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JULY 2019 Issue 308

“If Bryan Ferry

had joined King

Crimson it might

have been the end

of his career.”




The rich tones of the empress of

gospel-soul have soundtracked

America’s social revolution, and its

reversal. At 80, she pulls no punches.

38 OMD From electro-hippies to

imperial hit-makers, the Wirral synth

duo’s adventures in modernism.

Cash, coke, compressors – the works.


The enigmatic Smog man takes

MOJO on a tramp in the Texan scrub,

where much is revealed about life,

love… and Lou Reed.


As Robert Fripp’s art/prog institution

hits 50, the guitarist invites us into his

art and soul. “I could have been a

vicar!” he tells Ben Thompson.


LIPS Celebrating the 20th

anniversary of the Oklahoma

nu-psych freaks’ epochal LP, The Soft

Bulletin, with its survivors: “It was like

walking a maze in the dark.”



REVIVAL CCR forget their

spats to relive 1969, the zenith of

their chooglin’ ascendancy, but also

12 manic months that sowed the

seeds of their dissolution.


70 QUEEN Exclusive! Brian May

and Roger Taylor, still processing the

vast success of their Bohemian

Rhapsody biopic, re-examine the

group’s musical watersheds. Plus

Queen’s Greatest Misses, MOJO’s

Rock Biopic Hall Of Fame, Foo

Fighters pay tribute, and more.

Barry Plummer


Help!: a new film

imagines the

unthinkable, p16.

The Good, The

Bad & The Queen:

Lives, p116.



Abdullah Ibrahim, Anna Meredith and Slick

Rick say, you have to listen to this.

28 REAL GONE Shawn Smith, Les Reed,

Doug Sandom, Boon Gould and more, farewell.

126 ASK FRED Why wasn’t Aretha on

Motown? She only lived down the road.

130 HELLO GOODBYE They made

the world sing Cheese And Onions. But it

couldn’t last. Barry Wom recalls the luncheon

meat start and litigious end of The Rutles.


14 FLOYD REUNION! On-stage

in New York in April, Nick Mason’s Saucerful

Of Secrets were joined by an old friend and

bandmate to perform Set The Controls For The

Heart Of The Sun. But what exactly went down?

18 JAH WOBBLE The ex-PiL bass

master heads to NY to beat down ho-hum dublite

on his new album. Plus, word of another LP

featuring Keith Levene and Mark Stewart!

22 CHUCK D Public Enemy’s hip-hop

newscaster gets Confidential about giving a

voice to the voiceless, Flavor Flav’s varnished

dinner and A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

23 CATE LE BON Carmarthenshire’s

singular talent takes the Last Night A Record

Changed My Life challenge: the gateway song

was The Sad Skinhead, but what's the LP?


peek in the secret London lock-up holding the

Irish guitar great’s records, posters, T-shirts,

amps, and, excitingly, his Fender Strat.


No strangers:

The Raconteurs,

Lead Album, p84.

84 NEW ALBUMS Jack White’s back

with The Raconteurs, Santana, and many more.

100 REISSUES Ronnie Lane, Bob Dylan,

Sigur Rós, Traffic, Aretha Franklin and more.

112 BOOKS A PR’s revealing memoir, rock

economics, punk icon Jordan and more.

114 SCREEN Bruce Springsteen and friends

reconnect in Asbury Park.

116 LIVES The Good, The Bad & The Queen

and Cybotron, extremes of joy and satisfaction.


Andrew Male

A former MOJO Deputy Editor,

Andrew first started writing for

the magazine in 1999. Twenty

years on, he divides his time

between The Sunday Times,

Sight & Sound, The Guardian

and helping at his wife’s cafe,

Nico, in London SE25. In this

issue, read him on Ronnie Lane

and fellow Wirralites OMD.

Guy Eppel

Shooting Bill

Callahan in Texas

was a wild west

adventure, says

Eppel. “Bill is the

essence of cool and

Smog rules OK!”

To see more of Guy’s

photos visit www.


Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards lives and works in

Wrexham. He specialises in

comic book art, character design

and storyboarding. Neil produced

his first commercial work

for Marvel in 1996, and has illustrated

for DC Comics, Valiant,

Lucasfilm, BBC, Disney and

Wrexham Council. He illustrates

this month’s Lead Album on p85.

Andrew Cotterill, Neil Edwards, Alamy.





Saxophonist Ian McDonald took

home a demo of this track and,

faced with its striking newness,

thought, “What is this?” Robert

Fripp likened its crushing effect

on early audiences to Marv

Newland’s 1969 animation,

Bambi Meets Godzilla.

21st Century Schizoid Man (Radio Edit) by King

Crimson (Fripp, Lake, McDonald, Giles, Sinfield)

℗&©2019 Robert Fripp from the forthcoming

box set, King Crimson, Complete 1969


One of Crimson’s prettiest songs is

presented here as a montage

featuring four of the vocalists who

have sung it since it was originally

released in 1970.

Cadence And Cascade (feat Greg Lake, Gordon

Haskell, Adrian Belew and Jakko Jakszyk) by King

Crimson (Fripp, Sinfield) ℗&©2019 Robert Fripp

from the forthcoming 2CD set King Crimson

Tourbox 2019.

Reckoned by many to be the high

point of the group’s long career,

and certainly one of their most

melodic and moving creations,

Starless had been performed live

for a year or so before it was

recorded, in 1974, going through

numerous lyrical variations. This

version saw the return of founder

member Ian McDonald on


Starless (edit) by King Crimson (Cross, Fripp,

Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James) ℗&©2006

Robert Fripp from The Condensed 21st Century

Guide To King Crimson.

When recording 1974’s Red longplayer,

Fripp took to withholding

his opinion – a position of “radical

neutrality”, as he put it.

Nevertheless, the album harnessed

concentrated power, particularly on

the metal heaviness of the title

track. The template for many

groups’ excursions into avant rock,

and an undersung influence on

Kurt Cobain.

Red by King Crimson (Fripp) ℗&©2006 Robert

Fripp from The Condensed 21st Century Guide To

King Crimson.

Words by Mike Barnes

One aspect of the current King

Crimson that differentiates it from

all previous line-ups is that in their

live performances they “reimagine”

material from throughout the

group’s 50-year career. Here they

revisit the melancholic grandeur of

one of their earliest recorded songs,

a cautionary and doomy epistle

addressed to the post-Summer of

Love generation of 1969.

Epitaph by King Crimson (Fripp, Lake, McDonald,

Giles, Sinfield) ℗&©2017 Robert Fripp from the

album Live In Vienna.

Although King Crimson have

amassed an album’s worth of new

songs and instrumentals since 2013,

there are no immediate plans to

record them in the studio. Meltdown

incorporates some familiar elements

but also feels like part of a new

chapter in the band’s history.

Meltdown by King Crimson (Jakszyk, Fripp)

℗&©2016 Robert Fripp from the album Radical

Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind.

Another recent composition, with

Fripp’s trademark style of riff

patterns building with an

inexorable, formal logic, allied to

the considerable wallop of the

eight-piece line-up, who lock in

here to thrilling effect. Collins’ sax

adds weight before he lightens

proceedings by delivering a

delicious flute solo.

Radical Action II by King Crimson (Fripp)

℗&©2018 Robert Fripp from the album

Meltdown, Live In Mexico City.

In a near perfect case of retrofitting,

Radical Action II is often played in

concert as an intro to Level Five. It

was originally on 2003’s The Power

To Believe, which tellingly, was

nearly titled Nuovo Metal. One of

Fripp’s more ominous progressions,

this performance delivers industrial

strength levels of belligerence.

Level Five by King Crimson (Belew, Fripp, Gunn,

Mastelotto) ℗&©2018 Robert Fripp from the

album Meltdown, Live In Mexico City.



genuinely progressive rock music in the space of one CD?

Robert Fripp, the sole constant member of the band and

their “raison d’être”, has a singular take on the group’s

inception – that their 1969 debut, In The Court Of The Crimson King,

“reached back and pulled those young players towards it in order that

it could be made.”

The idea behind this MOJO Anthology: Rare, Classic, Unusual And

Live 1969-2019, is to pull a new audience towards the highly individual

riches of King Crimson – and to reward both hardcore fans as well as

adventurous neophytes. The 12 tracks, compiled by MOJO and the

band, encompass every phase of their idiosyncratic career: from the

monumental first steps of 1969, and their subsequent early-’70s

triumphs; through the polyrhythmic post-new wave approach of the

’81-84 line-up; the “double trio” of the mid-’90s; and the current octet

with three drummers. While there have been many hiatuses, King

Crimson have re-emerged, according to Fripp, when “there was a

need for King Crimson music to be played”. Now, by any measure,

seems as good a time as any…

The Grammy-nominated closer to

1982’s Beat builds slowly from

Robert Fripp’s gently undulating

guitar lines played through his

Frippertronics tape delay system,

which then leads into a fiery group

instrumental. This version adds

five and a half minutes to the

intro, giving it more of an

architectural span.

Requiem extended (edit) by King Crimson (Belew,

Fripp, Levin, Bruford) ℗&©2016 Robert Fripp

from Beat: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Originally released on 2002’s

Happy With What You Have To

Be Happy With EP, an early

version of a song that would

reappear on The Power To Believe

the following year. Recorded

relatively informally in a small

studio, a circumstance which only

adds to its relaxed charm.

Eyes Wide Open (Acoustic Version) by King

Crimson (Belew, Fripp, Gunn, Mastelotto)

℗&©2008 Robert Fripp from Heaven & Earth

box set.

One of the highlights of The

ConstruKction Of Light from 2000,

this instrumental showcases

elaborate, clean-toned guitar

picking and formidable angular

figures. The title comes from the

piece’s similarities to one of Fripp’s

first forays into this kind of complex

musical landscape, 1974’s Fracture.

Frakctured by King Crimson (Belew, Fripp, Gunn,

Mastelotto) ℗&©2019 Robert Fripp from The

ReconstruKction Of Light/Heaven & Earth box set.

Every incarnation of King Crimson

has explored improvisation live,

and the instrumental section of this

1973 song has varied widely in both

length and mood. This recent

reading is subtle and nuanced with

impressive interplay between

Fripp’s guitar, Mel Collins on sax

and Jakko Jakszyk’s wordless

choral vocals.

Easy Money by King Crimson (Fripp, Wetton,

Palmer-James) ℗&©2017 Robert Fripp from Live

In Chicago.







Abdullah Ibrahim


What music are you currently

grooving to?

I really enjoy the music of the natural

world. I live in the countryside, so for

me it’s the sound of springtime in the

mountains; the birds singing to each

other, the gentle flow of the river.

There’s a special rhythm that’s very

calming and inspiring. It was a big

influence on my new album.

What, if push comes to shove, is

your all-time favourite album?

Duke Ellington once said to me

something like, “My favourite album

is the next one.” I’m inclined to agree.

What was the first record you ever

bought? And where did you buy it?

It was of Sotho Traditional Music,

which comes from Lesotho, a small

kingdom within South Africa, which

has its own individual musical style

as well as its own traditional instruments.

It’s also the land of my father.

Which musician, other than yourself,

have you ever wanted to be?

In another lifetime, I would like to

have been a shakuhachi player. It’s a

type of traditional Japanese flute –

the sound is something akin to wind

blowing through bamboo trees.

The instrument came to Japan from

China in the 7th century. I’d imagine

myself to be a master of the Ko-ryū

[old school] tradition of playing.

What do you sing in the shower?

I do not.

What is your favourite Saturday

night record?

It has to be Diminuendo And

Crescendo In Blue by Duke Ellington

and his Orchestra.

And your Sunday morning record?

When I Rose This Morning by the

Mississippi Mass Choir is great.

They’ve got over 230 members.

It’s very uplifting.

Abdullah Ibrahim’s new album The

Balance is out on June 28 via Gearbox




Rayon Richards Photography, Getty, Anna Victoria Best

Anna Meredith



What music are you currently

grooving to?

I’m finishing off my second album at

the moment. When I’m writing I go

out of my way to not listen to any

music, as it freaks me out. If audio

books count, just now I’m listening

to David Mitchell’s The Thousand

Autumns Of Jacob de Zoet. It’s set in

18th century Japan and is part

historical blunders between the

Japanese and a Dutch trading

station, part supernatural love story.

What, if push comes to shove, is

your all-time favourite album?

A horrendously hard question!

I’m gonna plump for Björk’s Debut,

which I love because of the perfect

storm of nostalgia, amazing bold

and varied tracks, and Björk.

What was the first record you

ever bought? And where did

you buy it?

It was either the singles off Elton

John’s The One, purchased with

secret excitement, or Inspiral

Carpets’ Dragging Me Down,

purchased with wannabe nonchalant

teenage coolness, in HMV in

Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Which musician, other than yourself,

have you ever wanted to be?

Maybe Philip ‘Spike’ Edney, who

got to sing all the live Queen

backing vocals. Who wouldn’t want

to sing backing vocals for Queen,

whilst not giving yourself the

inevitable crushing disappointment

of not being Freddie Mercury…?

I’m a huge fan.

What do you sing in the shower?

I like to squeak my way through the

Destiny’s Child back catalogue.

Recently I’ve found showering

conducive to crooning a spot of

Girl as I lather.

What is your favourite Saturday

night record?

There’s a nine-minute version of

Pet Shop Boys’ Always On My Mind

I’ve been known to play on repeat of

a Saturday.

And your Sunday morning record?

Sunday mornings are about

attempting to somehow dehangoverise

oneself through music,

so it would be something crisp

and energising, like some Philip

Glass or Teleman or Purcell or

Owen Pallett.

Find Anna Meredith’s soundtrack for

Eighth Grade at annameredith.com

Slick Rick


What music are you currently

grooving to?

A variety. Classic Latin, house music,

old school, reggae, good hip-hop. I

love Missy Elliott, Drake, shit like

that. Dennis Brown, The Heptones.

You can rely on the old styles but the

new stuff will refresh you.

What, if push comes to shove, is

your all-time favourite album?

Woah. I have too many, but I’m

going to say Make Way For Dionne

Warwick, with Walk On By on it. So

beautiful. Such a nice spirit and a

nice tone, you get nostalgic.

What was the first record you ever

bought? And where did you buy it?

It was a rap record called Catch A

Beat from Crazy Eddie’s on Fordham

Road in the Bronx in 1981, ’82, [poss

Catch The Beat by T/Ski Valley].

Which musician, other than yourself,

have you ever wanted to be?

When Michael Jackson made Billie

Jean, everybody was crazy about

him, they all wanted to be that cool.

But I’m happy being me, pretty

much. Each to each one, you know?

You grab from different areas and

develop your own personality.

“Who wouldn’t

want to sing

backing vocals

for Queen?”



What do you sing in the shower?

I don’t. I might hum something,

but I’m an in-and-out type of cat,

ha ha!

What is your favourite Saturday

night record?

A bunch of house records. House

gets Saturday night jumping, it gathers

different communities together,

gets ‘em popping right away, you

know what I mean?

And your Sunday morning record?

Depends. I’m not really a slow, laid

back, Sunday morning type person.

If I’m in a strong hip-hop mood and

I need an emergency wakeup call

I might listen to the Wu Tang Clan,

I might listen to Bounty Killer if I

need a quick rush. And I’ve got a

bunch of relaxing stuff from the ’60s

and ’70s, pop, soft rock things. Glen

Campbell sets the mood too. It’s all

about the ambience.

The Deluxe 30th Anniversary Edition of

The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick is out

now on UMC/Mercury.


Dr Brian May unveils the bust of Freddie Mercury with sculptor Tom Mackenzie.

Own a piece of Queen history and celebrate the legend that

is Freddie Mercury with a full-size or miniature replica bust.

Prices from £995 with PayPal interest-free repayment options.

Described by Brian May as “amazing” and a “priceless treasure,”

the original sculpture was crafted in collaboration with Queen

over several months ahead of their Oscar-winning hit, Bohemian

Rhapsody. The bust was showcased in the VIP Reception Area at

the movie world premiere and is soon to join other unique pieces at

the Queen Studio Experience in Montreux, Switzerland.

The work attracted national media coverage following its unveiling

in an Instagram post in which Brian proclaimed “Freddie lives!”

The post received over 300k likes in the first 24 hours.

A proportion of each sale will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix

Trust funding desperately needed HIV/AIDS initiatives worldwide.

For details including bust personalisation and payment options,

specifications, more photos and availability, please visit:


Academic House,

24-28 Oval Road

London NW1 7DT

Tel: 020 7437 9011

Reader queries: mojoreaders@


Subscriber queries: bauer@


General e-mail: mojo@


Website: mojo4music.com


John Mulvey

Senior Editor

Danny Eccleston

Art Editor

Mark Wagstaff

Associate Editor


Geoff Brown

Associate Editor


Jenny Bulley

Associate Editor


Ian Harrison

Picture Editor

Matt Turner

Senior Associate Editor

Andrew Male

Associate Deputy

Art Editor

Russell Moorcroft

Contributing Editors

Phil Alexander,

Keith Cameron,

Sylvie Simmons

For mojo4music.com contact

Danny Eccleston


rants, etc.

MOJO welcomes letters for publication. Write to: MOJO Mail, Academic House,

24-28 Oval Road, London NW1 7DT. E-mail: mojoreaders@bauermedia.co.uk


when thinking about Queen. At time of writing, worldwide box office receipts

for 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody are fast approaching one billion dollars –

a meganumber to file alongside all the others that have defined their story:

the biggest-selling album in UK history (Greatest Hits, 6.3 million); the

most streamed song from the 20th century (Bohemian Rhapsody, of course,

1.6 billion streams); and so on.

There is much more to Queen, though, than mere scale, and this month’s

MOJO cover story explores the serious musical riches upon which their

triumphs were built. With the significant help of Brian May and Roger Taylor,

Mark Blake learns the real stories behind the fabled hits, and investigates some

of the less-celebrated classics hiding in that mighty back catalogue. Plus, of

course, there are rollerskating nuns, giant prawns, all-night Scrabble sessions

and some striking insights on that blockbuster movie…

“The moustache is in the wrong place in documentary terms,” admits Brian

May, “but for telling the story we want to tell it’s in the right place.”

Thanks for their

help with this issue:

Keith Cameron, Fred Dellar,

Del Gentleman

Among this month’s


John Aizlewood,Martin Aston,

Mike Barnes,Mark Blake,

Glyn Brown,David Buckley,

John Bungey,Stevie Chick,

Andy Cowan,Max Décharné,

Fred Dellar,Tom Doyle,

David Fricke,Andy Fyfe,George

Garner,Pat Gilbert,John Harris,

Will Hodgkinson,David Hutcheon,

Jim Irvin,David Katz,James McNair,

Chris Nelson,Lucy O’Brien,Mark

Paytress,Andrew Perry,Victoria

Segal,David Sheppard,Michael

Simmons,Sylvie Simmons,

Mat Snow,Ben Thompson,

Jeff Tamarkin,Kieron Tyler,

Charles Waring,Roy Wilkinson,

Lois Wilson,Stephen Worthy

Among this month’s


Cover: Getty

Andrew Cotterill, Kevin Cummins,

Henry Diltz, Steve Emberton,

Guy Eppel, Steve Gullick,

Claudia Hahn, Koh Hasebe,

Pete Mazel, Barry Plummer,

Michael Putland, Mike Randolph,

Rayon Richards, Ebet Roberts,

Myriam Santos, Mattia Zoppellaro


0185 8438884

For subscription or back issue queries contact CDS

Global on Bauer@subscription.co.uk

To access from outside the UK

Dial: +44 (0)1858 438884


Let there be dancing in the

streets, drinking in the saloons

and necking in the parlour

I was fascinated to read your piece on the sharpie

culture of the ’70s [MOJO 307]. Living in suburban

Melbourne, one was very aware of the different

gangs, with their territories defined by stops on the

metro. The gigs I attended as a 14-year-old always

had an edge, but I saw Billy Thorpe, Skyhooks,

Buster Brown and an early Bon Scott-fronted

AC/DC; even then they were a force of nature.

The piece got me thinking just how underserved

and underrated Australian rock has been over here.

Surely there is scope in your magazine to dig a bit

deeper and have a good look at the treasure trove

of great bands that emerged in Australia throughout

that period? Perhaps start with Skyhooks, who are

arguably the most important Aussie band of all time

for their achievements in writing confidently about

Melbourne’s suburban life, whilst setting album

sales and concert attendance records.

As a teenager growing up in Melbourne, I was

exposed to music that I would never hear again once

I moved back to the UK. Which has been a pity,

as Australia found its own unique way to entertain

itself and leave a legacy of fine rock music.

Paul McColm, via e-mail

I think we’d better keep

everything on a business basis

Thank you for continuing to publish the best, most

balanced, informative, and relevant music magazine

there is. Having said all that, can I make a suggestion

regarding tweaking the How To Buy Top 10 lists?

Instead of naming a particular artist and asking

readers to offer their favourites, why not ask for

readers to recommend their favourite debut albums,

or live albums? Or albums on certain record labels,

or albums released in one particular year?

For instance, 1978 alone saw releases such as

This Year’s Model, Darkness On The Edge Of Town,

Some Girls, Harder Than The Rest by Culture, You’re

Gonna Get It, Kaya, and Live And Dangerous. If I

remember right, Kate Bush herself released two

albums. Can any other single year beat that?

David Tags Taylor, via e-mail

Let joy be unconfined

Just had to drop you a line to let you know how

great recent issues have been – and not just the

recent ones. The amount of disparate artists you

manage to cover is staggering and the writing is, as

always, superb. It’s always a pleasure to hear a copy

falling through the letterbox. Of particular interest

recently was Mark Blake’s entertaining interview



with Francis Rossi [MOJO

306]. I don’t consider myself a

fan of Rossi’s work so Blake must

have been doing something right

that enticed me to read the entire

article; and it’s not the first time

that’s happened.

Ditto the John Sebastian

interview in issue 304. As for the

Joni Mitchell piece… now that’s

what I call a comprehensive cover

feature! Brilliantly laid out and

superb picture research. Phew!

How about one of your gorgeous

in-depth pieces on the woefully

neglected Robyn Hitchcock and

perennial favourites, Madness? You

know you want to…

Chris Williams, Ely, Cambs

If he doesn’t sing too often,

he can break even

Many thanks for a great article on the Rolling

Thunder Revue [MOJO 307]. The unidentified

figure wearing shorts in the photo of Dylan playing

the trumpet is Allen Ginsberg’s long-term partner,

the poet and actor Peter Orlovsky.

Martin Maw, via e-mail

There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

Thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic Fleetwood Mac 50

Greatest Songs retrospective in MOJO 306 – even

if there was one startling oversight. Any list of FM’s

best must surely include Christine McVie and Eddy

Quintela’s exquisitely crafted, poignant love song, As

Long As You Follow. It’s easily up there with Little

Lies, Everywhere and You Make Loving Fun.

Dennis Abbott, Perk, Belgium

Stop following me

or I’ll have you arrested!

I am a regular subscriber to your remarkable

magazine. Fortunately, I can receive it regularly

even here in Peru. So, as you can see, me and my

MOJO 305 find ourselves right now in the village

of Cabanaconde in southern Peru, with the Andes

in the background. Keep up your good work and

please continue in letting us participate in those vivid

discussions concerning those really important topics:

the most recent cover, the artists and bands you have

to cover next, the number of Beatles articles you

have published in the last 12 issues… and so on.

Thomas Weckert, Lima, Peru

You look more like an oldclothes

man to me

I just had to say that before seeing your special

Fleetwood Mac cover [MOJO 306], I had never

realised what an uncanny resemblance there is






Handy in the Andes:

Thomas Weckert’s

MOJO in Cabanaconde,

Peru, South America.





between the Mac’s John McVie and

the Tap’s Derek Smalls. In fact,

given the long periods of downtime

between Mac albums and tours,

perhaps John McVie is Derek Smalls.

Come on MOJO – we need to know!

Martin Keady, via e-mail

t’s sheer folly on

your part

Many thanks for printing my letter

n MOJO 307, which suggested

hat your album reviews should say

mething about whether reissued

aterial is easily available elsewhere.

ois Wilson’s review in the same

issue of How Much Longer Must I Wait?,

a compilation of singles and unreleased

tracks by soul singer Lee Moses, is a case

in point. Lois understandably awards five stars to the

“magnetic” performances on this new compilation.

But what is not clear from the review is that all of

the singles contained on it are also to be found on

the 2007 CD reissue of Lee’s classic Time And Place

album, which Lois mentions and which is still easily

obtainable. Indeed, this latest compilation actually

omits the single version of the title-track of Time And

Place which was included on the 2007 reissue of the

album. Thus, anyone who had the 2007 album (ie,

any sane person) would already have 13 of the 16

tracks on the new CD and would, in effect, be paying

simply to obtain its three previously unreleased

tracks. So while the music on How Much Longer Must

I Wait? is undoubtedly of five-star quality, as a reissue

package it is distinctly underwhelming. Phew, I feel

better for getting that off my chest.

Steve Rigby, Manchester

Hey, I think these fellows

are phonies!

That dumb lie/rumour, initiated by Bobby Keys

himself, that Bobby Keys played the sax solo on The

Wanderer [MOJO 305]… Utterly preposterous. The

sax player was Buddy Lucas. The story about it being

BK is a bullshit story.

M Crenshaw, via e-mail

You shoulda come to the

first party

I have never written to the letters page of any

magazine but, as a longstanding MOJO reader,

had to challenge John Philips re the Swoons CD

[MOJO 307]. Since it arrived, it has been a regular

on my playlist: Prefabs, Orange Juice, Felt, Triffids,

Microdisney, Scritti… rarely has a CD been so well

named. More slinky ’80s indie with a sweet pop

twist, please. Variety is the spice of life, so keep up

the good work.

Kev Hartley, Langtoft, Lincs



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proudly present:



King Crimson 1997-2008 24 Disc Boxed Set. The complete overview:

studio, live, hi-res stereo / surround sound audio, video recordings -

many available on disc for the first time.

• 18 CDs: studio and live • 2 x DVD-a: fully compatible

with all dvd players. The ReconstruKction of Light and

The Power to Believe • 4 x Blu-Rays: BD1 features:

every concert by King Crimson ProjeKcts 1, 3, 4 & 6

BD2 features: every concert by King Crimson ProjeKct 2

(over 30 concerts) BD3 features: King Crimson studio

albums in stereo and 5.1: The ReconstruKction of Light -

part re-recorded, fully remixed, The Power to Believe -

enhanced, extended BD4 Bootleg TV, King Crimson 2000

tour - Nearly 10 hours of audio/video • Presented in a 12"

box with 40 pages book featuring rare photos, new sleevenotes

by Sid Smith & David Singleton and memorabilia.

Album CD/DVD-a editions:

The ReconstruKction of Light & The Power To Believe.

Stereo/Hi-res stereo/Surround sound, bonus material.

Artwork from a painting by P.J.Crook.


Complete 1969 * Sailors’ Tales Complete LTIA Starless The Road To Red On (and off) The Road THRAK Box

The Heaven and Earth boxed set is the latest in a series of boxed sets covering the entire span of King Crimson's career

from 1969. Each set features the original album(s) remastered in high-resolution stereo, plus new stereo and 5.1 surround

sound mixes on DVD-a (playable on all dvd players) & Blu-ray discs alongside an abundance of CDs - including previously

unavailable live & studio material, accompanied by comprehensive booklets & memorabilia housed in 12" boxes.

Additionally, all original stereo/new stereo/5.1 mixes can be obtained on CD/DVD-a sets devoted to each individual album.

Eleven of the fourteen original studio/live albums have been issued as 200 gram super-heavyweight audiophile vinyl

releases cut from masters approved by Robert Fripp with the final titles scheduled for release by autumn 2019.

The standard catalogue is also available for download & streaming. * coming October 2019






Roger Waters joins Nick Mason’s

Saucerful Of Secrets on-stage!

Is the Pink Floyd war over?



APRIL 18, 2019, the audience for

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets

at New York’s Beacon Theatre

witnessed an unexpected guest appearance.

Pink Floyd’s co-founder Roger Waters turned

up to sing the 1968 album track Set The

Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. Floyd

drummer Mason’s redux tribute to the

group’s early works has been playing to

sold-out houses across the world since

summer 2018, but this was the first time

one of his ex-bandmates had stopped by.

t Gig In NY

Speaking to MOJO before their inaugural

tour last year, Mason said he’d be delighted if

Waters or Floyd guitarist/bandleader David

Gilmour “came down and did something,

but not at the first few shows.” Fifty gigs later,

Waters obliged. While Mason played the

gong during the song’s lengthy intro, Waters

loped on-stage to gasps of surprise and

tumultuous applause, snuck up behind him

and tickled him under the ribs. Waters then

paced the stage, waving his fists triumphantly.

“In my considered opinion, you sound a lot

better than we did back in the day,” he said,

gesturing towards Mason – “my dear old

friend” – and the rest of the group.

Once he was done, Waters dispensed

man-hugs to each of the band, including

bassist Guy Pratt, who’d replaced him in

Pink Floyd in 1987. As charm offensives

and magnanimous gestures go, this was

impressive. More so when one considers

the history of public acrimony between

Waters and his former bandmates and

the brittle détente that seems to exist

between him and Gilmour.

When asked if Pink Floyd could perform

again as a band after 2005’s Live 8 reunion,

Mason told MOJO, “My bag is packed and

I’m ready to go… I’d really like to think we

could do something.” However, The Endless

River, a 2015 album of reworked outtakes

aside, it never happened. Gilmour reportedly

turned down several big-money offers to tour

Pink Floyd again, “with or without Roger,”

Gilmour stressed.

He and Mason last played with their old


Remember a day? (main) Nick

Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets at

the Beacon Theatre, New York

City, April 18, 2019 (from left) Guy

Pratt, Roger Waters, Nick Mason,

Gary Kemp and Dom Beken; (left,

clockwise from left) the Floyd in

’68, Mason, Gilmour, Waters and

keyboardist Rick Wright; (below)

two old friends backstage.

nemesis during a guest

appearance at Waters’

gig at London’s 02 Arena

in May 2011. Having

watched Pink Floyd

proceed without him in

the 1980s and ’90s,

Waters has, in recent years, strived to reclaim

the legacy. His 2010-13 tour of The Wall

made him the third most profitable solo act

in the world behind Madonna and Bruce

Springsteen. Little wonder he’s

happy to show up and perform

with his ex-drummer.

Few, though, would have

predicted Nick Mason’s

Saucerful Of Secrets. Inspired

by his hands-on role in the

2017 Floyd exhibition, Their

Mortal Remains, Mason

“It’s been

like turning

back the

hands of



decided he di j

treasure” and fancied getting his hands dirty

again. In the absence of his former bandmates,

he’s touring with Pratt, guitarist Lee

Harris, keyboard player Dom

Beken and Spandau Ballet

guitarist/vocalist Gary Kemp,

happily playing 2,500-seat

theatres instead of stadiums.

Stranger still, Saucerful Of

Secrets are selling out venues

by not playing the hits. Their

setlist stops shy of The Dark Side

The Moon, swinging

stead between

d-era 45s and

ddities (Arnold Layne

d Vegetable Man),

undtrack segments

The Nile Song,

nd deep cuts from

Meddle and Atom Heart Mother.

Pink Floyd aren’t entirely dormant: Their

Mortal Remains recently opened in Madrid,

and a 5.1 remix of 1977’s Animals is pending.

In the meantime, their unexpected spin-off

group goes from strength to strength.

Saucerful Of Secrets will tour Europe

throughout July, and have a live album

planned for release soon.

“It’s been like turning back the hands of

time,” said its surprised leader.

Mark Blake

Kate Izor (2), Getty









BEATLES Counterfactual is

a long, self-sustaining tradition,

reimagining the post-War world’s

cultural relief map without (arguably) its

most seismic event. What if The Beatles had

never formed? Or split in 1962? What would

music, or politics even, be like? What if Paul

really was dead? Or Lennon lived?

Or how about, The Beatles did exist,

but after a mysterious, reality-rearranging

‘event’, only one person in the whole world

(who luckily, happens to be a musician)

remembers them and their songs? The idea is

the nub of a new movie, written by Blackadder/Four

Weddings’ Richard Curtis from an

idea by Jack Barth. Directed by Danny Boyle

and starring former EastEnders star Himesh

Patel, it’s a feelgood family romcom set in

a world identical to our own (even post-

‘event’), not the sci-fi dystopia that a

super-invested Beatles fan might hallucinate.

“I wasn’t so concerned with the impact of

The Beatles on global culture,” Curtis tells

MOJO, “apart from one joke about Oasis not

existing. It’s more about the joy of rediscovery

than it is the removal, or how young

people might still be imprisoned in some

way. It’s, What would people

make of the songs? Would

they go down as well?”

Curtis decided that on

hearing Beatles songs for the

first time, faithfully sung by

an unassuming Anglo-Asian

boy-man from Suffolk, people

would go nuts.

“Beatles records are these

Fabergé eggs of perfection,”

he says. “But I suppose we’re

saying that even without the

production, the tunes are sufficiently

amazing to have caught people’s ears.”

In the movie, Patel’s Jack Malick leaps

from musical obscurity with a repertoire

plagiarised from a band who never existed.

Curtis’s Suffolk neighbour Ed Sheeran,

playing himself, lends the up-and-comer a

hand, game enough to acknowledge that Hey

Jude et al. blow even his best stuff out of the

water. “In a way, Jack’s story is Ed’s story,”

says Curtis. “Banging around every small

agricultural fair in Norfolk and Suffolk, then

becoming this enormous star.”

As an eight-year-old, in Stockholm in

“It’s about

the joy of



You won’t see me: the

Fabs ponder the meaning

of “nothing is real” while

making ’67 Strawberry

Fields Forever video;

(inset) Yesterday poster.

964, Curtis waited three

onsecutive nights outside

he Foresta Hotel for the

abs to step out and wave,

nd he says Beatle values

“love, friendship, funny”)

ave informed all his film

work. “They were a sort of

lue,” he ponders. “They

were something the older

eneration had to acknowldge

that the younger

eneration had got right.

he ’50s was a stolid,

unhappy decade, gloomy,

too-formal, trapped in the past

and The Beatles opened it up.”

MOJO readers must decide

if a movie that ignores broader

implications of Beatle loss is

for them. The hardest thing to

deliver – affecting, not affected

versions of Beatles songs sung by an actor – it

delivers. But too much pondering timelines

and paradoxes – as when the most Beatlecentric

moment (we won’t spoil it but it is

mind-boggling) is revealed – will end in tears.

For instance, how would Curtis describe the

phenomenon that wipes The Beatles from

history? “Not very well!” he chuckles. “It’s

something physical but also psychological,

like a short circuit. But to be honest, I haven’t

thought it through enough and I’m hoping

that people won’t either.”

Danny Eccleston


Lennon Quits

In ’62


John won’t do

a Gerry & The


song, leaves

before first

single. In

1991, he’s

embittered, failing and

caustic, while Paul leads “his”

Beatles on the oldies circuit.

Ian Hart’s portrayal is eerie,

the last scene is haunting.

They Split In ’66


This Interzone

story finds the

US author

channeling a

Lester Bangs

article (from

2000!) on how

The Beatles broke up in 1966

after the ‘bigger than Jesus’

stink made Governor Ronald

Reagan ban them in

California. Nineteen years later,

John assassinates Reagan…

They Record Again


BAXTER, 1998)

Liverpool hard

sci-fi author

dreams a last

record, entitled

God made in a

parallel cosmos

where pending

global destruction kept the

group together which finds

its way into the effects of a

departed sailor. And Lennon

sings Maybe I’m Amazed.

