Lockdown is back. And so is this!
Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making your life better? Today, satirist, writer, provocateur and game show host, Mark Humphries.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
If it’s something you’d hear on SmoothFM, chances are I’ve been listening to it. Musically, I’ve basically never lived in the present and I tend to discover “new music” 25 years after it’s released. Someone on Twitter recently posted an old commercial for the 1994 compilation album Pure Moods and hearing the samples of Deep Forest’s Sweet Lullaby and Enigma’s Sadeness was like travelling through time. Specifically, to a time of pan flutes. So that album has been getting a very good run.
During the first lockdown, Sophie Ellis-Bextor was streaming these really joyful “kitchen discos” on Instagram, performing her greatest hits live from her house as her five sons boogied around her. I looked forward to those every week, so her most danceable songs are now on my regular rotation.
My own two sons (aged 2 and 4) enjoy riding a rocking horse, so I usually put on the theme to The Magnificent Seven or Black Beauty as dramatic accompaniment. I think I enjoy that more than they do.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
I’ll often hear a song on SmoothFM that they’ve inserted into that month’s rotation and I’ll become obsessed with it. Nightshift by The Commodores, Self Control by Laura Branigan and Carly Simon’s Coming Around Again are some recent examples. When I’m writing, I find that I get less distracted if I have just the one song playing over and over again in my headphones on repeat. If I ever go on some sort of murderous rampage, maybe refer back to that sentence as an indication that something wasn’t quite right.
I saw a documentary on Pavarotti recently and felt like I finally understood what all the fuss was about. Since then, I’ve probably watched every recording on YouTube of him singing Nessun Dorma. I watch a lot of concert footage online and am often moved by seeing and hearing an audience’s live response. The audience’s roar at the ending of Nessun Dorma is almost like an additional musician in the ensemble.
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN CHANGED THE WAY YOU CONSUME MUSIC?
I think I’ve probably leaned even more into old habits, retreating further into nostalgia and the music of my childhood. I don’t tend to listen to full albums. I’m a curated playlist kinda guy. Back when I would buy CDs, I only ever bought Greatest Hits albums. My theory being I would get more value for money from only buying an artist’s “best” songs.
The downside of this of course is that I was always listening to music that was at least a decade old. One of my favourite Alan Partridge quotes is when a young guy asks Alan what his favourite Beatles album is, and Alan replies “Tough one. I think I’d have to say… The Best of The Beatles.”
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
Stars by Simply Red. It was one of the first CDs we owned when I was a kid. The opening track of Something Got Me Started has that wonderful moment 10 seconds into when it kicks into gear and then you’re away. Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson was another one from my childhood that I recently rediscovered and it’s so unlike anything else I normally listen to (1970s disco, Broadway cast recordings) that it’s like a shot of energy to the brain. There’s a lot of playfulness on that album and a song like Coconut will always put a smile on your face.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC – OR AN ARTIST OR GENRE - THAT WAS UNEXPECTED? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
I lack curiosity when it comes to music. The way I usually discover new music is by watching ABC’s Insiders and making a note of whatever song the opening montage is set to. If I’m lucky, I might even Shazam something playing on Woolworths Radio. It’s an exciting life.
The last time I got genuinely excited about new music was when I discovered Client Liaison in 2016. Earlier this year, though, our 7.30 cinematographer/editor Chloe Angelo added Harry Styles’ Golden to a video of me dancing, and that’s now part of my regular rotation. I immediately loved the track when I heard it because it reminded me of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain. I’m so ignorant about new music, that I was genuinely shocked to discover I loved something by Harry Styles. I’d assumed I would never be into anything by anyone from One Direction, but look at me now. Also, my boys love it, so it’s a welcome change from their usual requests of The Monster Mash and Hooked On A Feeling (or as they call it, “Ooga Chaga”).
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
Teardrops by Womack and Womack is, to my mind, the greatest song ever written. When I’m on my death-bed, that’s what I want to go out listening to.
Mark Humphries can be read in On Politics And Stuff, written with Evan Williams, and can be seen on ABC TV’s 7.30 (and The Feed and Pointless, if you’re digging into YouTube).