Soundtrack of my Life (Writing / ‘Feel Good’ Playlist (Vol. 4)


So if my previous post was about the songs I was listening to when just starting university and dealing with being away from home for the first time, the tracks I am detailing this time very much defined the end of my student days, and my transition to the ‘real world’ of working and responsibilities. (Oh, the horror!) An equally confusing and testing time, as I’m sure many can attest. I had finally accepted myself as being gay as I left university as well, so once again it was a period of major change and facing the unknown.

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Soundtrack of my Life (Writing / ‘Feel Good’ Playlist (Vol. 3)

From the music video for ‘Tender’ (Feeder)

So I have previously posted a selection of my favourite songs that I would put within my ‘Feel Good/Writing’ playlist, (see Vol. 1 here and Vol. 2 here) as I find having music to listen to while writing really helps get my creative juices flowing, and the songs are also ones I like to listen to when I need a bit of cheering up after a rough day – basically, they give me positive and/or creative vibes all round. While working on the next post on this subject, which concerned songs released in the period of 2004-2007, I instantly found myself taken back in time to those years, which for me was when I had just finished sixth form (college) and then went on to study at university. This was a time of a lot of change and transition for me, given that I would also be moving away from my hometown (only an hour away, but still), and also that I turned 18 in 2005 – I was becoming an adult, my childhood slowly slipping away from me, both mentally and geographically. Therefore they were quite uncertain times; on top of that, while at uni I was still figuring out my sexuality – coming to a head in my second year when I finally realised and accepted that I was gay. In short, I was really figuring out who I was at the time, which has obviously shaped the person that I am now, some 12 to 13 years later. As I said, the songs that I have in my Media Player library from this time instantly transported me back there, to simpler (yet somehow complicated) times, and I became very wistful and contemplative about everything. Just goes to show the power that music can have, and how it frames certain periods of your life!

At any rate; the first of these tracks was ‘Breakaway’ by Kelly Clarkson. Now, a singer like her, an American Idol winner, is not someone who would usually be to my taste (not to sound snobby or anything), but I was drawn to her music for some reason, and one of my favourite tracks ended up becoming ‘Breakaway’ – and again, given that it was recorded specifically to be part of the soundtrack for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (shudder), I guess that this song would count as a guilty pleasure of mine. But it really did speak to me at the time, being a song about change and getting away and moving on – from the mention of ‘growing up in a small town’ to the regret suggested in ‘wanting to belong here’; this was something I struggled a lot with in my school years, sincerely valuing the few friends that I did have. At the time I was hopeful that university would bring a positive change in my life and with it, new friends, and I suppose this song was a comfort to me at the time, while I waited to see if this would come to fruition. Apologies if this comes off as overly sappy and sickening, but this really is what this song does to me! Quite brave of me to admit to over the internet, you may well argue…

Continuing the theme of talented female artists, another song I listened to a lot at the time was KT Tunstall’s ‘Another Place to Fall’. A bit different from Clarkson’s offering, this one has quite a relentless angry energy to it (‘Are you blind? Blind to me trying to be kind?’) . I think at the time it was my outlet and (private) release of aggression about the more negative people in my life, just one of those great ‘fuck you’ songs that is always satisfying to listen to.

As you’ll have seen in my previous posts, I am a big fan of Coldplay – well, to be specific, what they were producing at this specific time; I am not the biggest fan of their latter works. At any rate, X&Y was, and still is, one of my favourite albums of theirs, in particular the tracks ‘White Shadows’ and ‘Fix You’. The former just has that haunting, yet exhilarating sound that characterised a lot of their early offerings. It’s a song I found (and still do) find reassuring, somehow – it emphasises how we are all ‘part of a system’ and a plan, that there is a bigger picture out there beyond our often petty human concerns (I’m sure we all have our moments of being ‘tired of the human race’). Also as I’m still in the process of figuring out my life and what I want, somewhat, I find the lyric ‘Maybe you’ll get what you wanted/Maybe you’ll stumble upon it’ both reassuring, but also perhaps dripping a little bit with sarcasm – given the title of the song I suppose it’s appropriate it has that contradictory feeling to it…

The song segues seamlessly into ‘Fix You’, obviously one of the band’s more famous tracks. Again it’s one of those songs that manages to evoke depression and reassurance at the same time, and I can very much relate to ‘feeling so tired but you can’t sleep’ and being ‘stuck in reverse’. We all have those moments where we feel stuck or on autopilot and desperately trying to figure things out, and this song assures us that this something that everyone goes through. After all, those ‘lights will guide you home’ eventually.

Finally, ‘Tender’ from Feeder, another band you will have seen me gush about in previous posts, was a song I’d often find myself listen to while I was daydreaming of one day finding ‘the one’, my true love (after I’d figured out that yes, I did indeed prefer men). It’s just so hopeful and eerily sad at the same time, all coming to a crescendo with the chorus line, ‘The loneliness has gone’. Again, call me a sentimental idiot if you must, but this song always gave me hope after each and every relationship or almost-relationship that didn’t work out, that one day I would find the right one. Happily I can now say with confidence, that I finally have, and will take those new roads together with him. Yeah, yeah I know, I’m sure even he will be reaching for the sick bag after reading that. At any rate, these are the songs that I feel characterise the wide-eyed, often naïve and foolish, but well-meaning, me that was beginning to enter adulthood. Even now at the ripe old age of 30, I still feel like I’m mostly pretending and ‘winging it’ with the whole adult-ing thing, but I’m sure experience and music will show me the way like it always has.