They Don’t Split



A fantasy ‘68 to

‘75, with




kidnapping by

the Weather

Underground and a massive

Central Park gig. See also

Mark Shipper’s 1978 satire

Paperback Writer, where the

Fabs play with the Sex Pistols.

The SNL Reformation



Blogged by a

Toronto lawyer,

what went

down after


persuaded the others to go

on Saturday Night Live in May

1976. An impromptu

three-hour gig, new albums,

tours and a mysterious end

are skilfully educed. Read it at


Alamy, Sky Arts

































































































A satirical take on British culture -

both high and low

Available now

on LP, CD & DL

Stretching the fabric of

bass-time: Jah Wobble feels

the low frequencies; (inset)

relaxing with Bill Laswell at

Orange Music Sounds.

“That flange-effect

bass sound…

spongey and funky.”






it’s an age thing, but

everything I do now it’s because


I might not get the opportunity

again,” says Jah Wobble, contemplating the

album by his band The Invaders Of The Heart

and New Jersey-based bassist Bill Laswell.

“The way things are on both sides of the


Title: Realm Of


Date: late summer

Production: Bill


Songs: Fanfare For

Phenomena, Dark

Luminosity, At The

Point Of Hustle, The

Perfect Beat

The Buzz: “I

wanted to do

something that was

a bit dubby, but kind

of get the flavours of

my band, and they

are quite intense

players. It’s not

stereotypical dub.

I hate to use the

term but a modern

jazz kind of thing,

a bit 1970s.”

Jah Wobble

Atlantic, the whole hassle of getting work

visas, it’s getting harder to travel.”

Ironically, American work visas were the

catalyst for Realm Of Spells. Determined to

make the most of their three years’ duration,

the Invaders nudged their boss into organising

a trip to New Jersey last October to

collaborate with Laswell, a long-term friend

of Wobble with whom the band had hung out

after a gig in New York in 2016.

“I was aware of Bill from the word go,” says

Wobble. “In the early 1980s, I was doing a very

heavy, subterranean, London-ish, post-punk

thing with Public Image; he had that

flange-effect bass sound, spongy and funky,

really New York. I used to joke that he was

who I wanted producing me, but I never

thought I’d meet him.” The two bonded,

however, over mutual love of Miles Davis’s

Dark Magus, which brings him back to their

current project, recorded at Laswell’s Orange

Music Sound Studios in West Orange.

“I get fed up with lowest common

denominator dub and airy-fairy new-age jazz,

I wanted to make something intense. To get a

gutsy, Fender Precision bass sound like I had

on [1979 PiL classic] Poptones… and that was

like meeting a sweetheart you hadn’t seen

since school. If you listen to Miles’s electric

period, those records had such detail in them,

and that was what I really zoned in on, the

licks and those incredible hi-hat patterns.

They were really well recorded by Teo Macero,

with the volume and dynamic of rock.”

Realm Of Spells comes at a time Wobble

declares “a bit of a purple patch”. “We’ve

noticed we’re doing bigger venues, not

massive places, but suddenly we’re selling

rooms out, even in smaller provincial towns.

I delay giving my stuff over to digital

platforms until I’ve exhausted the physical

side of things, but I love the ‘ping, ping, ping’

on my phone of albums selling on Bandcamp.

Streaming is fucking useless, though.”

He already has another album in the

can, which contains his already notorious

Brexit-tackling A Very British Coup, recorded

with Youth, Mark Stewart, Andrew Weatherall

and Keith Levene. “It’s acid meets punk meets

post-punk reggae meets dub. Avant-garde

but commercial. It was going to come out

earlier in the year but, like Brexit, we’ve got

a stay of execution. It’s about public schools,

and how they run rings round us. We’ve got

a system of educational apartheid here, and

you can quote me on that.”

David Hutcheon

Getty (3),Yoko Yamabe



shared new music info last

month on Twitter: “I just

finished a big project

today & it has been a

very intense no sleep 5

weeks… this pollen

has been kicking my ass

but it will be all worth it!”

…a new Crazy Horse

album is coming. In April,

NEIL YOUNG announced, “11

new songs, all written recently are

going to be recorded… high in the

Rockies.” Nils Lofgren will join Billy

Talbot, Ralph Molina and

Young: expect it later this

year …SHRIEKBACK are

financing their 15th

album on the Indiegogo

crowdfunding site, and

want to record it by the

old methods. “This

means stepping back

from our laptops,” they

say. “It means live rooms and

studios and microphones and

sound engineers.” It’s planned for

December …Adrian Sherwood is

pondering the dub companion to


recent Rainford album.

“We’ve got five more

tracks a couple are

really psychedelic so I

might transpose them

into a dub album, using

the best rhythms off

Rainford and the

unreleased tracks. Lee’s

done one about Mick Jagger

that I’m keeping back, (sings)

‘Mick Jagger, tripe and banana, rolling

home from work’” …CHRISSIE

HYNDE’s (left) jazz-oriented covers

set Valve Bone Woe arrives in

September. Recorded at

AIR Studios, it features

songs by Brian Wilson,

Hoagy Carmichael,

Nick Drake, Rodgers

& Hammerstein, Ray

Davies, Charles

Mingus and others.

“I often bemoan what I

regard as a decline in melody

in popular music and I wanted to

sing melodies,” said Hynde…






‘This is acoustic roots music at its most glorious,

and Giddens is fast becoming the genre’s brightest

star in the firmament.’ Uncut, 9/10

‘Turrisi’s accompaniments add a strange, delicate

beauty to Giddens’ solemn, powerful soprano.’

Mojo ★★★★











On tour in November

For details visit



“My most treasured

possession is my

Johnny Thunders

bow tie.”


Somebody who cared:

Bobby Gillespie by

Bobby Gillespie;

(inset) the Primal

Screamer today.

Primal Scream’s true believer in his

own words and by his own hand.

I’d describe myself as… a skinny punk-rock

Scottish bastard-motherfucker? Frontman

with a rock and roll band? I don’t know.

Music changed me… by giving me a frame of

reference that was unknown to me. Punk rock

and post-punk was my cultural revelation, it

was my university and art school, and it set

me on the road to being a creative person.

Away from music… I’m happy to sit in

silence and read, you know. Silence is good.

My biggest vice is… I don’t have any any

more. None. Is buying records all the time a

vice? ’Cos I can’t stop doing that. I just bought

that new Meat Puppets album, the Royal Trux

album, a Mark Stewart reissue, so fucking

many. I buy soul singles off eBay, I’ve been

known to frequent Discogs, MusicStack…

The last time I was embarrassed was…

when I was on The Week [in November 2018,

Bobby appeared on Andrew Neil’s BBC TV

politics show, had his opinions on the failures

of capitalism “closed down” and then sat in

stony silence as Neil, Michael Portillo and

Caroline Flint all danced to Russian band

Little Big’s viral hit Skibidi]. To be there, with

all them, in the heart of Westminster – that

felt like a humiliating experience. But there

are no music programmes to go on any more.

My formal qualifications are… O levels in

History, English and Art, a City & Guilds. I’m a

lithographic printer by trade. That’s it.

The last time I cried

was… I can’t remember,

honestly. Sometimes I cry

when I hear songs, because

they’re so beautiful. It’s a

random thing. I remember

once when I first met my wife,

we were driving in her car, I was

deeply in love and it was before

Christmas and The Pogues’ The Fairytale Of

New York came on the radio. It got to the lines.

“I could have been someone…” and I just broke

down, I was sobbing heavily, and Kate’s

looking at me going, “What’s wrong?” It was

the beauty, the poetry and empathy of Shane

MacGowan’s words, and how he’s sharing that

with all of us.

Vinyl, CD or streaming?… I’m a vinyl junkie,

man. I love the needle, when it hits the vinyl

and digs right in… There’s a physicality which I

love. But I love technology too, the fact you can

hear a track on your phone. My kids listen like

that, it’s like having a hand-held transistor

radio in the ’70s. So everything’s good.

My most treasured possession is… my

Johnny Thunders bow tie. An old girlfriend was

in the front row at a gig he did in Glasgow, and

it fell off and she grabbed it. When I came

home from a Jesus And Mary Chain tour she

gave me it. That, and my wedding ring and my

white wedding suit made for me by Alexander

McQueen. I wore the bow tie at the wedding

with the McQueen suit.

The best book I’ve read is… it changes all the

time, but The Order Of The

Day, a quasi-historical

semi-novel by EricVuillard.

There are two different acts

– the first is when the 18

most powerful industrialists in

Germany met Göring in 1933.

The second is about the

annexation of Austria in 1936. It’s kind

of a warning, ’cos it’s kind of getting close to

those times again.

Is the glass half full or half empty… depends

on how you wake up. At the moment things are

good. I don’t like that saying, actually – I tend to

see things in more extreme terms.

My greatest regret is… woah. Good question.

All I’m going to say is, not following a certain

piece of advice from [late Scream guitarist]

Robert Young, when I was younger.

When we die… we decompose and get eaten

by insects. Hopefully our spirit lives on in our

work and the memories of our loved ones.

That’s the serious answer. The humorous one is

that our mates throw our wretched, stinking

corpse on a funeral pyre and have a fantastic,

drunken, druggy party in our memory.

I would like to be remembered… I could be a

real sarcastic cunt here but… how’d I like to be

remembered. As a guy who loved rock’n’roll.

Somebody who cared.

Ian Harrison

Primal Scream’s Maximum Rock’n’Roll: The Singles

is out now on Sony.



New releases from BGO Records

Visit our website at www.bgo-records.com



Woman, Woman / The New Gary Puckett

And The Union Gap Album / The Gary

Puckett Album + bonus tracks



The Golden Hits Of / Live At The Star-

Club, Hamburg / The Greatest Live

Show On Earth / By Request: More Of

The Greatest Live Show On Earth



Pure Prairie League / Bustin’ Out /

Two Lane Highway / Dance



Where’s The Party? / Can’t Hold Back /

Nothing To Lose / Right Here


Digitally remastered from the original master tapes • Faithfully reproduced sleeve artwork • Additional extra notes

All BGO Records new releases are available from Amazon and all good record shops or online at

www.bgo-records.com. For a free BGO Records text catalogue listing and order form, please email

mike@bgo-records.com or call 01284 724406

BGO Records, 7 St Andrews Street North, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1TZ • Distributed in the UK by Proper Music



"Alexa, what's in the news?"


Amazon Echo, Alexa, and all related logos are

trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affi liates.


Public Enemy’s orator on hip-hop

history, Joe Strummer and the

seven essential ‘P’s.

THE MAN born Carlton Douglas

Ridenhour has led political/sonic

revolutionary cell Public Enemy since

hip hop’s Golden Age. Formed in Long Island

in the mid-’80s, their explosive

1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush The

Show, 1988 follow-up It Takes

A Nation Of Millions To Hold

Us Back and 1990’s Fear Of A

Black Planet remain classics of

the genre. As rap trends grew

and died, PE endured, with

Chuck’s booming, authoritative

rhyming – partly

modelled on the TV and radio

commentators of his beloved

baseball and basketball –

making him one of the form’s

all-time heavyweight voices.

“Do what

you feel

but study

what you’re


Bringing the noise

since ’87: Chuck D

stays vigilant.

In addition to the 14 Public

Enemy albums and four solo sets, in

2016 he joined rap-rock superband

Prophets Of Rage with Cypress

Hill’s B-Real and three of Rage

Against The Machine. Grounded, celebrityspurning

and perspicacious, he’s still keeping

up the pressure, sure of the group’s ongoing

mission and the importance of conscious

creativity. “Art is art,” Chuck tells MOJO,

gnomically. “And artists are always artists.”

You played the Gods Of Rap

tour, with the Wu-Tang Clan

and De La Soul, as Public

Enemy Radio. How does it

differ from Public Enemy?

We’re not doing the entire

Public Enemy band on this

run. Public Enemy Radio is

our return to the DJ concept.

We’ve been touring with DMC

Champion DJ Lord for 20

years, he’s also in Prophets Of

Rage. For me, this will be a

refreshing way to present

these songs.



Five D notices.

1 Procol Harum

A Whiter Shade Of

Pale (DERAM, 1967)

2 Howlin’ Wolf

Smokestack Lightnin’

(CHESS, 1956)

3 Run-D.M.C. Run’s

House (PROFILE, 1988)

4 The Isley

Brothers It’s Your

Thing (T-NECK, 1969)

5= Aretha

Franklin Let It Be



5= The Beatles

Let It Be (APPLE, 1970)

What do you want to achieve with

Public Enemy Radio?

We really want it to be a vehicle that draws

attention back to the history and significance

of a lot of important hip-hop music. A lot of

hip hop history is being overlooked and

hasn’t been properly curated. The curation

we’re doing as PE Radio helps the younger

artists see that they can have long careers –

that they can focus on taking time to

develop their presentation and performance,

rather than just taking a short cut for

popularity’s sake.

Public Enemy’s records, image,

and politics were incendiary…

Were? We are a voice to the voiceless, we are

also a real representation of black men in the

struggle against oppression and a system

that wants to keep it that way.

You narrated a recent Clash podcast

series, years after you were called ‘the

black Joe Strummer’. Do you feel any

affinity with Joe?

Yeah, I like his humility. The Clash made music

for music’s sake. That’s how I always felt

about songwriting and PE in particular.

We make music for ourselves. Not for

popularity’s sake.

What’s next for you, studio-wise?

The studio’s always in me. I’m always

doing all kinds of recordings. I run

and host programming [for

Rapstation.com], we have 10

channels that cover the classics,

women in hip-hop, underground

and underfound artists, international

DJs and producers. I also

run and curate the SpitSlam Record

Group, working in the studio with

the artists on the label.

Would you have any advice for the

young Chuck D that many of us

first heard back on Yo! Bum Rush

The Show?

Do what you feel but study what

you’re doing. You should know

thoroughly what you say, you live.

I have seven Ps that I think are

essential: Plan, Prepare, Plant,

Patience, Pick, Practice, Perform.

And don’t necessarily worry

about popularity.

What has been the most bizarre moment

in your career?

A bizarre moment happened in Australia.

Somebody took a plate of leftover food Flavor

[Flav, hypeman] had eaten and varnished it.

It looked like a fossil with all the food sealed

onto the plate. And then when we went back

there on another tour, the person brought it to

us and asked Flav to sign it. I have it on film.

Tell us something you’ve never told an

interviewer before.

I can’t walk by a MOJO magazine without

picking it up. It doesn’t matter how old the

issue is… I go into a vintage record store and

pick up a copy from 10 years ago and I go into

a Barnes & Noble and pick up the new one.

Being in this magazine is something I don’t

take for granted.

Hear Chuck D on rapstation.com






Cate Le Bon

Dada-melodist wonders at

Faust’s Faust IV (Virgin, 1973)

It was driving around North

Wales, on the road from

Bethesda to Gerlan, when

my dear friend, Sion Glyn,

put The Sad Skinhead on.

I remember it so clearly – we

had just negotiated the first of a few tiny

roundabouts and then it hit. There is a

blurry image of a stone wall and hedge

that it is forever linked with the song. It

was like hearing a new language, a

vocabulary that I did not know I was

missing until I knew it existed. I don’t

remember feeling the width and tactility

of music in that way before then.

When I explored the album as a

whole, it didn’t all sound like the song I

had fallen so hard for, but therein lies [its]

magic and seniority. The first track is an

11 minute-plus jam of distortion and

seductive cacophony that’s fixed to a

point – like working a spirograph until

the paper tears. It was a different planet

to the song that had drawn me in, and yet

when The Sad Skinhead kicked in right

after with an unhinged scream it felt of

the same solar system. And then Jennifer

– a lusher affair but married to the former

in abstract expression. I loved the

concrete dry vocal delivery and

industrial guitar exclamations over the

undulating bass and hypnotic guitar

motifs – it was the type of beauty I craved

– brutal and exciting. Each song thereon

unfolded unexpectedly. It was inspiring

me sonically like nothing had ever before.

It is a tapestry and its magic resides in

the sum of the whole. It is beautiful,

obtuse, ugly, disturbing, traditional,

conventional, infectious, unaware,

generous, magical… and it is the

greatest lesson in making the music you

want to make with an unapologetic

disregard to the notion of genre.

I come back to this album almost every

time I work in a studio, to hear the tone of

a guitar, but mostly to remember how a

song feels. It is an encyclopedia of

reference and an endless well of joy.

Cate Le Bon’s Reward is out on

Mexican Summer.








BOWIE to Hawkwind to Sun Ra

to Tangerine Dream and beyond –

musicians love the possibilities of outer

space. One essential album in the off-world

canon is Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks.

This 1983 LP was helmed by the master and

inventor of atmospheric ambience, Brian

Eno, with his composer brother Roger and

new studio buddy, Canadian producer Daniel

Lanois, as a soundtrack for director Al

Reinhart’s documentary of the historic

Apollo 11 lunar landing. Fittingly, for the

50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the

moon on July 20, 1969, the album has been

remastered and expanded. It now comes

with a second CD of all-new songs created by

the three in the same spirit, and is titled For

All Mankind after Reinhart’s 1989 re-cut of

his original ’83 documentary.

“Brian asked if any tracks were left from

the original session, and I couldn’t find

anything,” explains Lanois. “In any case, it

was more fun to make new stuff.” While the

first album had been birthed at Lanois’

studio in Hamilton, Ontario,

the new tracks were created

via digital files. “Roger and

I sent three tracks each,”

says Lanois, “and Brian then

weirded everything. The

tracks were so manipulated,

I couldn’t see myself in them

any more: just how I like it!

I wish we’d huddled again in

the same room, with all the

micro-negotiations that

happen, but other things

came into place instead.”

What the tracks, old

and new, capture is, “a

floating feeling,” Lanois

reflects. Roger characterises

it as “Weightlessness,

which instantly leads you

away from anything

resembling a beat and into




just how

I like it!”


nebulous areas. It limits your palate

beautifully. One memorable image in the

film was a bright white-blue moon, and as

the rocket approached, it got much darker,

and you realised the moon was above you.

That feeling of immensity was a gift. You

just had to accentuate the majesty.”

But Lanois downplays the often awe-inspiring

film. “Rather than the moon footage,

what about the moons in our heads?” he

demands. “You’re talking about three crazy

motherfuckers, bursting at the seams to

make some kind of masterpiece. A crazy

French Canadian; Roger, a small-time guy

with a big brain; and Brian, who’s just come

off [Talking Heads’] Remain In Light in New

York. That’s what we should be talking about.”

The intensity of the session was offset by

high jinks. Roger – a classical music student

making his first recording – was met off the

plane by a driver and two characters, “weirdlooking,

like skagheads,” he recalls. “When

one of them kept sniffing and his moustache

kept moving I realised it was my brother and

Danny in disguise. I remember

lots of laughing, proper

tears, and parties. But we also

wrote some exquisite music.”

“Brian’s written a

beautiful essay for the new

record,” adds Lanois. “I could

talk about the steel guitar I

played, but these are modern

times. In 1969, the Earth

looked so beautiful from

space, but what’s

happening to it now?

Can you see the plastic

city floating in the ocean?

How’s China looking?

Brian’s essay is every bit as

important as the music.”

Martin Aston

Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres

& Soundtracks’ Extended

Edition, out on UMC on July 19.

Getty, Courtesy of Brian Eno

Raving lunar party: Daniel

Lanois and Brian Eno in the

studio; (far left) Buzz Aldrin

does the moonstomp; (insets

from top) Apollo’s sleeve;

button badge; Roger Eno.


Blueprint for the blues:

Daniel (left, with 1961 Fender

Stratocaster) and Eoin Gallagher

(with 1932 National Triolian) amid

Rory’s vinyl, posters, T-shirts and

guitars; (far left) Gallagher in ’77;

(bottom row) the acetate, tapes

and Parisian street sign.

Rory’s Hoard

MOJO is invited into Irish guitar French gig before his 1995 death from

liver disease. Daniel Gallagher fishes in a

legend Rory Gallagher’s

box and pulls out an orphaned guitar

extraordinary archive. Danny pickup selector switch and an AAA pass

Eccleston soaks up the vibes. from the second Crystal Palace Garden

Party in July 1971. “It’s an odd sensation,”

he says. “This place has its own unique

smell, something like my uncle’s old

apartment. Every time I come here it takes

me back.”

The occasion for MOJO’s invitation is

another archival venture. Rory Gallagher

Blues, a 3-CD box of unreleased outtakes

and live tracks out soon on Chess/Universal.

Its revelatory contents (a haunting version

of I Could Have Had Religion from a WNCR

Cleveland Radio session from 1972 feels

like autobiography mixed with prophecy)

once resided here, though the masters are

now stored in more secure environs,

rather like Gallagher’s famously beat-up

1961 Fender Stratocaster, which has been

booked out of a bank vault for the day, as

it has been on the two occasions that

contemporary blues guitar master Joe

Bonamassa has played it on-stage in

London. A picture of Rory in The Fontana

Showband shows the guitar

once sported a sunburst

THE BLUE door creaks open to reveal

dusty flightcases, knocked-about

filing cabinets and a set of steps

leading to two attic rooms overflowing

with rock’n’roll paraphernalia, all rich with

attachments to Cork city’s master guitarist

and man of the people: Rory Gallagher.

Our guides here are Daniel and Eoin,

nephews of Rory who, with their father –

Rory’s tour manager brother Donal – have

maintained a store of Rory’s records,

instruments, tapes, books and posters in

this part of west London for decades.

For Gallagher fans or fellow hoarders, or

of one


sion of






t signs


nd, less


ngis in

ome of





finish, before it was stolen

in 1966 and later found in

a ditch. MOJO looks at the

guitar’s back – the wood is

dyed indigo from the rubbing

of Rory’s blue jeans.

Daniel and Eoin have fond

memories of their uncle (“He

gave the best birthday

presents”). Although “shy and reserved”

off-stage, he showed them their first chords

when he babysat them. “He’d say, ‘Shall

we watch telly or get out the guitars?’”

says Eoin. “We’d always say, ‘Guitars!’”

One of the lock-up’s most intriguing

items has a connection with the new blues

box. It’s a hastily-typed 1975 invitation on

Swiss notepaper from the manager of

ornery, Flying V-toting bluesman Albert

King, for Gallagher to record with “Alber”

at the Casino in Montreux (inset left). The

hook-up resulted in 1977’s Albert Live

album and a fiery outtake titled You Upset

Me, which finally surfaces this month. Who

upset whom is a moot point, however, as

Gallagher remembered King as an

intimidating presence. “Uncle Rory asked

him what key they were in,” says Daniel.

“King just said ‘Be natural’ and glowered.”

The nephews were in their early teens

when their uncle passed. “I remember the

drive from Cork Cathedral to the burial,”

says Daniel. “People came out of the shops

and offices to watch the coffin go by. It

was like the whole city paying tribute.”

The work of commemoration goes on.

The nephews have their work cut out

collating Rory’s effects for a forthcoming

exhibition (“You’ll open a guitar case and

find a neck scarf he wore one night

decades ago,” says Daniel)

and a comprehensive BBC

“His beatup


has been

booked out

of a bank

vault for

the day.”

sessions set is afoot.

“We did a selection

before [in 1999] but there

could be, like, 15 CDs,”

says Daniel. “There’s so

much amazing Rory music

still to uncover.”

Rory Gallagher Blues is released

on May 31 on Chess/UMC.

Andrew Cotterill (6), John Prew



“We want grooves

you can move to.”


Anthrox Studio

WELCOME black midi,




IT ISN’T every day you meet a 20-year-old

south Londoner extolling the joys of French

prog futurists Magma, and their private

musical world, Zeuhl. But Morgan Simpson is

the remarkable drummer for black midi, one

of the most complex, confounding and

unusual bands to have come out of Britain in

years, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

“Magma go deep,” says Simpson, whose

skills were discovered by his music teacher

parents when he started bashing out rhythms

on pots and pans aged two. “It’s sick, man.”

The roots of black midi, who combine

hardcore, math rock, jazz and even a touch of

musical theatre in singer/guitarist Geordie

Greep’s strangulated yowl, lie in the BRIT

school, the south London comp more famous

for producing pop sensations Adele and

Jessie J than Magma-loving prog polymaths.

Encouraged by an inspirational teacher who

introduced them to the wonders

of Can, classmates Simpson, Greep

and guitarist Matt Kelvin first made

music together aged 16. “We were

doing extended ambient jams and it

was like Swans or something, loud

and droney,” says Greep. “We said we were

a band when really it was just making noise

in rooms: fun, but not something to

take seriously.”

Faced with the impending void of life after

school, Greep contacted every venue in

London he could think of and asked if his nonband

could play. The only one that got back

to him was Brixton dive The Windmill, fast

becoming one of the most vibrant breeding

grounds for new music in the capital. “I

thought perhaps we should have someone

on bass, so I asked my friend Cameron

[Picton] and we rehearsed on the afternoon


● For fans of: Death

Grips, Danny Brown,

Talking Heads

● Online presence

has been kept to

a minimum. “The

focus today has

become on social

media and shit

when it should be

on the music you’re

making,” explains


● Speedway is

bassist Cameron

Picton’s song about

all the new buildings

popping up around




● Bm Bm Bm

● Crow’s Perch

● Speedway

Sock it to ’em: black

midi’s avatars (from

left) Cameron Picton,

Morgan Simpson,

Geordie Greep and

Matt Kelvin.

of the gig. We all thought it would

be a laugh and then it would be

over. But the next day the Windmill’s

booker Tim Perry asked us if

we wanted to play in a month’s

time.” black midi was born.

A series of shows at the

Windmill, including a 90-minute

improvisational set backing Damo

Suzuki in which the ex-Can

frontman simply told them to start

when he jumped in the air, forged

black midi’s reputation as an

uncompromising live sensation,

with acute musical synergy

combining with zero audience

interaction. After vinyl-only single Bm Bm Bm

on producer Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground

label captured black midi’s jagged

energy, a bidding war ensued; surprising

given the band’s distinctly non-commercial

approach. Now signed to Rough Trade, a

debut album is due in June.

“We want to keep it interesting. But we

also want grooves you can move to, melodies

you can sing along to,” says Greep on where

the band can go from here. “Compared to the

depths we explored back at the BRIT School,

I think our songs are actually quite tangible.”

Will Hodgkinson


Hound and vision:

Jake Xerxes

Fussell, waiting

for a song.







UNLIKE MOST artists who appear in

MOJO Rising, Jake Xerxes Fussell has

never written a song in his life. He’s a

song collector, a folklorist who delves into the

neglected corners of the Old Weird America

and rehabilitates the strangest and catchiest

examples of lost tradition. Tales of peaches

growing on sweet potato vines, and

fishmongers who sell mullets with diamonds

in their mouths. “I never had a desire to write

music,” he says, at home in Durham, North

Carolina. “For me, the search is the creative

process, that’s the art.”

The latest examples of how Fussell

breathes new life into esoteric blues and folk

songs can be found on Out Of Sight, his third

solo album. In these vibrant reimaginings, the

academic and the soulful intertwine, and the

songs tell stories that are at once earthly and

magical. “The mundane is often transformative

in a way that’s hard to explain,” he

continues, “I’m attracted to songs like that.”

Fussell cultivated a taste for the arcane

growing up around Georgia and Alabama.

His parents were friends with

“It seemed

way more

radical to be

into Ewan





● For fans of

The Band, The


Steve Gunn.

● Fussell’s fiddleplaying


Libby Rodenbough,

suggested the album

be called I’ve Got

Mullet This Morning,


● Will Oldham is a

big fan of Fussell’s

good vibes, writing,

“I wouldn’t accept

full-fledged nihilism

from him even if he

were standing naked

on the ledge of a tall

building with ‘this

world is shit’ written

on his shaved chest

in, well, shit.”


● The River St Johns

● Winnsboro Cotton

Mill Blues

● Have You Ever

Seen Peaches

Growing On A Sweet

Potato Vine?

bluesmen and folk scholars,

and while Fussell listened to

the Beastie Boys as a teenager,

he never felt the need to reject

the culture that surrounded

him at home.

“I didn’t rebel against my

parents because my parents

were rebellious,” he laughs.

“Growing up in the segregated

South, getting into

blues music or quilting or

basket-making was one

avenue to appreciate

value in African American

culture. You don’t have to

get too far into traditional

music to see it’s extremely

rebellious and nonconformist.

In an era when everybody was

getting into indie rock or whatever, it

seemed way more radical for me to be

into Ewan MacColl.”

A voracious and rigorous interest in

history does not, however, mean that Fussell

strives to recreate the sound of a 1920s blues

session, or a 19th century Irish ballad. Starting

out, he “learned Blind Blake songs, really

complicated rag pieces, note for note, slowing

down the record and trying to really hear what

he was doing. I think there’s a place for that.”

But Fussell and his band place the songs in

transcendent, country-tinged new contexts.

“I try to find something in a song I can relate

to on a personal level,” he says. “If you’re

singing about food or a place or something

concrete, it stays with you.”

And of course, writer’s

block is never an issue when

there are, say, libraries full of

field recordings of Florida

fishmongers to explore.

“People have asked me if

I worry about running out of

material,” he says. “That’s the

last thing I worry about.”

John Mulvey

Get a load of the month’s top

grooves, post-punk and MC’ing.



“I always liked the empty road,” sings Bruce

over a melody that rolls like Fred Neil’s

Everybody’s Talkin’. Almost languid enough to

soothe the wait for new album Western Stars.

Find it: SoundCloud



Julie Campbell covers New Order’s nervy

’81 B-side. Manchester’s poshed up, but she

still senses Factory’s old concrete romance.

Find it: YouTube



Sounding like a female-fronted Dinosaur

Jr (a good thing), the Philly four tackle 4am

relationship break-up after a skinful with

melodic guitar wrangling and self-flagellation.

Find it: YouTube






Fierce dancehall from the

Record Breakers-starring superfast MC and

friends: fascists beware – vengeance is nigh.

Find it: YouTube



Live on Radio 3’s modern classical show

Unclassified, Yorke brings brittle solo piano

and croons enigmas into the endless night.

Find it: YouTube




Anyone who thought Holy Mountain was confusing

will love this, a glitterball-y mix of what

Noel describes as a mix of “Bowie, INXS, U2,

Queen, InDeep and Z .”

Find it: streaming site



Ahead of his solo tour, J recasts

Tom Petty’s moody ’79 radio hit

as, well, a moody shred-fest.

Find it: SoundCloud




Milwaukee’s punk-folkers and Television’s

mainman bring a haunted bulletin where

amnesia, confusion and Vaclav Havel meet.

Find it: YouTube



South London-based trio channel the coiled,

metallic sound of Big Black/Sonic Youth, leavened

by guitarist Luc loof vocal.

Find it: Useless Coordi P streaming now




Ex-Gaye Bykers/Magazine duo

bring Stylophones and Spector

drums to say why the real weirdos and freaks

will one day take over, again. From the

long-player Am I Dead Yet?

Find it: streaming sites

Brad Bunyea, Danny Clinch



Call of the north-west:

Shawn Smith, multi-talented

voice of alt-rock, funk and

confessional song.

Soulful In Seattle

Acclaimed solo artist and

frontman of Brad, Satchel and

Pigeonhed, Shawn Smith left

us on April 3.

SHAWN SMITH only knew two people in

Seattle when he moved there from

Bakersfield in 1987: his grandparents.

Within a short space of time, however, the

connections he made there would change his

life; in turn, he would help change Seattle.

A prodigiously talented singer, songwriter

and multi-instrumentalist, Smith was born in

Spokane, Washington on October 28, 1965.

His artistic journey began in earnest when he

befriended members of the nascent Seattle

rock scene while working at Tower Records.

One gig by local heroes Mother Love Bone

proved particularly epiphanic.

“It was like in Willy Wonka when they

open up the candy room,” the

singer recalled to this writer

in 2015. “There was a whole

scene of people my age

playing hard rock that I

really liked.”

Smith first attained

widespread recognition in





1993 as the singer of Brad, an

eclectic, meditative alt-rock group

comprised of alumni from various

Seattle bands, including Pearl Jam

guitarist Stone Gossard. On their

magnificent debut, Shame, Smith’s

vocals offered a soulful counterpoint

to the agonised howls de

rigueur at the time.

Smith would deliver five

excellent Brad albums, but his talent

blossomed with other bands, too. In

Satchel, his unwavering sensitivity

as a songwriter was foregrounded, while his

Sub Pop-signed group Pigeonhed showed

him to be an adherent of Prince’s funky

gospel. He also added his graceful, soaring

voice to a number of other collaborations

including The Twilight Singers, From The

North and Arsenal.

Throughout, Smith earned

critical acclaim, but mainstream

success largely eluded

him – he remained, in the

words of Afghan Whigs’ Greg

Dulli, “Seattle’s best-kept

secret.” He did, however, enjoy

a second wind with his


The album: Brad

Shame (Epic, 1993)

The sound: No

single album fully

captures Smith’s

range as an artist,

lyricist and singer,

but Brad’s eclectic

debut comes closest.

A thrilling testament

to the versatility of

his voice, it remains

mesmeric to hear

him transition

between the alt-rock

minimalism of

Buttercup and the

throbbing funk of

20th Century.

brilliant solo career. Wrapped In My

Memory – the elegiac standout

track from 2003’s Shield Of Thorns

– was deployed to devastating

effect when closing the Long Term

Parking episode of The Sopranos in

2004. “Man, I had it out for free

download on the website…” Smith

laughed of his failure to monetise a

global water-cooler moment.

A charming, soft-spoken and

disarming interviewee, in person he

opened up about his occasional

self-doubts, financial worries and

the relative lack of media interest in

his music in America. Though

sometimes frustrated by the

stop-start nature of his career, he was still

grateful for where his journey had taken him.

Of Brad’s much-delayed yet ecstatically-received

European tour in 2013, he said: “It’s

almost like that’s the way the story needed to

go. Had we come over 15 years ago, there

would never have been those three weeks. It

was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.”

Music was, he said, the great organising

force in his life. “Whatever self-hatred I have,

there’s this thing that I do really well,” Smith

reflected. “When I’m doing music, when I’m

doing songs or singing, that’s when I’m really

myself. I’m confident.”

George Garner



Doug Sandom

The Who’s first drummer

BORN 1930

Many bands have

their own Pete

Best, and The

Who’s was Doug

Sandom, drummer

from mid-’62 to

spring ‘64 – the

period that saw

them evolve from The Detours

into The Who, and Roger Daltrey

become sole frontman. Sandom

was a 32-year-old married father

when he met the teenaged Daltrey,

Pete Townshend and John Entwistle,

but his youthful looks and rhythmic

talent were initially unproblematic.

He was, though, the odd-man-out:

interviewed by MOJO’s Mark Blake

in 2013, he recalled first meeting

the group. “I saw these two blokes

standing in the doorway. I thought,

I hope it’s not them.” Sandom, a

bricklayer, increasingly clashed

with the art-minded, reefer-toking

Townshend. On discovering his

age, new manager Helmut Gorden

administered the coup de grâce in

April 1964, and The Who’s chart

success a year later hit Sandom

hard. “Doug took a while to

forgive me, but did so in the end,”

admitted Townshend. “Although

I didn’t see much of him we

remained friends.” There was some

consolation for Sandom in his later

years, though – “I’m still alive and

Moonie’s not,” he deadpanned.

