The Greatest Indie Love Songs of all Time (Vol 1)

The Wannadies – You and Me Song – the ultimate soundtrack to falling in love?

  1. The Wannadies – You and Me Song
  2. Ash – Shining Light
  3. Athlete – 24 Hours
  4. Kitchens of Distinction – Now it’s time to say goodbye
  5. Blue in Heaven – Across my heart
  6. The Bible – Honey be Good
  7. Adorable – Submarine
  8. Shed Seven – Chasing Rainbows
  9. Geneva – Tranquillizer
  10. The Maccabees – First Love
  11. Bombay Bicycle Club – You already know
  12. I am Kloot – Ferris Wheels
  13. The Xcerts – Aberdeen 1987
  14. Ellie Goulding – The End (Demo)
  15. Cathy Burton – Hollow
  16. Amy MacDonald – What Happiness Means to me
  17. A Certain Ratio – The Big E

Welcome to the home of the Indie love song. This is Volume 1. Volumes 3 and 4 appear elsewhere on this Blog.

Despite its free range Indie sound, ‘You and Me Song’ is Swedish. Originally released as a single in 1994, it became the Wannadies biggest UK hit two years later when it reached number 18 in the singles chart in April 1996. It has been used in innumerable films including Baz Luhrmann’s ‘William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet’. Exhibiting the sheer exuberance of a teenage West Coast Summer and first love optimism it must be one of the most uplifting songs ever. Disagree? Then your Mojo is probably dead..

‘Shining Light’ by Ash was released as the first single from their album ‘Free All Angels’ on 29th January 2001 and has the distinction of being Ash’s biggest selling single to date, reaching No.8 in the UK charts. The song was written about Tim Wheeler’s ex-girlfriend Audrey. Thank you Audrey. Wheeler was driving home in his car when the line and tune “Yeah, you are a shining light” came into his head. He accelerated home (taking care, of course, to stay within the speed limits) and wrote it immediately on acoustic guitar.  A truly glorious song, it remains one of the jewels in the crown of the British Indie landscape and no car CD compilation is complete without it. And it’s a love song. What more do you want? Blood?

’24 Hours’ from Athlete’s number 1 album, ‘Tourist’ in 2005 which sold over 500,000 copies worldwide is less well known than the two lead singles ‘Wires’ and ‘Half Light’ which both went to Number 1 in the UK airplay chart. However, this later single from the album has interesting lyrics which suggest that the protagonist only has a few hours left before it all closes in. It may not be a love song at all but I prefer to think of it as cri de coeur about only having a day left with a lover before a bigger force majeure will separate them. But, hey, I’m a romantic..

Kitchens of Distinction entered our lives when Dan Goodwin (drums) met Julian Swales (gtr) at college in 1980, and Swales met Patrick Fitzgerald (vox/bass) at a party in 1985. The trio began rehearsing together that same year, taking their name from a company of the same name that specialised in home decor and kitchen and plumbing fixtures after Swales spotted one of their advertisements on the side of a bus while riding his bike. Yes, glamorous, I know. The Kitchens’ first single ‘The Last Gasp Death Shuffle’ (which featured Swales on lead vocals and bass, as well as guitar) was recorded in just one day on an 8 track in a Kennington basement and released in December 1987 on the band’s own Gold Rush Records. It was named a single of the week in the NME and led to the band signing with the UK indie label One Little Indian.

Based in Tooting, South London, the band released three albums before 1994’s ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ on One Little Indian Records / A&M produced by Gabriel Pascal. ‘Now it’s time to say goodbye’ was the lead single released in September 1994 and its dramatically tragic vocals and soaring guitars makes it a must for any self-respecting Indie fan with a beating lover’s heart.

Blue in Heaven was a 1982-1989 Irish quartet from Churchtown, Dublin led by singer Shane O’Neill. They reformed in 1990 as the Blue Angels. Signed to Island, in 1985 they released their first LP entitled All The Gods Men which was produced by Martin Hannett. The album articulated Hannett’s end of the world view with cranked up bass in the mix, complemented by O’Neill’s portentous vocals. It was sometimes compared to Joy Division. Who wasn’t? However the album somehow eluded commercial success.

