'Call in the caped crusader, Green Hornet, Kato too I’m in so much trouble, I don’t know what ta do'
The voice of Aretha Franklin who also part wrote it. The guitar riff from Van Morrison's and Them's Gloria. King Curtis on tenor saxophone. Recorded either at Muscle Shoals or the Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City. Two minutes twenty one. It's Friday! I know it says Thursday above but I can firmly state that it really is Friday. Enjoy.
This was Number One for one week in the French charts in 1968. In some respects it will always be Number One in Paris because it's five o'clock every morning there and always will be from now on. This captures that moment exactly.
Jacques Dutronc and the Bolan boogies, The Heavy Hitters and the chi chi music
Enjoyed this film very much this evening so am posting some related songs. New York Folk. Greenwich Village, early '60s. Not all from that time but these people were there or thereabouts at that point. No Dylan!
The fourth, unreleased Velvet Underground album when they were stuck between record labels and in danger of falling through the cracks was finally released in 1985 with a collection of tracks John Cale played on between the band's second and third album and a suite of songs specifically recorded for their fourth following his departure and the release of the group's classic, self named third album.
It was a revelation when it was released. A whole suite of songs only known to the deeply initiated through bootleg releases sold on market stalls or through word of mouth. It's difficult to choose a particular song. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. I'll go for this one which is the nearest I've ever heard along with Who Loves The Sun to the Velvets channelling The Beatles. It made me want to front a band. Never got there!
You can't get too much of Frank Sidebottom. So here's some more.
Frank Sidebottom: Would You Marry This Man?
Cathi Unsworth, Sounds, 12 November 1988
Frank Sidebottom reckons he's the world's most eligible bachelor. Cathi Unsworth succumbs to his charms and checks out his prolific vinyl output.
THE FRANK Sidebottom persona recalls that line from The Rocky Horror Show when Columbia mourns the death of Eddie. If only, she laments, he'd "stayed sane inside insanity". Apparently, this is how Frank keeps his cool.
But is it Frank who's mad or those of us who hold him dear? While strolling along the Timperly streets with him, watching babies drop half-eaten sweets in wonder and shop assistants quake in the certainty that he's homicidal, it seems the former holds true. Yet, on the other hand, isn't it Frank who has us screaming for Little Frank at gigs, only to remind us that, "He's only a puppet".
You cannot patronise Frank Sidebottom. IN DEEPEST Timperly, Frank has converted the offices of his long-suffering manager, Mike, into a replica of his bedroom, pictured on his 5.9.88 album's gatefold sleeve.
Frank painted the floor blue in Mike's absence. Five terrapins occupy a large tank in the corner. Two old Ian Dury posters have been stuck up with their faces to the wall and the place is strewn with Frank's toys and games. Then, of course, there's Little Buzz Aldrin, "found on the moon", who slumps dejectedly in the corner, only stirring occasionally to say, "Yo!". Stupendous plasticine effects flicker before our eyes as Frank provides a sneak preview of his new 12mm epic, Space Is Ace.
"I feel very sorry for the youth of today. They always have to make do. They don't get any real space monsters, only cartoons," he comments. These happen to be Frank's first and only sombre words of the day.
Part of the Sidebottom magnetism is that Frank never stops.
In the last four months we've witnessed the album Frank Sidebottom Salutes The Magic Of Freddie Mercury And Queen And Also Kylie Minogue, a double album called 5.9.88, and possibly the quickest ever follow up album, the recently-released 13.9.88.
As ever, Frank is modest about his achievements.
"For my first LP I've done a double LP. Now if you check the record books, each of Paul McCartney's first LPs, when he was with his first group The Beatles, when he was with his solo group Paul McCartney and when he was with his Wings group, he never did any as double LPs. So that's better than him for a start!
"Freddie Mercury and his Queen group, he never did a double LP. In fact, nobody has. And who's followed that up with another LP a week later? You see, I can write songs until that cow comes to my house. And that cow did come to my house, halfway through my second LP."
Apparently, said cow interrupted Frank's creative flow.
