These are my #20EverythingSongs , in chronological order more-or-less. It was quite an emotional trip down memory lane compiling this list.

Not sure if you’ll like ’em all – there’s some here that I hardly ever play nowadays – but they’re all important songs in terms of introducing me to new kinds of music


My parents used to play this first track after church and dinner on a Sunday as it reminded them of home.

South African vocal girl group. Listen to the harmonies!

And if that sounds like I grew up in the Deep South, I did. The Deep South of London.

Herne Hill, specifically.

2. HARRY BELAFONTE “Jamaica Farewell”

Dad used to love the next song – the sentiments were familiar as he emigrated to England (from South Africa not Jamaica (although unlike the chap in the song, Dad didn’t leave his little girl in Kingston Town (or Durban, more accurately), he brought Mum with him!

3. JULIE ANDREWS “Feed The Birds”

We played the “Mary Poppins” soundtrack to death years before ever seeing the movie.
The song where one character talks about having dreams of walking with giants, heard out of context, used to give me nightmares, but this one is beautiful. Check out the bit where the church bells come in.

4. THE IRISH ROVERS “Black Velvet Band”

I was brought up as a mixed-race (mainly Indian but part Scottish!) Catholic in South London, went to a Catholic school, social life was based round the Catholic church.

So – and I swear I am not making this up – until the age of about 11 I thought every “full white” person in Britain had some kind of Irish blood in them.

The music rubbed off too. My parents had a few LPs of Irish rebel songs. I THINK it was because they just liked the tunes …


The years from 1968 to 1972 was reggae’s best sales period in the UK with this one of the best-sellers, and one of the best.


6. DON McLEAN “Vincent”

The best teacher I ever had was Mr Stevenson in top juniors (that’s Year Six in new money). Innovative, interesting, fun and approachable.

Mr Stevenson introduced us to the idea you could treat song lyrics like they were poetry, using this as an example, which kicked off my interest in Listening To The Words.

Thank you Sir!

7. CHICORY TIP “Son Of My Father”

I bought this with the money I got for my 10th birthday – my first electronica record (did I but know it at the time). It sounded like nothing on earth.

Written and produced (again, did I but know it at the time) by Giorgio Moroder.

Loved the weird Dr Who-ness of it

8. SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND “The Tale Of The Giant Stone Eater”

Music and Marvel Comics were my joint passions around this time. So obviously I loved this.

Alex Harvey was a huge comics fan. Even named a song after Sgt Fury.

(other “out” comics fans of the 70s included Marc Bolan and Joan Armatrading)

9. JOHNNY CASH “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

1976. Heatwave. We went on holiday to Cornwall from London by car (pre-M5). It took ten hours. We had 4 cassettes.

Pink Floyd’s “Relics”,Beach Boys,Carpenters “Singles 69-73” and some old country singer who Dad liked so we indulged him .

“Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert”

10. DONNA SUMMER “I Feel Love”

Ooh,its so good,its so good,its so good,its so good,its so good …

A great leap forward for dance music (or “disco” as it was contemptuously called by rock fans back then).

And Giorgio Moroder’s second appearance here. Bet he’s impressed.

11.THE STRANGLERS “Down In The Sewer”

An eight minute mini punk opera from the Stranglers’ “Rattus Norvegicus” album

“Gonna tell you what I’m gonna do. Gonna make love to a water-rat or two. FOR GOD’S SAKE HUGH USE A JOHNNY ”

They get compared to the Doors a lot, but Dave Greenfield’s keyboard lines are on a different planet from Ray Manzarek’s unresolved noodlings

The bit at the end from about 5:44 is magnificent, and so bloody therapeutic .

See how it resolves, Mr Doors keyboard player? THAT’S how to play organ in a rock and roll band .

12. THE B-52s “Rock Lobster”

Moving on to the other end of competence for keyboard players in bands, but it still sounds bloody great

I think it was the bright yellow cover that first attracted me to this record, that or the cartoony looking band.

13. FUNKADELIC “One Nation Under A Groove”

Around the mid to late seventies the mates I used to hang out with were all soul boys. It rubbed off.

Feets don’t fail me now!

14. T CONNECTION “On Fire”

You never hear T Connection mentioned at all these days, not ever, anywhere but they really rocked, for what was essentially a disco band.

Duran Duran owe them a massive debt.

15. THE HUMAN LEAGUE “Empire State Human”

“Tall tall tall, I wanna be tall, tall, tall, as big as a wall, wall, wall”

Moved to Sheffield in 1979 so it was compulsory to love this band.

I like the early funny stuff better.

16. DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS “I Couldn’t Help If I Tried”

I had never heard anything quite like this band before, and neither had anybody else.

“Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” is still my fave LP ever . If you’ve never heard it, stop reading this now and go and track it down. This blog isn’t going anywhere.

There – I told you it was good, didn’t I?

This is their best song, for me (although get ten Dexys fans in a room and you’ll probably get ten different suggestions, and none of them will be the Number One hits!)

This grabs you from the mournful, defiant first four-note rundown on the horns and never lets you go.

I’ll forever associate it with being in love for the first time – lending her this album with crucial lyrics underlined. I’ll leave you to work out which ones.

It didn’t last and … hang on, this is sounding like a Dexys song in itself now so I’ll stop.

17. TRICKY “Black Steel”

So, seventeen tunes from the first 19 years of my life, then nothing until middle-age comes knocking

There’s a reason for this, I think.

You have kids and raise them and that takes up most of your effort and all of your money – and in those pre-internet days, music took a back seat.

To be honest if I could pick ten years to go into a fallow period, music-wise, I don’t think 1984-1993 was a bad choice, although I stand to be corrected on this.

This is from Tricky’s masterpiece “Maxinquaye”, which I first heard of thanks to none other than the late great David Bowie mentioning it as the best thing he’d heard all year in 1995.

