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The Tracks of my Years


The soundtrack of my life, from rock n' roll to post-rock

The soundtrack of my life, from rock n’ roll to post-rock

This post relates to a 4Sight presentation delivered at an online 4Networking ‘Midweek Music’ meeting on 25 May 2020. Various members who attend this group regularly have given presentations on the music that they love or has influenced them. To tackle a similar theme, I decided to set myself the challenge of coming up with a track for each of the years since I was born in 1957, right up to the present day. And then, to avoid the temptation of including endless David Bowie tracks, each artist chosen could only appear once.

Putting the list together (shown below) was fun, and went through many, many edits and amends, as various themes emerged. Are these my 66 favourite tracks? Well, no, as the limitation of one per year immediately precluded all sorts of tracks from various amazing years such as 1971 and 1977. But what did start to fall in place were five key themes which have all been part of my passion for music right through my life:

  • The power of the single
  • The impact of Side 1, Track 1
  • The joy of live music
  • The richness of back catalogues
  • Oh, and OK then, David Bowie as a separate category (you’ll see why)

The power of the single

When we grow up, single tracks are our first exposure to popular music, on the radio and elsewhere. And so too, vinyl singles are the first taste of buying and collecting music. And the late ‘50s and early ‘60s were the time when the single was everything. Roughly speaking, before Sgt Pepper in 1967, the single was king, and perhaps then no coincidence that that specific Beatles album was the first LP I bought. Before then, the 7” ruled, and gave us such variety, impact and excitement in 2-4 minutes of compressed invention.

My dad was an avid collector and player of jazz records, and so records (or “reggles” as I called them at a very young age) were everywhere and I soon decided I wanted them. Precociously I acquired the Telstar single and the Beatles Twist and Shout EP by the time I was six, and then various others over the years. Clearly, the tracks featured from 1957-1962 have been thought about after the fact, but I do have clear memories of loving Hit the Road Jack as early as when it came out.

With the choices of single I’ve made for the period 1964-1969, what’s remarkable is the speed of development in music at that time. The fact that The Byrds’ Eight Miles High is just three years after the Beatles covering Twist and Shout is remarkable.

The singles chosen for some of the years 1975 right up to 2021 share little except the sheer impact they had at the time, be that sonic or even political. They are thin on the ground in the part of my list in the 21st century, as I just don’t keep up with charts and trends of that type, but 2021’s Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender is, to my ears, as good a song as any in the period covered.

The impact of Side 1 Track 1

While clearly a reference to vinyl, this equally applies to many CDs I have, where it is the first track that announces something new and special. I love that feeling, which applies to all the tracks I’ve chosen for this section, of playing a new album for the first time, with the anticipation and excitement heightened if it’s a purchase you’ve just brought home, and straightaway every other album feels (for a few days) less exciting and interesting. That new one is the one you just want to keep playing again and again.

With some of my choices (eg The Who, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, Radiohead), these were albums by artists I already loved, but suddenly they went somewhere new and incredibly exciting. With others, the discovery was some time after its original release (Miles Davis, Van Morrison) and with others, and these were perhaps the most exciting of all, it was side 1, track 1 of a brand-new artist. Roxy Music’s Remake/Remodel is the pinnacle of this feeling – who were these people, making this totally new and brilliant music??

The joy of live music

I’ve been lucky enough to see in concert many of the artists I’ve chosen, some of them on multiple occasions. In my presentation I showed a couple of photos of a couple of fantastic live moments that are transcendent in their impact. Seeing Malian band Tinariwen at a small side stage at Glastonbury in 2007, sparking a love of music from Mali that has been strong ever since. The other photo is The War of Drugs performing Under the Pressure at Latitude Festival in 2014, just incredible.

And Covid has starved us of live music! But now it’s back! And, partly as a backlog of tickets for gigs postponed in some cases by as much as two and a half years, and partly the huge wave of bands getting back out there after years away, I’ve got more tickets in the locker than ever before. To celebrate that, I’ve featured tracks by all these artists I’m so looking forward to seeing before the end of 2022: Pavement (I’ve waited 30 years to see them!), Counting Crows, Sigur Ros, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Let’s Eat Grandma, and the most exciting guitar band around right now, Fontaines DC. Bring it on!