Pat Gilbert

Les Reed


BORN 1935

Pianist with The John Barry Seven

from 1959, Woking-born Les Reed

formed a successful songwriting

team with Geoff Stephens in 1964,

one that yielded successes for Lulu,

Herman’s Hermits and others. He

later co-wrote Tom Jones’s 1965

smash It’s Not Unusual with the

singer’s manager, Gordon Mills,

before forming yet another

partnership with Barry Mason that

resulted in such hits as The Last

Waltz and Delilah, the latter being

originally written for P.J. Proby.

Highly prolific, Reed’s co-compositions

were covered by Elvis Presley,

Bing Crosby, The Mills Brothers, and

The Drifters, among others, while

his film scores included Les

Bicyclettes De Belsize (1968),

Girl On A Motorcycle (1968) and

George And Mildred (1980). He also

led his own Orchestra, wrote Leeds

United anthem Marching On

Together and was awarded an OBE

in 1998. Engelbert Humperdinck,

who had three Top 10 hits with

Reed’s songs, wrote in tribute,

“I owe him more than I could ever

repay but the music is a daily

reminder of his gift and a life well

lived by a man well loved.”

Fred Dellar

Havana (cigar) good

time: songwriter/

bandleader Les Reed,

never phoning it in.


Alamy, Shutterstock, Getty

LEVEL 42 guitarist


GOULD (b.1955) joined his

brother Phil in the Isle Of

Wight jazz-funk outfit, and

from 1979 played on six Top

20 albums and 12 Top 40

singles, including 1985’s

UK/US Top 10


You, which he

co-wrote. After


attacks, he left

in 1987, but


lyrics to 1988’s

Staring At The Sun.

He also released two

solo records. Having played

on and written for Level 42’s

last-released album

Retroglide in 2006, he joined

his old group on-stage one

last time in Bristol in 2012.



1957) was the man behind

catalogue projects like the

Nuggets box set and One Kiss

Can Lead To Another, the girl

groups set that came in a hat

box and many, many more

(he has over 700 credits on

discogs.com). His work set an

industry standard for quality,

attention to detail and

research in catalogue

curation. Born in Los Angeles,

he started his career behind

the till at Rhino’s record store

in Westwood, LA in 1974

aged 17, rose to become

senior vice president of A&R

and later chief music officer

for iTunes. It’s likely every

MOJO reader will have given

shelf-space to his work.

The O’JAYS’ co-founder

BILL ISLES (below, b.

1941) started singing in

church in Ohio, where he

formed high school band

The Mascots. In 1960 they

changed their name to The

Triumphs, releasing a 1961

45, Miracles, on

Cincinnati’s King

Records. On the

suggestion of

local DJ Eddie

O’Jay, the band

became The

O’Jays. Though

Isles quit the

group in late ’65

his warm baritone

can be heard on their

early hits Lonely Drifter and

Lipstick Traces.


RIVERS (below, b. 1945)

was born Hervé Forneri. He

took his stage name from

Deke Rivers, Elvis’s character

in the 1957 film Loving You,

and made his first recording

with Les Chats Sauvages

aged 15. The group played

with Little Richard and

Vince Taylor, and had hits

including 1962’s Twist Á

Saint-Tropez, before Rivers

went solo. His 1964 cover of

Things We Said Today made

fans of The Beatles. Later,

Paul McCartney bought

the rights to Rivers’ back

catalogue. An actor and

radio star, Rivers suffered

brain damage after a fall in


in 2018.



writer, R&B


singer and

hitmaker KENT


(b.1930) wrote for the likes of

The Coasters and The

Platters. He’s known to soul

fans for the records he

produced for wife Ty Karim,

such as 1967’s Lighten Up

Baby. His sister, the singer

Marcene ‘Dimples’ Harris

helped him get his first

publishing deal in LA, where

he also started recording at

the Crest label in 1956 as

Boogaloo And His Gallant

Crew. His single Cops And

Robbers was picked up by

Bo Diddley in Chicago. Kent

founded his own Romark

label in 1960 and would later

contribute music to the 2007

Eddie Murphy film Norbit.


Terranova, 1941) sang

baritone with Philly doo

woppers The Juvenaires,

who, renamed Danny & The

Juniors, scored big hits with

1957’s At The Hop and the

following year’s Rock And Roll

Is Here To Stay. Though their

last success was 1960’s

Twistin’ U.S.A, the group

continued to tour, with Terry

taking control of the

trademark and singing lead.

He also sang on the 1971

solo album of his Juniors

bandmate David White,

who died in March. Terry

continued to perform until

his death.

DRUMMER and voice



SON (b. 1939)

played with


heroes The

Big Three from 1959.

Managed by Brian Epstein

until 1963, the group played

Hamburg and recorded four

singles for Decca, including

1963’s UK Top 40 hits Some

Other Guy and By The Way,

and the live EP At The Cavern.

Line-up changes hastened

the band’s demise in 1966,

whereupon Hutch retired

from music and worked in the

building trade. He had

previously filled in with The

Silver Beetles (in 1960) and

The Beatles (in 1962), when

Epstein had considered him

to replace Pete Best, but was

apparently sincere when he

said he had no regrets.

TUBA, trombone and

euphonium player SAM

PILAFIAN (below, b.1949)

played classical music with

the Boston Symphony

Orchestra and the Boston

Philharmonic, jazz with Duke

Ellington and Lionel

Hampton, and on

Philip Glass’

Koyaanisqatsi in

1982. Rock fans

will know him

for his


to Pink

Floyd’s 1979 LP

The Wall. He also

shared his love of

the tuba on US kids

show Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood

in 1985, played with the


years and worked in music

education at Berklee College

and elsewhere.


(b.unknown) was an early

member of Queen. After his

schoolmate RogerTaylor saw

him play in The Individuals,

he came to London from

Cornwall to rehearse with the

nascent group, and played

three gigs with them in

summer 1970. He later played

in No Joke with TimStaffell,

ex- voice with Taylor and

Brian May’s band Smile.

Grose later worked in the

haulage industry. May

commented, “His sound was

massive and monolithic! In

the end, the liaison didn’t

work out, but we owe Mike

gratitude for helping us take

those first steps.”

JAZZ vibraphonist and

marimba player DAVE

SAMUELS (b. 1948) was

a member of fusion group

Spyro Gyra. As a young

drummer he played at

Chicago jazz clubs and

studied vibraphone and

marimba with Gary Burton

at Berklee College before

moving to NY in the

mid ’70s, becoming

a sessioneer for



Frank Zappa,

Carla Bley

and Spyro

Gyra, playing on

the group’s first

six long-players

he appeared on 1979’s

UK hit Morning Dance before

joining full time in 1983.

He recorded 10 solo albums

and founded the Caribbean


a Grammy for 2002’s The

Gathering and 2008’s Afro

Bop Alliance LPs.

Jenny Bulley and Clive Prior


CALL: 01585 38884




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Her gospel grace and

protest soul has been a lesson

to people and Presidents since

the mid-’50s. And at 80, her

mission abides. “The devil

ain’t got no music,” teaches

Mavis Staples. “All music

is beautiful.”

Interview by GEOFF BROWN • Portrait by MYRIAM SANTOS


Sprightly Mavis staples celebrates her

80th birthday on July 10 and has been whittling at

that momentous landmark’s bucket list. skydiving?

“they started scarin’ me.” a water sport? “i can’t

swim.” Fast car? “that don’t impress me.” hot air

balloon? “got to be more dangerous than that.”

but skateboarding got a nod. it’s a favoured pastime of ben

harper, who wrote and produced her latest solo album, We Get

By, a heartfelt, political, angry, proud record, delivered by staples

in that rich, rangy, deep, expressive, occasionally raspy voice.

arrived in london from paris just the day before, she’s relaxed,

dressed head-to-toe in black casuals, and is ebullient company, as

ever. how could it be otherwise when the world continues to

provide so much raw material for the socially and politically engaged

mix of gospel, soul, funk and blues that’s become her forte. it’s

been that way since the age of eight, when her father, pops staples,

exasperated with his gospel group the trumpet Jubilees, sat three

of his children, cleotha, pervis and Mavis, on the living room floor

and divided up the parts to Will the circle be Unbroken, young

Mavis taking, as she put it, the “baritone” role.

pops’s signature guitar sound – country

blues tremolo, tuneful picking – and plaintive

voice and Mavis’s assertive phrasing set the

staple singers apart as soon as they began

recording in 1953 for independent chicago

label United. Moving through the ’50s and

into the ’60s with vee-Jay, riverside and epic,

their gospel repertoire expanded, after an

appearance at Newport ’64, hauling in the era’s

cutting-edge folk, notably bob Dylan’s, and,

later, rock material. a mid-’60s move to stax

we’re not wortHY

Soul-blues man Ben

Harper’s song of praise.

“She is the living embodiment

of where gospel,

R&B and soul collide,

creating a fourth entity

which is purely, timelessly

‘Mavis’. When she walks in

the studio, you’d best be

ready, because she is. At 80, she has more

energy than anyone else. It’s the privilege

of a lifetime to have collaborated so closely.”

saw the staples storm to global successes with a stream of gospelsoul

classics such as respect yourself, the Number 1 i’ll take you

there and if you’re ready (come go With Me). stax’s bankruptcy

and the disco boom derailed them, despite a Number 1 curtis

Mayfield-produced movie theme let’s Do it again in 1975.

but there’s been a third act: Mavis solo. On stax, tracks like

a house is Not a home and i’ve learned to Do Without you

helped her work through her divorce; later, with prince, she found

a new audience; and in the 21st century she struck out on her own

again, hitting a seam of gold with six studio lps on anti- produced

by ry cooder, Jeff tweedy, M. Ward and harper. there’ve been

dark times too, especially when pops died in 2000, and sisters

cleotha (2013) and yvonne (2018). all are still present in her life:

several times she mentions talking recently to pops or their family

friend, the late Dr Martin luther King.

and so it’s with her father that we start, down in Mississippi,

where as a boy he’d slip along to Dockery’s Farm to listen to blues

guitarist charley patton.

Growing up, Pops lived near Dockery’s Farm in Mississippi…

Oh yes, he took us there. Pops showed us this big

tree he and his brother, my uncle Sears, would

hide up in when my grandfather was looking for

them. His father was a sharecropper and that was

where Pops met Charley Patton. He loved to hear

him play. [Pops] was making 10 cents a day – he

said, “Oh Mavis, that was big money back then”

– and he would take it to a hardware, where he

bought this little guitar, saved his dimes there until

he had enough so he could take it. When he got it,

he started playing stuff like Charley Patton. He

showed us where he proposed to our mother

[Oceola], she was 16 when they married, Pops was

18. That’s when he left Mississippi.


You used to stay with those grandparents

in Mississippi at Mound Bayou

[established in 1887 by former slaves].

All black town. I was a little kid, eight or nine

years old. Pops would send Yvonne and I to

Mississippi, ’cos he had four children [in

Chicago] and he said we were wearing out

shoes too fast (laughs). I was walking to school

down this gravel road and the jukeboxes were

already playing that early in the morning. All I

could hear was (sings) “You-oo made me leave

my hap-py home.” Buddy and Ella Johnson,

Since I Fell For You. Well, the kids knew I liked

to sing, and they pushed me out on stage, I

started singing and this was what came out of

my mouth. My uncle was also in the school

– he was about 16 years old – and he snatched

me off that stage and pushed me all the way

home to my grandmother’s house [and she

said], “Oh, you singing the blues, huh? You

go out there and get me some switches.”

And she got started. “You. Don’t. Sing. No.

Blues. In. This. Family. You. Sing. Church.

Songs.” Nobody had ever told me what to

sing. I never would go back.

In Chicago, your singing found an outlet in

the family’s gospel group. How did the early

recordings on United, like Sit Down Servant

in 1953, come about?

I was 13, I think. This man had a little studio

built in his basement. I love Sit Down Servant

(starts singing, a still deep contralto). That record

didn’t go anywhere, but we would sing it on

television. I was a kid, I did whatever my father

said. Now the record I remember was

Uncloudy Day [1956, Vee-Jay]. I consider that

our first song, the record that took us on the

road. And I was sick when we recorded that. I

had to sit down. My little stomach was hurting.

And then, later on, it was my appendix. My

mother and father took me to the hospital, if

they had waited one more night it would have

burst inside me. I had several close calls. I

swallowed a tack one time; [it] got stuck right

there (indicates gullet), had to stay in hospital

for a couple of weeks. God has kept me going.

Sit Down Servant had quite an impact in

some circles.

[That] is the song that Bob Dylan first heard

us on. When we met him, Dylan said, “I know

The Staple Singers, I’ve been listening to them

since I was 12 years old.” And he quoted a verse

from Sit Down Servant. He said, “Mavis, she

gets rough sometimes, she says: ‘Yonder come

old David, with his rock and sling, I don’t

wanna meet him, he’s a dangerous man.’ I

been into The Staple Singers, I have all of The

Staple Singers.” We [met on] a television show

in the early ’60s, we were in our early twenties,

but I felt like a kid, I guess. On that show he

sang Blowin’ In The Wind and Pops said, “Y’all

know that young man is a poet, we can sing his

songs.” We recorded at least seven Dylan songs,

his songs fit us, they were message songs.

Your move from pure gospel into message

songs seemed very natural. How so?

We were invited to a folk festival [Newport,

1964]. We hadn’t heard any folk music, but we

realised folk was very close to gospel because

folk songs was about love, gospel was about

love. Pops told us, “We can sing those. I hear

them very close to gospel.”

Slightly later in the ’60s, rock joined gospel

and folk in the repertoire.

We had joined the [civil rights] movement in

the early ’60s and started singing freedom

songs and protest songs. Then Pops would hear

songs like (sings Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s

Worth, which the Staples recorded in 1967) and we

heard a lot of Dylan songs. Pops said, “It’s not

like we’re switching over to anything, we’re still

singing truth and love.” And anything our father

brought to us, we knew it was all right to do.

As well as Pops, your other great mentor

was gospel great Mahalia Jackson.

I had heard her since I was a little girl. Mahalia

Jackson was the very first female voice I heard

singing gospel music. My father used to play

big 78 records and he would only play males:

The Soul Stirrers, The Pilgrim Travelers. One

night I’m in my little play area and I heard this

lady’s voice and it moved me on up into a

different room where my father was. I sat

on the floor and Pops said, “Mavis, you were

rockin’. That was Sister Mahalia Jackson,

you like her, don’t you?”

When did you first meet her?

By 11 or 12 we had started singing [in

churches]. [Pops] came in one day and said,

“They want us to open up for Sister Mahalia

Jackson at Tabernacle Baptist Church on

Monday night.” I got so excited. She had on

this long gown, I remember beige brocade.

And so tall. I said to her, “Oh Mrs Sister Mahalia

Jackson…” because I thought her first name

was Sister. And she laughed, “Well, how are

you baby?” I said, “I’m fine. My name is Mavis

and I sing too.” “Oh you do, huh? Well I wanna

hear you sing.” I said, “Oh you gonna hear me, I

sing loud.” (Laughs)

After you sang, did she give you advice?

I started to go outside, because us children,

when the preacher come on, we go out and

jump rope (laughs). She say, “You come here.”

She felt my neck, my chest, she said, “Don’t you

know that you’re damp? You tell mama to give

you one of your brother’s T-shirts, dry, and put

it on before you go out in the air – you want to

get to be an old lady like me, don’t you? Sing a

long time?” And to this day I won’t go out

when I’m damp. She taught me how to keep

my voice… She was my idol.

Did she teach you anything specifically about

singing rather than just care of the voice?

No, no. That’s all natural. I never had no

musical training. When my father left me, I

said, “Oh daddy, I don’t even know what key I


Alamy (2), Getty (6), Courtesy of Mavis Staples

Family affair: Mavis’s magic moments.

1Unbroken circle: The Staple

Singers, 1955 (from left)

Pervis, Pops, Cleotha and Mavis,

a gospel sensation at 15.

2We the people: (from left)

Pops, Yvonne, Mavis, Cleo

meet fellow civil rights activist

Harry Belafonte, early 1970s.

3Have a little faith: Mavis in

Chicago in 2004, about to

strike out alone after the breakup

of the Singers.

4They’ll take you there: The

Staple Singers (from left)

Cleo, Pops and Mavis entertain

over 100,000 during Wattstax

at the Los Angeles Coliseum,

August 20, 1972.

5Gong show:


becomes a

Kennedy Center


Washington DC,

in 2016 (clockwise

from back

left) Joe Walsh,

Don Henley,

Timothy Schmit,

James Taylor,

Martha Argerich,

Mavis, Al Pacino.


6The Weight: Mavis and

Elton John sang The Band

song in tribute to Levon Helm,

Grammys, February 10, 2013.


“I can’t sing that stuff that

Apollonia and Vanity sing”:

recording with Prince in Paisley

Park studio, late 1980s.


“Don’t tell me I got

another shy guy”: with a

loosened-up Jeff Tweedy after

recording You Are Not Alone,

the Loft, Chicago, August 2010.


“I’ve been listening to [The

Staple Singers] since I was

12 years old,” said Bob Dylan.

Mavis recording gospel for

Vee-Jay, early 1960s.

2 3



sing in.” When I first got with different

producers, I would have to tell [Jeff] Tweedy

and Ry Cooder, “Just whatever Pops play on

guitar I knew where to sing. From here (slaps

heart) I sing from here.” I hated to rehearse,

and one time Pops told me, “Your voice is a

God-given gift, and if you don’t use it, he’ll take

it back.” Scared me to death (laughs). I was the

first one to rehearsal after that.

Later you recorded for Riverside and Epic.

It was amazing how people didn’t know what

to do with us. One label told us, “I thought y’all

was country.” We had never heard any. This

producer on Epic [Billy Sherrill], he

evidently thought we were country

because he had us singing Cotton

Fields Back Home, and that put a

question mark in my head then. I’m

glad Cotton Fields didn’t go nowhere.

After Epic you went to Stax.

We already knew Al Bell because he

was a disc jockey in Little Rock and

he played gospel music, and he and

Pops got real close. Stax and GE were

bidding on us, and Al Bell won. I

thought Al Bell was just the most

brilliant and clever black man,

because he was a black man in charge of a

record company. And he really did good for us.

Why did he shift your recording from

Memphis to Muscle Shoals?

I guess Al Bell had a vision. Steve Cropper

produced our first album [on Stax, Soul Folk In

Action, 1968], but Al Bell thought Muscle Shoals

would have a better rhythm section [for us].

And all you could do in Muscle Shoals is make

records. Nothing else there but record studios.

You just have to concentrate on your music.

Al Bell was right about the studio band.

Perfect, those guys, Barry Beckett and Roger

[Hawkins] and little David [Hood] and Jimmy

[Johnson]. What killed me about them:

[record] 12 o’clock to 8 o’clock, then it’s over.

I’m in this little box, singing away, and I have

to stop! “Let me finish, let me finish!” “Oh no

Mavis, you have to go, time is up… Tomorrow,

you’re gonna get us.” I was so angry with them

one night ’cos, oh, that song was going so

good and I was into it and they stopped it.

Eight o’clock, gotta go. After that I told them,

“I’m watching the clock. I’m not starting no

song that I don’t think y’all can finish. So we

may as well close it out at 7.15 or whatever,

because I’m not gonna let you stop me again!”

But, yes, they were beautiful, beautiful…

“My grandmother got

started: “You. Don’t.

Sing. No. Blues. In.

This. Family. You.

Sing. Church. Songs.”

Tell us about your first Number 1, I’ll Take

You There.

When we made I’ll Take You There, the church

people wanted to put us out of church. They

say, “The Staple Singers, they singing the

devil’s music.” I had to do so many interviews,

all of us did, where I’d tell them, “Look, the

devil ain’t got no music. All music is beautiful.

God’s music. We’re not going to sing no

garbage.” But these were older church people.

I’d tell them, “Look, you have to listen to our

lyrics. They’re telling you, (sings) ‘I know a

place, ain’t nobody crying, ain’t nobody

worried, ’bout the smiling faces, lying to the

races.’ Now, where else can I be taking you, but

to heaven?” And they say, “Oh yeah!” They just

heard that beat [that made] the kids jump up.

We weren’t trying to go anywhere. We were

gospel singers. And I’m still a gospel singer.

How did you feel when Stax went under?

Oh man, that was the worst. We didn’t know

what to do. I think we were the next-to-last

ones to leave but it was just going down,

down, down. He [Bell] was losing it, his hair

was falling out. There were some there walking

round totin’ guns. They were like gangsters.

But they were all right to us, to my sisters and I.

But that was the worst feeling. And to see Al

Bell, it was hard.

But almost immediately after that

you had another Number 1…

The only secular song The Staple

Singers have ever sung was Let’s Do

It Again, Curtis Mayfield. It turned out

all right. If you’re God’s children, he’s

gonna take care of you.

With The Impressions and solo,

Curtis had many inspiring social

comment songs and gospel-based

hits, like Amen. But for you…

[Let’s Do It Again] was for a movie

score. Pops said, “Curtis Mayfield, I’m not gon’

say that! I’m a church man.” My sisters and I, we

started working on Pops. Because we all

wanted to hear our voices on the big screen

with Sidney Poitier. But when he would sing it

[live], “I like you lady, so fine with your pretty

hair,” the ladies start (screams) “Oh Pops!” He

would have this big grin on his face, twinkle in

his eye, oh man.

After Curtis there was a drift to the Staples’

work, but your solo career was refreshed. I

saw you in ’88, singing a couple of songs on

Prince’s Lovesexy tour.

Pops said, “This man Prince has been looking

for you.” “I don’t know no Prince.” He said, ➢






Love and trust: Mavis

Staples rocks her moves on

Ben Harper’s skateboard.

“He wouldn’t let me take it

home with me. I’m gonna

have to buy my own.”

“Mavis, the one they call purple.” I had a fit.

Prince’s manager, Bob Cavallo, said, “Yes, Miss

Staples, Prince would like to sign you to his

label. He’d like to record you, write songs for

you.” I said, “Wait a minute. Write songs? I’m a

woman, and I need songs with substance, I

can’t sing that stuff that Apollonia and Vanity

sing: ‘Oh you nasty boy.’ I can’t sing that.”

“I talk to Dr King. I say, ‘I’m gonna keep

on pushin’, because I’m the last one here.’”

How did he adapt his writing for you?

We were doing a show at the Forum in Los

Angeles. I told my sisters, “When I see him I’m

gonna be real cool.” I see Prince coming down

the hall, all dressed in white, white hat, white

suit and boots, and I screamed, “Let me give

you a kiss from my mother! My mother loves

you!” And he says to Pops, “You can play.”

That’s all he says, “You can play.” I couldn’t get

this kid to talk. He’s painfully shy. He would sit

there and roll his big eyes. I said, “How is he

gonna write for me if he don’t talk to me?”

A light bulb went off in my head. I started

writing to him, I would write 13, 14 pages at a

time. I let him into my life. I started when I was

a kid. Telling him how I would love to go to

Sunday school because my mother would

dress me in a little cute dress, my little patent

leather shoes and my leather purse. And the

songs he wrote, there’s something in each of

[them] from my letters. He wrote Blood Is

Thicker Than Time: (sings) “We went to church

on Sunday morning, dressed up looking

mighty fine, the spirit came without a warning,

intoxicated us all like wine.”

Did his death hit you hard?

Oh boy, when Prince passed I just went limp.

I could not stand up. We were way out in the

desert [Coachella]… The next day, [the festival]

was packed and I let them know that my friend

of seven years had passed, and he was my son.

He would call me Momma Mavis. I adopted him.

Somehow, I started sing “Purple rain, purple

rain”, and the whole place was singing, and

tears was just flowing. Boy, that was so hard.


Myriam Santos

You’d been even more devastated when

Pops died.

When Pops passed, I was so depressed, so

empty. I just sit on the couch and wouldn’t get

up. Yvonne came by my house one day and

saw how pitiful I was, she started telling me

off, “Mavis! You get up, get off that couch, you

know Pops would want you to keep on singing.

What is wrong with you?” And she started

saying some words that I didn’t even know she

knew (laughs). I just sit there dumbfounded.

But when she left my house I got up, I got off

that couch and got started. I called Warner

Brothers, Epic, but all the people were new.

They just said, “No.” So I went to the bank and

got my money out and paid for to make me an

album [Have A Little Faith, 2004]. Then I tried

to shop it. Nobody would take it. Just as I was

about to give up, James Iglauer [Alligator

Records] took it and, oh, I was so grateful.

Did you enjoy self-producing that record?

I really did. Because I was doing what I wanted

to do, nobody had to tell me nothing. Picked

all the songs, and the musicians. This was

another makeshift studio in this guy’s

basement, [co-producer] Jim Tullio, about 40

miles from my home, in a northern suburb of

Chicago. We’d go over there three, four times

a week when we had music to work on.

How did you meet?

Jim Tullio had written a song about one of his

friends who was in the 9-11 bombing, and he

let Levon Helm hear the song and Levon said,

“Man, ain’t nobody can sing that song but

Mavis Staples.” He faxed it over and I started

reading the lyrics and I said, “Yvonne, when

does he want me in the studio?” (Sings) “In

times like these, we need to be strong…” After

I recorded that, Jim Tullio asked me, “What are

you going to do now Miss Staples?” I said, “I

want to make a record but everybody’s gone

from Chicago.” And he said, “Well, I have a

studio, I can help you.” I even sent for the

guitar player that used to play with Bob Dylan

[Jim Weider], and he wrote [the song] Have A

Little Faith.

You moved to Anti- where Ry Cooder

produced your label debut. He’s a very

knowledgeable guy…

Oh, I loved Ry Cooder. I loved his guitar

playing. I loved his conversation, him and his

wife. Ry went down in Mississippi and Alabama

to gather up some information. He wanted to

see if any of the original Freedom Singers were

still alive, and they were, and they’re on that

record [We’ll Never Turn Back, 2007]. He got

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the African group.

I felt like that was the best I had ever done.

Around now you met your live band,

including Rick Holmstrom, the guitarist you

call ‘Pops Jr’?

When I let my old band hear We’ll Never Turn

Back, it scared them. They didn’t think they

could play it. Rick and his band had played for

me in Los Angeles about a year before, [when]

my band got stuck in Chicago in a snowstorm.

They played four or five songs and then here

comes my band, they made it. Ry Cooder told me,

“Mavis, I like the band that played with you first.”

More recently you’ve made three albums

with Jeff Tweedy. Had you heard of Wilco?

No. I didn’t know them. I had a show on the

North side and all of the Wilco band came.

About two weeks later my manager said,

“Mavis, Jeff Tweedy wants to produce your

next album.” I said, “I‘ll have lunch with him

where we can have a conversation and I can

see if I want to work with him.” And he was

almost like Prince. I said, “Don’t tell me I got

another shy guy.” I cracked a joke, and that

broke it up. He started telling me about how

he had listened to The Staple Singers for years

because when he was 18 he worked in this

record shop and listened to our music all day.

Then he told me about his family, [his] wife

and two sons, and about his father. I knew

when I left that restaurant that Jeff Tweedy

and I could work together.

Tell us about We Get By’s cover shot [six

black children stare through a metal fence

at a lush, segregated playground].

They sent me pictures by my friend Gordon

Parks. I had about seven in front of me and my

eye kept going to that one of the little girls

standing on the outside wanting to be on the

inside. It reminded me of my sisters and I.

We used to stand outside, we couldn‘t go

swimming, we couldn’t go in the park.

You were excluded from a lot back then.

Oh yes. That used to bother me. My father

would tell me, “I have lived through this when

I was a boy. I want you all to be strong, and I’m

telling you how it is. Don’t go with your head

STaple SongS

With family or solo, three

key Mavis Staples albums.

the holy spirit

The Staple Singers

Swing Low Sweet Chariot


(Soul jaM, 2012)

Among the wealth of gospel

highlights on the many extant

Staples compilations, this single

CD gathers two Vee-Jay LPs,

Swing Low… and Uncloudy Day

from 1961 and ’59, plus six

bonus cuts including versions of the essential

Will The Circle Be Unbroken and Pops’s This

May Be The Last Time, which Stones fans may

recognise. For an excellent 2-CD romp through

gospel to soul with sanctified messages, social

comment and political protest, A Family Affair

1955-1984 (Kent Soul, 2004) can‘t be beaten.

the stax smash

The Staple Singers

Be Altitude: Respect Yourself


(Stax, 1972)

Three hit singles – the title

track, producer Al Bell’s I’ll

Take You There, joyous opener

This World, driven by David

Hood’s immense bass line –

plus two terrific Homer Banks

co-writes (Are You Sure, Just Another Soldier)

elevated the messages on this pick of the

group’s Muscle Shoals gospel-soul stew. It’s

unlikely drummer Roger Hawkins and Hood

were ever as emphatically effective for The

Staple Singers as they are here.

heart and soul

Mavis Staples

One True Vine


(anti , 2013)

As her solo career is still a work

in progress, it’s tempting to

pick her latest, We Get By (see

MOJO 307). However, while

she speaks enthusiastically of

the Ry Cooder-produced We’ll

Never Turn Back, One True Vine, the second of

three albums (so far) with Jeff Tweedy, is a fine

collection of old gospel material, beautifully

interpreted, Tweedy originals and a version of

Pops Staples’ I Like The Things About Me.

down. Be proud. Stand tall.” And we did. But I

hated it. And if we were on the road driving,

and Pops stopped in the service station,

there’s the coloured bath room and it’s filthy,

the one they don’t clean, and I never did use

the water fountains. I just wouldn’t drink. I’d

get me a Coca-Cola or orange soda or

something instead of water.

How did you feel when hotels were


We were at a Holiday Inn, and Cleedi [Cleotha],

my older sister, and I were walking down the

hall. Here comes this white man and told us, “I

need some extra towels” (as if they were maids).

And Cleedi said, “I do too!” He looked at us, but

Cleedi and I kept walking (laughs).

How did you come to work with Ben Harper?

Ben wrote me a song about three years ago,

Love And Trust, and I loved it so much. So, the

next time I saw Ben I said, “You gotta write me

another song.” He said, “Well, Mavis, instead of

one song, why don’t I write you 11? A whole

album.” When we finally got a date, he said,

“I don’t have a full song yet, but I can send

you my scribbles.” I said, “Don’t send me no

scribbles!” And in maybe less than two weeks

he had sent me two songs, and they were

great. And he sent me the rest. We were in the

studio for about four or five days and we had

a full album.

The songs are both current yet connected

to your past. The song Change goes “X is

the letter, blue is the colour, we’ve gotta

change around here”.

It is in the present. Ben knew what I’ve been

singing all my life and he’s right on point with

it, you know, “X is the letter…” There used to be

a time when black people signed their name

with an X because some couldn’t write. So X is

the letter, blue is the colour – Democrat.

The line in Brothers And Sisters, “Trouble in

the land, we can’t trust that man,” is very


Yes. We want everybody to know what we’re

talking about and who we’re talking about.

This record is gonna be the one that change

the world. Turn it around, because people

can’t deny this, when they hear it. People are

shootin’ people they don’t even know. It’s all

the followers of this man. He has a lot of followers,

they’re all like him. And I talk to Dr King. I

say, “I’m gonna keep on pushin’ and try to get

it right, to fix it, because I’m the last one here.”

But this guy (laughs incredulously) he’s

something. And he li-i-i-e. Just lie right off

the top of his head.

You had a better relationship with his

predecessor, Barack Obama, appearing

regularly at the White House and at

Kennedy Honours celebrations, including

your own in 2016.

Oh, we were with him many times. I had never

thought about all of this, how many times I

was at the White House. I did the Kennedy,

Clinton and Carter inaugurations.

John F. Kennedy!

Isn’t that something? They wanted gospel

singers and that was us. I tell ya, I shook his

hand. I didn’t have any words with him like I do

with Bubba [Bill Clinton]. And the Bush family

were nice people. Bush Senior, now he

skydived twice. And one time I called Bush

Junior “President Dubbya”. He cracked up. We

sang at the White House for all the presidents

[together] one time. But I don’t go near it now!

Ain’t no more White House. It’s the Orange

House now (laughs).


Mavis Staples’ We Get By is out now on Anti-. She plays

at London’s Roundhouse on July 4.


days of



From electro-hippies building their own instruments to

imperial hit-makers, OMD helped define the romantic

modernism of peak synth before hard drugs and musique

concrète got the better of them. Forty years since their

debut 45, with a big tour and Best Of pending,

they’ve finally regained their balance, and self-knowledge.

“We’re the Stan and Ollie of synth pop,” they tell


Manoeuvring into place:

Andy McCluskey (left) and

Paul Humphreys, derelict

Liverpool warehouse,

July 7, 1979, with the TEAC

4-track named Winston.


Art, on a mild winter afternoon, Paul Humphreys

and Andy McCluskey are showing MOJO around an

exhibition that would have seemed inconceivable

even 10 years ago.

Entitled Dazzled: OMD, Memphis Design And

Beyond, the show charts the historical influence of

Norman Wilkinson’s First World War “dazzle camouflage”

on art, music and design. It moves from

Edward Wadsworth’s 1919 Vorticist painting,

Dazzle-Ships In Drydock At Liverpool, through

pop art, fashion and sculpture, to the furniture

designs of Ettore Sottsass’s postmodern Memphis Group.

Dominating the museum’s main hall, however, is a walk-in funhouse

of op art, interactive video, and disconnected sounds, an

attempt by Ohio-based artist Natalie Lanese to transform OMD’s

1983 album, Dazzle Ships Ð and Peter Saville’s Wadsworth-inspired

sleeve design – into a how-this-works piece of installation art.


It’s the latest leg in Dazzle Ships’ unlikely voyage to vindication.

Because in 1983, Dazzle Ships scuppered everything. After 1981’s

Architecture & Morality took Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s

conceptual art-pop into the UK music mainstream, the Wirral duo

stripped their music back to a skeletal bricolage of Speak & Spell

machines, communist radio call signs, synchronised speaking clocks

and vitreous electro-pop. Architecture & Morality had sold four million

copies. Dazzle Ships shifted less than a tenth of that. It nearly

split the band; it certainly broke their spirit. Yet 36 years later it

enjoys the status of high culture, even if it’s in Arizona.

“OMD is finally hanging in an art gallery,” says McCluskey, with

not a little pride. “We only had to erase a huge chunk of our history

to achieve it.”


appeared on stage together sometime in the mid 1960s, at

Great Meols Primary School on the Wirral. Both had been

called up in front of assembly, guilty of minor misdemeanours

neither can recall. But it wasn’t until summer 1975

that they actually had anything to do with each other.

“I was in this prog band, Equinox,” explains Humphreys,

as he sips his coffee in a Tucson hotel conference

room. “They really needed a bass player, and I’d seen Andy

wandering around town with a bass over his shoulder…”

“That’s what you did before Facebook,” pleads Mc-

Cluskey. “I was advertising my identity. He came knocking

on the door with a deputation. Fairly quickly we started

doing things together.”

McLuskey would visit Humphreys’ house to play Kraftwerk,

Neu! and La Düsseldorf records on Humphreys’

“extravagant” self-assembled stereo. Soon, with bass, circuit boards

from Paul’s auntie’s radio, and a brace of home-made instruments

dubbed “the noise machine” and “the tubaphone”, the duo were

making, well, noises, weird sounds syphoned through echo units

and fuzz boxes. Later supplemented by a Selmer

Pianotron, a Vox Jaguar, and a TEAC 4-track tape

recorder dubbed Winston (after the antihero o

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four), the pair

began making peculiar ambient anthems, precarious

electro-pop Maydays echoing in caverns of radio static, and

weighted with a profound teenage melancholy.