Their follow-up, Explicit Material (1986), saw them team up with Island chief Chris Blackwell and Eric Thorngren which saw them evolve into a more upbeat rock sound with clear Iggy Pop influences, particularly in O’Neill’s vocals, but still retaining their new wave image and pop style lyrics. Their popularity grew thanks to touring with the The Chameleons, Echo & the Bunnyment and The Damned, alongside achieving a minor college radio hit with “I Just Wanna”.

The album appears on many best of lists. ‘Across my heart’ featured on the ‘All the Gods Men’ album and was released as a single in 1984 to negligible success. However, I played it to death back then and twenty-five years later I’m still playing it, converted lovingly from its original 12” single format to digital and sounding all the better for it. Swooping guitar and bombastic vocals – which is why of course Bono loved it too.

The Bible were an Cambridge based Indie band with lead singer Boo Hewerdine as their main songwriter. In 1985 Hewerdine, who worked in a record shop in Cambridge, formed The Bible, recruiting jazz drummer Tony Shepherd and Dave Larcombe (ex-member of the New Romantic group the Roaring Boys). They released an album of songs through the independent Norwich based record label, Backs Records, called ‘Walking The Ghost Back Home’.

The Bible became the music purist’s secret passion band. Two tracks from the first album, “Graceland” and “Mahalia”, were released as singles, but did not achieve very significant sales. The album, however, was loved by people like me, and one or two afficianados at Chrysalis.

Signing to Chrysalis, ‘Graceland’ and another track, ‘Honey Be Good’, were (re)released as singles, and reached the lower end of the chart. A new album, ‘Eureka’, followed, but failed commercially. In 1988, Hewerdine decided to leave the group and pursue solo projects. The remainder of the group renamed themselves Liberty Horses.

‘Honey be Good’ was their biggest selling single which is not saying much. However, its aching longing and passion for the song’s subject make it a candidate for the all-time Indie love song. I last saw Boo Hewerdine playing solo in a café in Rustington, West Sussex. The audience loved him. He seemed poor, but happy. That’s what love does to you.

Adorable and their album ‘Fake’ are the subject of another of my Blog posts so I won’t tell their story here. Although ‘Submarine’ on the surface does not offer much promise in the way of romantic indie potential – it delivers it message so profoundly that it becomes one of the all-time greats. Just listen. This compilation is designed to be played loud in the car. Wind the windows down for this one.

Shed Seven had 15 or so Indie single hits but never really had a record label who believed in them. Their biggest album was ‘Maximum High’ in 1996 on Polydor which gave the world their best song ‘Chasing Rainbows’ which charted at number 15 in 1996. This is the ultimate song of longing, dreams and unrequited love set to an irresistible chorus and guitars and orchestra arrangement which you really should sing along to if you have a shred of Tennyson or Browning in your body.

Geneva were formed in 1992 in Aberdeen by vocalist Andrew Montgomery and guitarist Steven Dora. They recruited second guitarist Stuart Evans, bass player Keith Graham and drummer Douglas Caskie. Originally the band were called Sunfish.

One of their demos found their way to Suede’s label Nude who signed the band in 1996. The band changed their name, originally to Garland, then later to Geneva, and released their debut single “No One Speaks” the same year.

The band garnered enough press to headline NME’s annual Bratbus tour of up and coming bands in early 1997. The band released second single “Into the Blue” to coincide with the tour.

Geneva released their debut album, Further, early in June 1997. The album mixed powerpop with darker brooding songs. It reached #20 in the UK, and included amongst others the NME-voted Single of the Year, ‘Tranquilizer’, plus ‘Best Regrets, No One Speaks and ‘Into the Blue’.

The second album, ‘Weather Underground’, was released in March 2000, after more than a year of wrangling with the band’s record label. It was preceded by the single ‘Dollars in the Heavens’ and followed by the single ‘If You Have To Go’. The band split later that year.

‘Tranquilizer’ has a particular poignancy for me because in 1997 I was waiting to hear whether I had won the radio licence bid for Brighton. Unable to sleep the night before the announcement, I played this track on repeat for most the night.  Sadly, Passion FM did not win the licence and this track with its haunting refrain, ‘We will be happy while we are still young’ continues to haunt me despite other radio stations and other nights taking their place in my memory.

‘Ferris Wheels’ can be found on I Am Kloot’s fourth studio album, ‘I Am Kloot Play Moolah Rouge’ which was available at gigs in November 2007 as a limited edition of 2000 copies, before going on general release on 14 April 2008.

