I once stayed up for an entire night with Nirvana’s Unplugged session on repeat. I never got bored of it and it was perfect music to stay up all night to, but also perfect music to meet the morning.
When I stayed at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, I actually didn’t listen to much music. I had thought I would; cued up loads of pertinent playlists in advance. When I was actually there, though, I found I didn’t want them. I would walk the corridors of the hotel and the streets of Manhattan, and leave my iPod back in my little balcony room. I didn’t want anyone else’s voice in my ears – even voices I loved. I just wanted to soak it all up for myself without outside influence.
However, of course, the first morning I woke up there – late May, after an epic thunderstorm that had lasted all night, the sun rising grubby and already hot over the city – I had to do a little dance around my room and run out onto my little balcony that overlooked the famous sign, listening to Chelsea Morning.
Wherever you are, there is something special about the music that wakes you up in the morning even when you have already been up all night.
Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell
I can tell you, if you have never been yourself, that while at night it feels like an untamable beast, a borrowed space of ghosts and ghouls, yes, the place where Sid did kill Nancy – waking up on a sunny morning at the Hotel Chelsea feels exactly like this song sounds.
Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
It’s not my favourite of my hero’s songs, but I think it’s the best one for these purposes – and of course he is a famously early riser. There’s something perfect about the images of ‘sun pouring down like honey’ and the ‘children in the morning’ who are ‘leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever’. Bonus: nearly everyone can play this on guitar, so I’m sure you can find some ragamuffin troubadour to do it for you on some lost early morning.
Son of a Gun by Nirvana
Again, maybe it’s just a sunshine image that makes a morning song for me. This is a cover and it isn’t on that perfect Unplugged set list but it brings me joy in the mornings. ‘The sun shines in the bedroom, when we play/The rain always starts, when you go away.’
Central Reservation by Beth Orton
I adore this song. Even thinking about it now makes me feel all goose-bumpy and excited with the possibilities of it all. The opening line, ‘I’m walking down the central reservation, in last night’s red dress’, conveys perfectly that morning-after feeling, when it’s a lovely one rather than a sad or a grubby one. ‘This time, this time, this time – it’s fine, just as it is.’
Waking Up by Evan Dando
A tad literal, perhaps – but can you think of a nicer voice to wake up with? When my mum drove me to school as a teenager, we always used to listen to the Lemonheads in the car – the only music we could agree on – so perhaps I will always associate Evan Dando’s voice with the early morning.
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