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Garbage's Shirley Manson named her 10 favourite songs of all time

Shirley Manson needs no real introduction. She has experienced both sides of the coin over her long and eminent career, and whether it be in her early post-punk group, becoming a Gen X queen, or even singing an iconic James Bond theme, in terms of career, she’s done it all.

Manson was born in Scotland in 1966 and made her first incursion into music as a backup singer in Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, a lauded alt-rock band, and it gave her the first taste of what it was like to be in a proper outfit, setting her up for all the success to come.

“Well, I have to say, I was in Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie for 10 years,” Manson divulged. “And I received the most spectacular education that I could possibly have ever hoped for in the world of rock and roll. I mean, it was a very rebellious, decadent unit. We really lived the life. And I wouldn’t swap it out for anything, I loved it. I was a very dedicated member to the band. It was my first forays out into the world, out of Edinburgh.”

Manson recalled: “For the first time I got to go to Paris, and I got to go to Copenhagen and Amsterdam and Hamburg and Munich and just all these incredible cities for the first time. We typically misbehaved and just lived the cliched rock and roll life. It was the greatest education I could have ever hoped for.”

Galvanised by this life-changing experience, Manson was now equipped with the adequate tools that she’d need over the next few years to develop her art with the shortlived Goodbye Mr Mackenzie spin-off Angelfish in 1993, before leaving to join Garbage in 1994, which proved to be a life-changing decision.

Famously, Manson moved to America and has never looked back. Since the early days of Garbage, she’s been hailed as one of the definitive female icons of rock, helping to shine a light on society’s ills, and offering us a way out with her lyrical prowess and power of delivery. 

Given that Shirley Manson is such a consequential musician, her droves of fans have long wondered what music she’s into, as her back catalogue is an eclectic mix. Well, luckily for us, in July 2021, she appeared on the BBC Radio 2 programme, Tracks Of My Years, and disclosed her ten favourite songs of all time, and they do not disappoint. A mixed bag made up of post-punk, pop, and timeless classics, there’s something here for everyone.

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The first track Manson mentions is Jacky’s ‘White Horses’, the glorious theme tune to the TV show of the name. She explained: “The reason why this song is so important to me is because it was the first song where I exercised my own, inverted commas, ‘taste’, in that I fell in love with the TV show White Horses, of which this was the theme tune… with my own pocket money I bought the 7″, which I still have, it’s my most treasured possession.”

Manson continued: “I had a really bad flood about a decade ago, and it destroyed my record collection, but miraculously, this 7″ survived, and it is the sound of my youth. It’s the sound of my mum, it’s the sound of my sisters and the ’70s in Scotland, and just falling in love with music. I want this played at my funeral.”

Elsewhere, Manson picked the iconic 1974 hit ‘Waterloo’ by Swedish legends ABBA. She said: “I was obsessed with the Eurovision Song Contest growing up. Me and my two sisters, we were just so into the competition, and it captured our imagination. And the year, which, I think it was in 1974 when ABBA appeared singing ‘Waterloo’, and me and my sisters just went crazy for them, and I’ve just been obsessed by them ever since, and so have my band. We always reference ABBA’s ability to write – amazing pop writers, and I don’t think they’ve written a bad song.”

Another legendary piece that Manson named was David Bowie’s 1972 anthem ‘Ziggy Stardust’, as she explained: “Well, around the same time as Siouxsie, I discovered David Bowie. I actually had a friend at school called Lisa Cameron, and her father had an amazing record collection. She introduced me to like Roxy Music and Michael Jackson, but the one that captured my imagination was Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie. For the same reasons that I list about Siouxsie Sioux, I fell in love with David Bowie. “

Of Bowie’s game-changing style, Manson continued: “This was a person that I was being told was male, but he was wearing makeup and high heels and just presented himself in an entirely different way to the way I had learnt that men were supposed to present themselves. I found it perplexing, and he seemed like an alien, and I’ve loved him ever since. Of course, Ziggy Stardust is one of my Desert Island Discs, I would take that away with me, it’s sort of the soundtrack to my life in a way. I know that record inside out, every word, every phrase, every riff, everything about it. It’s magic.”

A brilliant list, it shines a light on every side of Shirley Manson’s colourful personality. Following the tracks here, you clearly understand how Manson developed as a musician and person, and they mark out a course through the adventure that has been her life. Find the tracklist and playlist below, and prepare to be whisked off down memory lane.

Shirley Manson’s 10 favourite songs:

  • Jacky – ‘White Horses’
  • Ella Fitzgerald – ‘Blue Skies’
  • ABBA – ‘Waterloo’
  • The Beatles – ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees – ‘Happy House’
  • David Bowie – ‘Ziggy Stardust’
  • The Primitives – ‘Crash’
  • Salt-N-Pepa – ‘Push It’
  • Blondie – ‘Union City Blue’
  • Cocteau Twins – ‘Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops’

Listen to Shirley Manson’s ten favourite tracks of all time below.