Picture the scene: it’s late December in the year 1998. You’re a thirteen year old girl. You wear glasses and have extremely greasy hair, you wear your school uniform exactly as dictated by the rules, and you’re good at Maths and Science. Ergo: you fucking suck. Everyone hates you and no boy will ever snog you, no matter how much Impulse body spray you cover yourself in. Against this backdrop, you are in love with your very best friend – a boy who has the voice of a genuine angel. It’s the school Christmas Talent Show, and this boy – the one you think about to make your crotch give you those New Special Feelings – takes the stage. He stands at the microphone and clears his throat. The first few chords of a song you recognise start blaring through the assembly-hall speakers, and your soul soars in anticipation. Then he opens his perfect perfect mouth, this sexy boy, and with a breath that carries straight into the depths of your miserable, bullied soul, he sings the following words…
“I’ll be your dream I’ll be your wish I’ll be your fantasy…”
You KNOW your heart is now welded to that man’s voice for the rest of your natural life, right? At any moment between now and the second you finally expire, no matter whether you’re in the middle of weeping over tax returns, bungy jumping off the Kawarau bridge, or partway through walking down the aisle to marry the love of your life, that song could start to play and you would be immediately transported back to that afternoon. To the wistful heartache moment in December ’98 when you shattered into atoms over the lovely boy with the voice of an angel singing directly into the chambers of your heart…
“I wanna stand with you on a mountain, I wanna bathe with you in the sea, I wanna lay like this forever until the sky falls down on me…”
Music is powerful
If you don’t think music is powerful, I have a challenge for you. Put my Mum at one end of a football pitch, and me at the other. Shove as many strong, muscular people between us as you can recruit, order them to keep us apart at all costs, then plug your phone into the Big Stadium Speakers, and blast out the following song…
I swear on my life, my Mum and I will reach each other no matter how many people you put between us. Whatever meat-labyrinth you construct, we will conquer it and be dancing together – singing along at the top of our voices – before Babs spits out ‘ball of butter’ at the end of the very first couplet.
We just will. It’s magnetism. It’s power. It’s fucking PHYSICS.
Likewise, if I’m hanging out with my bestie and you would like for the two of us to immediately stop our conversation, poke our heads up like a pair of meerkats, and unite in belting out a fucking banger, just stand on a chair and yell:
“I GOT ME A SHOVEL”
…we will be with you – and Frank – in a heartbeat to pick up the baton: “and I’m diggin’ a ditch.”
The ads are kind of ruining these songs, aren’t they? Because I want the music to kick in at exactly the moment you hit play. But it’s OK, I think, because despite how desperately I want you all to feel how powerful these songs are to me and the people I share them with, the fact is that you won’t. You can’t. It’s just not the same. I’m sitting at a party dominating the playlist by telling you ‘YOU’LL LOVE THIS’ because the feelings these songs evoke in me are so powerful it’s hard to imagine that they won’t have the same effect for others. But they won’t.
Different music will hold different power for different people: it’s a bit like sex that way. You might like yours lyrical and passionate, someone else might prefer a wordless pounding with a filthy drop. The beauty of having ‘our song’ that you share with a particular person is that it will (or should be) something that speaks equally to you both, and to the style of your relationship. Or which evokes a memory of one specific moment that’s precious to the pair of you. Something that conjures a unique flavour of your relationship. Showtunes for my Mum. Frank Turner for my bestie. Savage Garden for the teenage girl who still lives in the back of my brain, forever trapped in Christmas ’98, weeping because no boy will ever love her.
No Better Place – Welcome Interstate Managers
I was twenty years of age and (again, as ever, as always) in love with a boy. This boy had caused so many heartsink misery feelings, and so many feelings of utter delight too. He was raw and horny and sarcastic and stunningly beautiful. Eyes you could fall into forever and hipbones you could cut your tongue on. We had so much back-and-forth and will-they-won’t-they that I don’t think I realised at the time that it was possible for love to be constant and unwavering and drama-free.
One year, this guy went to a festival, and at some point while he was away a text pinged through from him to my ancient Nokia. I can still see the text on that screen very clearly in my mind’s eye. It read:
“It might be the whisky talking, but the whisky says I miss you every day.”
Only later did I find out it was a lyric from this song, but I didn’t mind the plagiarism. The message made me so happy I read it multiple times a day not just till he got back, but for weeks and months afterwards.
