Soundtrack Of My Life: Richard Armitage

Actor known for collaborating with hobbits, spies and mysterious women

The song I wish I’d written

The Beatles – ‘Yesterday’

“It’s how I feel right now. I would love to just set time back a little bit to when we weren’t living through this moment. It’s incredibly beautiful and I feel like it’s one of those songs that’s woven into the tapestry of most people living right now.”

The first song I remember hearing

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Grease – ‘Summer Nights’

“I remember having a little 45 [RPM home record player] with a little plastic piece that kept falling out the middle, and I would play it over and over to a point where there was a scratch on the track. So it used to start with, ‘do, do do, do do…’ It never actually got into the song! I had to knock the record player to get it to move on to the verse. It just sums up everything about my childhood. I really wanted to get up and dance, but the record just kept sticking.”

The first album I owned

The Magic Roundabout – ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’

“I don’t think it’s an album of music. It was sort of an early audiobook, I guess, on vinyl. It had songs in it, but it was all the music from The Magic Roundabout and then this malevolent blue cat that was terrorising everybody. I remember being really frightened of it. It must’ve been a Christmas present.”

The first gig I went to

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Tina Turner in Vienna, 2009

“The first artist that I went to see live in concert was Tina Turner when she was 70 years old. So it was quite late in my life, but it had so much impact on me that I drove across Europe to go see the same concert again in Amsterdam. I’d never seen an artist live that just pinned me to the wall with that voice. I still remember that feeling of just being awestruck by what she was doing.”

The song that reminds me of home

ABBA – ‘Happy New Year’

“This is really cheesy: we were never allowed to stay up for New Year’s Eve [when I was a child], but there was one New Year’s Eve where we were allowed. This song came on the TV, and my mum picked me up and she was just dancing around the room to this music. I was about 10 maybe. When that song comes on now, I remember that feeling of being picked up by my mum and dancing around the room with her.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Lonnie Donegan – ‘Nobody’s Child’

“I had trouble sleeping as a kid and my dad would sing this song to me [to help me sleep]. I think he really loved the song, because it was lyrical. It had a little story to tell. But I remember it used to make me cry, because it was such a sad little song about an orphan child. I find that one quite hard to listen to now.”

The song that changed my life

Eurythmics – ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’

“This was the first time that I shifted from being given things to listen to, to suddenly going, ‘Oh, wow, I’ve got my own taste.’ Everything about the track is still relevant. It’s not dated. The song, the sound, the image, the music video, everything about it. I fell down an Annie Lennox rabbit hole quite recently in lockdown.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Kool & the Gang – ‘Celebration’

“I’m a quiet person, but at the same time I think I’m a bit tongue-in-cheek about most things. And a bit of a drama queen. I’d like everyone to be really miserable for about 10 minutes. So I’d probably play them ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. But then, as they’re leaving, I’d play ‘Celebration’ by Kool & the Gang because I want everybody just to go out laughing.”

The song I listen to before performing

Imogen Heap – ‘Hide and Seek’

“I make playlists for all the characters I play. So for [Netflix thriller] The Stranger, the one song that I would keep going to, because it somehow helped me, was Imogen Heap. It’s so out of my box in terms of music, but I listened to that track and I was like, ‘This is everything I need for this character right now’. In a different situation, before performing something like Chekhov, I was listening to ‘Bright Horses’ by Nick Cave.”

The song I do at karaoke

Queen – ‘Radio Gaga’

“I’d have to be bound, gagged and drugged to get up on the mic [at karaoke]. Which is weird, because most people think actors are big show-offs, but actually I’d rather let everyone else sing. If I was forced to get up, I would probably sing ‘Radio Gaga’. You can’t do something which is too serious and try to sound like a good singer. It’s just got to be loud and popular.”

The song I discovered during lockdown

Daði Freyr – ‘Think About Things’

“The Icelandic entry to Eurovision 2020. I listened to that and I was like, ‘This is what we need right now’. Such a great track, brilliant lyrics, a fantastic little dance routine. The video is hilarious.”

Richard Armitage performs ‘The Checkhov Collection of Short Stories’ is available on Audible now

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