An Inheritance Track

I love the idea of an inheritance track. My music changes on a daily basis. The ideas I’m working on have degrees of favouritism which get moved aside for other choices depending on my mood or emotional state at the time.

Certain events in life evoke so much that are triggered by a song, sound or melody. That’s why we sing carols at Christmas, hymns at funerals and weddings and rousing anthems at sporting events. These all evoke emotion and memories some of which are pleasant, some painful but every time help to remember and look back at important times we don’t want to forget completely, or we feel we need to relive at that moment.

I have often imagined what I’d do if I was ever asked to be on that familiar Desert Island choosing eight discs. The tracks I would choose would constantly change. The music that I’ve written for Topline has all been influenced by favourite artists and tracks through the production process. From Elgar to Dave Grusin, Steely Dan and The Beetles, the attempt to come close to achieving those dizzy heights of beauty and perfection often miss the mark when presented with the reality, fear and constant danger of close parody and blatant copyright theft.

There is one track that seems to stand the test of time and evoke so many amazing memories that it would be in the top three of my Island tracks.

When I first started playing professionally, I was accompanying a fine singer called Judy MacKenzie. Despite her fast zoom to fame in the gospel world, she was a great jazz singer in the style of Peggy Lee and could scatt for England when asked or whenever there was enough wine.

We were rehearsing one day at my home where I lived with my parents, unable to afford anything for myself, and before my dad decided I needed some gentle encouragement to leave home.

We were banging away through our songs of blues and gospel preparing for a gig somewhere when my dad came in and asked if we’d heard a particular track. He had the vinyl and before we could protest or change the subject, he’d found it, dusted it down and put it on.

You should do this” he suggested “It’d go down really well”.

And we sat and listened. It was the Tommy Dorsey version of Sunnyside of the Street. The intro, magnificent, exciting, majestic and the instrumental steady and controlled. Then the vocals singing that extraordinary arrangement and mashed up lyrics. It was definitely one of those moments; a combination of past, present and future where the realisation of personal taste, musical excellence and future aspirations all merge into one. Pretentious? … Do, Re, ME?

This is perhaps one of the most perfect pop songs ever written. And this big band arrangement offers so much by way of nostalgia, emotion, memory and effervescent hope. (He’s at it again!)

We ended up doing this song at our next gig.

Years later, I played it to my daughter, the extraordinary Jem Cooke and we too started working it in as part of our set list. We performed it live at my dad’s funeral, much to the very mixed emotions of us both and the utter delight of the hundreds of people who attended.

We then did a very cool edit re-mash version at Jem’s wedding to accompany her twelve bridesmaids and us down the aisle of the church.

It will no doubt feature again somewhere and not surprisingly live on after we’ve gone.

A genuine inheritance track that has lived with us. I only wish that I could write one that would have the same impact for someone before I hang up the keys. Who knows? Maybe I already have.