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From running to rocking

October 14, 2012

At various times, whether at the gym (yes, the gym) or just out and about, I have seen people with headphones in their ears as they pound the treadmill or the street. That’s potentially good music time – I hope they are making good use of it.

I like to imagine that each person’s running music is a careful and personal selection. But the existence of compilations such as The Best Running Tracks in the World…Ever! (well not actually that, but there are plenty) suggests otherwise, and also implies that there may be some recurring themes.

Tempo must be one such theme. Clearly, the Blues Brothers theme (cue air-guitar, air-bass, air-brass) offers a better running rhythm than  the death scene of Boris Godunov. (This link is to a performance by Boris Christoff, a self-effacing man whose modesty allowed him to choose only four recordings of himself for his Desert Island Discs.)

Basic audibility: unless your headphones are so extraordinarily hi-tech that they shouldn’t be outside without an armed escort, you’ll need something with a bit of oomph. The reflective stillness of Satie’s Gymnopédies is unlikely to register above the ambient noise of ducks, stormy petrels, urban foxes, rural foxes, cockerels, cars, motorbikes and so on. 4 minutes 33 obviously works well at any volume.

Song length, perhaps, is another. Perhaps people set themselves running goals connected with their music: how far can you run during Bat out of Hell? (Probably not quite as far as Felix Baumgartner can fall in the same time.) Maybe you might try a sprint finish to the Minute Waltz.

What a sobering thought, though, that if you popped Wagner’s Meistersingers on your ipod, set off on the London Marathon and completed it in the “average” 4h 30m, you’d still have three-quarters of an hour of agony left.

I should like to be enlightened, for I don’t run. I take great care, however, over my choice of the couple of songs to accompany the few minutes’ walk from the station to home. It has a profound effect on my evening mood.

And for that walk, to wipe out the woes of the world the other day I cued up Divine Comedy’s Gin-Soaked Boy. What a great song: a simple and addictive melody, a great build-up of accompaniment conceived by someone who clearly understands how to arrange a pop-song, and fascinating lyrics, which I sort of get, but do not actually understand. Gets me thinking, though, and regretting that I didn’t know it as a student with all night to spend on interpreting it.

That left about a third of my walk still to do, so on to the next Divine Comedy track Everybody Knows (Except You), which had still a minute to go by the time I reached the front door. Since leaving a song half-heard is virtually criminal, I stood on the doorstep while it finished. Not a running track, then, but a standing still one. Which might have looked rather odd, possibly suspicious – and people do notice these things.

On the morning my first daughter was born I got home from the hospital just as the Bangles – Eternal Flame – began on the car stereo. I sat for a short while, feeling and no doubt looking rather emotional and very short of sleep. And our neighbour, who had been seeing Mrs simonsometimessays through the early stages of labour, saw what she thought was a careworn figure gazing disconsolately through the windscreen, and jumped to completely the wrong conclusion.

Of course she wouldn’t have worried if I’d been punching the air along to We Will Rock You – which despite its name turned out to be a hopeless cradle song.

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4 Comments
  1. For the last two runs, my iPhone has (most annoyingly) insisted on shuffling within Reflections Classics for Dreamers. Adagio in G Minor has not proved a great running track and I blame it for my decreasing pace towards the end of the run – nothing to do with the wobbly legs, laboured breathing or chest pains, oh no.

    My ‘geeing me up for work’ song as I walk from the station to work is Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis. No one crosses me after that. 🙂

  2. I don’t want to go to Chelsea. Oh no. It does not move me…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Pardon Me For Asking But How Come So Many Pop Songs Have Such Stupid Lyrics? « Stirring Trouble: Internationally
  2. Busy doing nothing? It only looks like that. « simonsometimessays

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