“Mine was a quite a dark childhood,” says Humphreys, “and it

kind of affected the music. My dad died when I was two. Mum

moved us from London to the Wirral so we had some cash, then

four years later my sister died from an asthma attack. The doctor

called but he’d forgotten his medical bag. By the time he came back,

she was blue.”

“Paul was very withdrawn,” says McCluskey. “My family was together,

but we were the poorest people in Meols. I was embarrassed

to have friends come to my house. Also, I grew up with asthma and

really bad eczema. I’d get called ‘lizard skin’. We felt like outcasts

and I guess that frustration, anxiety, came through.”

Now part of a prog/synth-pop eight-piece called The Id,

McCluskey and Humphreys continued to experiment as a twopiece,

under the moniker VCL II (named after a valve depicted on

the back cover of Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity), and regularly checked

out the new bands performing at Eric’s

club, on Liverpool’s Mathew Street, a second

home to Merseyside’s misfits, creatives

and larger-than-life self-proselytisers

such as Pete Wylie, Holly Johnson, Ian

McCulloch, and Bill Drummond.

“Eric’s was very important,” says

Humphreys. “They had this real

open door policy. You could get

up on Thursday night, and do

anything you wanted. It just had

to be interesting.”

“The Id played their last gig

there August, 1978,” says

dy and Paul

med to meet and

eet, Museum Of

ntemporary Art

OCA), Tucson,

nuary 19, 2019.

Like punk never happened:

(clockwise from above) Paul

(left) and Andy at Paul’s house,

3 Frankby Road, Meols; outside

the legendary Eric’s; Andy

performing and Paul soundchecking,

both at Eric’s in 1978.

McCluskey. “Everybody was leaving college, going to get real jobs.

A few months later, I heard the DJ, probably Norman Killen, play

Warm Leatherette. I went over and said, What the fuck is that? ‘The

Normal. On Mute. It’s English, mate.’ I said to Paul, Somebody’s

doing what we’re into, and they’ve made records! This is it! So we

knocked on the door of [Eric’s owner] Roger Eagle, and said, Hi!

Andy and Paul from The Id. Could we come down on Thursday

night and do a gig that’s just electronic music? That’s when he said,

‘What are you called?’ We said, We dunno, we’ll call you back.”


is refusing to eat his vegetables. “Go on, be healthy for once!”

needles McCluskey. “I am going to eat them,” counters Humphreys,

briefly. “I’m just… actually, I’m not, you have them. I’m

going outside for a cigarette.”

In person, the two members of OMD interact like brothers. Mc-

Cluskey, the elder, is louder, antsy, talks more, fills in the gaps.

Humphreys, younger by nine months, is shyer, softer-spoken, still

in the habit of nipping off for a crafty fag

and stare at the sky.

“When we started performing as Orchestral

Manoeuvres In The Dark, we were

almost the antithesis of each other on-stage,”

explains McCluskey. “Paul used to be terrified

to come out from his skin. I was always

quite anxious, with this veneer of loud.”

Named after a VCL II art piece involving

radio interference, classical music, and war

noises, played with the lights out, Orchestral

Manoeuvres In The Dark secured their

first gig at Eric’s on October 12, 1978, in

support of “new wave comedian” John Dowie.

“We saw it as performance art,” says McCluskey.

“[But] we looked like unreconstructed hippies, from

the other side of the river. There was little applause.

Everybody at Eric’s knew their music was better.”

Following their second gig, supporting Cabaret

Voltaire at Manchester’s Factory Club

in October 1978, the duo sent a cassette

to Factory label boss Tony Wilson.

Unimpressed, he was persuaded

to sign them by his wife, Lindsay

Plugged in: promo shot for first LP (from

left) Dave Hughes, McCluskey, Humphreys,

Malcolm Holmes with custom made stands

featuring lozenge design; vintage images

appear in OMD – Pretending To See The

Future, hardback available from all good

book stores/Amazon £35; Kindle/eBook is

£16.99. See website www.thisdayinmusic.com

“Peter Saville said,

‘You sound like the

future but you don’t

look like the future.’”


Reade, and Factory’s art director, Peter Saville. “Saville was amazed

at our name, and that we’d written a song called Electricity,” says

McCluskey. “He imagined a British Kraftwerk. Then he met us and

looked at our hair. He said, ‘Your music sounds like the future but

you don’t look like the future.’”

Produced by Martin Hannett, with a Peter Saville-designed cover

that repurposed avant-garde music scores, OMD’s debut single was

released on May 21, 1979. Backed with the pulsing, introspective

Almost, the nervous, propulsive Electricity was picked up by John

Peel and sold 5,000 copies in its first week.

Transferring to Virgin offshoot Dindisc, where Peter Saville was

now in-house designer, the duo recorded their self-titled debut LP.

“That was essentially all the songs we wrote from the ages of 16 to

19,” says McCluskey. “Easy peasy stuff.”

With the decks cleared, hunkered down in their own Gramophone

Suite studio, built with Dindisc advance money, the duo began

work on album two, with producer Mike Howlett and new drummer,

Malcolm Holmes. “Paul built Malcolm an electronic drum

kit,” remembers McCluskey. “It kept breaking down so

Malcolm threatened to leave unless we gave him a bass

drum, a snare and a hi-hat. We drew the line at cymbals.

We weren’t having any of that rock’n’roll cliché.”

“We never wanted to be boffins in lab coats,” says

Humphreys. “We wanted to get out there and play these

delicate songs but with some balls and power underneath.

We’d spent a lot of time touring with Joy Division, and

saw them as awkward kindred spirits. Andy and Ian’s

dancing even looked similar, and we loved Stephen

[Morris]’s mix of electronic and acoustic drums.”

Released in October 1980, five months after

the death of Ian Curtis, much of OMD’s second

album, Organisation, can be heard as a tribute and

homage to Joy Division, most especially on the

bleak, elegiac Statues and their mournful soundscape

salute to a Wirral oil refinery, Stanlow.

“We kind of went, Go deeper, darker, more

melancholy,” says McCluskey. “I’m incredibly

proud of Stanlow. The whole first

half of it is just this single suspended

chord. How did a couple of 20-yearolds

come up with that?”


song that didn’t fit Organisation’s

plangent mood was its opener

and lone single, Enola Gay. Written

solely by McCluskey, a “love song”

to the Boeing B-29 Superfortress

that dropped the “Little Boy” atom

bomb on Hiroshima, it was the first

source of conflict in the group.

“Enola Gay was written before

the first album came out,” says Humphreys. “It

wasn’t quite finished and there was this ongoing

debate about whether it was really what we

should be doing.”

“That’s when the psychological war began,”

says McCluskey. “Are we a pop band or an art

band? Our manager Paul [Collister] thought it

was cheesy pop. Also, it was the first song written

by one of us, not both of us. I wrote it while Paul

was on a work-placement scheme, helping to

rebuild Hoylake municipal baths.”

Reservations notwithstanding, Enola Gay sold

five million copies and Organisation went gold in

both the UK and France. Buoyed with confidence,

the group, now with a fourth member,

Martin Cooper, on saxophone and keyboards,

began work on a follow-up.

Named after David Watkin’s 1977

Images courtesy of The OMD Archive (5), Christine Greer for MOCA


OMD: (above) fixtures on Top Of

The Pops in the ’80s; “We thought

we had the Midas touch,” says

Humphreys (below right); “We

are better together than apart,”

admits McCluskey (right), on-stage

in Barcelona, 2018; (insets) OMD’s

consistently alluring sleeves.

Idols/Avalon, LFI/Avalon, Getty

critique of modernist architecture

(a book owned by Peter Saville), the

album was intended as the perfect

meeting point between the group’s

pastoral melancholy and cold electronic

structures. It featured two hit

singles with virtually the same title –

Joan Of Arc and Joan Of Arc (Maid Of

Orleans) – the second of which began

with 30 seconds of electronic distortion,

plus a brutalist Renaissance

salute to an MOD installation in Flintshire (Sealand).

There was also Souvenir – the second solo composition

to prompt disagreements in the group.

“Paul presented Souvenir,” says McCluskey, “and

I was like, I don’t get it. I thought it was a bit drippy.

I was trying to toughen it up. Many months later I

went, It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

With eight million singles and four million albums

sold, Architecture & Morality placed OMD in what felt

like an unassailable position. Then, with unfortunate

timing, their label, Dindisc, folded, and OMD were s

with its parent company, Virgin.

“We thought we had the Midas touch,” says Humphreys.

“We could do these mad experiments and people would buy

them by the millions. Then, in our first meeting with Virgin,

some idiot said, ‘OK, just do Architecture & Morality II

and you’ll be the next Genesis.’ I thought, Fuck that!”

Helping muddy the waters, McCluskey had got it

into his head that OMD now needed to be political.

“We thought we could change the world by

smashing down rock clichés,” says McCluskey.

“Music as art object. Then journalists said, ‘How can

singing about Joan of Arc stop wars?’ We’d sold four

million records and somebody persuaded me I wasn’t

achieving my goal, I should start again.”

“Enola Gay was when

the psychological war

began. Are we a pop

band or an art band?”


Unsure what to do next, the group

dredged up old Id songs and unfinished

OMD B-sides (Radio Waves;

Romance Of The Telescope; Of All

The Things We’ve Made), bolted on

some sonic montages, recordings of

communist radio stations, and drafted

in producer Rhett Davies, who’d just

worked on Roxy Music’s Avalon.

“We’re not fucking around any

more, OK?” says McCluskey, laughing.

“Let’s get Rhett in, give him a £30,000

advance and a load of short wave radio recordings,

and ask if he can make it sound like More

Than This. Fucking stupid idea. We argued for

ages with him about the big bass drum on [first

single] Genetic Engineering. He kept saying it’s

too loud. We disagreed. First time we heard it

on Radio 1, the BBC compressor kicked in and

the song just vanished. Oh fuck, I

thought, we’re in trouble now.”

Dazzle Ships peaked at Number 5 in

the UK albums chart but sank quickly.

Ironically, just as OMD were processing

this commercial failure, pipeline royalties

from Architecture & Morality began

coming in. OMD went to Montserrat

with a Fairlight CMI, became tax exiles,

and started work on a pop album to

repair the hole blown under their

waterline by Dazzle Ships.

“We called it Junk Culture because

I was fully aware we were going to get hammered for it,”

explains McCluskey. “I was desperate for a title that would

legitimise us making a pop album: it’s acceptable as long as

you do it knowingly.”



ways, with a UK Number 5 single in Locomotion (brass arranger:

Tony Visconti) that certainly was “cheesy pop”, but also a hypnotic,

sample-driven opening title track and a doomy bonus 7-inch:

The Angels Keep Turning (The Wheels Of The Universe). It wasn’t

until Junk Culture’s 1985 follow-up, Crush, appeared that the strains

of OMD’s contradictions, plus the inevitable album/tour/album/

tour grind became transparent. An hour-long album video, Crush:

The Movie, vividly reveals an exhausted band wearily performing

promo duties for a record they don’t quite believe in.

“As kids we had this massive well of things we wanted to do,” says

Humphreys. “By the time of Crush and certainly [’86’s] The Pacific

Age, we’re looking into this well, and there’s nothing there because

we’re always on the road and we didn’t have time to fill the well up.”

“It was the pressure of not having money,” says McCluskey. “We

were on a six per cent deal but the producer was on three per cent,

and that came out of our royalties, which also paid back advances

and recording costs. We had managers who wanted us to break

America while our London manager kept saying, ‘You have no money,

make another album.’ Another album, another US tour. Off we go.”

“Cocaine was our way to keep going,” admits Humphreys. “We

were just so exhausted on the road. We’d wake up in a new town

at 6am, after an hour’s sleep, and we’ve got to try and sell some

records. How are we going to do it?” He mimes an enormous sniff

off the Tucson hotel table. “That also added to the paranoia

between me and Andy,” he continues. “Because we were doing so

many drugs. Everything got accentuated. Also, there were divisive

influences from both sides. People who tried to divide and conquer

and ruin our relationship. And we allowed that to happen.”

“The Depeche Mode tour in ’88 was the final nail in the coffin,”

says McCluskey. “They had a 50/50 deal with Mute, earned enough

on that tour to retire, then went and made Violator. We lost money.

Then Paul and I split up, owing Virgin Records a million pounds.”

At this point, stories diverge.

“We had an agreement the band would stop,” says Humphreys.

“But then the record company and management got Andy’s ear and

convinced him to carry on solo with the OMD name.”

“My recollection is different,” says McCluskey. “Paul came to me

and said, ‘My accountant says the band name has value and there’s

three of us and one of you.’ They wanted to be OMD without me. I

went to Virgin and said, Can they do this? Virgin said, ‘Well, we have

the right to release music under the name OMD, you’re the lead

singer, and the most recognisable voice, so if you want to carry on,

we’ll listen. So Virgin sided with me, which was very difficult for

Paul and perhaps why he’s chosen not to remember it.”

When McCluskey released the OMD album Sugar Tax in 1991,

he also changed accountants. The new accountant informed him

that since 1983, the band had been stuck on old vinyl royalty rates

for every CD sold, and CD royalty rates were significantly higher.

“We audited Virgin Records and found they’d been robbing us

blind for 10 years,” says McCluskey. “So I walked down the Harrow

Road in 1995 with a cheque in my hand for £1.3 million, and that

was just my part of it. They made tens of millions of pounds off us

and OK, it’s not about the money, because we didn’t do it for money,

but the money was part of the pressure on the decision making, part

of the reason Paul and I broke up.”


Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey are tucking into celebratory

beers and pizzas. They have just performed such

avant-garde OMD classics as ABC-Auto Industry, Radio Prague,

and Time Zones in front of an audience that knows them best for If

You Leave, the 1986 hit they wrote in an hour for the end credits of

John Hughes’ Pretty In Pink. They played the US hits as well, and

tracks from the three albums they’ve recorded since reuniting in

2006, but this represents some kind of first. Since reforming, the

duo have tried to keep things interesting for themselves by playing

unusual venues and getting back to their pre-Crush roots.“The longer

the band went on, the further away from our roots we got,” says

Humphreys. “This rehabilitation has readdressed the balance because

we are an art band as well as a pop band. People lost sight of

that because we lost sight of it. We’ve finally got our freedom back.”

They’ve also learned to be calmer, says Humphreys, and not

personalise things. “And we both learned to trust,” he adds. “I think

our relationship is better now, except for when we were kids maybe.

Trust got a bit eroded. It took us a while to develop a trust again.”

“Paul and I are the Stan and Ollie of synth pop,” says McCluskey,

as we sit in the front of the tour bus, bound for the Las Vegas House

Of Blues. “We’re very different, but we’ve learned to walk down the

same road for 40 years. I still drive him bloody nuts and he drives

me insane. But we have to forgive each other because we know that

we are better together than we are apart.”


The Souvenir – OMD 40 Years tour visits the UK and Europe October

15-December 6. A Best Of album arives in September.


The dawn of UK synthpop,

in seven 7-inchers,

by Danny Eccleston.




(Industrial, 1978)

From the start, UK synth-pop

juggled themes of innocence and

control, man and machine. The

papery electro-snare and Genesis

P. Orridge’s slurred vocal suggest

sickness under the skin, while

Aleister Crowley casts a shadow

over the “love is the law” refrain.


Private Plane

(Oblique, 1978)

Scot Thomas

Wishart built this

half-lit slice of

paranoid pop in his

flat while his

girlfriend slept

– hence the tentative, muted

vocals. Control, hate, alienation

seep in and out: if this private plane

is a symbol of success, it’s one he,

and you, are barred from.



Being Boiled

(Fast Product, 1978)

Genocide – a jolly

subject of early

synth-pop – is lent

gloomy popability

by the Phil Oakey

baritone. The

Human League, recently sprouted

from The Future, flagged Sheffield

as an electro hotbed – home to

Clock DVA, Cabaret Voltaire and,

later, Heaven 17.


Warm Leatheret

(Mute, 1978)

The darkly sexy

masterpiece that

crashed into the

future OMD’s world

like the J.G. Ballard

auto wreck invoked

in Daniel Miller’s coldly-intoned

lyric. Miller’s Mute label would

prove a hothouse of synth-pop:

Silicon Teens, Fad Gadget, Depeche

Mode and more would follow.



Nag Nag Nag

(Rough Trade, 1979)

The Cabs’ Stephen

Mallinder has

described this

narky fuzz-fest as a

northern electro

take on American

garage psych, and you can sense

the breakneck wubba-wubba

propulsion of The 13th Floor

Elevators here (and The Red

Krayola’s Mayo Thompson



Are “Friends” El c?

(Beggars Banquet, 197

A bloke who might

be a mannequin

sing-talks in ersatz

Transatlantic of

how technology

blurs the lines

between what’s real and what’s not

(what’s new, eh?). The epic sound

and discordant riff does the rest.

The Heartbreak Hotel of synth-pop.





(Factory, 1979)

OMD had their own

dedicated release

on Factory (FAC 6)

before Joy Division.

This version – a tad

harsher than the

one on the debut album – mints

their style: insane catchiness,

ambivalent appreciation of

technology (“Never more to be

free”) and all.

Man against nature:

Bill Callahan searching

for his flock, Austin,

Texas, April 3, 2019.



creek, green caterpillars spinning down

from the trees over his head, Bill Callahan is talking

about the “huge changes” that have rippled through

his life in the past six years. Occasionally, he interrupts

himself to point out a plate-sized turtle or a

swimming snake (“right near that rock, right near the

shore”), or to show how the pollen that covers everything

in the spring round here has settled into the seams

of his brown lace-up boots, turning them fluorescent green.

He has driven – steadily, with a china mug of tea between his knees

– out to Gus Fruh, a hiking trail that rubs up against the suburban

edges of Austin, Texas, the city where he has lived since 2004.

Wildlife was part of the reason he left Chicago, to come here:

“They have these crazy birds here called grackles,” he explains, referring

to the exploded crows that flap heavily over every street

corner. One night, after a show, he wound down his car window and

“just heard all these thousands of grackles. And their song sounds

like a tape recorder being fast-forwarded and rewound.”

It’s no surprise that the noise made him feel at home. His lucid

dream of a new album, Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest, his first record

since 2013’s Dream River, begins with lo-fi hiss, a little echo of the

psychic abrasions he once released as Smog. Yet Callahan has

evolved so far from his origins as the mordant, discordant outsider

behind 1990’s Sewn To The Sky he is scarcely recognisable as the

same creature. After 12 albums as Smog, 2005’s A River Ain’t Too

Eagle scout: Callahan in-store

at Rough Trade, Paris, 1995;

(insets) from Smog’s 1990

debut (top) to Bill’s 2019 latest

(bottom), via Sometimes I

Wish We Were An Eagle (2009).

Much To Love was the last record released

under his murky nom-de-gloom; from

2007’s Woke On A Whaleheart, he has

used his own name.

His songs have always had the concentrated

intensity of Kirlian photography

– dark blooms of anger, beauty, disgust

and absurdity – but over time, his

writing has opened into new panoramas,

bedroom and basement expanding into

rivers and oceans, the odd symbolic

horses of earlier lyrics loosed into a wider

landscape. His evolution as a songwriter

– outsider antagonist to next generation

Leonard Cohen – has always

been fascinating, but Shepherd In A

Sheepskin Vest might mark the deepest

shift in Callahan’s career so far. A record

sat unflinchingly at the sharp end of mortality, it combines luminous

clarity with an almost medieval taste for allegory. There is death –

the loss of Callahan’s mother is reflected in the affecting hospital

scenes of Circles and a version of the traditional Lonesome Valley.

Yet there are also beginnings, rebirth, redemption: “I got married

to my wife/She’s lovely,” sings Callahan on Son Of The Sea. “And I

had a son… giving birth nearly killed me.” It’s an audacious line.

Callahan looks out over the water and smiles gently. “Musician

Bill almost died, you know?”


cap and jeans, today Callahan appears in robust health.

Now 52, it’s only when he puts on his glasses to study

his phone – he just “greyscaled” the screen, as it’s “less stimulating

for the brain”, and is now struggling to identify app icons – that he

looks much different from his younger, Smog self.

Yet the shuttered, folded-in artist who would freeze out journalists

in the ’90s has become someone who smiles, who does something

that can only be called chuckling – three discrete “hehs” as

dry punctuation. His voice remains quiet, but his conversation can

now be measured in sentences, not syllables. He hands over his

phone unasked to show a picture of his child; later, he plans somewhere

to eat lunch – a set-up that would have seemed unthinkable

20 years ago, when his reputation was one of formidable, almost

eerie reticence. In a 1996 feature, Laurence Bell – head

of Domino Records, who licensed albums from Drag

City, Callahan’s label since 1992 – reassured a journalist

unnerved by Callahan’s sudden disappearance from the

scene that “Bill never says goodbye”. Callahan looks

mildly surprised when it’s brought up: “I think he was

ust trying to make me look cool. As you’ll see, I will say

goodbye.” (He does, with a slight unexpected hug.)

“Sky change the sea/Love changed me,” Callahan

sings on Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest’s closing track

The Beast. In 2014, he married film-maker Hanly

Banks. A year later, their son was born.

“First I had to learn how to be a husband and

then a father, and once I got that somewhat under

control I thought, OK, now who’s this husband and

father who makes records?” he says. “Because music

used to be the number one thing in my life and now

it’s not. My wife and my kid come before that. I

thought about giving…” he decides against adding

‘up’. “I was like, I’ll just be a dad, I’ve made a bunch

of records. I got very frustrated with not being able

o work out how to work again. It was hard to allow myself

he time, because I work in a shed 20 feet behind our house

o I’m always there. You know, a kid always needs somehing.”

He laughs quietly.

Seductive though the idea of full-time fatherhood was,

he stepped back. “My wife was like, ‘No, you need to be the

person you were before. You can’t just abandon a big part

Guy Eppel (2), Getty

of you.’” He was wary, too, of becoming “one of those terrible

parents” whose self-sacrifice turns to resentment – “I could

have been a dancer!” – or who “wants you to call them every

day from college.” Yet the anxiety lingered. The family moved

temporarily to Santa Barbara, California, so Hanly could

study. Bill had always wanted to live by the beach, but it also

made him realise he needed his own bed, his own shed, to

work. “It feels good to be writing again,” he sings on the silvery

Writing – “That was from the heart,” he says today – yet

he still struggled to reconcile his new life with his old.

“I was like, Do I make this a part of my work or do

I section it off? I was going to therapy in Santa Barbara,

really to help me with that. I thought I would have to

totally partition each thing off and I couldn’t – but

through therapy, I realised everything has to be like a

Venn diagram, where everything overlaps a little bit.”


emblematic Smog songs came from a distance, glassed

off from reality – hovering over, floating beneath.

Bathysphere, off 1995’s transitional leap forward Wild Love, described

a child whose dream of living silently under the sea shatters

when his father says “but you can’t swim”; Teenage Spaceship, from

1999’s Knock Knock, was about walking the streets at night, insubstantial,

untethered by other humans. “The orange glow of a stranger’s

living room/Looks so much warmer than mine,” Callahan sang

on 1996 EP Kicking A Couple Around.

The enveloping Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest, however, is a record

about connection, about being part of something bigger than yourself.

Callahan joined Twitter at Christmas (first tweet: “Alright, people!

Let’s DO this!!! I am PUMPED for 2019! Woohooooo!”).

“I thought, It’s just writing and I like writing,” he explains. “I

still can’t fuck with Instagram and all the selfies and the food and the

pet pictures – all that stuff I feel is rotting the American psyche.”

The tough get going: (top)

Callahan today, at reflective

repose; (above) the

steady driver in his recent

model car, seeking Texan

wildlife (with added tea).

But he s been g g g p

has made me a part of the community,” he says. “I started meeting

my neighbours, because you have a baby everyone wants to see it. I

found that really beautiful. Before that I was like, I don’t want to

talk to my neighbour; you just happen to live next to me.”

This is the man behind Ex-Con (from 1997’s Jim O’Rourkeproduced

Red Apple Falls), a masterpiece of alienation expressed

through intrusive thoughts: “In the grocery store/In line behind a

mother and child/I’m going to take that child.” Does he feel he’s

shed those older, darker songs?

“I believe we don’t ever shed any skin,” he says. “All those people

are still inside us. I’ve realised from having a kid that we as adults are

basically babies too, and just totally fucking selfish and whiny and

don’t want to get in the cold water. I don’t think we actually lose any

of those things – we just learn to focus on our other personas. I

stand behind Ex-Con. I don’t think that meant I was a deranged

person or anything.”

After the creek stop, Callahan suggests walking on, crunching

over dried-up water holes to where the greenery thins into prehistoric

rockscapes and spiny juniper trees. Dinosaur country. ➢


Strong devotional: (from left)

Callahan in Smog days; on-stage

at London’s Conway Hall, 2004;

on “the rock that we live on”, April

2019; (inset) Apocalypse Tour Film,

directed by Hanly Banks Callahan.

Mattia Zoppellaro, Guy Eppel

“Isn’t this pretty?” he says, standing by a bubbling spring. “I

don’t know how anyone could not be influenced by this. It’s… happening.

It’s the rock that we live on.”

allahan was born In Maryland In 1966. hIs

parents worked for the Us national security agency as

language analysts, yet he denies their confidential work had

any effect on his worldview. “Kids don’t care what their parents do

really,” he says.

does his son not know what he does?

“The other day we were playing with sticks like swords and he

was getting a bit close to my fingers, and I was like, watch my fingers

– because you know what I do for a living. but a job to him is just

something that keeps his parents from being able to play with him.”

Callahan’s parents’ work altered his life in other ways: the family

were relocated to Knaresborough, yorkshire (perhaps something to

do with the nearby Us listening station at raF Menwith hill),

where “all the kids were angry and unhappy and kind of miserable.”

he recalls returning for a family holiday to a wisconsin lake

cabin when he was eight or nine, playing with kids who looked like

“little Tom Pettys”, watching Johnny Carson and eating ice cream

that, unlike the “disgusting” English version, actually melted. “Everything

was light and open and people were making jokes in a way

that I made jokes. It was like, I just think I’m supposed to be here.”

yet in other vital ways, conforming didn’t happen. Unable to

take any of his teachers seriously, he looked to music for guidance.

lou reed, he says, was “a beacon”, but he also dug the dC hardcore

scene and its literature. “one fanzine, there was a piece on ‘how To

Make a record’ and they would tell you how to send it to a pressing

plant and all this stuff. Eventually it was like, yeah, I can do that.”

he dropped out of university three times: English literature

first, then graphic design. “and then I tried one more time. I was

totally lost – and my dad, he’d found some notebook in my room

where I’d kept track of some expenses. I’m not a money person at

all, but he was like, ‘you should major in business or economics.’ I

was like, oK and that was an incredibly bad idea. I went to the first

day of economics and never went back. That was when I decided to

make a record at home and press it up myself. Two hundred or 300

copies. and I was totally happy doing that.”

his parents, though, were not. “I remember they were sitting on

their bed when I told them the final time I was dropping out and my

dad didn’t say anything, didn’t look at me, wouldn’t talk to me for

several days. after like… eight years or something, he finally came

to accept it was what I was doing.”

Callahan admits his first records “are kind of fucking crazy. If my

son gave me that I’d be like, stay in school!” he smiles. “My dad is

someone who really thrives on other people’s approval and I’m not

like that. Those aren’t the wheels I run on.

“I was talking with my wife about this a couple of days ago and

she was saying, ‘you didn’t have a good relationship with your parents

– why don’t you give a shit about what anyone thinks?’ That’s

extreme, of course I do on some level – but I think it came from

being worn down to nothing and trying school over and over and

failing and knowing I was suppressing this desire to make music. as

soon as I started putting together my first record there was no doubt

in my mind this was what I was supposed to do.”

Callahan spent a year working as carer to a woman with a developmental

disability, saving up $10,000 and moving into a shared

house. his first cheque from drag City arrived as he hit his last $30.

he never had a day job again.

now, he says, when he listens to earlier albums, he hears “this

little kid” singing. as he found his voice – deeper in the ground,

more elemental – his songs changed too. he was no longer being

grouped with his lo-fi ’90s cadre (will oldham, former partner


Chan ‘Cat Power’ Marshall, Sebadoh) but mentioned with reference

to Reed, Cohen, Scott Walker. In 2000, Walker invited him to

play his Meltdown; three years ago, Iggy Pop asked him to open a

few shows for him. “It was kind of the same experience of just letting

them compliment me while I shook their hand. I didn’t say

anything because I didn’t know where to begin.”

There was also a “baffling and anti-climactic” meeting with Reed

when he came to see Callahan play for the second time, around the

release of A River Ain’t Too Much To Love. “Although he was a big fan

of my work,” says Callahan dryly, “he’d also confused me with a

band called Golden Smog that had done a David Bowie tribute record.

So he was like, ‘Hey, I heard your cover of Starman, it was

really cool.’ And I was like, Er, that wasn’t me. And he was like, ‘Yes

it was.’ He insisted it was and I didn’t know how to get out of it.”


head back and Callahan leads the way, warning against

wicked little clumps of poison oak. “I never thought

I’d make it this far/Little old house/new model car/And I’ve got the

woman of my dreams/And an imitation Eames,” sings Callahan on

the lovely, funny domesticated hush of What Comes After Certainty.

“I didn’t think about having a house or a wife or kid. I was just

like, I’ll rent someone’s closet to sleep in,” he said earlier. “I was

completely sated by working on music and touring, travelling

around the world. It wasn’t part of my galaxy. It all changed when I

met my wife. It all made sense. I started having these desires for

marriage and a kid and a recent model car that would be safe for us

to get places in. It all sprang from that. My wife.”

It was that sudden?

“It was. It was. I feel like all of my personal changes are apocalyptic.

Maybe I am slowly changing. It doesn’t feel like it, though. It

feels like my life is filled with these apocalyptic moments where I

just… change my perspective.”

As the paths narrow and twist, Callahan stands in front of a

three-forked trail, looking left and right. “We didn’t come in by

here,” he says. “Hmm. Let’s just try this way. We’ll always find our

way out eventually.”



Callahan’s earliest

recordings often

resemble a tense

face-off between

lo-fi noise and

spectral songwriting.

On this third effort, his first in a

studio, the fractious tape experiments

(I Am Star Wars! loops a

snatch of Start Me Up to oblivion)

can’t undermine the most

tantalising glimmers, in Your

Wedding and Chosen One, of a

memorable way with lyric and tune.


The lugubrious

baritone is still not

fully formed, but



relentless ballads

come to prominence on a collection

of minimalist dirges about dead and

doomed relationships. While his

view of love seems at best

unforgiving, there’s also odd

tenderness to one of his finest

songs, All Your Women Things, in

which his narrator makes a fetish of

an ex’s belongings.


“Let’s move to the

country,” begins

Smog’s seventh,

signalling a growing

taste for the


wilderness. As with its predecessor,

Red Apple Falls (1997), producer Jim

O’Rourke augments the deadpan

yarns (River Guard is among his

best) with baroque flourishes, and

Callahan flirts with a kind of wry

chamber pop, too: witness the

bracing Sweet Jane ramalam of Cold

Blooded Old Times.


As if his evasive ways

weren’t apparent

enough by the name

Smog, Callahan

further occludes

with parentheses for

this most menacing and hardboiled

of his albums. The Lou Reed

inflections and motorik repetitions

have hardened into a mantric

intensity. Note Callahan’s evolving

noir sensibilities, which would

culminate in 2009’s Jim Cain.


Callahan’s mature

phase begins here:

now in Austin, he

initially envisages A

River… as the first

album under his

own name. Warm and folk-tinged,

serenity comes from communing

with nature, so that the likes of Rock

Bottom Riser feel like Buddhist

campfire songs. Listen for his most

quoted line, in I’m New Here: “I told

her I was hard to get to know, and

near impossible to forget.”


Callahan’s fifteenth

album, and last prior

to Shepherd…,

builds on the

epiphanies and

beatitudes of A

River… and 2009’s exceptional

Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle.

Country music is dreamily

rethought; guitarist Matt Kinsey

plays beautifully, and flexibly;

Afrobeat is channelled, after a

fashion, on Javelin Unlanding; sex

occurs, in the “fertile dirt”. An entire

dub version, Have Fun With God,

would follow in 2014.



More G, vicar: King

Crimson’s Robert Fripp

channels divine inner

visions, on-stage in

London, 1971.

© Godlis, Getty, Avalon, Barry Plummer


this planet – least of all, one imagines,

Robert Fripp himself – for whom the concept

of a nine-hour King Crimson press

conference is an entirely welcome one.

And yet, as this day-long 50th anniversary

event, held in the crowded upstairs room

of a Bloomsbury art gallery, unfolds at the stately pace of a 29-

CD King Crimson box set, none of the assembled 50 representatives

of the rump of the international rock media can deny we

are learning something.

For current King Crimson vocalist Jakko Jakszyk – a one-time

member of Level 42, recruited via a semi-authorised Crimson

tribute band to join the ensemble who first blew his teenage mind

at Watford Town Hall in 1971 (“Inside my head,” he admits,

endearingly, “I’m still a 13-year-old boy who can’t get over the fact

that I’m now in my favourite group”) – the big take-home moment

is when Robert Fripp is asked if King Crimson could exist without

Robert Fripp and he answers with an unequivocal, “No.”

“I’ve heard him say that in private

before,” Jakszyk admits afterwards, “but

never in public.” To anyone outside the

inner circle, the idea of a Fripp-less

Crimson is no less absurd than a Mark E

Smith-free Fall, but Fripp has traditionally

preferred to describe himself as the

band’s “glue” than as its leader.

What’s remarkable about the performance

Fripp gives over the course of the

day – first standing at a lectern referring

to notes and numerical formulae on a

laptop, almost as if giving a TED talk,

then answering questions pulled

randomly from a hat (“The hat is impartial,

I am not fiddling the hat”) – is the

way what initially resemble protective

strategies ultimately enable him to reveal

himself. There’s a prickly diatribe about unauthorised photographs

and other unwanted intrusions on his personal space – “No one

‘only wants to say hello’, they want to attach themselves to your

psyche and suck” – but the day’s two extended Q&A sessions both

end with Fripp moved to tears: the first time pondering the ineffable

mysteries of creativity, the second remembering the 2017 death

from cancer of former Crimson bass player John Wetton.

In person, Fripp cuts a compact and dapper dash – there’s even

a costume change in the lunch break, from electric blue suit to more

relaxed but still hanger-fresh jacket and jeans. If Mod actor Martin

Freeman’s dad had run a chain of estate agents, this is how he might

have presented himself. Of course in another life, had the lateteens,

mid-1960s Robert Fripp not made the decision to become a

professional musician, he would have very likely ended up taking

over his own father’s Dorset estate agency. As it is, half a century

later, he has the keys to the rambling, grandiose and currently very

much lived-in property that is King Crimson; a house of many

rooms, some (but not all) of which contain Adrian Belew.

The tour of the premises he conducts in Bloomsbury takes us

from the 1969 Hyde Park performance with The Rolling Stones

that launched King Crimson into the pre-prog art-rock big time –

when Fripp found himself identifying from the side of the stage

with the mass of dead butterflies left behind in the bottom of

Mick Jagger’s sack – through his acrimonious legal struggles

with EG management and Universal Music Group, to the more

diffuse and yet somehow integral question (playfully framed in

the third person, as many of the day’s most pertinent inquiries

are) of “the personal unpleasantness of Robert”.

