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From Paul McCartney to The Strokes: Cillian Murphy’s 10 favourite songs of all time

Cillian Murphy’s esteem as a tastemaker was already aloft when he infected the entire Premier League with an infectious Peaky Blinders haircut that made up for his earlier failed attempt of trying to encourage people to add Brown Sauce to their cuppas in Intermission.

However, his most benevolent influencing gift has been his BBC Radio 6 show – that made me not only realise that we share remarkably similar music tastes but added the mellow hits of Alice Boman to my collection and endeared me to the wild relationship of The Louvin Brothers.

Sadly, it would seem that the assortment of shows that aired over lockdown are no longer available on the BBC Sounds app, and with the actor currently working on an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel Kensuke’s Kingdom, it is unlikely to return any time soon. In lieu of that, Murphy was kind enough to inform Two Paddocks about his ten favourite tracks and we’ve plonked them on a playlist for your aural delectation.

While the Corkman’s taste is clearly eclectic, there is a common thread of emotional sincerity that runs through the choices, whether that be in the form of his beloved Nick Cave who constitutes a huge part of Peaky Blinders, the poignancy of Patti Smith who he has likewise espoused a love for, or championing the rollicking ways of his countrymen Fontaines D.C., or the classics amassed below. 

Cillian Murphy’s ten favourite songs:

‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ by the Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground may have been quietly presiding over a small section of the New York demimonde for about half a decade by the time that the masterful album Loaded was released in 1970, but very few tracks delineated their joyously subversive mantra quite like the eponymous ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’. 

Murphy told Two Paddocks: “I think they managed to bottle rock n’ roll in this. It has never failed to stir a little bit of rebellion in me every time I listen to it. Even in my advancing years.”

‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by Paul McCartney

The pressure was on the bearded McCartney when he entered the studio in 1970 after The Beatles broke up, but he disavowed that with a classic solo debut that decreed that pressure is for tires. ‘Maybe I’m Amazed‘ is a standout single from that record, and it’s a beautifully crafted piece of pop that sees Macca pay homage to his saviour, Linda.

Murphy explained: “So McCartney wrote and played everything on this on his first solo album [McCartney] after the Beatles break up. One of his rockier love songs which I much prefer. Amazing guitar solo too. Pretty much a perfect song.”

‘God’ by John Lennon

With the third track running from 1970 (clearly a zenith of musical history), Murphy evens his Beatles scoresheet with a track from John Lennon’s first solo venture John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The song is largely regarded as Lennon taking potshots at his former band and decreeing their otherworldly presence in the public eye.

As Murphy explained: “A nice counterpoint to ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. Also, from his own first post-Beatles album. The lyrics are exceptionally bold and brave, heartbreaking and hopeful. And the vocal is so raw. ‘God is a concept by which we measure our pain’.”

‘Sugar’ by Stevie Wonder

With yet another track from 1970, Stevie Wonder was gearing up to shed the hitmaking shackles of Motown that had kept him from throwing his full weight behind the civil rights cause, but before then, he posted Signed, Sealed & Delivered as one of the greatest fanfares in music. 

“For a pure burst of energy, sunshine and melody you can’t go wrong with this Stevie tune from Signed Sealed and Delivered,” Murphy eulogised. “Again, arranged produced and played by Stevie. Listen to the drums. Amazing.”

‘The Weight’ by The Band

The Band are a musical outfit that Murphy has been championing as a personal favourite as often as he can. After emerging from over a decade wayfaring the serpentine roads of a touring musician, they reached the pinnacle of a journey and poured everything they had gathered into a song that registers as a weightless tonne. 

The ethereal magnitude is something Murphy dips into almost daily: “Kind of predictable, I guess. But I need to listen to this tune quite regularly just to remind me of the potential and purity of music.”

‘Sweet Thing’ by Van Morrison

With Astral Weeks, Van Morrison seemed to manage the alchemical task of bottling the ether, in fact, that’s something we’re so certain of, we put it in a headline earlier this week. If only I had this very exacting quote by Murphy at hand when that review was written…

“One of the most romantic songs ever written in my opinion,” Murphy explained. “The lyrics seem to transport you back to that feeling of first love/last love…. They are pure poetry. Astral Weeks is an album whose sound other musicians and producers have been trying to emulate for decades but have never succeeded.”

‘Hymn of the Big Wheel’ by Massive Attack

The term ‘ahead of its time’ is an awful cliché, but fortunately, as someone who uses it often, it’s one that holds more than a grain of truth.

Remarkably Massive Attack’s iconic Blue Lines was now released closer to Bob Dylan’s 1962 debut album than the present day. “The world turns on its axis, one man works as the other relaxes…”

Murphy says: “A potential funeral song this one! From amazing Blue Lines album. Again, it never gets old. And manages to ask that ‘what is it all about question’ but make it original. Fantastic vocal by Horace Andy. Play it loud in the church…”

‘Someday’ by The Strokes

When guitar music was apparently floundering at the dawn of the millennium, The Strokes were dubbed the band who saved it. While that might not be entirely the case, Is This It is such a behemoth record that it almost seems a befitting fiction to humour.

Primed right in the middle of the record was this rousing exultant single that any LP needs. It’s charming and warm as well as being devilishly cool. A winning combination for any track.  

“When I heard all the fuss about the Strokes, I wasn’t convinced but when I actually listened to Is This It back in 2002 [a year late to the party] I knew they were the real thing,” Murphy remarks.

‘Man of the World’ by Fleetwood Mac

Championing an actual favourite track is a task that daunts many, but Murphy bravely goes where others fear to tread. Peter Green wrote this song about how he achieved everything he wanted to with a set of his good old pals, but despite loving his bandmates and all the good times he was having, he still felt incomplete. 

By his usual blistering 12-bar standards, the song is tender and mellowed, and his rare spaced-out strumming lends it a heart-wrenching sincerity. Despite the melancholy overture, the track is still equal parts an ode to his friends and good times.

Murphy remarks: “This is my favourite track, always makes me and everyone else dance when I play it. Energy, positivity, arrogance, youth… I’ve always loved early Fleetwood Mac before Peter Green left. I love his guitar playing and his voice.”

‘Blues Run the Game’ by Jackson C. Frank

The life of Jackson C. Frank is enough to warrant a tissues-at-the-ready biopic, and this folk classic would no doubt be the teary-eyed gem in its crown. He is a paradigm of the fallen phenom’s of folk and somehow that backstory makes timeless classic even more poignant.

As Murphy puts it simply: “This is such a sad song. Honest and beautiful, with such gorgeous playing.”

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