Finally! The end of my 30 day music challenge.

Day 28: A song by an artist with a voice you love

This seems like quite an odd category to have on this list. Maybe the person who wrote it was running out of ideas? Surely you would love the voices on all your favourite songs? Anyway, pushing along…this would have to be Jump by Gary Barlow. It is such a beautiful song and the words mean so much to me. They are perfect for when you are facing a challenge in your life and I know I will be listening to them tonight before I go back to work for the first time in years tomorrow. Gary, you are a legend.

Day 29: A song you remember from your childhood

Music was a huge part of growing up. I can remember sitting down on a Sunday evening with huge headphones on and listening to the charts, and flicking through my parent’s vinyl collection at the weekend. I think this song was on a Top of the Pops album with a very risque cover! I still listen to it regularly now: Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles

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Day 30: A song that reminds you of yourself

This was really hard. I don’t think there is a specific one, but I will go for True Colors by Cyndi Lauper. It’s a great song and a gentle reminder to be who you are, which we all need from time to time.

 

So I finally managed to finish the challenge! Here is the complete playlist: 30 Day Music Challenge. Let me know what you think and feel free to share your recommendations with me.

 

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Day 11/12: 30 day music challenge

Day 11: A song that you will never get tired of

This will not come as a surprise to those that know me well: Pretty Things by Take That from the Progress album is just one of those songs. I will never, ever get tired of hearing it. It’s the kind of song that every time you listen to it you hear something different, but mainly when I hear it I imagine the owners of those two particular voices singing it just to me. I’m not even sorry.

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Day 12: A song from your preteen years

I’ve decided to go with the first single I ever bought which was Respectable by Mel and Kim. I grew up on the music of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman era and this track is from their hay day. I had it on 7 inch vinyl and listened to it in my bedroom all the time. I cut out the lyrics from Smash Hits, learnt them. I watched them on Top of the Pops and learnt the dance moves. I remember performing the dance in pupils’ theatre at junior school on a Friday afternoon. It’s a good simple song, from good simple times.

 

Day 9/10: 30 day music challenge

Day 9: A song that makes you happy

You just know that there will be a disproportionate number of Take That and Robbie songs in this list, but it’s my list so I don’t give a damn! So a song that makes me happy has to be Love My Life by Robbie Williams.

There are the obvious reasons; the lyrics are happy, meaningful, and it’s a bloody lovely song. But then there are the less obvious maybe. Knowing that he is writing this from a happy point in his life is enough for a long term fan like me. Just like Come Undone had elements of an autobiographical nature, this does too and it just shows how much his life has changed, and how far he is come. And you know what? That makes me happy too. The two songs are the antithesis of each other but I love them equally.

And then there is what this song means to me as a mother. The sentiment behind it has made me cry on more than one occasion. All you want as a mother is for your kids to love their life and I am doing the best I can possibly do to make that happen. They, at 4 and 6, also LOVE this song. They request it in the car, they know the words and sing along. That’s the next generation of Friendlies right there. Makes me proud.

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Day 10: A song that makes you sad 

Seems like I was meant to miss yesterday and have these two songs on the same blog post. A song that makes me sad is November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. This song really reminds me of my dad so it is fair to say that it make me happy and sad. Dad loved Guns N’ Roses as much as me and took me to see them play at Milton Keynes Bowl on the Skin N’ Bones tour in 1993. There are enough stories about that day to fill an entire blog post so maybe I’ll write about it one day but being 15 and your dad taking you to a gig like that is pretty high in the cool stakes, if you ask me. I got to recreate some of those memories with my husband last month at Western Springs in Auckland and the song still has the same effect on me.

Dad sadly passed away from cancer in 2007 and prior to that spent quite a bit of time in the hospital having numerous treatments. One day the hospital radio guy came round and asked Dad if he had any requests. Dad insisted on the album version of November Rain…all 8 minutes and 58 seconds of it. You see, that was my dad all over; subtle with his humour, quietly spoken, but knew how to get his way. He was very happy when they played it, and apparently the DJ was too, he got an extended break.

