Bennyness: Memorable Music Top 10 / by Chris Baldwin

This blog is the accompaniment to our podcast where we sit down to talk through Ben’s top 10 memorable tracks in the week he joins The Circularity Music Show with his regular ‘Meaningful Music’ spot.

Bennyness takes us through each track, why it became memorable and what makes these songs part of the fabric of his life.

Join us via the Spotify playlist, and through the podcast at Circularity.Org/podcast where you can hear us talk about each track.

Over to Bennyness…

EELS – PS. YOU ROCK MY WORLD

Without question, Mr E is one of my heroes, (whenever I do some form of project, be it my one my show or some writings, I will always try and reference Eels), and although I know he’ll never reach the dizzying heights musically that he once did, he will always have a firm place in my heart. This is the closing track off what I believe to be one of, if not THE, greatest albums of the 90’s, ‘Electro-shock Blues’. It’s a sad album, dealing with death and grief, but this track is what E refers to as the “Blue sky ending”. But there’s still a great bout of sadness in it. Lyrically I find it to be very vivid with the images; always picturing the scenes upon each listen. However, when you take into consideration the shit life has thrown at him, he deals with it all with great wit and sardonic humour. I cannot recommend his biography ‘Things the Grandchildren Should Know’ enough. It’s the perfect balance of sadness, humour and happiness, written with genuine honesty.

This album was the soundtrack to my time during secondary school, which probably explains why I wound up being so melancholic and miserable. It transports me back to the days I began skiving school, my last two years. I loathed school, in particular the final two years. There was a growing sense within that I was becoming isolated from many of what I used to refer to as friends. Our interests were completely different, and in truth, many of them had grown tired of me. I used to have a white Sony cassette Walkman that I bought from Cash Generator, and I recorded this album onto cassette courtesy of my brother. Whenever I skived school I would leave the house and walk to the local park, where I would slowly wander round, being careful not to be spotted by my brother who would walk through there on his way to college. I'd wait until around ten past nine, then sneak home, lock the door behind me and go straight to my room. My bed used to have sliding doors underneath for storage, so I used to slide them open and sleep under there. Now I know it seems daft and you may well be wondering, ‘Why not just sleep in your bed?’ The reason was that my mum’s husband used to come home for dinner during work, and I was paranoid that he may come upstairs and stick his head into my room to make sure I wasn’t there, as sometimes my mum left for work before me. While under my bed, this was one of the albums I played heavily, and this track (along with 80% of the album) was always a favourite.

Whenever I’m faced with troubles of the the mind, weights of the heart or woes of the soul, I always turn to the music of Eels for a pep talk, as there isn’t an area he hasn’t covered. I could’ve easily chosen ten Eels songs for this project.

DEVO – WIGGLY WORLD

I had the fortune as a child to be raised on an incredible music diet. Aside from the obvious Beatles, The Who and Kinks, my Dad’s collection was so varied; from Zappa to Can to Chicago/Detroit House to Laibach to Nitzer Ebb to AC/DC (Bon stuff only) etc. In there was Devo, and my brother and I were obsessed by them, to the point we used to pretend to be them, even arguing over who was going to be Mark Mothersbaugh, much to the amusement of our family. Wiggly World was my favourite off the album (Duty Now for the Future) when I was a kid, but the song that brought such great amusement to my Dad was ‘Devo Corporate Anthem’. They did a video for this, where all five members stood in a row, with a wind machine blowing. As the song reaches a crescendo, they all raise their hand to their heads and salute, and this is exactly what Andrew and I used to do (minus the wind machine). We had the timing down to a tee. My dad had all their albums on vinyl, plus two VHS tapes, both of which Andrew and I watched over and over again, paying close attention to their movements for future re-enactments. 

I still love this band to this day, despite their later efforts becoming gradually worse, but this album is Devo at their peak, and their sound has been ripped off so many times. They’re always associated with “Geek chic” a term I cannot fucking abide. I didn’t like Devo because it was what geeks liked, I had (and still have) a genuine love for the music they made. Musically their time signatures and arrangements and playing is incredible, especially when they played live, so difficult yet so tight. 