The richness of back catalogues

With artists like Kraftwerk, Teenage Fanclub, The Fall or Mogwai, how can you choose just one track? With all these, and others, I admit in most cases to being an avid completist. To quote the title of a new book about The Fall which I’m excited about, “You Must Get Them All”. This of course is a quote from John Peel about his view of The Fall’s huge catalogue.

Either via streaming or via the slew of re-releases, remasters etc that continue to pour out, in part fuelled by the vinyl revival, it’s never been easier to take a deep dive into the extensive catalogue of all the artists I’ve chosen in this category. If you only know one or two albums, or even just a couple of tracks by artists like Beck, Pulp, Nick Drake or PJ Harvey, then go and explore further, it’s so easy to do so!

David Bowie

For me, his body of work could be featured in the singles category, as some of the most incredible Side 1, Track 1s, and of course the richness of his back catalogue is up there with anyone’s… and he was amazing to see live. As my Bowie track I’ve chosen his final great statement, from 2016, Lazarus from Blackstar. What a way to bow out. I was delighted to see that Uncut magazine recently voted Blackstar it’s favourite album of the past 25 years.

The list and the playlist

The Tracks of my Years can be found on this Spotify playlist:


Year Track Track 1 Singles Live Library
1957 Chuck Berry Rock and Roll Music X
1958 Eddie Cochrane Summertime Blues X
1959 Miles Davis So What X
1960 Johnny Kidd and  the Pirates Shakin’ all over X
1961 Ray Charles Hit the Road Jack X
1962 The Tornados Telstar X
1963 The Beatles Twist and Shout X
1964 The Kinks You Really Got Me X
1965 Smokey Robinson Tracks of my Tears X
1966 The Byrds Eight Miles High X
1967 Pink Floyd See Emily Play X
1968 Van Morrison Astral Weeks X
1969 Fleetwood Mac Green Manalishi X
1970 Nick Drake River Man X
1971 The Who Baba O'Reilly X
1972 Roxy Music Remake/Remodel X
1973 Sensational Alex Harvey Band Faith Healer X
1974 King Crimson Great Deceiver X
1975 Modern Lovers Roadrunner X
1976 Stevie Wonder Love's in need of love today X
1977 Sex Pistols God Save the Queen X
1978 Kraftwerk Neon Lights X
1979 Public Image Albatross X
1980 Talking Heads Born Under Punches X
1981 Ghost Town The Specials X
1982 Robert Wyatt Shipbuilding X
1983 The The This is the Day X
1984 Frankie Goes to Hollywood Two Tribes X
1985 Kate Bush Running Up That Hill X
1986 Paul Simon Graceland X
1987 The Smiths Stop Me if You Think… X
1988 Sonic Youth The Sprawl X
1989 Tears for Fears Woman in Chains X
1990 Depeche Mode Policy of Truth X
1991 REM Me in Honey X
1992 Pavement Here X
1993 Stereolab Crest X
1994 Portishead Glory Box X
1995 Teenage Fanclub Verisimilitude X
1996 Underworld Born Slippy X
1997 Bjork Bachelorette X
1998 The Beta Band She's the One X
1999 Counting Crows Mrs Potters Lullaby X
2000 Radiohead Everything in its Right Place X
2001 Pulp Wickerman X
2002 Gomez Rex Kramer X
2003 My Morning Jacket Mahgeetah X
2004 Arcade Fire Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) X
2005 Beck Scarecrow X
2006 Tinariwen Cler Achel X
2007 Sigur Ros Hafsol X
2008 Fleet Foxes Blue Ridge Mountains X
2009 Bon Iver Blood Bank X
2010 The Fall Mexico Wax Solvent X
2011 PJ Harvey Let England Shake X
2012 The Unthanks Big Steamers X
2013 Yo La Tengo Ohm X
2014 The War on Drugs Under the Pressure X
2015 Low What Part of Me X
2016 David Bowie Lazarus X
2017 Mogwai Crossing the Road Material X
2018 Let's Eat Grandma Donnie Darko X
2019 Lankum The Wild Rover X
2020 Fontaines DC A Hero's Death X
2021 Sam Fender Seventeen Going Under X
2022 Band of Horses Crutch X