Fripp quotes sardonically throughout the day

from the often critical judgements of him in former

band-mates’ memoirs, but it’s the regular,

traumatised, post-break-up lacunae that have

given the King Crimson story its unique rhythm

– not least because without them we’d have been

denied the visionary innovations and inspired

sidemanship of Fripp’s solo career. The real mystery

– one which remains defiantly unsolved at

the end of the press conference – is how did this

half-century-long carnival of dysfunction bring

King Crimson to their present state of higher collective


With a lavishly-appointed back catalogue

thriving in the care of their own independent

record label and a miraculously ongoing-since-2014 touring lineup

– Fripp’s fabled “Seven-headed beast of Crim” (now an eightheaded

beast, with the arrival of sax and flute specialist Theo Travis)

– adding to the lustre of their reputation with every ecstatically

rigorous performance, the start of the band’s second half century

finds them provoking peer group envy in a way that would have once

seemed unthinkable. Listening to the CD that accompanies this

edition of MOJO, for example, the spectacular version of Cadence

And Cascade featuring vocalists of four

different eras, from Greg Lake to Jakko

Jakszyk via Gordon Haskell and Adrian

Belew, it would not be entirely fanciful

to imagine Fripp and co – in accordance

with the Third Principle of King Crimson

(“All the music is new, whenever it

was written”) – as the best new rock

band in the world.


nine-hour press conference

should theoretically be the

worst possible time to lock horns with

this famously short-fused 72-year-old,

especially given that Robert Fripp has

largely forsworn mano-a-mano encounters

with journalists since the fateful day

in 2003 when an enthusiastic Japanese press officer told him how

excited she was to meet “the Yoda of progressive rock”. Yet the

Fripp I encounter in a comfortable but not lavish West End hotel

room is courteous and forthcoming, so long as MOJO respects the

one condition on which his only face-to-face interview was granted:

that we should wax fearlessly metaphysical, to avoid reprising the

nuts and bolts concerns of the previous day’s presentation.

Towards the end of that session, Fripp had made an intriguing

equation between people in Alcoholics Anonymous and those in

monastic orders, suggesting he regards them as very humane and

sustaining structures in which to live. “They’re both astonishing

disciplines,” he enthuses when the subject is broached again,

“where the practitioner sits on the razor’s edge.

“I have quite a few chums in AA,” he continues, “and they’re the

most reliable, supportive people, because they have no room for

bullshit in their lives. One slip and that’s it – another seven years

gone… I’ve also visited orthodox monasteries on Cyprus, and the

day to day existences of those monks are quite astonishing, because

it’s life and death, but spiritually. Some of them experience demons

in physical form which actually scratch them: something we can’t

possibly conceive of, but which for those monks is entirely real.”

Isn’t that roughly what people imagine life on the road with King

Crimson to be like?

“Well,” Fripp grins, “the scratches come perhaps from other

members of the band. They’re not essentially demonic in nature, in

fact they’re quite well-intentioned, it’s just that sometimes they

stray from the path…”


Shades of Crimson:

(clockwise from left)

Fripp at Hyde Park,

1971; circa Larks’

Tongues (from left)

Jamie Muir, Bill

Bruford, Fripp, David

Cross, John Wetton;

Discipline era (from

left) Fripp, Bruford,

Adrian Belew, Tony

Levin, Tokyo, 1981;

Fripp joins Blondie at

CBGB, NYC, 1978.

There seems to be an obvious connection between that ‘razor’s

edge’ condition of hyper-alertness and the kind of discipline

Fripp imposes on himself – and his band – in recording and live

performance. “Well, you have to be present,” Fripp concedes. “So,

do I have my own personal practice and discipline which supports

that? The quick answer is yes, and it’s daily and it’s ongoing…”

A recent entry in Fripp’s online blog proclaims: “If I wish to

change the world (as it might once have been expressed) I have to

become a better guitarist.” You just don’t get that with Joe Satriani,

and Fripp’s almost ascetic determination to channel creative energy

in the right direction is the driving force behind the workshop

retreats he has staged all around the world for large groups (ie. up

to 100) of aspiring guitar players. Without ascribing too cultish an

atmosphere to these mass jam sessions, their tone seems to be more

reminiscent of a Shaolin monastery than Jack Black’s School Of

Rock. “Like martial arts with a guitar” was how one fleet-fingered

alumnus put it, to Fripp’s evident satisfaction. While many a rock

deity has looked East for spiritual sustenance, Fripp’s sense of

mission seems to have its religious roots closer to home.

“Most of the retreat houses where we’ve held the courses have

been in Catholic institutions,” he explains, “but it’s become increasingly

difficult for us to get into those, because in the light of

recent scandals the church has had to put very rigorous safeguards

in place which restrict outside bodies from coming in.”

One of the highlights of a brief showreel from MTV-hostturned-film-maker

Toby Amies’ forthcoming full-length King

Crimson documentary – aired for the first time at the Bloomsbury

press conference – is an interview with a Polish nun of the

Dominican order, who talks about the band’s music as proceeding

from a quasi-mystical quest for truth. One Prog Rock Nun does not

a wholesale reassessment make. But is it possible that Fripp’s celebrated

openness about the darker and more malevolent side of his

character – “Can you stop saying nice things about me?” Jakko

Jakszyk was once asked after complimenting him in an interview.

“You’re ruining my reputation” – might camouflage a reluctance to

go public about King Crimson’s spiritual dimension?

“I’m wary of talking about that in England,” Fripp admits,

“because this is a post-Christian country, and you can’t really


Heroes and villains: (main) the ‘Double

Quartet’ Crimson, 2018 (clockwise

from top left) Mel Collins, Levin,

Bill Rieflin, Jakko Jakszyk, Fripp,

Gavin Harrison, Jeremy Stacey, Pat

Mastelotto; (below) Fripp, Eno and

Bowie recording “Heroes”, Berlin, 1977.

have that conversation here at this time. What I would say is that

within those communities that engage with theology there is an

active discussion underway about how to reframe the spirit of

theology as something that can be more easily engaged with, and

one easy answer to that conundrum is you play music.”

Before the ink can dry on our ‘King Crimson In Christian Rock

Shocker!’ exclusive, Robert Fripp adds

some background colour. “When I was

being prepared for my confirmation in

the Church of England at the age of 12 by

the Reverend Stanley Epps – vicar in

Wimborne Minster – the Reverend Epps

said to my mother, ‘Make sure your son

keeps up his Latin.’ Meaning, Stanley

Epps saw me as a future vicar in the

Church of England!”

As a first step towards possibly one

day taking holy orders, Fripp became a

serving boy at the Minster. Did he sing in

the choir? “I have no singing voice, so I

wasn’t interested in doing that. However,

what I did do was assist the priest at Holy

Communion in the mornings… and a

few years later, age 29, when I was in

retreat at J.G. Bennett’s International

Academy for Continuous Education at

Sherborne House, the notion of becoming

a non-stipendiary minister briefly

resonated with me, until it became clear that this wasn’t actually my

proper calling and music was.”

So he sees his relationship with music as a vocation?


And has he always pursued it as such, despite the best efforts of

his fellow musicians and the music industry at large to stop him

doing so?

“The quick answer to that question is also yes.”


Big Apple and play shit-hot lead guitar on a sequence of

classic new wave releases with Blondie and Talking Heads”

certainly falls within the upper echelon of desirability. “That was a

wonderful time to be in new York,” Fripp concedes graciously.

“The spirit moves.”

It’s the period just before Fripp left

Britain for new York in February 1977

that seems to hold the key to his subsequent

creative evolution. In the midst of

what turned out to be a seven-year hiatus

from King Crimson, he had dropped

out of the public eye to spend a year

studying the counterculture’s harmonium-playing

Armenian mystic-ofchoice

George Gurdjieff, as applied by

the aforementioned J.G. Bennett and

his wife Elizabeth (the woman Fripp describes

as “my spiritual mother”). What

first drew him to this esoteric branch of

self-improvement philosophy?

“I was on my way home to London

from what was then to be the last King Crimson performance – in

new York on July 1, 1974,” Fripp remembers, with characteristic

precision, “when some words in Mr Bennett’s introduction to his

second inaugural course just blew the top of my head off. The

actual quotes are online, but it was something to the effect of, ‘If

you have an unpleasant nature and dislike people, that is no obstacle

to work.’ So even if you’re a real jerk and an arsehole, there’s hope

for you still, if you want to get on and do something about it…”

After acting as an usher at a sequence of Bennett’s meetings in

London (he was happy to find himself “recognised by no one”),

Fripp signed up for a 10-month stint at Sherborne House in

Gloucestershire. It was in the ensuing fervent atmosphere of selfexploration

that Fripp pondered his suitability for the priesthood.

He saw no contradiction between Gurdjieff ’s teachings and his own

Church of England roots, and to prove it set himself to learning

Claudia Hahn, Getty



(Island, 1969)

Crimson’s debut

encompassed the


aggression of 21st

Century Schizoid

Man – the extraordinary

unison section had stunned live

audiences – grandly structured

mellotron ballads and 10 minutes of

free improvisation, while Peter

Sinfield’s fantastical lyrics, evoking

imagined worlds, lent a uniqueness

that helped make it progressive

rock’s first major statement.


(Island, 1970)

With the departure

of principal

songwriter Ian

McDonald and a

line-up in flux,

Crimson was close to

falling apart. Side one followed the

format of their debut, and while the

Beatles-meets-jazz of Cat Food is

witty and inspired, most of side two

is given over to a reworking of their

live version of Mars from Gustav

Holst’s Planets Suite.


(Island, 1970)

More musical chairs

saw jazz pianist Keith

Tippett drafted in,

and Yes’s Jon

Anderson deliver a

vocal cameo. Lizard’s

juxtaposition of pseudo-classical

mellotron fanfares, limpid ballads,

free-form skronk and Gil Evans-style

faux Iberian settings was both

beguiling and baffling.


(Island, 1971)

Robert Fripp has said

that he realised he

would make a

number of recorded

“mistakes” following

In The Court…, but if

Islands fails, it does so in grand style.

Another new line-up tackle ferocious

instrumentals, sleazy R&B, and amid

the moments of pastoral exotica

there is even a piece for oboe and

string ensemble.


(Island, 1973)

With drummer Bill

Bruford, bassist and

vocalist John Wetton

and percussionist

Jamie Muir on board

the “mistakes” gave

way to a dazzling set of songs and

exploratory instrumentals. Part Two

of the title track saw the emergence

of the angular, incrementally

developing riff-based structure that

would become a Robert Fripp

compositional trademark.


(Island, 1974)

Fripp has said that

Crimson’s albums

were good but their

shows were like a

“hot date”. This

certainly explains

the power of this collection of new

material, three quarters of which –

unbeknownst to buyers at the time

– was recorded live. Fracture

assumes some forbidding formal

shapes, while the title track is an

inspired live improvisation.


(Island, 1974)

Crimson were

becoming a big live

draw in the US,

delivering a near

metal heaviness and

intensity, and they

channelled that power into Red,

although it was released just after

Fripp had disbanded the group. The

guitarist’s diamond-hard riffing

contrasts with brass, strings and

woodwind, and Red peaks on the

majestic finale, Starless.


(EG, 1981)

When Crimson

regrouped in 1981,

Fripp and Bruford

were joined by

Americans Tony

Levin on bass and

Chapman Stick, and Adrian Belew on

guitar and vocals. Discipline was a

completely new proposition, more

groove-based post-new wave than

prog rock, featuring the sort of fluid,

interlocking figures that Fripp

played on Talking Heads’ I Zimbra.


(EG, 1982)

Adrian Belew’s songs

form the core of this

concept album

about the Beat

poets, which saw

King Crimson

reimagined as svelte avant-pop with

’80s production gloss, taking a

clipped Talking Heads-y approach

on Sartori In Tangier and getting

fidgety on Neurotica. Requiem

moves from ambient drift to abstract

group improv, and feels anomalous

in context.


(EG, 1984)

The oddest of mixed

bags. Side one

comprised a batch of

Belew songs,

including the

surprise club hit

Sleepless, while side two sounded

like a different group, being home to

harsher instrumentals and

improvisations. It went Top 30, but

Fripp soon disbanded the line-up.


(EG, 1995)

After an 11-year

hiatus came the

recorded debut of

the six-piece “double

trio”. Crimson had

moved away from

the ’80s’ rhythmic patterns, mixing

some of Belew’s strongest songs, like

Dinosaur, with a return to Red on the

instrumental Vrooom and the title

track’s pummelling power chords.


(Virgin, 2000)

Once past Belew’s

ProzaKc Blues, we

are in the thick of

complex compositions

by a now

four-piece group.

Although Fripp felt unhappy with

the production – which does sound

oddly flat in places – the 13-minute

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV hits

vindictive levels of sonic brutality.


(Sanctuary, 2003)

Fripp described

writing Crimson’s

last studio statement

to date as a difficult

process. And while it

has its delicate and

lyrical moments, with metal and

industrial producer Gene Freeman

AKA Machine at the controls, the

group’s darker side comes through

on compositions like Level Five and

the brooding Dangerous Curves.

Greek with an Anglican clergyman, so they could read the Gospels

together in their original form.

For the man who’d just spent a year of studious contemplation

in a rambling English stately home modelled on the Prieuré in Fontainebleau

near Paris (Gurdjieff ’s ’20s retreat), plunging into the

dangerous ferment of late ’70s New York must have been a shock.

“New York had always terrified me,” admits Fripp, “because it

was so intense and overloading. I remember being driven into

Manhattan in a taxi at some point in 1971-2 and I put my coat over

my head, because I simply couldn’t take in all that information. So

going back there in February of 1977 was a challenge. And I took it

on as a catalyst to get me to the other side of where I was. I didn’t

know where that would be, but if we ask the future to present itself,

we have to be willing to listen.”

For anyone curious about the origins of Fripp’s somewhat oracular

speech patterns, a visit to the J.G. Bennett Foundation website

(a course of action the guitarist fervently recommends) will certainly

prove illuminating. There is also some great YouTube footage

of people formation dancing in white robes. His time at Sherborne

House seems to have been very influential on what Fripp calls his

“medieval monastic librarian” persona – a shtick which was much

better received on the other side of the Atlantic than it probably

would’ve been at home.

“In England, by the time you got to the punk and post-punk

eras, as a member of King Crimson, I was The Enemy,” Fripp says,

“whereas what mattered in New York was that I’d worked with Eno

and later Bowie. So within the overall trajectory of Robert’s Musical

Life, there was this conundrum: he’s the villain with King Crimson

and he’s the hero – if you’ll forgive the pun – with Bowie and Eno.

‘Eno and Bowie are the two untouchables’ was how Steven Wilson

put it when I was working with him a few years ago…”

Does he think some of their untouchableness rubbed off?

“Well, maybe a little bit,” Fripp laughs. “Although may I say I was

always very touchable? Either way, The Enemy had redeeming


little help from two Revox tape recorders, was (No Pussyfooting)…”

Whatever the reason for Eno leaving Roxy Music soon afterwards

– a Melody Maker article by Richard Williams praising

Brian’s new spin-off collaborative endeavour, or the more colourful

version which has Roxy Music walking on stage one night to be met

by a female voice shouting “Eno!” (“At least ‘Brian/Bryan’ would

have been ambiguous,” Fripp chuckles) – Brian with an ‘i’ was

summoned to a meeting and told in no uncertain terms that he was

ready to go it alone. But far from the enticing window of opportunity

it might’ve seemed to present, this turn of events was bad news

for (No Pussyfooting). In Fripp’s telling of the story, EG and Island

Records decided to down-scale the release so as not to muddy the

waters of Eno’s imminent solo career.

“It was sat on in England, and didn’t get a release at all in

America except on import,” Fripp grumbles, 46 years on. Luckily,

one American who did hear this remarkable record – Iggy Pop –

really liked it.

“Although Iggy, who I’ve met and have a great admiration for,

never said this to me,” he continues, “I was told he could whistle all

the main themes from (No Pussyfooting). I don’t know whether Iggy

introduced Bowie to it when they were hanging out in ’76, but David

listened to it, and he called Brian and asked him to go to Berlin,

at which point I was still in Sherborne House, so I don’t think I was

invited. But not long afterwards, when I’d just moved to New York

in ’77, the phone went, and there was Brian, and I was invited to go

to Berlin and that was “Heroes”.”

A schizoid man in the 21st

century: Fripp celebrates

King Crimson’s 50th anniversary

at London’s October

Gallery, April 6, 2019.


features. Besides, in New York, King

Crimson was seen in a different way to

back home, more as an authentic musical

action but perhaps of the immediately

preceding musical generation, whereas

Eno and Bowie were seen as part of the

present musical generation. Which conceivably

would also be true of the 1981 Crimson, but we hadn’t got

there yet.”

Fripp’s get-out-of-prog-jail-free-card collaborations with Eno

and Bowie straddled his year at Sherborne House. (No Pussyfooting)

– the glorious first fruits of this particularly fecund three-way

entanglement – grew from a fortuitously syncopated interaction

between the formative stages of King Crimson’s ’72-74 line-up and

the final days of Brian Eno’s association with Roxy Music.

“It’s well known that Bryan Ferry auditioned for King Crimson

and I turned him down,” Fripp notes, “so Peter Sinfield and myself

remain the only two people who’ve ever heard him sing …Schizoid

Man and The Court Of The Crimson King. We usually recorded

those auditions and I think for many years Bryan was concerned

that we had his performances on tape – I never persuaded him

otherwise, although sadly those were two that got away. It was obvious

that Bryan had something and was going to succeed, but not as

the voice of Crimson, so we helped him out by turning him down,

as if he had joined us it might have been the end of his career.”

Fripp did recommend the snappily dressed young Geordie art

student to EG management – “a favour he might’ve thanked me for

at the beginning of his career, but possibly not later on” – and it was

in their west London offices that Fripp later, in June 1972, bumped

into Ferry’s by-then bandmate Brian Eno, who asked him to come

over one evening. Fripp dropped round with his guitar and pedalboard.

“So, we went in that front room, the room where Discreet

Music was later left recording itself while me and Eno were in the

kitchen, having a cup of tea. This time Eno poured a glass of wine

and said, ‘Would you like to plug in?’ Which I did, and that, with a


practise being a hero?” is one

of the questions Fripp is asked

by his sister Patricia in the motivational

speaking videos they post on YouTube

(Google them – MOJO is not making

this up). His answer? “Every day.”

As monolithic and immovable as the

current three-drummers-at-the-front

incarnation of King Crimson may seem,

permanence is illusory in the world of

Robert Fripp, and it’s hard to see this as

anything other than the final version of

the band. Not least because it would be

so difficult to surpass as an exercise in “redemption and completion”,

with Fripp having decided the messy fragmentations of the

’90s and ’00s were not how he “wished King Crimson to leave this

world”. Today’s version of the band is also, in Fripp’s own words,

“the first where there is not at least one person in the band who

resents Robert’s presence.”

MOJO can’t let him go without asking him about the ‘third

person’ thing. Is it a way of separating the man and the myth?

“All right then,” he says patiently, “this is my ontology. The separation

I make between ‘Fripp’ and ‘Robert’ is a distinction between

who I am and the human animal I live inside” – ‘soul’ and ‘body’

would be the old-fashioned way of expressing this dichotomy –

“and the important thing is how they act together.

“I date my awareness of this to March 1976 at Sherborne House.

While wheeling a barrow of manure past the woodwork sheds, I saw

in a flash that ‘I’ didn’t exist. It was a vision of remarkable power,

and it was instantaneous and it was terrifying.”

So creatively nourishing was this moment of revelation that the

next time King Crimson broke up, at the end of 1984, Robert Fripp

went back for more, signing up for the inaugural three-month spell

of study at the Bennett Foundation’s new American centre at Claymont

Court in Charles Town, West Virginia. Immediately afterwards,

he started teaching his Guitar Craft courses, an endeavour he

generally describes as “my proper working life”.

Does this mean that in the earthly existence of Robert Fripp,

King Crimson is best understood as the punctuation between keynote

incidences of Gurdjieffian retreat?

“That would be your headline,” Fripp laughs, “not mine.” M


Painting by Francesca Sundsten

TUE 18, WED 19 & THU 20 JUNE






In case of megaphonic

attack: The Flaming Lips

in London, 1999 (from

left) Steven Drozd, Wayne

Coyne and Michael Ivins.







Oklahoma City’s punks-on-acid were expecting to be dropped

when they set out for NY’s Tarbox studios in ’97. Instead, despite

heroin, bereavement and despair, and a detour into experimental

noise, they created a millennial psychedelic pop masterpiece.

Twenty years on from its release, they remember its prelude,

recording and aftermath. “We were so buried in our own weird

shit,” says WAYNE COYNE, “but I didn’t want it to be a bummer.”

Interviews by MARTIN ASTON • Portrait by STEVE GULLICK

Steven Drozd: A lot of weird shit happened

around the same time. Ronald [Jones, guitar] left

the band [in August 1996], my [heroin] addiction

was ongoing, Michael [Ivins, bass] had a car crash

and Wayne lost his father to cancer, all within a

year. There was a sense of, what the fuck’s going

on? It was a time of uncertainty and the unknown.

Wayne Coyne: Ronald was so introvert, just

being recognised would take him the whole day

to deal with, which was very frustrating. When

he quit, I was secretly relieved. Now we had a

perfect reason to go down another path. Steven

and I had already talked about making tapes to

play in our friends’ cars, which became [1996/7

happening] The Parking Lot Experiment. We ➢


“The band had

changed from

The inside ouT.”

Wayne coyne

Shutterstock, Angelo Lubrano/Livepix/ Getty

didn’t need a guitarist, or think about chords

and lyrics, it didn’t require money or a studio.

Scott Booker: Grunge was dying off, and bands

were being dropped, so we consciously decided

not to ask Warners Bros for money. The Parking

Lot Experiment became [1997/98 multiple tape

decks live event] the Boom-Box Experiment,

which we could sell tickets for and survive while

the dust settled at the label.

Michael Ivins: We didn’t have a great track

record with Warners, apart from [1993 album]

Transmissions From The Satellite Heart because of

[hit single] She Don’t Use Jelly. Our next album,

Clouds Taste Metallic [1995], had been a flop, so

the fact Scott persuaded Warners not to drop us

was amazing.

SB: The logical step was to make a record out of

the Parking and Boom-Box Experiments. I

pitched the idea of two albums they’d make

simultaneously – the one with four discs, which

became [1997 noise-experiment] Zaireeka, and

to use that as a marketing tool for a single disc,

which became The Soft Bulletin. The Lips had

made beautiful music before, but all the press

wanted to talk about was how weird they were,

so I told Warners, “Let them release their weirdest

record ever, then people won’t say The Soft

Bulletin is weird.”

Dave Fridmann: I first worked with Flaming Lips

in 1989, and ever since, they’ve looked for new

ways to express themselves, sometimes to a

fault. Every day, they ask to try something that

might be impossible. Like, “Build a wall… no, not

that kind of wall, I meant a desert.” We discussed

how The Wizard Of Oz apparently lined up with

Pink Floyd – we tried with A Saucerful Of Secrets –

and how we visualised taking the music from

black and white to colour. We knew there was an

end point to all this, we just didn’t know how to

get there. It was like walking a maze in the dark.

WC: We had a couple of difficult sessions

assembling Zaireeka. We had some miserable

failures – one was Race For The Prize, which is

possibly our greatest song ever! Weirdly, Zaireeka

freed us up. We’d begun as a freaky rock band

and now we were constructing sappy songs

using strings and piano. We thought it would be

the last record Warners would allow us to make.

We were so buried in our own weird shit, we had

no idea if we even sounded like a contemporary


SD: By the time we had four songs that weren’t

going on Zaireeka, Wayne put them on a cassette

and titled it ‘The Soft Bullet In’.

WC: I had the line “the softest bullet ever shot” in

The Spark That Bled. I loved the word ‘bulletin’,

the idea of an urgent statement, but it’s a soft

version, without any distortion, feedback or

noise. We were telling each other what we were

feeling, singing about being friends, and deep,

sad, personal stuff, which was so cornball, but

brave too. It wasn’t something bands that

wanted to be cool would ever do.

DF: One day, Steven said, “Check my hand, it’s a

spider bite.” I replied, “Wow, crazy, you almost

lost your arm,” and didn’t think twice about it

[the ‘bite’ was actually an abscess from injecting].

A lot of people were doing [heroin] at that time,

which I’d never allow at the studio. Steven would

withdraw every time he came to [Fridmann’s

studio] Tarbox, upstairs, and we’d call him

down to record something, and eventually he

returned to normal. He’d repeat the process

for every session.

WC: I felt so conflicted about Steven. Does being

in the band give him access to this lifestyle? I

didn’t think he’d purposely kill himself but drugs

are hazardous. I’d sometimes check on him

upstairs and I’d brace myself, thinking he could

be dead. But I also wanted him to get his part

done for the song! All of that seeped into the

sound and mood and lyrics, talking about grief,

and death, and do I have to live without you?

DF: We finished Feeling Yourself Disintegrate

and agreed everything had to have what that

track had. It was a weird kind of melancholy. Like,

something bad is happening, but it’s not all bad,

we’ll get through.

SD: We’d done stuff with chord progressions, key

changes, big productions with strings and

horns… Feeling Yourself Disintegrate had none

of that. We felt cleansed of bombastic ideas so it

was easier to move on – to add acoustic guitar,

Hammond organ, soft drums. Dave added echo

repeats and delays for a hazier wash. Wayne was

singing less about giraffes and more straightforward


SB: Wayne’s father passing away was the first any

of us had experienced losing a parent, which was

an incredibly powerful moment. To feel yourself

disintegrate – that’s what we all do, but the way

that Wayne put it, it felt peaceful to me. And it’s




● Wayne Coyne,


Lucky Lips: (from far left) Wayne

gets bloody at Kentish Town Forum,

London on November 10, 1999; (top)

live on Jools Holland’s show earlier

the same day; (bottom) the Boom-Box

Experiment at the Forum, May 16, 1998

(MOJO’s Keith Cameron, far right);

Coyne, Ivins and Drozd eye the prize.

● Steven Drozd,


Justin Goetz, Steve Gullick, Steve Double/Camera Press, Getty, Hellfireltd.com

such a Wayne way of thinking. It was beyond

belief, that these psychedelic road warriors

were writing these beautiful and heartfelt songs,

like Race For The Prize, which they still open

every show with.

WC: Losing my dad was a tough blow. Also.

Steven’s family had had three or four tragedies,

including suicide, so he was going deeper inside

himself, into music and grief. The Soft Bulletin

sounds like we knew what we were doing but,

really, we were lost, we were just psychically

guiding each other through. The prize in Race For

The Prize was the cure for cancer – meanwhile,

I’m just making dumb music. I still feel that way,

but though we’re not medication, if you get good

medication, I think we can help in the aftermath.

DF: In my mind, there is a trilogy of related

records from that time – Spiritualized’s Ladies &

Gentlemen…, Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs and

The Soft Bulletin.

Jonathan Donahue: Rev and the Lips ended up

at Tarbox at the same time, through [former Rev

bassist] Dave. What united us was his willingness

to allow us our vision. It was a time after grunge

and Britpop, and pop songs getting shorter,

quicker and more formulaic, but the music out of

Tarbox was slowing down, it was much more

contemplative. I felt a collective consciousness

that we all pooled from, a kind of wormhole that

hovered over Tarbox that we could access. Where

we all ended up through the wormhole was

different. When we returned, he’d log the

information and filter it between us. Dave

empowered fragile people like me to stand the

ground that you don’t even know you’re holding.

SB: I was hyper-aware how well

Deserter’s Songs had done, and you knew

fans of each album would appreciate the

other. Jonathan was very gracious to

invite the Lips to tour with Mercury Rev

in the UK after The Soft Bulletin came out.

MI: We knew we had to reinvent our live

show too, so we embraced the idea that

art and entertainment weren’t mutually

exclusive. We also decided to continue

as a trio. Steven wasn’t interested any

more in being the guy at the back, so he

played guitar and keyboards, which led

us to using backing tracks, and using

video, like a fourth member of the band,

which no one else was doing.

WC: Being the support band to Mercury

Rev gave us ridiculous freedom. If we’d

been the headliners, people would’ve

thought we were insane. We were using

video and backing tapes, I had hand

puppets, blood on my head and threw

confetti over the audience. I didn’t want

it to be a bummer for the audience,

hearing these sad personal songs, but to

transcend to something else. And it

absolutely worked. I saw people

crying, and yet they didn’t even know

the songs yet.

SD: We were thrilled and surprised with

the response to The Soft Bulletin,

especially when critics put it in their

end-of-year lists and different kinds of

people came to the shows. We felt

vindicated – our grand plan seemed to

● Michael Ivins,


● Scott Booker,


● Dave Fridmann,


● Jonathan

Donahue, Mercury

Rev; Lips guitarist


work, and we could make the

music we wanted to, which is the

ultimate goal.

WC: I think The Soft Bulletin was this

bridge from my younger self, who

thought the world is a wonderful,

beautiful place with some bad stuff

in it, to the realisation the world is

brutal and painful and, if you’re lucky,

you can escape once in a while by

creating your own beauty, which

helps others get through too. That

carried over to [subsequent album]

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots [2002]

The band had changed from the

inside out.

MI: We started playing The Soft

Bulletin on its tenth anniversary and

we’re playing it this year for the 20th.

The songs mean even more now.

That, among these moments of

tragedy and despair, there’s hope

and joy, and you keep going. It’s why

music touches people, and

transcends, like a sunset, or sex, or

death. It’s why people still talk about

The Soft Bulletin, and it’s a great

honour to be a part of it. M

The Flaming Lips’ new album King’s Mouth

is released by Bella Union on July 19.

They play The Soft Bulletin live at

Edinburgh Usher Hall, Manchester

Academy and London Brixton Academy

in September.


They kept on chooglin’:

Creedence Clearwater

Revival on-stage at London’s

Royal Albert Hall, 1970:

(main) John Fogerty;

(left, from left) Tom

Fogerty, Stu Cook; (below)

Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford.

Mike Randolph/Camera Press (3)


Getty, Alamy


Fogerty was not interested. This was the late spring of 1969, and the singer and lead

guitarist of the Bay Area rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival was holed up in his

tiny apartment in El Cerrito, a quiet suburb north of Berkeley, oblivious to all but his

guitar and the notebook in front of him. That included the sunshine, his then-wife

Martha and the couple’s infant son Josh.

Fogerty, who turned 24 that

May, was also his group’s sole songwriter,

and was on a hot streak that

threatened to devour him. A year

ago, Creedence Clearwater Revival

– Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook, drummer

Doug Clifford and rhythm

guitarist Tom Fogerty, John’s older

brother – were an opening act in

San Francisco’s psychedelic ballrooms,

making local wav

Suzie Q, a misspelled blu

march cover of Dale Hawk

ins’ 1957 rockabilly nugget

Then, in January 1969,

John’s Mississippi-riverboat

fantasy Proud Mary

– a terse perfection of

coarse-treble guitars and

exultant singing on Creedence’s second al

bum, Bayou Country – exploded nationwi

charging to Number 2 in Billboard and d

the LP into the Top 10. Rushed out in April, Bad

Moon Rising – a buoyant contradiction of clanging

strum and Fogerty’s apocalyptic warning – also

peaked at Number 2. The chugging B-side, Lodi, a

stranded-musician’s prayer named by Fogerty after

a farming town east of San Francisco, also charted.

On that clear-sky Sunday in El Cerrito, Fogerty

was staring at a new deadline – the imminent

sessions for Creedence’s next LP. So he was barely

listening when Martha suggested a

family outing. “I was buzzing in my

zone,” the singer recalls, “like a guy

working in an office too hard.”

Fogerty did not realise Martha and

Josh finally left without him, to visit

her mother, until he heard the front

door close.

“It didn’t slam, but it closed

forcefully,” Fogerty notes with a

rueful laugh. “I remember looking

around the room. It dawned

on me what happened.”

Then he went back to

work, writing the first lines

of a new song in his notebook:

“Wrote a song for

everyone/But I couldn’t

even talk to you.”

Fogerty’s first ballad for

Creedence, Wrote A Song

For Everyone would close

side one of their first

Number 1 long-player, Green

River, issued in August 1969 and named

after the band’s third Number 2 single.

“The irony of the situation – ‘I’m writing

a song for the whole world!’ – was pathetic,”

Fogerty admits. Nevertheless, “I went

straight for the mission.”


Creedence Clearwater Revival. The last year

of rock’s keynote decade began with The

Beatles in disarray, bickering over their Get Back

project; The Rolling Stones on the verge of firing

their founding guitarist Brian Jones; and Bob

Dylan still off the road, playing the country cousin

on Nashville Skyline. Creedence rolled into that

vacuum as if from nowhere.

The math remains astonishing: four Top 5 singles

in 11 months, capped by the neo-jug-band

jump of Down On The Corner; three charting B-

sides with the Green River flip,

Commotion, going Top 30;

and a trio of Top 10 albums

capped by November’s Willy

And The Poor Boys. Fogerty, a

one-man song factory, wrote

22 of the 26 songs across those

three LPs; the rest were Little

Richard, Ray Charles and

Leadbelly covers. And when

they weren’t racing through

that material in the studio, cutting

the basic tracks live in first

and second takes, Cook, Clifford and the Fogertys

were zigzagging across North America in a frenzy

of arena shows (usually headlining), big festivals –

including Woodstock – and major TV appearances.

As Greil Marcus wrote in his sleevenotes to

CCR’s 1976 hits set, Chronicle, “Creedence struck a

true chord with records that were clean, demanding,

vivid and fast.” Visceral and unpretentious,

their music came off “as contrived as the weather.”

The irony of the situation was

athetic”: John Fogerty writes

song for everyone; (insets from

op) early 45s Suzie Q, Proud Mary

nd Bad Moon Rising with Bayou

ountry, Green River and Willy And

he Poor Boys albums.


But the simplicity was deceptive. With their stark garage-band

fibre and the acute, pictorial clout of Fogerty’s storytelling,

Creedence bound their roots in ’50s rock’n’roll, urban R&B, hillbilly

country and the ’60s folk revival into a rousing radio-savvy

modernism rich in imagined-Southern atmosphere. The band had

yet to play outside California when Fogerty wrote the first line of

Proud Mary (“Left a good job in the city”) after his discharge from

the US Army Reserve, but he conjured his Delta with a native’s

short-story flair. And with Fortunate Son the singer pulled back for

the big picture of his country’s dilemma in 1969: a glorious democratic

ideal falling apart at the seams. And the music just kept coming.

“The poker was hot, and we were definitely striking,” says Stu

Cook today. “The drill was that whenever we weren’t on the road,

we recorded A- and B-sides for the next singles.” When the band

returned from the next round of concerts, “we’d finish up with the

deeper album cuts.”

“But we were always well rehearsed when we went into the

studio,” adds Doug Clifford. “We had more first takes than anybody

I know – because we couldn’t wait to move on to something new.”

“I just thought that was the way you did it,” Fogerty says, looking

back on that manic ’69. “I know it caused some angst in the band.

People thought we were working too hard. I didn’t. But it’s because

I had wound myself so tight with the fear of being a one-hit wonder.

At some point, I recognised, Wow, this must be how The Beatles

feel when things are really working. But there is the fear, that this

isn’t going to work. So I should do this as much as I can.”