There are other songs that remind me of this man – Leave The Biker by that same band, which we used to sing along to together in his car. Wasted & Ready by Ben Kweller, which he included on a mixtape he once made for me, a mixtape I only mention because I want to brag about the fact that one time A GUY I WAS WILDLY IN LOVE WITH MADE ME A MIXTAPE. Big long sigh.
Heart-shaped box – Nirvana
My first ever boyfriend had a HUGE thing for Nirvana. It was the late nineties, OK? Lots of guys had a big thing for Nirvana. Lots of guys STILL have a big thing for Nirvana and I’m sorry to say I just don’t get it. It’s too dirge-y and miserable for my liking. I can jump around to Teen Spirit if it comes on because I’m not a miserable killjoy, but sadly my appetite for more is sorely lacking. Anyway. I am saying this one is ‘our song’ because not only did he play it on guitar a lot, while staring intently at me, but also because it’s from the album that he used to play all the time when I went round to his house. I discovered sex to this album. I have given countless blow jobs to this album. And to this day, annoyingly, not only ‘Heart shaped box’ but also… deep breath… ‘Rape me’ never fail to remind me of our awkward teenage fumbling.
I suspect if you asked this guy what he thought ‘our song’ was, he might also mention ‘Good Riddance (Time of your life)’ by Green Day, or American Pie: both of which he learned on guitar because they were ones I could sing along to. And I’m a fucking sucker for a singalong.
Gogol Bordello – Start wearing purple
One of the best things about my ex (my big ex. My important ex. The guy it took me a long time to get over) was that he used to dance with me. I don’t mean ‘he’d find me when the slow songs came on at a wedding and make sure I wasn’t school-disco lonely while everyone else coupled up’ I mean he would fucking DANCE with me. To the fast songs as well as the slow ones. Flinging himself around, flinging me around, twirling and bouncing and spinning and gurning and hurling himself into the joy that comes when you put on some music and really fucking GO FOR IT. He didn’t ‘dance like no one was watching’, he danced like everyone was watching and he was selling them on the concept of how fun it is to dance.
Take all the heartfeels from previous boyfriends, multiply that by the constant ache of my inner thirteen-year-old girl, then douse it in the petrol of a really banging tune and understand how powerfully it set my world on fire: that this man, who I believed was the love of my life, would dance with me! At weddings, at gigs, in pubs, but mostly just in our house: the kitchen and his office and the lounge and wherever music was playing. He would dance. With me.
I don’t remember the exact moment when this song became ‘ours’, but I do know that whenever the first few notes of it played, he would look at me and I would look at him and we’d stand and square up to each other. Gleeful. Happy. Hearts open, arms out, grinning from ear to ear. Ready to fucking dance.
I’ll embed the song here, but I’m not listening to it. You can if you want, but not me.
I haven’t listened to it since I split up with him. If I hear it all the way through and he doesn’t somehow magically appear by my side to grab my hand and start twirling me round in a circle, I know for a cast iron fact that I will shatter. All the work I have put in to getting over him will implode and the jagged shards of misery that scatter out will pepper holes in the walls of the lovely new life I have built. I may never be able to hear this song again without breaking. Which is a shame, because I used to utterly adore it. Still, it’s in the trash now. Men ruined it. Like they ruin EVERYTHING.
(joke. Men, I love ya really)
But talking of men ruining everything, that leads me neatly on to a more recent story…
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
If you read the song title and thought I was going to tell you something romantic here, you would be fucking WRONG. This is a song that I used to utterly adore which has been thoroughly destroyed by a fuckbuddy being a huge bellend about it. If you follow me on Twitter (which you probably shouldn’t any more – join me on Mastodon!), you’ll probably have heard this tale already but I’m telling it again because I insist on carrying a grudge about it until the day I die.
I have a thing for the song ‘Hallelujah’ (the Jeff Buckley version). For a very long time it was my greatest dream to have the opportunity to really slowly and firmly ride someone’s dick for the duration of the song. Not trying to race towards climax, or hoping to use my cunt to please him, just existing – present and focused and intense – in the moment, riding someone’s cock to the sound of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. This desire was almost certainly planted by an ex who made me watch Watchmen, which includes a fuckscene to that song which captures this kind of intensity.
