For some time now I’ve been running a feature on my website called SFF Song of the Week. Like a bar which sells books and also serves chocolate, this has the merit of combining several really good things under a single roof. And I’ve invited a number of writer friends and other folk connected with the genre to contribute their choices – as ‘blogjay’ of the week.
The selections have been fabulous, as you’d expect, with such a huge wealth of science fiction and fantasy related songs to choose from. But for my money, the intros have been even better than the music – some of them are love poems to favourite songs, many are rich in autobiographical detail, and all offer insights into the writer’s heart and soul.
I relish Mike Cobley’s account of his experiences at University when selecting Space Station Number 5. Stephen Hunt has written a gorgeous account of his youth as a young geek in love with Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip; before maturing into the very grown up and sophisticated geek that he now is. Mike Carey wrote a joyous piece about Genesis, a band who also dominated my teenage years. Adam Roberts wrote a piece about Gary Numan that made me laugh out loud. Lilith Saintcrow chose a filk song that made me laugh out loud even louder.
I have to confess that I’m not, myself, a great musical aficionado; I love music, but I can never remember the names of tracks, and I’m never the one who knows in which year a particular single was released. I’m not like Al Reynolds, with his encyclopedic knowledge of cutting edge bands, and I certainly can’t compete with the coolest of musical dudes like Richard Morgan and Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Paul Raven; or indeed Adam Roberts and James Lovegrove, who once had plans to write the definitive book about SFF music (and I hope one day they do.)
No, I’m just someone who love particular songs inordinately and excessively, and will play them endlessly over and over while running or at the gym. Things I’ve Seen by Spooks was one such song that carved grooves into my brain; at one point, I even quoted from it in Debatable Space, before rights issues forced me to pen some original lyrics. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley is another song that I became besotted by - no rude comments please! – and I Put a Spell on You by Nina Simone has cast a similar spell more recently. Darkness at the Edge of Town by Springsteen is tattooed into my frontal lobe; as is Maria Maria by Carlos Santana; not to mention Hope by Shaggy. I listen to lots; but some songs I love so much it hurts.
These days, I must admit, I’m one of the iPod Shuffle generation – skipping from Dad Rock to Avril Lavigne (my daughter loads it on to my iPod for long trips) to the Hold Steadies to Shakira to Beyonce & Destiny’s Child (*blush*) to Theolonius Monk. But my teenage passions, in the 70s, were the prog rocks bands like Yes (whose Starship Trooper was selected by Ian Whates, to the great annoyance of Pete Hamilton) , Genesis (Carey’s choice), Pink Floyd (strangely overlooked), Bowie (thanks James Lovegrove!) and mind-numbing stuff like Black Sabbath (I think Paranoid was my first ever album purchase). Patti Smith at Knebworth lingers in my memory as one of those great moments in growing up. Brand X were at the same gig, I seem to recall. Tangerine Dream (chosen by Stephen Palmer) in Cardiff. Blue Oyster Cult in Swansea (why has no-one picked Don’t Fear the Reaper?). 10 CC at Cardiff Castle (look, what can I say, I was a total nerd and really loved them, then.)
Frankly, no music I’ve heard since has QUITE the same potency as the teen year faves – or maybe I just don’t listen as much, or with such quasi-religious intensity. Then, I could listen to an album ten times in a week. Now, it’s 2 or 3 times then it goes on to Shuffle. So I have great sympathy with the blogjays who travel down the Nostalgia Road when making their choices.
But the younger and/or cooler blogjays are always there to freshen my references. I’d never heard Feist until Nicole Peeler chose her version of the awesomely evocative old English ballad Sea Lion Woman; listen to the song, read Nicole’s books, and you’ll FEEL the synergy. My producer friend Archie Tait (from the hippy generation, but totally up to date with his musical preferences) chose Yoshimi and the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips, which I’d never heard before and which really wowed me. And Jesse Bullington introduced me to the band Bal-Sagoth, who are SERIOUS fantasy dudes, and that was a real eye-opener.
Because of my own time constraints, I’ve not managed to run one of these songs EVERY week – but I’m hoping to up the frequency in the next year or so. Until I run out of writers; or run out of songs with SF or fantasy elements; which I suspect will not be for a very long time.
Anyway, if you want to listen in, click on this link.
And here is my selection, not in any order, of my Top Ten SFF Songs of the Week from Debatable Spaces.
After the Gold Rush by Neil Young: Selected by Peter F. Hamilton – THIS WEEK’S SELECTION!!!!
That’s a top 10 consisting of 11 choices; in hommage to Spinal Tap.
(This feature originally appeared on the Orbit website, and can still be found there if, duh, you want to read it again. – Ed).
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