I don't know what the hell happened, but two seconds ago it was September and now - BOOM! - here I am putting this year's mix CD together.
Unlike last year where I was really rather organised, this year's was slapped together last minute. But before you accuse me of just popping any old shit on a shiny plastic disc, let me tell you this: most of the leg work was actually done for me. How?! Well, before I strutted off to LA to do my Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in April, Big Bro gave me a playlist of LA-themed songs that he thought would work as a lovely soundtrack to my West Coast experience. And by jove he was right.
So basically this year's mix CD is an ode to my time in LA, my newfound love of California, and the incredible people I met on training. It's a combination of songs chosen by my bro for me, and a few that came to mean a lot to me while on training (though not, you may be relieved to know, Barry Manilow's Copacobana, which I couldn't get out of my head while we did posture clinics in the hotel's cabanas).
And so without further ado…
01. The Keeper by Chris Cornell
Big Bro has been banging on at me for years to try to get me to listen to Chris Cornell and this lovely acoustic song, which he put on my Going to California playlist, is the one that finally sold me. It's a really lovely, gentle tune, and the first song I listened to upon setting foot on U.S. soil - which was rather fitting as the opening words are "I come from far away, my boots don't know this ground, but they know it's real…" I listened to it a lot while in LA, and I never once tired of it.
02. Going to California by Led Zeppelin
I've always been able to take or leave Led Zep, not quite understanding why everyone raves so much about them, but this song, like The Keeper, just kind of encapsulated how it felt to uproot myself from West London and travel halfway around the world to spend a few months on the West Coast of America. It's got a lovely sunny, understated acoustic vibe about it - very laid back and honest, much like how California felt to me. A couple of lines in this track really stood out for me - "took my chances on a big jet plane" kind of tied in nicely with my need to conquer my fear of flying, and "I wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today" perfectly matched my mood after some of the very best days of my life were spent in LA.
03. Ain't Wastin' Time No More by The Allman Brothers Band
The first time I heard this song the opening piano reminded me of something from an old Peanuts cartoon. But seconds later it explodes into one of the gentlest, most laid-back rock classic rock songs you could ever hope to hear. I remember one day walking down to Westchester Village near the hotel where we did training and this song started playing on my iPhone. I got a little strut going on as I walked down the sunny sidewalk, pondering the lyrics "time goes by like a hurricane" and thinking how right the song was - how we should enjoy what time we have here as best we can.
04. Take it Easy by The Eagles
Nothing says sunny Californian vibes like The Eagles, right? Right. Love this song, and it took on added meaning one evening when Bikram himself said to us "you guys, you've been working hard. Take it eaaaaaasy."
05. Tumbling Dice by The Rolling Stones
I've loved this song for years - it's one of my favourite Stones songs, in fact - and it was a great choice by Big Bro to put on my Going to California playlist. I've got a load of different versions of Tumbling Dice, but the one I'm going with here is off the Rarities: 1971-2003 album. It's an off-cut from the Stones' Stripped acoustic album and how they decided to leave it off I don't know. I love how it starts out all ramshackle-like before exploding into life. And as a bonus, it reminds me off the night I spent on training teaching lovely Aussie trainee Dayna how to dance like Mick Jagger.
06. Say Shava Shava from the soundtrack to the film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
We were made to watch quite a few Bollywood movies while on training. Some were really great fun, some were … not so much. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was one of my favourites - it's actually a really entertaining and very funny film. This song - which I genuinely ADORE - became part of the unofficial soundtrack to the whole training experience, and we even took to doing the dance, complete with shoulder wobbles, hip-bobbing and full-on arm movements just like in the video below. We actually got pretty good at it. Long story short: you can't beat a movie with an epic dance sequence slap-bang in the middle of it.
07. You've Got the Love by Florence and the Machine
I've never been a big fan of Florence and the Machine, but that changed during training thanks to a lovely lady called Mari. Around the time we were all really struggling with the gruelling schedule, the late nights and early starts, and all manner of injuries and illness, Mari said something along the lines of "if you're feeling like shit just listen to this song and know there's always someone there to help." She was right, and every time I hear this track now I can't help but think of her and my fellow trainees and remember how we really were all there for one another.
08. A Billion Grains of Sand by The Californian
How could I compile a CD in homage to my time in California and not include a song by one of my favourite bands, The Californian? Simple answer: I couldn't. This track is by far my favourite song off the band's self-titled debut album. It's a short, spunky blast of perfection infused with that inimitable West Coast feel, and I listened to it A LOT while exploring the small part of LA that I came to call home for 10 weeks. My one disappointment about my time in Los Angeles was that I never got to see the band play live; hopefully I'll rectify that some time in the future.
09. California Waiting by Kings of Leon
I kind of went through a phase of loving Kings of Leon a few years back, then got bored of them and have basically ignored them ever since. This song, however, is just brilliant. It's another one of those tracks that I loved to listen to while wandering around LA, soaking in the atmosphere and getting horrifically sunburnt. I adore the simplicity of the lyric "every little thing is going to be just right," which was another of those little things that helped get me through some of the more difficult times at training, and it also helps that it's a song you can dance around to like a loon.
10. We Are Young by Fun.
Another song that became part of our training soundtrack, and I can remember exactly at what point. It was actually after training had finished and a few of us who'd stayed back in LA were in a car driving back from Manhattan Beach to the hotel when this came on the radio. We didn't know who it was but we all sang along to it, because after everything we'd been through, as the song said, we felt young, like we could burn brighter than the sun. Simple as that. As soon as I got back to my room I googled the lyrics, found out it was by Fun. and moments later had downloaded it.
11. Love Is life - Pyar Karo by Bikram Choudhury
Yeah, no kidding - this is a song by the guy who created the yoga I trawled over to LA to learn how to teach. Actually Bikram's got a couple of albums, and at the end each of his classes as we lay on our mats in savasana he would have one of his songs played out to us. Most were ballads, but this one, which I suspect he had kept back for the explosion of utter joy he knew we'd experience at the end of our very last class with him on the final Friday evening, is some sort of utterly phenomenal rave track. I remember like it was yesterday how this song started playing at the end of that class, and how we all jumped up and started dancing around the Radisson's ballroom/yoga room with a combination of relief, excitement and joy that we'd survived 'killing ourselves for nine weeks in Bikram's torture chamber.' This, perhaps more than anything else I've included on this CD, reminds me most of that remarkable time I spent in LA.
Sadly I can't find a link to it anywhere. But trust me, while it may not mean as much to you as it does to me, you NEED to hear this song at least one time.
So there we go: another year, another mix CD. Thanks to Big Bro for his unwitting help in compiling this one; there were so many songs that he included on the playlist he made for me that I came to associate with specific moments from my time in California that it would've been impossible to include them all - he did a grand job. And big love to everyone I met at training who had a special song that meant something to them - HI GUYS! I miss you all each and every day.