There are moments; we all experience them, when you unwittingly find yourself quite involuntarily immersed in a stranger’s life from a distance. These spontaneous occurrences come in many guises: being forced to overhear one side of a mobile phone conversation while sat opposite someone on a train (it’s never the interesting folk is it? Always an ‘undesirable’), riding a lift with two people you don’t know who are having a chat between themselves, or taking in the dynamic of couples or families in the queue at the supermarket. If you’re in the kind of mood I was in the other day – dreamy – you’ll start to build an extended picture in your mind of that stranger’s, or group of strangers’, life or lives.
It happened, as it normally tends to do, at a most unexpected time the other day. I fired up the engine of a company car; a vehicle I’d not driven before, and automatically there was music. The dashboard stereo churned into life. It was the beginning of a song, clean and without interference – it wasn’t the radio, it was a CD.
“De-de-der-de-de-der, De-de-der-de-de-der, De-de-der-de-de-der, De-de-der-de-de-der, De-de-der-de-de-der, De-de-der-de-de-der, DRUM, Sheee says her love for me, can never die…”
It was of course – fingers on buzzers – Bryan Adams ‘Run To You’. Okay, ‘this is cheesy’ I’m thinking though milliseconds later I’m unconsciously tapping my foot; I’ve not started driving yet. The foot tap is swiftly added to by a continuous head bop, aka ‘The Slow Chicken Peck’. Ah damn, I purse my lips in a pout at the same time, a sure sign that I’m ‘feeling it’ as it were. From outside the car, anyone casting a glance in my direction as they retrieve their motor from the car park at the end of a long day at work would be confronted by a slightly amusing, slightly deranged vision; I look like a guy pecking at the steering wheel of a Vauxhall Astra with my lips. I’m caught up in the moment, such considerations don’t enter my mind.
Halfway into the song I’m intrigued as to what the next track is. I’m as susceptible to the Slow Chicken as much as the next man when a Bryan Adams tune comes on, but I’m hoping this isn’t one of the chirpy, pock-faced Canadian’s albums – you’re just not my bag Bryan, not for a full listing of tracks, soz. Track two is ‘The Wolves’ by young Ben Howard. Meh, bit pedestrian for my tastes.
Falling from high places, falling through lost spaces,
Now that we’re lonely, now that there’s nowhere to go.
Watching from both sides, these clock towers burning up,
I lost my time here, I lost my patience with it all.
We lost faith, in the arms of love.
Next track. ‘The Man Who Never Lied’, Maroon 5. No. Just no. Suddenly I’m getting the impression, rightly or wrongly, that this is a compilation burned onto compact disc by a member of the opposite sex.
I was the man who never lied, I never lied until today,
But I just couldn’t break your heart, Like you did mine yesterday.
Track four is cheeky and happy. A funky beat. Then he goes and ruins it all by singing: Jamiroquai. Look, it’s a long time since ‘Space Cowboy’ and even ‘Underground’. ‘Seven Days in Sunny June’ just isn’t in the same class.
Sitting in the summer sun, You know I’ve wanted you so long,
Why do you have to, Drop that bomb on me?
My listening experience declines markedly with the next track. Kelly Clarkson, ‘Mr Know It All’; “You don’t know a thing about me”. I hit skip but suddenly something’s stirring in my mind. It looks obvious when you read the lyrics here, but the person who’s compiled this playlist has done so with intent and I’m starting to pick up on the mood. I think our girl – yep, definitely a female – is a bit troubled. I can sense a consistent sadness and reflectiveness in the lyrics and suddenly I’m empathetic. Through the words rattling my ear drums, I’m absorbing the memories of her unease. I try to imagine what’s left her feeling this way. The lyrics, to me, are suggestive of relationship issues. As well as sadness and reflectiveness there’s a dash of attitude; a sense of being wronged. That’s why the next song surprises me.
I mean, “Loooooove-lllllly, Is The Feelin’ Now”, that’s right Michael Jackson, as ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ kicks in; I’m happy now. Two things completely unrelated to my thoughts about the girl who had occupied this vehicle before occur to me. One, this must be on Yoda’s iPod – “Keep on with The Force don’t stop, Don’t stop ’til you get enough” – and two, this clip from Rush Hour II:
But once I’ve had my fun, the playlist continues with less rises and more falls and the sentiments I detected earlier return to the surface. The remaining tracks play out as follows: Billy Joel, ‘New York State Of Mind’ which is slow, sombre, knowing; Maroon 5, ‘One More Night’, an interesting one as the beat picks up and I can sense whatever troubles our girl is having with her other half, she’s not ready to throw in the towel:
You and I go hard at each other like we’re going to war.
You and I go rough, we keep throwing things and slamming the door.
You and I get so damn dysfunctional, we stopped keeping score.
You and I get sick, yeah, I know that we can’t do this no more.
Yeah, but baby there you go again, there you go again, making me love you.
Then it’s: Jamiroquai, ‘Black Devil Car’, fast and distanced from relationship issues. Now it seems like our girl has gone through a spectrum of emotions, something has been resolved in her mind, and she’s regaining her composure. The rest of the CD is a real mixture: The Script, ‘The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’, the words of which hint at acceptance that she can’t live without her man, whatever their current differences (“Good for her”, I think). Then there’s some Razorlight, Scissor Sisters, more Michael Jackson (‘Black or White’ – ace! The Slow Chicken is back), round two of Bryan Adams, Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ (come on girl, I thought you’d reached a happy resolution… oh, maybe this is it! …Good for you, he was never good enough for you darlin’), Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘I Could Die For You’ (Right. That’s It. I’m confused. Argghhh! Don’t make me side with him), Maroon 5 (skip, skip, SKIP), James Morrison, Corinne Bailey Rae and, finally, track 20 and the end of the CD, and it’s Sheryl Crow:
All I wanna do is have some fun, I got a feeling I’m not the only one,
All I wanna do is have some fun, Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.
You were messing with me all along weren’t you girl?! …I wonder what Santa Monica’s like at this time of year. Oh look! A rainbow! *And he drives away into the evening*