"Well, that's why there's not as many songs on my second LP, but don't worry, cos there's a fantastic rockumentary on it.
"What I did, I'd been to Blackpool, and you know those cassette recorders you carry around and tape things with? Well, I did that, I taped my holiday. Paul McCartney's not done that has he?
"You see, that's the trouble with other pop stars these days, they're not adventurous enough. I, on the other hand, had the foresight to take my tape on holiday and make an LP. I'll make a triple LP next." But will this feature any more tributes to Frank's latest heroine, Kylie Minogue? Perhaps he's jealous, now that she's getting married to Scott...
"No, I'm not bothered," sniffs Frank, "not at all. I could marry Kylie just like that. People want to marry me. I could get married just like that (he lifts a green wooden house from the Monopoly board and eyes it suspiciously), though not like that.
"I'd look a bit funny walking down the aisle with that. Mind you, you can do a lot with make up and a veil. You can have that on your headline, Frank Sidebottom Will Not Be Marrying A Greenhouse. Exclusive!" LITTLE FRANK got in on the act with 5.9.88., but Sidebottom senior is still pleased with the results.
"My fantastic, brilliant talent shone through, even though he tried to ruin it. You can't keep a fantastic, brilliant man down can you? You have to amuse Little Frank to a certain extent though, and cardboard is hard to amuse."
Sounds as if Frank and Little Frank are reconciled after their bust up over his Beastie Puppets single.
"It was never released!" Frank chortles. "It wouldn't have been a hit if it had, cos puppets are no good at making records. No, I was just hurt that he wanted to do one without me, cos I've let him be on my records, haven't I? It's justice that it never came out.
"And they'd have been no good on Top Of The Pops because puppets aren't very interesting to look at on their own. They just fall over," he explains demonstrating with Little Buzz who collapses miserably.
"But they must have been the first bits of cardboard to be offered a record contract!"
Will you be releasing another Christmas single this year, Frank?
"I've written one and I hope it'll be out on time. I've got a compact disc on the way for the music lover. It's got different mixes from the first three albums.
"Now Little Frank, I left him in charge of the balance control. That's a button that makes the sound go from one speaker to the other. And cos we had an argument, I ran out of grooves on the compact disc and I still had two songs to go on it.
"So I put one song on one speaker and the other song on the other, and you have to use your balance control to decide which song you want. You can only have 74 minutes on a compact disc and I broke the world record by having 77 minutes on mine. There's no barriers for me.
"Anyway, one of the songs on it has got Christmas lyrics so hopefully it'll be the single. It's called '25.12.88'. (What else?)"
Frank Sidebottom is many things — revolutionary singer, gamesmaker and puppeteer extraordinaire — but a fool is not one of them.
Something pointed out to me by a colleague I discuss these things with was the resemblance between the Postcard logo and an earlier Factory Records Joy Division record sleeve. Given the Glasgow label's slight fascination with JD and its reputation for dry, ironic wit it's probably not entirely coincidental though I couldn't trace internet proof!
The second chapter of Luke Haines' autobiography Bad Vibes. Another entirely deserved doff of the cap to the namers of this blog. Brilliant in terms of tone in its sardonic bitchiness. It sums up indie London in the eighties very well. I was at gigs with the Creation entourage and they were as snotty, self-important and comical as Haines paints them. He also describes the London of the time accurately. It really was a shithole!
Lawrence from Felt, Pete Astor from The Weather Prophets, Bobby Gillespie, Alan McGee, Grant McLennan and Robert Forster from The Go-Betweens. In their own minds these men are rock royalty, (the notion of indie does not yet exist). David Westlake and I sit at the end of the table waiting our turn. Nineteen years old. Winter 1987. Pre-gig pints in the Devonshire Arms, Camden Town. Shane MacGowan's manor. He's in the corner. This is pre-money London Town. When the place was still a shithole. The pubs all close at three in the afternoon for a few hours and there are only four channels on the TV. How did I get here?
