I have music on constantly, and my tastes are pretty eclectic so choosing five tracks has been quite difficult. If I did it next week the list would be different, too, as what I’m listening to and what feels significant changes all the time! Thinking about my favourite songs has also given me the chance to play these one after another, and that’s put me in a fabulous mood. I’ve done a bit of dancing around the living room too…
1 Daydream Believer – The Monkees
I have loved this song forever and ever. I used to watch The Monkees TV show as a child when I lived in Harlow in Essex, and Davy Jones was my first crush (if you discount Scott from Thunderbirds – I was so young when I watched that I didn’t realise he/it was a puppet!) Whenever I hear the introduction to Daydream Believer it lifts my heart. When I think about The House That Alice Built, I think of the title of this song – I never gave up my dreams of writing and being published, but I think Alice may have given up dreaming for a while. She just needed a bit of a nudge to remember how to do it.
2 Do Anything You Wanna Do – Eddie and the Hot Rods
So, I’m 16 years old and dancing around my parent’s living room in Neath to this iconic anthem released in 1977. I still love it as much now as I did then. I think it sums up being young with the whole world in front of you, if only you can find it. I’ve discovered I know all the lyrics off by heart! A couple of years ago I got to chat to the lead singer, the late Barrie Masters, as I was setting up some programmes about music for BBC Essex. I cannot tell you how chuffed I was, and how I was as excited as I would have been when I was a teenager, if a little more coherent, probably.
Here’s the live version
Que Bueno baila usted – Oscar de Leon
I have been an enthusiastic social salsa dancer since about 2002. These days I just go to a club in London on Sundays called SOS which I have to say is one of my favourite places to be. I cut my teeth on creative writing in the mid-2000s when I wrote some pieces about my experiences of salsa and used to send them out to a small group of subscribers. I then got a website designed, where I wrote my Salsa Diaries – some of which are still on my new website. I also made three music-based radio documentaries about salsa for BBC Essex. So, you could say it’s been an important part of my life for many years. When I hear the music I just want to dance. In fact, I’ve been listening to this whilst writing, and have been wiggling around in my seat…
One Day Like This – Elbow
I think this song is absolutely gorgeous, from the way the strings build operatically and evocatively to the wonderful lyrics. And as for Guy Garvey’s voice – I have no words apart from – this is perfect. I remember it being released in 2008 when I was at the height of my salsa dancing craze and driving into an event in London with my friends in the back of the car with this blasting out. When I hear it, that’s where it takes me. Or I can feel myself opening the doors onto a wide terrace, with the warm tiles under my feet, and gazing at the sea glistening in the distance. If there is ever a film of The House That Alice Built, this should be in it!
At Last – Etta James
Oh, I love this so much – it’s so soulful, rich and gorgeous. I go to a café called Doce Tentacao in Lagos in Portugal when I’m staying there, and it plays jazz in the background. This is on frequently, and so when I hear it, I’m immediately sitting under a tree in a quiet little cobbled square, drinking a coffee or a glass of vinho verde, eating a pastel de nata, and reading a book. Once I turned the corner to go to the café and this totally co-incidentally began to play loudly as I did so. Imagine walking to your table to Etta James singing, “At last……!”
About Chris Penhall
Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio as well as an Associate Producer of the Richard and Judy Book Club Podcast. She also works on an ad hoc basis doing PR and communications for a local hospice and compiles a charities news page for a local magazine.
Born in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! She is now working on her second.
A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.
You can find more information about her on http://www.chrispenhall.co.uk
or follow her on twitter: @ChrisPenhall
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