- Notorious for never calling ahead when it visits.
Knowing this, I’ve occasionally wondered about my ideal funeral arrangements, more from casual interest than morbid curiosity. Because I’m seventeen, I’m not too concerned about the specific details, such as the venue, who to include on the guest list and midday refreshments- although I would propose a light serving of pesto pastries with a topping of crumbled feta cheese and sundried tomato slivers.
What vexes me is the soundtrack. Could you slip away peacefully with the spine-chilling knowledge that your pallbearers could be trudging through the courtyard to the syrupy gloop of Elton John or Take That? That dear friends were bravely attempting uncomfortable small talk at the wake while Lady Gaga grumbled on? My corpse would backflip and believe you me, absolutely nobody would be getting smiled down on that day.
So to prevent such a dire eventuality, I decided to compile a list of worldly and ecstatic songs which I felt best summarised my personality and the message I want to leave behind. In other words, if there was any doubt that this blog was sporadically maintained by a navel-gazing teenager, look no further.
The selection process was harsh and swift. Anything I thought was even the slightest smidgen mawkish or maudlin was immediately swept off the table with cyclonic force. I’m not allergic to sentiment, but to be frank, I’d hope no one would require any assistance crying-they are mourning me after all.
I also rejected tracks that had been excessively overplayed to the point of annoyance. For example, I didn’t include Paul McCartney’s Yesterday, a melodic masterpiece of wistful regret and easily one of finest songs ever written, because it’s simply too much of a funeral staple. Candle in the Wind, The Show Must Go On and Perfect Day were dismissed on similar grounds.
While I love The Smiths and everything they stood for, I rapidly realised that very few of their output would work, mainly because two minutes of Asleep– a (literally) heart-stoppingly beautiful lullaby-could encourage a few guests to join me in the coffin. There was also the important matter of ensuring none of the gathering would find a song insufferable. Morrissey’s lyrics are like oysters- it’s a dish you either immediately love or instinctually spit out.
After much pseudo-serious deliberation and successfully banishing any thoughts that I had way too much spare time , I managed to draft the current incarnation of “Aaron’s Biblically Brilliant Funeral Anthems”. It’s a working title. In fact, the entire playlist is an ongoing project, subject to revision as my limbs wither and my waistline balloons. The 2059 Bus Pass Edition should be fascinating.
Where Are We Now? (David Bowie, The Next Day)
After a decade of near complete silence, David Bowie announced his return with a mesmerizingly poignant track which both acknowledged the pop pioneer’s turbulent past while also hinting at glories yet to come. It’s a song that begins with the lamenting pangs of a piano and climaxes as a soaring anthem for the invaluable beauty of life. My playlist simply couldn’t be without it.
Fare Thee Well (Oscar Isaac & Marcus Mumford, Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack Album)
A folk ballad from one of my favourite films, the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. The vocals by Isaac, whose performance as the titular singer laid the way for his role as somersaulting aerial ace Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, are warmly honeyed without ever becoming sickly. And Mumford and producer T. Bone Burnett’s arrangement- jangling acoustic guitars, tumbling violins sections- is fantastic.
My Sweet Lord (George Harrison, All Things Must Pass)
A transcendent cut from an essential album. If you are yet to listen to it, then I really encourage you to give it a try. The songs may be nearly 35 years old, but the ex-Beatle’s nimble, soulful compositions still sound bang up to date.
Don’t Look Back In Anger (Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?)
Charged with a superheated vocal from the mighty Noel Gallagher, this is one of Britpop’s most perfectly forged gems- a sparkling anthem for the importance of grace and boldly moving forward.
Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (John Williams)
Have five tones ever had a greater emotional or cultural impact? Even if you have not seen Spielberg’s 1977 masterpiece, those soul-lifting notes- D E C C G, if you’re wondering- are instantly recognisable. Considering how the music was intended to be a universally understood declaration of peace and well-meaning, it couldn’t be a more poetic outcome.
A New Career in a New Town (David Bowie, Low)
Low is a fashionable Bowie album to adore, but this Brian Eno-produced instrumental, simultaneously ambient and kooky, is as perfect a send off as I can imagine.
These are my choices, but I’d love to hear yours. If you feel inclined and have the time, then feel free to post your funeral playlists in the comments.