Straight from school to Art College, where after one year on a foundation course I am thrown out. - asked to leave as I have 'a bad attitude to further education'. Not true. I have a great attitude. I blag a place at the London College of music in Great Marlborough Street - a make-do for those not good enough to get into the Royal College of Music or Guildhall - leave my parents' home in Portsmouth and head for my first rented room, in Stockwell, south London. Just in time for the first weekend of the 1985 Brixton Riots. My housemates Chad and Ange are manic dole fiends. We get drunk on looted lager from the Sunshine Supermarket on Railton Road. Then with a little bit of Dutch we head out and watch the final embers of Brixton burning.
I have not yet turned eighteen. Music college is everything I hoped it wouldn't be. Like every teenage Velvets nut with a guitar I hold out the hope that I will meet a John Cale to play alongside my Lou Reed, naturally. Time, time. Running and passing. Got to get something together before I turned 19. November 1986. I answer an advert in Melody Maker for the first and only time. 'Servants singer songwriter seeks musicians.' The songwriters name is David Westlake. I obsessively read the music papers) so I have heard of is band The Servants. He has just sacked them. Westlake and I hit it off., and we're into the same stuff: The Modern Lovers, Dragnet and Totale Turns by The Fall. The Only Ones first album. Adventure by Television. Wire and The Go Betweens.By March '87 I am in Greenhouse Studio Islington playing guitar and piano on Westlake's first solo album, destined to be released on the then fashionable Creation label. By the end of the year the album Westlake is out and greeted with a yawn of indifference by a world far more interested in ecstasy and the latest incarnation of the Manchester scene. We, perhaps unwisely revert to the old band name the Servants.
Lawrence from Felt, Bobby Gillespie, Alan McGee, Grant McLennan, Robert Forster, David Westlake and me. Men convinced of their own genius though at 19 I am not yet a man, and it is strange to keep on meeting people who are at least ten years older. Pete Astor is the lead singer of the Weather Prophets, a Creation band who had their hour in the sun some six months ago. Pete's got the look and the regulation leathers. Ex-music journalist Pete has also got a theory on all rock'n'roll lore. Just as well because the one thing he ain't got is the fucking songs Bobby Gillespie wafts around saying little apart from who looks cool and who doesn't. Strangely people take notice of him. You're just too hip baby.
Tonight The Servants are supporting Lawrence's band Felt at Dingwalls. It is one of Felt's many farewell gigs to an indifferent nation. It will be a few years until Lawrence gets good and delivers his neo-glam masterpiece Back in Denim . Tonight, in the Devonshire, he is a classic example of fabulous rock star egotism in a hideous harlequin-motif jacket. Up his own enigma. Lawrence - a rock star in mind only - travels with a small entourage A lackey is always on hand to light Lawrence's steady flow of cigarettes, as the Felt singer pontificates in a Brummie monotone - to no one in particular - on the possibilities of 'sewing on a fringe'. You see, Lawrence has started to lose his hair and doesn't have the money for an Elton-style transplant. The somewhat unlikely option of sewing on a fringe has become an obsession. In later years he will on occasion, sport a hazardous wig. Photo sessions and video shoots will be at the mercy of the wig and it's inability to cope with inclement weather. On and on he goes. Another cigarette is lit. The lackey's are giving Lawrence's fringe predicament some serious consideration.
Unfortunately any suggestions provoke petulant fits from the eccentric genius. I don't want to be complicit in high-maintenance Lawrence mania., so I move over to Grant's table. Grant McLennan of the Go Betweens has become a mentor to David and me, pushing 30 and proud of his elder statesmanship to the assembled Creation mob. Alan McGee loves the Go Betweens; he even names his forgettable mini-Malcolm McClaren scam girl band, Baby Amphetamine, after an Only Ones fanzine that Robert Forster and Grant put together back in their native Brisbane. Thankfully McGee's respect is not reciprocated. Tonight Grant is on form and drinking like giddy up. The Go Betweens fly back to Australia for good the next morning, after a few tough years in unyielding, unforgiving 80s London. Tonight is partly a farewell drink for them. 'It's great to be here tonight with all my favourite English bands who all wanna sound like the Byrds and the Velvet Underground.,' muses Grant. 'Y'know Creation is my third favourite record label,' he adds with heavy sarcasm rubbing McGee's face in it.
