Top of the Profs: Dr Adrian Haddock

Philosophy’s big fish talks music with The Tab

Top of the Profs

We’re putting Stirling University’s tutors under examination as we ask them what their favourite eight songs are. This week, we quiz the mind and body of Adrian Haddock from the Philosophy department.


NAME: Dr Adrian Haddock

DEPARTMENT: Philosophy

I’M THE ONE WHO: Is wearing new glasses at the moment. Fancy!

THE FIRST RECORD I BOUGHT WAS: Captain Beaky and His Band (Not Forgetting Hissing Sid!!! I have a happy memory of it, even though it’s an awful children’s song. It was joyous for me as a child, but I looked it up on YouTube recently it seemed more like a cynical money-making exercise than anything else.

MY FAVOURITE EIGHT PIECES OF MUSIC (well, seven, plus one piece of spoken word) ARE:


“Jackie” – Scott Walker

This is a song about childhood dreams – except that the content of the dreams is incredibly adult. It appears to be a child talking about his hopes for life, but it turns out that these are the hopes that a child shouldn’t have. Like all the great Scott Walker songs, it’s depressing in its content but uplifting in its musical form. It’s a cracker.

“MacArthur Park” – Richard Harris

In a certain sense it isn’t very good, but I do adore it. If the first song is about childhood, this is about adolescence, love and what happens when you have something that goes away – and you can’t get it back. Hence the great lyric of the chorus. It’s one of the few songs that speaks for itself. It was voted the worst song of all time, but it’s obviously not.

“This Is What She’s Like” – Dexys Midnight Runners

This begins with two minutes of spoken dialogue, mumbled. It’s in three movements – each one as transfiguringly astonishing as the next – all about the inability to articulate one’s love for someone, so it’s predominantly about the protagonist saying what she isn’t like.

The tragedy of Dexys Midnight Runners is that they released three extraordinary albums but remain best known for “Come On Eileen”. I quite like that for what it is, but it shouldn’t be the song that defines them. To the general public they’re this Irish-fiddly one-hit wonder, but they are known by the cognoscenti to be, without a doubt, the greatest band Britain produced in the 1980s.

“Prisoner of War” – Peter Cook & Chris Morris

This is one of five interviews done by Morris and Cook, as part of a comedy series called ‘Why Bother?’ broadcast on Radio 3 at eleven o’clock, so nobody listened to them. I don’t know which is the best but ‘Prisoner of War’ is a good place to start. I’ve played this for some people who found it mildly amusing, but there are others who became obsessed and are capable, as I am, of quoting entire episodes from memory.

“Kindertotenlieder” – Mahler

“Songs on the Death of Children” (to translate the title) is a song cycle, not a song. It’s extraordinarily beautiful and very sad, about a child of Mahler’s who died. I read a Dickens essay recently where he describes Christmas traditions – putting up the tree, making Christmas pudding, making punch. It’s all very familiar, until he casually throws in looking at the missing chair of the child who died. It’s a shocking reminder of the fact that the death of a child was a common feature of life in that time.

“Violin Concerto (To the Memory of an Angel)” – Alban Berg

Berg was a great admirer of Mahler and this is about the death, as a teenager, of the daughter of Mahler’s wife Alma and her second husband Walter Gropius. Berg is an atonal composer – so this isn’t melody, this isn’t a tune, it’s dissonant classical music. I do think there is enormous beauty to be found where melody is not, and this is quite an accessible way to see how that’s possible.

“Shipbuilding” – Robert Wyatt

I mentioned Dickens and the commonplace death of children, and it was, in part, because we wanted to stop all that that we built the welfare state. The baby boomer generation benefitted enormously from the welfare state, grew up, and then tried to destroy it all under Thatcher. “Shipbuilding” is about that, amongst other things. It’s an eloquent piece of political protest and it never fails to move me.

“Once In A Lifetime” – Talking Heads

Dexy’s may have written the greatest pop song, but this was one unlike any I’d heard before. I come back to it because I find its opening lyrics incredibly profound. Talking Heads were a great band, and this is one of the most joyous-sounding songs but it’s also one of the most strangely deep songs ever written. I have to say when I do my early morning exercise there’s nothing better than putting this on in the background.