesson, and the questions, it turned out, were pre-ordained and not connected to the songs I had - I think I threw the guy running the show.
Anyway, yes, this song heavily influenced my early years and informed my outlook on life as well as my own thoughts about my own choices. Because of course it did. From the classical chord changes and the clever lyrics to the use of synthesisers and aspects of UK life that don't translate that well elsewhere (not least Manchester-Blackpool area, putting me firmly in that part of the 80s that was inhabited by these people) it's not hard to see how this influenced my... everything. I wanted to use it as a springboard to talk about the musical, Closer to Heaven, and how the song twixt Straight Dave and Lee made me cry on the way into work that morning or the significance of You Choose making me cry in 2005, but I didn't.
2. It's Grim Up North - the KLF/the Justified Ancients of Muu-Muu/the JAMMs
This one was because I discovered it in 1992 and thought it was amazing. The video is pretty cool (the M62, in case you're wondering) and I love the way it works even though it totally shouldn't have the effect that it does. There's just something about the way the listing of towns and cities in the north is evocative and poetic even though it's just some Scottish bloke reeling off place names at a leisurely cadence. Then there's the build and the fact that it ends with Jerusalem and manages to really bring home the Dark Satanic Mills part of the anthem rather than the idea of building Jerusalem in Britain. By the bye, every question in Jerusalem can be answered with an emphatic 'no' in case you're wondering.
My interlocutor pointed out that the singer had never been to Yorkshire as he pronounced the 'h' in Harrogate and Huddersfield (though, to be fair, so do residents of either place if not the rest of Yorkshire) and that allowed him to segue into questions based on the fact that I was from Lancashire. I would have rather spoken about the sue of crows in the sound and the fact that the KLF burned £1m to prove a point (made on the end of their first album where a bonus track talked of burning GIROs) but it simply wasn't to be. I do an assembly/lesson on greed that ended with me burning money based on what these guys did and I've been doing that since about 2006. I'd've done it earlier but I didn't have my Thatcher scheme of work even vaguely planned until 2006 and that's when it became relevant. This song and an assembly by my History teacher about smoking (he burned £20) were the twin inspirations for that.
3. Jesus Freak - dctalk
I am sorry but I am not even vaguely embarrassed about this one. At the time I had been introduced to dctalk as being controversial in the USA and, honestly, I can see why they were. On both sides of the Christian divide. However, back then, I didn't see it. I fell in love with this track significantly later than the recording of it, sometime around 2001, and didn't own a copy until 2009 and Tilly buying me the tenth anniversary of the album. It stood in on the day for the whole of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and thus was supposed to offer a gateway to chat about my faith and journey at University. It didn't go that way because no one was prepared for this one. However, it also offers me a chance to talk now about it. I think I have spoken extensively of my faith before, so that need not detain us here, but one aspect I have not spoken of.
At University the second time I went into it hard, as I do most things, and decided to be a better human being. Part of this was my own meanderings about masturbation. Now, I don't hold with the 'self-harm' bollocks and was merely looking at it from an addiction point of view. I read a series of thoughts who all went to the same nub of the issue - if it controls you rather than the other way around then it is unhealthy. So, I tried to prove that it was not controlling me. I did this, initially, by not wanking except on Fridays (no shit, for real). Then I decided that wasn't enough control. I went 8 months in one go without wanking in 2001 and then settled on about once a month between 2002 and 2004. I went back to once a week with Toby, then went back to once a month for the year between Toby and Tilly. When with Tilly it was relegated to 'after I saw her' and now we're back up to once or twice a day.
Point is, there was, and is, a part of me that really likes these songs. They bring back a time in my life when I genuinely felt in control of things despite firmly giving up said order and control to My Favourite Imaginary Friend Who I Believe Is Not Imaginary And Created The Universe. In these dark days, feeling decidedly out of control in my life, they form an attractive contrast. As it was, we talked about Cliff Richard and how CCM was, for a time, at the cutting edge of the music scene. Because it was. I couldn't find my copy of Ha . Le . Lu . Jah by thebandwithnoname and it turns out that youtube simply doesn't have it, so I can't even share it here. If you do get a chance to have a listen, even if you don't believe, do - it's worth it for the styles of music alone.
