These songs remind me of times, places, people…and were sometimes retro already before I heard them.
Nancy Sinatra: These Boots are Made for Walking
My dad was a Frank fan and used to fantasise about singing duets with me as I danced to this wearing Maddie’s boots. Even though I was only 2 at the time, I thought Daddy was pure weird. First impressions!
Roy Orbison: Pretty Woman
My Uncle Penis, who had a walk on in my book Dead Glamorous, was filmed singing this to a lamppost in Largs while Auntie Vag held the microphone/can of Carlsberg. They also did Sony and Cher with Uncle P as Cher wearing a shagpile rug wig.
The Clash: London Calling
I’d always wanted to escape…to London…New York…anywhere. Now that I live in Soho, I’m finally where I’m supposed to be. My days of running away are in the past and possibly the future. But my present tense is all happiness and hope.
Ricki Lee Jones: Chuck E’s in Love
The first place I escaped to was my American High School, where one of my secret admirer’s Chuck-ee blew his brains out while cleaning his father’s gun. I got the credit for this suicide, which was possibly just an accident while preparing to rob the Kentucky Fried. Chuck did love those Little Buckets.
Kate Bush: Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights had been one of my favourite books since I sat under a plant reading it in the library when I was 7. I grew up to have Kate hair and was chased around Harvard by medical students who thought I was her.
The Associates: Party Fears Two
Possibly my favourite pop song, I love the duality of Billy Mackenzie’s voice, exuberant and melancholic. My twisted love triangle Spying on Strange Men was originally called Party Fears Three as a Billy tribute.
The Kinks: Waterloo Sunset
I met my husband in a lift at the South Bank where I was doing a reading for my first book. Maddie warned me never to marry a man I met in a lift, but I didn’t listen. She also told me to marry somebody ugly so that I’d ‘look less of a minger’ in comparison.
Marilyn Monroe: Running Wild
After I had my tubercular toe we went to live at the seaside and used to run up down the living-room while this was playing. It only last 2 minutes, but I did run quite fast.
Tom Waits: Tom Traubert’s Blues
‘No one speaks English and everything’s broken’ sums up Africa for me, but I did love living in Kampala – at least after we’d escaped the flying cockroaches. I’ll never forget the colourblind chameleon and my maid, Slivia, staring in astonishment as she heard music fill the room, wondering where it was coming from.
邓丽君 （Dèng Lìjūn） : 甜蜜蜜 （Tián mìmì）
The pianist in the Kempinski bar in Beijing plays this when I come in. It sounds like my Chinese name Mo Li. Sometimes it’s years since our last visit, but she’s still playing her piano; wearing what looks like the same dress. We’ll always have Chaoyang.