Soundtrack of My Life: Armitage/Me – Part I

Back in June, an interview came out with Richard Armitage responding to questions about music in his life. I was so swamped with work that month that I had little time to do anything but give it a quick once-over. But I keep coming back to thinking about his answers. The interview might seem like a meaningless piece of fluff, and yet it says to me that he and I would have little common ground, which for me makes “the crush” that much harder to sustain. Now, before you jump into APM (Armitage Protection Mode, for the uninitiated), I think this probably says more about me and my relationship to music and to “the crush”, than it does about Armitage himself. In the interest of exploring my reaction to this, I thought I would do a bit of a compare-and-contrast exercise.

The song I wish I’d written

RA Answer: The Beatles – “Yesterday” – Richard said it was how he was feeling during these times and described it as “incredibly beautiful”.

My Reaction: Sure, okay. But how clichéd. Such a disappointingly conventional choice.

My Answer: For me, the song I wish I’d written changes all the time. It has to be something with lyrics that express deep emotion that I can relate to, with a melody that matches the mood and can be sung with feeling. The instrumentation is secondary. Today’s choice for me is “I Cried for Us” written by the late Kate McGarrigle about the break-up of her marriage to Loudon Wainwright III (of “Dead Skunk” infamy), and performed in 1982 by Kate and her sister, Anna, both from Montreal. I first heard the song done by Trio, the group comprised of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt, and fell in love with it. (Apparently, there was a Pet Shop Boys version, too, strangely enough, which might be more up Richard’s alley. And a more overwrought though pretty version by Rufus Wainwright, Kate’s son, singing with Antony. ) Here is the original.

The first song I remember hearing

RA Answer: Grease – ‘Summer Nights’ – Something he really wanted to dance to as a kid, but the record kept skipping.

My Reaction: Well, that sure makes me feel old! I was an adult when that came out in 1978. There was some kind of event they needed bodies for (maybe an album release party?) at the studio offices, which I went to and received a free copy of the soundtrack for my trouble. Not sure I listened to it very much. (On the other hand, I definitely can relate to the records with a permanent skip in them. There’s an Elton John song that I’m always surprised to hear has lyrics that actually join together, rather than skipping disjointedly!)

My Answer: There was always music in my house, whether on record, on the radio, on TV, or being sung by my family. It would be pretty much impossible for me to have a particular first song memory. Maybe, though, I can pick a song from the first movie I was ever taken to the cinema to see, Mary Poppins, which came out in 1964. I still walk around singing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ from time to time!

The first album I owned

RA Answer: The Magic Roundabout – ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’ – It was a soundtrack from a BBC kids’ show that Richard found really scary.

My Reaction: He probably remembers it precisely because he found it so scary. I would have been really interested to know, though, what the first album he actually bought for himself was.

My Answer: The first album I bought for myself was The Beatles’ Abbey Road. While it came out in 1969, I must have bought it a couple of years later, when I was 11 or so. I remember my mother commenting on Ringo’s out-of-tune singing on ‘Octopus’ Garden’. I really liked ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. (I kind of enjoyed dark humour in songs as a kid.)

The first gig I went to

RA Answer: Tina Turner in Vienna, 2009 – He describes this as the first artist he saw live in concert. He was so “awestruck by what she was doing” that he drove across Europe to see her perform again.

My Reaction: That show would have been awesome! Tina Turner, even at 70 was astonishing. But… somehow I just don’t believe that that is “the first gig” he ever went to, although I guess it could have been the first stadium show he ever saw. But the man was 38 years old and had played concert cello and lived as a performer in London and elsewhere. I don’t believe that was the first time he saw live music, somehow. And if it was, then he lived a much different and more sheltered life than I did, that’s for sure.

My Answer: I am and was a big concert-goer in multiple genres, including country, bluegrass, rock, pop, chamber music, opera (once), jazz (in a club once), etc. Embarrassingly enough, my first concert was The Osmond Brothers in Toronto in I believe 1973. I was a Michael Jackson fan (long before he became “The King of Pop”), but my friend Derrice had a big crush on Donny Osmond, so I agreed to go along with her and her parents. I thought after seeing Donny live, I might like him better, but I still was not a fan and retained my big crush on Michael, back in those innocent days. (Sorry, not posting The Osmonds.) Here is my preteen heartthrob singing ‘Ben’, a song featured in the horror movie of the same name about a boy and his pet rat. (Not sure why this is acapella. Sounds like they removed the music. But it sure showcases his voice. My 13-year-old self is happy.)