4. Motorway to Damascus - The Divine Comedy
This was the B-side to a single my brother picked up called The Frog Princess - a bitter diatribe of a comedy song that was really quite nice. I think he'd been through a bit of a break up and that spoke to him. I stole it, it was a tape single, one night and fell in love with the b-side instead. I recorded it and now it's one of my staples. To me it summed up that whole environmental message that had been burned through the 1980s and was actually making a difference in the 1990s. I learned the lyrics and fancied myself capable of singing them on the way to school in Sixth Form (along with Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams in case you're wondering). It became something of a mantra. In the lesson it became a chance to talk about owning an electric car, something the retired teacher was and is interested in, but I wanted to talk about the power of music in activism and subversion in, well, everything. It was a bit of a tough choice between this and The Beloved Sweet Harmony to be honest but the latter's video and lyrics do rather lend themselves to something a tad more sexual - which I never realised until I was much older.
Whatever, the point is that the song scratches my surface and hints at my world-saving complex that still occasionally shines through like the shiny dog-turd that I have become. Mainly it's bollocks and we're all doomed, which is fine, but the song talks about a time afterward. "When the silhouetted ruins / of the crumbling cooling towers / are but / ivy-clad reminders / of a long forgotten power. / Must the monkeys leave Gibraltar's rock / and ravens flee the tower / before we'll look / and see ourselves / for what we really are?" Why, yes, Mr Hannon, yes indeed. Also, I have part of a half-baked novel predicated on this song. Obviously it's an alternate universe with a Socialist Republican Britain and a world-ending environmental apocalypse because of course it is. Incoherence! It's why I stopped writing. No, really, that plot-line is literally the reason I stopped.
5. Come Undone - Duran Duran
I had Liza Minelli here with something from Results as it was written and produced by the Pet Shop Boys and has amazing tracks that summed up the time before my Dad left. I was going to use it to sum up teacher training and being married and all that guff. At the last minute I dropped it and replaced it with this. Mainly for the video but also the words. I hear tell that the song is supposed to be a birthday gift to Simon LeBon's wife and that is probably true. I hear pain and sadness. I hear depression and being unable to show who you are inside and how that eats you up. In the lesson not much was said about this, it came so far out of left field and was so unknown to the teacher in charge that it was virtually ignored. It is from Duran Duran after they were famous in the doldrums of the 1990s. It is, to me, the song of longing. I was listening to it the first time I broke up with Toby as I drove home and it made me stop the car to cry. It still makes me cry.
Not because of a break up with Toby. No. Because of all the things inside that never get to come out. Because of all the things that I didn't have words to explain at the time, like Genderqueer or ASD, and all the things I still can't adequately explain because the words do not yet exist. I briefly mentioned the crying thing in the lesson, probably part of the reason we moved on so quickly, but I have to say the video helps. I'm sure you can see at least one reason why but also the drowning woman. For want of a better metaphor, that'll do for now. It might take a little crying but it does rather work in coming up for air. This was supposed to be the penultimate song but we ran out of time on the day so my sixth choice (again, I was in two minds) was never shared.
6. Girls and Boys - Blur
As it never happened in the lesson, I get to finish things tonight with a choice I knowingly didn't share and did not include. Now, obviously, this is because of the songs connections to cross-dressing and transsexualism and all that jazz. However, for me, it's mainly due to the fact it was the song I chose one night in my third year at University to play with friends in a bar. Kirsten, for twas she, took me to one side and asked me if I were a cross-dresser because if I were that would be okay and they would all support me in my choice. She claimed that it was simply the choice of song that had tipped her off and that it was only that. I stammered, stuttered and said very little of anything. In effect, I closed it down despite laying clues to that effect for the best part of two years by that point. This song, therefore, became imbued with what might have been - if only I had admitted it and accepted the support on offer. I can only guess at what may have been able to happen.
A double reason for this song then: it's central message and the longing for going back and fixing my own mistakes. And this one was unforced and egregious. I certainly wouldn't be where I am today had I done things differently the first time I played this in public and that may or may not have been better. Who knows, eh? I like to think that things would be better.
If you've read this far, well done! I hope I didn't bore you too much. I mean, if I did, what the hey, you chose to read this far and so I shan't apologise, it serves no purpose. Oh, and yeah, that chastity device I said I would never buy? Well, I kinda did with some money left over from the extra marking I did. It's here. I shall be honest and say I am looking forward to trying it out because then I can dial back on the wanking a bit (I'm slightly perturbed by the frequency) and maybe even enjoy the fact that there's no sex on the horizon or beyond. It's due later this week sometime. I'm torn on whether or not it's exploitative of Tilly and her lack of needs in this direction but, ultimately, I'm feeling horrendously selfish and a bit of a dick, so I shall embrace it and double down. Why the fuck not. The world is going to Hell and I figured I may as well get there first.