Memories… we all have them for the express purpose of giving us something to recall in our lives, a mark of experience whether with fondness, sorrow, or regret. A particular facet or detail, of that handful of seconds, or minutes in your life can be so evocative, so powerful, that you can recall it for as long as you breathe the air you’re given. Sometimes that one detail can be a song, and science continues to prove that music may be among the most powerful of keys to unlock long lost memories, especially in those whose minds may deteriorate faster than the average human being. In such a troublesome time where everyday life has been put on hold indefinitely, it seems almost flippant to reminisce about a period that was within reach mere months ago and pine for those memories, to be free once more in that moment. Music being the almighty force it is, there were moments for myself in the last decade, undoubtedly the greatest growth period in my still short yet slowly developing life, that a song made even an insignificant event into an exhibition, from the inside of a frantically paced head. Here’s the ten most memorable of them:
10 – Doing anything to synthwave
This first entry seems like a tremendous cop-out, and in essence it is, but the advent of performing any menial task; walking, washing up, going shopping etc. with a pumping, thumping, or heart-jumping soundtrack like the power chords, or inescapable melodies of precision engineered 80s synth, the tone of the task shifts so dramatically to being the most awesome, or frightening thing you have ever done. Without fail, there can and always will be a song to suit the purpose of what you are doing in this very second, and it will transform your daily routine into a cinematic experience you had no idea you wanted to be a part of. That only comes to full credit of how exponentially the scene has exploded since the late 00s, and thus impossible to narrow it down to a single track. Try Garth Knight’s Break Point, Atrey’s Dark Prince (Final Cut), or Nightstop’s Synthax Terror out for yourselves, and see how radically your world alters when they enter your ears.
9 – Getting goosebumps – (Amigo the Devil – Cocaine And Abel)
The advent of stumbling across a new song and adoring it from the get-go happens on a near daily basis to me, so there is simply no point in keeping count, hence the general event of a new song or artist prevents it from being any higher in this list. However, this specific occurrence stuck so strongly in my mind, it couldn’t be ignored. Upon seeing the mention of Amigo The Devil in passing chance, the name immediately piquing curiosity, with the very first click of Cocaine And Abel, the acoustic guitar, his words, and how the pain trembled through each and every one of them, I had no doubt this would be special. No other song I can tell you in living memory left me covered head to toe in goosebumps. Not a single song I have ever listened to. In that final bellow, there is so much energy exerted into it that it feels like it could crumble under its own magnitude, and it leaves me in total awe. This is as raw, and hurting as man can feel, and every listen leaves me in tears, not just from the gravitas of life lost, but as words I measure myself against. To be kinder. To be better.
8 – The Raspberry Mojito Incident – (Luniz – I Got 5 On It)
One Friday night in May last year, being left alone with a house full of alcohol (which paints me as an alcoholic, but I can assure you I’m not), and the right ingredients, devolved into an evening of cocktail practice, and a number of raspberry mojitos consumed which was left uncounted and should probably stay that way. The end result left me lying on the floor in my house, listening to 25+ years worth of music that has defined my life, alongside personal favourites, and watching the six colour swatches of my disco lights cyclically stain my ceiling. Massive Attack’s Black Milk sticks in my mind vividly while I lay comfortably on the downstairs laminates, but recorded evidence (by myself), several drinks in, of me and my cat while Luniz’s I Got 5 On It blares in the background, is not just a hilarity for hilarity’s sake, but was one of the only times I’ve ever felt comfortable filming myself. Probably down to massive stage fright, crippling self-awareness, and severe anxiety about filming or recording myself doing anything, which I’ve struggled with for an incredibly long time. They don’t call alcohol Dutch courage for nothing, but at least I can look back on those 20 seconds and smile, and not with a sense of embarrassment.
