Got into a mad YouTube spiral last night. I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was Friday, the quantity of red wine that was flowing or what, but before I knew it, I was chain-watching the music videos of my youth and beyond. It made me realise how effectively some of my favourite songs conjure up a sense of time and place, something I really mind about in books too. I found the artists’ ability to create such convincing vignettes in around three and a half minutes inspiring. With that in mind, I’ve picked out five of my favourites to share here:
The Jam – That’s Entertainment
I can practically smell the urine-soaked alleyways. I know that doesn’t sound like an advantage, but it’s one of the most evocative songs I know…
Billy Joel – Piano Man
This bitter-sweet song conjures up the scene and the characters involved so clearly: a group of people, together alone, not quite where they want to be, but too caught up in the mesh of life to change course.
Madness – Our House
I don’t know why this tugs at my nostalgia strings quite so strongly – maybe it’s because I’m just like the mum in the video. Other than the bit about being house-proud obviously…
Tom Robinson – Listen to the Radio
This takes me to cities I’ve never visited, and a situation in someone else’s life. I had the single when I was young and used to lie back on my own bed, imaging it all. It’s probably just me, but I don’t find the video helps, and have taken to listening to the music with my eyes closed as a precaution…
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
The temptation to go for something specifically London-ish for number five was too strong to resist. I find Baker Street very atmospheric, and in darker moods have certainly felt alone, lost and anonymous in amongst London’s masses. But most of the time I’m very fond of its sprawling, scruffy crowdedness, so I went for Waterloo Sunset instead.