Sound of Summer, Mallorca
Last year I was on a cycling holiday in Mallorca with my local club. As we were climbing up to the top of one of the highest mountains on the island a guy came past us going down the mountain with his long blond hair flowing in the wind, and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love blasting out from a Bluetooth speaker in his back pocket. The tune became the theme song for our holiday.
Manhattan transfer problem
I once met an angel in Manhattan. I was due to fly home that evening, but had been out most of the night, and lost my wallet and phone. No hotel, no cards, no cash. I had my printed flight tickets and my passport, but no way to get to JFK. I sat on a bench outside a bar, low and horribly hungover, to consider my circumstances, and I will always remember hearing Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys from the bar’s open door. At that point a woman walked up to me and asked what was up. I told her, we sat and smoked a cigarette, then she suggested I probably needed a lift, took me inside and ordered beers. She gave me $20, told me to take care, and left. Alex, the Angel of 23rd St.
A piazza paradise, Amalfi Coast
My boyfriend and I were in Naples in the 1990s and often drove to the Amalfi Coast. We would stop in Positano for delizie al limone, creamy lemon cakes, and a swim and then head on to the gardens of Ravello. One evening the Gypsy Kings (a reduced line-up) played in Ravello’s small piazza. That’s when we first heard Volare. Later this was our first dance at our wedding.
Anthem for an alpine ski bum
I’d just finished school after a horrendous final year and was working in a ski resort over the winter, revelling in life with no responsibilities beyond serving hotel guests their morning cornflakes and cleaning toilets. The rest of my time was spent whizzing about the Alps on skis and consuming dangerously large glasses of bad wine, free of charge, at the only club in town. They played I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li (Magician Remix) regularly, and something about the hedonistic, urgent nature of it seemed to sit perfectly with the utter freedom and joy I felt during this time. It still gives me the same rush of joie de vivre.
Bye-bye Brazil and bossa nova
Agora, que faço eu da vida sem você? I held a party to say goodbye to Brazil 15 years ago and printed out copies of this song so we could sing it together. “What will I make of life without you?” I still don’t know, but I would go back in a heartbeat to that magnificent country of music and open hearts and beauty. I brought my husband and son to Brazil, and we are still learning new bossa nova to bring melancholy and joy to our lives. My tip has no price: go to Brazil if you can.
All sweetness and twilight in Kosovo
Last summer was spent flitting around Eastern Europe and towards the end of the trip I found myself in Prizren, Kosovo. At the time Sweet but Psycho by Ava Max was everywhere and became the soundtrack to the next few days for myself and two fellow travellers I met a few days earlier. Wandering the cobbled, dusty streets soaking up the atmosphere, making sure every evening to sing and dance up at the fortress for the incredible sunsets, even getting the locals involved. Every now and then I get a voice note from one of the trio singing along to the chorus. It always makes me smile.
Disaster recovery, southern France
Campsite in the south of France with husband and six-year-old daughter, 1985. Huge storm. Beach slid into the sea, tents and belongings disappeared. Camp management cobbled together on-site accommodation, and a large awning for the international campers. There was a record player and one record – Michel Delpech’s Pour Un Flirt from 1971. Candles and lanterns, swimwear, flip flops, wine and baguettes. We danced, laughed and danced more. Children and adults mixing for hours. It was fantastic. The music evokes the best holiday ever, and I found it in a junk shop in Peckham later.
The sea air and Sia, Puglia
The first time I drove to my new little house in Puglia, I was by myself. It’s a long way, and at one point, near the end, you drive on the Autostrada Adriatico. Gps instructions: follow the road for 596km. Almost empty sweeping road, long glimpses of beautiful sea to your left, sunshine … lots of sunshine. And Cheap Thrills by Sia. It came on again and again, and I opened the windows and sang very loudly. I got the CD for Christmas, and whenever I hear it I sing, I’m back on the long sunny road, sunflowers, castles on hilltops, and summer is starting.
Male order: Sitges, Catalonia
It’s 1984, a trailer disco in Sitges, and 500 or more gay men dancing and singing with Eartha Kitt’s I Love Men. The track even has prominent castanets making it seem even more the right dance track for a camp Spanish resort.
Out of Africa with Bob Dylan
Mozambique by Bob Dylan is a timeless song that expresses pleasure and a relaxed atmosphere with an uplifting sense of freedom. I have never been to Mozambique but it goes with me wherever I travel. It just makes me feel so lucky to be (relatively) free in this world of troubles and pressures. In beaches, mountains, townships or remote places, it always but always lifts my heart. I put it on our digital wedding invitation.
The summer we graduated from high school, my friends and I would spend most days in the car, driving from place to place: beach, mountains, park, and back again. We’d fly down the freeway, on the way to the bonfire or the hike, windows down. Every time someone connected to the aux, they would cue up Girls’ 2010 release, Album. Lust for Life was the first track, and we never got any further. Christopher Owen’s lyrics of bonfires, pizzas, and bottles of wine practically dictated our every move. It allowed us to get that cinematic young California summer, a last teenage hurrah for the ages.
A revolutionary interlude, Tuscany
Sorry, no beaches or bikinis in this memory. Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is in the rarely visited far north of Tuscany, on the edges of the Apennines. This is not Chiantishire; it’s a working-class, staunchly socialist, agricultural region. As I stood in the doorway of the Osteria Vecchio Mulino, where you order platters of superb salumi or cheeses accompanied by Tuscan wines at off-licence prices, an old man in a black beret played some opening notes on his guitar. As he sang Hasta Siempre, the room fell admiringly silent. Brit hears Italian sing in Spanish about Cuban revolutionary … lump in throat.
