Songs to make you cry

Here are the Top of the Blubs

  1. Brian Kennedy – Captured
  2. Jade – Fly on Strangewings
  3. Van Morrison – Coney Island
  4. Joni Mitchell – A Case of You
  5. Clifford T Ward – Home Thoughts from Abroad
  6. Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
  7. Tom Baxter – Almost There
  8. Wendy & Lisa – The Life
  9. Tracey Thorn – By Piccadilly Station I sat down and Wept
  10. Indigo Girls – History of Us
  11. Simply Red – Maybe Someday
  12. Mount Desolation – Coming Home
  13. Amy Macdonald – What Happiness Means to Me
  14. Olafur Arnalds – 3055
  15. A Certain Ratio – The Big E (I won’t stop loving you)
  16. Bob Dylan – Workingman Blues #2
  17. Cat Stevens – Lilywhite
  18. Cathy Burton – Hollow
  19. Clare Maguire – Hope there’s someone
  20. Damien Rice – Cold Water
  21. Five for Fighting – 100 Years
  22. Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
  23. Gerry & the Pacemakers – You’ll never walk alone
  24. Horse – Careful
  25. Leon Russell – A Song for You
  26. Level 42 – It’s Over (remix)
  27. Mike Scott – What do you want me to do
  28. Renaissance – Northern Lights
  29. Shelagh McDonald – Stargazer
  30. Something Corporate – Konstantine
  31. The Fat Lady Sings – Arclight
  32. The Hollies – He ain’t heavy
  33. The Psychedelic Furs – The Ghost in You
  34. Guillemots – We’re Here
  35. Willie Nelson – you were always on my mind

Nick Clegg recently admitted that he sometimes cried when listening to certain pieces of music. In the same interview he also said that he didn’t want to become a ‘human punchbag’ for the Coalition Government. It is not recorded whether the two things are connected. As someone who is urging us to put on a brave face as his Government do a ‘repair job’ on the economy, I would ask which of his two faces should we emulate? Anyway, as CS Lewis put it, we are sometimes ‘surprised by joy’ in our everyday lives and this can include music, inducing tears and other forms of emotion. An experience triggered by strong memories, the loss of a loved one, the start or end of a relationship or by just experiencing the wonders of nature on a beautiful Spring day whilst listening on an iPod. For the first time, Nick set me to thinking. Which songs have moved me to tears of exhilaration as well of sadness? Tear smudged and peppered with sparkles of happiness they follow below:

  1.  Brian Kennedy – the most beautiful male voice in the world kills you in the last refrain
  2. Jade – for a moment in the Sixties everything was possible..
  3. Van Morrison – ‘Why can’t it be like this all the time?’
  4. Joni Mitchell – Joni the woman sings Joni the girl. The insight of age tugs at you.
  5. Clifford T Ward – a small death abroad, Keats, Browning and other romantic poets..
  6. Tracy Chapman – We’ve all driven a fast car and left people behind.
  7. Tom Baxter – A relationship that didn’t quite make it. Exquisite.
  8. Wendy & Lisa – Not just any life, the Life.
  9. Tracey Thorn – The saddest voice in the world singing about crying. Perfect.
  10. Indigo Girls – Don’t listen to this alone. The references to Paris will pierce your soul.
  11. Simply Red – Mick Hucknall knew how to manipulate your heartstrings. On this he means it.
  12. Mount Desolation – Keane with emotion. Come home.
  13. Amy Macdonald – Happy and sad all at the same time.
  14. Olafur Arnalds – The sole instrumental. You’ll understand why it’s here.
  15. A Certain Ratio – Manchester in the rain. You won’t stop loving this.
  16. Bob Dylan – A hymn – or an elegy to the working man?
  17. Cat Stevens – Once we were all lilywhite..
  18. Cathy Burton – One of the saddest post-breakup songs ever – and she’s from Littlehampton, the other LA.
  19. Clare Maguire – sings Anthony Johnson in a style so intimate and sad you can hear her crying inside.
  20. Damien Rice – As cold as it gets. The strings alone will destroy you, even before the ‘If I lost you’ refrain and the eery reverse vocals.
  21. Five for Fighting – a commentary on getting old. ‘Fifty, there’s still time for you.’ Phew.
  22. Fleetwood Mac – On the impossibility of rebuilding lives and relationships. Stevie Nicks should know.
  23. Gerry & the Pacemakers – It’s a football thing…
  24. Horse – Unimaginably beautiful Scottish voice. She’s a secret few people know about. Never has being captured sounded more liberating.
  25. Leon Russell – four decades on, this gets me every time..
  26. Level 42 – Beautiful and unbearably melancholic lament to the end of a relationship.
  27. Mike Scott – Whispers ‘I’m listening’. Who to? God, of course.
  28. Renaissance – ‘The Northern Lights are in my heart and my mind, they guide me back to you..’ Beautiful song, beautifully sung by Annie Haslam.
  29. Shelagh McDonald – a choir of what sound like monks join in and create havoc with the emotions
  30. Something Corporate – 9 minutes of angst. By now you’ll be able to handle it..
  31. The Fat Lady Sings – ‘When you shine, you burn me down..’ The Irish always do this sort of thing best..
  32. The Hollies – Yes, it was used for a beer ad. No, Neil Diamond hasn’t written anything better.
  33. The Psychedelic Furs – There’s a ghost in all of us.
  34. Guillemots – Making the most of every day. We’re here. It’s as simple and as profound as that.
  35. Willie Nelson – Even when he’s happy, Willie still sounds sad. This song will finish you off.

Sad, yes, but all these songs are emotional in a good way. Keep your ‘kerchiefs handy, crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy the emotional slalem.

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):