• Mark Mathews

The Greatest Tunes That Changed My Life (As a kid)

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

A little while ago I was asked by my friend to make a Spotify playlist of the tracks that influenced my life. The rules were simple - It didn't matter about how 'cool' or in fact 'un-cool' the songs were, I had to be honest and put down the songs and artists that made an impact growing up. It was a good challenge and took me back to some good times like discovering, The Beatles, for the first time and some not so good times, like enjoying the music of, ahem, Cliff Richard...Yeah, I know right?!

You can listen to the entire playlist here:

There are 31 tracks in total in the playlist, but I thought I would cherry pick the best ones and give a bit of an explanation about how these specific songs affected me as a musician and as a person.

The Beatles - She Loves You

My introduction to the Fab Four was, probably like most, via my parents - mainly my Dad. I would have been around 6 years old when I heard this early classic of theirs played through my Dads tape deck! He always seemed to play a tape he had made of a collection of his favourite songs that he liked whilst he got ready to take us all up to London to see my Nan. It is a really clear memory and it was the catchy nature of this song that really impacted me. I was able to sing the song after hearing it once, pretty much. I always loved hearing this come on, not only for the song but it also meant I was going to see my nan!

Elton John - I'm Still Standing

Another one from 'Dad's tape', this eighties incarnation of Elton John singing (I assume) about battling his past demons (Cocaine People!) had a similar affect on me that the Mop Tops did. It was just so catchy and I remember being excited when I heard the first few bars pump out of my Dad's little Ghetto blaster! Absolute tune, still and what is really interesting is the chorus uses the same "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" refrain that The Beatles use in the above track, She Loves You.

The Small Faces - Lazy Sunday

By now I was growing up and I would have been the grand old age of about 9 or 10! Being a boy of considerable musical tastes now (!) I owned my very own walkman where I got to choose the tunes and play DJ. Oh yes!

Once whilst rifling through my Mums stuff in her attic, I discovered a tape called 'Sixties Mania' which was a "free" tape that you got from collecting tokens from the back of Kellogg's Cornflakes packets. This tape changed my world. It had Manfred Mann, Desmond Decker, Joe Cocker and a whole host of classic sixties acts. I listened to this tape over and over again, taking note of all the wonderful sounds and interesting lyrics.

The one that really caught my attention, was the ever cheeky, Lazy Sunday, by The Small Faces. This was my introduction to a band that still to this day is hugely important in my life. Sure, it is not their best song overall, but as a young boy hearing this crazy, infectious jaunt about noisy neighbours, utterly blew me away. The little mumblings of characters in the song and the use of sound effects painted a really vivid picture for my tiny mind and I recall even being amazed with the idea of the ending and the seagulls chirping in the distance. Huge tune!

The Beatles - Lovely Rita

Yep, we're back to the Fab Four only now they had moustaches and wore outrageous outfits. I was eleven years old at this point and I did not make the connection that this 'new' band I had discovered, were actually the same group that played that tune, She Loves You!

I eventually did work this out you will be pleased to hear.

I found this bizarre record in my Mums cupboard in the back room and I was instantly attracted to it's insanely chaotic sleeve. This record was of course, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and it affected me so deeply that I religiously listened to it daily for at least a year - A bit mental I agree.

The tune that opened the door for me into this world, was 'Lovely Rita', again another quirky little number written by Paul McCartney about a Parking attendant. Much like, Lazy Sunday, I was so blown away by the essentially dull subject matter that had been transformed into the most incredible song by it's writer. Such a feat was astounding to me - it still kind of is to be honest.

It was at this point that music really took a hold of me. It was no longer a throw away thing that I passively enjoyed. This was everything. Music was now life.

Michael Jackson - Man in the Mirror

How could you not have been influenced by Michael Jackson as a kid? It seems strange now to say, but he was cool AF! My brother bought the album, Bad, and we both thought it was the greatest thing we had ever heard. I still think, Bad, actually holds up (though many disagree!) and everything post this album was complete and utter dog shit - Yes. Yes it was - and though I loved all the songs on the LP, I remember, Man in the Mirror, really standing out as something special. Listening back now, it is certainly a lot chessier than I realised as a youngster, but Jackson had a real knack for finding beautiful, catchy melodies, very much like, Lennon-McCartney, before him.

The question is though, did Michael actually ask the man in the mirror to change his ways? It (allegedly) would appear not. Naughty boy.

Oasis - Wonderwall

I think the first time I heard Oasis was at around 13 or 14 years old and that was an exciting time - They were dangerous, they had attitude and, finally, there was a band that we (the kids) could claim to be our own! It was great.

But it was the moment I heard Wonderwall that everything changed - I KNEW that songwriting was what I wanted to do with my life and with Oasis and their attitude, it seemed completely plausible. Wonderwall really resonated with me deeply (and quite a few million others to be fair!) and I quickly got myself a guitar and began to teach myself to play.

I remember doing my paper round singing Wonderwall as I rode the streets of Maidstone! Sure it's over played now, but it was so integral to what I do now that I shall forever love it.

Gomez - Tijuana Lady

Oh Gomez, Gomez, Gomez! They are up there with Oasis in terms of their influence on me - Their debut album, Bring it On, was, and still is, played to death. It is such a beautiful and dare I say, perfect, collection of songs.

The first time I heard, Tijuana Lady, I was at my friends house who I used to jam with. He turned me onto them by playing this tune and I was utterly transfixed. Now, to be honest I had been smoking a lot of weed, but even so, the song hypnotised me and, similar to when I heard those early sixties records, I was blown away by the possibilities of music and songwriting. A beautiful, beautiful track.

Eminem - My Name Is

My oh my, when this came out it was pretty phenomenal! I was stood around my mates car (smoking weed again, I admit it!) when it came on the radio and there was silence...before we burst out laughing and having that feeling of discovering the most amazing secret in the world! We could not believe what was happening.

We loved it so much we would all just listen to the radio for ages, waiting for the song to be played again (This was pre-Spotify kids). We had never heard anything so outrageous! Who the hell was this guy? He's White? Never!

Eminem was everything that Elvis had been to the kids of the past - controversial, endearing and aimed specifically at us. Mega!

Mark Mathews - London Lives

Bit cheeky this one, as it is of course my tune (!) but it is a song that has continued to serve me very well for many years. When I wrote it I was pretty unsure about whether it was any good and I wasn't sure anyone would actually dig it. However, still to this day it is my most known, played and requested song!

The interesting thing for me, after all these years, is that when I listen back to it I can can hear a bit of all the above artists and influences in it, which I think is wonderful and proof of how music continues to live on.

This song changed my career from writing songs in a certain vein, to finding my style and voice and so for that I hold it very dear to my heart.

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