7 – Crying on my journey to university – (Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy)
I’ll be the first to put my hand up to say that my college years were not among the happiest two years of my life. In fact, I could probably credit them to a depression diagnosis that has yet to happen. I even made a short film about that time in my life to draw closure on it, that I’ve let nobody else see except my lecturer who marked it. Thankfully my time at sixth form ended on a positive note, and I was able to get into my first choice university which set me up for a totally new, and independent adventure. My mum’s taste in music is as eclectic as mine, and her iPod became the soundtrack for the hour and a half drive to Guildford to move into student halls. There in that moment, of Bronski Beat‘s solemn synth melody, and Jimmy Sommerville’s haunting account of suffering and isolation as a gay teen in his hometown, the words of ‘Run away, turn away, run away,’ suddenly took on so much more weight, as it felt like a parallel from my life back home. And ‘Cry boy, cry?’ I most definitely did.
6 – Dancing on hotel beds at Alton Towers – (Underworld – Born Slippy)
Underworld‘s mammoth Born Slippy is iconic, a dance music institution, so there is very little more that needs be said about it. There have been other moments in my life where this song has seeped so prominently into my mind, but this particular time was one of my favourites because of the occasion. After a gruelling five hour journey, mainly down to car troubles, me and my girlfriend arrived at our hotel at Alton Towers, to be the last table served at our restaurant, and among the last served for drinks. Some drinks later, including a cocktail that the barman made with Midori, blue curaçao, and fuck knows what else, we returned to the hotel room, black forest gateau in hand because they wanted to close the restaurant, and put the TV on, to Underworld’s performance at Glastonbury. While I was thoroughly intoxicated, and perhaps not enjoying my dancing on the hotel beds to the fullest extent I could’ve because I took myself to bed instead, my girlfriend sprung about on the bed for nearly ten minutes of that relentless kick drum and infamous sensory overload. The following morning hangover with black forest gateau, and a bottle of champagne very kindly gifted by a great friend of mine, never felt so trashy, but so fitting at the same time. A wild song, for a wild occasion. And that was before the theme park.
5 – Seeing in the New Year to an empty club – (David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes)
New Year’s Eves’ parties seem to end up as a giant anticlimax the best part of the time. There is the odd year or so where having the right people, and the right environment genuinely turns the 365th rotation of Earth’s axis into a momentous one. But on this certain one for me, it became a surreal yet temporarily poignant one. A NYE party, dubbed as the last night in the club before it was due to be closed down and demolished, was my first and only time DJing in this club where I had fantasised about playing for years. With a handful of friends who got me on board to play the event, we had a fun-filled night, including my idea to play Foo Fighters’ Low as a countdown timer to the New Year, and the night’s festivities soon continued afterwards. Only for the crowds to start dispersing faster than expected. Where we were rotating the DJs for the night, I ended as the final DJ for the night, only for the club to be totally deserted besides bar staff and security. No other soul was in the club. The dream, or nightmare scenario for any DJ where they could play whatever the hell they wanted. And for the last half hour of my set, I just played the greatest hits of the 80’s. Without governance or consequence, I ended on David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes, one of my favourite ever songs, and if it were to be the last song to be played in the building, a fitting tribute to a place I had spent years of my life enjoying. It didn’t stay that way as it reopened six or so months later, and so that honour was revoked. Yet what an unintentionally strange moment all the same.
4 – Favourite full dancefloor – (Modulate – Drop)
From the strangest DJing memory of mine, to perhaps my favourite, and while perhaps having a packed dancefloor bears little bragging rights if you are a good or successful DJ, the circumstances on which this one happened I still smirk fondly about. In Surrey University’s alternative music society, Fetish Night at the uni’s nightclub Rubix, is the landmark night of the social calendar, and the society has fought tooth and nail to be the permanent host of the club’s second room of music. With an excuse for people to go a little outside their shells in a controlled environment, the music appropriately differs too, and this generation of the society were quite into electro-industrial. I was also quite into electro-industrial, having spent days and nights of my life fine-tuning a DJ set for such an event. So with passion, skill, and craft put into the order of these songs, I play my hour-long set and watch as the room gradually swells with not just society members, but with the discerning and average club-going student too. And I end on Modulate’s Drop, the room still heaving with students dancing. To reiterate, the right people and the right environment can make magic, and in that hour, I learned you could make a university population dance to electro-industrial, even if they had never heard of that genre of music. That level of satisfaction and ecstasy just doesn’t happen every day.
