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A Magazine for Sheffield

City Daydream Songs.

You've all been there. You're in a public place, and one of your favourite songs starts to ooze out of invisible speakers. Your first reaction is a twitch of a smile, preparing yourself for the enjoyment to come. Ah, the excellence of your musical taste! Who is the kindred spirit who chose the music? Now comes a suspending of time, as you decide to ignore your companion or even miss your train in order to get the song in that special context. Then a disappointment when the next song reverts to unrecognisable muzak. And finally a nagging worry that, because you're in a chain coffee shop, your favourite tune has been selected by a "consumption atmosphere consultant", thereby dismissing your musical moment as a droplet in the oceanic, corporate, easy-listening soundtrack to our working days. This magical moment isn't so much a highlight of your day as a gap in it. It's like a very short siesta. For roughly three minutes everything around you - the work worries, the phone calls, the office politics, the self-important lawyers talking too loudly at the next table - all melts away and you go into a sweet, indulgent reverie. Unless your companion won't stop talking, in which case you make a mental note to kill them later, when they aren't expecting it. That gap is your chance to manipulate time. No matter what else is happening, that song is your excuse to make time stand still, or to spend those few minutes at another moment in time altogether. Maybe the song was on when you first made love, or when your lover told you they were leaving. Maybe the song has been through enough experiences with you that it means everything and nothing. The three and a half minute pop song is an increment of time. You know how long it is going to last from the moment you hear the first chord. Your next 250 heartbeats are accounted for. The predictable flow from intro to verse to chorus, and so on, is a rock on which you can stand and safely watch the chaos around you. It's long enough to let you catch your breath, short enough not to outstay your attention span. There's nothing worse than when that song comes bursting out of your radio, or leaps spontaneously from the walls of a supermarket, only to be amputated in full flow by some idiot DJ who thinks we'd rather hear his self-satisfied patter, or by Janet beckoning Darren to the checkout, or - perhaps worst of all - by a newsflash that rudely smashes the inherent shittiness of the world through the brittle privacy of your daydream. Desert Island Discs is no good for the city dweller. Marooned on an island with eight songs you know inside out, and love like old friends, and after two days you've grown to hate them and you contemplate a watery grave with the bleak emptiness of a religious zealot who has lost their faith. No. Do not be tempted. Forget those songs. Leave them behind waiting for a triumphant homecoming if you survive your ordeal. What we need is City Daydream Songs. You are given a chance to pick eight songs that you may not own or, even if you do, haven't heard for ages, but they do have a knack of changing your mood and shaping your day when you hear them coming out of the pores of the city, and sparking off a daydream. Here's one for starters: Beck's 'Devil's Haircut'. I had an ex who owned Odelay, but I confess I never really got it. The muso in me feels I really should get Beck, but it hasn't happened. So here I am, trudging heavily down Chain Pub Drag, and sneak a shortcut down Binge Drinker's Walk. Half way along is a goth shop selling clunky boots and things, and oozing joyously from its open door is 'Devil's Haircut'. The daydream begins... Jenny was a Goth, about 19. She dreamed of being a hairdresser, doing those full-on pagan works of art on nice blokes with metallic faces. She noticed how hairdressing salons all have puns for names, like Curl up and Dye, Headmaster, Hairforce. 'One day,' she said, 'I'm going to own a salon, and walking in will be like getting on a ghost train. Maybe there could actually be a ghost train, and it spirals up to a really light, white attic room with a huge mirror, and that's where you get your hair done, and then when you're finished you get back on the train and you go all the way down to the cellar, where there's a really, really dark tea bar. And the front of the shop will have these huge periscopes, so that passers-by will see the white salon and the dark tea bar, and it'll attract my ideal customers and frighten the hell out everyone else. And I'm going to call it Devil's Haircut.' And here I am writing this in a busy pub on a Friday evening, waiting for my weekend to start. And it's just happened again, above the growing hubbub of beer-drinking, chatter and crisp-eating. Björk's 'Big Time Sensuality'. Right now it's the soundtrack to a silent movie of 24-hour rolling news, and no-one's watching the movie or listening to the song, except me. Is the news reader really singing this? )

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