Everyone remembers that one song that first turned them on to music – and for a lot of these artists, it was a moment that would change their lives forever…
The first song you fall in love with always has a special place in your heart, eh? Which is why we asked scores of artists to tell us about the first track they went head-over-heels for. Rapper Danny Brown chose The Pharcyde's 'Passin' Me By', revealing: "It made me feel a certain kind of way. The video was filmed in black and white and it’s about a girl who breaks all these kids’ hearts."
Ice Cube – Carl Douglas' 'Kung Fu Fighting'. "I remember being a kid, getting in my family’s car, turning the dial on the radio and ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ just hitting me. It wasn’t anything to do with love, like most songs – when you’re a kid, you don’t want to know about that. It was about having fun, this crazy rush of blood - it soundtracked growing up. Too dope, man."
Courtney Barnett – Jimi Hendrix's 'Manic Depression'. "My brother’s friend made us mixtapes and that’s how I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time. I fell in love with the song ‘Manic Depression’. When I was an early teenager I slightly identified with it. Or I wanted to. Or I thought I did."
Ice T – Parliament's 'Flash Light'. "It was the first song that felt like mine. It was a gang anthem. It was super funky, and would get the house parties rocking. When I met George Clinton years later, he taught me how to be an old motherfucker! You know, he’s still crazy and wild. I realised that if you’re real, you never change."
- 2nd august, 2014
Royal Blood's Mike Kerr – Elvis Presley. "When I was around nine or 10 I was shown how to use the CD player, and became obsessed with my parents’ copy of Elvis’ greatest hits. I used to drive them mad by playing it at top volume and dancing around the room insanely. To pick one favourite song is like asking a parent to choose a favourite child."
Billy Bragg – Simon & Garfunkel's 'The Boxer'. "I was about 13 years old and I was on a school trip. We met some girls from another country and had a chat. When they left and we got back on our bus, the song came on the radio and it just reached down and touched me."
Michel Gondry – Wilson Pickett's 'New Orleans'. "My parents had a compilation called ‘Formidable Rhythm And Blues’ with people like Wilson Pickett and Joe Tex on. They had another Motown one with Diana Ross and The Temptations. I remember playing one record on my turntable and then the other, wondering why the different coloured sticker made a difference to the sound."
Cate Le Bon – Mud's 'Tiger Feet'. "It’s a great song anyway, but when you’re a kid a song called ‘Tiger Feet’ is amazing. My auntie and uncle in Liverpool had just bought this massive house and they had this jukebox in a corner of a room that had no furniture. I used to continually put ‘Tiger Feet’ on and dance."
Fucked Up's Damien Abraham – Beastie Boys' 'Paul Revere'. "I can still rap it now and I honestly haven’t listened to that song since about 1988. It’s burnt into my memory. I love the fact that it tells a story. I would have heard it when I was about six years old, because back then all I watched were music videos and American televangelist shows."
Phoenix's Thomas Mars – My Bloody Valentine's 'Feed Me With Your Kiss'. "This isn’t just one song, it’s the whole of [album] ‘Isn’t Anything’. To me, the album is all the same song – I mean that in a good way. It’s very nostalgic and melancholic, and at the same time it’s very unique. When you’re listening to it, you feel like you’re the only one. I felt like it was custom made for me."
Miles Kane – David Bowie's 'Hang On To Yourself'. "When my mum played this, it was the first time I’d heard a really old-school rock’n’roll tune. The lyrics were so surreal, and put an image in your head. I remember thinking, 'That’s so cool, that’s what I want to do.'"
Chrissie Hynde – Richard Harris' 'MacArthur Park'. "He had a beautiful voice, although he wasn’t known as a singer – he was an actor. It was at the height of me being a hippy in the ‘60’s, and the lyrics were really psychedelic: 'Someone’s left the cake out in the rain/All the sweet green icing flowing down'. As an acid head listening to that, it ticked all the right boxes."
Brett Anderson – Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights'. "My sister bought the single from Woolworths in Haywards Heath in 1978 and we listened to it over and over in her bedroom in our council house. There is something truly magical about the song that still compels me today. This was the starting point of a life-long love of her work."
Angel Haze – Eminem's 'Cleaning Out My Closet'."When I heard that song for the first time, it was like finally there was another person out there who understood my angst, like he knew everything I’d been through. I lived in 7 Mile, he was from 8 Mile, so there was that connection too. The song brought me out of myself. It shaped me in ways no-one can imagine."
John Cooper Clarke – The Ronettes' '(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up'."I fell in love with The Ronnettes around 1962. I would have been about 13, so I was a hormonal swamp, and this song provided the feverish soundtrack to my hormonal awakening. Ronnie Spector still sings like a sexy angel now."
Bo Ningen's Taigen Kawabe – Yohji Yamamoto's 'Why It Will Be So'.
"My mum used to play this when I was a kid; I really liked it then and rediscovered it when I was an adult. It was a little more melancholic then I remembered. I’m that kind of person and my mum is like that too: our taste in music tends to be more sentimental and sad."
St Vincent (Annie Clark) – Michael Jackson's 'Smooth Criminal'. "Because my name’s in it – my name’s Annie! I had a tape that I would listen to on Saturday mornings and dance to in the living room. I would have been five. I’d listen to side B [of the album ‘Bad’] first, because that’s where ‘Smooth Criminal’ was."
