To write music you must be inspired, and nothing inspires quite like love.
From the sudden rush of attraction to the searing pain of heartbreak, it seems as though pop culture has every facet, every angle covered.
Yet often it's the same old tracks, the tired old favourites which get pulled out. Getting ever-so-slightly bored of this routine, Clash decided to ask expert crate-digger and all-round vibes-giver Greg Wilson to choose ten essential tracks for Valentine's Day.
Tune in below, or nominate your favourites via Twitter.
- - -
Buddy Holly - 'True Love Ways' (1960)
Recorded in October '58, just a few months before Buddy Holly's untimely death, this was a posthumous release. Written as a wedding gift for his wife, Maria, the vocal performance has a special intimacy, which sounds like he's singing in the same room, rather than out of the speakers.
The Temptations - 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)' (1971)
One of the great songs of unrequited love. Eddie Kendricks, about to embark on a solo career, delivers a memorable vocal performance, the lyric outlining a make-believe love affair that concludes with the punch line 'but in reality, she doesn't even know me'. Topped off, of course, by a superb Norman Whitfield production.
Aretha Franklin - 'I Say A Little Prayer' (1967)
One of the Queen Of Soul's most enduring recordings, 'I Say A Little Prayer', written by the legendary songwriting partnership, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, became her biggest UK hit of the 60's. Originally a major success for Dionne Warwick, Franklin's version, originally intended as a b-side, took the song to a whole other level.
The Beatles - 'Girl' (1965)
From 'Rubber Soul', John Lennon's beautifully melancholy ode to the fantasy girl he hadn't yet met. He would later say that his search ended when he began his relationship with Yoko Ono, who he met for the first time almost exactly a year on from the song's recording (their affair began in May '68).
Led Zeppelin - 'Whole Lotta Love' (1969)
Love as raw passion, the unmistakable voice of Robert Plant belting out this seminal song and well and truly getting 'way down inside'. Zeppelin took their inspiration from the Blues and helped instigate a new strain of music, Heavy Metal. To my ears, one of the greatest Rock records ever.
The Flamingos - 'I Only Have Eyes For You' (1959)
The song originally appeared in the 1934 Busby Berkeley extravaganza, 'Dames', and would top the UK chart for Art Garfunkel in 1975. However, the definitive version, one of the most celebrated Do Wop recordings, is this exquisite, somewhat ethereal interpretation. A true masterclass in vocal harmony.
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - 'You're All I Need To Get By' (1968)
Tammi Terrell was described by Marvin Gaye as his 'perfect partner', and some believe their relationship went further than the recording studios, although neither of them confirmed this. Her tragic death in 1970 devastated Gaye, who became deeply introspective as a consequence, inspiring the recording of his greatest work, the 1971 album, 'What's Going On'.
Otis Redding - 'I've Been Loving You For Too Long' (1965)
Nobody quite wore his heart on his sleeve like Otis did, oozing Soul from every pore of his being. Male angst personified, the song a plea to keep the flame flickering on a fading all too familiar love affair. His masterful rendition of the song at California's seminal Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of '67 ranks amongst the great live performances.
Roberta Flack - 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' (1969)
This wonderfully emotive Ewan McCall song was written in 1957, but is best known for Roberta Flack's sublime interpretation, which topped the US chart 15 years later, having originally appeared as an album track three years beforehand. Its belated success was down to the songs inclusion in the 1971 hit movie 'Play Misty For Me'.
Nat King Cole - 'Nature Boy' (1948)
Not a traditional love song, but a eulogy to California's proto-hippies, the 'Nature Boys', especially Robert 'Gypsy Boots' Bootzin, a pioneer of healthy lifestyles in the US who invented the 'smoothie' fruit drink, whilst helping popularise yoga and the growing of organic foods. The song contains what is, for me, one of the most poignant lines in popular music – 'the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return'. It would become a signature recording for the great Nat King Cole.
- - -
Greg Wilson is set to play a special Valentine's Party on February 14th at London venue XOYO - tickets.