At the back of my book dadless you’ll find a soundtrack by chapter section. It’s where you’d normally see an index and just before the all important acknowledgements. I allowed myself the luxury because, quite simply I could, and most, if not all of us, have an internal soundtrack to our lives; a mix tape of the heart or playlist of the mind that marks the key experiences on the map of who we are, or at least who we think we are.
The selection normally consists of what we’re listening to by choice but in the case of the dadless soundtrack I’ve included stuff that was also burbling in the background on our kitchen radio, heard inside shops or carried on the breeze from the funfair in the summer months. That’s why some tracks may disturb some who are Too Cool for School e.g. ‘The Banana Splits and Duran Duran for f*ck’s sake’ I can hear it now but make no apology. It was all there, part of the surroundings like musical wallpaper, especially on Saturday’s, wether plotted up in front of the telly immersed in the Arabian Nights and the Monkees, or as a Saturday Barrow Boy on Butlin’s camp or while bailing out canoes, capsized by yeasty smelling lads from Sheffield on Skegness Boating Lake.
I chose three tracks per chapter and I’ll walk you through some of the less obvious choices that probably require some explanation, these include a a couple of topical exceptions, recent discoveries that I didn’t actually know of in the time zones where the chapters are set.
Whitey’s on the Moon by Gil Scott Heron
I certainly didn’t hear Terry Wogan introducing this one on Mum’s kitchen wireless. It’s a stark piece of live beat poetry in which Scott-Heron simply decries the deprivations of a ghettoised existence in the face of technological majesty of Armstrong’s ‘giant leap for mankind.’ Scott Heron, then a student aged n-n-n-nineteen based in Lincoln, New York explains how his and his sister Nell’s stark reality is laced with pain, graphic disease and hardship, whilst Apollo 11 touches down in July 1969, incidentally six months after my birth on the other side of the world. It’s not a militant rant or whine of victimisation just a passing observation. By 1971 the U.S. would be two years further into Vietnam , NASA’s Apollo project and the civil rights struggle when Marvin Gaye would return to the issue singing ‘Rockets, Moon Shots, Spend it on the have nots’ in Inner City Blues from the all-time-great What’s Going On album.
Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett
The Beatles original was the first choice, as my mother had recounted hearing it everywhere like sonic wallpaper when she was pregnant with me in the Autumn of 1968, especially the extended na-na-naa-naaa outro. When I see the footage of the audience’s stage invasion of the Beatles ‘live’ performance, which is a testament to the optimism of the era I like to imagine how she was at this time. So why the other version? The overwhelming blues and soul of Pickett’s performance makes the singers consolation in the face of disappointment felt by Jude all the more visceral and apt for the Situation chapter.
Hush-a-Bye Mountain by Stacey Kent
For me the intimacy of Stacey Kent’s modern version of aces the original, which I must have caught from Dick van Dyke in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film. It offers soothing reassurance of sweet dreams like the song itself is tucking you in safe and sound.
Sweet Gingerbread Man by the Mike Curb Congregation
The sonic comfort food of the Mike Curb Congregation’s Sweet Gingerbread Man was another from Mum’s kitchen, there have been multiple others versions most of which sound phoned-in in comparison to this. Maybe Mum and a tasty and tanned little boy and I sang along together with those good vibes and optimism.
Rebel Rebel by David Bowie
In the mid ‘70s I must have in bed by the time a Ziggy-ised David Bowie blew Britain’s mind on Top of the Pops. I discovered a much changed version(s) of him five years later in the Ashes to Ashes video, and he features in most of the dadless soundtrack chapters, but the riff of this stomping glam-classic was familiar to all us kids. It featured in on a TV perfume advert where a hot tramp plants a lavish kiss on a shop window, much to the camp disgust of the window dresser on the other side of the glass. With our six-year-old schoolyard rhymes of ‘Georgie Best, Super Star, walks like a woman and he wears a bra’ we were highly amused.
Fire in My Heart by the Super Furry Animals
This beautiful vignette by the Super Furry Animals is most probably most often seen as a love song, but for me it typified the confusion in the face of acceptance and evasion being flipped following the three phone conversations with my father, resulting in me flipping from incandescent passive anger and forgiveness which persists to this day, depending on which way the wind blows.
Stepping Razor by Peter Tosh
This was my second topical exception. It parachuted in as a recent discovery thanks to Mr Don Letts. Peter Tosh formerly of Bob Marley’s Wailers was also a keen karate practitioner and took no nonsense from anybody, including the Jamaican Police and the Rolling Stones. The lyrics warn the bullies of the world ‘don’t judge me on my size, I’m dangerous’ as a young man walks down the street, hence its inclusion for the chapters We Are The Ragged and Showdown.
The circle is complete as we end on the high of Curtis Mayfield’s rousing Move On Up which kicks us off at the start of the book and The Rotary Connection’s life affirming I am the Black Gold of the Sun.
I’d like to hear the soundtrack to your life.
A link to the Spotify dadless playlist is below (minus unavailable Rumble in the Jungle by the Fugees/Tribe Called Quest: