Playing Favourites

I don't always get to listen to Kim Hill's Saturday morning radio show on Radio NZ National - but I've tuned in fairly regularly over the past few years. She has some great guests. She gets some good interviews. They play some decent music. And it all combines for my favourite segment within the show, Playing Favourites. Here a visiting or local author or musician will chat about their life, their various projects - maybe in particular an upcoming event or product - but it's not the obvious/standard promotional interview. It goes beyond that. And a key part is that the interview subject selects a few favourite songs - these are played at times during the interview, sometimes the interviewee references when they first heard the song, where they were, why it appealed. It's a case of showing (and telling) why and how the music came to the person and how and why (and where) that person arrived at that particular tune.

One of the great joys of reading about music - or listening to interviews relating to music - is in the sudden memories that come up when you hear a piece of music, or read about a piece of music. The sound, obviously - and then beyond that what you bring to it. And what it offers for you.

Last week Jon Toogood spoke to Kim Hill and it was a fascinating discussion. Plenty of chat about the Shihad documentary (which I loved; I think it's a great film). And there was a plug for Toogood's other band, The Adults, and his latest project - singing Brel. In and around this he played some of his favourites. AC/DC was an obvious one, it had a huge impact on Shihad; the band has even been lucky enough to open for their heroes.

And That's Entertainment by The Jam - one of the finest songs Paul Weller has written (and he achieved this at a very young age, making it all the more remarkable). Hearing it was simply a reminder of a great song.

And he also played David Bowie's song, Ashes to Ashes. It's pretty close to being the perfect pop song really.

I missed the interview as it was happening last weekend - but after hearing about it I listened back to the conversation online later in the weekend. When Ashes to Ashes kicked in I was transported back to when I first became aware of that song. I was very young when it was on the radio and it sounded like nothing else I'd heard. Isn't that a wonderful feeling? Both to hear something so utterly amazing - and then, many years on, to be reminded of what that sound was like, the impact it had. I still get that every time I hear the intro of Ashes to Ashes. (Connan Mockasin was, for a while there, capable of offering a very cool cover of the song - I wonder if he still does it?)

So if you were Playing Favourites what would you pick? What would you play?

You're allowed four songs - maybe six max. So, for today, let's aim for the middle and say five. How do you sum your life up in five songs? How do you point to some of the music that's moved you and point out some of the big musical experiences of your life via five songs only?

Never mind what you'd chat about in and around the songs - let's just think about the musical selections. What would you pick?

I think of the impact of The Beatles and Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Glenn Miller and Buddy Rich and Deep Purple. They were all so huge for me. And that's just a small handful. If I chose a track by each of those artists I'd have six straight away. And I wouldn't have got far past the mid-1970s. Given my age, a lot of the music that had the biggest impact on me, at least initially, was from the 1980s. The music I very much grew up with. Then, as I said the other week, there are so many albums from the 1990s I'm revisiting. But I just don't imagine Porno for Pyros being part of my Playing Favourites list.

Those artists I named above - some of them I learned about because of my parents. They taught me about Glenn Miller and Deep Purple and Buddy Rich and The Beatles. But I discovered Neil Young and Bob Dylan for myself. What's more important here - the music you found yourself or the music you share with close friends and family?

It's a tough question - a tricky topic. I'm interested to know what your selections would be for Playing Favourites. Or maybe you've actually been a guest of Kim Hill, maybe you've been in the chair Playing Favourites. If so what did you pick?

I've been pondering this because I get my turn this weekend. Tomorrow I'll be on the show, Playing Favourites. I'll be talking about my book and - I guess - this blog, reviewing, music, my life...

I'm really looking forward to it. And so you'll be able to hear my selections tomorrow. A small handful of the songs that have helped to shape me and my musical worldview. Just a small splash in the vast ocean of course...

You'll have to tune in tomorrow at 10am - or listen online - to hear my choices. But I can tell you that I ended up not picking any of the artists I've named here. And no, there's no Lionel or Phil Collins!

So, what would your choices be if you were asked on for a spot of Playing Favourites? What five songs would you choose to explore aspects of your life? What five songs have had an impact on you? What five songs do you imagine playing on the radio for all to hear?

Or of course you could just pick five songs you love. That's really what it's about, right?

Damn! I really should have picked Teardrops by Womack & Womack. Oh well, another time...

And if you're in Wellington pop along to Slow Boat Records at 6 tonight for the official launch of On Song. Or go to the Facebook page here.

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