Soundtrack Of My Life: Tim Minchin

Aussie muso, says daggy a lot

The first song I remember hearing

Jim Fisher – ‘Harbour Lights’

“My uncle, Jim Fisher, is a musician and he wrote this song in 1975 – the year I was born. He lived a rock and roll life. Jim’s had transplants and cancer, but he’s tough as a boot. It’s a miracle he’s alive because he lives pretty hard. I don’t know if he’s been to jail, but if he hasn’t it’s only by dint of luck. He’s completely self taught and plays anything with strings. Bluegrass was really big in the ’70s in Western Australia and he was a star. My other uncles, John and Joe (my mum’s brothers), owned a pub called the Seaview Tavern in Freemantle (a city just south of Perth) and I remember watching Jim play there. Those memories stuck really hard. You can’t find this song anywhere. The only place you can find it is [on YouTube] and it’s me singing it with him on the Sydney Opera House Steps in Sydney Harbour a few years ago.”

The first song I was obsessed with

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The Beatles – ‘She’s Leaving Home’

“This is the daggiest song on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ and there are some daggy songs on that record. I didn’t really understand what it was about, it just felt very sad to me. The idea of a young person going away from their parents – and then in the second verse it’s from the mum’s point of view. Paul sings: ‘She breaks down and cries to her husband/Daddy our baby’s gone‘. I have a really strong memory of listening to it over and over again. My parents didn’t have a lot of music in their collection, but what they had was fucking cool.”

The first album I owned

Various artists – ‘The Big Chill Soundtrack’

“I was given it by my godfather in 1985 when I was 10. He was a farmer whose name was literally Bear. It’s not his real name, but he was known by it his whole life because he’s got these huge hands and a big beard. I’m not sure if he liked the record himself, but it’s a fucking epic soundtrack. One of the great soundtracks of all time. You’ve got ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye, one of the great soul tunes. And you’ve got ‘Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog’ by Three Dog Night. And then ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum, with a B3 organ on it. Being a keyboard player, I got pretty obsessed by all the bands that used keyboards. ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ is one of the best songs ever written, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

The first concert I went to

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Boom Crash Opera, Perth Superdome, 1989

“I was 14 or 15. They were this Aussie pop band, a poor man’s INXS but only because they didn’t have the success. I went to go see them at the Superdome in Mount Claremont [a suburb of Sydney] which was near where I lived. I think it was pretty tame. I don’t know if it was an all-ages gig but it was certainly a daggy [unfashionable] band. I remember it feeling over-lit. I’ve been to about 15 concerts since because I do not like big concerts. I love a jazz band in the corner of a pub. However, I kissed Nanette Allen there, who I met at the Boom Crash gig. So it was my first concert and my first kiss as well!”

The song that makes me want to dance

Candi Staton – ‘Young Hearts Run Free’

“It’s hard to explain how much of my life is defined by being at uni in the ’90s when all we did was dance to ’70s funk and disco. There was a club at the University of Western Australia called the Solid Gold Club. They had roller discos there and it was just madness. It was my real first super stupid partying era, and this is a cracking tune.”

The song that I can no longer listen to

Randy Crawford – ‘Street Life’

“The things I really struggle with are the things I learned at music school. I’m mostly self-taught, but after I did my English degree I went and did a two year course at the UWA Conservatorium of Music in Perth. It was basically teaching instrumentalists and vocalists how to get your chops up so you could be a session musician. Like, how do you make a living in this godforsaken business if you’re not Kurt Cobain? It was a tough couple of years of my life, but I stuck to it. Looking back, there’s no way I could have written Matilda or any of my more complicated stuff without it. Anyway, they put us through this thing where they teach you [chord] cycles… and you play them over and over. This song was really good for that. I fucking hate it with all my heart, even though I love Randy Crawford. The groove is super camp and super soul, but my god, I just hate it. I hate that period of my life. I hate how reductive and uncreative it was. The course was not there to help you become a fucking weirdo individual writer.”

The song I do at karaoke

ABBA – ‘The Winner Takes It All’

“I would always do ‘The Winner Takes It All’ because I think it is one of the great pop songs. ABBA wrote dozens of great pop songs but ‘TWTIA’ is just an extraordinary song. Especially if you’re into your camp Scando-pop, which I totally am. It’s not in an easy key, though, it’s always in a girls key. So you either have to sing it low, which is fine, but you really want to belt the fuck out of it. You want it in a tenor key and it’s never in a tenor key. Let’s do it next time I’m in London, just NME and me in a room, keeping to post-COVID isolation rules of course. It’ll be really weird.”

The song I can’t get out of my head right now

Untitled song from upcoming Matilda film

“I’ve actually just been working on – and this is an exclusive scoop – a new song for Matilda because we’re meant to be, if it wasn’t for coronavirus, making a film of Matilda. I’ve been working on it for a few days in my coronavirus cave. It’s sticky because it’s meant to be the song that ends the thing. It’s killing me. I just wanna fucking shoot my computer and make it go away. I think it’s probably a good song, but it’s difficult to get back into that headspace… 12 years after I wrote [the original musical]. I might work 10 hours a day on one three minute song and then you lie there in bed at night. People know what it’s like having a song stuck in your head, but can you imagine having your own fucking song stuck in your head? It’s like being stuck in a cave that you’ve dug out of your own flesh.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Gloria Gaynor – ‘I Will Survive’

“The songs that I love, I couldn’t have played at my funeral because my wife would say ‘urgh, this fucking song again’. That’s assuming that my wife outlives me, which she certainly should if the world is fair, which it’s not. I think that given that you’re not going to be at your funeral, you owe the crowd a laugh. So I reckon that Gloria Gaynor would be the one to have them walk out on.”

Tim Minchin’s latest single ‘Leaving LA’ is out now

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