Years later, Andrew and I managed to see them live. I remember the night I discovered they were playing in Manchester. It was around one in the morning, and as soon as I saw it online, I had to text Andrew’s then girlfriend (he didn’t have a mobile then). Moments later he phoned back, giddy and excited, and in no time at all the tickets were booked. We asked our dad if he wanted to come, but sadly he wasn’t all that fussed. Our seats were quite near the front, and as we waited for them to enter stage, the pair of us were happily chatting away. Then the lights went down, the two us had instant grins smeared across our faces, and the second I saw them walking onto stage I couldn’t contain my excitement, and giddily nudged Andrew on the arm, as if to let him know, “They’re here! They’re coming on stage right now!” as though he had no idea. The two of us shot up and were immediately transported back to when we were two little kids obsessing over them. And in case you’re wondering; yes, I can still do the Devo moves.

BRIAN ENO – THE BIG SHIP

When I was writing my one-man show, Love of the Loveless, I knew I wanted to end with a crescendo, the classic big finale. Originally the speech I closed with was about accepting being on my own and how I was content with that; that the most important thing is that I’m happy. Six weeks prior to performing the show I had to re-write the closing speech due to meeting my girlfriend. At this stage I’d already decided on using clips from films which reflected moments I'd spoken about during the show, along with this piece of music and lights flashing different colours in time with the music. Originally I was going to use a piece by Yann Tiersen, the title track from ‘Goodbye Lenin’, but when I saw ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’, the scene where The Big Ship is used inspired me to change my mind, and I think it was the right decision. It adds an extra layer of emotion to the ending of my show, never failing to give me goosebumps. As egotistical as it is of me to say, but when performing my show, I was always excited about reaching and delivering this moment. It’s humbling to know that some people even cried at this part of the show, and I hold this piece of music responsible for that. I think emotively it reflects and sums up the whole journey of the show and unlocks something within the audience. It truly is a beautiful piece of music, a great cocktail of romantic melancholy, yet somehow also uplifting.

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – KC ACCIDENTAL

I hated uni, I was such an introvert during my time there, still coming to grips with who I was, plagued with crippling shyness, self-deprecation and downer questions and thoughts. The album this track is from (You Forgot It in People) was the soundtrack to my time there; it pulled me through it all. I only made two friends while at uni, both of whom suffered from depression. So you can imagine the grey cloud I was under. This album completely blew me away upon first listen. My brother put me onto them, though in a round-a-bout way it was I who brought his attention to them via Feist, who fell onto our radar when we first saw Chilly Gonzales live as she performed with him (yet it was Andrew who introduced me to Gonzales’s music). I still remember the first time I heard You Forgot It in People; an early Saturday evening sitting in my dad’s kitchen, just as the sun was settling. Andrew told me before pressing play, “I think you’ll love this album,” and he wasn’t wrong. It’s still my favourite album of all time; it has everything I want from an album. When I play it now it still excites me, despite me knowing it inside out. The production is faultless, the melodies are infectious, the twists and turns the album takes is exhilarating and the lyrical ambiguity fascinates (there’s a track about peado priests on there, and another about a married man having a gay affair). But not all of the lyrics are ambiguous, there are some that ring loud and clear, some like a gentle hug, letting me know that I’m not alone in thinking and feeling the way I am. Without this album I would’ve really struggled getting through my time at university. KC Accidental is the second track off the album, and it explodes with such euphoric power, a real statement of intent; an uplifting and awakening track. A friend of mine was once asked by another to describe me in three words. He replied, “Broken. Social. Scene.” You’ve no idea how proud that made me.

