I used to lie on the couch at home reading books with MTV and VH1 on in the background, waiting for videos that I liked to come on, my thumb keeping place on the open book resting on my chest when they did. The first, like, 20 times I heard Paolo Nutini’s “Last Request” I actually only ever heard the last 45 seconds of it because I would have just switched to VH1 (if there were commercials on MTV or whatever I was watching), or I was just waking up from a nap (because I was also always napping).
And I always, always only ever caught it after the information text would come on that told you the name of the track, the artist, the album, and the year.
It made me become obsessed with hearing the whole thing and the only part of the song that ever really stuck was the line where he pleaded “one last time let’s go there.” And this was all before you could Google lyrics (or anything, I think), and it literally never played anywhere else except VH1.
One day, I finally learned that the guy imploring in the raspy voice with a European lilt was Paolo Nutini, and the song was “Last Request” from his debut album These Streets (2006).
My rule back then was that I had to hear and like at least three singles from an artist before I bought their album (since CDs were pretty expensive though, weren’t they?), but I had to break it because I ended up treating this song like some sort of rare unicorn grail thing that I had to obtain before I never heard it again.
And for an album that I bought sort of randomly, I feel like it still holds up, or at least, the songs that I really liked back then still sound objectively good now more than a decade later. Paolo Nutini is a little underrated in general, and he has another good album in his second record, Sunny Side Up, which takes a folksier turn.
These Streets also has a hidden track, a thing that can’t exist anymore, and probably the greatest thing about CDs as a medium. I discovered it on a Greyhound bus somewhere between Grahamstown and Johannesburg when I’d been drifting off and an acoustic version of “Last Request” started playing in the dark like someone had left me a secret gift.
Music is so crazy accessible these days, but the nostalgic in me misses those days of work (aka hours of being on the couch) that had to be done when you heard a song you had to have in your life and couldn’t just conjure it up on your phone. And the peak joy of finally hearing the whole thing and finding out its name. Is there anything like it? Not so much anymore.