“We were blowing through material faster than we expected,”

Cook says. “This cultivated a sense in John’s mind

that if we couldn’t keep our music on the charts,

people would forget us.” That hunger to excel

and win – Fogerty was Creedence’s manager

as well – “turned him into a driven man.”

The reckoning came later. In 1971, Tom

Fogerty – four years older than John and

chafing at his brother’s grip on the reins –

quit Creedence, a rupture the brothers

never fully repaired (Tom died in 1990).

The others soldiered on as a trio, then broke

up in 1972, falling into a cycle of business

and emotional conflicts that have kept John

and the rhythm section estranged for more

than 40 years. “It was great,” Cook says of

Creedence’s rocket ride, “until it wasn’t.”

But the novelty was still fresh when the band opened for Vanilla

Fudge in Honolulu in September 1968, shortly before recording

Green River. “It was a Dick Clark production,” Clifford recalls. “We

got two encores and were going to get a third one, but the Vanilla

Fudge people didn’t like that. We got the hook. We started loading

our gear, and Dick’s representative called us over. He said, ‘Boys,

from now on you only touch your instruments when you’re playing.

Don’t ever walk off with your shit. You’re in the big leagues now.’”


Creedence – “Broke and pretty much on the path to starvation”

at the time, as Clifford puts it – pooled their meagre resources

for a night out: a Grateful Dead show in San Francisco.

“I forget who the other local band was,” the drummer says, “but

they were awful,” obviously flying with chemical assistance. “We

were shaking our heads. They weren’t even in tune. We made a pact

right there on the floor. We put our hands together and said,

‘Straight and sober always when we’re working.’”

“This was part of the blue-collar mindset of Creedence,” Fogerty

states. “This is what I wanted to do for a living, and the other guys

felt that way too, that this is a competition. There is no other way to

say it. You’re vying for attention from people. And if you’re sloppy

or lazy, they will judge you.”

Fogerty remembers another night in the summer of ’68 when

Creedence were on the bottom of a bill at the Avalon Ballroom.

They were soundchecking when Fogerty hit a rolling-locomotive

riff on his Rickenbacker through the vibrato on his Kustom amplifier.

The rest of Creedence joined in, jamming on

the guts of what would become Born On The

Bayou, until the PA suddenly died. “The stage

manager pulled the plug,” Fogerty says. “He

goes, ‘You guys gotta get out of here. We’re

opening the doors. Besides, you’re not going

anywhere anyhow.’”

The guitarist was livid. “I said, Oh yeah?

You give me one year. I’ll show you who’s

not going anywhere.” A year later, “We were

too big for the Avalon,” Fogerty says with

relish. “We were at the Fillmore West.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival were easily

the longest overnight success story in San

Francisco’s psychedelic uprising. Fogerty,

Cook and Clifford were all 14 years old, ➢

Between a rock:

Creedence in 1968

(from left) Doug,

Tom, Stu and John,

“I’ll show you who’s

not going anywhere.”

Getty, Henry Diltz

Canned beat: (from

top) popular soda

pop; Green River

45; pre-Creedence

singles; (bottom) the

early band (from left)

Stu, John, Tom, Doug.

students at Portola Junior High in El Cerrito,

when they made their debut as The Blue Velvets in the

fall of 1959 – at a sock hop in the school gym. When

John’s older brother joined in 1961, he became the

singer and got top billing. As Tommy Fogerty And The

Blue Velvets, then the woefully-named Golliwogs, the

band released 10 singles over the next six years to

small avail, mostly through Fantasy Records, a Bay Area

jazz imprint better known for launching the pianist Dave

Brubeck. But the future Creedence – rechristened by John

on Christmas Eve, 1967 – forged the thundercrack tension

and cutting jangle of their ’69 classics along the way.

“We were definitely not hip,” Cook says of Creedence’

learning curve in El Cerrito, across San Francisco Bay from

the Beat action of the ’50s and the initial Haight-Ashbur

ferment in 1965 and ’66. “We’d been doing our thing f

years the way we’d seen everybody else do it – the thre

minute single for AM radio.” But they were “blessed”, Co

insists, by growing up in the crossfire airwaves of

R&B powerhouse KWBR and the country m

beaming down from Sacramento. “We had no id

where this music came from. We had to invent i

in our own minds.”

John, in turn, drew his lyric attack from a

combination of sources. “He was a big fan of

Samuel Clemens,” Clifford says, referring to the

19th century novelist who wrote as Mark Twain.

And Fogerty cites El Cerrito’s proximity to bot

the heady academic air in Berkeley and the oil a

shipbuilding port of Richmond, where much

work force during the Second World War were emigrés fr

the 1930s Dust Bowl. “I was between those two worlds,

Fogerty says. “absorbing them equally.”

He found plenty of raw material in his own life too.

John and Tom grew up in a troubled, working-class

home. In his 2015 memoir, Fortunate Son: My Life, My

Music, John revealed that their parents were alcoholics;

they divorced when he was in elementary school. The

search for sanctuary and the troubles along the way we

running themes in his Creedence songs. Green R

inspired by a childhood vacation spot, Putah Cree

the Sacramento Valley, and a favourite brand of so

pop. The righteous bite of Fortunate Son and Effigy

on Willy And The Poor Boys – the latter a figurative

hanging of President Richard Nixon – was rooted

in John’s two years in the Army Reserve. (Clifford

was also in the military; after dropping out of

college, he joined the Coast Guard Reserve.) And

Fogerty traces the two Leadbelly covers on tha

album to Pete Seeger, a fixture

at folk concerts on the

Berkeley campus.

“I certainly learned

Cotton Fields and Midnight

Special because of him,”

Fogerty says. “My mother

took me to a lot of folk

music, and I must have seen

Pete in concert 20 times. I

met him when I was 12. He

would have these workshops

and play films of Leadbelly

singing those songs on a flatbed

truck. I considered myself

a rock’n’roll kid. But I

didn’t make choices. I took

it all in as music.”

After recording their

self-titled 1968 debut in San

Francisco, Creedence completed

Bayou Country in two weeks that October at the RCA

Studios in Hollywood, where The Rolling Stones had made

Aftermath. “We always played live together,” Cook says,

before John overdubbed his vocals and lead guitar. “When

we were tracking, John was part of the rhythm section as

. The whole band was a rhythm section.”

For the Green River sessions in May and June 1969,

edence returned to San Francisco, working in a new

lity opened by the LA engineer and studio owner

lly Heider. Russ Gary manned the board for that

bum and engineered every other Creedence LP until

e band’s end.

“I did it the same way each time,” Gary says – the

and facing each other in a horseshoe configuration

with an additional microphone hanging over them,

behind Clifford’s kit, to capture the general boom in

he room. “That mike was used quite a bit in mixdown,”

Gary explained. “That’s what provided the

cohesiveness you hear in those recordings.”

The power in John’s singing was, Gary insists, all

ural. “He had the pipes. And John knew how to work

e mike. That openness in his voice – he never got in

oo close, as a lot of singers do. There was always some

ir between him and the microphone.”

Yet without Tom Fogerty, there would have been no

Creedence. In The Blue Velvets, says Clifford, Tom

was the older one, the singer, and he’d already had a

nd.” According to Clifford, Tom’s previous group fell

t h he booked studio time to cut a record. “The

the guys didn’t want to go because they

en’t going to get paid and there weren’t going

be chicks there. They said – and this kills me

‘We’d rather work on our cars.’”

“With The Blue Velvets, we were following

Tom’s dream to make records,” affirms Stu

Cook. “The dynamic changed when Tom

urned over everything he was doing to John

leading, singing, writing. He said, ‘John, the

ff you’re coming up with is stronger. We

d go this way.’” Cook claims that Tom “worked

y d to get his brother to nod in approval” but

there was a “Biblical-brother thing” too, “a theme

roughout the band from beginning to end.”

Ironically, for all of their do-it-yourself attitude,

Creedence’s ’69 miracle might never have happened

– certainly not on that scale – without Bill Drake. A

powerful radio programmer in the US during the

60s and early ’70s, Drake created the market-driven

n as Boss Radio (with the DJs

ubbed “Boss Jocks”), and he

ould break a record nationwide

n his chain of stations.

“He was the one who said

uzie Q could be a hit,” Clifford

ays, which it was in late 1968,

ust missing the Top 10.

When Fantasy issued the first

ngle from Bayou Country in

ecember 1968, the intended

side was Born On The Bayou,

hich had the churning rhythm

Suzie Q. “It was getting

rplay,” Clifford says, “but it

asn’t getting the sales. And Bill

rake – I love this line – he said,

ou’ve got the right record. Just

rn it over.’”

The other side was Proud



“The whole band was

a rhythm section”:

Creedence at Woodstock,

August 17, 1969.


Woodstock, many people still don’t know

that Creedence Clearwater Revival played.

They don’t appear in the era-defining 1970

film of the festival or on the original

soundtrack albums. A lot of folks who were

there didn’t see Creedence because they were

asleep. The band – which had headlining status

and a 9pm set time on the Saturday night,

according to John Fogerty – did not hit the

stage until the first dark hours of Sunday

morning, August 17, between a famously meandering

set by the Grateful Dead and a torrid

pre-dawn performance by Janis Joplin.

“We started to play Born On The Bayou –

no reaction,” Fogerty recalls. “By the time

our set ended, they were all up and awake. We

warmed them up for Janis.”

Clifford suggests there might not have been a

Woodstock had they not taken the gig. “The big acts

weren’t touching it,” the drummer says. “The second we jumped

in, everybody came on board.”

One of the promoters, Michael Lang, has confessed as much. “I

booked the three hottest bands at the time – Jefferson Airplane,

Canned Heat and Creedence Clearwater Revival,” Lang said

recently in Billboard. “That gave us immediate credibility, and the

word got out.” Suddenly “we started adding bands left and right.”

Unhappy with the experience and the technical difficulties on

stage (Clifford’s snare drum broke in the first song), Fogerty – as

Creedence manager – vetoed their participation in the film and albums.

“We’re the number one band in the world at that point,” he

says firmly now. “I don’t need people to see us not doing well. I

said, No, we’ll pass. And I never regretted it.”

Cook concedes his disappointment: “We only needed one track

to be included.” A handful of songs were added to anniversary reissues,

and bootlegs of Creedence’s full Woodstock performance

prove they were better than Fogerty’s memory: hard and tight with

a typical setlist for the period mixing the hits with covers from the

first LP (Wilson Pickett’s Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do),

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You) and jamming vehicles

like Bayou Country’s Keep On Chooglin’.

“It was a journeyman’s set,” the bassist admits, but adds, “We

felt like the Stones did. We may not be the best band around, but

the audience will remember us. We’re not

afraid to open for you. And we’re not afraid to

follow you either.”

Ultimately, Woodstock was just another

stop in the zigzag of cities and festivals on

Creedence’s 1969 itinerary – over 60 dates

across North America, pinned to the map

with no apparent logic. In July alone, the band

played four shows in five days in Virginia,

Georgia (the Atlanta International Pop Festival),

Alabama and Florida; flew to the Pacific

Northwest for three straight nights in Seattle,

Vancouver and Portland, Oregon; back to the

East Coast to headline two nights at New

York’s Fillmore East, then west again to Olympia,

Washington, via Cleveland. “It was not a

way to make money touring,” Clifford

acknowledges. “We would go out for long

weekends, fly first class. But we played as much as

we could. I was like, I’ll go wherever you tell me.”

“This was back before things got expensive,” Cook says. “You

could get the gear into the hold of the airplane or ship it out freight

the day before. That’s how we did it for two years. It was what we

had worked for: The rocket is taking off, fasten your seatbelts. Then

you get on the treadmill, and it’s hard to get off.”

John Fogerty was on his own relentless cycle, writing on the road

to feed Fantasy’s hunger for product and keep his insecurities at

bay. The day before Creedence arrived at Woodstock, they were on

the opposite coast, in Los Angeles to tape a performance of Green

River for a TV variety show hosted by crooner Andy Williams.

Fogerty recalls “looking out my window in the hotel, seeing the

other guys sitting at the pool.

“They were in clothes – we weren’t gonna get enough time off

to swim,” he adds, laughing. “But they were by the pool waiting

while I was writing Down On The Corner” – the next single – “getting

the arrangement together and finishing the words.” That night,

after doing their TV work, Creedence took a red-eye flight to New

York, then a shuttle to Albany for the drive to Woodstock.


rehearsing the songs for Willy And The Poor Boys in Cosmo’s

Factory, an old industrial building in Berkeley named after

their previous practice room, a gardener’s shed behind ➢


(from Bayou Country)

No rock’n’roll more elemental nor

sneakily sophisticated exists. The

feedback drone that sounds like a

cello, the riff that pedals forever, the

more cow bell – it sounds like that

album cover looks. It wasn’t a fib,

either: John Fogerty was re-baptised

in the bayou of his mind, and so are

you, every time this spins.

(live at the Fillmore West)

From 2008’s 40th Anniversary

Edition of Bayou Country, this live

bonus track – recorded by KSAN at

the Fillmore West on March 14, 1969

– is a wild blues jam that takes on the

growing ranks of blues-bred heavy

rock combos and is by no means

outgunned. John Fogerty’s

harmonica is the sound of a man’s

soul being keelhauled.

(from Bayou Country)

Riding that driving acoustic guitar,

John Fogerty sounds like he’s on a

bet to sound less decipherable than

Tony Joe White, but then, if the State

police are listening and you’re

(probably) singing about a DIY

beverage operation as a metaphor

for the appeal of everything illicit,

you’re best advised to obscure

your meaning.

(from Green River)

While CCR’s downhome idylls were

never divorced from the reality of

’60s America, their third album

communicated the contrast more

explicitly. As the blues shuffle by,

John Fogerty skims stones and

listens to bullfrogs, but knows that

elsewhere “the world is smoulderin’”.

You can’t hide from the

revolution indefinitely.

(from Green River)

J h F rty’s most celebrated

of the late-’60s ferment

civil rights; North versus

Kids versus The Man –

y couched in a jaunty

agtime. Earthquakes,

urricanes, floods, war,

six horsemen of the

e, at least – run rampant.

with a roach clip.

(from Willy & The Poor Boys)

…of which, this is CCR’s most lucid

and pointed. Guitars slash and

thrust; Clifford steps out of his

pocket to play with what sounds like

real nark; John Fogerty lets fly with

all his cannons at the privileged class

who would send ordinary Americans

to their doom at Hamburger Hill and

A Shau Valley.

n River)

r is a song cycle – about

e from, and where we’re

d John Fogerty was never

about his roots (northern

nor his fears (“Somet

connections / Ran out of

ay”) than on this wearied

Proud Mary. He even sings

ern’ on this.

(single A-side, January 1970)

A homage to ’50s rock’n’roll that

hinted at the retro air of the pending

Cosmo’s Factory (with its cover of

Ooby Dooby, etc) and brought law

suits from Little Richard’s lawyers (a

taste of the friendly fire to come from

Saul Zaentz’s Fantasy label), this fair

barrels along with Penniman/

McCartney screams in situ.

dstock, via YouTube)

e of few bands where the

“all their songs sound like

ts of one, monolithic,

g track” is a compliment.

band’s own misgivings,

tock version of Bayou

epic closer is relentless and

g. Whatever chooglin’ is,

t sound existential.

(single AA-side, January 1970)

Travelin’ Band’s flip (or vice versa)

was another of CCR’s last recordings

from their mighty ’69, and a fine

example of how pithy they could

be when they weren’t fugue-state

chooglin’. Indeed, 2:27 is plenty long

enough to make melancholy and

dread feel almost joyous, and mint

John Fogerty’s best chorus.

Keep on burning:

John Fogerty

brings some

bayou voodoo.

& The Poor Boys)

ad less need to go back to

n CCR in late ’69. Yet Down

ner reimagined them as a

cted jug band with kazoo

oard making a “happy

a nickel. Another of John

beguiling prelapsarian

yinning to the yang of

r power protest…

Capturing the boom in

the room: Creedence

recording circa ’71 after

Tom’s departure; (insets)

1971’s Cosmo’s Factory

and later music.


Clifford’s house. (The drummer acquired

the nickname Cosmo in school. “To this day,”

he says, “Stu calls me Cos or Cosmo. If he’s

pissed off at me, he calls me Doug.”) Rented

after the modest success of Creedence’s debut

album, the Berkeley space “gave us a place to

rehearse comfortably,” Clifford explains. “We

had a basketball court in there if we wanted to

take a break, shoot a few hoops.”

The daily routine was close to an assembly

line. “We’d roll in late morning,” Cook says,

“have a couple of cups of c ff d

work on tunes for a coup

hours. We’d send one of t

crew to this sandwich shop to

get our tuna salad or egg

salad on wheat bread, have

lunch and play for another

hour or two. Everybody was

home at five o’clock.”

The recording sessions

again at Wally Heider’s in S

Francisco, were more of the s

according to Cook: “We’d g

noon ’til eight, have dinner, go ’til nine or 10

that night – and come back at noon the next

day. The goal was to get two tunes a day.” Russ

Gary, the engineer, believes that Willy And The

Poor Boys was “technically the best record we

ever did.” He points out one happy accident,

an extra, open mike while John was singing

Cotton Fields. “I had finished recording this

percussion overdub with him. You could hear

his voice being picked up by the other mike,

about waist high” – creating the resonance,

combined with Fogerty’s overdubbed vocals,

of a plantation crew harmonising at its labour.

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s historic 1969 had barely ended

when they entered 1970 in a rush. On January 30, they jammed

with members of Booker T. & The M.G.’s at the Factory, filming the

event for a television special that has never been fully aired or

released. The next day, Creedence released a new single, the highspeed

touring anthem Travelin’ Band, and played a homeground

concert in Oakland (Booker T. opened) with

Gary taping the set. “They wanted everything

they did live to mirror the studio recordings,”

he says. “They worked hard at that.”

The Oakland show became an album in

1980, eight years after Creedence broke up –

mistakenly titled The Royal Albert Hall Concert.

Creedence did play there in April 1970, and

again in September 1971. By then, Tom Fogerty

had quit. Creedence scored five more Top 10

singles in 1970 and ’71; Cosmo’s Factory, released

in July ’70, would sell over four million copies,

more than any of the ’69 LPs. But the long drift

to Creedence’s sour end was summarised by their

last single, made as a trio, in 1972: Someday

Never Comes, written and sung by John

about promises unfulfilled.

The next four decades of discord and legal

action between John, Fantasy and the

rhythm section are well documented. Today,

the surviving members celebrate their legacy

in parallel: Fogerty on his solo tours – after

almost three decades during which he

refused to play his Creedence hits on stage

– and, since 1995, Cook and Clifford in

their band Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

“I look back at the road map of the life

of Creedence – it is what it is,” Fogerty says. “It isn’t

something you change. I’m not sure I had the capacity

to take it slower, let go, be more patient.” He pauses.

“I’m sure that was quite beyond my ability at the time.”

Cook views 1969 as “a hell of a time, an incredible

love affair that starts out, you work at it, make tradeoffs,

accommodate each other, learn to work together – and

then it actually pays off. Nobody believed it.”

“We were on the horse,” Clifford adds. “We weren’t

in the grandstand watching us go ’round in circles.”

“It wasn’t free of confrontation,” Fogerty says of his band’s

1969. But it was “euphoric, a great time to be alive. You felt like

those guys who walked on the moon.” Indeed, the year Neil Armstrong

and Buzz Aldrin stepped out onto the lunar surface,

Creedence Clearwater Revival seemed to cover the Earth.

“Maybe,” Fogerty says brightly, “they were looking back at us.” M


Queen in silhouette: (from

left) Brian May, Roger Taylor,

Freddie Mercury, John

Deacon, Tokyo, Japan, on

March 21, 1976 during their

second Japanese tour.

Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images



artwork for the film Bohemian Rhapsody shows him outlined on-stage at

Wembley in 1986. But Mercury had been fine-tuning his shape-throwing

since the first time Queen were caught by a movie camera.

In August 1973, they performed two songs for a promotional showreel at Elstree

Studios. Queen’s management company, Trident, had branched out into video

production. “And we were precocious boys who wanted to show off our

wares,” says guitarist Brian May.

A few seconds into Liar, a fabulous pile-up of Zeppelin-sized riffs and

rococo prog-rock, Freddie Mercury freezes in profile: leg bent at 90

degrees, elbows jutting out, head tossed back. A great silhouette.

Whether showboating in a winged satin tunic during the ’70s or rallying the audience

at Live Aid like a carnival barker in a gym vest, Mercury loved the camera – and it loved

him right back. So did he ever fancy becoming a movie star? “I don’t think Freddie would

have had the patience,” says drummer Roger Taylor. “Freddie was never one for doing the

same thing twice.”

In 2019 Freddie and Queen are movie

stars, of sorts. On February 24, the film of

their lives received four Academy Awards,

including one for actor Rami Malek’s

astonishing portrayal of Queen’s lead singer.

But while Bohemian Rhapsody gorged itself

on the personal story of Zanzibar-born

Farrokh Bulsara and his transformation into

rock’s most baroque star, its soundtrack

barely skims the surface of the band he

fronted, while still touching on hard rock,

faux-opera, funk, synth-pop and what Brian

May calls “the different universe” of their

1982 Bowie collaboration, Under Pressure.

Today, May and Taylor sound thrilled by

the film’s success (over $900 million in

global ticket receipts). Having endured its

tortuous birth, including the eleventh-hour

replacement of director Bryan Singer, you

suspect they’ve also breathed a collective

sigh of relief.

Since Mercury’s AIDS-related death in

1991 and bassist John Deacon’s withdrawal

from public life, May and Taylor have been

the sole curators of their legacy and its

remarkable afterlife. Queen’s tours with

American Idol finalist Adam Lambert fill

arenas, their jukebox musical We Will Rock

You ran for 12 years in London’s West End

alone, and now their biopic has run riot at

the Oscars. The Queen story never ends.

There’s always another chapter.

Meanwhile, 71-year-old Brian May is a

man in perpetual motion: whether dashing

between studios, promoting Bohemian

Rhapsody or enthusing online about NASA’s

latest footage of a remote asteroid belt. Ask

him about Queen’s early

days and he could be

describing some distant

outpost of the galaxy:

“Lots of smoke, lots of

black and very mysterious,”


How well does the film

capture the watershed

moments in Queen’s


Very well. It couldn’t cover

everything, but most of the key

songs are there. That early period

was very bitty, though. We could

only record our first album [1973’s

Queen] at Trident Studios during

odd moments when it wasn’t

booked by anyone else. So that

period always seems a bit

fragmented to me.

Queen’s first single,

Keep Yourself Alive,

has many familiar

elements: the

stacked guitars,

the big harmonies.

Did Queen the band,

the sound, emerge

fully formed?

No, but I think of

Keep Yourself Alive

as the first proper

Queen song.

Unfortunately, apart

from a few places like

Japan, it didn’t get much airplay. We were told, “It

takes too long to happen, boys. It’s more than

half a minute before you get to the first vocal.” So

when we made the second album, we thought,

“Right, we’ll show them…”

There’s a giant leap forward from Queen to

Queen II, as if the band

were trying to play


We knew what we wanted,

it was just a question of

getting it. On the second

single, Seven Seas Of Rhye,

everything deliberately

happens in the first 10

seconds – guitars, harmonies,

vocals – and it

worked. Radio picked

up on it. But we went

into the rest of Queen

II thinking we should

throw the kitchen sink

at it. We were trying to

push everything to its

limit, like Freddie’s

song, The Fairy Feller’s

Master-Stroke, which

could only have been

a studio creation.

Were your

influences as a

songwriter different

from those as a guitarist?

There was a mix. We’d all been

exposed to the early rock’n’rollers

like Elvis and Buddy Holly, so that’s

in there. I also think there was a lot

of stuff waiting to get out from my

childhood. I was a dedicated fan of

The Temperance Seven, who were

at the far end of trad jazz [in the

early 1960s]. I was deeply

influenced by the way they

arranged their stuff harmonically.

That’s in everything I’ve done since.

Doing All Right, originally by yours and Roger

Taylor’s pre-Queen group Smile, is on the film

soundtrack. Smile formed in 1968, but Queen

sounded like they could only have come

together in the ’70s.

Steve Emberton/Camera Press


Spread your wings: (from

left) Deacon, Mercury and

May, on-stage at London’s

Hammersmith Odeon, ,

November 29, 1975. “We

all influenced each other.”

The road (relatively) less travelled,

in 20 tracks. Navigated



(from Queen, 1973)

Glam or prog? Early Queen went

both ways, mixing the unpretentious

stomp du jour with daring

harmony and epic flourishes.

Mercury delivers May’s tongue-incheek

lyric – “I had a million women

in a belladonnic haze” – like it’s the God’s honest,

and Queen’s mix of ludicrous bravado and sly

humour was set.


(from Queen II, 1974)

Plenty of bands fail to deliver on

their first album promise. Few

build so brilliantly. Queen II’s track

three is a prophecy of their peak

mix of high and low art, unearthly

harmonies and snorting guitars,

affected courtliness and raw lust.

May wrote it about a real-life crush

– a girl in his Biology class.


(from Queen II, 1974)

This live favourite

dates from


managing to

invent thrash metal

while being the only

fun song inspired by Tolkien twaddle

ever. Were Queen the new Zep? The

new Who? Aspects of the former’s

grandeur and the latter’s sonic

jousting are audible. And just when it

can’t get more ridiculous – the gong!



(from Queen II, 1974)

A head-spinning six-minute dry run for Bohemian

Rhapsody, its first 60 seconds an opera in itself.

Mercury lards on the fireflies and blue powder

monkeys, voices sound like guitars, guitars sound

like some yet-to-be-invented super-synth, and

tubular bells chime because why not? Like “going up

to heaven and coming back alive”.


(from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)

Sheer Heart Attack sloughed off the

sword and sorcery shemozzle, and

refocused on Queen’s signature

moves: raw excitement and robust

sexuality. Brian May’s hot-underthe-collar

guitars are the main

event on a rollercoaster album opener that revisits

a seaside tryst. No other band sounded anything

like this in 1974. Well, maybe Sparks. A bit.


(from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)

Mercury’s sprightly piano-pop opening transforms

quickly into a gothic fantasia that reflected the

group’s dark view of their business position in 1974,

enslaved to a medieval contract with Trident

Sheer Heart

Attack is like a

searing flash of

migraine across

the frontal lobe.”

“Will the real Queen…”: Roger,

Brian, John and Freddie with

Elizabeth II lookalike Jeanette

Charles, 1974.

Studios. Here, the music

biz is Mephistopheles

(“Prostitute yourself, he

says”), although he’s not

without his seductive,

even slightly S&M appeal.


(from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)

After the transatlantic smash of Killer

Queen, this May-penned follow-up

was a commercial anticlimax. But in

every other respect it’s a triumph,

swinging effortlessly between

moods, throwing elements together – May’s skeletal

guitar chug; Taylor’s Moon-esque explosions; the

“around-around-around” vox; those squeals – with a

sui generis élan.


(from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)

Queen’s heaviest rock song predicts NWOBHM with

its freight-train speed and boggler-boggler rhythm.

And like all their best music it delivers high craft –

right down to the unpredictably ‘out’ melody of the

“stone cold cra-zy” interjections – with a ‘what, this

little thing I just dashed off?’ insouciance.


(from A Night At The Opera, 1975)

For all Queen’s pre-rock references

(the beat and guitar here both owe

something to flamenco) they were

anything but burdened with

reverence for the past. Mercury’s

sulphurous flaying of the band’s

first manager Norman Sheffield is a hell of a way to

open the group’s self-styled Sgt. Pepper. Sonically,

it’s all about the sci-fi rock band they’d become.


(from A Night At The Opera, 1975)

Another decently-performing single sneaks into

this deeper-cut list due to an ‘un-Queen-ness’

typical of bassist John Deacon’s compositions. Its

freshness – Deacon played the signature Wurlitzer

electric piano part having barely learned the

instrument – is rivalled by the simplicity of the

sentiment. Deacon wrote it for his wife, Veronica

Tetzlaff. As far as anyone knows, they’re still married.


(from A Day At The Races, 1976)

By now, Queen were adept at

kicking off an album at full throttle,

but the trick never palled. Here, May

disinters a tune he wrote on Spanish

guitar in Tenerife in 1968. It rocks

like blazes, but not before a

whimsical instrumental visit to a distant eastern

court. The “little school babe” in the lyric is in the

Upper 6th Form, presumably.


(from A Day At The Races, 1976)

Not Mercury’s first homage to Abbey Road, but

one of his most charming. Several Freds open

proceedings with a nod to the Fabs’ Because, then

the piano takes over with melancholy tonalities that

add to a sense of the narrator’s isolation (“I get ever

so lonely”). Sensitive to the mood as always, May

somehow makes his guitar sound sepia.


(from News Of The World, 1977)

Side one of NOTW takes no

prisoners. We Will Rock You, We Are

The Champions, then this, Roger

Taylor’s crypto-punker. The

pummelling downstrokes of the

drummer’s own rhythm guitar are

far too crude for May, and the three-word chorus – if

it can be called that – is like a searing flash of

migraine across the frontal lobe. Scorchio!


(from News Of The World, 1977)

The miraculousness of May and Mercury – two (in



their own ways) extreme eccentrics unencumbered

by regulation guys-in-the-gang rock’n’roll

cool – finding one another is no better

underlined than on this, where the pair (May on

vox, Mercury on piano) channel each other’s flair

for forehead-clutching melodrama. If only it

weren’t written about an ex-cat.


(from News Of The World, 1977)

There’s nothing duff on NOTW ( h

Sleeping On The Sidewalk’s Mo

Allison stroll is undervalued), b

It’s Late might shade even the

LP’s mammoth singles. Foo

Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins

detects something of the

Faces in its soulful,

hanging-loose feel – making

those typically choral ‘it’s

late!’ segments all the more

explosive. Quite wonderful.


(from The Game, 1980)

After the run of Bicycle Race/Fat

Bottomed Girls, Don’t Stop Me

Now and Crazy Little Thing

Called Love – singles that played

Queen’s joker to full effect, The

Game album’s opener painted

back their subtleties with lashings of Beatleness

(backwards stuff; the A Day In The Life vibe of the

“my game of love has just begun…” section),

ingenuity and measured charm.


(from The Game, 1980)

A real ‘live’ rock groove and relatively little

frippery, with Mercury singing one of May’s

‘chant’-style lyrics (cf. We Will Rock You). The

song appears to mean very little, although is it

fair to note how domineering May’s female

protagonists seem to be? And is there a

subconscious reflection on the hard drugs

swimming around the hard rock scene in 1980?


(from Hot Space, 1982)

Appetite for Queen as an electro-funk outfit was

arguably sated by Deacon’s supersmash Another

One Bites The Dust two years previously, but

Queen were never about reining themselves in.

Daringly sparse, this is weird enough to

transcend its porn soundtrack vibes and an

album which, Under Pressure aside, most Queen

fans (and members) seem keen to forget.



(from A Kind Of Magic, 1986)

Against Mercury’s tendency

towards frivolity, stack May’s

tendency towards extreme

earnestness. But Mercury was

great at f

lead, and

when May hands over aft

transformational. Given t

and awful drum machine

songwriting and vocal ov



(from Innuendo, 1991)

Queen’s version of vulne

was not as other bands’. B

this, sung by Mercury as A

took its toll on his vocal

powers, addressed a dec

in his mental faculties wit

poignant gallows humou

(Noël Coward is an obvio

antecedent). And like all t

best Queen songs, popul

notwithstanding, it unde

their spectacular oddnes


Gone bananas:

Freddie shows

his hand.

There’s a bit of a hangover from the ’60s

in Queen. Our particular kind of flower power.

all that. The only thing I didn’t do

ke drugs. But there had also been

new wave of British rock, with

ppelin and The Who, which we

ere almost a part of, but we were

oo young. We hero-worshipped

hose groups and wondered if we

ould do it ourselves.

eddie Mercury’s piano playing

s an important feature of Queen.

tyle was more Broadway musical

ay, Rick Wakeman. How much did

nce you?

Hugely. Freddie was a unique pianist and didn’t

realise how good he was. His playing was very

percussive and rhythmic – like a metronome…

but with feeling. Amazing fingers.

Did he change the way the rest of you wrote

songs or emphasise elements that were

already there?

We all influenced each other. That was the secret

of Queen. We pushed and pulled each other,

mercilessly. We had a family relationship. It

wasn’t always nice, because families aren’t

always nice. We sometimes said terrible things,

but we got the best out of each other.

Is this family accurately portrayed in the film?

Yes. For me, there was a crucial moment where

I was in the control room, Freddie was in the

studio and I kept asking him to try different

things, and he said, “Oh fuck it, darling! No, I’ve

done it.” Then he’d come into the control room,

listen back to his vocal and go, “It’s rubbish”, and

do it again. He’d do the same with me when

I was trying to record a solo: “Try it one more

time, darling.” Those things helped us develop

as a group.

Queen’s fourth album, A Night At The Opera, is

often called your Sgt. Pepper. Could we trace a

line between, say, A Day In The Life and

Bohemian Rhapsody?

We were all huge Beatles fans. I don’t know if

A Day In The Life was a conscious influence,

but I’m sure there are threads there. At the time,

I thought of it as being our Stairway To

Heaven, because it goes through so many

different atmospheres.

By now, all four of Queen were writing songs.

Was it a democratic process deciding which

t’s what breaks

were lots of

out how much

ody had. We were

ters with a brush

canvas. There was

we got there.

World and Jazz are

hase. You were

aving huge hits,

including We Are

The Champions/

We Will Rock

You, but are

there songs from

that era which

get overlooked?

There are loads that

on’t get talked

about. Sleeping On The Sidewalk [from News Of

The World] is a little treasure and a real departure.

Queen didn’t often play the blues, and we also

did it completely live and spontaneous – something

else which didn’t happen often. I never

wanted us just to be defined by our singles. We

were an albums band.

Don’t Stop Me Now, though, is more

well-known today than it was in 1978.

It was a minor hit, but the life of that song is ever

increasing. I think it’s going to end up as the

biggest song Queen ever did. It’s lovely to see

how people embrace it now. I guess it’s the

optimism of the lyrics.

You once told MOJO you weren’t keen on it, as

“lyrically, it represented something that was

happening to Freddie, which we thought was

threatening him.” Presumably, his lifestyle.

Do you still feel like that?

Did I say that? (laughs) There was a definite

feeling we were losing Freddie or afraid of losing

Freddie, which affected the way I perceived it at

the time. I probably thought it was a bit frivolous

as well, but I’ve gotten over that now.

The film employs a lot of artistic licence:

Queen playing 1978’s Fat Bottomed Girls on a

’74 American tour. You’ve always seemed like

a stickler for detail – did that bother you?

Oh I remember making a fuss about that –

“No, it’s the wrong song for that time!” But I sat

down with the film company and they explained

that’s what you have to do if you want to tell the

story. So these things are not mistakes. They’re

done deliberately.

Are people being too precious? Bohemian

Rhapsody’s not a documentary.

No it’s not. It’s an attempt to portray Freddie

Mercury as a musician and a human being. So

any argument about whether he should have

a moustache at a particular time is a waste of

breath (laughs). The moustache is in the wrong

place in documentary terms, but for telling the

story we want to tell it’s in the right place.

Presumably you felt the same about the film

showing Freddie Mercury telling the band he

was ill before Live Aid. In real life, he didn’t

tell you all until much later.

Yes, but to tell it that way would have required

another hour of screen time. So we took liberties.

