Songs that stretch your brain – useful for people in creative roles such as SEO, marketing, and anything ‘arty’

I’m primarily creating this list of songs for Meg Ritchie, who is at that point in her life where she is discovering music that not just lets her ‘bop’, but also fulfils – and stretches – her brain. But this list is for anyone that is in the same situation.

Many people will tell you that they have eclectic music tastes, but in 99% of cases, the limit of what they like may be some commercial Pink Floyd stuff.

This post is not to degenerate any music lover at all. However, it is here to help those that yearn for music that fulfils them in ways that they do not know yet. So if you think that there is music out there that can take you to places that you think exist, but haven’t yet experienced, then this post is for you.

The songs listed are in no particular order.

Mother of Pearl, Roxy Music

This song points the exact moment in your life when you realise you are partying with the wrong people and you need to make your own way in life. Vacuous people hold you back, and there’s nothing in print, audio, or movies that gets it right like this song does. When you hear it in the song, you realise.

The Number One Song In Heaven, Sparks

Two old brothers who make amazing music that comes in and out of public fashion produce amazing work all the time. This song has two halves and it is at the peak of anything that’s ever been recorded. They are your favourite band’s favourite band. The documentary about them is a must-watch.

Observatory Crest, Captain Beefheart

This is Captain Beefheart’s most accessible song, yet it hints very slightly at how someone with mental illness would write a love song.

Fire on High, ELO

This is a very, very unheralded piece of music that goes in many different directions and is very good for taking you out of where you are right now.

Free At Last, Antony and the Johnsons

The life of an horrifically abused transexual who stayed true to their way of life despite desperate conditions. A thing of real beauty.

Double Dutch, Malcolm McLaren

In the UK, this guy is an old ginger guy with some ideas that cannot sing. In the US, he was the godfather of rap and hip hop. You wont get it from this track, but you will hear some seeds of why he was so influential to black America.

Morning Dew, Long John Baldry

This song is about life after a nuclear war, but done in a way that you won’t know until you piece the words together.

Comfortably Numb (Live with Van Morrison), Pink Floyd

Van Morrison takes a classic song from a 10 to a 20. Never has an original song been so improved by a vocal.

The Motel, David Bowie

Imagine an horrific future where dying children are hung from walls as art for the rich. This is part of the excellent Outside album by Bowie in which the story unfolds. It’s a love song to desperation.

MacArthur Park, Jeff Duff

A song that goes in many directions. Jeff Duff’s version is the best. He’s a mundane singer, but he brings magic to some songs for some unknown reason.

My Baby’s Taking Me Home, Sparks

A song with very few lyrics, but said in many different ways. They are the seed of many music styles that followed.

You Are My Sister, Antony and the Johnsons

How transexuals have to stand together as life – and men – treat them horrifically. Beautiful.

Corps De Blah, Scott Walker

The most inaccessible song on this list, and is probably the greatest song in the world for those who have suffered severe trauma as children. This song is a palette cleanser for me, but unlistenable to probably 99% of people. But when you get it, it’s genius.

Bouncer, See Bouncer, Scott Walker

From the amazing Tilt album. Created in 1995, this whole album is still far ahead of today’s music. I expect it to be caught up in the next 30 years. The lyrics of this song are chilling.

Song to the Siren, Tim Buckley

Many famous songwriters think this is the most beautiful song ever written. It is hard to disagree with their thoughts. Some of the lines are the peak of poetry.

Tiny Tears, Tindersticks

This whole band and their songs should not work, but they paint amazing pictures in your head.

The Bridge, Dolly Parton

An horrific story and one of the best ever song endings. Just one of many songs that prove Parton is a genius.

Tell Me There’s a Heaven, Chris Rea

A song so painful that most people cannot make it through to the end. He’s never sang it live, and once you listen to it, you will know why.

Heathen (The Rays)

A song about 9/11 before it happened. It is very chilling that Bowie made this about the downfall of Manhattan before the incident occured.

The Mexican, Babe Ruth

This song is here because it’s lightening in a bottle. The one song that this band made that was any good at all. Not only was it good, it was one of the best songs ever made.

Me and Little Andy, Dolly Parton

A true story of a really desperate situation. I cannot ever listen to it when it comes up because of the subject matter and how it ends.

The King of Roam, The Unthanks

A true story about people trying to hold those with dreams back. Misery loves company, and you must break free from it to soar. This song makes me cry at one particular line. See if you can guess what it is. This is the closest song to the story of my life.

Tubular Bells Pt 1, Mike Oldfield

I always visualise this being played by children at a school event whose parents don’t know that they can play an instrument, and the whole audience is speechless, with lots of tears.

Hope There’s Someone, Antony and the Johnsons

A true song of desperate beauty. How the margins of society are treated is horrific.

Sunrise, The Divine Comedy

A song about the patheticness of religion in Northern Ireland, and the warring of people because of made up stories.

Dead Man Walking, David Bowie

At 50 Bowie made a drum and base album, and when people first hear this, they cannot believe it.

This is What She’s Like, Dexys

A 12-minute song about love that goes in about 30 directions. Some amazing sounds are made by Kevin Rowland’s voice that somehow work.

A Night In, Tindersticks

Another song that shouldn’t work, from a voice that shouldn’t work. But amazing music comes of it.

Daylight and the Sun, Antony and the Johnsons

How AatJ are not household names is beyond me. They have many songs of this quality. I think they’re probably the most underrated artists of the past 20 years.

Roam, B52s

A song of great meaning wrapped (intentionally) in a pop song to make it accessible. Many people should follow what this song teaches. It is NOT as simple as it makes out to be.

Cast of Thousands, The Adverts

This song was 50 years ahead of it’s time. If you replace ‘when you read the papers’ with ‘when you’re on the internet’, the song is highly current. Should be listened to by all those who suffer at the hands of social media.

The Book of Love, The Magnetic Fields

Perhaps the most beautiful short song ever made. It is literally perfect, and makes you realise that life is beautiful.

The Electrician, The Walker Brothers

Only Scott Walker could make a beautiful song (Tom Hardy’s favourite song btw) about getting sexual enjoyment from being tortured by his enemy. David Bowe and Brian Eno tried right up until Bowie’s death to remake this song, and it is of such high quality, that they could never do it.

Boy Child, Scott Walker

Listening to this song was the catalyst for me realising that songs can be art.

Harry Patch, Radiohead

An unbelievable song dedicated to the last remaining survivor of World War 1. A band like Radiohead should not be able to produce this. There’s not another song like it. It’s also a warning for future war mongers and people alike.

Farmer in the City, Scott Walker

Another amazing song by Walker about someone running over their gay escort, but in a very strange situation. Unbelievable song indeed.

Fistful Of Love, Antony and the Johnsons

Another song about how transexuals (and those on the edge of society) have to live with great pain, knowing that this is probably is as good as it will get. Beautiful and depressing at the same time.

Cosmic Concerto, Bill Fay

Bill Fay made an amazing album. No one listened to it. He then was a manual worker for 40 YEARS!!! And then casually made one of the best songs (and albums) ever. The story of this is remarkable.


Here’s all of the songs in one playlist:


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