In October 2009, they released a double album compilation of B-sides, rarities and unreleased songs collected under the title of B. Their next studio album, Sky at Night, was released on 5 July 2010 on Shepherd Moon records with long time Manchester comrades in arms Craig Potter and Guy Garvey from Elbow acting as co-producers. Their near decade long career has finally been recognised by being nominated for the 2010 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize. ‘Ferris Wheels’ is a frankly gorgeous song that trumps anything on the new album. Life goes round, love sometimes hops on. Enjoy it when it does.

‘Hollow’ from 1994’s ‘Burn Out’ – Cathy Burton’s excellent debut album – has accompanied me on ipod and in-car CD from the moment I picked up a demo copy of her album for £1 in a Link Rumania shop in Broadwater, Worthing. It hadn’t been released at this stage and the album resonates with a Sundays Indie vibe culminating in the ultimate break-up song ‘Hollow’ which haunted me then and haunts me still. The fact that she comes from up the road in Littlehampton and I know half the musicians on the record just makes it even better. Only someone who has profoundly loved and lost could have written this song.

‘Aberdeen 1987’ by the Xcerts is just brilliant. A song of longing and loss sung in a broad Scottish accent by Murray Macleod and Jordan Smith who met aged 13 in the headmaster’s room at their school in Aberdeen. After Ross joined on drums The Xcerts went on to record two EPs at the local recording studio Captain Tom’s. After relocating to my next door City Brighton to progress as a band in 2006, The Xcerts parted ways with their old drummer Ross. A replacement was found in Tom Heron, originally from Exeter. The album from which it comes, ‘In the Cold Wind we Smile’ is a full-on rock album which makes this song all the more valuable – a poetic interlude indoors from the rain. Sadly, the band didn’t want their song promoted in this way, so I have removed it from this blog and the music download. Check it out anyway.

I have made houseroom for one of the great  independent songwriting talents in the UK. Chris Simmons is from from Worthing in Sussex who is not only a fantastic talent but a personal friend.

He has just finished recording his debut album “The Boy Will Learn” which includes songs co-written with Chris Difford of ‘Squeeze’ . The record is out Feb 2012 with the first single scheduled for an autumn 2011 release

He also has played with a number of great musicians, amongst them Finlay Quaye, Suede, Beth Orton, The Von Bondies, Jackson Browne, Squeeze, The Maccabees, Ocean Colour Scene, Seth Lakeman and The Kooks. You can find him on YouTube here:

Back in 2006/7 he was writing amazing songs and keeping them in demo form, like a mastercraftsman hoarding pieces of half-made furniture knowing that one day he will finish the masterpiece. Around this time, a winsome sweet-sounding song emerged called ‘Home’ which starts with a cough but is a lot more than a spit. The lyrics are unfinished, there is a whole verse of ‘las’ and yet it is absolutely timeless and draws me into into its spell every time. ‘You are home’ he sings – and you believe him.

Amy MacDonald may be in the process of becoming our best female singer songwriter. ‘What Happiness means to me’ from her new album ‘A Curious Thing’ released in March 2010. It makes me want to change my name to Happiness.

‘The Big E’ has already been the subject of a post by me called ‘ Is this the greatest undiscovered Indie Love Song of all time?’ How did four dour Mancunians come up with this classic? Thank Anthony Wilson that they did.

The Greatest Indie Love Songs Ever (Vol 1):

11 thoughts on “The Greatest Indie Love Songs of all Time (Vol 1)

  1. Pingback: The Greatest Indie Love Songs in the World (Vol 3) « Roy Stannard's Blog

  2. Pingback: The best undiscovered Indie love song ever? « Roy Stannard's Blog

  3. Pingback: Roy’s Blog Overview in 2010 « Roy Stannard's Blog

  4. I am really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into
    any internet browser compatibility problems? A number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not working correctly
    in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any solutions to help fix this problem?


    • Thanks for the comment – but no, I don’t really – mine seems to look ok in all browsers and it’s just the standard WordPress Blog – maybe try one or two different thems Winifred. Roy


  5. Just wanted to say thank you. For introducing me to Bombay Bicycle Club. I saw the Maccabees on this list – which I heart – so I decided to listen to snippets of the other songs on your list…and then immediately fell in love with Bombay Bicycle Club. So for that, again, THANK YOU.


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