Or rather they, the film-makers, did. I learned this

about film-making: you carry a story with you

and treasure it, but when you agree to sell it, it’s

not yours any more. Fox own this film, lock, stock

and barrel, but they always treated us with great

respect. Sometimes we’d say, “You can’t do that.”

And they’d say, “OK, we won’t,” and other times,

“Yes we can, because this is the story we all

agreed to tell.”

You recorded The Game (1980) and Hot Space

(1982) while living together in Munich. Did the

group’s lifestyle impact on the music?

Absolutely right. You can hear it on those records.

It’s the sound of us cutting ourselves off from

everyone else, and we ended up pretty much out

of control. There was way too much drinking. But

we also developed an entirely different approach

to backing tracks. We learned to leave spaces. We

pruned everything down, to make Queen’s rock

roots sound different.

This pared-back approach is obvious on


Getting the best out

of each other: Freddie,

John, Brian and Roger,

ready to rock you.

Peter Mazel/LFI/Avalon, Shutterstock

Another One Bites The Dust and

Under Pressure. How do you regard those

songs now?

I was perfectly happy with Another One Bites

The Dust. I remember Roger didn’t want to play

drums that way. But Roger played the pattern

John wanted him to and made the drums sound

very rhythm’n’blues, or disco, if you like. He

did a brilliant drum loop. Under Pressure came

from a different universe. Queen and David

Bowie is a story in itself. At the time I wasn’t

happy about the mix. Looking back, I still think

it’s a very special song.

Has your opinion on Queen or the music

changed since seeing the film?

I suppose it has, but I couldn’t be specific about

what. Looking at myself from the outside has

made me feel a little bit different, I guess. It was

amazing watching Rami grow into Freddie, and

Gwilym Lee catching so much of me.

His portrayal of you is uncanny.

It is. He’s right there with the body language and

the voice. He doesn’t sound anything like me in

real life, but he fooled my kids. They genuinely

thought I’d dubbed my voice over his for the film.

You talked earlier about worrying you were

“losing Freddie”. The film suggests Queen

had split before Live Aid. Did you come close

in real life?

Again, it’s compressed for the sake of telling

a story and there’s a lot of stuff left out. Our

personal relationships had all suffered by then.

Freddie had stepped so far away I thought we

might not get him back. Normally, we’d all go off

and do our own things, but we’d stay in contact

with the mothership – as we really did call it. But

Freddie became estranged for a while. I’m not

good with years. If Live Aid was 1985, then this

was at various times in the early ’80s. We

definitely hesitated about doing Live Aid.

Was that because of Freddie?

Not just Freddie. We had to consider whether

we were in good enough shape to do it. It would

have been easier not to do it, as the chances of

making fools of ourselves were so big. A bit like

me playing on top of Buckingham Palace for the

Golden Jubilee (laughs). But without danger

there are no thrills.

By the time the band made 1989’s The Miracle,

you’d decided to credit every song to ‘Queen’.

Did that make life easier?

It did. By then, we all realised we were stronger

together than apart. Still, every system has its

flaws. There were moments where all of us

thought we’d given too much away. If it comes

up about who wrote, say, I Want It All, I’ll say, “Yes,

that’s me.” Then I have to remember, “Oh, hang

on. It says ‘Queen’ in the credits.” I’m being

honest, there is still a bit of that.

Are there songs from that later period you’re

especially fond of?

Winter’s Tale and Mother Love, which are both

on Made In Heaven [1995]. Winter’s Tale was

Freddie’s last piece of songwriting. He knew

he didn’t have long and was singing about the

beauty of the world. It’s not maudlin at all. After

he died, I decided nobody else could touch it

until Roger and I decided to bring it to a natural

conclusion. Mother Love is the last utterances of

Freddie in the studio. It’s hard to describe what

happened during those final days. All Fred’s

troubles were left outside the studio. We became

an incredibly close-knit family.

Do you miss writing for Queen?

Sometimes. We’ve talked about writing songs

with Adam Lambert. It’s been discussed. But I

don’t know if we will. We’re a live outfit now and

concerned with giving maximum value for

money on-stage. That means playing songs

everybody knows. So the thought of new

material gets pushed into the background.

I don’t want Queen to become a museum piece,

but right now the show is a celebration of our

recorded works – and it really works.


and all silvery hair, musketeer’s beard

and dandyish waistcoat – greets MOJO

outside his home studio. It’s a well-appointed

facility: a grand piano just inside the doorway,

an arsenal of guitars and framed

photographs on the wall, offeri

timeline of Queen’s journe

through the years. Taylor likes to

come here and tinker, and has

just finished fine-tuning a new

solo single, Gangsters Are

Running This World.

Roger Taylor is that lesserspotted

species: the singing, song

writing drummer. He’s contribu

songs to every Queen album, among

them Sheer Heart Attack, Radio Ga Ga, A

Kind Of Magic and These Are The Days Of

Our Lives. Taylor hit the motherlode early

on, though, when his petrol-head anthem,

I’m In Love With My Car, became the B-side

of Bohemian Rhapsody.

In the film, Taylor’s character is shown

arguing with his bandmates when they tell

him the song’s not good enough. In real life,

he had the last laugh. “Bohemian Rhapsody

sells a million and Roger gets the same

writing royalties as Freddie,” Brian May later

grumbled to Q magazine. “There was

contention over that for years.”

Taylor is the more naturally ebullient of

Queen’s remaining partners. However, the

last time MOJO spoke to him in August

2013, he almost put his head in his hands

when asked about the ongoing saga of their

movie. At that point, comic actor Sacha

Baron Cohen had just been relieved of the

Freddie Mercury role. Though it all came

good in the end, you suspect nobody in the

Queen organisation anticipated their biopic

winning one Oscar, never mind four.

“I know,” Taylor concurs, with the same

rasp you hear in his singing voice. “It’s really

quite extraordinary.”

The movie soundtrack reminds the world what

a diverse group of songwriters Queen were.

We had diverse influences, but also certain

groups in common. Brian, Freddie and I,

(Continues on page 81)

Before Rami Malek’s Freddie

Mercury, there was Brian Blessed’s

Vultan, and Christopher

Lambert’s ‘Scottish’ accent.

IN DECEMBER 1980, Queen made their soundtrack

debut with Flash Gordon. At first, the film’s Italian

producer Dino De Laurentiis was baffled. “Who are

the queens?” he asked. Fortunately, Flash Gordon’s

director Mike Hodges knew, though later divulged

he’d originally been hoping for Pink Floyd.

Scoring a movie appealed to Queen’s ambition.

“We wanted to write the first rock’n’roll musical

soundtrack,” said Roger Taylor. They started work on

the project in early 1980 before they’d even

completed their latest studio LP, The Game. “Then

Dino heard our demo tracks and said, ‘No! This

work!’” Brian May told MOJO.

unately, Mike Hodges convinced

m it would be great.”

Work was completed in fits and

arts throughout October and

ovember 1980 in various London

tudios. “We wanted the

oundtrack to make you feel like

ou’d watched the film,” said May.

o we shipped in all the dialogue

d special effects and wove it

her like a tapestry. After we first

the music up with the rushes, Dino

g mile on his face.”

Queen’s synth-heavy soundtrack was as camp

and bombastic as the movie. It was no great leap

from Freddie Mercury singing, “Flash! Saviour of the

universe!” to Shakespearean actor Brian Blessed

hamming it up (“Gordon’s alive!”) in a horned helmet

and angel’s wings. America wasn’t impressed, but

the album and single, Flash, both went Top 10 in

Britain. Queen had reshaped themselves in the era of

electro-pop. Next stop: Under Pressure.

Five years later, they were invited to score Russell

Mulcahy’s fantasy adventure Highlander. Instead of a

standalone soundtrack LP, they reworked six of the

film’s songs for their next studio album, 1986’s A Kind

Of Magic. Highlander starred Christopher Lambert

(below)as a 16th century swordsman cursed with

immortality. Queen’s music worked with or without

the film. A line of dialogue (“Hey, it’s a kind of magic”)

gave Taylor the album title and a Number 3 hit single,

while Brian May’s Who Wants To Live Forever

addressed the theme of immortality but also his

tortuous private life. “The film opened up a floodgate

in me,” he admitted. “I

was dealing with the

death of my father, the

death of my [first]


Who Wants To Live

Forever was a

hit in 1986, bu

greater resona

Freddie Mercu

death, and ha

popular at fun

“Lots of Queen

meanings,” sa

In 1992, th

World made B

a hit for a seco

then, Don’t St

Somebody To

Are The Cham

name but thre

have appeare

in films such a

Shaun Of The

Dead, High Fid

and Happy Fe

What took the

long? Larger t

life and full of

gestures, Que

music was ma

the cinema.



opened up a

floodgate in me.

The road to Queen’s globebestriding

Bohemian Rhapsody

in 10 path-finding music biopics.


(Hal Ashby, 1976)

Three chords and the truth. And some

chronological slippage.

The early years of Woody Guthrie, with David

Carradine perfect as the train-hoppin’, slow-talkin’

father of protest song. Haskell Wexler’s cinematography,

accurately mirroring the droughtridden

years of the Depression, won him an Oscar,

while the lax chronology – allowing the use of all of

Guthrie’s best-known songs, many of which were

written at a later period than that depicted in the

film; a precedent followed recently by Bohemian

Rhapsody – feels more than forgiveable. Odetta,

Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, The Weavers, Country

Joe McDonald and Guthrie himself also contribute

to a high-quality soundtrack.

Best bit: The awesome approach of the life-draining

dust storm. FD


(Michael Apted, 1980)

The real ‘the dirt’.

If one thing obscures the complete brilliance of

Apted’s Loretta Lynn biopic, it’s Sissy Spacek.

Picked for the role by Ms Lynn herself, the

30-year-old brings a feral beauty and windblown

strength to her portrayal of the teenage Kentuckyborn

country-singer. It’s a performance that can

easily overshadow the film’s other strengths, but

from the rusted Kentucky landscapes, to the cast’s

careworn Dorothea Lange faces (including The

Band’s Levon Helm as Lynn’s father), this exhales

coal-dust authenticity and sparkles with rhinestone

melancholy. It influenced many formulaic music

biopics, but don’t hold that against it.

Best bit: Lynn and her husband Doo (a terrifying

Tommy Lee Jones) fighting in a car-park in front of

Patsy Cline. AM


(Steve Rash, 1978)

The jukebox wore glasses.

Gary Busey, who’d attempted to portray Buddy

Holly before but had to settle for the role of Crickets’

drummer Jerry Allison in a cancelled production,

proved a ringer for the bespectacled rocker from

Lubbock, gaining an Oscar nomination in the

process. Nothing was lip-synced, the music was

recorded live, and the feel of the whole film

Rami Malek and

Gwilym Lee as

Mercury and May in

the Queen biopic. benefited as a result, creating not only

that rare thing – a genuinely fine rock

movie, but also a template for a

long-running stage musical that would set the

standard for jukebox productions in its wake.

Best bit: the Rave On jam at the Apollo, Harlem. FD



(Todd Haynes, 1987)

Plastic fantastic!

For this 1987 student film, Todd Haynes cast

Barbara Millicent Roberts as the Carpenters’

singer, songwriter and drummer. Roberts, AKA

Mattel ‘dressing-up’ doll, Barbie, is used by Haynes

as a symbol of both the American feminine ideal

and the anorexia Carpenter battled with

throughout her life. Moving between meticulous

puppet shows, and hysterical montages of

post-war America (Vietnam, Watergate, etc), the

film becomes a nightmare of oppressed womanhood,

Barbie’s always-smiling plastic face whittled

away by Haynes as Carpenter grows ever sicker.

Withdrawn from circulation in 1990 following a

lawsuit from Karen’s brother Richard, suitably

degraded copies can still be found online.

Best bit: A medical documentary about the false

‘highs’ of anorexia, fades into the Carpenters

singing Top Of The World, accompanied by

grotesque snippets of ’60s food adverts. AM


(Christopher Münch, 1991)

Lennon: in his own right.

The mistake many music biopics make is to

concentrate on the music. Replicating a landmark

concert or, worse still, the creation of a classic

song, almost always results in disappointment

and cliché. The genius of Münch’s black-and-white

character study is the way it inhabits the quiet, sad

edges. A fictionalised account of the Beatle’s

Barcelona weekend with Brian Epstein in 1963

uses Lennon’s downtime to zone in on his fears,

flaws and insecurities. Ian Hart has never been

better, in a role he’d reprise in 1994’s inferior

Backbeat, and the film conveys more in pauses

and glances than Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Nowhere

Boy does in 90 minutes of stodgy biog.

Best bit: John Lennon and an air stewardess dance

to Little Richard’s I’m In Love Again in their hotel

room. AM


(James Mangold, 2005)

Now, there was a movie.

How many disbelievers stayed to the end of the

credits just to confirm that Joaquin Phoenix and

Reese Witherspoon really did deliver those vocals

in this tale of John R. Cash, country music’s

most distinctive (and self-destructive)

superstar, and June Carter, the

firecracker love of his evercomplex,

pill-popping life? It

follows the trail from Sun Records,

through Cash’s earlier marriage to

Vivian Liberto and the unlikely

triumph at Folsom Prison,

concluding with that true-to-life

on-stage proposal. Both

Phoenix and Witherspoon

figured among

the film’s five Oscar

nominations, with

Witherspoon deservedly

winning the

Best Female Actor


Best bit: The Man

In Black kicking

out the lights at

the Opry in

1965. FD

Sissy Spacek as Tammy

Wynette stands by her

man, Tommy Lee Jones,

in Coal Miner’s Daughter.


(Todd Haynes, 2007)

What about Bob?

Like Bob Dylan’s own discography, there’s

something here to annoy everyone. Todd Haynes

has past form with music movies, some great

(Superstar), some not so (1998’s Velvet Goldmine).

I’m Not There sits in the middle. The concept is

perfect: have six actors depict six different

incarnations of Dylan’s contradictory, kaleidoscopic

life. Six fictions. The masterpiece at its heart is Cate

Blanchett’s wired, erotic turn as “Jude Quinn”, an

entrancing, alienating “electric Dylan” played as a

shock-haired beanpole of pure high voltage.

Everything else pales in its shadow, but you have to

admire the wit of a film that depicts young Bob as a

poor African-American boy called “Woody Guthrie”.

Best bit: Bob No. 6, Billy ‘The Kid’ McCarty (Richard

Gere), is distracted by Jim James in white-face

singing a mournful version of Goin’ To Acapulco. AM


(Anton Corbijn, 2007)

The rise and fall of Ian Curtis in beautiful black

and white.

Director Corbijn’s note-perfect feel for the

aesthetics of Joy Division, which he had helped

define as a photographer nearly 30 years before,

could have been predicted, but the tautness of the

storytelling and Sam Riley’s uncanny and magnetic

central performance as Ian Curtis came as thrilling

shocks. That bane of the rock biopic – the failure of

recreated gigs to live up to the legend – is also

dispatched: the Something Else performance of

Transmission is spine-tingling, the more so as

Corbijn cuts to Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis,

watching in growing wonder and disquiet at home.

Best bit: Riley/Curtis heads to work at the

employment exchange, to the strains of Joy

Division’s No Love Lost. In white on the back of his

donkey jacket: the word ‘HATE’. DE


(Bill Pohlad, 2014)

The man with two Brians.

Pohlad’s masterly Brian Wilson biopic leaves you

divided on purpose. The scenes where bright-eyed

Paul Dano plays the brilliant, fragile ‘Brian-Past’

glow with authentic ’60s West Coast sunlight, while

the specific moments in which he creates Pet

Sounds in the studio, are, without a doubt, the only

truly convincing ‘making-of’ sequences in the

history of the music biopic. Yet, the ‘Brian-Future’

segments, in which John Cusack plays ’80s Wilson

with chilly disengagement, appear dormant, inert,

vacant. Brian’s future is a prisoner of Brian’s past.

Watched again, a good film starts to approach


Best bit: Brian in United Western Recorders asking

Chuck Berghofer “Hey, do you think we could get

a horse in here?” AM


(Bryan Singer, 2018)

As much larger than life as its subject.

Everything threatened disaster – a central

character of inimitable charisma; a history of

script and casting snafus; the replacement of

director Singer with Dexter Fletcher – and 20th

Century Fox’s stinginess with screenings

set off alarms. Then the critics panned it.

But like Queen themselves, Bohemian

Rhapsody proved critic-proof. This

was all about Rami Malek’s

Oscar-winning performance as

Mercury – mischief, melancholy and

madness glisten in those Gollum

eyes – the seductive power of the

set-pieces, plus the pacing and

delivery of the tunes. Against

which, the crap wigs and plot

liberties are, ultimately, mere


Best bit: The electrifying first

seconds, as the viewer is led on

stage at Live Aid, set the tone. DE

Alamy (5), Shutterstock (5)


Let them entertain you: (clockwise

from top left) David Carradine as

Woody Guthrie; Cate Blanchett as

Bob Dylan; celluloid Brian Epstein

and John Lennon; Sam Riley as Ian

Curtis; The Beach Boys seek Love &

Mercy; Karen Carpenter, Superstar;

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly; and

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese

Witherpoon walk the line as Johnny

Cash and June Carter.

“It’s what gives us our

chutzpah” Foo Fighters’

Dave Grohl rehearses

with Brian, Las Vegas,

May 24, 2006.

Foo Fighters drummer and Queen superfan TAYLOR HAWKINS on the musical “essence of Queen”.


MY FORMATIVE experience with Queen was when

I was seven or eight. I was in my parents’ car. They’d

taken me to see the 1977 version of the movie King

Kong – I was totally in love with Jessica Lange, who

was in the Fay Wray role. Then on the way home, I

heard We Will Rock You on the car radio. And

somehow in my eight-year-old brain, We Will Rock

You and King Kong kinda merged. We Will Rock

You became the sound of King Kong walking.

Then, a lightning bolt struck. It was my sister’s

copy of The Game album. I played that album until

it wore out. At the same time, I got a drum kit, and I

decided I was going to be a drummer. I pointed at

the cover of The Game and

asked my sister who was the

drummer, and she said, “The

blond one.” Which was great,

because I

was a drummer and had

blond hair too!

From The Game I went

backwards d di d

much as I c

going to a u

and buying

Heart Atta

became my

learned to

playing to t

Zenyatta M

From fa

with Quee

I kinda fell

with the id

being in a b

like Queen

I fell in love

the idea of

Roger Tayl

the badass

with his ow

face on the

drum head

And he wro




songs like Modern Times Rock’n’Roll – a little more

raw than Freddie, Brian and John Deacon’s songs.

So I modelled myself after Roger Taylor. I still do.

For me, and not just me – it was the same for

people like Axl Rose – Queen were kind of my

music school. Like a Beatles record, Queen records

had everything. I think the movie kind of spells it

out – Queen are The Beatles on steroids. And I

don’t mean this in any disrespect to The Beatles

because there would be no Queen if there had

been no Beatles, and many of the tricks Queen

used were Beatles tricks: stacking the harmonies,

running the guitars backwards, writing big pieces

of music that strung four

songs together.

Queen are more like The

Beatles than they are like Led

Zeppelin, for instance. They’re

rounded in the way The Beatles

were. So if you could only have

one rock album, it would have to

b B tl lbum or a Queen

at’s the only way

Taylor Hawkins

of the Foos with

Roger, 2006,

and formative

Queen sounds.

o see them

e of their

gs and

m down to

tuds and

uild them.”

you could guarantee having a bit of everything. If

you have Abbey Road, or if you have News Of The

World, you’re in good shape. News Of The World

has We Are The Champions, one of the most

triumphant, amazing beautiful ballads of all time.

It’s got We Will Rock You. It‘s got It’s Late, which is

almost like the Faces – it has that looseness. Then

there’s Sheer Heart Attack, which is… the Foo

Fighters. It’s got Who Needs You, which is this fun,

light ballad. That, to me, is one of their best records,

but they’re all fucking great – at least up until Hot

Space, where the production starts to get in the

way of the true essence of Queen. I once said to

Roger that I’d like to see them take some of their

more produced ’80s songs and tear them down to

the studs and rebuild them as Classic Queen Rock

Songs – like redo Staying Power like they’d do it live.

If I was to take three Queen songs to a desert

island? Well… I think there’s something perfect

about We Are The Champions. I know everyone

would pick this and/or Bohemian Rhapsody – but

We Are The Champions is this sad, then triumphant,

totally huge song. And really raw, in terms

of production. I’d have to pick Under Pressure,

because it’s one of the greatest songs ever and it

has David Bowie on it – I mean, come on. And for

my third song, I’d say Keep Yourself Alive, because

it’s Queen’s first great ‘fuck you’ – like, “Fuck you,

we’re gonna have a drum solo in the middle of our

first single!” So the first Queen single is their first

great call-to-arms.

In Foo Fighters, I think we, as a band, look

toward Queen as the greatest live rock’n’roll band

in the world – which they proved at Live Aid. And

whenever we get on-stage we carry a piece of

Queen in every one of our back pockets. It’s what

ves us the chutzpah, or the

erve to think that, yeah, we

hould be playing Wembley

tadium. Because it takes balls

believe you should be doing

at. It takes Queen balls.

As told to Danny Eccleston.

Foo Fighters play the UK –

including Reading & Leeds

Festivals – in August.

Getty (2), PA Images

especially, were all into the same music at

the beginning.

Brian May mentioned The Temperance


Oh no! The Temperance Seven were never my

thing. It was Led Zeppelin, The Who and Hendrix

all the way. John Deacon was different, though,

even before he got into funk. When we met him

John was into Yes. I liked Yes too. But John really

liked Yes. Tales From Topographic… bollocks or

whatever – a bit too proggy for me. I also

remember having a heated discussion with him

about Lennon versus McCartney. John was a great

fan of solo McCartney. Ram had come out and

John loved it, whereas I was a great fan of Lennon’s

first solo album. John’s tastes were just different.

Your song Modern Times Rock’n’Roll on

Queen’s debut album talks about “a worn-out

rock’n’roll scene.” You always seemed like

Queen’s angry young man.

I was, a bit. Modern Times… was a bit of a thrash,

though. I always thought Tenement Funster,

which I wrote for [third album] Sheer Heart

Attack, was better. Brian has suggested doing

it live when we go out again. I’m all for that. It’s

quite short and not too taxing when you get

to our age.

Did it feel like Queen were struggling to make

their mark on those early records?

Yes, because we were so hugely ambitious. We

looked up to Led Zeppelin, especially, because

we were just coming up behind them. Queen II

was good. Sheer Heart Attack was more of a

piece, though. Killer Queen was incredibly

well-crafted. God, the attention to detail

Freddie put into that.

Freddie Mercury’s musical ideas sometimes

came from left-field. Did you always

embrace them?

Always. At the beginning it was also

accepted Freddie was the most prolifi

writer. Listen to something like Bring

Back That Leroy Brown. I don’t even

know how you’d describe that

music. Is it black music? Vaudeville?…

What is it?

Aside from Bohemian Rhapsody,

what songs from that mid-’70s

period represent Queen at

their peak?

We envisaged the A Night At The Oper

Day At The Races albums as companion pieces.

I love the sound we achieved on A Day At The

Races, especially on Somebody To Love but also

The Millionaire Waltz. That song wasn’t terribly

popular with the critics – which is probably

why I like it – and you never hear it on the

radio. The different layers are just wonderful.

Freddie at his best.

Queen did two tours, including the US in 1974,

with Mott The Hoople. Were they an


Yes. They took us to America. [Mott frontman]

Ian Hunter had done it all before, so we learned

an awful lot and probably borrowed a few ideas.

But we started to notice people turning up in

places like New York, Detroit and Boston

specifically to see us. There’s a line in the film

where Rami talks about “the outcasts”. [“We’re

four misfits who don’t belong together. We’re

playing for the outcasts at the back of the room.”]

That’s true. I remember roller-skating nuns and

all sorts of exotic people turning up at our shows.

I’m sure the name of the band had something to

do with it as well.

The contrast in writing styles became obvious

when Queen followed Bohemian Rhapsody

with John Deacon’s You’re My Best Friend in

summer 1976. What did you think of the song?

I wasn’t opposed to it. You’re My Best Friend

was poppy and lightweight, but I could see its

commercial potential. You can’t always tell,

though. I was never opposed to Another One

Bites The Dust. I just didn’t think it would be a

hit (laughs).

Don’t Stop Me Now is the one that has

surprised us all. It wasn’t a big song at the time.

Freddie wrote it on the piano and Brian had to

find a way to insert himself in there. I don’t

necessarily think it’s one of our best songs, but I

love the sentiment – “Call me Mr Fahrenheit.” It’s

hilarious and it’s become a sort of rallying cry.

Your songwriting tended towards the

heavier side…

Yes, I always liked Sheer Heart Attack [on News

Of The World]. I started the song when we were

doing the Sheer Heart Attack album, but didn’t

get round to finishing it. By the time I did, punk

had come along. But the song came before punk.

Foo Fighters do a good version. Sheer Heart

Attack sounds like a Foo Fighters song.

Brian May describes Queen’s time in Munich

as creative but hedonistic. Is that how you

remember it?

I remember all-night Scrabble sessions (laughs)

and other things happening, of course. In

Munich we’d go to the same clubs together

every night – although at some point Freddie

would go off to his club – but I think being

away from home made us stronger. It was

thing. Munich forced




(from left) Ben

Hardy, Roger,

Rami Malek,

Brian, Gwilym Lee,

Joe Mazzello.

u’d also broken the old

ueen rule of “No Syntheizers”

by now.

Yes, that was my fault. I was the first to get a

synthesizer. Freddie was all over it – “Ooh, what

does this do?” It changed the way we did things.

Freddie and John Deacon’s songs on Hot

Space took the album into a funk/dance

direction. Were you happy with that?

I always hated the cover, but, musically, Hot Space

was OK. Under Pressure I still love. I enjoyed

working with Bowie and wish we’d done more

together, though I’m not sure everyone enjoyed

it as much as I did. The single, Body Language,

and the video weren’t quite to my tastes. This was

Freddie exploring the music of the gay clubs,

which was fine. But also one of the rare occasions

when I think he was a little selfish with the video.

The rest of us were pushed into the background.

Did you ever say “Freddie, what the hell are

you wearing?” at any time?

No. Freddie made me laugh. How could you not

laugh at a man in a plunging, V-neck leotard and

ballet slippers? I didn’t even mind his tiny

sequinned shorts. Honestly. The only thing I

didn’t care for was the video for It’s A Hard Life.

Not our finest video and Freddie looked like a

giant prawn.

How was it watching actor Ben Hardy playing

you in the movie?

Slightly unnerving. Ben did a wonderful job,

though. If I had a criticism it’s that some of

the clothes were things I’d never have worn.

That’s not Ben’s fault. Those were the clothes

he was given. They also didn’t quite get my hair

right (laughs).

Gwilym’s portrayal of Brian was uncanny,

Rami got Freddie to a T, and Joe [Mazzello] who

played John nailed his mannerisms, but made

him slightly too posh. Deacy was from Leicester

and had a bit of a Northern accent. But all of them

were amazing. They must have watched hours of

footage of us all.

Do you know if John Deacon has seen the film?

No idea. We don’t have any contact with John. I

wonder if one of his kids might have been to see

it. Who knows?

Freddie in 1982, the

moustache definitely “in

the right place”: (below)

Roger and Brian on-stage

with Adam Lambert, Las

Vegas, 2018.

It gave us a second wind, yes. The title track from

A Kind Of Magic was a big hit after that [1986], but

I think we were knowingly making a pop record.

Before, with The Works [1984], although Radio Ga

Ga was a hit, we weren’t recording songs

specifically because we thought they’d be hits.

We just put the best songs on an album.

So did you take a different approach later?

Yes. If I’m honest, I have mixed feelings about

splitting the songwriting credits on those later

records. I wrote The Invisible Man and Breakthru

very deliberately to be hits. We wanted to have

hits because we wanted to stay relevant in the

‘90s. Parts of Innuendo [1991] were much heavier,

but it’s impossible to say where we’d have gone

next if Freddie had lived.

How do you view Made In Heaven now?

I like it. I was the one driving it to begin with.

Brian, particularly, was reluctant. But when we all

heard Freddie’s voice coming back at us from the

control room, it made all the difference. Freddie

wanted us to make as much music as we could

while he was still alive. He didn’t want us to stop.


continues to add lustre to their

legend, it seems that Queen have no

intention of stopping. There’s a US jaunt

with Adam Lambert starting soon, and shows

– now titled The Rhapsody Tour – recently

announced in Australia and New Zealand for

February 2020. “We can throw any Queen

song at Adam and he can sing it,” says Taylor.

In a suitably camp twist, Lambert also makes

a brief appearance in the movie, playing a

trucker who lures Rami Malek’s Freddie into

a public toilet. “Yes, that’s Adam,” says

Taylor, grinning.

Freddie Mercury may never have wanted

to do the same thing twice, but Hollywood

doesn’t work that way. Surely they’ve already

been approached about a sequel?

“But what would the story be?”

counters Taylor. “I’m tempted to leave things

as they are.”

p y g eddie Mercury now.

It would have been a completely different film.

Sacha wanted dwarves with cocaine on their

heads and… buggery (laughs). My God!

We wanted it to be a family film, something

everybody could see. It went through

17 script rewrites.

Did you agonise over the factual inaccuracies?

Not agonised, no. I know Freddie didn’t

nounce he had AIDS before

ve Aid. He told us in his

droom much later on. The

portant thing is it did happen

d we’re not telling lies. The

ronology doesn’t really matter.

e film ends with Live Aid. Did

e time?

There was a point during We Are The Champions

where the audience was swaying as one, like a

field of wheat, and I thought, “Oh, OK.” I went

back to Freddie’s later and at some point in the

night said, “You know what, Fred, I think we were

really good.” I had no idea what Live Aid would

lead to.

Would it be fair to say that the concert

rejuvenated Queen?

“We’re talking about it,” admits Brian

May. “There’s a school of thought that says,

‘Leave it.’ There’s another that thinks, ‘A lot

happened after Live Aid.’ At the moment I’m

happy with stopping now. There’s more

music and other films to be made – different

things to do in life.”

This scene is ending, but the credits on

the musical tragi-comic drama called Queen

have yet to roll.

“It’s nice to remind people we’re still

here,” says Roger Taylor, finally. “That we’re

still alive.”

Three words appear on the screen:

To be continued…


Getty (2)




EDITED BY JENNY BULLEY jenny.bulley@bauermedia.co.uk



• Wise guys: The return of The Raconteurs

• Santana gets Rubin’d

• Rickie Lee Jones: just for Kicks

• Flying Lotus stays rooted

• Plus, Black Pumas, Mark Ronson, Peter Perrett,

Brad Mehldau, Hot Chip, Kate Tempest, and more.


• Ronnie Lane: he’s a country boy

• Bob Dylan’s big top

• Sigur Rós’s breakthrough

• Aretha’s Grace on vinyl: God is in the grooves

• Plus, Traffic, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Jack Bruce,

Neil Young, Betty Carter, Culture and more


• A PR memoir from the alt-rock coalface

• Plus, Jordan, Rockonomics explained, and more.


• Asbury Park: a social history of Brucetown.


• The Good, The Bad & The Queen at the Palladium

• Cybotron get the Barbican dancing.

“Africa is the

future of music;


else is stale

chewing gum.”





Aguayo, Matias 86

Apneseth, Erlend 94

Avery, Teodross 91

Awkward Energy 89

Baroness 89

Bedford, Naomi &

Simmonds, Paul 95

Bedouine 90

Black Pumas 90

Bruce, Jack 105

Calexico/Iron & Wine 94

Callahan, Bill 88

Carter, Betty 102

Childish, Billy 105

Culture 105

Daughter Of Swords 95

Deodato, Eumir 102

Divine Comedy, The 90

Duffy, Stephen 107

Dylan, Bob 103

Elkhorn 93

Ellis, Carwyn 91

Ese & The Vooduu

People 93

Farrell, Perry 89

Flying Lotus 92

Franklin, Aretha 106

Fussell, Jake Xerxes 91

Gallagher, Rory 102

Giants In The Trees 86

Guadalupe Plata 94

Hawley, Richard 90

Hayes, Tubby 106

HOO 89

Hot Chip 86

Ibrahim, Abdullah 86

Infinite Spirit Music 106

Jambinai 91

Jodi 106

Jones, Rickie Lee 88

Joynes, C. 93

Lane, Ronnie 100

LeBlanc, Dylan 94

Lee, Frankie 93

Lofgren, Nils 94

Mattiel 94

Mehldau, Brad 88

Morgan, Scott 107

Mountain Goats 93

Mulcahy, Mark 95

Patterson, Rahsaan 89

Perrett, Peter 93

Pixx 86

Primal Scream 106

Raconteurs, The 84

Rakei, Jordan 86

Rani, Hania 94

Residents, The 102

Richman, Jonathan 90

Robinson, Chris,

Brotherhood 95

Ronson, Mark 93

Santana 87

Seeger, Pete 102

Seegers, Doug 95

Sigur Rós 105

Slim, HC 89

Spaldng, Esperanza 91

Sting 88

Taylor, Ebo, Pat Thomas,

Uhuru Yenzu 102

Teardo, Teho 91

Tempest, Kate 86

Tenderlonious 89

Traffic 104

VA If You’re Not

Part Of The Solution 106

VA Sad About

The Times 105

VA Vision & Revision 95

VA: Jazz Fest 106

Wøllo, Erik 102

Wovoka Gentle 88

Young, Neil 107



Stranger than friction

Steady as he blows… The Raconteurs return with their first album in over 10 years.

Can Jack White still cut it as a team player? asks John Mulvey. Illustration Neil Edwards.

The Raconteurs


Help Us Stranger




EARLY 2000, inspired by raw blues, minimalist

art and the financial exigencies of being an

unknown indie rock musician, Jack White

composed a manifesto for the second White Stripes

album, De Stijl. “When it’s hard to break the rules of

excess, then new rules need to be established.”

While some of his less temperate outbursts

suggest otherwise, White has remained a stickler for

that self-discipline over much of the ensuing two

decades. From the moment he and Meg White chose

a wardrobe of red and white and the most basic of

set-ups, he defined himself by constriction. “The

whole point of The White Stripes is the liberation of

limiting yourself,” he told David Fricke in 2005. “In

my opinion, too much opportunity kills creativity.”

By 2018’s Boarding House Reach, the limits had been

reconfigured. White wrote songs at a rented Nashville apartment,

and recorded in New York and LA in three-day bursts: “Places I’d

never recorded before and with musicians I’d never worked with

before,” he told MOJO. “I did find new ways to put myself in

uncomfortable positions.” Where once there were difficulties born

of economy, challenge had become a luxury imperative.

The Raconteurs, though, are an exception in White’s

fastidiously coordinated universe. Their colour-coding is slack,

their operational parameters unusually

permeable. Unlike the fraught dialogue

between art project and abandon that

characterises many of White’s endeavours,

the quartet present themselves in an

amiable, comradely way – confoundingly

like a normal band. The second song on this




● Since the last

Raconteurs album in

2008, Jack White has

managed six albums

– three solo, three with

The Dead Weather – and

built the Third Man

Records empire.

Meanwhile, Brendan

Benson released his

fourth, fifth and sixth

solo albums between

2009 and 2013 before

focusing on writing and

producing for a motley

crew including the

country singer Ashley

Monroe, and Jake Bugg.

A seventh Benson solo

album is due this year.

