For much of my life, I’ve lived in the hillier areas of this country. From my early years in the surprisingly hilly Medway Towns, to the West and South Yorkshire hills, even the hills of North London. Even now, on the Kent Coast, if I want to go any appreciable distance from my now home, I need to go uphill.
/Subject /Hills, Mountains
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /462 /A Time and A Place /Tuesday Ten /Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/179 /Used Prior/10 /Unique Songs/142 /People Suggesting/73
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/39:35
So it perhaps wasn’t especially surprising to find a large number of suggestions for a post on the subject of hills and mountains. They have been dominant parts of our cultures for centuries and beyond, are key elements in many religions and folklore, and indeed have been barriers in multiple ways.
It was, too, a fascinating list of suggestions, and there were many more I could have used. Thanks as ever for getting involved.
This past month (indeed on the suggestions thread for this post, in the last week of October), my suggestions spreadsheet passed 20,000 song suggestions. So it’s stats time.
Up to this thread:
902 individuals have got involved over the years across 158 threads
5161 unique artists (The Beatles top the list, with 168 suggestions)
13722 unique tracks (fascinatingly, Pulp’s Common People is the most suggested track, with 21 suggestions, closely followed by Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, with 19 suggestions).
So far, of those 158 threads, I’ve used 131 of them as /Tuesday Ten posts, and there are a few more planned to be used as we head into 2023. As always, thank you, all of you, for helping me with inspirations for these posts.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/The Manchester Rambler
/Black and White
One of the most remarkable books I’ve read in recent times has been The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes, which among personal recollections of trespassing on private land that, for the most part, was once public, tells the history of land ownership and control in the UK. The Ramblers’ Association reckons just 8% of land in England and Wales is deemed open access (Scotland is very different, with laws mandating responsible, open access), and there appears to be little hope of much change.
This is rather depressing, seeing as the much-celebrated Kinder Trespass – members of the Young Communists co-ordinating their deliberate trespass on the Duke of Devonshire’s land in the Peak District – happened ninety years ago. It did at least pave the way for the National Parks to be created – as well as the Pennine Way and other lengthy footpaths – but restrictive and private ownership of much of the land of this country remains.
The folk singer Ewan MacColl began his musical career with this song, inspired by his part in that very trespass, and telling the tale of his working-class comrades, as they escaped the industrial gloom of their weekday jobs for the clear air and beauty of the English countryside, just for one day a week.
/Peter Gabriel 1
Solsbury Hill is one of a number of actual locations featured this week (although the intention was not to only feature actual hills or mountains in the post), just to the North-East of the city of Bath. The song itself is Peter Gabriel’s first solo song, and one of his most iconic songs, too – written in the aftermath of leaving Genesis, as he was working out what to do next with his life. It’s something of a song about reawakening and self-discovery, and escaping to a high point overlooking a city he knew so well was clearly something he needed to do.
Like many other teenagers of the time, my first exposure to the Meat Puppets was their guesting on Nirvana‘s MTV Unplugged In New York, as Kurt Cobain paid tribute to one of his favourite bands by playing a handful of their songs. Plateau was one of those songs. It sees the band head into the desert foothills around their home of Phoenix, Arizona, for a curious world of the real and fantastical, one perhaps that is a metaphor for striving and doing better, and never really getting anywhere anyway – just reaching a plateau that goes no further.
Seeing as both versions are frankly quite remarkable, I’ve included the Meat Puppets version on the Spotify playlist, and the Nirvana take on the YouTube playlist.
It’s amazing to think that this song dates to 1986 – such is the power of what Jane’s Addiction managed to harness in the years before the Alternative Rock boom of the early nineties. Anchored by Eric Avery’s hulking bassline, this mighty song climbs peak after peak as Perry Farrell apparently references drug binges (coming down/going up the mountain are slang for each end of a drug binge, apparently) and the deaths of people he knew from drugs. Going on the amount of narcotics and sex apparently consumed – not to mention disagreements between the band members, Jane’s Addiction was pretty much never a happy family – it’s a wonder they recorded anything. But they came down the mountain enough for phenomenal tracks like this, that swiftly entered the rock canon.