BADLY DRAWN BOY – THE SHINING

The very first time I heard Badly Drawn Boy, I wasn’t on-board, despite how much Andrew raved about the album. There was a lot of hype around him after his first few eps, but I still wasn’t drawn in. Then I heard Disllusion, and I decided to check out his album. Andrew played it for me, and immediately I knew I was wrong the first time round. This is the opening track off ‘The Hour of Bewilderbeast’, and it’s beautiful. I recorded it onto cassette so I could listen to it on my trusty Walkman (yep, I was still rocking a cassette Walkman in 2000). For a good 3 months solid I listened to it every morning when walking to college. I even played it on my walk home. I really enjoyed my college course, despite it being a transitional time in my life. At school I was this annoying hyperactive, loud mouth, but during my last year of school I started to become withdrawn, and by college I was much more mellow; figuring out who I was, beginning my venture on to self-discovery. Badly Drawn Boy had a huge impact on me; listening to his album made me feel I was finally taking my own steps into “proper” music, gone were the days of being a Blink 182 fan, I was developing a mature palette without having to flick through my dad’s collection. It truly is an original piece of work; no other singer songwriter was doing what he did on this album. I even begun wearing a beanie hat because of him. This track holds a lot of good memories for me, the whole album does. It’s important to go through those difficult and cripplingly awkward teen years, they made me who I am. As this is the opening track, the instance I hear that brass intro, I’m submerged into that place again. At the risk of sounding pompous, I love albums that take you on journeys (not in the prog-rock sense), and this album does it beautifully. 

BOARDS OF CANADA - SIXTYNINER 

At 19 years old, I’m still on my journey of self-discovery; a year into my uni course, my head is lurking in a land of melancholy, the questions still floating around my mind. I hated uni, but when not there I was happy. Hanging out with Andrew and his friends, all of whom were so easy to get along with (it was during this time I first me Rob, thanks to Andrew). At this point me and Andrew were really close, we used to stay up late till the early hours just talking or listening to music or watching films. He understood where my head was at; he lent me his copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’, and like millions of other people who read it the first time, I identified immediately with it. While reading it I would often listen to Boards of Canada, and weirdly their dark and eerie electronica matched it perfectly. Upon every listen to Boards I’m reminded of reading Catcher in the Rye for the first time, and the profound effect it had on me. It astounds me that this track is 24 years old! It also reminds me of the time my brother and I were closer than we are now.

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – ALL MY FRIENDS

This song is perfect, no arguments. A great blend of NEU! and New Order with the honest and wonderful lyrics of James Murphy. It builds and builds and builds so excitingly. I was late to the party with LCD. I heard ‘Daft Punk Are Playing at My House’ when it first came out, the hype was unreal, but I wasn’t really fussed. A few years later he drops ‘All My Friends’ and I loved it immediately. It came out the week I had to look after my niece, who was only 2 years old at the time. I used to stick MTV2 on in the background, and without doubt this video would come on every day at the same time. It reminds me of that exhausting week, but it also reminds me of my best friend, Briggs. Murphy is his hero. Despite how much I loved this track, I never bothered to buy the album; how foolish. It wasn’t until Briggs and I moved in together that I finally got on-board. It’s one of my biggest regrets not buying their albums sooner. ‘Sound of Silver’ is an incredible album; all time top ten for sure. This song evokes a lot of memories, not only of my niece and Briggs, but it makes me think back to friends and the so-called friendships we had (thanks largely to the lyrics). It makes me think about all the misplaced affections I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made in life, the good times I’ve had with friends. It contains one of my favourite lyrics ever, “I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision, for another 5 years of life’. So true. 

Last year myself, Briggs, my sister and my girlfriend saw them live, and earlier that day Briggs had met James Murphy by pure luck in Piccadilly Records. Unsurprisingly he said he was a really nice guy. I always think of that gig, and when they performed this, the pure joy it brought Briggs and I, the two of us singing along, me with a lump in my throat doing standard white guy bad dancing.

