With a trip to Thailand on the horizon (five days…but who’s counting?) and with it a reunion with my good mate James, I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood. That’s code for “I’ve done bugger all worth writing about in the past few weeks so here’s a bit of filler”.
Music is a huge part of my life. It has the ability to not only kill time and make any journey pass by a little quicker, but it also has the incredible power to evoke memories – both good and bad. I’ve already written in the past about songs that remind me of home, but today I’ll be focusing on the songs that remind me of being away from home; the sorts of songs that I associate with my time spent backpacking and, more specifically, the songs that remind me of an incredible four months spent travelling with one of my best mates.
There’s no specific criteria for the list, and the songs aren’t in any particular order. In fact, the large majority have bugger all to do with travelling in terms of lyrics and will probably not mean anything to anyone but James and I. I’m self-indulgent and you keep reading; you’ve only yourself to blame.
The Next Jet to Leave Moscow – Manic Street Preachers
So you played in Cuba, did you like it brother? I bet you felt proud you silly little fucker…
The Manics released their ‘Futurology’ album in July 2014 when I was staying in Singapore for a while so by the time I met James in September of that year I was well and truly obsessed and probably sang the lyrics out loud for most of my waking hours.
After James casually asked one day, “What’s that ‘silly little fucker’ song? I like that one”, it quickly became a huge part of our soundtrack for the rest of our travels. Unsurprisingly, it was also pretty much on repeat during the Trans-Siberian railway leg of my trip.
100 Unread Messages – Gruff Rhys
You set foot in America, one fine October day. Sailing into Baltimore, well everything’s ok…
An actual song about travelling – or pioneering actually – from Gruff Rhys’ (lead singer of Super Furry Animals) brilliant ‘American Interior’ album.
The album itself is a concept album based on the idea that Rhys discovered he was related to John Evans. Evans – a Welsh explorer from the 1700s – embarked on a massive trek across America in search of the Mandan tribe who were apparently a bunch of Welsh speaking Indians. Go figure.
This particular track describes Evans’ trail across the States with a stomping, upbeat tune and incredibly catchy chorus. Even though I didn’t visit the States whilst backpacking, it’s hard to not feel nostalgic when listening to this song considering how much we sang it on a daily basis!
Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys
Roar at the door. My mind can’t take much more…
Truth be told, I could have picked any track off the wonderful ‘El Camino’ album (seriously, there’s not a single dud on there), but this is perhaps the catchiest and therefore became the next song to be added to our repertoire on the road.
As you can see from the video below it was also the soundtrack to one of the journeys from our epic road trip up Vietnam which, to this day, is still the best thing I’ve ever done. That said, this particular video was from the most stressful drive of the trip. What doesn’t kill you and all that.
We Come Running – Youngblood Hawke
Headin’ for that open door. Tell me, what you waitin’ for…?
The above lyric is enough to justify this song’s inclusion in any long term backpacking playlist because I just love the message and the idea of grabbing an opportunity when it arises.
There is, however, a story behind the inclusion of this song. After a stressful day of missing buses, bumpy coach rides and a hell of a lot of waiting around, we finally found ourselves on a boat to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party. We were absolutely knackered but as anyone who’s made that journey will tell you, there’s not much time for chilling on those boats.
In an attempt to chill a little, we took a headphone each and I put my iPod on and chose this song. James instantly recognised it from the video game FIFA 13 and it very quickly became one of our go-to songs and – at the time – one of only two songs on James’ phone. The other one being…Baba O’Riley by The Who. Quite the eclectic mix!
Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile) – Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel
You’ve done it all, you’ve broken every code…
Saving the most random ’til last!
This one is a very, very tenuous one indeed. Whilst waiting in the queue for security at Bangkok airport I said to James that it reminded me of the infamous scene in ‘The Full Monty’ where the guys are waiting in line at the job centre to sign on when Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ starts playing over the speaker and they all start dancing in the line. In case you haven’t seen it…
Anyway, you’ll be pleased to hear Hot Stuff didn’t make the list, however another song did. That comment was all it took for the next few hours to consist of us speaking only in quotes from The Full Monty and, truth be told, pretty much set the tone for the rest of our trip! Upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh one of the very first things we did was download and watch the film. No, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a couple of heterosexual blokes lying on a double bed watching a movie about male strippers. Nothing whatsoever.
Whilst songs like the aforementioned Hot Stuff and Tom Jones’ ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ are perhaps more famous staples of the film, the following scene and accompanying song are the ones that stuck in the memory more. This may or may not have something to do with my step-dad being a huge Steve Harley fan and me having been to see him a few times in my younger years. However it might just be to do with the fact that it’s an absolute tune.