Anyone else have songs that take them back to certain times in their life, evoke memories good or bad? Let me know what makes up the soundtrack of your life 🙂


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Years of My Life: 1992


To recap: This is a series of posts that will cover each year of my life since my birth in 1987; mainly the things that interest me that happened/were released or conceived that particular year. This will include happenings in the world of music, video games, literature and television that are of particular importance or nostalgia to me. I’m hoping that this will give my followers a better idea of where my interests and passions in life lie 🙂

Check out the previous post for 1991 here.

On to 1992!

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Songs that Speak to me: ‘Everybody Hurts’ (R.E.M.)

everybody hurts

‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M. is a song that has always had an effect on me, and means a lot to me. From the days I regularly heard it on family car trips on cassette tape (my Dad being a fan of the band himself, and therefore why I became an avid listener of their work too), I always associated with it with going through the hard times in life, and the pain that people go through when they are at their absolute lowest. Yet, and while this may seem contradictory, I have always found it to be one of my go-to songs when I need cheering up, or if things are not going right. This is because of the lyrics that, while quite simple, give you the strength to hang on, to keep going despite all of the crap going around you. The band’s guitarist, Peter Buck even noted the simplicity of them compared to the band’s other works, “the reason the lyrics are so atypically straightforward is because it was aimed at teenagers”, he explains, noting that high school can be many people’s idea of hell and perhaps comparable to the anguish in the song.* (I personally won’t rush to disagree with him). Indeed, they are quite clear and concise, a far cry from the quirkiness of spines and orange crush, or ‘vitriolic patriotic slam fights’ – quite possibly the most simplistic song of their entire discography. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however.

everybody hurts 2
When I first heard the song, I remember asking my Dad if the song was meant to be about someone dying, and his answer was something like it being about all of the sad things that can happen to people. My young mind personally associated with the passing of my grandparents – I knew that my Dad grew up without a mum, and that Mum grew up without a dad. The grandparents that remained died not long after I was born, so I never really got to know them properly. I clearly remember this song stirring such feelings in me, and making me quite misty-eyed. Equally, however, it taught me that death is something that affects everyone – because, as the song says, everybody hurts sometimes. The ‘sometimes’ is a particularly powerful sentiment. We live in a world where it constantly feels like showing your emotions is a weakness, and it can sometimes seem that others can handle life much better than ourselves and just ‘get on with it’, not understanding why some around them are depressed and unable to handle things. This is reflected in the general lack of awareness of mental health issues in society today. However, as the song reassures us, everybody has moments where the world just becomes too much and they fall apart, their brave face being nothing more than a façade. The video for the song is also quite a powerful demonstration of this, as it depicts one of the most mundane, yet frustrating things that we encounter in everyday life – a traffic jam. As we shift between each disgruntled driver and passenger, subtitles reveal their inner thoughts – either simmering, bitter resentment towards those they are stuck in a car with, or a heavy pain that they feel they cannot reveal to their loved ones. However, as the song reaches its climax, everyone simply decides to get out of their cars and walk. This helps in imparting the general message of the song that there is a way out, that things will get better – and that it’s ok to face the pain and let it come out emotionally –‘cause everybody cries’ – but, it does also implore you not to give up – ‘Don’t let yourself go’, it tells you, ‘hang on’ and ‘Don’t throw your hand’ – perhaps suggestive of suicide, urging someone to not end it all right there and then. In fact, The Samaritans actually used the song in an ad campaign during the mid-90’s, showing how simple and comforting its message can be.

While I’ve never quite been depressed as to that extent, as I mentioned it has been a song that I find does comfort me if I’m feeling low, or if I’ve simply just had enough of things for one day. It can strike a chord in particular if you don’t have someone to go home to – the opening lyrics of the song in fact refers to ‘When your day is long, and the night is yours alone’; if the struggle of the everyday is not fulfilling or becoming so humdrum that it is making you feel numb to everything, the prospect of coming home to an empty house and no one to vent these feelings to, no shoulder to cry on, probably doesn’t seem all that enticing either. Before I was in a relationship, I often bore similar frustrations. This is part of why the song works so well and speaks to such a wide range of people – it can be about the passing of a loved one, the struggles of grief, or another equally harrowing event, but equally it can also be about simply becoming bored and frustrated with life, or the crippling feelings of loneliness that cause us to fall apart when we are alone. Though as the song also assures us – most people really aren’t alone. ‘Take comfort in your friends’ it advises us. Indeed, it can be easy to shut out friends and family during particularly dark times, and the stigma towards mental health probably doesn’t make us any more willing to unload our emotional turmoil. But, even if they don’t exactly understand, just the fact they are a listening ear can often be enough of a comfort. And in lieu of being able to find an actual person for that in a pinch, this song in some ways quite adequately serves as that. Its continuing popularity and resonance since its release in 1992 shows how relatable it is – it peaked in the charts in many countries and there have been many, many different cover versions over the years, culminating in it being chosen as a charity single to raise money for the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, with many artists (both established and contemporaries) performing for it.

"We Are The World 25 Years For Haiti" Recording Session

So yes, a relatively simplistic piece it may be, but ‘Everybody Hurts’ has always been a song that has spoken to me, both as a child and subsequently growing into an adult, showing that it resonates with people of many ages. Having always been passionate about mental health issues, and being quite an emotional and sensitive person myself, the reassurance that it is ok to hurt, to cry and let everything out is a great comfort to someone like me, who just wants to stop the world and get off sometimes.

*Quoted from the liner notes of the album In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003

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