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What did these five couples name as ... Our Song?

As a survey says the best way to woo someone is with music, Jane Hardy has a Simon Bates’ moment and asks people what tune says it all for them?

Forget champagne, flowers and first editions. According to a recent survey, romantic music is the best way to woo the woman or man you’ve got your eye on.

And when you’ve won her or him, the music involved neatly translates into an ‘our song’, part of your history.

‘Our songs’, those musical madeleines that take you back to a key moment in a romance, have been part of our culture virtually since popular music began. They are part of a couple’s secret language, something that the two of you know and the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily share. As Lynda Bryans reveals, she and Mike Nesbitt used to ring each other early in their relationship and use the code ‘Stevie Wonder’, meaning I Just Called to Say I Love You.

Although a lot of couples used to go public on Simon Bates’ original romantic radio show fixture, Our Tune, which contained much personal detail about their love lives, including their favourite tune, there’s always a private resonance to significant ‘our songs’.

And they don’t have to be 100% cheesy either even though Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs (Radio 2) which took over the Bates baton, often seems to focus on what Lady in Red means to various Gareths and Sues. Ralph McLean, who knows a thing or several about music, says that he and wife Kerry bonded over their shared enthusiasm for the angst and brashness of singer-songwriter Ryan Adams.

Dipping into personal history, one of my ‘our songs’, REM.’s Nightswimming, was played by a string quartet at our wedding and the other is Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, not exactly a romantic number, first heard at a low dive in Herne Bay, Kent.

Good relationships require a personal soundtrack somehow. Country pop artist Taylor Swift’s 2007 hit Our Song has this introduction: “I was riding shotgun with my hair undone/In the front seat of his car/He's got a one-hand feel on the steering wheel/The other on my heart. I look around, turn the radio down/He says, Baby is something wrong?/I say, Nothing I was just thinking/How we don't have a song ...”

Then he replies that their song is the slamming of the screen door when they sneak out late and the sound of her voice speaking low on the phone.

In fact, the number, which was a crossover hit for Swift, would make a perfect ‘our song’.

‘The wedding day hymn that still means so much’

Lord Bannside, Ian Paisley (84), is former First Minister and has been married to Eileen, Lady Paisley (76), for 53 years. They say:

The song that means the most to us is a hymn, O Father All-Creating by John Ellerton (1826-1893). We chose it as part of the order of service for our wedding on October 13, 1956 and it remains a favourite of ours to this day. The final verse sums it up:

Except Thou build it, Father

The house is built in vain;

Except Thou, Saviour, bless it,

The joy will turn to pain:

But naught can break the union

Of hearts in Thee made one;

And love Thy Spirit hallows

Is endless love begun.

‘We had a code for just calling to say I love you’

Lynda Bryans (47), broadcaster and former UTV Live presenter, is married to Mike Nesbitt, journalist and UUP candidate in the recent elections, with whom she has two sons, PJ (15), and Christopher (13). She says:

We have a couple of really good songs that indicate the era we grew up in. Phil Collins’ version of Groovy Kind of Love was probably around for years before we discovered it, but we clicked one night listening to it.

In the early years, Michael and I used a secret code on the phone and would say Stevie Wonder, referring to I Just Called to Say (I Love You).

You’d listen to it now and think it’s the cheesiest song ever but at the time it meant something to us.

Also, much further back, when Michael and I first hitched up, we were really great fans of Thin Lizzy.

I don’t have the accolade Mike has, of being onstage as a student with them once (before the bouncers pulled him off), but there’s a fabulous song, I’m Still in Love with You, from their Live and Dangerous album.

The words aren’t particularly appropriate but when it comes on, which isn’t often as I think it’s around seven minutes 33 seconds long, I’m instantly back there.

Music refers to the sense of hearing, and like the sense of smell, it can take you to a moment in your life.

‘How we bonded over Ryan Adams‘

Ralph McLean (41) is a Radio Ulster broadcaster. He’s married to Kerry, also a broadcaster, and they have two children, Tara (4) and Daniel (2).He says:

There’s a piece that throws me back to the start of our relationship by Ryan Adams, Ryan not Bryan, I wouldn’t want to get that wrong, called Oh My Sweet Carolina. It’s a duet with Emmylou Harris, and Kerry and I first bonded over our love of Ryan Adams. If I play it on the radio or at home, I’m back at the beginning.

