10 songs that bring back memories of my travels: Tom Ravenscroft's playlist
Lost John by Lonnie Donegan
We didn’t travel as kids, partly because my dad hated flying and also because it was festival season and his job meant our summer holidays were spent being dragged off to muddy fields. It sounds like I’m complaining. I am a bit. This was long before it was commonplace to see kids at festival: we got cold, and drunk people pointed at us. On the odd occasion we went on “holiday”, we were squashed into a car and driven around Europe with seemingly no real destination. We once drove all the way to Germany to see where our lawnmower was made. The only joy in these journeys were the mixtapes my dad would spend weeks painstakingly preparing for the journey. A few records for the kids and lots for him. Lonnie Donegan was one of the few tracks on there we all loved. Many years later we got to see him play the Glastonbury festival. I stood in awe. He did a weird amount of encores, double figures.
A Dog’s Life by Nina Nastasia
I’ve spent the past six years or so making regular trips to New York, mainly as a result of muscling in on my wife’s job. The city has always been, for me, about Nina, one of my closest friends and, conveniently, favourite musicians. Every time I arrive, I immediately get a cab to wherever she is, get her drunk and make her play me whatever she is working on. It is always a record that is apparently nowhere near finished but to my ears as complete as a record can be.
Tinh Yêu Tuyệt Vời (The Greatest Love) by Bich Loan and CBC Band
When our first son, Francis, was two months old we thought it would be a cool idea to fly to Vietnam on holiday. It turned out to be fabulously stupid idea. It was too hot for him, and we ended up on an island with no hospital, which made us panic. Even the locals we were staying with told us to take him home. I found an antiques shop filled with cheap old Vietnamese 45s, though unfortunately the shop owner saw the deranged excitement on my face and quadrupled the price of everything. I left empty handed: I’m still annoyed. This track features on a compilation of 1960s and 70s rock and soul tracks from Saigon (on Soundcloud), released by Sublime Frequencies. I bet they bought those records, my records. Loved Vietnam, though.
Obaa Sima by Ata Kak
Nothing says driving up the west coast of the US quite like Ata Kak. His album came out on the Awesome Tapes From Africa label in 2015 and blew my mind. It was really odd, the vocal delivery just so unexpected. You never get used to it. We drove our already travel-traumatised child and some friends from Salvation Mountain in in the California Desert up to Big Sur, with the Kak on a loop. Hair in the wind, roof down, child screaming, us laughing. The most amount of joy you can possibly imagine. Possibly my favourite 10 hours ever.
Travel by Ippei Matsui and Aki Tsuyuko
A Japanese friend of mine, let’s call her Mai, started seeing another friend of mine, Will, say, and within what seemed like mere minutes, they had run off to Tokyo together never to return. Traitors. Heartbroken at having been abandoned, I would make regular trips to visit, in the hope of making them come back home. Instead, I never wanted to leave. I adore Japan for so many reasons, but most of all for the odd calmness of the place. It wasn’t until I bought the reissue of Natsu No Zenbu that I finally found a sound that captured how I feel when I’m there. I haven’t been in ages and I really miss it. Not them though – they are dead to me now.
Side Effect by Kraken
Not travel so much, rather actually moving to a city – something I’d never done before. I was born in a field in Suffolk, so city life was a big change, and Sheffield was the perfect place to do it. It’s among the greenest cities in UK, and with the Peak District nearby it still felt a bit countryside. In order to feel at home there, though, I required not just a new group of friends but also a music venue I felt was mine. That was NY Sushi, and it had the best drum’n’bass and jungle DJs passing through each week. Ed Rush and Optical’s album Wormhole had taken the scene by storm around this period (late 1990s), but it was Side Effect, which I used to hold out for. It would always get dropped by someone eventually. I practically moved in to the venue I loved it so much. I still smell of old vodka and Red Bull.
Blyth Street Nocturne by Surprise Chef
More cars, more heat. My Wife is Australian and so we hang out there quite a bit. On my first trip I took an immediate shine to Melbourne and all the great music that has been rising from there over the past five or six years. It’s a groovy place. Grooviest of the groovies is Surprise Chef and the College Of Knowledge label. They make the most beautiful music and it has that infectious Oz positivity about it that my wife likes to ram down my throat so often. Their album has proved a most useful tool during lockdown.
The Bells by Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills is the actual best. Me and my spotty friends would make an annual pilgrimage to the Sonar festival in Barcelona. It was perfect in so many way: it’s in Barcelona, it goes on all night, it’s by the beach and, most importantly, Jeff Mills is always there.
Atlantis (I Need You) by LTJ Bukem
Top to the bottom of the hill … 13 years old … loads of you, with a BMX or something vaguely resembling a BMX, but way cheaper. Nick lived at the bottom of the hill and we could smoke at his house and play loud music. A winding path from the middle school led through the suburbs, in and out of the lamp-posts and trees all the way to Nick’s. Couple of S-bends and a bit in which you were in darkness – scary. We’d climb to the top late at night, put our fave rave tape on our Walkmans and roll. I owned that hill. Travel at its most freeeeeee!!!!!
Turiya and Ramakrishna by Alice Coltrane
Each summer during university, and for a few years after, me and my school friends would go backpacking around France – usually fairly ill-equipped. My friend Giles set off once with a carrier bag containing two pairs of underpants and half a loaf of bread. We never had much money to do anything once we got there: we’d always end up spending most of the trip camping in a dried-up riverbed in Le Collet-de-Dèze. It became, over the years, a home from home, as we hitched in from Toulouse airport having made vague attempts to explore other parts of France. Lying in our pants for weeks soaking up the sun and giggling, we lived on rollies, cheap red wine, French bread and whichever Walkman still had battery left. We were feral. At night it would get scary in among the trees; Alice made it seem a lot safer.
Tom Ravenscroft’s 6 Music show is on Fridays from 9pm-midnight, and on BBC Sounds