/We Just Make Music For Ourselves
/We Just Make Music For Ourselves EP
Suggested by a friend, simply for the line “standing on top of tall mountains while you make lists“.
Guilty as charged, m’lud. I’d not heard of this (on “indefinite hiatus”) Scottish band before, something of an experimental indie band who add lo-fi electronics and programming to what might be termed “bedroom indie”, and it’s actually quite charming, really.
/New Model Army
Like Justin Sullivan, I spent my formative years in West Yorkshire – he in Bradford, me ten or fifteen miles south in Huddersfield. Both are settlements built on substantial hills, and indeed both centres have a significant elevation difference across them (which has meant considerable issues for development and movement around): and as this song notes, it’s easy to escape the bustle of the centres for the hills that overlook everything (and on many hills, you can see for miles), and imagine that there aren’t people down there after all.
When I’m back up in the north these days, we make a regular visit to Hey Lane Cemetery, 210m above sea level, to visit the grave of our old friend Tails. I can’t quite see home, or indeed Huddersfield, thanks to the even high expanse of Castle Hill behind me, but I can look across the Holme Valley and the Pennines. It allows me to reflect, a few moments of solititude as a mark of respect to a friend gone, and a life cut unneccessarily short.
/The Lonely Goatherd
/The Sound of Music
The audacious live shows in North Korea – and hugely entertaining documentary that accompanied it – by Laibach have been much-discussed before, including on this website, and they inevitably resulted in an album of the songs. This song perhaps gives away more than any other the tongue-in-cheek nature of Laibach’s take on the songs, as they tell the tale of the lonely shepherd in the Alpine mountains, yodelling away and getting the attention of a young girl and her mother (and the rest of the valley’s inhabitants below, too).
Alpine Yodelling is recorded as far back as the sixteenth century, so it has quite the history in the region, while it later made it to the US as well, perhaps best known there in the work of Jimmie Rodgers…
/Crom (Strong On His Mountain)
/The Greatest Band Of All Time
“That’s Crom, strong on his mountain.”
We return to The Greatest Band Of All Time, for another of their Austrian folk-tales. This time, we go to a mythical past, of mighty warriors and violent times, and a tale of redemption as our hero goes hunting for vengeance, aided by the god of his people, Crom. The idea of mountains as the home of gods is not a new one: generally mountains were seen as close to the skies, a home for deities to provide rain and thus life in particular.
/Move Any Mountain
…while KLACK, can stand tall as if they were gods with their New Beat reworking of The Shamen classic from 1990. This song is one of mighty self-empowerment, one where, with belief and confidence, they can do anything, even move mountains (at least metaphorically).
This was, it should be added, one of the spectacular highlights of the scene-stealing KLACK show at Infest this year (/Memory of a Festival /036, if you wish to read more), the last Infest at the longstanding location of the University of Bradford. Watch this space for news on where Infest will be in 2023…
/Public Service Broadcasting
/Inform – Educate – Entertain
For a long time now, the usual closer at Public Service Broadcasting gigs, this majestic song has a humanity that few bands, never mind PSB themselves, have ever reached. Like the rest of that first album, it uses samples from the BFI archives and The National Archives to tell stories of human prowess in the twentieth century, and this one tells the tale of the 1953 ascent of Everest. The tallest mountain on Earth (nearly 9km above sea level), Mount Everest had been the target of mountaineers and explorers since it was identified as such a century before, and it took nine attempts before Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary finally reached the top in the summer of 1953.
Probably the most famous quote about Everest, though, comes from another mountaineer, George Mallory (who vanished while climbing the mountain in 1924 – his body wasn’t found until 75 years later), who was asked why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.”