David Nicholls is a really good, really successful writer. The first thing he wrote was an adaptation of Sam Shepherd’s play Simpatico with director Matthew Warchus. Then he wrote the best series of Cold Feet and other great TV stuff. (His updated version of Much Ado About Nothing is inspired). His first novel Starter for Ten was a big hit—it’s a great book—and made into a movie starring James McEvoy and Rebecca Hall. Meanwhile, Nicholls was busy writing screenplays (Tess of the D’Urbervilles, And When Did You Last See Your Father?) and his second novel, The Understudy.
Last year his third novel One Day arrived, and immediately became everyone’s favourite book. It’s now been made into a movie too (to be released next year) by Lone Scherfig who made An Education. Anne Hathaway plays Emma. Good luck, Anne Hathaway. Everyone loves Emma and has their own idea of her. One of the things Emma does well is make mixed tapes, which she gives to her best friend, Dexter. Obviously, she has great taste in music. How do we know? Because we know Emma, all right. But also because Nicholls himself is famous for compiling fantastic playlists. And because he’s done the right thing and revealed Emma’s playlist on his website, which is also linked to Spotify.
But was that enough for us? Nah! We wanted our own playlist. We wanted great, great songs that we’d probably never heard, and we wanted pithy, perfect descriptions to go with them, of a) why we don’t know them, and b) why we should. And we wanted them linked to Spotify. We got the lot. Here is one perfect, perfect playlist:
‘Singer-songwriter’ is a chilling phrase, conjuring up images of whey-faced lank-haired troubadors, but it doesn’t have to be that way. ‘Blue’ is a fine album, but if you need a change, below are six fine songs by lesser-known artists.
Brilliant and distinctive, Karen Dalton recorded only two albums, both wonderful, both flops. Like so many great blues singers she succumbed to drink and drugs and died, homeless in New York in 1993. The great lost voice of the Sixties New York Greenwich Village scene.
If Karen Dalton is the Village, then Dory Previn is the Upper East Side. Laconic, wry, satirical, she’s the musical equivalent of ‘Seventies Woody Allen. Take this song for instance, about the one-night-stand from hell.
From the same tradition as Karen Dalton, I don’t know much about Ellen McIlwaine, except that she – I was about to type the phrase ‘plays a mean slide guitar’ but stopped myself just in time.
Ruler of My Heart – Irma Thomas (There is no good recording of this song on Spotify, alas, but you can download the song from itunes instead for £0.99)
Before she was twenty years-old Irma Thomas had produced four children and had been married twice, which gives some idea of the depth of experience that went into this song. A contemporary of Etta James and Aretha Franklin, the Soul Queen of New Orleans has never achieved the same commercial success, but this song alone is enough to justify her reputation.
Not singer-songwriters at all, more Brooklyn-based experimental art-rock. A lot of their music is, um, challenging, but I’m sneaking this song into the list just because it’s such a beauty.
Mark Mulcahy was the lead-singer with Miracle Legion, one of those ‘could have been REM’ bands. Instead he’s recorded a series of wonderful solo records, the first of which, ‘Fathering’, is a neglected classic. See also ‘Hey Self Defeater’ on the same album.