Memory Music Box

By Kirsteen McNish (Vine Collective)


I found this to be one of the hardest things to put together whilst also being a great cathartic pleasure. Rarely are you asked to do something that leaves you afloat in a sea of emotions, indulged with the music and poetry that shaped, broke and put you back together again so many times. This exercise made me realise something about myself, the things you keep hidden away, memories of countless gigs you have been to, the chill air and the exhilaration when you get out into the night air sound still in your ears; or travelling alone on public transport happy or tearful with music in your ears accompanying the landscape whizzing past you. Or indeed sat on your own with just music for company. The thrill of gathering up all your poetry books and diving into the words that have often given you solace and wrapped you up when nothing or no-one else could. Suspending time, holding time, pushing it into the future. I went over 10 tracks. These are Not my all-time top ten, just ones that hold strong memories.

M – Pop Muzik The first single I ever bought. Not my favourite but it’s a first memory. Went with my Dad to Woolworths with my pocket money and remember the proud moment of reaching up and handing over the cash to the Saturday girl.

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill Seeing Kate Bush on Top Of The Pops for the first time was the first time I wanted to be someone else.

Prince – The Beautiful Ones (Not available on Spotify) angst and hormones kicking in I watched Purple Rain and I guess the first stirring of teenage lust kicked in too. He was like a hyper real being, exotic, brooding, strutting. I would rewind and play it over and over on my tape machine lying on my bed secretly wishing someone would write a song like this for me. It was a potent mix of agony and ecstacy.

New Order – Thieves Like Us The first time I went to see my first film with friends at Corby was “Pretty In Pink”. I loved this film for the soundtrack and all its clichés of the girl from the other side of the tracks. I had started to dress differently and listened to indie music. Electronic beats, heavy bass, sweeping, yearning and romantic. Made me want to find out about Manchester which seemed like a world away.

Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain My all -time favourite album from teenage years, this track was played again and again and again.

This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren I have no words for this other than its just wonderful and it led me to the Tim Buckley original.

Love – Alone Again I worked at The Adelphi Club in Hull when I went to University and long after I left Uni. I lied and said I could pull a pint. I couldn’t. I was just desperate to work where all the bands played. Countless badly pulled ales later I dreaded the boot, but the wonderful owner Paul Jackson took pity on me and kindly kept me on. He would often play this as almost a ritual when he opened up and set up the bar. He introduced me to a huge amount of music, but this will always be a defining memory for me. His liquorice paper rollie in his mouth, turning on the PA system, crackle of the needle hitting the vinyl – me cleaning the tables and putting out beer mats. The line “ Yeah said its all right, I won’t forget, all the times I’ve waited patiently for you”. Rituals. We all need rituals, they etch into us like rings in tree trunks.

Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat First time I heard this I felt like someone has suddenly lifted the blinds, blinded by light, and everything else fell away part from his voice. The pain of betrayal, the acknowledgment of infatuation, of failing and being flawed. When my heart has been in tatters, this man’s voice has been my faithful companion, like so much of his poetry and writing. Cohen’s albums are a place that I can retreat to, that bring illumination, and life feels beautiful in all its flaws. Thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes I thought it was there for good so I never tried.”

Terry Callier – What Colour Is Love? The rise and fall, the switches and changes in tempo and feel. It reminds me of bright days and an old friend. Beautiful.

Jimi Tenor – Can’t Stay With You Baby This man is from outer space. Every gig by him has been truly memorable.

Avro Part – Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten A composer Duncan Chapman introduced me to this in my years at the BBC. He really struck me as a vibrant kind man with a restless body and a talkative nature. Watching him conduct and compose was another experience all together.

John Martyn – Go Down Easy This reminds me of the thrill of the first flourishes of love when it’s intense, easy and all consuming, before the complications. It reminds me of a little flat in London, long nightly phone calls, walks in a cemetery in Stoke Newington and a particularly impactful relationship.

Vaughan Williams – Lark Ascending As a child I remember walks in a bluebell wood, my dad pointing out all the birds, trees and flowers by name. I grew up in an industrial town but the surrounding villages were green and beautiful. As the years pass nature is very important to me, especially the sea and green open spaces to collect my thoughts and get perspective. Jeff Barrett & his Caught By The River website opened up a whole world of writers and poets to me.

Vini Reilly – Otis I saw him play sat in the corner of a theatre bar in Manchester, prior to that I had no idea who he was. Everyone else around me was whispering and obviously in awe. Built like a bird, sat in a corner, with hands that moved gracefully and swiftly. The winter rain, the neon at night, the arts & music scene, the Peveril Of The Peak bar, was an exciting time of my life.

Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together As time goes on this seems more appropriate than ever.

Nina Simone – Wild Is The Wind More yearning. I saw her at Manchester and she was utterly captivating, talented, strong-willed, wild and eccentric.

Alice Coltrane – Ptah The El Daoud A talented musician friend in Hull introduced me to her and this reminds me of lazy Sundays, Autumn and a beach hut on Skipsea cliffside.

James Yorkston – Shipwreckers There are way too many James Yorkston tracks to choose from. I can’t remember when I first heard him as his music seems to have been such a huge part of my life for a number of years, and I have seen so many of his gigs. His music emotes so much in me, driving around Scotland, the sea, the salty gales, storms, clifftops, peat fires and the much loved lighthouse near Gairloch I have stayed in many times, once heartbroken and in retreat, writing and reading love letters … a year later I was there getting wed to someone else with all my friends around me. Time passing.

Gorecki – Sorrowful Songs When my daughter Juniper was born with a disability I fell apart and I couldn’t imagine getting myself back together. I was in utter shock, fearful and anxious beyond words. This music reminds me of grief, hard times, horizons blurred and rebirth and the close friends that pulled me through, others that were lost & the strength found in hitting the bottom to come slowly back up surfacing for air.

Robin Robertson – At Roane Head (Not available on Spotify) I am a huge fan of Robin Robertson and I saw him perform this at the Southbank Centre and was blown away.

Olivia Chaney – Blessed Instant (cover) This sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. It’s such a powerful cover of Sidsell Edrikson and the harmonium adds extra power and electricity.

The Magnetic North – Old Man Of Hoy I hear new layers every time I listen to this album and each time I hear them live I hear something new too, especially when the guitars and strings grow louder counter-posed against the delicate refrain of the music box. To me it’s the crash of the the sea and the spray. It’s also new friendships and much laughter.

Juliana Barwick – St Apolonia This is a new one but for someone who feels most at home by the sea or the hills, it calls to me.

Dido & Aeneas – When I Am Lain In Earth I always forget whose version of this I like best, but I came across Jeff Buckley’s version and it sets my melancholic soul on fire. Funereal.

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