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12 November 2014

Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Craig Johnston

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Today’s Life Is Like A Box Of Records is with DF Concerts booker, promoter and all round new music supporter Craig Johnston. This is a particularly poignant selection and I feel humbled that he chose to write this for the site.

Wet Wet Wet – Goodnight Girl

I am an only child from a broken home but I am one of the lucky ones, I can’t remember my mum and dad ever being together so for me it is normal. It is weird how the human brain works though, I heard this song for the first time in years a while ago and it just unlocked something, it was a memory of my dad taking me to my bed in the first house I lived in. That is the only memory I have of that house and I didn’t even know I had it till I heard this song. I could see everything though, I remembered where my bedroom was in the house, what my dad was wearing even the colour of the carpet it was so strange, I just broke down.

Oasis – D’You Know What I Mean

This is the first big event in music that I remember, I had got into Oasis the summer before and it seemed that everyone else in my year at high school did as well.  When I got back to school after the holidays everyone had the haircut and the parka jackets.  It was honestly like it happened over night, everyone knew Oasis before that but they were a band that your mate’s big brother liked or the older guys down the road listened to them.  The premier of the video for ‘D’You Know What I Mean’ was massive at my school, that is all we talked about that day! MTV2 was playing the video every hour on the hour from midday so on the school bus home we decided to come to mine to watch it since I had an empty. Everyone piled round, we turned the TV on and turned the volume right up.  No one was ready for what we saw and heard, short hair, helicopters, flares and massive guitar sounds, it was amazing! It was a statement, Oasis saying that they were still the biggest band in the world.  I love Be Here Now, it is a great album, I know a lot of Oasis fans don’t like it but for the generation about to turn 30 it is our Oasis album.

Blink 182 – All The Small Things

When this song came out I was playing in a band with some mates, we used to just play Oasis songs, never in time or in key.  One night my mate Wombat let me hear All The Small Things on his CD Walkman in Sauchie Chippy and I think I said “That is rubbish the guy can’t even sing”, after a while I came round though.  So much so that I left my Oasis band, bought some baggy jeans and started a pop-punk band with Wombat. We were rubbish but Enema of The State totally opened me up to The Offspring, Lit, New Found Glory and Sum 41 then I got into making the trip to Glasgow to see all these bands play. Those were some of the first gigs I went to in Glasgow and I fell in love with the city.

Radiohead – Everything In Its Right Place

When the Kid A album came out I was listening to Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, some pop-punk and lots of Trance, the Kid A album and Doves Lost Souls both blew my mind when I heard them.  It opened up a new world to me of weird leftfield music that I actually liked, it was around this time that I started smoking lots of hash so that might have had something to do with it as well.  It was a real turning point for me musically though and it really expanded the amount of music I was open to.

Paul van Dyk vs Rachel McFarlane – Found An Angel

I have gone through phases of dance music. I first loved it when my mate Kev Abbott and I would listen to Bonkers tapes in 1996 (I was 11), Delerium – ‘Silence’ (feat Sarah McLachan) and Fragma – ‘Toca’s Miracle’ in 1999 and 2000 respectively were massive tunes for me, I got right into Trance because of them. I bought decks, I went vinyl shopping most weekends. I started “going out” when I was around 16 just in Stirling and Alloa then at 17 I went to Room at the Top in Bathgate for the first time and see my heroes Mauro Picotto, Paul Van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold etc. and I loved that lifestyle. My mates and I were living like the characters is Human Traffic at the time I drifted away from that scene around 2006 but some of those mates still think they are in that film. I picked Found An Angel since it started as For An Angel in 1998 and was still being played in clubs (the ones I went to anyway) in 2006 – that’s the sign of a classic!

Hundred Reasons – If I could

This was a monster tune when it came out! I had just been asked to leave school a few years before by my guidance teacher and was studying Sound Production at Falkirk College where I learned absolutely nothing because I spent most of the time stoned out of my box.  I did however meet my mate Mop there through the shared love of this band.  Mop asked me to join the band he was in called Catapult, I was well into that idea because they were pretty big on our local scene.  Mop and I are kindred spirits, we love indie Oasis/Seahorses, we love rock music Hundred Reasons/Biffy and we love dance music! He has also introduced me to some of my best friends in the world and it all started because we both liked this tune.  I love how music has that kind of pull and how it brings people together.

