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Baker's Dozen

The Perfect Sentence: Tariq Goddard’s Favourite Storytelling Songs
Tariq Goddard , November 9th, 2022 08:48

Novelist and publisher Tariq Goddard chooses thirteen songs that have defined his life, with a focus on the musical storytellers who inspired him to tell tales of his own from The Kinks to Ice T

Photo by Eddie Otchere

I have never found it easy to pick favourites, even when my record collection amounted to half a dozen singles and a couple of tapes. Now that it has grown much bigger, the only way I can select a starting thirteen is through the contrivance of narrowing the goalposts, for instance by limiting myself to those songs that encouraged me to create. That will at least produce a list if not the definitive truth regarding the music I hear (often only in my mind) daily. None of my choices inspired me to sing or make music myself, but they did inspire me to write novels. The type of songs that did this told stories, in which the singer was effectively the author. There are songs I have enjoyed as much but that are lost in the face of this criterion, in fact, types and entire genres (love songs, protest songs, techno and jungle), that tend not to tell stories and so do not feature at all.

Consequently, these tracks are skewered and unrepresentative insofar as the singer/songwriter necessarily dominates. To try and address the imbalance I have left the definition of what constitutes a story as open as possible, though even then, some of the most literate songs I love still fail to make the cut (The The’s ‘Beyond Love’ is too like a prayer, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Anger’ a confession, Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind?’ a question, The Sisters Of Mercy’s ‘Some Kind Of Stranger’ too enigmatic, Curtis Mayfield’s ‘If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going To Go’, too like advice).

I have also attempted to stay faithful to the clumsy order in which my actual development occurred: the past, like the present, is often to do with contingency; looking back we try and order things as they should have been and not as they were. Many of these songs hit me early on in life and by accident. I have not tried to make them into what they were not or to correct the mistakes of the past by picking tracks that have become more important in hindsight. I have also excluded ballads (which are tidier and less satisfying than stories, searching for artificial cohesion and structure and so imposing both), anything by Saint Etienne (for while I love them and they tell stories, they never inspired me to write myself) and conceptual pieces. Instead, I think these songs are the musical equivalent of a perfect sentence, that distil the life and character of the performer into the story they sing.

The list ends by the mid-nineties, not because treasured listening experiences ceased at that time, rather by then the music had already done its work. I had begun my first novel, and knew what I wanted to be, my future listening less a question of showing me the way as simply one of enjoying myself.

Tariq Goddard’s new novel High John The Conqueror is out now via Repeater Books. To begin reading his Baker’s Dozen (plus two honourable mentions), click the image of him below