Songs remind you of experiences and places quicker than anything. Name a city, and it’s the songs rather than the smell that remind you where you were at a particular time.

As everybody knows, I am a big Sixties fan, and Kerry bought me tickets for my birthday to go and see the Zombies, who like every other band had reformed, and were performing at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. They played all their classics, including Time of the Season. So that reminds me of Kerry’s thoughtfulness.

I think men are more sentimental about music than is generally acknowledged. We get very maudlin about songs by people like Tom Waits, whose early stuff is all about lost love. We may like rock, but we also like tearjerkers which is why we like country music. We sit and sob along to Hank Williams. Songs say what we can’t say.

On my show, I get requests from men saying, “tell my wife I love her”. It doesn’t have to be a big sentimental ballad either, although we do those very well here.

On my Van Morrison special, there were lots of moving stories about what the songs meant to people. The mystical quality of Tupelo Honey, for example, appeals to the Irish love of the mystic and sentimental.

There are scores of songs that remind me of the children and can’t hear Paul Simon’s Father and Daughter without crying.

‘Katie’s classic makes us Closest Thing To Crazy’

Michael Quinn (38, far left) is style director and owner of Michael Quinn hair salon in Belfast, and lives with his partner Gary Duff (40) in Newtownabbey. He says:

Should I tell you? It’s Katie Melua’s Closest Thing To Crazy. The music and lyrics are important and remind us of when we spent a week together in Sitges, Spain, four years ago. Although we have been together 16 years, it was the first holiday we’d taken on our own. Our songs usually are sort of cheesy. Every couple has at least one. Although they’re gorgeous to you, other people tend to laugh at them.

We have another song, well a whole album really, Blue Lines by Massive Attack. That’s the album that reminds us of when we first got together. We met at a party, and Blue Lines would have been played everywhere at the time.

The Katie Melua is more romantic and the Massive Attack is sexy and slow, a definite slowie. Have I ever requested these tunes on the radio? No. But we play them on birthdays and anniversaries.

‘Katie’s classic makes us Closest Thing To Crazy’

Michael Quinn (38, far left) is style director and owner of Michael Quinn hair salon in Belfast, and lives with his partner Gary Duff (40) in Newtownabbey. He says:

Should I tell you? It’s Katie Melua’s Closest Thing To Crazy. The music and lyrics are important and remind us of when we spent a week together in Sitges, Spain, four years ago. Although we have been together 16 years, it was the first holiday we’d taken on our own. Our songs usually are sort of cheesy. Every couple has at least one. Although they’re gorgeous to you, other people tend to laugh at them.

We have another song, well a whole album really, Blue Lines by Massive Attack. That’s the album that reminds us of when we first got together. We met at a party, and Blue Lines would have been played everywhere at the time.

The Katie Melua is more romantic and the Massive Attack is sexy and slow, a definite slowie. Have I ever requested these tunes on the radio? No. But we play them on birthdays and anniversaries.

‘We love energy and power of Chris’s epic’

Clare Hadwen (33) is a second violin in the Ulster Orchestra, while her husband Richard (37) is a viola player with the orchestra. She says:

We discussed which our favourite song was and rejected The Promise by Girls Aloud for Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. If it was just my choice, I might pick something classical but it wouldn’t represent us as a couple as Richard hates classical music.

In fact, he likes rock and heavy metal but we both love Viva La Vida. We had it played at our wedding a year and a half ago and it’s perfect pop-rock.

What do we like about it? The energy and the power of it, it’s stirring — and it’s not the lyrics, it’s the music. We saw the band play live at the Odyssey a year ago, and thought they were brilliant. I like Chris Martin’s voice.

Our string quartet, Arco, which we run as a business, plays an arrangement of the song. But we never get bored with it, and I think it’s up there with Robbie Williams’ Angels as one of the anthemic songs of a generation.

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