Carrickfergus

I think this is the most beautiful song ever written. It is about an old man who knows his days are numbered and all he wants to do is go back and pass away in his hometown of Carrrickfergus, but he is too ill to travel. I first heard this song when I spent the summer of 2007 working in Tenerife, I worked as a barman in an Irish Bar called Christy O’Conner’s  which was owned by a guy called Billy McCracken. Billy is hands down the best musician I have ever met he would perform in the bar with his band every night. When he played this song he put a penny whistle part in the middle 8, there would be two whistles playing during it and we would play both at the same time, I had never seen anything like that in my life and to hear the passion in his voice when he sung this song was a privilege. I got the impression he could never go back to Ireland but I never did ask why. There is a video of him doing it on YouTube, give it a watch if you want to see the two penny whistles but it is from last year so he shies away from the big notes he could hit in 2007 and he no longer does it with a band it is him and a backing track.

Biffy Clyro – Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies (2007)

Biffy Clyro are my favourite band in the world ever, simple! I have been through so much while listening to this band whether it was breaking up with a girl when I was 17 and listening to Blackened Sky over and over,  the heavy stuff we will get to in a bit or everything in between this band has been the soundtrack.  The first gig I ever went to by myself was Biffy at the Martel in Falkirk in 2002, little did I know that going to gigs by myself would become a bit of a habit.  When I got back from Tenerife in 2007 I found out my Dad was really ill, he had been fighting cancer for around a year, but didn’t really talk about it so I didn’t know if he was getting better or worse he just kind of got on with it. When I left for Tenerife he had been talking about going back to work because he was bored. We lost him in October just as I had started studying Music Business as college. I got my love of music form my Dad, he was in a band called It’s A Secret (terrible name), when I was a kid and I remember going on a photo-shoot with him, they must have done pretty well because they released a single in 1989 they recorded it at Cava and the 7” went out on Rough Trade.  Seemingly it charted but didn’t make it into the top 40 or anything. I miss my Dad every day and I am gutted he did get to see where I am in my career, there are so many gigs that I go to and I think “My Dad would love this!”. Thankfully Biffy released the Puzzle album that year, the album really helped me cope with the loss. I picked Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies because of the lyric “I Pray To God, That You’re Right Before My Eyes” I think that is so powerful.  I picked the live version from Wembley because it is the best show I’ve ever seen. I went to that show myself, I thought that was very fitting, I stood at the sound desk and watched a band that I see with 12 people in Falkirk take the roof off Wembley arena.

INXS – Never Tear Us Apart

Music was obviously a massive part of my Dad’s life so when my stepmother Ann asked me to pick the music at my Dad’s funeral I was honoured. I really thought that was something they would have spoken about, but then again it was my Dad and as before he wasn’t one for talking about heavy stuff.  This was the first song that came to mind and it was the last song to be played, it was his favourite song.  He played keyboard and I remember him playing the string part over and over when I was young and used to go to his flat on a Saturday.  I have never been able to listen to the song since.

Kevin Harper – Please To Meet You

This guy. What can you say about this guy? He is honestly one of my favourite songwriters. I first heard him when he was playing in a band called Houston, he was (and still is) older than me and I was in a little band that used to support his band.  I had never heard a band play in my local pub that were just as good as the bands I seen on TV and heard on radio.  Back then I loved his band but thought he was a prick, I have since fallen for his charms and we have been friends for many years now. He has a real knack for writing catchy pop songs full of hooks that are from the heart.  He doesn’t hide behind metaphors, if he writes a song about you then you know about it.  He writes the best break up songs from a male perspective, there are a lot of break up songs from the female perspective and I honestly think he is the best at writing them from the other side.  Maybe it’s because guys are rubbish at talking about stuff and we bottle stuff up but Kev uses his songs as an outlet. I have been privileged to hear Kev live nearly hundreds of times from the O2 ABC to parties in Alva with 12 people out their nuts and nearly in tears.  There were a lot of people who came to our parties so Kev’s music is the soundtrack to a lot of lives in Clackmannanshire.

 

Photo by Kayleigh Snape

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