Category Archives: Songs I Love

Songs that mean something to me, that I want to share with a wider audience.

Have You Seen The Stars Tonight – Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship

The title of the song, just of it’s own, generates images and memories by the dozen.

When I was young I lived on a sheep farm in the hills of the Scottish Borders. There was hardly any light pollution, so on a clear moonless night the whole of the Universe was on display overhead. Being young and, I suppose overfamiliar with it, didn’t really appreciate it. Like another song says “You don’t always know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” Now living in London where, on a good night you can make out a couple of dozen stars, I long for the dark skies of my childhood.

Later in life I went to sea for a living. Sitting on the fo’c’sle, on a warm tropical night, gazing up at the strange (to my northern eyes) stars of the Southern Hemisphere, remains one of my most cherished memories.

If you want to see the stars tonight these are the top 5 Dark Sky locations in Great Britain.

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Last Night of the World: Bruce Cockburn

“I‘m sipping Flor de Caña and lime juice, it’s three a.m.” sings Bruce Cockburn in the first line of “Last Night of the World”. So am I, but it’s not quite that late…yet.
This iteration of “Songs I love” was in part prompted by discovering that Sainsbury’s now stock Flor de Caña, a Nicaraguan rum that in Bruce Cockburn’s opinion is the finest in the world. I decided to buy a bottle to see if I agreed. I don’t know if it is actually the finest, but it is pretty good, especially over ice, with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a drop of Angostura Bitters.

The song was released in 1999 on the album “Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu”.  “Last Night of the World” became our Millennium theme song. Not so much because we thought that the world was going to come to an end on the 31st of December 1999 but because we loved the sentiment of “What would I do that was different, Unless it was champagne with you?”

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do?
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you?

We did hope, along with most of the rest of the human race, that in the new millennium the world would change for the better. Sadly we were disappointed. But at midnight on the first of January 2000, as Grace and I sat on top of Epsom Downs, drinking champagne, it felt as if anything were possible.
Even more sadly, since Grace passed away in April, if it does turn out to be the last night of the world, I no longer have anyone to drink champagne with. So I shall listen to Bruce and sip my Flor de Caña and lime juice and remember all the happy times we had together, especially Millennium Eve on Epsom Downs

I’m sipping Flor de Caña and lime juice, it’s three a.m.
Blow a fruit fly off the rim of my glass
The radio’s playing Superchunk and the Friends of Dean Martinez.
Midnight it was bike tires whacking the pot holes
Milling humans’ shivering energy glow
Fusing the space between them with bar-throb bass and laughter

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do?
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you?

I learned as a child not to trust in my body
I’ve carried that burden through my life
But there’s a day when we all have to be pried loose

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do?
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you?

I’ve seen the flame of hope among the hopeless
And that was truly the biggest heartbreak of all
That was the straw that broke me open

If this were the last night of the world
What would I do?
What would I do that was different
Unless it was champagne with you?

Beethoven’s Ninth: Ode to Joy

Probably the finest most uplifting piece of music ever written. It is also the anthem of the European Union.
I don’t know if this is the finest ever rendition ever but it might just be the most joyous.

On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell we wanted to pay homage to our city by means of the campaign “Som Sabadell” (We are Sabadell) . This is the flashmob that we arranged as a final culmination with the participation of 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l’Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.

Good Morning Britain; Aztec Camera

Written in 1990 very appropriate today;

But remember

Love is international
And if you stand or if you fall
Just let them know you gave your all
Worry about it later

Full lyrics below :

Jock’s got a vote in parochial
Ten long years and he’s still got her
Paying tax and and doing stir
Worry about it later

And the wind blows hot and the wind blows cold
But it blows us good so we’ve been told
Music’s food ’til the art-biz folds
Let them all eat culture

The past is steeped in shame
But tomorrow’s fair game
For a life that’s fit for living
Good morning Britain

Twenty years and a loaded gun
Funerals, fear and the war ain’t won
Paddy’s just a figure of fun
It lightens up the danger

Corporal sneers at a Catholic boy
And he eyes his gun like a rich man’s toy
He’s killing more than Celtic joy
Death is not a stranger

And Taffy’s time’s gonna come one day
It’s a loud sweet voice and it won’t give way
A house is not a holiday
Your sons are leaving home, Neil

In the hills and the valleys and far away
You can hear the song of democracy
The echo of eternity
With a rak-a-rak-a feel

The past is steeped in shame
But tomorrow’s fair game
For a life that’s fit for living
Good morning Britain

From the Tyne to where to the Thames does flow
My English brothers and sisters know
It’s not a case of where you go
It’s race and creed and color

From the police cell to the deep dark grave
On the underground’s just a stop away
Don’t be too black, don’t be too gay
Just get a little duller

But in this green and pleasant land
Where I make my home, I make my stand
Make it cool just to be a man
A uniform’s a traitor

Love is international
And if you stand or if you fall
Just let them know you gave your all
Worry about it later

The past is steeped in shame
But tomorrow’s fair game
For a life that’s fit for living
Good morning Britain

The past is steeped in shame
But tomorrow’s fair game
For a life that’s fit for living
Good morning Britain

Read more: Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Settle for Love: Joe Ely

As it is Valentine’s Day;
I love this song and the sentiments expressed. Romance is great, and fun, but ultimately it is love that holds things together.