Kevin Parker – The Shadows' 'Sleep Walk'. "They were an English surf-rock band. My dad was in a few cover bands and used to play them on guitar all the time. I’d just sit in the garage listening to him, saying ‘fuck!’ It was so emotional – the guitar lines made me want to weep."
Danger Mouse – Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy'. "Like 'When Doves Cry', I’ve been in love with this for so long. I had an older cousin who played the ‘Purple Rain’ album, and I’d sing along, not having a clue what it meant. I had no idea why everyone would laugh so hard at my singing. Those first songs I heard, they made me feel so happy, and they still do."
Slash – The Yardbirds' 'Over Under Sideways Down'. "I remember hearing the Yardbirds a lot as a kid in Stoke-on-Trent. This song has a kind of cartoonish feel, and it was interesting or weird to see adults being silly like that. At the same time, the central riff is this very jagged, oriental-sounding thing that leapt out at me."
Matt Berry – ABBA's 'SOS'. "It sounds unearthly. Their accents – it was like someone pretending to do a pop song, and in doing so creating something entirely unique-sounding. It has a real sadness to it. I didn’t know that it was Abba when I heard it, I just thought, 'What the hell is that?'"
Lars Ulrich – Deep Purple's 'Strange Kind Of Woman'. "I went to see Deep Purple in Copenhagen in 1973. It started me on a journey into rock music and all that goes with it. I was nine, maybe 10, and wasn’t supposed to go – my dad had tickets for five of his friends and one couldn’t go, so they snuck me in. It fucking blew my mind. I was never the same afterwards."
Gary Numan – Karl Denver's 'Wimoweh'. "This was another from my mum and dad’s collection. It’s the song that made me realise what music was, and that it could make you feel something. It’s a great tune with a great chorus."
Marky Ramone – Bobby 'Boris' Pickett And The Crypt-Kickers' 'Monster Mash'. "I was totally captured by the whole thing. Back then, records cost like 25 cents, so I begged my mom to get it for me. After much pleading, she did and I still have it now – I keep it in my 45s box at home. It’s a classic song."
Katy B – DJ Zinc's 'Hold On'. "I used to love those old ‘Pure Garage’ compilations that everyone would have at school. Me and my friends were all 10 or 11 at the time, so we were listening to this proper club music at each other’s houses after school over a Diet Coke instead of at raves."
The Naked And Famous' Alisa Xayalith – Mariah Carey's 'Vision Of Love'. "My brother loved Mariah Carey, and I remember sitting outside his bedroom with my ear pressed up against his door when he was listening to her tapes. I had a huge obsession with ‘Vision Of Love’, and I would try and imitate her singing style."
Temples' James Bagshaw – Fats Domino's 'Blueberry Hill'. "I heard a lot more music from my parents’ friends who lived a couple of doors down. They used to babysit me and they had really great taste. I remember hearing Fats Domino from them. This song has an incredible sound to it; I don’t know what it was about it that I loved; some songs just do that to you."
Ian McCulloch – The Walker Brothers' 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore'. "The Walker Brothers were great, but Scott solo is very pedestrian indeed. The dozy git punched a pig carcass on one of his songs [2006’s ‘Clara’]. Go back to playing darts down the boozer, you twat."
Dee Dee Penny – Frank Sinatra's 'Angel Eyes'. "My dad was a massive Sinatra fan and loved singing in that style. He sang in a doo-wop group and was really good. He could have made it, but that generation put family and having a career over pursuing that kind of thing. He’d play 'Angel Eyes' in my house and sing along to it, and I’d just sort of swoon along. I loved that."
Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor – Stevie Wonder's 'I Just Called To Say I Love You'. "I loved the video as much as the melody and sounds. I pretended to be Stevie Wonder, cupping my hands over my ears like he has over his headphones. Maybe the sentimentality in that song has stayed with me."
Peace's Harry Koisser – James Brown's 'I Feel Good'. "It’s something that really appeals to you when you're young, because it feels like you're spinning around. It was before I went to school, so I was probably three years old at the time."
Warpaint's Emily Kokal – 'The Police's 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'. "My first words were singing along to this police song. My mum said shed played it a few times before and then one day I started doing it. I love 'Walking On The Moon' and Sting’s energy and melodies; I love their chemistry and alchemy as a band."
Tricky – T Rex's 'I Love To Boogie'. "When I was about eight, I remember going up to Blackpool on my holidays, and this was a massive hit that was always playing on the car radio when we were driving. I begged my nan to buy me a Marc Bolan T-shirt. I don’t wear other people’s merchandise; it was the only time I've ever owned a shirt with an artist on the front of it."
Anna Calvi – The Shirelles' 'Baby It's You'. "My parents played a lot of early-60’s songs and I was captivated by this – maybe by the beautiful melody. I’ve covered it in concert and whenever I sing it, it makes me think of being a kid."
Conor Oberst – The Cure's 'Standing On A Beach'. "The first cassette tape I ever owned that didn’t belong to one of my brothers or my parents was The Cure’s singles collection. I wore that cassette out. Robert Smith writes the most beautiful melodies, especially if you're kind of a sentimental fool like me. They can be simultaneously super-catchy but still moody."
5th July 2014