Soundtrack of my Life – Teens to Present

Soundtrack of my Life – Teens to Present

I started this little series of blog articles last year and I’ve just realised that I missed one…

Here are the links to the first three:

The Early Years

The Early Years (but a bit later)

Teenage Kicks

I put a post out on my Facebook page and Twitter feed asking if there was anything people who read my blog would like me to write about. One of the questions asked was that I publish a ‘soundtrack of my life’ post. The suggestion was 16 songs, which I thought would be too many, but when you really sit down and try to think of those peak moments that are linked to one particular song it’s amazing how quickly those 16 places get filled up – particularly when you’re on the wrong side of 50 years old…

Also, 16 in one post felt like it would be too many. So I decided to split it into three posts and see how that works out. Well, I posted three articles but only reached my late teens! Then life got in the way and I totally forgot to post the more recent influences and favourites.

So my friends, here it is.

Music is amazing magic. All of us know a song that, when it comes on the radio (showing my age there…) you’re pulled straight back to that moment in your life. Well, here are some of mine:

I was on holiday with Cerri. We had left England and had travelled into Scotland to visit some of the Hebridean Islands. We had spent time on Mull, travelled over to Iona, over to Harris, then on to Lewis. Our travels then took us back to Skye and it was there I first heard the music of a man who would be a huge influence on my songwriting for years to come. We were in the B and B having breakfast when I heard this amazing song being played as background music. As I listened my heart opened and it felt like I was hearing a fellow traveller on the road I’d been walking since I first heard John Denver as a child. His voice was in exactly my register, and the melodies were emotional, clear, and it felt like I’d heard the song before. I caught the eye of the waitress and asked who it was singing and she told me it was a man called Dougie Maclean. So on our trip, I stopped off at a record store (again, showing my age…) and I found the album Roif, and I played it all through the rest of the trip in the car. In the end, I bought all of his albums, and have seen him live many times. A genius songwriter, and an amazing man.

Caledonia – Dougie Maclean


Another songwriter whose music has been of great influence to me has been Steve Knightley of the English folk band Show of Hands. In fact, it wasn’t only Dougie and Show of Hand’s music that influenced me. Neither Dougie, nor Show of Hands has ever signed record contracts. They formed their own labels, published their own songs, and both succeeded in earning a living from their music without the support of a label. By doing so they also retained all of the publishing and copyright of their songs. So when I started taking my music seriously and stepped out to make it my living, I took their model as my own. I promised myself I’d remain completely independent, that I would never sign my songs away, and that I would stay in control of my own musical direction and career. I started out on that path properly in 2006, and I’ve kept true to it so far. So thank you Dougie and Show of Hands for your inspiration, both on the instrument, and off.

Country Life – Show of Hands


Time to get heavy now…

Me and my friends were on our way to the Hungry Years, a rock club on Brighton seafront. Neil was driving in his Triumph car (I remember every now and then it would stop, he’d have to park up, get out of the car, and bash something in the engine with an iron bar to get it going again) and on the way down he popped a cassette into the player saying he’d just discovered this new band called Metallica. They had just released their Ride the Lightning album. He pressed play. Now I’d heard heavy guitar before. I guess the heaviest before that moment was Motorhead, but nothing prepared me for the guitar and double-bass drum assault that filled my ears after, what has to be said, was a very chilled out intro. Admittedly, there are better Metallica songs, but this was the first I heard, and I’ve never forgotten that moment.

Fight Fire with Fire – Metallica


Ok, so now we are going to get into where my love of rock went. If you’ve been following this series you’ll know that I am split down the middle when it comes to my love of folk music, and rock music. From the Ramones to AC/DC, then into glam, and then thrash metal. I love it all. But I confess I had to force myself to love some of the rock of the 80s. It seemed to me that the keyboard was muscling in on the realm of the guitar and marshall stack. Rock music for a while, to me at least, sounded just like pop music, but with a distorted guitar. Take the guitar away and what you had left was a pop song, and I didn’t like many pop songs. I didn’t get it. So I turned away from rock for a while, to be honest. It felt like it had done its course, and had morphed into something very different.

But then… I heard this…

Smells like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and the like revealed a lyrical depth that had, to me, been missing from rock for some years. I loved Van Halen and their feel-good party songs. I loved Motley Crue, Guns n Roses, and a few other bands of the time, but then it seemed the record labels smelt a fast buck, and the market was swamped with quantity, rather than quality. When I heard the opening chords of Smells like Teen Spirit I knew something was about to change, and sure enough, very quickly, what was seen as heavy metal and ‘hair metal’ began to die away. In more recent years some of those bands, the really good ones, attained the accolade of becoming ‘classic rock’, and they found themselves once more back in favour, and headlining gigs and festivals again. A second wind for some really fabulous bands.