3 – Wandering the streets of Brighton in a cascade – (The Crystal Method – Moment of Truth)
I once took a solo break away to Brighton towards the end of last decade, because it had been something I’d wanted to do for a very, very long time. Brighton had always felt like a spiritual home to me, and spending a few days in one of my favourite places, felt like a good decision. That whole tale is perhaps for another time, but what made that break away so memorable, is that I barely spoke to anybody. It was just me, and a pair of headphones. And Mexican food when I got hungry. This trip actually made me realise the power of music in making a moment, and practically spawned the basis of this piece, and I can recall several other songs and what I was doing at that time on this trip because of it. Hands down though, my journey through the Laines and Brighton’s side streets in a torrential downpour, armed with The Crystal Method‘s latest album, was near pitch perfect. It gave tension, atmosphere, and a sense of purpose to the journey I was taking, not to mention my idea of peace involves being wherever it rains. It made it feel like I was wandering the streets of dystopia, and not even the elements could stop me heading to my next destination. It felt truly otherworldly. A sensation in the height of that moment, is outrageously hard to replicate, and makes me all the more glad I was able to live it.
2 – Our song – (Alexisonfire – Side Walk When She Walks)
We all know it by now, and if not yet, then you will, but there are very few feelings in the world, like love. I never felt like I would ever get to feel it, because I was immature and my focus had always laid elsewhere when approached with the subject. But sometimes, it just happens, or it needs a chance to nurture and grow. Fun fact: When I met my girlfriend for the first time, her first words to me were, ‘You look like a shit rabbit,’ because I had face-painted myself as a magician’s white rabbit at that time. Six months later, we were dating. One of the things I remember about our relationship in our infancy was how much music we listened to, and that I spent a lot of time learning of music that I’d missed over the years, including Alexisonfire’s Side Walk When She Walks, which became a regular staple in the rotation of her iTunes library. We sung it to each other regularly. Despite the initially catty comment about my appearance when she first spoke to me, we spoke on odd occasions afterwards, and the line, ‘There was always warmth between us,’ succinctly puts where we were, and how far we’ve come since then. While we’ve grown a lot in the five years we’ve been together, I have always thought of this as our song, whatever lyrical connotations be damned.
1 – Dancing in my university kitchen with friends – (Crystal Castles – Intimate)
It’s fitting that this list ends with an actual climax, being my favourite memory, and at the very end of my first year at university. Firmly instilled within the alternative music society as its new events coordinator (well, I ran the club nights and trained the DJs at this time), and surrounded by an entirely new friendship circle, the final day of term began with my final exam, and then one gigantic picnic camped outside my university accommodation, which shifted indoors on the odd occasion when the weather turned south. As evening approached, the music carried on into the early hours, and so did the alcohol, and in the confines of a kitchen condensed into a roof space, we managed to turn what little we had into a dancefloor, complete with a strobe, glowsticks, a set of mood cubes, and a killer Spotify playlist. For recreational value, it may be worth mentioning that I had been drinking since 10am that morning. I am still not an alcoholic, OK? But with the icy bleeps and bloops of Crystal Castles‘ complex arpeggio melody, an overwhelming surge of rapture washed over me, as I danced with those still standing in the kitchen, as this was the most fun I had ever had, and this was the happiest I had ever been in my life, such a contrast from the last year where I had been at my crushing, bitterest low. Such a change in my life where I had to become more independent, to look after myself, and it had rebuilt me into the strongest incarnation of myself I can remember. That one song, in that one moment, consolidated everything about life experience I had needed to learn, and I felt like I had passed that test, like I had never truly lived, before that one glorious period of time.
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