Monday, July 10, 2006

Song with the power to change lives

Last month Radio 2 dipped a toe into list-show programming by asking listeners to vote for the song with the power to change lives. Presented with a shortlist of 10, including Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, Aretha Franklin's I Say a Little Prayer and Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, voters opted for Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (which was an album, not a song, but no matter).

What they didn't tell us was exactly how Dark Side had affected them. As the granddaddy of concept albums, it probably inspired the cannabis-addled ravings of more 1970s teenagers than any other record. But what life changes did it bring about? The inference is that the album was uplifting and positive - perhaps, after listening to the Dark Side track Money (one of only two Floyd singles to become a hit in America, by the way), numerous people heeded Dave Gilmour's warning that "money is the root of all evil today" and decided to stop chasing a buck in order to do something they'd always wanted to do. That would be quite a feather in Dark Side's cap.

But suppose Dark Side - or any of the songs in that Top 10 - actually had a resoundingly negative effect? Born to Run might have prompted a mass purchase of motorbikes, followed by a mass appearance in casualty with broken femurs. Or just profound depression caused by the unavoidable juxtaposition of motorbike/midlife crisis.

Other lives must have been similarly ruined by heeding too closely the words of a pop song. Whether it was a decision to take class-A drugs after hearing the Velvet Underground's I'm Waiting for My Man (which would have been a pretty perverse decision, considering the bleakness of Lou Reed's lyric) or being unduly influenced by some gangsta tune, or just deciding that James Blunt's You're Beautiful was written for you and you alone and you won't rest till you've made him yours, music can have a pernicious effect.

My own ruin was caused by hearing Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers in 1975 on Saturday Night Live. Stunned as I was by their Caledonian gorgeousness, I sadly felt compelled to waste my formative years plodding after the Scottish boy band in the desperate hope of making them notice me. If I hadn't been slumped on the sofa that night, I would no doubt have had a much more productive youth.

So, what song ruined YOUR life?


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