Anyway. I dreamed many horny daydreams about fucking to this song. And toyboy – a guy possessed of the perfect dick for riding and a thirsty desire to please me – saw me talking about this dream on Twitter and offered to help me fulfil it. Great! Good boy! I was excited.
Next time we hung out, after some pre-fuck banter and a drink or two, I lined up the song and hopped aboard. The first verse was fun. I sat down on his cock so fucking slowly, and rode him like I wanted to milk every drop of pleasure from each and every stroke. The second verse? Likewise, but even more intense. I closed my eyes and I rode him and I focused on feeling each nerve ending inside my cunt stretched and thrumming at the pressure put on it by his rock-solid, beautiful cock. By verse three I had to pause, so intense was my focused pleasure that I was pretty sure I might come too soon and ruin it. I stopped for a second, closing my eyes and trying to stave off the first waves of orgasm, then calmed down briefly before continuing my ride. By verse four something was wrong. He wasn’t quite as into it as I’d thought he might be, and I sensed a kind of tension in his thighs. Was he feeling awkward? Did he need me to stop? Was this all too intensely pleasurable for his tiny brain to cope with? NO.
Somewhere during the fourth verse he burst into hysterical giggles. I sat up, and his now-only-half-mast dick slipped out of me.
“I’m sorry,” he said, through gales of laughter. “I lost my boner. I just can’t stop thinking… about SHREK.”
Ruined my life, I tell ya. To this day, I still occasionally try to masturbate to that song, and every time I fail. Men are the worst.
Except this one…
Something I am not going to tell you – Artist redacted
The first time I heard this song, it was playing from the speaker in his kitchen when I walked in from having a shower. That’s what I used to do – shower as soon as I arrived at his flat, to slough off the sweat I’d built up on the bike ride over. He was cooking, I wandered in, and this song was playing. I’d never heard it before but the lyrics and refrain caught a little in my mind, and felt to me very much like him. As I walked in he turned away from the stove and came over to kiss me. I looked up into his face, wrapped my arms around his neck and we started dancing.
After that day, whenever I wanted to just dance with him, I’d say ‘OK Google, play [the song]’, and he’d hold me and dance with me. I loved the simplicity of holding my body against his and feeling close and comfortable. Pressing ‘pause’ on the world, wrapping my arms around him, and swaying in time to the music. It made me happy on such a basic, fundamental level – like the joy of downing a pint of water when you’re thirsty, or getting hugged by a friend when you’re down.
We split up not long after that, but I still played the song on my own. I played it every time I thought about him, or missed him. No big deal, just a little nostalgia to wallow in: I bloody love wallowing in nostalgia. I’d play it whenever I wanted to remember just how nice it felt to dance in his kitchen, in his arms.
I played that song so much that it turned up in the top 10 of my Spotify Wrapped at the end of last year.
Then, early this year, he liked one of my tweets. And I thought ‘fuck it, why not?’ and asked him out for a drink. I’m not including the song here, because we’re together again, and although I’m happy to tell you songs with past lovers, sharing the song that’s ‘ours’ right now feels more intimate than I want to be with strangers. I’m happy to tell you in detail how he struggle-fucks me into submission, but I’m not telling you The Song. That’s far too personal!
Tell me your ‘our song’ stories
Music is powerful, it sparks memories. It sparks joy. It sparks connection and intimacy and raised eyebrows and ‘remember when we…? To this tune…?’ and all the other brilliant weird associations that human brains throw up. But as I say, I’m doing the equivalent here of dominating the speaker at a party – yelling ‘oh you’ll LOVE this!’ when really it means nothing to you. Just like telling people about your dreams, the value in these stories isn’t really for the reader, but for the writer. It’s a self-indulgent, sentimental, enjoyable trip down memory lane. Airing the way I feel about different tracks, and the power that they hold to make me think of certain people. Whether that’s boys I’ve shagged, people I’ve been in love with, mates with whom I love to sing or even my fabulous Mum. Different songs will hold this power for you. So add your own in the comments. I would love to know what your song is, if both people KNOW that ‘this’ is ‘our song’ (although actually fuck it, I am also super interested if both of you instinctively think different songs are ‘our song’ – let’s start some hilarious fights as well).
Join in with the pleasure of telling the stories, even if the rest of us don’t know the tune.