Today’s Life Is Like A Box Of Records is with Lisa-Marie Ferla blogger at Last Year’s Girl, journalist and Taylor Swift enthusiast. A good friend of Podcart since the beginning, this is another brilliant snapshot.
Boney M – Rasputin
When I was seven years old, my mum and dad got me a Sony Walkman for Christmas (I’m pretty sure I’d already blown Santa’s cover by way of a “stocking fillers for your kids” feature in the Safeway checkout magazine by this stage). However, they/he did not think to include any music to play on it, so my dad ran up the stairs and pulled the first cassette he could find out of the wardrobe to give to me. You know how people will talk about the ubiquity of certain pop bands by saying that you know more songs by X than you think you do? Well, when it comes to me and Boney M it’s because I listened to nothing but their Greatest Hits for six months.
Nanci Griffith – It’s a Hard Life (Wherever You Go)
After my parents split up for the first time, we used to see my dad on Sundays (I’m sure many kids can relate). He’d take us to a park, or to the cinema, or to the flat he was renting in Paisley; sometimes stopping off to visit somebody who needed a crisis loan or emergency benefit on the way (he worked for the Social). We knew the track listings of the in-car mixtapes that would play on those journeys as well as I know those of my favourite albums now. The second concert I ever went to was Nanci Griffith when I was in third year of high school, with my dad, at the Concert Hall. I felt far more grown-up than I had when I saw Ant and Dec (then known as PJ and Duncan AKA) the year previously.
Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat
These days I manage to make some of my living from writing about music, but I like to joke that it was something I wasn’t really that interested in until I was 15. This song, along with REM’s ‘Country Feedback’ (which I didn’t choose here to avoid the mix-maker’s cardinal sin of repeating an artist), was the one that changed my life: it was study leave before I sat my Standard Grades and, armed with nothing but curiosity and a large set of my dad’s headphones, I made my way through his stack of CDs from the Britannia Music Club in the dark. Once I found out that there were ways to put experience and emotions into song far more honestly than the likes of Celine Dion, I never looked back.
REM – So Fast, So Numb
The next step, of course, was to build a music collection of my very own and it was a task I approached with enthusiasm, the proceeds of my part-time job at Somerfield, the supermarket, and the easy access to Fopp on Byres Road I had as a student at Glasgow Uni. You’ve heard of the fifty-quid man, yes? Well, at 17 I was – genuinely – the fifty-quid girl, spending most of my paycheque on CDs and tapes. I am, unfortunately, just as shit with money 15 years later – but for what is still my favourite REM album, three quid for New Adventures in Hi-Fi on cassette was a bargain. Alex, my first boyfriend (you can stick your internet dating – we met on the Teletext music pages) inherited the tape after I replaced it with a CD.
Hole – Malibu
Hole’s Celebrity Skin was both one of those fifty-quid purchases and my gateway drug to what would ultimately become two of the greatest loves of my life: music made by angry ladies with guitars and spilling all of my secrets to strangers on the internet. As a high-achieving early leaver from a school which didn’t traditionally send kids to universities I benefited from a free summer school programme, as well as my first regular internet access in the Glasgow Uni library. My membership of Hole’s KittyRadio messageboard pre-dated my first “online diary” or blog by a good month or so and introduced me to some very cool people, who would go on to educate me about everything from Lipsmackers to Babes in Toyland. Oh, and I still maintain that this is the finest pop song ever written (as well as boasting the video that convinced me that I like-liked girls).
Ryan Adams – The Rescue Blues
Of all the places I expected my musical journey to head next, americana was not one of them – but hey, if we could always choose the ones we fell for much of contemporary pop would be dead on its arse, right? After everything that Ryan Adams has come to mean to me since I first heard one of his songs on a covermount CD free with Q magazine in 2002, I could have been here all night picking a song – but, in the end, I had to choose the one where it started. The fact that this performance is from one of the worst music DVDs ever produced is in itself a cautionary tale not to waste your money on everything that your heroes ever release, by the way.
Jesse Malin – TKO
Arguably, most of the people who bought Jesse Malin’s debut The Fine Art of Self Destruction did so for the Ryan Adams production credit – I was certainly one of them – but the show he played at King Tut’s a few weeks after the album’s UK release cemented my love for Malin on his own merits. What was so exciting about the man Glasgow audiences affectionately call “Big Jesse” though was that, for the first time in my life, I was following an artist from the very beginning rather than playing catch-up: I’ve seen him seven times in the same year, failed an exam when I was studying in Edinburgh because I had to go to a show the night before, hung out with him backstage, interviewed him – and yet, he never plays “TKO” when my friend Rachel and I scream for it from the front (the clue is in the first bridge). He’s back at Tut’s next month for the first time in three or four years and I can barely contain my excitement.
Sleater-Kinney – Little Babies
In 2003, after graduating with what my school-age self would have seen as an unforgivable second-class honours degree (sorry, I was too busy blogging!), I moved to Edinburgh to do a Masters in Journalism at Napier Uni. Although it was one of the worst years of my life (because I was young for a postgraduate degree I was housed with the partying undergraduates, cut classes and took painkillers, and was so homesick for friends and family I’d be straight on the train back to Glasgow every Saturday evening after my shift at Somerfield) I did at least pick up every Sleater-Kinney album for a fiver from Avalanche on Cockburn Street. This song reminds me of drunken singalongs on the Cowgate with a bag of chips on the way home.
The Replacements – Message to the Boys
I celebrated my 24th birthday with a big barbecue in my mum’s newly-landscaped back garden. She’d timed the project to coincide with the celebration, which came at the end of a particularly difficult period for me (a bad breakup, a serious bout of the depression I’d struggled with since my teens…). It was one of the best days of my life. At some point in the middle of the afternoon this song came on the playlist I’d put together for the event, and I called up a pen-pal I’d talked out of coming up to Scotland because it had seemed silly to meet him for the first time when I’d be busy with all of my favourite people. We arranged that he would come up at the start of the next month instead, on what would turn out to be the day that England got knocked out of the World Cup by Portugal. Legend has it he fell in love with me when I pulled him from the pub where we watched the game before he got himself punched, but I think the fact that I sent him the first song by his favourite band in 15 years might have had something to do with it.
Marah – So What If We’re Outta Tune (With the Rest of the World)
I might have been a late bloomer when it came to loving music, but by 2010 it was firmly established as one of the major components of my life. So you’d think that, come my wedding day, the music would be planned perfectly, wouldn’t you? Not that I’d forget to plan entrance music (instead my pals hummed the Wedding March as I pranced in), or that Jay and I wouldn’t settle on a first dance until, well, we did it. Instead, we burned five potentials onto a CD – and it was only after we cleared this with my friend Whitney, over from the US, who had always said that this would be hers that we went with Marah. The other choices? Well, if you were there, you heard them on repeat while the band were setting up, because I didn’t have that planned either. But it was perfect in its own way.