Friday, 13 January 2017

My Top Ten Inspirational Songs (Volume 1)

In my continued effort to begin 2017 with a little positivity, here's ten of the most inspirational songs I could think of off the top of my head. The usual in-depth planning, research and deep thought (ha!) didn't go into this one. I just closed my eyes and used the Force...

It is, however, one of those lists where every track could have been a Number One. At times like these, ranking becomes arbitrarily impossible.

10. Billy Idol - Rebel Yell

A shot of pure 80s adrenaline to get us going. Billy may have been considered a cartoon punk by the purists... but I always loved cartoons.

9. Barry Manilow - I Made It Through The Rain

And if I didn't drive the musos screaming from town with Billy, I can only try a pitchfork of Barry.

This is a song which has followed me around all my life and often sprung, uninvited, into my head when times got tough. I don't know who programmes the radio station in my mind, but good on them.
When friends are hard to find
And life seems so unkind
Sometimes you feel so afraid

Just aim beyond the clouds
And rise above the crowds
And start your own parade

'Cause when I chased my fears away
That's when I knew that I could finally say

I made it through the rain...
If you don't feel the teeniest bit better after that: I can't help you.

8. Eminem - Lose Yourself

Interestingly, after compiling this list, I put "Inspirational Songs" into google and the first link was to another Top Ten which had this at Number One. The rest of the list was pretty dire though. R. Kelly was in there.

I don't automatically think of Eminem as an inspirational figure. He can take the piss pretty well and throw tantrums like a petulant 3 year old, but inspire? Yet this is the theme song to his oddly inspirational and amazingly un-egotistical fictionalised biopic, 8 Mile. It's kind of like Gonna Fly Now (the Rocky theme, but you knew that) for the hip hop generation.

7. Gene - We Could Be Kings

I'll save "We could be heroes" for another volume. It was too obvious. (Plus, I thought of this one first.) Come on, Martin, it's time for that second solo album, surely?
Believe me
It's time to tell my friends I love them
They deserve more
Than hasty delivered words of kindness
I'm sure you know that
We could be kings
This planet is ours
With luck on our side
The keys to my car
We'll storm through the city
Let's drive
Did I hear you cry?
6. Billy Bragg- Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards

My favourite T-shirt is a Billy Bragg T-shirt. I've had it years but I still wear it a lot because it's so comforting: physically and mentally. On the front, it reads simply:
The revolution is just a T-shirt away
You have to know this song well to understand that.

5. The Beautiful South - Good As Gold

On the surface, this starts out as quite a cynical, downbeat song about fighting against the tide and never getting anywhere. But its "don't give up" message soon sweeps in, making it a genuine underdog anthem. I'm not sure if Paul Heaton meant it that way; I'm never really sure how serious he is about such things. Live, this was always the highlight of a Beautiful South set which brought the band and the audience together in a big euphoric hug.

And who wouldn't want a sun-drenched, wind-swept Ingrid Bergman kiss?

4. Elbow - One Day Like This

Guy Garvey's lyrics nail it every time for me, finding beauty in the everyday and shunning cliché in favour of everyday expressions and finely tuned imagery. Random examples just from this song...
When my face is chamois-creased

Laugh politely at repeats

Cause holy cow, I love your eyes
One Day Like This is about waking up with a hangover and realising maybe you said too much to that certain person the night before... with a better result than you could ever have expected.
One day like this would see me right...
3. The Smiths - Ask

Whenever I see The Smiths dismissed as miserablists, I have to Ask the following...

What about all those generations of teenagers and 20-somethings who have been inspired and - let's face it - saved by their songs?

Can't you see that what they were really saying was: there's a hell of a lot of darkness in the world... sometimes, we have to embrace that to reach happiness?

What about the profound romanticism and HOPE conveyed by many of their most famous tunes?

Have you ever even heard Ask?
Shyness is nice
And shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life you'd like to
I think the above three lines sum up many of my greatest regrets. (You could substitute "lack of confidence" for shyness or coyness, but it wouldn't scan as well.)

Remember: if it's not love, then it's the bomb that will bring us together.

2. James - Tomorrow

There were a number of James songs in contention for this post. There'll definitely be another one in Volume 2. James had some pretty big hits in their day. I can never understand why this wasn't their biggest. It certainly helped me through a few rough nights...
Now your grip's too strong
You can't catch love with a net or a gun
Gotta keep faith that your path will change
Gotta keep faith that your luck will change

1. Ian McNabb - You Must Be Prepared To Dream

Like I said, these songs were impossible to rank, but I put this one at Number One because it's by far the least well known... and yet it was the first I thought of. It's also the one with the most traditionally inspirational lyrics. In fact, many of the lines sound like they come from those naff posters they put up in offices and educational institutions which are supposed to drive you towards greatness (or greater productivity) but often just lead to derision and demotivation. In the hands of Ian McNabb (and Crazy Horse, on loan from Mr. Young), these trite platitudes become transcendent.

We must all be prepared to dream...

What's the most inspirational song you know? Suggestions for Volume 2 will be greatly appreciated...


  1. Heroes springs to mInd this week

    1. Yes, though as I say, I didn't think of it first. I must be swimming against the tide this week.

  2. Inspirational, positive... thanks, Rol, this is what we need, innit!
    I am very attached to those Ask lyrics. Morrissey has absolutely nailed how it feels to be shy, and the battle that constantly rages for some (like me) between what I can only describe as the 'inner extrovert' and the 'outer introvert' - in a way that only Morrissey could!

  3. PS Meant to add: May I proffer the Redskins 'Keep On Keepin' On' as a suggestion for Volume 2?

    1. Thanks, C. Not sure I ever heard that before, but I've got it on the headphones as I type this and it's certainly doing the job.

    2. I went to youtube first, then checked my digital collection. I do actually own this tune on an old Peel compilation... yet another disc I've yet to devote the proper attention to!

  4. Well you really are keeping the positivity going in this brand new year - I'm with you on Barry's song but you would probably have guessed that. As for other songs about Dreams, our old pal Jason D did a nifty version of one.

    My Misty post is not going well sadly as Wordpress keeps crashing - will be over the weekend now!

    1. We did Joseph as a play at Junior School. It wasn't one of my starring roles, but Any Dream always reminds me of that.

  5. Beautiful sentiments, Rol. I have promised the Mrs. to be more positive in 2017. Doing a hell of a job so far nearly two weeks in... Did you see that? Positive.

    1. Keep trying, Brian - you'll get there in the end!

  6. Very happy to see Gene and Billy in here.

    How about Don't Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush?

    1. It was in consideration.

      You do realise that every time I include a Gene song here, I think of you!


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