The man had the talent to identify what was crucial and important in each musical generation (see also his final album which is pretty much a Kendrick Lamar tribute record in places)

This is a cover of a Public Enemy tune. Who says the original is still the greatest?

18. THE BROKEN FAMILY BAND “Devil In The Details”

Who knew quiet music could be this nasty. And funny.

The only band to ever really rival Dexys in my affections, and the best lyricist around in Steven James Adams.

19. LADYTRON “Playgirl”

No synth band ever created a bigger or better wall of sound than Ladytron.

I was there when they blew the PA at the old Astoria in Charing Cross Road, around 2008.

This song is another one with memories. “Sleep you way out of your home town” indeed.

20. AL GREEN “To Sir With Love”

This list is mostly in chronological order but I thought I’d finish with a song and an artist I always go back to cos he always makes things better.

This is just incredible – he takes a song originally sung in a film by a schoolgirl (played by Lulu) to her teacher and takes it to a higher plane.

But when I listen to this I don’t really hear the words at all, its all about the feeling he invokes, and he could do this if he was singing the dictionary.

When I heard this I realised that soul is never about the words at all, not really

This has been my #20EverythingSongs. Check out the hashtag on Twitter.

Thanks to @girloon for inventing the hashtag.

I don’t mean she invented the concept of the hashtag. That would be an outrageous claim akin to this one.

I mean she thought up #20EverythingSongs.

Give her a follow in Twitter if you like music, she’s brilliant.

Pete And The Pirates

October 4th, Scala London

After years of managing to miss Pete And The Pirates through bad luck, sheer indolence, a bad cold, and simply being in the wrong town or, in some cases, the wrong country, I got to see them twice in two months.

Pete And The Pirates gigs are like buses. You wait ages for one and then when you get on its all crowded and sweaty.

“Its 1979 and Heart Of Glass is playing…”

I take a look around the mosh pit. The cheerful, heterogenous crowd ranges from teenage kids through balding 30-something men who can’t quite kick the gigging habit to, well me. I can’t see too many people who would be likely to even have been alive in 1979 when Blondie were in their pomp, let alone attending the Scala…

This place has memories for me.

I used to go come here often back then with my first serious girlfriend Tessa. She got me into a lot of good stuff art and culture wise.

The Scala was a cinema then, showing art films that triumphantly straddled the line between art and porn.

We saw Jubilee there, Derek Jarman’s legendary punk film which featured a cameo from a young Adam Ant, and a plot involving a just-around-the-corner future Britain in which anarchy reigns and Buckingham Palace has been converted into a giant recording studio. The support bill was a selection of homoerotic porn shorts by the cult film-maker Kenneth Anger, including “Scorpio Rising”, which certainly opened my 17-year-old eyes to another side of biker culture.

Back to the present and a packed and enthusiastic crowd greets Pete And The Pirates. They’ve been around for a couple of years now, touting their brand of tuneful indie, and they’ve built up a devoted following.

They’re from Reading. In their early days they used to go to the Reading Festival every year as punters and plant a Pirate flag in an appropriate location. They would then proceed to play an impromptu acoustic sets and hand round flyers to people. Gotta say, that’s a fantastic marketing idea for any bands reading this.

Unassuming to look at, maybe even a bit reticent to talk to the crowd much, they play a fantastic set comprising much of their two albums. “Come To The Bar” is an obvious highlight. Lyrically they have a way with the wry one-liner lyrics – “Get out of bed, its the wrong one” for starters.

(NB – Incidentally, a quick scout round that Interweb reveals that the Scala I attended back in the day was in fact in a completely different London location. Funny how the memory plays tricks. I’ll never forget “Scorpio Rising” though. And if I ever come across a biker with no trousers on, I always give him a wide berth)

November 22nd, Buffalo Bar, London

The more recent gig was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Buffalo Bar, and I have to be honest, although the band were great, the crowd were not up to much at all.

Gig etiquette surely dictates that if you get to a gig early enough to take up a position at the front, the least you can do is dance. Or move. Or react in some way to what’s happening on stage, not just stand there in silence.

Don’t get me wrong, each to their own and I know some people like standing and watching quietly. Fair enough. But FFS do it at the BACK of the gig, will you? In the case of the excellent Buffalo Bar, the back of the gig is still pretty close to the stage anyway.

That’s where me and my mate Craig are. Craig is only a couple of years younger than me and another ageing punk. He’s recently come back from four months unpaid leave in LA trailing his missus, looking after their young kid during the daytime and checking out the LA scene in the evenings.

He tells me a great story about his first pilgrimage to the legendary punk club The Roxy.

A large well-dressed man sidles up to him and says “Hey, are you on your own?” “Yes” says Craig. “Well, do you want to come to the bathroom with me?” “No!” he replies. The guy goes to the bathroom anyway and doesn’t come back. Craig spends the rest of the evening digging the bands and not going to the bathroom, ending up having to piss on the wall outside the club. Which I suppose is quite a punk thing to do.

He professes outrage at these events, but I think he’s secretly kind of pleased that he’s still got it. This sort of thing never happens to me, although I did have my bottom squeezed by a woman at the Scala – not in its porn cinema phase but during a Broken Family Band gig – but I suspect she was just trying to annoy her boyfriend.

So, the gig is enjoyable and the band are playing their hearts out but there’s not much to be done about a lot of the crowd. There’s a few people making an effort at the back though.

Afterwards we notice the guitarist outside chatting to a girl. They’re very polite about being interrupted by two large middle-aged men telling him how great the band is. We complain about the audience but he won’t have it and says something like “they were enjoying it in a different way”, which I think shows a tremendous amount of class.

Pete And The Pirates. A great band, and a great bunch of lads.