The Dadless Soundtrack by Chapter-Explained!

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:

A Rumour from Ground Ground Control-Losing David Bowie

I heard of his passing on the radio before I left that home that morning 4 years ago today, I went upstairs and told my wife then sent a couple of texts. I had to go work outside of London via Paddington that day. I broke the Londoners TFL taboo and looked into the eyes of countless strangers I passed for recognition of the same pain and loss I felt but couldn’t yet articulate. I thought saw it in some and assumed they saw the same reflected in me. Others were blank and oblivious. They’ve missed out on so much, how grey must their world be, I thought. I got on with my work including a negotiation with person who seemed oblivious. It was hard not to feel resentment and disdain against them to this day. Above the discussions my mind screamed in silence: How could it not matter to you that Bowie died today? What kind of person are you?
When I got back to Paddington it was there for 5 million Londoners to see. David Bowie RIP in warm white lights revolving around the BT tower. It was beautiful and fitting. I didn’t go down to the Brixton candle lit vigil where strangers linked arms and sang songs, maybe I should have done but I think that the impact on us where Bowies work in concerned is often very personal, we all have our own stories and so many of them over the decades. It was between you and him. There were many years spent passing a particular album in the rack of the record store, until one day you buy it on a whim and privately enter another world; as if by magic. A piece of vinyl or a CD that could and indeed did lead to adventures…A tribute concert isn’t necessary, there’s too much work, it’s too big and too small at the same time. He features in almost every chapter of the dadless soundtrack listed at the back of the book, that’s how much his work meant, it was all between the two of us.

The story of DIG

Dig was the last track we recorded in the couple of days Island Blue granted back in 2001. One those tracks that comes on the hoof when there’s a little time left over. The lyrics took on the shape of consoling chat between two lovers. I call it an austerity love song now, as the lover goes over the ‘gifts’ he’s shoplifted in order to help. The snow flakes referred to the weather and nothing else, Santa’s grotto and John and Yoko pop up (Merry Christmas War is Over) taking us into festive territory. Dig was explained in my book dadless as a Xmas #1 on Planet Zarg, so if your not one of the few hundred people that bought the Ignition mini-album back in the day you can hear it now. It comes with instructions hug a loved one and/or hug your self and Dig in.