‘If music be the food of love, play on’ (Shakespeare)
‘It’s only in these dreams and songs and actions that we’re free’ (Robb Johnson)
‘Get into the groove’ (Madonna)
Robb Johnson (and the Irregulars) is an English singer-songwriter but I prefer to think of his as an international McRenegade. You’ll have heard of Billy Bragg, well Robb Johnson is a wee-er ‘voice’ but boy he packs more of a punch. You’ll probably never have heard of the track that’s central to my personal soundtrack but thanks to YouTube I can share it with the whole world. (or anyone who is out there listening!) Annie introduced me to Dar Williams who explains something of all this in Are you Out There?
You might wonder how I came to be thinking of Robb today? I've been wondering that myself so it's fair enough to assume you might also wonder. Well, I rooted out an old Prefab Sprout record (as you do) when looking for something else – the album was titled Steve McQueen (I’ve never known why it was called that). The main track on it was called Faron Young? (what was that all about?) and it got me thinking – oh yes, that really cool Robb Johnson song - Even Steve McQueen. So off I went to YouTube and found it. At least I get what Robb is talking about, whereas Prefab Sprout never really did it for me . I don’t even know why I have their album – what was I thinking in 1985? Did someone buy it for me? I really can’t remember. ‘I’ve lost just what it takes to be honest.’ Okay. [ironic tone implied.]
And this brings me to consider the quantum nature of the world we call chasing our memories through soundtracks – which Annie used as her inspiration for ‘The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ – which self-defines as ‘a double concept album in prose.’
It’s well known that music is linked with memory – that dementia sufferers can get great solace from ‘playlists for life’. I keep meaning to get mine sorted, but, like Annie, I get ‘lost in music’ as soon as I start. Sometimes it seems like every song I’ve ever listened to more than once has a relevance to my life. Sometimes I wonder if my life is anything more than stitched together through the memory of songs.
Robb Johnson has a lot to offer this concept. His philosophy is simple and indisputable: ‘Everybody puts their faith in gaffer tape, even Steve McQueen.’ Robb is an insightful social commentator who notes ‘here’s no such thing as good luck, it’s all just gaffer tape!’
I can’t argue with that. He’s also a political singer (you could well divert and listen to This is what democracy looks like ). And a lot of my life has been spent listening to ‘protest’ and ‘political’ songs.
Robb also speaks directly to the creative within each of us - ‘It’s only in these dreams and plans and actions that we’re are free.’ Ain’t that the truth? As the Monkees once said ‘I’m a believer.’ This one’s for Annie!
So if you’ve ever felt that ‘Every wall you jump the next one’s always higher’ then do yourself a favour and add Robb Johnson to the soundtrack of your life today!
You can find Robb at his website A Break in the Clouds and on YouTube. There’s plenty of free music to stream but once you’ve had your fill of free, if you’re feeling flush you could go the whole hog and buy the 5 CD boxed set A Reasonable History of Impossible Demands 1986-2013. Blinding value for money if you have money. to spend https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B019ZIXENW/
So the McRenegades challenge is: why don’t you start compiling the soundtrack to your life? You might learn something about the creativity of memory – and you might have something to share with the rest of us that would enlighten, or brighten, our day! Don’t just listen to music on your own -use it to communicate! Post it up here if you like.
Meantime, because I can, I’m off down The River with The Boss… to see where that takes me because I’ve got a Hungry Heart. I know in the end, as it always does, it’ll lead me to Southside Johnny, because: I don’t want to go home.
Discography of this post:
1 Get into the Groove – Madonna https://youtu.be/52iW3lcpK5M
2. Are you out there? Dar Williams https://youtu.be/Nl-i15ieG7I
3.Faron Young –Prefab Sprout https://youtu.be/wsqIyCP6G5g
4.Even Steve McQueen – Robb Johnson https://youtu.be/HcccyogGEwM
5.This is what Democracy Looks Like –Robb Johnson https://youtu.be/UIy378uo4jo
6.I’m a Believer – The Monkees https://youtu.be/WU93NiF12qs
7. Hungry Heart – Bruce Springsteen https://youtu.be/0My2AqPFpFg
8. I don’t want to go home –Southside Johnny https://youtu.be/tRVkS6Owp9Q
Over to you...