niallon – Martha

After a few weeks of “I wouldn’t be a major fan of band X, Y, Z”, this week is a total 180 to my all time favourite song. I’ve spoken plenty in the past about my Tom Waits obsession and how this song was really what kicked it all off, but I’ve never paid massive attention to that label – favourite.

When I was younger I was a lister. Top 10 movies, Top 10 songs. I found some of those lists recently and noticed how many items on them don’t match whatsoever with what I would put down today. Except for a lot of the number one picks. My favourite film (Halloween) has been the same since I was 7. My favourite guitar solo (Hotel California) the same since I was about 12. The funny thing about my favourite song, is that I had never even heard it until I was 16.

Obviously up to that age I would have had various favourites, but why is it that Martha has retained its crown? And what does “favourite” even mean? To me it means the song that always works. I don’t need to be in any particular mood to listen to Martha and be absolutely swept away for 5 minutes. Granted, if I’m feeling a little mopey it might be a bit more effective (I’m one of those people that goes to the sad songs when feeling down, comfort in solidarity and all that), but in general it just always does the job it’s asked to.

As a song it had a massive impact on me as a singer, songwriter and music lover. It opened the door to an artist I might never have previously given time of day. In fact, I had technically been introduced to Waits earlier when my father brought his album “Closing Time” through the door as he had become a fan of the wonderful I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You from said album. It was Martha that forced me to stand up and pay attention though. This dude, barely into his twenties, was writing and singing a song that sounds like it came from someone sixty plus reliving a lifetime on a phone call to an old flame. You could do that? That was allowed? I thought in your teens/early twenties you had to write pop punk tunes that gave out about school and “The Man”. It changed my entire songwriting approach and in general, my entire approach to music.

So it is my favourite because it has lasted. We’ve all had Marthas, or Marks, or Marias. Whoever. The cliché runs deep that the slow ballads are always about a love beginning or a love lost and it’s true, I think I’m on about 6 songs written in that vein and counting, but when you get it this right, it has to be applauded. As always hope you enjoy, and watch, like, share and subscribe.

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Bachelors Degree in Arts from NUI Maynooth. Double Honours English & Philosophy.

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