Saturday, 15 July 2017

Music for a smile

A short while ago, a friend suggested I create a 'cheerful' playlist. Never one to sidestep a musical challenge, I threw myself into the task - and fairly quickly came upon some interesting conundrums ('conundra'?). Or perhaps dilemmas. ('Dilemmae'?)

As I think most people who've ever tried to write songs can testify, it comes more naturally to use the form to exorcise heartache, let off steam, or make protest. Trying to produce something genuinely happy - especially if it involves lyrics - can all too easily result in overly sentimental gloop or gush. The line between affability and naffability is a thin one.

We can all appreciate the more complex, forward-looking work of the later Beatles - but somehow bottling the brio of 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' and 'Can't Buy Me Love' ... surely these are achievements just as magnificent and unknowable.

During my researches (among both the records I owned, and beyond), I surprised myself over and over at our seemingly innate resistance to upness. How the best 'summer' songs - 'Summertime', 'California Dreamin', 'The Boys of Summer' - are actually wintry in tone, wistful, even slightly sinister. Or there's Abba, whose brightness of sound and unstoppable melody generally smuggled heroically dark and miserable verses into your subconscious.

So happy hats off to my 'Feelgood Fifteen' below. I think all of these tracks are genuine providers of fuss-free, good cheer. To me, the pop songs nail a celebratory, catchy tone but avoid flirting with teeth-clenching horror. I found an upbeat Schubert song that isn't about drinking (and seeing the slightly scary pianist Sviatoslav Richter unmistakeably rocking out during the performance is an added grin inducement). Some of the tracks, especially the instrumentals, aim to provide uplift - not only with a tune that lightens the mood, but with an energy rush - a sense of purpose. And, with one of my favourite songs of all time to finish, a gentle note of real confidence and hope.

Please enjoy responsibly!


Tegan & Sara: 'U-Turn'

Herbie Hancock: 'Watermelon Man'

The Move: 'Fire Brigade'

'Return of the Saint' Opening Theme

The Trammps: 'Disco Inferno'

Marc-André Hamelin: Gigue from 'French Suite, no.5' (Bach)

Elbow: 'Magnificent (She Says)'

Crowded House: 'World Where You Live'

Booker T & the MGs: 'Fuquawi'

Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, Sviatoslav Richter: 'Fischerweise' (Schubert)

Belle and Sebastian: 'Wrapped Up In Books'

AC/DC: 'Rock 'n' Roll Train'

Penguin Café Orchestra: 'Heartwind'

P J Harvey: 'Good Fortune'

Sally Timms & Jon Langford: 'I Picked Up The Pieces'

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