A couple of weeks ago I was looking to create another playlist for long car journeys, ideally satisfying the constraints that the rest of my family would also enjoy, or at least tolerate it. The last playlist had just been good driving music, so for this one I wanted a theme.
My first idea was to make it science themed. This turned out not to be a very good idea, as it turned out the three tracks I’d already thought of constituted around half of all the tracks I have that are connected to science. My next thought, as one of these was also about travelling, was to make the theme one of travelling and journeys. This was rather more fruitful, but part way through I realised that (a) travelling has a strong similarity to driving and I’d used quite a few of these on the first playlist and (b) I was wanting to include some that were more about personal or metaphorical journeys than physical journeys.
So, with a final volte face, I ended up theming the playing around the concepts of resistance and righteous struggle. Sailing to Philadelphia is the one track that legitimately survived through all three incarnations, though it should be noted that there are a couple of tracks on the final list that don’t really fit, but that my son asked to be put back after they’d been removed. And it should be noted that the inclusion of a song on this list doesn’t imply that I endorse every aspect of the moment it represents, it just means I think it’s a good song!
- Star Wars: Main Theme from A New Hope (John Williams). One of the great classic pieces of film music, a brilliant upbeat instrumental piece to start the play list.
- Wall of China (Runrig). Runrig is one of my favourite bands and there are a wide variety of songs that I could have chosen here. Not being a huge fan of Scots nationalism, I instead chose one which focuses on the individual struggle of an undaunted Highland man standing firm against some (unspecified) encroachment from the outside.
- Walk of Life (Dire Straits). A great song with a really catchy rhythm, this is one of those that was a carry over from the ‘journey’ theme.
- Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach, played by Vanessa-Mae). Though without any explicit words or background itself, to me the sound of the music provides a strong resonance with a playlist themed around resistance and struggle.
- Sailing to Philadelphia (Mark Knopfler). The only song to survive through all three incarnations, I find this gentle song creates great imagery, as well as being a delightfully idiosyncratic thing to make a song about. This track also marks the start of the America arc.
- Alexander Hamilton (Leslie Odom Jr). I’ve not seen Hamilton, but some of the songs from it are brilliant, with incredibly clever lyrics.
- The Downeaster “Alexa” (Billie Joel). The song of a fisherman driven to ‘work his fingers to the bone’ due to overfishing.
- Born in the U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen). Another homage to blue collar America and the weakening of the American Dream (see previous post, here). This track also marks the end of the America arc.
- This is Me (Keala Settle). The Greatest Showman was a well-deserved if unlikely (and historically inaccurate) triumph with a number of barnstorming songs. This is perhaps the most well-known.
- Wonder (Lord of the Rings Musical, A. R. Rahman). The short-lived musical was surprisingly good and has some great songs; it sunk due to the incredibly high cost of the special effects rather than anything else. This track, sung by Galadriel, is chosen particularly for the “Out of death, life; Out of night, day; Glory, from sorrow!” sequence.
- Indiana Jones: Main Theme (John Williams). Who doesn’t love film’s favourite hat-wearing, whip-cracking, Nazi-fighting archaeologist?
- Jerusalem of Gold (Naomi Shemer). A song widely sung by Israeli soldiers during the Six Day War and that’s been described as the unofficial national anthem of the country. Lyrics are, unsurprisingly, in Hebrew.
- Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen). Another which definitely doesn’t fit, but where my son strenuously protested its removal after I pivoted from the ‘journey’ theme. Hey, it’s a great song.
- At the End of the Day (Les Miserables). I love everything about Les Mis and it was very hard to limit myself to just two tracks here, but this was one of the two that made it through.
- Jerusalem (William Blake). A great song with great music, this has been sung everywhere from The Last Night of the Proms, through sports matches, to the Labour party conference – it thoroughly deserves its status as England’s unofficial national anthem.
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (The Byrds). One of the many Dylan songs that sound much better when they are not being sung by Dylan, this seems particularly apt for our current times.
- Defying Gravity (Idina Menzel). The famous piece from Wicked, a brilliant piece of defiance sung in Menzel’s amazing voice. ‘If you care to find me, look to the western skies!’
- Four Stone Walls (Capercaillie). A Scottish piece about a crofter facing eviction. Fairly upbeat musically, despite the theme.
- Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver). I suppose you can say that a longing for one’s home could be part of a resistance theme, but the truth is that this is a carry-over from the journeying theme. John Denver is great though, and this is one of his best.
- Do You Hear the People Sing? (Les Miserables). Could there be another track with which to finish this playlist than with this anthem from Les Mis?