Alan McGee, anointer of genius and self-styled record mogul. I first met McGee back in the spring of '87 in fury Murrays, a hellhole of a club behind Glasgow Central station. I am sound-checking my brand new Fender Telecaster. A Fender Telecaster I have scrimped and saved for in saved dole money and starvation. Hard won. If anyone so much as looks at this guitar in the wrong way they will unleash the winds of psychic war, Westlake and I are on the Scottish leg of a tour supporting the Weather Prophets.. McGee sidles up to the front of the stage and points at me. 'You. You're Tom Verlaine.' He is of course referring to the buzz-saw blitzkrieg maverick lead guitarist of seminal symbolist New York City art rockers Television. Maybe some people would be happy with this introduction. Not I. I am a stickler for manners and would have preferred a 'How do you do?' or even a simple 'Hello'. The eighties were plagued by these small time indie Svengalis, wannabe Brian Epsteins or mini Malcolms. Forever proclaiming some poor bugger to be a genius. Of course hype is fundamental to pop music. But it often says more about the hyper than the hyped. The start of the cursed holy bestowals.
'You. You're Tom Verlaine,' it says , utterly unbecoming. I fix the fool with a dead-eyed stare. Say nothing, say nothing. You, Alan McGee will pay for this transgression. You will pay.
Back in the Devonshire Arms Grant McLennan turns to me and whispers loud enough for anyone to hear, 'That Alan McGee, not much going on up top.'
Westlake, McLennan and I stagger up the road the 200 yards or so to the venue. The old long bar of Dingwalls. Robert Forster is in the shadows. Thirty years old and a lean six foot four. Always conspicuous. Forster has just come out of his Prince phase. His new look is somewhere between Raw Power period Iggy and Sherlock Holmes. With his long hair dyed silver grey - a homage to Dynasty's Blake Carrington no less - round wire-frame glasses and tweed cape. This is a bold, potentially tragic look, but Forster carries it off. David Westlake and I are in awe of the man. Everyone loves Robert Forster and no one can quite work out why he is not a huge star. He has hit a creative peak, having just written some of the best songs of his career - 'The Clarke Sisters', 'When People Are Dead', 'The House That Jack Kerouac Built'. A few hours earlier back in the Devonshire, Pete Astor developed a lecture on why all Robert's songs are merely 'filler material'. Yeah, yeah Pete. Whatever you say.
We do the gig. Too drunk to play well, we still - in the rock'n'roll vernacular - blow Felt off the stage. Everyone talks loudly through Felt's set. Lawrence is playing his latest epic, 'Primitive Painters'. On and on it goes. Somewhere, fresh paint dries upon a wall. Sadly, I am not there to watch it.
More drinks at the bar with Robert, Grant and Lindy Morrison, the Go Betweens terrifyingly blunt drummer. 'If you're gonna play Dingwall's you gotta fucken rock. Lemme hangs out here with fucken Johnny Thunders. You can't play like a bunch of fucken pussies. You've gotta fucken rock.' She has a point.
Lawrence. Pete Astor. Bobby McGee.. Alan McGee. Grant McLennan. Robert Forster. David Westlake. Me. All of these men convinced of their own genius. One of these men now sadly dead.'
* On Saturday 6th May 2006 Grant McLennan died in his sleep at his Brisbane home. He is sorely missed.
The strange thing about this song is that there are no mountains in Holland. The highest hill in the country is 322.7 metres and is still called by Netherlanders a mountain even though it clearly isn't. That's the Dutch sense of humour for you. What you want is what you haven't got. This strikes me as a song about childhood.
As a catalyst for forming a band Devo's story takes some beating. Leading members and driving forces Jerry Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh were both students at Kent State University at the time of one of the greatest tragedies and national scandals of recent American history. Four were killed and nine more wounded as sixty seven rifle rounds were fired by the Ohio National Guard into an unarmed and retreating crowd of student demonstrators.