Just one more to go.

Since I rediscovered my love of rock music there have been lots of bands that have opened my eyes to different and exciting directions. Marilyn Manson with his Antichrist Superstar album, Nine Inch Nails with Endless Spiral, Rob Zombie with Hellbilly Deluxe, gradually they courted me back into the metal fold, and now I can’t bear to miss a Download Festival.

So which song shall I end with?

A songwriter that I love, yet isn’t in this list is the great Paul Simon. Without doubt, he penned some of the greatest songs of his generation but, for me, one song he wrote entered that limited list of songs that have been better when covered by other people. I’m thinking of Bob Dylan here with Hendrix’s All along the Watchtower, or The Byrds cover of Tambourine Man. I prefer them both to the original (not that the original is bad, just that the other versions captured something more in the song). The song of Paul Simon’s that joins those other great songs is Sound of Silence.

When Simon and Garfunkel recorded it I heard a wonderful melody and incredible lyrics. I’ll be honest here, I think it’s one of the best songs ever written, but then a metal band called Disturbed covered it. I think they absolutely captured the real emotional message behind the song.

There’s a great video for it on YouTube, but the copyright owners won’t let me embed it in this blog (it’s well worth watching), but I found this live performance of the song. Disturbed played it at Download the last time they were there. 80,000 metalheads stood, ironically, in silence. There wasn’t a dry eye in that field when they finished.

The vocal is astounding.

Sound of Silence – Disturbed

So this song shows what can happen when rock and folk meet, and I think some of my songs live in that space too. I’m thinking Spirit of Albion, Sabbat, The Cauldron Born, there are others. All of them owe a lot to both folk and rock and long may that relationship thrive and continue.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane.

What are the songs from recent years that have been peak moments for you?


13 responses to “Soundtrack of my Life – Teens to Present”

  1. Couldn’t agree more about grunge. Like a breath of fresh air. There were a lot of great Brit-rock bands around at the time, too. Many are still going. I’m a bit younger than you so my coming of age was very much early 90s. I’d add Therapy?, The Wildhearts, Three Colours Red and even early Manics if I were to do my own list. I’d also be thinking of those heavier US bands of the same era – Sepultura etc. You can definitely hear the rock influences in many of your tracks. Best music for me fuses different genres together. We’ve seen bands like the Peatbog Fairies and Ozric Tentacles play blinding sets incorporating all types of folk, dance, metal, rock and everything in between. It’s great to hear stuff that sits on the edges of genres and doesn’t just follow.

      • That cover my Disturbed is one of my all time favourite pieces of music. I’ve seen it live, and the magic and charisma was, literally, out of this world. Spell-binding…literally.

        Other tracks I love that aren’t common:
        1) Devil’s Dance Floor my Flogging Molly (lots of other stuff by them, but this is the best of the bunch for me)
        2) Sol Invictus and Cutteslowe Walls
        by Thea Gilmore (again, almost anything she’s done, but the contrast between these two shows her versatility)
        3) Highway 9 by Eliza Gilkyson
        4) Going Home by Mary Fahl
        5) Phantom of the Opera done by Nightwish – this was my gateway to metal
        6) Down to the River to Pray & Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep done by Katherine Jenkins
        7) The Voice by Eimar Quinn

        For straight up memories:
        1) Rock and Roll Dreams by Meat Loaf – this captures my relationship with music as my saviour
        2) Poison by Alice Cooper
        3) Dancing Queen by Abba
        4) Unforgiven by Metallica, and their whole S&M album
        5) the set Inglorious did at Download in 2016
        6) My Young Man by Kate Rusby

        Folk/metal/rock melange indeed.

  2. WOW!!!!!!
    I have heard a lovely rendition of Caledonia by the Celtic Women, this version also pulls at my heart strings, in fact show of hands also made my heartache I always listen closely to lyrics, I love the music too but people miss so much if the don’t. Perhaps I feel too much some times.


  3. Strangely enough, I was asked only this week to think of one song that epitomises who I am, and where my life is at this time. I chose your own “Learning To Fly”.

  4. Oh Dave how recent is recent? I can’t remember where we left off but if we go into the 90’s then Oasis were the band that got me most excited – wanted to turn the radio up everytime they came on in 94/95. Got really into Inkubbus Sukkubus at the time too and had the pleasure of introducing them last week in Preston! I loved most Britpop and some Grunge and in the last decade nothing much has excited me. I guess I am an old fart now!

  5. Great songs there Dave. I love music, and I have a wide range of genres that I do like. I love folk, celtic, and pagan music, I also love rock and some heavy metal music, and some classic country. And some classical music, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Mozart.

    I’m a few years older than you, so the 70’s are my go to decade for the best music.
    Boston, ELO, Fleetwood Mac (I also love their old stuff with Pete Green), Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Peter Frampton John Lennon, just to name a few.

