I started listening to pop music in 1971 when I had just turned eleven. Since then my life has been a glorious binge of pop, soul, glam, reggae, funk, krautrock, disco, roots, dub, punk, post punk, industrial, electronica, new wave, electro, goth, acid house, techno, hip hop, baggy, rave, trip hop, EDM, Britpop and every other type of music you can think of. A life that at one time or another has included T. Rex, David Bowie, Roxy Music, The Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Kraftwerk, Wire, Public Image, The Slits, Pet Shop Boys, The Fall, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Public Enemy, Manic Street Preachers, Massive Attack, Tricky, Bjork, Outkast, LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A., Animal Collective, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and a thousand more.
Back in the seventies and eighties, there were formative list makers we could turn to like the NME or John Peel, who would spend their time sifting through the world’s music and relay it back to us via the weekly music press and the radios in our bedrooms and bedsits. If you were under thirty it’s highly likely that the songs and albums you listened to were more like a matter of life and death, some ill-defined yet vital quest as opposed to bland, meaningless entertainment. Then, at some point in the noughties, digital music formats appeared to supplant the rule of vinyl and to a lesser extent the compact disc, and music disappeared into the new world of playlists and portable MP3 players.
My iPod Classic has been a constant companion ever since, almost fifty years of memory wrapped up in my little black box, 27,323 songs (and counting) that speak of where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I’m going. Some have changed the way I think, some have changed the way I dress while others have just been there for me when I've woken up in the morning or come home from work. They’ve been with me in the sun, the wind, the rain and the snow, across Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, North America and dear old Blighty. I’ve walked with them, run with them, driven with them and flown with them. I’ve made a playlist for my wife each year we’ve been together. I’ve made playlists for family and friends no longer with us, for funerals, for weddings, for teenage parties, for holidays and for websites.
The songs on my iPod can move me in ways I both can and cannot explain. They can lift me skywards or fill me with rage, leave me grinning like a fool or plunge me deep into sadness. I would argue that without the songs on my iPod I would never have rediscovered a love for writing I believed lost. There would be no soundtrack to my life either, because every blob of audio coding data buried in my iPods dinky hard drive can be read as an indispensable part of my autobiography. And in arranging what I believe to be the best of them in chronological order, I hope to tell a story, both personal and general, about where music has taken me and more importantly: Why?
I may have been listening to all kinds of records since 1971, but the only possible starting point for this Core Curriculum was 1976 because the apocalyptic catalyst of Johnny Rotten and punk was where my own life changed forever and my relationship with music changed from simply liking stuff on Top Of The Pops or The Old Grey Whistle Test to complete obsession. The songs I’ve written about are the result of that obsession; the records, cassettes, CD’s and downloads that hit me as they happened every day, every week, every month, every year. The choice of some has surprised me but as we all know, reconnecting with your past can cause some seriously strange shit to happen.
The tales we try to tell about our past tend to impose some kind of order upon it, forcing it to make sense in order to fit in with the other narratives of the time. Some of this story has been written before, short sections appearing in a number of Green Inc. playlists going back year’s. Part of what I did then was to try and make it sound more rock’n’roll, more cool, by forgetting work, marriage, kids and the more regular side of life. Like all I had to do was get to sixteen years old, go to London, see the Sex Pistols, form a group, form a label, blah blah blah. As if that was all I did. Tidying, tidying. Editing, editing. But there was so much more that didn’t fit, so many jarring juxtapositions; the mundane and the exciting, the urban and the suburban. My life has been a mixture of the naff and the cool, of convention and the rejection of convention, and all of that has taken a hell of a lot of untangling, understanding and rewriting.
I guess I’m at a stage in my life when I need to come to terms with who I am, and exploring the past by linking it to the songs that have meant the most to me is the only way I know how to achieve it. So here's the story of me, each chapter representing a distinct period of five years or so with a loose narrative following how my life progressed, how the differing musical landscapes informed me, and how their influence shaped me. If that sounds a little serious I don’t mean it to. Besides, it would be rather foolish of me to pretend that every one of the 400 songs mentioned here has the potential to change your existence in some profoundly meaningful or significant way. Sometimes a good tune is just a good tune. After all, this stuff isn’t rocket science. It's just the soundtrack to my life!