FRANK ZAPPA – DANCING FOOL

Frank Zappa is my dad’s hero, so much so that he wanted to name Andrew Frank (he wanted to call me Todd after his other hero, Todd Rundgren). It’s no surprise that I grew up listening to a lot of Zappa, being far too young to understand all the rude jokes, the satire and the brilliant musicianship. My dad is the reason why I’m obsessed with music, why I HAVE to collect it. My dad’s music collection is in what we call the “front room”, as it’s the front room of the house. I’m always reminded of spending nights with my dad and Andrew listening to music in the front room, sometimes playing Subbutteo. When we were kids my dad would put this vinyl on, and Andrew and I would dance like fools, much to my dad’s amusement. They’re such happy memories for me, nights in what seemed like a never ending library of weird, wonderful and exciting music. My dad digging through the shelves to play music to his two lads, aged 5 and 8. There was a Zappa album which had a painted picture of Frank looking menacing holding a crystal ball; it used to really scare Andrew. Every so often my dad would quickly pull it out and show Andrew the cover, to which he’d cry and run off. Happy days.

I still listen and proudly own some Frank Zappa today, and after all these years, now being able to understand and appreciate the musicianship, I belly laugh at some of the lyrics and voices. He made a LOT of music, not all of it to my taste, but there’s enough there for everybody to appreciate, even if it's just a smidgen. I hear Zappa, I always think of my hero, my dad.

RUPERT HOLMES (ESCAPE) THE PINA COLDA SONG

No matter how much of a “muso” (I hate that term) you like to imagine you are, there’s always a song that creeps in that, deep down you know you shouldn’t like because it’s just not “cool” and goes against everything you’re into, creeps in and worms its way into your head, leaving you with no other options but to say, “Yep. I like this!” However, this isn’t the only Rupert Holmes song I like, there’s a few bangers in his archive (‘Him’, ‘Answering Machine’ and ‘Partners in Crime’ to name just a few). I have two memories attached to this song.

The first is a project Andrew and I were going to do. We were going to place an ad in the local paper quoting the same ad Rupert reads in this song. If anybody replied with the same reply from the song, I would then arrange and attend a date with that person.

My other memory is of my girlfriend, Kirsty. When I began working at the library (where we met), we used to sing this song to each other (during our dinner breaks we would ask each other quiz questions to help me prepare for my appearance of Eggheads). This then reminded me of the other songs of his I liked. One afternoon, while straightening books, I began singing ‘Him’ to her, as she said she’d never heard it. We sang the Pina Colada song so much that one evening, Kirsty text me saying she was watching the video for it, and asked if I'd seen it. We then text each other, commenting on the video. It’s now become our song, which I love, because a lot of couple always have a song, and it’s usually some slushy, romantic crap, but ours isn’t. It epitomises our relationship (no, we’re not wanting to cheat on each other), but we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and that’s healthy.

WEEZER – THE WORLD HAS TURNED AND LEFT ME HERE

Ten years old, and there I am, rocking out to Weezer’s Blue album. The first rock band I got into that my dad hadn’t introduce me to. Andrew got the album, and as we shared a bedroom at the time I had no choice but to hear this album a lot, and I loved it. I still love it to this day. Buddy Holly was being played everywhere, so it was hard to escape them, but it’s a great album. It’s my favourite Weezer album (they’ve only made 3 good albums; the rest are woeful). Every summer I always come back to this album. It’s an album that’s followed me through all periods in my life, like a best friend ready and waiting to back me up. It’s not so much an album that holds memories, more of an important album for me. My favourite Weezer related memory is Christmas, 1996. Andrew had asked for their new album, ‘Pinkerton’. We waited for my mum to go out, then snuck into her room, found our Christmas presents, found the CD shaped one, opened it and there it was, ‘Pinkerton’. We played it immediately, loving it straight away.

However, Blue JUST pips it for me. This is my favourite track off it (it’s a faultless album, no duffers whatsoever), and despite having lived with this album for 25 years, I never realised until a few years ago that this is part two to the second track, ‘No One Else’. Still on my top ten albums of all time.