No matter how much someone likes music, even if they can’t name any artists they listen to, they could still probably tell you what their all-time favourite songs are (or song).
But there are favourite songs, and then there are those that get you right in your soul, that you connect to, deeply, the first time you hear them. Those songs that when you hear them for the first time, you have to stop, and just listen. Those songs that when you hear them now, they take you back to where you were, who you were and they remind you of what you cared about, who you cared about, all the good things in your life and the bad things in your life, that first time you heard them.
This is one of them. I heard it for the first time while throwing the ball around for my dog Chunky on the beach on Australia Day this year, during the Hottest 100. Damn. Surreal. Haunting. I don’t use those words much, but I’ll use them to describe those 5 minutes and 20 seconds, listening to this for the first time:
And these are 12 songs I’ll never forget hearing for the first time (and why):
• Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley’s version
It was 2009. Cooking dinner, home alone on a Sunday night, I stopped cooking, turned it up, stopped and just listened. When I think back to hearing this, I think of one word: ‘peace’.
• Satisfied Mind – also Jeff Buckley’s version
March, 2015. Chilling on the balcony at home in Parma Italy. Reflecting on an overall troubled time living there, but realising the crappy times are what make you appreciate the good times.
• Your Ex-Lover Is Dead by Stars
2005. Driving home on a rainy night from the city in Melbourne.
• Right Now by Allday
December, 2014. Monday morning, on a dark morning in Italy, in the middle of a winter that felt like it would never end.
• Live & Let Go by Hilltop Hoods
On that same morning as the Allday song.
• As I Sat Sadly by Her Side by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
August, 2009. Driving through South Australia, lost, but loving it. It was at dusk, and I was looking for a place to camp, on a deserted windy road, with the thundering ocean in full force, in the middle of winter, to my left.
• Aish Tamid by Matisyahu
March, 2007. ‘Flames dancing like a lion roaring’. That line, and that imagery, made so much sense to me, and was so powerful. And it still is. It made and still makes me want to thump my chest. Everyone has that fire for something, that as Matisyahu says at the start of this, ‘Nothing can put out.’
• King Without a Crown by Matisyahu
August, 2006. In the room at a backpackers in New York. A guy from Perth told me about this and let me listen to it on his iPod. ‘Thunder… You feel in it your chest.’ Another line that’s a chest thumper.
• One Day by Matisyahu
June, 2010. Driving along the southernmost coast of South Africa, close to Cape Town, listening to the Official FIFA World Cup Album, In a couple weeks, I was going to make a dream come true and go to Israel, and this was some serendipitous combination of South Africa and Israel that was just perfect.
• Be Careful What You Ask For by Everclear
October 2012. Walking around a forest in Portland, going to see Everclear that night. Played it on repeat and sang it as loud as I could walking around the forest, just loving being there in that place, mentally and physically.
• Untitled (Vaka) by Sigur Ros
December, 2003. Even though this song is something incredible, it wasn’t so much the song – it’s more that it was the first time I’d heard a Sigur Ros song. I had come home from my 21st and I put it on to go to bed to. Maybe it was the emotion of my party being over or all the chopped onions in my girlfriend’s bedroom at the time, but I got a tear in my eye. My friend Charles had bought me the album this track’s on, (), for my birthday. Thanks, Charles.
• Cinematic by Illy
2016. The first weekend at home in my new home after moving with my now wife to Queensland. The first couple years out of high school after 2000, I spent unhappy, then I met a girl, got over it, and spent the next few years super driven as writer, but with one eye on a solo round the world trip in 2006. Then for the next ten years, I was either overseas or saving and planning to go overseas. Hearing Cinematic live from Splendour in the Grass in Byron Bay on Triple J, chilling in the lounge in the backyard, with our new dog we just got that week, it was maybe the first time in my life I had felt content in where I was living.