The second floor of John Menzies, Middleton. An incredulous employee doesn’t believe the woman’s claims that her child, celebrating their third birthday that day, wants to buy a 7″ vinyl single by George Harrison.
“If he can sing that song for me, I’ll buy him the record…” they joke, little realising they’d soon be parting with their cash, because while This Song Is Just Six Words Long, the kid knows them all and gives a public performance in front of the record counter, to a small trickle of applause from fellow shoppers. In essence, they’ve just had their first paid gig… only a few short months after they became utterly, suddenly aware of Top of the Pops and the brilliance of the Pet Shop Boys, and started paying a lot of attention to the family hi-fi system for the first time. A lifetime obsession with new music was about to begin.
The dream is over. The hope that all the hard work over the last few years, rebuilding their career in a new direction, feels like it’s all for nought. Every job interview goes stupendously well, only for someone else to just pip them to the post. Well, except the weird one where the marketing agent in the swanky Northern Quarter office told them nobody would take a long haired fat person with a beard seriously in this business. That one wasn’t very helpful at all, but at least they were honest.
Six months after a total collapse, working out how to survive on antidepressants for the first time, their impending 30th birthday feels like a monumental challenge: what will they make of themselves by the time they’re 40? Will they even live to be 40? Do they even deserve to? They definitely didn’t want to be here six months ago, which is why they ended up in this state to begin with.
A lingering suggestion a friend mooted around keeping a diary won’t go away, even though it’s clear by now they can’t keep one going for very long. But wait a minute… what if they fill it in once, every three months? By the time they turn 40, they’ll have 40 entries, each covering ten years they didn’t think they’d have.
And how do you make this more interesting? By attaching music to it, of course. 20 songs, every three months, with bullet points about their life and thoughts on how things are going. That’ll encourage them to actively find 20 new songs per quarter, and engage with new sounds… and that might just be reason enough to stay alive, right?
We’re back in lockdown. The world has gone insane. Everything’s shut, and we might all be dead by the Spring, unless they can find a vaccine that works.
In the middle of the chaos, as a break from the day job, a new entry in the Audio Diary is finalised. Six years later, the concept is still working… in fact, there’s now so much new music every month that only picking 20 songs per quarter is becoming a nigh on impossible task.
Suddenly, with no social life once more, the idea of backdating and refining the Audio Diary springs to mind.
After all, they can remember when they bought key records, tapes and cds. They have an archive of playlists, a box full of old mix-tapes and CD-Rs, a desktop folder full of MP3 playlists that were sent round on Myspace in the 2000s and Dropbox in the 2010s.
Then there’s the Official UK Singles Chart listings. A breakdown of every performance on Top of the Pops. Broadcast dates for key films and TV shows. Release dates for movies on DVD. Ticket stubs from gigs and cinema trips. It must be possible, right?
The Audio Diary has been definitively researched, and goes all the way back to that little kid in John Menzies in 1987. The same one staring at Top of the Pops fascinated by the Pet Shop Boys. Who grew up with Kylie Minogue posters on every wall, until Queen started to slowly take over a section, and then other artists got in there too.
The kid who slavishly followed the charts, while also digging into second hand shops and cast off records from the past to find old legends to make their own. Who then bought a magazine on a whim and became a metal head in 2000, narrowly avoiding what could have been a lifelong obsession with grime. The teenager who couldn’t quite leave power-pop behind, until eventually as an adult realising they could have their cake and eat it, and embrace all the music they could… and perhaps needed to never stop broadening their horizons.
Now, here it was. A playlist of 20 songs covering every two months of this kid’s childhood from their third birthday in 1987 to their 18th birthday in November 2002, then a playlist of 20 songs per month, every month after that… right up to the present day.
If they tried to write an article about every song on the list, there’d be over 6,500 to consider. And some of those would be about artists who are no longer worth celebrating.
But each list? Well, even that could take years… but it might be an interesting story to tell those who want to hear it…
Time to look back upon my life. Let’s see what I did… and what I’m still to do…