Dylan Jones: 'My book would tell you the exact Kraftwerk tunes you'd need for a 10-day skiing holiday in the Alps'

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The Independent Online

One of my least successful book ideas – when I told my agent about it he told me to go and have a long lie down – was a music and travel book, identifying the best soundtracks to listen to in various places around the world. I thought this was a brilliant wheeze, an encyclopaedia of great road songs, awesome beach ballads, soaring urban anthems (lots of Clash, U2 and yes, Billy Idol) and the exact Kraftwerk tunes you'd need for a 10-day skiing holiday in the Alps.

My book would tell you the right places to play Donald Fagen, Arcade Fire and Burt Bacharach, the correct Ibizan islands to listen to Hed Kandi, and the best Californian beaches to whack on some difficult-to-find Dennis Wilson.

And as I drew up a tentative list of records, one man's name kept cropping up. Whether I was making a list of songs to be played when flying over a Scandinavian lake in a by-plane, driving down the coast to San Diego, or cycling along the Cote d'Azur, there were certain songs that kept nagging away at me, and they were all recorded by one man.

Of course, Michael Franks makes the sort of music that works best when it's played quietly at dusk, as you're sipping a sundowner, watching the sun sink into the Indian Ocean. You actually need to be able to imagine that he's playing live in the cocktail bar up near the restaurant. And while he's something of a musical travel agent – he's written songs about Brazil, Hawaii, Japan and Tahiti to name only a few – to me his songs always sound best in the Maldives, where the stillness of the islands offers the perfect background noise: absolutely none at all.

Some find the Maldives anodyne, and they're probably the same sort of people who think similar thoughts about Franks' music. Some call it supper-club jazz, elevator jazz or Quiet Storm jazz – personally, though, I love it, probably because it's some of the most polite music ever made. It is not raw, it is not earthy, and in no way does it feel "authentic".

Listening to Franks' music is like flicking through a travel magazine, as it takes you to far-flung places without you having to make any effort at all.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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