Hazel Chu: ‘Me and my other half sing rebel songs to our child’

The Lord Mayor of Dublin on the songs that have defined the stages of her life

Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu: ‘Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was very much my teenage anthem.’ Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography

Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu: ‘Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was very much my teenage anthem.’ Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography

 

I don’t get much time to listen to new music at the moment because I’m running around after a three-and-a-half-year-old toddler and am busy in this role. The first time in a long time that I sat down to chill and play music was when I was working out what to put on my Spotify playlist. I picked out the 20 songs by looking at each stage of my life and remembering the tune that defined that time .

It starts with 2 Unlimited’s No Limits. I didn’t get the chance to listen to a lot of music as a kid. We wouldn’t have a radio in the house because my parents didn’t speak English, so everything I heard was outside the home. My first disco was at Spawells in Templeogue when I was about 11, for my cousin’s 21st birthday. When 2 Unlimited came on, it was my first experience of how music and bopping around could be so much fun. 

In my 20s, I was into songs with good lyrics and a good beat such as The Killers and The White Stripes

Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was very much my teenage anthem. Kurt Cobain died during that period as well, and why the song is set in my mind is because it was constantly playing because of that. Oasis’ Wonderwall was released during my secondary school years. Usually I never remember lyrics well and that was the only song that I could constantly sing along to, so it sticks in my mind.

You can see from the list that I went from dance music to teenage angst to more acoustic then more poppy. So in my 20s, I was into songs with good lyrics and a good beat such as The Killers and The White Stripes. 

Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers reminds me of seeing them in concert at Phoenix Park in 2004 and we had to carry Jane, my best friend, home because she fell into a hole and she’d done her ankle in. The same friend died in 2009 and that’s why I’ve also included Drops of Jupiter by Train, which is a song that I always play when I remember Jane. It was a favourite of hers and her parents played it at her funeral. Even now, anytime I hear it on the radio or in a shop, I become a blubbering mess and it takes me back to thinking, “Why did she die?”

I started at Electric Picnic as a runner in its second year and worked in production until 2010. The year that The Chemical Brothers headlined, 2007, was my first Electric Picnic as the production manager. I remember standing backstage listening to them play Hey Boy Hey Girl. That was the set in which an audience member tragically died, so it was something that has lasted in my mind. 

Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was my rally call when I ran to be the Green Party candidate for Dublin Bay South

Because I hadn’t listened to much music in my childhood, working at Electric Picnic opened my mind to the power of music. For example, when the Beastie Boys played Sabotage there, the crowd was so energetic that the poles that held the tent up were swaying. We almost had to shut down the performance, but we first asked the Beastie Boys to slow down the beat and when they did, you could see the immediate reaction from the crowd: they slowed down too.

The reason why The Dubliners is on is because me and my other half sing The Fields of Athenry and Revenge for Skibbereen to our child at night time, so now she knows rebel songs and is beginning to ask questions about the lyrics. It Must Have Been Love by Roxette is another song we sing to her.

Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was my rally call when I ran to be the Green Party candidate for Dublin Bay South. I didn’t get selected and usually if you feel crap you go and meet your mates and have a pint, whereas we couldn’t with Covid. So when I didn’t get selected, in a very cheesy way, I put on the most upbeat stuff I could think of, which was that and Chumbawumba’s Tubthumbing.

When I finish up as Lord Mayor and have more time, I want to be able to sit down and listen to music. I’m looking forward to listening properly to Denise Chaila’s 061, which I saw a clip of yesterday. I got to meet her last year when she came to Mansion House for a reading. The fact that she’s producing brilliant music and shining a light on Limerick is really great. She’s just incredible.

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