John Filo's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of Mary Anne Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller
Here's Casale's account speaking to The Vermont Review.
VR: Going back to your early days. You were present at the Kent State shootings in 1970. How did that day affect you?
JC: Whatever I would say would probably not at all touch upon the significance or gravity of the situation at this point of time -- it would probably sound trite or glib. All I can tell you is that it completely and utterly changed my life. I was a white hippie boy and then I saw exit wounds from M1 rifles out of the backs of two people I knew. Two of the four people who were killed, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause, were my friends. We were all running our asses off from these motherfuckers. It was total, utter bullshit. Live ammunition and gasmasks - none of us knew, none of us could have imagined... They shot into a crowd that was running away from them! I stopped being a hippie and I started to develop the idea of devolution. I got real, real pissed off.
VR: Does Neil young's "Ohio" strike close to your heart?
JC: Of course. It was strange that the first person that we met, as Devo emerged, was Neil Young. He asked us to be in his movie, The Human Highway. It was so strange - San Francisco in 1977. Talk about life being karmic, small and cyclical - it's absolutely true. In fact I just got a call from a person organizing a 30th Anniversary commemoration. Noam Chomsky will be there and I may go talk there if I can get away. I still remember it so crystal clear, like a dream you will never forget . . . or a nightmare. I still remember every moment. It kind of went in slow motion like a car accident.
VR: You said that the Kent State shooting sort of served as a catalyst for your theory of Devolution, which spawned Devo--
JC: Absolutely. Until then I was a hippie. I thought that the world is essentially good. If people were evil, there was justice... and that the law mattered. All of those silly naïve things. I saw the depths of the horrors and lies and the evil. The paper that evening, the Akron Beacon Journal, said that students were running around armed and that officers had been hurt. So deputy sheriffs went out and deputized citizens. They drove around with shotguns and there was martial law for ten days. 7 PM curfew. It was open season on the students. We lived in fear. Helicopters surrounding the city with hourly rotating runs out to the West Side and back downtown. All first amendment rights are suspended at the instant the governor gives the order. All of the class-action suits by the parents of the slain students were all dismissed out of court, because once the governor announced martial law, they had no right to assemble.
Devo's central philosophy, that mankind was herd minded, conformist and regressive rather than an evolving and improving species was born out of this transformative experience. The band started up a couple of years later. Devo's music is essentially grounded in black, sardonic humour but it's clear that there was a an essential deeply serious, satirical intent behind everything they did.
The shootings also acted as inspiration for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Ohio which was recorded and released within the month and got to #14 on the Billboard chart.
'Tin soldiers and Nixon coming. We're finally on our own.'
Boy George: 'Whenever I listen to anything Joni writes I think: Oh, why do I bother?' Photograph: Richard Young/Rex Features
Born George O'Dowd in 1961, Boy George rose to fame as the lead singer of 80s pop band Culture Club, whose hit singles included Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, Time (Clock of the Heart), and Karma Chameleon, which reached No 1 in 30 countries and was the bestselling single in the UK in 1983. With his colourful attire, braids and androgynous looks, Boy George became an integral figure of the new romantics movement in Britain, going solo in 1987 and recording music every decade since. His new single, My God, released on 26 January, is taken from his 2013 album, This is What I Do.
THE ALBUM FOR WHEN I'M FEELING SENTIMENTAL
T-Rex, Electric Warrior (1971) The lyrics of Cosmic Dancer are so beautiful. Hearing his songs now, you remember how special Marc Bolan was in terms of what he wrote about – such bonkers lyrics. Although Bowie was out there as well as a lyricist, no one was quite like Marc Bolan, the things he wrote. He was so optimistic in a funny sort of way. It reminds me of being a kid in the 70s, that was when I first discovered music and particularly glam rock. The 70s was the biggest influence on me, and probably all the people that made music in the 80s who were growing up in the 70s. Electric Warrior was quite an interesting bridge from T-Rex's poppy stuff (later on Bolan got really poppy with Metal Guru) – but Electric Warrior was still a bit prog in a way, a bit dark, quite rock'n'roll. It's a little bit more downbeat as a production, I think. I still listen to the album – certain songs like Life is a Gas, Cosmic Dancer, I'll play them a lot. They're the sort of songs that I always remember to play if I'm having a sentimental moment. It's difficult to put into words, but the album is just so sassy: "Bleached on the beach, I want to tickle your peach, it's a rip-off" goes the song Rip-Off, another song on the album I love.
