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The first folk record I ever bought was a reissue of Bert Jansch’s eponymous début album (coupled with follow up “It Don’t Bother Me”.) I think it’s one of the greatest records of its age. Totally unadorned, it was recorded quickly and is shot through with verité intimacy - Jansch’s breathing is clearly audible on the instrumentals, as is his guitar’s every creak and jangle.

"Needle Of Death", from this first album, is probably Jansch’s best-known song. An incredibly sad counterblast against heroin, written in the second person, its stark documentary feeling draws you in with a close-up view that’s almost unbearable.

It occurs to me that “Needle Of Death” has a bedfellow in Manic Street Preachers “4st 7lbs” - both songs are melodically beautiful yet lyrically as dark as it’s possible to be, and the final outcome in both songs is a welcome negation, a quiet disappearance, a yearned-for death.

Bugger it, let’s go for a Kate Bush hat trick.

This is “All The Love” from The Dreaming - in a career full of masterpieces it’s self-evidently her greatest album. I love Hounds Of Love as much as all sane, decent people do but The Dreaming is better. It just is. No hits? Don’t care. From the sleeve art onwards, it’s just perfect.

Album highlights:

1. That cover

2. “GIMME GIMME GIMME GIMME” in “Sat In Your Lap”

3. The policeman’s backing vocals going “what’s all this then?” on “There Goes A Tenner”

4. David Gilmour’s backing vocals on “Pull Out The Pin”

5. Absolutely everything about “Suspended In Gaffa”.

6. The chant of “we let the weirdness in” on “Leave It Open”

7. The incredibly loud line “PULL OF THE BUSH!” in “The Dreaming” (bonus points for the video looking like a contemporary Doctor Who episode.)

8. The Irish air drifting out of the drone of the didgeridoo at the start of “Night Of The Swallow” and Kate’s impassioned opening vocal.

9. Every single second of “All The Love” but especially the series of phone callers saying goodbye at the end.

10. Rosabel fantasising about Harry’s death as he dives into the water in “Houdini”, only to end up screaming “with your life the only thing on my mind / they pull you from the water”.

11. Kate turning into a mule at the end of “Get Out Of My House”.


Yes, more Kate Bush. But it’s my jukebox. You’ll have to deal.

Alan Bennett says this about reading:  “The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”

It’s true of music, too.

I didn’t buy “The Sensual World” until 1997. It was fortunate I’d waited because there were several songs on the album that seemed to be talking to me directly. At any other point in my life, they may not have registered, but timing is everything - and this song most of all. It was if a hand had come out, and taken mine.

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