Soundtrack Of My Life: Chris Packham

The original Spring King on seeing the Ramones in ’76 and why the Cocteau Twins make him think of the great outdoors

The first song I remember hearing
Harry Belafonte – ‘Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)’
“We had a gramophone player and it played 78 rpms. There was a line in this song about the ‘deadly black tarantula’, which I liked particularly, so as soon as I had the ability I’d sit by the gramophone and constantly re-lift the stylus back onto that one line. It must have driven my father mad, he hated that song.”


The first album I bought
David Bowie – ‘Aladdin Sane’
“I bought a cassette tape, from Woolworths in Portswood, which is where I bought all of my early stuff. I even bought my first punk records in Woolworths, like The Damned album.”

The most legendary gig I ever saw
Ramones – Roundhouse London 1976
“We had been listening to Bowie, then all of a sudden there was the Ramones. These leather-jacketed blokes with sunglasses who played songs that seemed to last 30 seconds. If I had a time machine, I’d love to go back and see a T-Rex, but I’d return to that gig again, and I’d go down to the front, and look back at the audience and just watch people seeing the Ramones for the first time. Because, frankly, after that, nothing was gonna be the same. I saw the Ramones loads of times after that, and I can’t think of a single bad Ramones gig, none of them.”

The song I can no longer listen to
Idlewild – ‘You Held The World In Your Arms’
“I bought it, and within an hour my dog got run over. He died in my arms, and so the idea of that song, I can’t really listen to it very easily. The dog’s name was Fish. I didn’t play it for about five years.”


The song that makes me think of the great outdoors
Cocteau Twins – ‘Lazy Calm’
“I see the world in a sort of synaesthetic way, and it sounds like some of the more ethereal Cocteau Twins tracks.”

The song I can’t get out of my head
The Jesus and Mary Chain – ‘Happy When It Rains’
“It’s a simple song. I like the sentiment of it – it’s quite dark. It’s not complicated, and it’s not one of Mary Chain’s greatest feedback epics. I just like it.”

The song that makes me want to dance
Apollo 440 – ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’
“It needs to be something really repetitive, like Apollo 440’s version of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’, from 1994. Some people do dad dancing, my stepdaughter says I do scarecrow dancing – I think that’s equally as insulting.”

The most difficult song name I ever snuck into Springwatch
The Cure – ‘Killing An Arab’
“I got my co-host Kate Humble to help me. I said to her: ‘Listen, you’ve got to end your sentence with the word killing.’ Then I began the next sentence with ‘An Arab stallion’. It was terribly contrived, but it brought me no end of joy.”

The song I want played at my funeral
Penetration – ‘Shout Above The Noise’
“There’s no doubt about it, it’s predetermined and has been for years. ‘Shout Above the Noise’ by Penetration is a mantra for my life; you’ve got to shout above the noise, otherwise what are you going to achieve? I saw Penetration very early on in the punk days, they were supporting the Buzzcocks.”

Chris Packham appears at London’s Caught By The River Thames festival this August. His memoir, Fingers In The Sparkle Jar, is out now