THE ARTIST WHO MAKES ME TRY HARDER
Joni Mitchell, Blue (1971) I think Blue has a similar quality to another of her albums, Court and Spark, but it's a little bit more – dare I say it – maudlin, with songs like A Case of You and This Flight Tonight; with all of her songs I can always relate to doing the thing she's singing about. She sings on This Flight Tonight, "I shouldn't have got on this flight tonight" – I have done that! I had an affair with a boy in Chicago, and I flew to see him near Christmas and he didn't turn up. That was years ago, but when I hear that song now, I remember it. She gets into love very well, looking at it from a cynical angle and in a very honest way, and whenever I listen to anything she writes I think: Oh, why do I bother? I use her as one of my markers of lyrical excellence, she makes me think: I must try harder! I've met Joni loads of times. She talks like she writes; she talks in prose. She's not Aretha [Franklin] but she's able to tell a story – some of my favourite singers are people who have unusual voices, not traditional singers, but they are really good at telling a story. There's been so many times in my life when I've put Joni on: there's always a song of hers for when something goes wrong in your life. Hijira even, I know it's not on this album but I've sat and cried to that quite a lot in my life.
THE ALBUM I LISTEN TO BEFORE GOING OUT
Spacehog, Resident Alien (1995) I discovered Spacehog quite by accident, I heard that song In the Meantime – it's got this great bass – in America in the 90s, I probably saw it on MTV. I was going back and forward to the States a lot during the 90s. I just loved the song and ended up buying the album and it is brilliant – it was big in America but it wasn't big anywhere else. It's one of my favourite records and I play it a lot, it's totally rock. There's a lovely song on it called Starside which is so Bowie-esque. Around the time it came out, there was a spate of great records: Belly's Feed the Tree, Blur were going quite fiercely at the time, there were a lot of American bands, like Concrete Blonde. I'd recommend the album; it's a really good record to put on if you're going out somewhere and want to get yourself in the mood – I think it's uplifting.
THE ALBUM THAT SAVED ME FROM SUBURBIA
David Bowie, Hunky Dory (1971) I probably could have chosen eight Bowie albums but I've gone for Hunky Dory because I remember the first time I saw the cover and heard the record; it was 1972-73, and it was just so different to everything else. And it's lyrically brilliant: songs like Eight Line Poem and Quicksand – "I'm sinking in the quicksand of my youth…" I even discovered Dylan through this album, because there's his Song for Bob Dylan: "Now hear this Robert Zimmerman, though I don't suppose we'll meet…" I ended up becoming obsessed with Bob Dylan and Lou Reed because of Bowie; it was quite an educational record. There are a lot of songs on there that, as a kid, you felt like he was talking to you. I was discovering myself, living in suburbia, feeling out of place – he was a life-saver, really. Such an artist. When I went to see Bowie in 1973, I must have been 12 or 13,, at Lewisham Odeon, it was a transforming experience, seeing other, older kids as immaculately dressed as Bowie. Many years later that happened to me – I'd do gigs and there'd be people in the audience who looked better than I did! Listening to this record I just wanted to know who Bowie was… I had dinner with him in New York once, and people always say you should never meet your heroes, but he was really charming. These days, when I'm asked to do certain publicity, or anything on TV, I always think: What would Bowie do? If I can't imagine Bowie on the show, then it's a no.
