The other day the better half and I recorded ten years of being married to each other. We celebrated with an intimate service in the local C of E church and then returned home to drink champagne and eat salmon coulibiac with our son, daughters and a small selection of friends, distinguished mainly by their ability to skive off during the working afternoon. The sun shone and it was all most agreeable.
Ten years ago it was on a larger scale. We did it in the Orthodox Cathedral in Knightsbridge, with gold crowns and with the appropriate music, because Fr. Michael Fortunato, who married us, knows more about Russian liturgical choral music than anyone else. The bridesmaids wore Alexander McQueen, though some would have preferred not to. Afterwards in The London Sketch Club there was gypsy music. The sun did not however shine, and the better half and my father in law were an hour late to the cathedral, the hired Bentley getting stuck in Friday-evening traffic. The photographer was convinced that I had been jilted and took photographs of everything that he could lay his eyes on so as not to lose his fee.
I wanted to have music this time round too and I reverted to the habits of adolescence and made party tapes.
There was a tape, or rather an iPod playlist, for church: Purcell’s music for The Prophetess to come in to, Peter Philips’ O Quam Suavis Est half way through and Gerry Mulligan quartet music to leave to. The son now makes his way in a world where a miscalculation of quarter of an inch means that it is your head cutlassed into the sea and not the other fellow’s, and so he wielded the remote with dead-eyed calculation – but at the same time with the respect appropriate to the religious surroundings.
There was another playlist for when we got home. I took considerable trouble with this. These were the conditions that I set for myself:
• Alphabetical order by song title: an a-causal connecting principle
• Nothing classical
• Nothing that anyone would have to stop talking and listen to
• But music to intrigue
• Not music to sing along to
• Nothing very slow or very fast
• No shame in being old, and nothing new (or anything else) for the sake of balance
• No more than two pieces by any one musician
The last condition was achieved only by treating the Beatles and George Harrison as entirely separate, and the third (and sixth) by including Hey Bulldog but not Strawberry Fields Forever.
The resulting compilation lasted for four and a bit hours. There were changes up to the last minute. The day before, the better half asked what I had been doing while she had been cooking salmon coulibiac, and polishing the house and her Lanvin dress. I told her. Well we can put it in the kitchen, she said thoughtfully, so no one will have to hear it.
I liked it anyway and one or two people said that they’d like to hear it again properly. So I gave it a lot more constructive thought and decided that I would reduce it savagely, to a single CD’s worth, a bit over an hour.
All the jazz went: Mingus, Jazz Messengers, Johnny Dodds (Louis Armstrong had offended condition 3).
Most of the more thoughtful pieces went too.
This is how the reduced version came out:
• Abide With Me: Thelonious Monk (but not jazz)
• Anybody Wanna: Del Castillo
• Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: George Harrison
• Bottle of Smoke: The Pogues
• Bring it on Down to My House: Willy Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel
• Don’t Go Dancin: C W Stoneking
• Falling Angels: Hank Wangford
• G-Man Hoover: Van Dyke Parks
• Georgie on a Spree: Richard & Linda Thompson
• Goodnight Irene: Ry Cooder
• Hames and Traces: Dr Strangely Strange
Hesitation Blues: Willy Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel
• Hey Bulldog: The Beatles
• I’m a Believer: Robert Wyatt (it would have been Davy Jones, had I known)
• It’s All Over Now: Ry Cooder
• Let the Monkey Drive: Sparks
• P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night): George Harrison
• See Emily Play: Nashville Super Pickers
• Travelling Light: The Deighton Family
• Walkin’ One and Only: Maria Muldaur
• Watson’s Blues: David Grisman & Tony Rice
I’m not sure that it makes much of a programme, but I like to listen to it.
And there are probably conclusions to be drawn, but not by me.
The dog was upset that Frank Zappa’s “Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague”, a personal favourite, was excluded. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t even on the long list.
Our friend Ian, with whom in the 1970s I collaborated in reviewing records, for money, was there. By dint of writing an excellent book about conspiracies (Conspiracy! 49 Reasons to doubt, 50 Reasons to Believe, unanimously five-starred on Amazon and there’s a conspiracy in itself) he has been invited by a radio station to do what amounts to Desert Island Discs. This must be the pinnacle of the ambition of any list-making music lover. I am very jealous. I don’t think that our lists have any songs in common. His rules are different so he can and does have Strawberry Fields Forever, which I agree with him is the best single ever.