Anyway, when it came to his funeral he picked Sailing by Rod Stewart for the time his coffin went behind the curtain. So, like the dutiful daughter I am, I  went and bought a CD with it on. Now, your average song is what, two minutes thirty, three minutes? Oh no, not this one. This version? Nearly five minutes. Now I don’t know if you’ve been to many funerals but it really doesn’t take that long for those curtains to close. It was like dad was having the last laugh. This is the song he used to sing after a few too many whiskeys, the song he used to rewind and play on repeat on car journeys. I can’t believe that it was coincidence that he chose such a long song again. So as the extended middle eight played my mum, my husband and I couldn’t help but snigger. The family and friends behind us why on earth we were laughing at his funeral, but well played dad, well played.

So both of these songs have happy and sad memories about Dad for me. And for the record, we chose November Rain for the end of the funeral because you know, it really does take nine minutes for everyone to leave a crematorium.

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“Sometimes we don’t know what we’re waiting for. That’s the time to be the first one on the dance floor”…where I extol the joys of dancing.

When I was a young child I begged my parents to let me go to ballet classes. I went on, and on, and on about it. My mum said I was the wrong shape, and sent me to Judo. True story…and one that my mum, about 32 years later has still never lived down! It comes up in conversation quite regularly, or should I say, I bring it up in conversation quite regularly? I need to get over it really. I’m not one that normally holds grudges, but this is something that has stuck with me. Thankfully we laugh about it now, but I have the last laugh really as I don’t find myself doing an Uki-goshi every day, but I do find myself dancing.

Maybe my mum was right, not about me being the wrong shape, but maybe I didn’t need ballet lessons. Life has taught me how to dance. Dancing is one of my favourite things to do. Let’s be clear here, I am no Beyonce, but that is my main point here today; you don’t have to be good at dancing, but it can make your life better, happier and much more fun.

A few months ago on Twitter, my timeline was all a flutter about No Lights, No Lycra (you can find out more about it here http://nolightsnolycra.com/) and I was intrigued. The premise is clear, it’s a case of the name tells you all you need to know; for one hour you can dance to a wide range of music, with the lights off, in near darkness wearing whatever you want. Simple.

It is a genius idea for several reasons. It is cheap. Where I go costs $5 for one hour, no membership, pay as you go, none of this signing up for life and promising your first born. The timing is perfect for me, and other mums, who I must admit seem to be the main target audience; 8pm, kids are in bed, husband is home, boom, I’m out the door. No one can see what you’re doing. If you’ve ever tried a Zumba class and found yourself three steps behind in every song, this is the thing for you. You simply dance to your own rhythm and if that so happens not to be the rhythm of the music it doesn’t matter as there is no one else to keep up with or see you. See? Genius.

So, the first time I went I coerced a friend to come with me and it was amazing. Like everything in life, you get out what you you put in, and believe me, we put a lot in that night. By the end of the hour we were dripping in sweat, hearts beating fast and full of happiness. A mix of dance, hip hop, pop, rock spanning across the decades from the 60’s to now had us breaking out all the moves. It is the perfect stress relief from everyday life.

That night I learnt a lot about my dancing style. I really am an arms dancer. No matter what music, my feet generally do the same thing, but it’s the arms that define the genre! Dance music from the early 2000s? I’m packing boxes and stacking them on shelves like nobody’s business. Chuck in some Trance and I’m waving them in the air as if I’m praying to some imaginary dance god in the sky. Put on some 90s pop, and I’m pointing to everyone in the room (that I can’t see) and waving side to side. Slow the tempo to some RnB…and I just don’t know what to do. I seriously think this is the only music I can’t dance to. A monotonous sway is about all you’ll get from me if some R Kelly comes on (showing my age there a little).

I also learnt some must haves if you are off to No Lights, No Lycra. Water. Take water. If you are going to dance your little heart out like no one is watching (because they are not) you will need some. Slippy shoes. The first week I went, my running man to Snap’s The Power was unfortunately impeded by my Converse…of course I didn’t wear Cons back in the early 90s, my Hi-Tec trainers were void of decent grip and I had the moves like the best of them. Now, the name would suggest no Lycra is needed, but I’m going to put my neck out here and say some Lyrca should be worn if you don’t want to do yourself an injury. It was a sad reminder of my age and the fact that I’ve had two children that after the first week I realised, never go to No Lights, No Lyrca without a sports bra on. How times have changed. I never needed one when I used to go clubbing in Southampton or Newcastle, but now it is a necessity for dancing. What has become of me?

So every Wednesday I toddle down to a local community hall and dance my heart out in the dark for an hour, and I love it. But I am not just a dancer in the dark.

