May 2, 2016
And so it was that in response to a Facebook meme I posted a list of the 12 LPs that have had the most influence on me, both personally and musically. And it was like looking in a mirror, for all was male and white.
So, I thought, what if the list weren’t male and white (for I like to use the subjunctive). And so I sat down with my MacBook Pro and my text editor of choice (iA Writer, since you didn’t ask) and…. Well the first few records came easily. The rest not so. This puzzled me till I realised that most of the black, female music I like is soul music, a “genre” that has always leant itself to the single rather than the long player.
So I abandoned the “LP” rule to bring you a list of 12 records in any format that have influenced me, a list of 12 artists without whom my and indeed all our lives would be much poorer.
As soon as I started compiling this “alternative” list, I slapped my head. How the hell had I managed to exclude Siouxsie and the Banshees from the first 12‽ After all there were several months sometime in the mid-eighties when I played nothing but Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Was 1978’s The Scream the first great post-punk LP? Perhaps, but to late-teenage me it was a revelation, a record that made sense. If that makes sense. Overground would be a contender for any desert island disc compilation, but this track sums up the ambition that put the LP in a class of its own.
Siouxsie and the Banshees // Switch
There was Clare Grogan bouncing around the Top of the Pops stage. Then, if that wasn’t enough for an adolescent (white) male, there she was in beret and gorgeous Scottish accent on Gregory’s Girl (a film I watched again recently — it was just as wonderful as I remembered). Then I heard this.
Altered Images // Dead Pop Stars
Musically, not a lot happened at York University. Highlights included Desmond Dekker (20 years too late), Zeke Manuyika (briefly the drummer in Orange Juice) and that epitome of middle class, background music CD collections, Jools Holland and his “orchestra”.
Occasionally, however, we stood and gaped in awe and fuelled by cheep beer we danced.
The Natural Ites and the Realistics // Picture on the Wall
That song and the eponymous LP were a highlight of flowering of UK reggae in the late 70s and early 80s. The Natural Ites and Realistics were from Nottingham; the brilliant, more political Steel Pulse from Birmingham; and, from Southall, Misty In Roots.
As I’ve mentioned before, Misty in Roots in Kentish Town is the best gig I’ve ever seen. No wonder, then, that Live at the Counter Eurovision was John Peel’s favourite live LP, whose opening words were played at his funeral. The music of our hearts.
Misty in Roots // Man Kind
In 1994, didn’t everyone with a modicum of taste listen to Dummy? Non stop?
Portishead // Roads
2003 was a musical watershed for me. For one reason and another, I’d largely stopped listening to music over the previous seven or eight years. 2003 was when I started again. Not for any particular reason. It was just that in the job I was in at the time, everyone worked with headphones. And in those pre-iPlayer days,the BBC had recently started streaming its radio programmes, which clever computer types like myself could easily record. At last, I could gain listen to last night’ß John Peel without interruption or interference. And this time I really listened. The next four records all come from that time. Some had been around a while, others were new, but each is redolent of those moments of buffered Real Player days when I couldn’t wait to get to work to hear the delights that the great man had been spinning the previous evening.
Laura Cantrell released her debut LP in in 2000. Via Peel, it opened my ears to real country music, for which I will be ever grateful. This is the title track.
Laura Cantrell // Not the Tremblin’ Kind
For Laura Cantrell and country, read Overton Vertis Wright and soul — heartfelt, heartbreaking southern soul that’s largely been forgotten, sidelined by the dance-friendly, über cool northern variety.
I first heard OV Wright when Peel played this track from a wonderful compilation, Kent’s Cellar of Soul. It was just the beginning.
OV Wright // That’s How Strong My Love Is
Bubblegum, pop, suburbia, the Ramones, Blondie and teenage dreams. Put them in a blender and you’d get Helen Love. Sometime in the 90s I went to a Bluetones gig that was as mediocre as it sounds. Helen Love was the support. I missed her and, as they say, missed out. Good things come to those who wait, they say. Zoom forward to 2002 and the release of Helen Love’s third LP, Radio Hits 3 (you can guess what the others were called). A good friend once described her lyrics as sixth-form poetry. Isn’t that what pop music should be?
Helen Love // Number One Fantastic Day
I can remember playing Camera Obscure’s Underachievers Please Try Harder on a crappy Aiwa (it’s Japanese for cheap-Sony) stereo. It sounded amazing then and it sounds amazing now. A record that opens up so many possibilities. The all-time greatest British country record? Perhaps. But there is no denying that Tracyanne Campbell is one of the greatest female songwriters of any genre or nationality.
Camera Obscura // Before you Cry
Lucky Soul’s fabulous, gorgeous, reincarnation of the 60s, their debut LP, The Great Unwanted, is the most important record I own. If I had’t heard it and loved it I wouldn’t have met the person who makes my lips and indeed my whole person truly happy. This should have been on my original list. Would it be too cheesy to say that I am indeed a lucky soul?
Lucky Soul // Lips Are Unhappy
That intro — immaculate.
When compiling this list, I arrived here, 10 records in, and stopped. And struggled to choose the two records that would bring this little musical journey to an end. Then I remembered two little records that as much as any illustrate the way the internet has given access to the world. This blog has featured tunes from as far afield as the Philippines and Finland, but this is from a little closer to home. Spain’s Elefant Records is a fantastic showcase for the country’s musical talent and nothing is better than When Nalda Became Punk_ and their 2013 debut, Farewell to Youth. But since I’ve already harvested many riches from that record, here’s the band’s title track
When Nalda Became Punk // When Nalda Became Punk
The next record could have been in the same vein, albeit with a French flavour, since the Decibelle’s Pedro Joko is equally worthy of inclusion. But that’s too many mixed metaphors for one day.
So I’m finishing with track from Loveless Unbeliever, the first LP from Cardiff’s The School, largely because I think they’re my favourite band right now. And they’re lovely. And this is beautiful.
The School // I Want You Back