BRENDAN McMANUS :: Music has a unique ability to reach our hearts and souls, to touch the deepest part of us. It also has an extraordinary ability to knit us together, gather up the fraying ends of our mental health and stitch a timely repair. This is nowhere as important as in this time of lockdown, where the psyche is under so much pressure, and nerves are easily shredded. So, when things get tough, things seem hopeless with the situation beyond our control, and we need some inspiration, music is always there for us. The sweet voice of the divine calls us back to true being, reminds us of our higher destiny and relativises the stresses and strains.
Whether it is the time of transition, challenge or crisis, music has a delightful answer. For me, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop got me through the blizzard of boarding school, or Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine kept me sane in England, or listening to Midnight Oil’s Beds are Burning awakened an ecological conscience in Australia, or U2’s City of Blinding Lights kept me alive in North Dublin. Not forgetting The Lighthouse family’s Ocean Drive that got me through an oppressively hot Spanish language course in Madrid, or not to mention Squeeze’s Up the Junction, or Supertramp’s Even in the Quietest Moments.
I want to propose a song list of 12 tracks that got me though lockdown and helped me to survive. These are the main songs that got me through, reflecting my age and choice in music! Listening to YouTube videos at night to wind down was an ideal way to transition into sleep, and often the song would continue reverberating the next morning. St. Ignatius Loyola has a good tip for keeping your soul in peace: hold before you your prayer or desire last thing at night and that will stay on in your subconscious.
Here’s the Songlist (available in Spotify »):
- Linda Perry’s raw energy in What’s Up (4 Non Blondes) is still astoundingly provocative. Both delightful and disturbing, she squeezes every inch of emotion out (seeing a video on her life story I realised some of the pain involved). These words struck forcefully: “And I pray, oh, my God, do I pray/I pray every single day/For a revolution.”
- I stumbled across an old video of U2 at LiveAid performing Bad and it moved me to tears, just the moment it captured, the rise of hope in the world (despite the antics of Bono) and those words: “This desperation, Dislocation, Separation, Condemnation, Revelation, In temptation, Isolation, Desolation, Let it go.” Virtually written for this pandemic moment.
- Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon has Stevie Nicks cut loose and in a rare moment of pure genius, alleged drugs use aside, makes your hair stand on end. The live version on Youtube, which was a rehearsal outtake, captures this best.
- Supertramp have been very good to me over the years and brought me though some of the quietest moments, a logical song choice, but it has to be Crime of the Century.
- The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter tackles the storm that’s coming and the desperate run for cover. Check out these lyrics: “Oh, a storm is threat’ning/ My very life today/If I don’t get some shelter/Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away.”
- ELO’s Mr Blue Sky captures both the amazing lifesaving weather we have had and the fulfilment of hope at the end of a very dark spell.
- The Weight: this classic song by The Band is over 50 years old and has seen multiple cover versions, but none more topical than that by Playing for Change, virtually made for lockdown, featuring Ringo Starr and Robbie Robertson. It perfectly captures the sentiment of human solidarity and the drive for international harmony. This old song comes alive here as different musicians from all over the world give of their best to create a unique layered sonic and visual (the video is great) experience.
- The Eagles’ Wasted Time, this bittersweet ballad perfectly captures the mood of lockdown, the sense of reflecting back over one’s life and memories and wondering what it was all about. I’m hoping that it wasn’t all just wasted time…
- I’m a big loved of the Psalms from the Old Testament as they particularly capture the emotional tone of mood of Lockdown, the anguish of an alienated people looking for the way home. John Michael Talbot’s Only in God therefore, based on Psalm 62, has words that capture this desire perfectly, “Only in God is my soul at rest”.
- Lighthouse Family’s Lifted, it has such a joyous bouncy feel that it really lifts your spirits and besides, the idea of being lifted, taken out of the shadows, is one everyone can relate to.
- Bruce Springsteen’s Jungleland is an epic 9 minute piece that is worth hearing for the saxophone solo alone. It’s a dark and somber picture of desperation, heartache and pain. It seems to capture the awfulness of lockdown and pandemic, the fear of the unknown and the ominous unseen threat. “Outside the street’s on fire /In a real death waltz /Between what’s flesh and what’s fantasy/And the poets down here /Don’t write nothing at all /They just stand back and let it all be.”
- The Deer’s Cry features these words which are close to my heart “I arise today, through the strength of heaven.” This masterpiece from Shaun Davey’s live album The Pilgrim, is based on the Breastplate of St Patrick and always reminds me of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, one of my favourite places. There’s something undeniably Celtic, rooted and sacred about it.
- Davy Spillane’s playing of the uileann pipes is nothing short of transcendent, and while I wanted to use Midnight Walker, it wasn’t available on Spotify so I settled for A Place Among the Stones instead.