I dance everywhere. Spoitfy was made for people like me. I am the person dancing round my kitchen while I make dinner. I am the person dancing round the living room with my kids. I am even the person dancing (and singing) in the supermarket aisle – yes, honestly. If a good tune comes on, I’m there. I appear to have a low tolerance for embarrassment, but I think that has come with age as I realise the joy that dance can bring. Joy, not only to the person dancing, but to those who are watching. More often than not you see a smile on the faces of the people who see you dancing, not an eye roll (although my four year old is beginning to perfect this move).

The best time to dance though is a wedding. I have two weddings coming up in December and I plan to dance my little socks off all night. The last wedding I went to I was nursing a three week old and we didn’t even make it to dessert of the meal. The wedding before that, although I was bridesmaid, I was 7 and a half months pregnant. Some dancing did happen, but I was tired, heavy, nauseous and drinking milk to try and curb my indigestion (that’s how I rock pregnancy!). So come December, I will be ready to kick my heels up.

So this blog post has got me thinking about the best dances of my life, and what surprised me was a few of these were a lot more low tempo than the kind of dancing I’ve been talking about here. Dancing brings people together. It creates memories, along with the music you are dancing to. After all music is just the soundtrack to our lives.

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The best dances of my life (in no particular order)

  1. At my 21st birthday party my best friend and I whirled around the room to Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve got you babe.” We were high on life, budweisers and peach schnapps. Dressed to the nines in a working man’s club, it was one of the best parties I have ever had. We had our whole lives in front of us and the song just seemed so appropriate at the time. Looking back, we’ve done all right for ourselves, and I think it is safe to say we have both followed the paths we wanted to. That night however, I did end up sleeping underneath the dining room table in my dress so it wasn’t all plain sailing.
  2. Our first dance at our wedding was The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”. Chosen because of our mutual love of The Beach Boys, the words, but mainly because of its short length 2 minutes and 53 seconds. Ten years ago we danced around the dance floor to this, looking into each other’s eyes, DJ Maniac’s crazy lights flashing (he had some silly name like that!), husband praying for it to end. It’s still mentioned in the family today. He’s a big dancer after a few drinks, but dancing together in front of all our friends and family was not his favourite moment in our history. We should have practised, and then we would have realised that it’s a bit of an odd speed too; too slow to bop to, and too fast to slow dance to!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. Parish Hall Disco, 1990. On the first Friday of every month there was a disco. It was THE social event of the month if you were 13. It was there I had my first kiss while slow dancing, which really means hugging while going round in circles, to Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. It could have easily been to Phil Collins or Chris De Burgh as these were favourite “slowies” of the DJ there, so I think my musical memory got off there lightly. The kiss? It was like a washing machine. We didn’t last.
  4. A recent one for you. Two weeks ago my bestie and I went to see Robbie Williams in Wellington. We were six rows from the front, he came on stage to “Let Me Entertain You”, and we he said “bounce”, we bounced. Oh yes, we bounced. We felt alive. More importantly we felt like the 22 year olds we were when we first met, before husbands, before kids, and we were taken back to our old dancing days. It sparked a memory of us at The Big Day Out in 2000 in Auckland going crazy to The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. We have some special moves. IMG_3814
  5. Again at my wedding, this special, special dance, this time with my Dad. I actually don’t remember the song this time. There were more important things to remember. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before and had begun treatment. After some chemotherapy though he decided to postpone his treatment the month of our wedding. He knew how it would make him feel and he was determined to enjoy every minute of the day and night. We married in a hotel and they had a booked a room, just in case Dad needed a rest. He didn’t. He didn’t miss a single second. We took to the dance floor and he twirled and spun me over and over again. The smile on his face was amazing and I will always remember it. It made the day the most special day. I emigrated to New Zealand about 8 weeks after that, and Dad continued his treatment, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, the lot, with his next aim to get to New Zealand to see our new life there. He was a determined old bugger and he did it. I am so glad he got to see me marry someone who in so many ways is like him. He was so very happy for us. I am so glad he got to see New Zealand and understood fully why we would move to the other side of the world. I am so sad he never got to meet his beautiful granddaughters. He would have been so proud of them, of me, of us.

Uncle T's photos 041Life it too short. Go and dance now. Dance like nobody is watching. Dance like your life depends on it. Do it, now.