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Author: Joe Blogs Photographer: JANE DOE

My mother said she heard my father before she saw him.

In a crowded, Marlboro Lights-scented bar (hey, it was the mid-‘80s) in Westminster, she followed a generous laugh. To a table. That seated a man. Later that evening, confidence boosted, and inhibitions lost with the aid of multiple rounds of Snowball cocktails, they played guitar and sang their favourite Beatles songs together. I love this story. A meet-cute described not through dialogue exchanged but rather sounds committed to memory. I guess my mum was wrong about one thing - the first bit. Because, well, hearing is a kind of seeing. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

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I thought about this again the other day. The seeing, feeling, of sound. Slumped on my sofa, re-watching one of the millennium greats, High Fidelity, an adaptation of novelist Nick Hornby’s romantic comedy of errors and perhaps one of the most authentic portraits of modern love. In one scene, Rob, a record store owner feeling confused and crumbled by yet another relationship breakdown, decides now would be a good time to sort through his own vinyl collection. A friend, upon seeing the wreckage, asks how he’s organising it.

“So, what is this, chronological?”


“Not alphabetical?”



“Autobiographical…If I want to find the song Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile but didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.”

“That sounds…”


For as long as I can remember, music – up there with TV I can fall asleep to, someone to laugh with, and words that feel like a bath for my brain, leave it with me – has been an undying source of comfort, as is the nostalgia attached to how it arrived in my ears. Doubtlessly I was a sponge to whatever my parents played growing up. An eclectic mix: car journeys with mum could be filled blasting to deafening volumes Queen, Fatboy Slim, and some of the saddest heartbreak songs you’ll ever listen to. Later, there were some boyfriends, a few playlists. Mostly, though, I’ve discovered, continue to discover, songs onscreen.

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Here, remembering specifically sentimental sonic moments I loved in my late teens. A period when Sunday afternoons were mostly spent browsing DVDs in HMV. In Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, ‘I’m Kissing You’ playing as two almost-lovers meet, a melodic tribute to the moment when you’re drawn to a stranger for some inexplicable reason (“I see music as the fabric of storytelling, not background,” Luhrmann said on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.) 10 Things I Hate About You introduced me to the majestic Joan Armatrading and songs that spoke to the specific angst and desire located in adolescence. I can’t not listen to the opening notes of “Cry To Me” by Solomon Burke and immediately think of Dirty Dancing, summer holidays and horny-ness. Or feel all fuzzy at the thought of Jon Cryer dancing to “Try a Little Tenderness” in Pretty in Pink.

Special mention, too, to Cameron Crowe, a screenwriter, director, and former Rolling Stone journalist who has created some of my all-time favourite films. Someone who you just know wanted every scene to literally sing, music to mirror his characters interior world. Not in a distracting way, but one that would make you pay even closer attention, that would strike the right emotional chord, manage to be both melancholic and hopeful all at once. A taster menu for non-Crowe fanatics? OK, first, Say Anything: John Cusack holding up a boombox, playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. Just unbelievably sweet. Almost Famous: so many ‘70s deep cuts – Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Lou Reed et al - but also Nancy Wilson’s short instrumental “Cabin In The Air” is a underrated and transportive gem, an homage to innocence and experience. Jerry Maguire: the joyful moment when Tom Cruise lands on the perfect song on the radio, at the perfect moment having shed his former life (Tom Petty’s anthemic “Free Fallin’”).

More recently, both Licorice Pizza and The Worst Person in the World, had me bouncing around my kitchen post-cinema to their respective playlists. Magic!

Music is to movies what kissing is to sex. It is, quite frankly, necessary. The soundtrack plays into and heightens everything. The pain, the glory, a portrait of a person, a place. An unexpressed longing to be closer to someone. I love the music in movies so much, I think, because it’s the realest part of the story. That off screen we’re also filling in the gaps, hoping people will pick up on our secret transmissions, poetry borrowed from others, when speech fails us.




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