Beat for the beach before it was famous, Koh Phi Phi
Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard from the KLF album Chill Out was on my earphones attached to a Walkman (!) as, in 1990, we approached a then little-known island, Koh Phi Phi, in Thailand in a low-slung wooden motorboat. The film was not a twinkle in the director’s eye and the now-famous beach was completely deserted. The colours of the water, sky and sand, the heat and burning bright sun were all so strong and in such sharp focus. My fella and I had this paradise to ourselves and the song made the moment feel unreal, exciting and cinematic. Every time I hear it I’m back there, arriving on the shores of what felt like the most beautiful place on Earth.
Kite festival memories: Lahore
Patang Baaz Sajna by Fariha Pervez has to be my all-time favourite holiday song. It’s theme is the spring kite festival called Basant, which is celebrated across the northern subcontinent. The music video – shot in my hometown Lahore, Pakistan – is quaint, nostalgic and wholesome, a reminder of bygone Basants spent on the rooftops of the old walled city, flying kites to this song. Basant and kite-flying in general were banned in Lahore in 2005 as a precautionary measure to prevent injuries/deaths related to the kite string, which is often covered in chemicals. Every spring brings fruitless talks of regulating manufacturers or easing restrictions, so this song and its memories stand in place.
To north Wales and back with a supergroup
The album of 1989 was The Travelling Wilburys Vol 1. We played it on a cassette player all the way from London to North Wales, on every journey we made and all the way home. By the end of the week we knew all of the lyrics and belted them out, often out of key but always joyously. It was my first holiday with my partner and his three children so it was a potentially fraught with problems but we searched rock pools, built sand castles and lost our kite and had a wonderful time. Three decades on we are a close and loving blended family and the album’s penultimate song Tweeter and the Monkeyman still reminds me of the week we began to become that family.
Glory and trumpets, Vendée
Tenors Reinoud Van Mechelen and Paul Agnew sang Purcell’s Sound the Trumpet in William Christie’s extensive garden in the Vendée, north of La Rochelle, on a glorious late-summer day. It cost only €12 for an afternoon of varied promenade concerts. Christie gives summer schools for Juillard (NY) students ending in performances by them and his brilliant Les Arts Florissants troupe. It’s well-worth tearing yourself away from the Vendée’s glorious beaches to enjoy a day of great music. The event was held remotely this year.
Ice-cream dreams on the Moray Firth
In the summer of 1977, I was 12 old and sitting in my friend’s dad’s orange VW camper van on Harbour Street in Hopeman waiting for ice-cream. The radio was on and I heard Oh Lori by the Alessi Brothers. I was wearing flip flops and shorts and couldn’t wait to get to the beach. Hopeman is a small fishing village on the Moray Firth coast in the north-east of Scotland with two beaches, east and west. Our favourite was the silvery east beach with the distinctive Daisy Rock, where the midsummer sun was said to set between it and her sister rock. The rock pools there could keep us captivated for whole days. Every time I hear the song, I’m in the van in Hopeman.
My Kefalonia earworm
Fade Out Lines by The Avener completely earwormed me when played on the beach in Kefalonia even though it was only played once. When I hear it now, I’m transported to a quiet shingle beach, drying off in the 32C heat after snorkelling in that beautiful crystal blue sea. My partner and I have cancelled what would’ve been our third trip back but 2021 will see us back in our happy place I’m sure. In the meantime I’ll listen to Fade Out Lines now and again on a sunny day in the garden.
A Parisian awakening
In the summer of 1968, when I was 16, I spent two weeks in Paris with my boyfriend. It was my first trip abroad, my passport fresh and new. The first impression was of a distinctly different smell – coffee, dust and urinals … The soundtrack everywhere that summer was Je t’aime, moi non plus featuring Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. We hadn’t heard it until getting to Paris because it had been banned by the BBC – even Auntie had noticed it was a hymn to sex! I still play it on my iPhone, but it doesn’t make me blush any more.
Homestay owner who didn’t want to give me up, Belize
Running down a hill in Belizean jungle, escaping a slightly psychotic American homestay host, I found the road and a different world of sweet Belizeans. Clambered onto battered re-purposed US yellow school bus breathed heavy sigh of relief and ate the best orange ever. Passing jasmine-scented orange groves, on the radio Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley. Always been an indie kid, but weirdly I now have that song etched happily into me forever.
A Neil Young wave of joy: Crete
I was hitching through Europe 40-ish years ago and staying a couple of nights in Chania, Crete. It was a very high tide and a strong wind and Chania was braced for a buffeting … which it duly got. The bars facing the lovely harbour had sandbagged their saloon-style doors. Barmen stood guard to open the doors as the waves receded to allow customers in and out. Theoretically. Open went the doors, in came the wave – which broke mid-way inside the bar, carrying tables and chairs with it to the rear wall. I picked up my beer as my table disappeared and set it down again once it returned, while Neil Young’s Cortez The Killer blasted forth from huge wall mounted speakers. Joy.
An Ibiza encounter with Grace Jones
It’s easy. July 1983. Ibiza. My first time. The Ku Club – then still open air with a pool – but drinks still expensive. The tune? Blue Monday by New Order. A song then that sounded like no other. And still doesn’t. The DJ must have played it five times. And the crowd went mad. Why the memory, after all these years? Standing there, in this amazing club, listening to this breakthrough music. And who stands in front? Grace Jones. I’d died and gone to music heaven. What a holiday. And what a tune.
We’re afraid that because of the coronavirus crisis there is no prize on offer for the week’s best entry – though hopefully that will return soon