Joe Ely – Settle For Love

You say you want drama
I’ll Give you drama
You say you want muscle
I’ll give you nerve
You want sugar
Would you settle for honey?
You want romance
Would you settle for Love?

Would you settle for love?
Would you settle for love?
Would you settle for love or do you need
All that meaningless stuff?
Would you settle for love?
Would it be enough?
Baby, Would you settle for love?

You say you want fire
I’ll give you fever
You want kisses
I’ll give you all I got
You want diamonds
I’ll Give you rhinestones
And you want romance
Would you settle for Love?

Would you settle for love?
Would you settle for love?
Would you settle for love or do you need
All that meaningless stuff?
Would you settle for love?
Would it be enough?
Baby, Would you settle for love?

Yellow Princess – John Fahey

The last “Songs I Love” post was Cyril Tawney’s “Grey Funnel Line” a song  about a seaman’s changing relationship with the sea. This reminded me of another piece of music (rather than a song) that I love John Fahey’s “The Yellow Princess”. It is (sort of) about a sailing ship – the Yellow Princess. As with all things Fahey the truth is probably more oblique and likely stranger than that. See his liner notes about the tune below the video.

John Fahey was an interesting character- read his Wikipedia  entry to see exactly how interesting.  He was an amazing fingerstyle guitarist and even today fifteen years after his death he is cited as an influence by a phenomenal number of guitar players.


The Yellow Princess:
I once managed to copy the main theme of a passage from “The Yellow Princess Overture,” by Camille Saint-Saens. This is a stabilized improvisation upon that passage. I began it in 1954 and completed it in December 1966, in Bastrop, La.
The Yellow Princess was a magnificent Clipper ship with golden sails, ivory prow, jade hull and jeweled mast-head; a vessel I saw setting sail at Orkney Springs, Virginia, in 1953. She was headed East and so was I. I was offered passage but took the dry-land route. Last I saw her (June, 1956) she was dry-docked on some tributary of the Anacostia. Having no appropriate wares for commerce upon the high seas I left her there. But such a well made ship! She still sails the Atlantic, I have recently been informed, prosperously laden with valuable cargo, having been quite productive all these years. She was last sighted by R. Grubbert Gardner, late 1966, in the thriving seaport of Lanham, Maryland.
The composition is played in standard tuning, and modulates between the keys of G and E major. The song thus transports itself through the Ionian and Mixolydian modes, and through this and other devices, motion suggests itself. While the motion continues the modulation is quickly executed (one should never be modally indeterminate) and the first mode hitchhikes along the road East (Md 410) to the Atlantic Ocean where it waits to see the sunrise and watch the ships go by. But the morning is cloudy. It gets depressed and collapses in the sand. Gulls and crabs are probably still there. The other drives West to the Pacific where it is caught and trapped by the sunset. Soon nightfall will come.
I did not go East. I took the wrong passage. Still, I thought, maybe I had gotten somewhere. Maybe I did. Who knows? But I am reminded of a quotation from Whitman which seems appropriate:
. . .where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?
I know the answer to this question. The Yellow Princess still sails majestically out in the Atlantic, her golden sails billowing gently in the clean easterlies. I sit on the shore of the Pacific (Facing West I watch the sunset and try to think up new modes. I do not watch the ships go by. Those golden sails are on the Atlantic.) and will not venture upon that bay.
The Yellow Princess is not a canal ship. She cannot go around the Southern continent, much less circumnavigate the globe, any more than we can travel back through time. She is under a long contract to the John H. Meyer shipping firm in Lanham.
And contracts are contracts. I know that the shipbuilder made her for the Atlantic. I knew him a little. I played cards with him a few times-for money. He made her to sail in the clear water, and the Atlantic is still clean I hear. I swam in it when I was young. It is a better ocean. But no one told me this (I should have known) and now it is too late. There is no craft available in the whole Pacific Ocean on which I can find that kind of passage.
But then too the Pacific is not stagnant. And, when I stop to think about it, neither am I. Perhaps the answer to Whitman’s question is “right around the corner.”
One must choose his modes of transport and his oceans with care. He must choose between the present and the past. And then if he wants to gamble he must choose between the past and the future. The whole thing is very confusing. But I hear that out there where I live, hidden by the Venice seawall, an occasional sea-turtle comes up the cold current to see if things have changed. Some of these turtles are indigenous only to the Pacific. I want to see them and hear their voices. But I have trouble for whenever I try to listen, the rumbling voice of the land-locked turtle comes to haunt me. Sometimes it is loud, sometimes very faint. Perhaps there will come a time when I will not hear him anymore. Perhaps the saw-mill turtle is already dead and when I think I hear him it is merely imagination. But I cannot write a requiem for him until I am certain that he is dead. Recent events indicate that he may well be dead. But that’s another record. Story of my life.

