Soundtrack Of My Life: Mark Ronson

The renowned producer and DJ takes us through his life in music

The first song I remember hearing

Duran Duran – ‘The Reflex’

“That jumps into my head. I remember having a Duran Duran Smash Hits sticker book and I really was quite obsessed with Duran Duran during that era. The eighties sound was so vibrant because it was when technology was really hitting its stride. As a kid, hearing that song, I’d just never heard anything like that before. It was so exciting.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Blind Faith – ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’

“I was probably 12 or 13 and I just couldn’t stop playing it. I just found it so haunting. I’m not sure I understood that something sad was happening to make this guy sing like that in this moment. I just found Stevie Winwood’s vocal so haunting. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what was happening to my brain and my body. The song was just haunting me.”

The first album I fell in love with

Guns N’ Roses –  ‘Appetite For Destruction’ 

“Again, I’d just never heard anything like it. Songs like ‘Mr. Brownstone’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ – I was aware that these songs had different movements, sections that made a song feel like a continual build. And it was exciting. I’m not sure I knew how it was all put together, but I wanted to know.”

The first album I ever owned

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Michael Jackson – ‘Thriller’

“I specifically remember going to the shop to buy it – me and, like, 30million other people in America at that time. I liked it immediately, but I’d admit that when I was eight, I didn’t really understand the slow jams like I would now. Something like ‘The Lady In My Life’. I just really liked the hits, like ‘Beat It’.”

My first gig

Billy Squier

“The first one I remember was Billy Squier. Do you know who that is? He’s most famous for a song called ‘The Big Beat’ which is now one of the most famous breakbeats – it’s the beat from ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ by Dizzee Rascal and Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’. He was this rocker from the eighties, a bit like Robert Plant or something and he had a couple of huge hits but was always ripped apart by critics. But whatever. I think he was maybe too good looking or something. I think he had a crush on my mom [British socialite Ann Dexter Jones]. She took me to a few shows.”

The song I wish I’d written

The Zutons – ‘Valerie’ 

“At this point, whether I’m DJing or playing live, I can delude myself that I did write it. But I didn’t. Dave McCabe did, but I do feel a strong attachment to it. I didn’t hear the brilliance of it until Amy [Winehouse] sang it. It was her who loved it. She’d heard it down at her local and would sing it in the shower. I liked it, it had a sort of Stones-y thing to it, but Amy knew and so she sang it on my covers album [2007’s ‘Version’]. When you dissect the song you realise it’s a real classic. The structure, the two chords, that soul that so many musicians from Liverpool just have. But it was Amy that first heard that it was a soul song. It’s all Amy’s genius picking that song.”

The song that reminds me of home

Anything produced by DJ Premier

“I grew up in London, but New York is home, and any classic, early ’90s DJ Premier production sounds like New York to me. The obvious one would be ‘N.Y. State of Mind’ by Nas. I hear the opening bars of that song and I can smell the subway! New York is going through a bit of a revival right now – there was the Pop Smoke stuff and Cardi B – but it hasn’t quite been the same since it got really expensive in the early 2000s and everyone moved out to Los Angeles. It’ll come back around. You can never write New York off.”

The song I can never hear again

Mark Ronson – ‘Uptown Funk (ft. Bruno Mars)’

“I’m especially proud of it – but I’ve heard ‘Uptown Funk’ a lot! I mean, I never listen to my own music at home or in the car, but when I DJ out I play it. I was actually DJing last Saturday night, the first time in a year and a half, and I was dreading playing it. I’m a DJ. I’m riddled with neurosis and anxiety, and I thought it was going to be the moment that people were finally sick of it. I genuinely thought they were going to look up at the DJ booth and say, ‘Really? It’s 2021’. But I played it and there was this mass flooding of the dancefloor. I’m very grateful for that song.”

The song I sing at karaoke

Train – ‘Drops of Jupiter’

“I have done karaoke. I enjoy it. There are those songs that are designed for karaoke – where if you can’t sing well you can almost sound like a singer if you sing loud enough and project. ‘Drops Of Jupiter’ by Train is one of those songs for me. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ isn’t.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Pete Rock & CL Smooth – ‘They Reminisce Over You’ 

“Well, I don’t want anyone being overly dramatic on my behalf and I would like people to have a good time, but there’s this song by [New York hip-hop duo] Pete Rock & CL Smooth that’s called ‘They Reminisce Over You’ that I really like. It’s a beautiful song, about someone’s passing – and it has one of my favourite beats of all time. Yeah, I’ll have that. No, I won’t have ‘Uptown Funk’…”

Watch The Sound with Mark Ronson is streaming on Apple TV+ now

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