If you’ve picked up my book Love Songs for Sceptics, you’ll have seen that each chapter is named after a song. It was a lot of fun coming up with hits whose titles matched the theme of each chapter. Some came to me immediately, while others needed a little more thinking time. Each one has a bit of a story behind it so I thought it might be fun to explain the reasons for choosing the three that I think work the best.
The First Cut is the Deepest This was my immediate choice for chapter one because it lays the groundwork for what the book is about – first love. It was written by Cat Stevens in 1967, but the artist who first made the song famous (at least for me in the UK) was Scottish crooner Rod Stewart. In 2003 Sheryl Crow released a brilliant cover version, giving it a gorgeous country twang.
The version I had in my head as I was writing, however, was by the British band Little Angels. It’s a little more raw and guitar-heavy but for me it perfectly matches the emotions in the song and lead singer Toby Jepson gives the vocals his all.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road No one can write a melody like Elton John. He’s the answer whenever I’m asked the question ‘if you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would you choose?’ The original is pretty iconic but I’ve recently discovered Yola’s version and I have to say, I think I might prefer it – it’s currently on repeat on my Spotify. The lyrics are some of Bernie Taupin’s best and I especially love the line: ‘It’ll take you a couple of vodka and tonics to set you on your feet again.’ There’s something so wonderfully down-to-earth about that choice of drink.The song is pivotal in Elton’s biopic Rocketman – kudos to Taron Egerton for giving us such a haunting à capella version. It’s spine-tingling.
I won’t give too much away, but in the book this is the chapter where the scales fall from my heroine’s eyes and she has to re-examine some of her life choices and long-held opinions.
Somethin’ Stupid This was probably my favourite chapter to write. My heroine does something spontaneous and fun, and regrets it immediately. But, by the end of the book, she might not regret it quite so much.
The song was a hit for Frank Sinatra in 1967. It gorgeously blends two voices – one singing the melody, while the female voice (in this case Nancy Sinatra) sings the harmony. Their duet is the one I listen to most, but I don’t think the song has ever been done badly: Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman got to number one with it in 2001, and Michael Bublé’s version with Reese Witherspoon is also a barnstormer.
What are some of your favourite pop songs? And do you always prefer the original, or are some cover versions better?