    I have music playing in my home every single day. I come from a musical family, so I’ve been around music and musicians all my life. And I can’t imagine my life without it.

  6. I agree with you about Sound of Silence – very evocative. Others that I would have as my soundtrack are Don’t Fear the Reaper, Wuthering Heights, Starman – I was lucky to see David Bowie live in Dundee in 1973 -, Sympathy for the Devil. Most recently, last 10 years, The Cave by Mumford & Sons, Pompeii by Bastille, Runaways by The Killers, & right up to date, Hold Me While You Wait by Lewis Capaldi, Shotgun by George Ezra, Mother Tongue by Bring Me The Horizon & finally Crown by Stormzy. As you can see quite a mix of genres.

  7. I’m the synth pop girl who wrote to you about Pagans in electronic music. *waves*
    These posts make an interesting read, I love finding out what music made artists I love tick. As for the recent songs… You want it darker by Leonard Cohen gives me a chill, as does Rufus Wainwright’s cover version of Hallelujah. Then there’s Welche Sprache spricht dein Herz? by Faun. And if you want a good laugh, check out Westorsi Rhapsody on Youtube – it really is a Queen cover version made to fit into the Game of Thrones fandom.

  8. Hmm, current music… well, I bought an Opeth album a couple of years ago as one of the tracks, “Will o’ the wisp” sounds just like it could have been Jethro Tull. But to be honest, I’m a bit disheartened by most of this and the last decade’s music. The only current music I’m buying a lot of (apart from your albums) are black-metal, Scandinavian metal, and operatic metal. Two absolutely outstanding English bands that sing of history and folklore are Winterfylleth and Old Corpse Road. They are also extremely technically-proficient and the stage shows aren’t too bad either. Other than that, it’s the likes of Immortal, Moonsorrow, Epica, Revamp, Nightwish, Korpiklaani… I’m very impressed by the Hu too, so was pleasantly surprised to see them listed on the shownotes for the next Druidcast! You may also want to investigate Bloodywood (Bangra metal) and Alien Weaponry (Maori metal).

    Despite being born in the 80s, I had never liked “modern” music at the time. Whilst I remember getting the odd single, such as Genesis’ “Invisible Touch”, or Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” when they came out, I couldn’t see the appeal of pop/modern music. I got a wind-up gramophone when I was 10. While my classmates were listening to Take That or East 17 CDs, the nearest to pop I could ever stomach was to put on a 45 of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, Manfred Mann’s “Mighty Quinn” or Bonzo Dog Band’s “Urban Spaceman”. But my heart always really belonged to Prog. Nothing ever came close to Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” or Family’s “Fearless”. They’re still my favourite two albums of all time, despite each being over a decade old by the time I was born.

    I remember discovering “modern” rock/metal, and thinking “Wow! There is hope for music after all!!”, when in the early 90s, grunge made the news in a “shock horror, what is the youth of today coming to?” type of way. 7 or whatever year-old me, proudly announced to my parents that I liked grunge. They didn’t quite know what it was (yet), but it sounded pretty cool and seemed to just be “heavy stuff”. Perhaps Uriah Heep for the next generation… Either way, they were more than happy for me to listen to that over vacuous nonsense, so over a period of time they gradually bought me a cassette of Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell”, and a couple of Iron maiden singles, including a picture disk of “Run to the Hills”, which was the coolest piece of artwork I’d ever seen at the time. I instantly fell in love with grunge and Metal. Funny enough, “Ride the Lightning” was my first ever Metallica album. To this day, I’d nominate the guitar solo from the title track for “best guitar solo of all time”, excluding bass of course (if we included bass, I’d vote for that honour to go to Free’s “Mr Big”).

    I had to be one of the only kids in the world, where both my parents and grandparents would shout at me to “turn that music UP”…

    As you can tell, I was probably a bit of a style and music outcast throughout school. It wasn’t until college/university that I actually found, to quote your lyrics “…that there are others, just like you”. /|\ )O(

  9. From one metalhead to another, I say HUZZAH!!! While my first experience with hard rock was Def Leppard, my first proper metal band was Iron Maiden, still my favourite metal band of all time. I was at my cousin’s house when he put on the album Powerslave and I heard 2 Minutes to Midnight for the first time. It was like a baptism. A baptism in the river of distortion and drums! A child of the 70’s and 80’s myself, I remember all the bands you mentioned with fondness. Alas, here in the US, we don’t really have a metal festival like Download anymore (made even moreso by the pandemic). I hope to someday make my way across the pond and experience Download for myself. Who knows, perhaps we’ll run into each other and enjoy headbangin together. Cheers mate!

    • Sadly Download has been cancelled for the second year. Man, I needed to be in a field with thousands of metalheads, rockin out under the sun…

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