The song that reminds me of home

RA Answer: ABBA – ‘Happy New Year’ – In Richard’s words, one New Year’s Eve, “This song came on the TV, and my mum picked me up and she was just dancing around the room to this music. I was about 10 maybe. When that song comes on now, I remember that feeling of being picked up by my mum and dancing around the room with her.”

My Reaction: Aww. Especially after losing his mum who he had been so close to, I’m sure this is a special memory for him. (Much as I’m not a huge ABBA fan, in spite of enjoying Mamma Mia.)

My Answer: Show tunes (my mum) and Irish drinking songs or bluegrass (my dad and some sibling sing-alongs) remind me of home. Many of the Irish bunch were quite naughty, like ‘The Jolly Tinker’, one of my favourites sung by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. I can still see my dad doing a jig around the room.

The song I can no longer listen to

RA Answer: Lonnie Donegan – ‘Nobody’s Child’ – He remembers it fondly because his dad would sing it to him, but its subject matter is so sad that he finds it hard to listen to now.

My Reaction: “Lonnie Donegan”? “Skiffle music”? Hmm. I know the song well, but by the original (Canadian) country music writer/singer, Hank Snow.

My Answer: I don’t think I have a song I can no longer listen to. I have songs that I didn’t like the feeling of and couldn’t listen to even when they first came out. For some reason, much to my husband’s dismay as he is a huge Led Zeppelin fan, that’s true of ‘The Immigrant Song’. Something about the eerie vocals and music struck me wrong when I was a teenager. But I kind of liked it in Thor Ragnarok, as perfectly fitting the mood.

That’s 6 out of the 11 song prompts from the interview. Hope you’ve enjoyed the commentary. What about you? How did you react to this RA interview and do you have song memories for these questions?

Part II will follow in another post.

33 thoughts on “Soundtrack of My Life: Armitage/Me – Part I

  1. How cool that you did this. 🙂 Nice choices, they give a little insight into you and I really like that.
    I used to love Mary Poppins and especially that song when I was little. Michael Jackson only arrived in my consciousness when he indeed became that king of pop. I liked him, really liked some of his songs, but never was a real fan. LOL on the show tunes and Irish drinking songs, how very cool.
    I’m a little younger than you are so my choices would possibly be closer to Richard’s (I loved ABBA, for instance, when I was a kid) but yeah, different too.
    I should do something like this on my blog as well. Hmmm, something to mull over. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Yes, it reminded me a bit of those quiz prompts that we’ve done once in a while. We had a very musical household. I miss that. We would listen to records or get out guitars and banjo or play the piano. Somehow we are all more separate in my household now. I guess partly to do with electronics making it easier for us all to do our own thing.
      I often wonder how men marry women 30 years younger. Wouldn’t that be strange? Not just musical choices, but having lived through such different times. To each her own, for sure, and nothing wrong with that. ABBA have their place, but I never owned any of their music.

      Looking forward to reading your musical choices!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The musical household sounds lovely! We don’t really have that, I tried a few instruments as a kid as did our kids but none ever stuck.

        Yes, I wonder the same thing about age differences like that.

        ABBA was my fave when I was around 10 and I can still really enjoy their music but I rarely put them on anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to love Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ as a kid. I had watched the movie one Saturday afternoon (and cried many tears at the ending) and then realized that I had a ’45 single of it in a collection of records that my aunt had given me. the first album I owned though was Juice Newton. I was 6yrs old and played it constantly! even more than my dubbed cassette of The Village People 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. I’ve listened to a lot of Pet Shop Boys over the years and I did not recognize that song. Bad me! I do love them.

    I can’t with music at the moment but even if I could, these questions don’t really fit my life very well. Maybe my “can’t listen to it anymore” song would be “Stairway to Heaven.” Although I heard it again recently and thought, “huh.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t actually know any Pet Shop Boys at all! My musical education is apparently lacking. I think in the ‘80’s I was probably listening to more country than anything else.

      I found the questions really hard to answer, actually. I think because there has always been music around me of many different genres and it’s hard to pick just one song. The five I haven’t answered yet are even harder to answer I think. (Song that changed my life??)