Grey Funnel Line

Cyril Tawney served in the Royal Navy (The Grey Funnel Line) in the 1950’s, he wrote many fine songs and this may be his finest. June Tabor’s version is particularly good


Grey Funnel Line
(Cyril Tawney)

Don’t mind the wind nor the rolling sea
The weary night never worries me
But the hardest time in a sailor’s day
Is to watch the sun as it fades away

It’s one more day on the grey funnel line

The finest ship that sails the sea
Is still a prison for the likes of me
But give me wings like Noah’s dove
I’ll fly up harbor to the one I love

There was a time my heart was free
Like a floating spar on the open sea
But now that spar is washed ashore
It comes to rest at my real love’s door.

Every time I gaze behind the screws
Makes me long for St Peter’s shoes
I’d walk on down that silver lane
And take my love in my arms again

Oh Lord, if dreams were only real
I’d have my hands on that wooden wheel
And with all my heart I would turn her ’round
And tell the boys that we’re homeward bound

I’ll pass the time like some machine
Until blue water turns to green
Then I’ll dance down that walk on shore
And sail the Grey Funnel Line no more.
And sail the Grey Funnel Line no more.

I was never in the Royal Navy, I always sailed on Merchantmen, but a ship is still a ship, and being separated from the one you love is the same where ever you are are. What he wrote, and June Tabor sings resonates with me.

Songs I Love – Fairytale of New York

Because it is Christmas and this is the finest Christmas song that I know. Kirsty McColl and the Pogues finest hour.

No explanations needed.

Songs I love: Kathryn Tickell – Favourite place

Kathryn Tickell is known for being the finest Northumbrian piper around and arguably the best there ever has been. I first heard her play at the Rothbury folk festival about thirty-five years ago. I heard her before I saw her.

Like a few other festivals whose origins go back a long way, Rothbury bases itself (or used to base, I haven’t been back for a long time,) around musical competitions. I wanted to see the open pipes competition, but I had missed the start. As I was making my way into the hall, I could hear this wonderful lyrical pipe music being played. The style wasn’t familiar, it didn’t sound like any of the pipers I knew. On the stage was a girl, maybe twelve or thirteen years old.
“It can’t be her”
was my initial thought, but it was, and if I remember correctly she won the competition.

Having told you what a brilliant piper she is, this “Song I Love” doesn’t feature her pipes.

It is Kathryn’s reconstruction of her mother’s reminiscences of being a girl brought up on a Border farm. Lots of the things she says remind me of my upbringing on a Border farm, about ten or fifteen years later and on the Scottish side of the border.

It features Kathryn’s fiddle (she is almost as good a fiddle player as she is a piper) and her spoken voice.


There isn’t a YouTube video so I have embedded a Spotify track. I’m not quite sure how it works because I haven’t tried it before.You might have to register to listen.

Songs I Love: Nic Jones – Isle of France

nic_jonesNic Jones was one of the finest singers and guitar players to come out of the Folk Revival.  I remember going to hear him at the Marsden Inn Folk Club back in 1976 and being completely blown away by his performance.

A near fatal car accident in 1982 cut his career short. He performed a few gigs in 2012-13 accompanied by his son but has since stopped performing in public. The BBC made an hour-long  documentary “The Enigma of Nic Jones: Return of Britain’s Lost Folk Hero”. I was part biographical and part following him on the run up to his first comeback gig. Unfortunately it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer or YouTube but it can be bought as a DVD from Nic’s official website nicjones.net

I like all Nic Jones’ work and could have chosen any one of a dozen songs to showcase the talent that we lost that night back in 1982, and we did lose something special . Although he still has a fine singing voice, he no longer plays the guitar or the fiddle.

The song I chose is this one “The Isle of France”*.  from the album “Noah’s Ark Trap”. It shows off Nic’s fine guitar playing and I like the story that the song tells.

* The Isle of France is now known as Mauritius.