THE ALBUM THAT GAVE ME HOPE
Lou Reed, Transformer (1972) The Who did a massive concert at Charlton football ground with 73,000 people in 1974, and Lou Reed was on the bill. I was 12 and was told emphatically [by my parents]: "You must not go." I went, obviously, and arrived as Lou Reed was about to come on stage. I was just amazed. After hearing Transformer, I went back to listen to the Velvet Underground and became a fan of everything Lou Reed had done. But Transformer was a great record. If you think about the music of the time, it was completely out of sync with everything else. It was vaudevillian, with songs like New York Telephone Conversation and Make Up – very much later on I discovered Tom Waits and all of that sound – but it was a sort of weird, druggy, theatrical, marching-bands-on-valium sound. I've also chosen it because of the lyrics – particularly Walk on the Wild Side, it has such a great narrative. When you're a kid and you know you're gay, and you hear Bowie singing "a cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest, and a queer threw up at the sight of that", and then you hear Walk on the Wild Side, you know there's hope – you know you're not the only one that has these weird thoughts.
THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY FIRST SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
Nico, Chelsea Girl (1967) This was when I had my first boyfriend. I met this guy who was the editor of a pop magazine called My Guy at a lesbian club in Swiss Cottage. I went out with him for a while – he was older than me and had Nico's album Chelsea Girl. I never knew about Nico until him. I spent the one night at his house and he had that album on constantly, all night, so it was kind of like the soundtrack to my first real sexual experience, and I just fell in love with the record. Nico has an amazing voice (a bit like Marlene Dietrich, who I also love), and I thought she was beautiful as well. I particularly love that song Somewhere There's a Feather on the album – it's a Jackson Browne song. When you're a kid you devour all the information about the music you love.
THE TRACK I PLAYED OVER AND OVER
Sly and the Family Stone, If You Want Me to Stay (1973) I went to live in Birmingham for a year when I was about 17, in 1978-79. I'd met this guy called Martin Degville who was in the band Sigue Sigue Sputnik – he was quite mad, used to wear fishnet tights on his face – at a punk weekender in Bournemouth. Punks at that point were the enemy of the state, no one would let us in anywhere because of the way we looked. We were gathering on a street corner that weekend, and there was this thing on the other side of the road, a vision: oh my God, this guy in high stiletto heels with a white face and a massive white quiff and shoulder pads – he was just outrageous, another level from what we were doing. And me and my girlfriends were in awe, looking at him. I befriended him and I started to go up to Birmingham for the weekend and hang out at the clubs up there for the punk scene. I had this relationship with my best friend, a boy, and when that went pear-shaped, I decided to leave home and move in with Martin. We lived with two girls called Janet Doublenose and Rhonda Beyonda. Rhonda was a big Sly and the Family Stone fan, and I remember one day sitting in her room while she played their album Fresh, and the song If You Want Me to Stay came on – it's just a great song, fantastic falsetto vocals. It's probably one of my favourites of all time. It's got the best bass line ever, and it's Sly Stone at his peak; it's just a great, emotional piece of music. I'd play it over and over, as you do, when you're that age. Sly Stone is one of the greatest singers, you can hear it – the emotion. I'd love to work with him, even if he just did a little warble on one of my tracks I'd be really happy.
THE ALBUM THAT I STILL LISTEN TO
Tubeway Army, Replicas (1979) I was always dismissive of anyone who sounded like Bowie. But I forgave Gary Numan. I bought this album when I was living in Birmingham. Me and Jeremy Healy, my mate who went on to be a successful DJ [and a member of Haysi Fantayzee], sat and listened to Replicas and loved it, even though we thought he [Numan] was a bit of a Bowie clone. But it was a brilliant record, and he looked brilliant as well, which was very important then. It wasn't enough to be a good musician, you had to have a good look too! It was around that point that I was discovering early Human League, bands like Cabaret Voltaire, I was already a massive fan of Fad Gadget, who, for me, was the king of electro – the unsung hero. Even now, when you hear Are Friends Electric, it still sounds good. You're very lucky if you make a record that doesn't age – his album has aged brilliantly because it's so different, it's so electro. I always think you have to invest something of yourself in everything you do to be good, which is why I love Replicas. I can still put it on and get that feeling that I had when I first heard it.