      • If you heard some you might recognize it. Their breakthrough song was “West End Girls,” or you might know “It’s a Sin.” They are my co-favorites along with Depeche Mode for that musical style.

        re: song that changed my life — it’s a bit problematic for me to pick a song. I could say “music that changed my life,” maybe, but it’s not really about the music, usually, and the change is sort of hard to describe. Like, I could say Schubert, Unfinished Symphony, second movement — my first time with that was what made me want to major in music and play in a symphony. I did major in music — for two semesters. But that insight really dominated my life for several years. Or should I pick Schubert, “Widmung”? Learning that made me realize that all the people who’d told me my whole life that I couldn’t sing were wrong. I was never going to be a great singer but I could hit the basics and improvement was possible. The insight was the big deal there, the music was sort of irrelevant. I liked the song okay. Or — I won a huge scholarship for my first year of college by playing the first movement of Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in an audition / competition. It was my competition piece my senior year of high school, and I hated it. But that money did definitely influence my life on a fundamental level. And then the clarinet prof I got out of that audition and I did not get along, and I eventually dropped the music major after I had the insight i didn’t want to spend all four years of college in a practice room. So what exactly is the life change we are talking about here?

        Liked by 1 person

        • My husband just said, “Oh you’d know West End Girls.” So I listened to it and would swear I’ve never heard it before! Maybe I was living under a rock?

          Those are really cool stories you have, though. I didn’t realize you had initially majored in music. I used to play piano and I played clarinet in high school, but not at that level. While I loved Chopin particularly, classical music was not something I wanted to pursue. I would have liked to have done musical theatre or sung country/ folk as a career, but I suppose I didn’t have the drive to make that happen. I was thinking today, that had I pursued that, there would be several songs I saw performed that I could have said changed my life. But yeah, it’s hard to say, given the path I took, that one of those songs changed my life.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I have the problem or the benefit (depending on how you see it) that I can very often remember exactly when I heard a piece of music for the first time and/or that I remember exactly what music was playing when something significant happened. Sometimes the song made the moment more significant than it was. Like, right now, I’m sitting on a patio in front of a brewery (it’s one of the days I have a personal care person for dad) and the loudspeaker is playing “I get knocked down” by Chumbawumba. I heard this for the first time in February of 1999 while in bar on State Street in Madison. I had taken a job candidate out for a beer after his interview in the department in which I was a graduate student and this came on. (He didn’t get the job, but we did become friends after that.) It seemed significant. As a consequence of writing this to you, I may add this encounter to that memory somehow (it will depend on how important it turns out to have been). It means the barrage of music that we experience in public can turn into a barrage of memories of the past if I am not careful to try to put up an emotional wall, or if there isn’t something else going on that prevents me from being aware of the music.

            I was never going to be a good enough piano player technically to transcend the struggle with the instrument. I probably was that good on clarinet or could have gotten there in another few years, but the repertoire wasn’t interesting enough to hold my attention. Like you, I also doubt, now, that I would have had the fortitude for the career. The daughter of a former professor of mine who plays bass is now trying to enter the professional world — she started with the orchestra at La Scala and now she plays with a group in Berlin (I’ve forgotten which one) and I think the rootlessness would have been really hard on me. Part of me really does want safety and security.

            Liked by 1 person

            • That’s so interesting. I remember a few things that I associate with particular songs, but I have a truly terrible memory and always have had. My sister has had almost total recall, so it drives her crazy when she says, “Remember when…” about something and I totally don’t. It kind of drives me crazy, too, but sometimes it’s good not to have that kind of recall.

              I’m not sure I really would have liked the life of touring around, either. What I always thought about was the joy of singing. To be able to do something I loved that much would have been great. But I don’t think I’ ever really thought about what that would mean in terms of a life. Having the safety and security of a steady job and home was probably the right choice.


      • I loved that, too — I’ve owned it on vinyl, cassette, CD and now I have an mp3 of it on my computer. In particular I love “Call me Al.” I associate the song with life changes — but I’m not sure it was the cause of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You posted my favorite scene of Ragnarok!! I’ve only seen your post and Zee’s but I”m tempted. I believe that your music choices tell people deep dark things about you if they are interested enough to look. I love the different side of you I see in your choices. So cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I didn’t see that Zee has now done it too! Cool! You are right that if you pay attention you can see deep dark things in the musical choices. For example, there have definitely been times when “I’ve had enough”, as in the lyrics to “I Cried for Us”. A marriage of 32 years is not all lightness and joy.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post Sue and agree with your reaction to RA’s musical tastes. I did feel suprised by his safe choices and astonished about his late gig experience – it just didn’t match with my view of him (ever elusive, he often wrong-foots preconceived ideas about him). Am thinking of my significant music now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I’m glad I’m not the only one who had that reaction. My view of him has definitely shifted over the years as he has shared facets of his personality and his life with us.


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  8. Pingback: Silence the pianos, or: not a music post | Me + Richard Armitage

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