Patrick Keeler and

Jack Lawrence rejoined

their old band, The

Greenhornes, for a 2010

reunion, and currently

also play in the Afghan

Whigs (Keeler) and City

& Colour and The Dead

Weather (Lawrence).

third Raconteurs set is a Sympathy For The

Devil-style boogaloo called Help Me

Stranger, but for the album title, the

personal pronoun is scrupulously pluralised:

Help Us Stranger. White, Brendan Benson,

Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence are all,

pointedly, in this together.

Is democracy, or what looks like

democracy, the most daunting restriction of

all? This, perhaps, is the challenge, that

White sets himself as he reconvenes The

Raconteurs for the first time in a decade:

whether such a protean creative can still

flourish as part of a team.

Help Us Stranger certainly implies as

much. After the frantic, solipsistic oddness

of Boarding House Reach, The Raconteurs

offer a much more straightforward and

enjoyable 42 minutes. As with 2006’s Broken

Boy Soldiers and 2008’s Consolers Of The

Lonely, the songwriting is shared (the 11

original songs are all listed as co-writes)

with Benson, a powerpop artisan possessed

of a gentler and more conventional melodic

sensibility, yin to White’s jagged,

provocative yang.

“The record

celebrates the

joy of making

loud rock music


There is, once again, a degree of trying on each

other’s clothes. Live A Lie, a garage rock trinket that

sits somewhere on the scuzz continuum between

The Stooges and the New York Dolls, is sung by

a plainly energised Benson. But while Broken Boy

Soldiers found White and Benson morphing into one

another, eliding their voices to optimise confusion,

Help Us Stranger feels more like a harmonious clash

between distinct aesthetics.

It begins with 34 seconds of jazzy choogle, as if

the quartet were toying with the Grateful Dead’s

China Cat Sunflower, before a sequence of

powerchords herald Bored And Razed, and The

Raconteurs’ superb drummer Keeler ups the pace

to martial glam. White is first to the mike, spitting

out lines with familiar staccato fury, leaving Benson

to make amends with the melody in the chorus. It

appears to be a conflicted love song to the pair’s old

hometown of Detroit, but the sound is indebted to

Cheap Trick; a blend of harmony and heaviness that

runs through much of Help Us Stranger.

Two songs, Don’t Bother Me – a hysterically operatic foray

towards heavy metal – and What’s Yours Is Mine – brokeback

Funkadelica, loosely – aren’t a million miles from Boarding House

Reach, with White’s flow still channelling the ejaculations of rap.

But it transpires the actual holdover from those sessions is Shine

The Light On Me, a tremendously florid, charged piano ballad in

the vein of Blunderbuss and Would You Fight For My Love?

On a record that celebrates four-way groupthink and the

elevated joy of making loud rock music together, it’s a little ironic

that the ballads, in fact, turn out to be highlights. White’s default

setting remains indignation, but Benson’s is increasingly one of

mature regret. So Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying) is a

beautifully direct lyric about depression, pitched halfway between

All Things Must Pass and Harvest, in which the band’s muscular

empathy inspires the singer from his torpor. Now That You’re

Gone, meanwhile, is a sequel of sorts to Many Shades Of Black,

from Consolers Of The Lonely: an update of the most imploring soul

melodramas, with White’s squiggly guitar fills providing radical

punctuation to Benson’s emoting. It’s the sound of White chafing

at the boundaries of band etiquette, grappling for the spotlight

once again in a way that Benson never seems to do on White-led

tracks. But the tension works to the benefit of Benson’s song,

rather than undermining it.

White’s own epiphany comes with the final track, Thoughts

And Prayers. One of his best songs in years, it revisits his old Led

Zeppelin obsession, with Bron-Yr-Aur fingerpicking, Robert

Plant’s stage whisper, the jet plane drone of Whole Lotta Love and,

most notably, the mystical delicacy of Thank You. If anything,

Thoughts And Prayers is more like a latter-day Plant version of

Thank You, the action tilting towards Appalachia and the

instrumental fireworks coming from Lillie Mae Rische’s rearing

fiddle rather than White’s acoustic guitar. For a song that closes an

album predicated on musical friendship, its tone is strangely

bereft: “I used to give my friends a call,” White laments. “Now

there’s no one left at all.”

Benson could have surreptitiously written the lines, but it’s

hard not to read them as evidence of a power struggle at the heart

of The Raconteurs – not between White and his bandmates, but

between the duelling identities of White himself. Raconteur or

solo auteur? This year, the former is in the ascendant. How long

the entente will last, though, is part of the spectacle of White’s

ongoing adventure: formally constrained and exhilaratingly

unpredictable at every step.



Abdullah Ibrahim


The Balance


The force is strong on

octogenarian South African

jazz pianist’s return.

Dubbed “South Africa’s

Mozart” by Nelson Mandela,

Ibrahim bucked all odds with

his Dollar Brand trio, playing

jazz as an act of resistance

under apartheid. His dedication

is unwavering on this reunion

with touring band Ekaya. The

Balance starts in subdued

fashion with Dreamtime’s

meander of Monk-ish

melodies, really hitting its

stride with Jabula (whose

teetering celebratory tone

echoes his landmark anthem

Mannenberg) and on the

light-fingered vamps and

runaway rhythms of Tuang

Guru. Elsewhere, Ibrahim plays

only a handful of notes on

Nisa’s skittering bebop and

Skippy’s old-school township

jazz, allowing alto sax, piccolo

and flute all-rounder Cleave

Guyton Jr to shift the

harmonics. The whole tapestry

is interweaved with hymnal

solo excursions as Ibrahim

coaxes elegiac melodies from

the ether with eloquence.

Andy Cowan

Kate Tempest


The Book Of

Traps And Lessons


Fine third album from the

London wordsmith, recorded

with Rick Rubin.

“HE WANTED to set me free from

the beat,” says Kate Tempest, about

her work with Rick Rubin. This

album has been gestating since

2015, when Rubin invited Tempest

to his Shangri-La studio in Malibu

to create some tracks. Her poetry is

as powerful and hypnotic

as her live delivery.

What has been trickier

is capturing this in the

studio, with musical

arrangements and

production. Though

previous albums Everybody

Down (2014) and Let Them

Eat Chaos (2016) provided

a strong sonic base,

something was missing. With this

album (co-written with Dan Carey)

Giants In

The Trees


Vol. 2


Second album by psyc

quartet featuring Nirv

bassist Krist Novoselic

During track

seven, Hot


there’s a



bass that, on reflection, could

hardly be anyone else. But

unless you already knew of

Krist Novoselic’s involvement,

nothing else about Vol. 2

suggests it, apart perhaps

from the occasional accordion

flurry. The Nirvana connection

is quite incidental to Giants

In The Trees’ backwoods

melodrama. Far more

germane would be the

eldritch vocal charisma of

Jillian Reye: on Feel You Now

and My Name, she turbocharges

her Stevie Nicks

woo-woo factor with the

melismatic muscle of Grace

Slick, while Sons And

Daughters suggests 10,000

Maniacs fronted by Madonna.

Now more authoritative,

without sacrificing the

credulous charm of its 2017

predecessor, Vol. 2 emphasises

Giants In The Trees’ skill at

focus-pulling their dense

arrangements toward a

consistently melodic

sweet-spot. “Everybody’s

screaming my name, boy,”

Reye declares. As the bass

player can confirm, stranger

things have happened.

Keith Cameron

Tempest takes cues

from drill and trap,

allowing her words

to flow without being harnessed to

the beat. Mixed in with sub-bass,


Hot Chip


A Bath Full Of Ecstasy


Pop nous and dancefloor

smarts fusionists impress

once again.

Hot Chip would blush at the

suggestion, but since the Pet

Shop Boys few have come

closer in aligning immaculate

pop with dancefloor chops;

melancholia with euphoria. For

their seventh album, Hot Chip

step out of the self-produced

comfort zone that was

characterised past recordings.

Their choice of producers –

Philippe Zdar of Cassius and

Phoenix fame, and Rodaidh

McDonald, whose credits

include The xx – proves sage.

The title track is fail-safe

festival material, a mellifluous

mix of MOR and wonky R&B,

Alexis Taylor’s choirboy voice

Auto-Tune-distorted into

intriguing shapes. In contrast,

Hungry Child is their purest

club moment yet, with

duelling vocals from Taylor and

Joe Goddard, atop the latter’s

rhapsodic Chicago house

chords. The duo combine in

more mournful fashion on

Clear Blue Skies, whose sweet

but downbeat dark synth

melodies suggest a Venn

diagram of Underworld, Arthur

Russell and OMD. Hot Chip

remain ruthlessly consistent

and relentlessly reliable.

Stephen Worthy

Jordan Rakei




Golden voiced soul sin

third grapples with th

questions facing hum


the highly



of 2017’s


New Zealand-born, Londonbased

Rakei has widened his

remit, tackling the existential

whoppers in bold brushstrokes

over a fusion of subtle

electronics, buoyant funk

basslines and fluid time

signatures similar to

contemporaries Tom Misch

and Jamie Woon. While the

woozy house piano of Mad

World, contained dynamics

of Mind’s Eye and tensionbuilding

twists and turns of

Oasis are early highlights,

Rakei’s crying falsetto and

brooding croon often carry

far too leisurely songs whose

midtempo grooves run the risk

of rolling into one. A strong

second half averts any

malaise, the more organically

orchestrated You And Me and

Speak leading the way to jazzy

chamber pop climax Mantra,

Rakei’s joyous statement of

belief topped and tailed by

Josh Arcoleo’s gorgeous

honking sax.

Andy Cowan

Kate Tempest:


flute and analogue synths, the result

is mesmerising – one long, moving

meditation on love and England and

murderous empire.

Lucy O’Brien

Matias Aguayo


Support Alien Invasion


Chilean-born German

international showcas

abstract rhythms.

If you told

Matias Aguayo

that the



his first solo

album for six years feel

fractured, unfamiliar and

unruly, you suspect he’d feel

very satisfied. Aguayo was

a minimal techno pioneer,

but Support Alien Invasion

is a hornet’s nest of buzzing

urgency. Seen through the

prism of reactionary antipopulism

– the aliens of the

album title are very much of

the terrestrial rather than

cosmic kind – it’s a globetrotting

celebration of jerky,

angular tempos, from South

African township to Puerto

Rican clubs and many points in

between. With the title track,

Aguayo twists the raging,

abstract sub-bass patterns

of Durban gqom into an even

more unsettling groove, like

a thunderous steeplechase.

Meanwhile, Laisse-Moi Parler

adopts the more familiar

musical dialect of reggaeton,

but twisted into a succession

of obtuse angles by distinctly

odd synth lines.

Stephen Worthy



Small Mercies


Hannah Rodgers’ second

album of conscious

dancefloor action.

From The


Ball Of

Confusion to

Heaven 17’s

Fascist Groove

Thang, we’ve long been

dancing to socio-politics.

Pixx’s 2017 album debut

The Age Of Anxiety (the title

borrowed from WH Auden)

was crammed with fired-up

electro-pop nuggets – this

was one BRIT School graduate

who was never going to bland

out, and Small Mercies is more

anxious still. The synths are

generally leaner and the

production darker, while

guitars butt in for the grungy

turmoil of Bitch and Mary

Magdalene. Pixx’s sharp,

cutting lyrics are their own

ball of confusion, of hurt and

protest: environmental

damage (Peanuts Grow

Underground’s Euro-disco),

fundamentalism (the OMDstyle

jubilance of Disgrace

eviscerates Catholic school

oppression), gender wars

(“I’m Mary Magdalene and

I’m waiting to be stoned”).

Perhaps the real small mercy

on offer is the chance to

escape an increasingly mad

world via the dancefloor.

Martin Aston


Sweeter, juicier, sexier:

Carlos Santana, fixated

by African music.

“The bed

don’t matter!”

Carlos Santana speaks

to Mat Snow.

What does African music mean to you?

“Some musicians get fixated on one person,

like Robert Johnson, Coltrane or Miles. I’m

fixated on African music from A to Z and I’ve

been learning how to articulate this language

of rhythms and melodies. Melody is the

woman, rhythm is the male – the bed don’t

matter! This music is ferocious with conviction

and certainty. Rhythms from Africa are the

antidote to suicide. You’re not full of shit and

useless – the rhythms of Africa remind you to

stand up straight and celebrate being a lion,

not a little pussycat; they remind you to

celebrate your light. Africa is the future of

music now; everything else is stale chewing

gum. African music is sweeter, juicier, sexier

and more vibrant than ever.”

Maryanne Bilham

Super continental

Jump-started by a mass of

collaborators, Santana’s

spectacular joy ride. By Mat Snow.



Africa Speaks


AFTER THE clunky Santana IV and 2017’s

Isley Brothers collaboration Power Of Peace,

what a pleasure to welcome a triumphant

return to his finest form by a ’60s god, who

on the eve of his 72nd birthday can still set

pulses racing, hips swivelling and fingers

air-guitaring when the stars are aligned.

No producer aligns those stars better than

Rick Rubin, who once again jolts a jaded

legend back to life by identifying the essence

of what makes a legend legendary and

focusing everything, from song selection to

arrangement and the mix, to the task of

foregrounding and spotlighting that essence.

With Johnny Cash it was that cavern of a

voice resonant with melancholy majesty;

with Carlos Santana it’s

his guitar’s blend of

warm lyricism and

blazing euphoria in

thrilling interplay with

irresistible rhythm.

Rock heritage fetishist

that he is, Rubin summons

that golden moment when

Santana first exploded in

the immediate afterglow of guitar heroism’s

most incandescent flame war. When The Jimi

Hendrix Experience and Eric Clapton’s

Cream criss-crossed America in 1968, taking

the electric guitar solo to unmatched heights

on-stage, Santana was wowing the Bay Area

with an eclectic style that drew not just on

those friendly rivals but a whole lot more,

with the Woodstock festival and movie

breaking him worldwide as a grandstanding

guitarist who spoke to the emotions, not just

the pleasure of spectacular stuntwork. The

late ’60s flashes back most excitingly in Yo Me

Lo Merezco, where the interplay of Carlos’s

wah wah overdrive with Benny Rietveld’s

bubbling bass and powerhouse drummer

Cindy Blackman, soars like live Cream in

full flight, and Oye Este Mi Canto, whose

string-bending atmospherics echo the spacy

Neptunia of Hendrix’s 1983… (A Merman

I Should Turn To Be).

Yet this album supplies so much more than

six-string showboating. Where the vocals on a

Santana record sometimes just fill a gap, here

singer and songwriting collaborator Buika

commands the spaces which make each track

a song and not just an

instrumental showcase,

her powerful voice –

beseeching and incantatory,

neither feminine nor

masculine but both at once.

From Spain of

Equatorial Guinean

parentage, Buika

hyperlinks to the musical

How did the album come about?

“I always wanted to take the continent of Africa

and draw the different lines and colours that

came to America to create cha-cha-cha,

mambo, rhumba, shuffle, blues. Ever since my

tour in 1988 with Wayne Shorter, I would visit

the Virgin Megastore in Paris and buy bags and

bags of African CDs and pick one or two songs

from each one to arrange into a sequence. I

collected all these songs over the years until it

was the right time to put it all together. Brother

Rick Rubin’s name came up. I explained to him

what I wanted to do and gave him an iPod with

all these songs. He called me back: ‘I’m in! I’ve

never done anything like this before and these

songs are incredible – I love it.’”

Buika is the album’s lead voice; how did you

discover her?

“On an ‘African music now’ stream. I love her

voice. We recorded 49 songs in two five-day

sessions and she came in halfway through

while I was away on tour. She stayed at Rick’s

place, heard the songs and started writing new

melodies, harmonies, lyrics, everything. When

I got back we met for the first time and she

grabbed my hands and broke down crying,

saying, ‘Maestro, you don’t have to pay me. This

music and this band has brought something

out of me I’ve never done before.’”

inspiration from which the co-creators draw.

Like jazzers with Broadway standards,

Santana and Buika have substantially

rewritten and rebooted songs from Africa; for

example, Breaking Down The Door is based

on the Calypso Rose song Abatina, while Yo

Me Lo Merezco turbocharges the 1976 hit

Blacky Joe by Nigeria’s PRO (People Rock

Outfit). As passionately exciting as anything

in the classic Carlos canon, Africa Speaks is an

album of highlight after highlight, and that

the 11 tracks were winnowed down from 49

offers rich promise that further volumes

might be in the offing. Encore!


Other voices

Boho free spirit rifles through

the great American songbook.

By Mark Blake.

Rickie Lee Jones




IN 2012, Rickie Lee Jones released The Devil

You Know, an album of songs by, among

others, Neil Young, The Band and The

Rolling Stones. Its sleeve showed the singer

photographed against a nighttime city skyline,

but with her head concealed by what appears

to be a cushion with a cat’s face on it. The

Rickie Lee

Jones: behind

the mask.

message seemed to be: Don’t look at me, I’m

hiding behind other people’s songs.

Next came 2015’s The Other Side Of Desire,

Jones’s first album of all new material in

nearly a decade. In Rickie Lee World, this

was an event. Four years on, though, and she

seems to have retreated again. The selffinanced,

self-released Kicks is a covers

collection, with a more eclectic mix of songs

than The Devil You Know. This time, Jones

is absent from the cover. Or is she? Instead,

there’s an arresting illustration of a swimsuited

woman wearing boxing gloves and

a diver’s mask.

Rickie Lee has described Kicks as “a

musical smile”, which makes perfect sense.

Its 10 songs span four decades, from the

1940s to the ’70s, encompassing FM rock,

psychedelia and big-band jazz. These are

songs probably heard during a childhood

moving between states with her rootless

family; in the coffee bars she played as a

teenager, or drifting from a half-tuned

radio in other-half Tom Waits’s room at

Hollywood’s Tropicana Motel in the murky

’70s. This is Rickie Lee Jones’s life in other

people’s music.

What ties it all together is that singular

voice and her New Orleans backing band’s

wonderfully-measured arrangements. On My

Father’s Gun, they dial down the big, pianopounding

sound of Elton John’s original for

a gentler, gospel-flecked reading. Likewise,

blokey ’70s rockers Bad Company’s selftitled

signature song is stripped of its

machismo but none of its menace.

Jones takes a similar approach on

Lonely People, a 1974 hit for folk rockers

America, which gradually dissolves into

a shimmer of vibraphones, tinkling

percussion and mellifluous strings. This

and a pleasingly sparse version of Steve

Miller Band’s Quicksilver Girl are arguably

the best songs here.

Kicks becomes less persuasive when Jones

tackles the old Dean Martin-sung standard

You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You and

the 1928 knockabout big-band tune Nagasaki,

later made famous by the Benny Goodman

Quartet. She adds little to the originals, and

a new take on The End Of The World only

reminds the listener of how good country

singer Skeeter Davis’s original was.

Then, just when you think she’s done,

there’s Mack The Knife. Here, Jones does

away with the finger-snapping, wise-guy

aura surrounding Bobby Darin’s version,

and reimagines it as a sleepy jazz shuffle with

half-whispered vocals. Who saw that coming?

Kicks is an up-and-down affair but Rickie Lee

Jones remains pleasingly unpredictable.

Zack Smith

Bill Callahan


Shepherd In A

Sheepskin Vest


Album number 16: the Smog


Not historically the most

reliable of narrators, it is hard

to take Bill Callahan at face

value when he sings, at the

death of this beautiful and

surprising album, “Love

changed me”. Nevertheless,

his first in six years seems to

be that unlikeliest artefact: a

moving confessional Callahan

album about domesticity and

fatherhood. The tone is set in

the opening Shepherd’s

Welcome, in which he

references his 2005 version

of In The Pines. But now,

desolation has been

supplanted by homesteading:

“I cut down the pines to make

a new floor.” The music is

looser and more enchanted,

impressionistic acoustic

flourishes where once there

would have been linear dirges.

Contentment, though, has not

undermined Callahan’s

craftsmanship, his Cohen-like

gift for transforming Zen

koans into lyrics, or his

unflinching wit. “The panic

room,” he deadpans in the

astonishing Son Of The Sea,

“is now a nursery.”

John Mulvey

Brad Mehldau


Finding Gabriel


Jazz maven further ex

his palette to encomp

biblical revelation.

Given that he

rose to fame

leading his

own piano trio

in the 1990s

and often

works in the medium of

acoustic music, it’s not

surprising that Brad Mehldau

has been typecast by some as

a jazz pianist. But, as this

magnificent new project

reveals, the 48-year-old

Florida musician has never

been averse to experimenting


with electric keyboards,

which he did back in 2014

in collaboration with Mark

Guiliana on Mehliana. The

drummer’s kinetic

polyrhythms are also a central

component of Finding Gabriel,

a concept album whose theme

of seeking truth in a world

besieged by fake news and

misinformation was inspired

by Mehldau’s reading of the

Bible. Playing a variety of

keyboards, both electric and

acoustic, Mehldau and his

cohorts create an immersive

series of storytelling tone

poems enhanced by horns,

strings, and choir-like vocals.

Charles Waring



My Songs


Some of his greatest hits

updated. But why?

The album

with the

orchestra, the

album of the

musical and

the album with

Shaggy all suggested Sting is

drifting through the 2010s. It’s

an impression My Songs does

little to dispel. He’s

“re-framed” a selection of

Police and solo hits, from

1978’s So Lonely to 1999’s

Desert Rose and Brand New

Day, using contemporary

recording techniques.

Ultimately, though, he hasn’t

“re-framed” nearly enough.

There are new vocals and

some new instrumentation

(Andy Summers and Stewart

Copeland are predictably

erased), but everything clings

to the original templates like

unimaginative limpets, thus

rendering the whole joyless

business rather baffling, even

before it’s padded out with

live versions. Message In A

Bottle, Fields Of Gold, Shape

Of My Heart and the rest are

more than strong enough to

withstand the gleeful havoc

wreaked upon them, but My

Songs is a 2019 version of a Top

Of The Pops album.

John Aizlewood

Wovoka Gentle


Start Clanging Cymbals


Experimental trio makes

complex psych-pop debut.

A ‘come hither’ act thanks to

song titles such as 1,000 Opera

Singers Working In Starbucks,

London trio Wovoka Gentle

hold no truck with

conventional song structures.

Theirs is a riotous, often joyous

sound, with elements of

collage, sampled spokenword,

avant-garde brass,

electronica and ‘60s

psychedelic folk, yet the best

melodies and slickest

production tropes recall Tears

For Fears at their most outré

and grandiose (witness Small

Victory and Gennesaret), or

maybe poetic ‘80s folkies

Shelleyan Orphan with a

pronounced music-tech

overhaul. Although the

manifestly short attention

spans of William Stokes and

twin sisters Imogen and Ellie

Mason offer few easy

handholds (even the pretty

trad folk of Xerxes ’19 soon

segues to glitchy electronica

and a treated sample of a

Kampala children’s choir), you

have to admire Start Clanging

Cymbals’ ambition and selfassured


James McNair



Jack Lewis’

Awkward Energy


Lvov In The Streets


Left turns stand out on

what’s really a Jack – brother

of Jeffrey – Lewis solo album.

Lvov In The

Streets initially

sets itself up

in the Guided

By Voices/


La Tengo bag: American fizzand-fuzz

pop with a snarky

edge. However, wider scopes

are broached with the

instrumental Moon Jam, which

compacts Live Dead into 80

seconds, and the spoken-word,

concrete-coloured short story

I Picked A Winner (The Radio

Play). That each springs off

from another of the album’s

tracks suggests Awkward

Energy exist in a world where

fluidity is key; one where no

single presentation is

definitive. Apt, as the band’s

driver is Jack Lewis, who has

previously appended his name

with ‘Lesser’ and plays with

his brother Jeffrey’s band,

The Junkyard. Jack has worked

in video art, while Jeffrey is a

cartoonist. Such enviable

mutability might be a family

trait, and consequently, Lvov In

The Streets hits hardest when

comfort zones are disregarded.

Kieron Tyler

lens of early Fugazi. The result

is an adventurous, sonically

untethered set, forging a

new language for Baizley’s

caustic visions.

Stevie Chick

HC Slim




Debut release from

maverick holy roller.

Based in a log cabin in eastern

Finland where he distils his

own moonshine, here is HC,

young but already an outsider

cult figure delivering Bibleblack,

visionary freak-folk. Boat

By The Sea lures you in, warm

as Devendra Banhart: Slim

comes upon a boat, and it’s

crying. “Why do you cry, my

little boat?” This is a sweet,

glancing beauty, just acoustic

and vocal – but things darken

fast. The City Is Burning wears

the spirit of Leonard Cohen or

Woody Guthrie, incantatory

and threateningly casual

(“The city is burning, the

skyline is burning/All things

must burn…”). On Five

Maiden, his garden is planted

with red roses and ex-lovers

(“all my darlings in a row”) to

the sort of deathly-hokey tune

Jack White might croon. There

are visitations by cherubim;

echoing pedal steel and

harmonica heralding matterof-fact

judgments; suicides;

and, at last, a promised land.

A tender, gruff apocalypse.

Glyn Brown

Perry Farrell


Kind Heaven


Guests include Dhani

Harrison, Tommy Lee

Foo Fighter Taylor Ha .


headed for

Las Vegas as

part of an



show with Hollywood-style

story-telling, Farrell’s Kind

Heaven project is an exotic

and exuberant affair with

hard-rock, electronica

and symphonic elements.

Co-producing with Tony

Visconti, the Jane’s Addiction

frontman cheerleads a vivid

cabaret alongside wife Etty

Lau, who is a Madonna circa

Vogue-like presence on saucy


Spend The Body.

Though Harry Gregson-

Williams’s orchestral scores

lend pleasing opulence to

More Than I Could Bear, it’s

the Jane’s-go-industrial Pirate

Punk Politician – Farrell’s swipe

at “today’s strongmen and

their tactics of oppression” –

plus the Weimar-bar swagger

of Snakes Have Many Hips that

get the blood pumping. Some

might find the afterlife that

Farrell’s Kind Heaven promises

a little daunting, ultimately.

There’s a helluva lot going on

all the time.

James McNair



Centipede Wisdom


Personal connections steer

the former Holton’s Opulent

Oog into Slowdive.


Wisdom would

be more

impactful if it

kicked off with

Second Pulse,

the album’s fourth track. From

this point, an elegant, though

low-key exercise in drifting

towards inner space begins

lifting its eyes above the

horizon. HOO used to trade

as Holton’s Opulent Oog, and

Centipede Wisdom is effectively

Nick Holton’s third album

under the name. The

rebranding was prompted

by Holton being joined by

former Slowdive drummer

Ian McCutcheon. The latter’s

Slowdive bandmate Neil

Halstead – formerly with

Holton in Black Hearted

Brother – also crops up here

on synth. Despite an off-kilter

electronic throb coursing

throughout Centipede Wisdom,

what’s cooked up orbits

Slowdive’s abstracted third

album, 1995’s Pygmalion. Yet

the final cut, The End Is So

Dark It’s Boring, suggests the

more direct, earlier Slowdive.

Perhaps Holton has pushed

Halstead and McCutcheon

– despite their mothership’s

current reunion with

McCutcheon’s predecessor

Simon Scott – to address

unfinished business.

Kieron Tyler




Heroes & Gods


Neo-soul man serves u

sixth, and best, solo al .

A child actor

who appeared

on the ’80s US

TV show Kids



began his music career as a

background vocalist before

being offered a solo deal by

MCA at age 23 in 1997. With

his sensuous tone and silky

delivery, the New York-born

singer was in the vanguard

of the neo-soul movement

alongside D’Angelo and

Erykah Badu, but wasn’t able

to match that pair’s level of

success. His first album since

2011’s Bleuphoria, Heroes &

Gods is arguably Patterson’s

finest creation yet. With its

soulful vocals, strong material,

varied arrangements and

gleaming production, it’s

consistently engaging from

start to finish. Apart from a

reworking of Luther Vandross’s

Don’t You Know That, all

the material is self-penned

ranging from retro soul

grooves and slow jams to

atmospheric electronica and

even rock-tinged numbers.

Charles Waring



Gold & Grey


Bruised but unbowed

metallers spread wings on

sprawling fifth full-lengther.

Purple, Baroness’s first album

after the horrific bus accident

that almost killed the band,

was blunt and to the point,

as acts of harrowing autobiography

often are. This

follow-up, however, is an

epic beast, playing to their

strengths while also sprawling

in new directions. Aided again

by producer Dave Fridmann,

leader John Baizley finds space

amid the riffage for tender

moments and ambient

experiments – I’d Do Anything

pairing his howl with treated

piano and feedback for a

passage of bruised balladry,

Emmett Radiating Light

pausing the assault for hushed

dustbowl lament. The might

of their anthems is undimmed,

however, Throw Me An Anchor

delivering a blitz of metallic

interplay cut to its elements,

sounding like kindred brethren

Mastodon filtered through

the emotive, no-nonsense



Hard Rain


Hip-hop and house-infused solo

excursions from lord of new jazz.

A SELF-TAUGHT flautist,

saxophonist, DJ, producer and label

boss, there’s seemingly little Ed

Cawthorne can’t do. Hard Rain

underlines his ubiquity, as The

22archestra and Ruby Rushton

bandleader shape-shifts from slick

urban updates of Yusef Lateef and

The Headhunters into experimental

future funk, broken beat and deep

house. The heavily reverbed piano

and bubbly subdued

bass of Casey Jnr 2

sets the scene before

Cawthorne dallies

with ’70s funk

(Buffalo Gurls),

piercing flute loops

(Aesop Thought),


atmospherics (the

title track’s vertiginous melodic

sweep) and Dilla-esque

discombobulations (Workin’ Me


Ed Cawthorne in

another state of


Out). En route, a wink is

tipped to Larry Heard on

seven-minute centrepiece Another

State Of Consciousness, as a jungle

of revolving bass lines muffle in and

out of clarity. Hard Rain’s warm,

overriding lo-fi aesthetic is a neat

contrast to the no-nonsense

virtuosity of his group outings.

Andy Cowan



Just for


Texan duo’s satisfying soul debut.

By Lois Wilson.

Black Pumas


Black Pumas


AUSTIN, TEXAS’s Black Pumas are

producer/instrumentalist Adrian Quesada

and singer/guitarist Eric Burton. The pair met

Black Pumas:

Adrian Quesada

(seated) and Eric

Burton respond

to the mood.

when Quesada was tipped

off to Burton by a mutual

friend after he put the call

out for a vocalist to join

him on some instrumentals

he’d written inspired by Ghostface Killah

and Motown.

Burton, then a 26-year-old busker, was

just beginning to make an impact after being

the subject of Street Music, a 2017 short film

directed by Andrew Bennett. Capturing

Burton on 6th and Congress, playing his

elegiac acoustic soul with flashes of

psychedelic guitar and contemplative lyrics

about his life – he had been singing since he

first started in church as a small boy – the

film captivated Quesada.

He called Burton, who was impressed that

Quesada, leader of the groups Brownout and

Brown Sabbath, had also backed Prince with

another band, Grupo Fantasma. Burton

auditioned over the phone and Quesada

invited him to his Austin home studio. Their

first session as Black Pumas had neither glitz

nor glamour, but it did have better equipment

than Burton’s busking gear, and by the end of

the day they had the group’s first two singles

Black Moon Rising and Fire. The former, a

dramatic psychedelic funk piece with Donny

Hathaway-like electric piano and stirring

strings, made an impact locally, helping them

win 2018-2019’s Best New Austin Band title

in the city’s Music Awards. Fire, meanwhile,

is a more relaxed groove, with ba-ba-ba-ba

horns and a hint of Norman Whitfield’s

Temptations as Burton sings, “Don’t be

afraid to say I need you, I will understand.”

Another standout on a debut album of

standouts is the cosmic Colors, which

was written on the rooftop of an

uncle’s house as the sun was going

down. Built around a circular riff,

Burton’s musings on mortality and

togetherness are delivered as a

modern day spiritual in a rich falsetto,

emboldened with gospel harmonies.

The effect is staggering.

But the absolute showstopper is

October 33: the last song recorded for

the album and penned by Burton, it brings

him full circle. For the most part an acoustic

ballad, like the ones he used to busk on the

streets, it bristles with an emotional intensity.

“I’m going to make it all right, stop and look

and listen with you,” he croons, and while

such songs can be taken on a simple level as

a promise between two lovers, like so much

great soul music, there’s a sense that Black

Pumas, responding to the current mood of

division and fear, are providing a what-theworld-needs-now-is-love

message. And the

world does indeed need Black Pumas and

their message right now.

Merrick Ales Photography



Bird Songs Of A Killjoy


Crepuscular singer-songwriter’s

brighter second LP.

Where Aleppo-born, LA-based

Azniv Korkejian’s debut album

as Bedouine was the sound

of an insular wit uttering

bon mots from the safety

of a closet, her second longplayer

lets the light in a little;

leavening the bedsit introspection

and sweetening the

bite of her dulcet soft-pop.

You can hear it in how the

claustrophobic Clouds-era-

Joni tangle of Hummingbird,

blossoms into something

cautiously hopeful and utterly

lovely. Or the playful scurry of

Matters Of The Heart, the way

Dizzy spins off into a jazzy,

psychedelic dervish. The more

upbeat swing to the songs

doesn’t dull the crispness of

her songwriting: Bird Gone

Wild chronicles her family’s

journey to America, Echo Park

signalling love for her neighbourhood

(“Where everybody’s

avant-garde”), her

voice a mature, velvety

smudge, sounding blissfully

unhurried as she makes her

observations over lush chamber-pop

and solitary strum.

Stevie Chick






The Modern Lovers’ h

waxes psychedelic, sin

but scrappy.




doesn’t explain

himself; he

follows his

heart. Whether

that’s to albums all in Spanish,

like 2009’s ¿A Qué Venimos Sino

A Caer?, or a record inspired

by 19th century Hindu yogi

Ramakrishna and the sound of

the tamboura, like this one.

Recorded in various Bay Area

locations with Nicole Montalbano

on tamboura and his old

Modern Lovers mucker Jerry

Harrison on mellotron and

harmonium, SA feels largely

improvised, with Richman

exploring drones and worrying

even less than usual about

tuning. Thus the crafted wit of

21st century Richman classics

such as 2010’s My Affected

Accent is at a premium. More

typical is A Penchant For The

Stagnant’s lo-fi VU mantra,

and This Lover’s Lane Is Very

Narrow – a face-off between

Richman’s ego and his inner

self that, truthfully, may

have more philosophical

strengths than musical ones.

Richman’s old hero, Lou Reed,

might approve.

Danny Eccleston

Richard Hawley




Sheffield crooner look

create a future from th t.

Pegged as a


crooner of lush

but bruised

ballads, Richard

Hawley has

gradually embraced his inner

rocker and his last croondominated

album, Truelove’s

Gutter, was a distant decade

ago. Further is Hawley at his

most direct, rockist best with

none of the – to use his own

word – “wibble” that came

with the psychedelic odyssey

of 2012’s Standing At The Sky’s

Edge. Over the Steppenwolf

blast of Off My Mind, soaring

indie Roy Orbison of Is There

A Pill, a bluesy growl for Time

Is and even the beautifully

cooed Emilina Says, Hawley

resembles a less grizzled Mark

Lanegan, emotions raging

but in check, a sometimesbroken

life running smoothly,

for now at least. In trying to

make an album that pointed

to where he wants to go as an

artist, Hawley has taken the

best parts of this past and

uploaded them onto one

sublime record.

Andy Fyfe

The Divine



Office Politics


Neil Hannon’s first album

since 2016 and his liveliest

for longer still.

After 12 albums, it’s pretty

clear that beyond the National

Express fluke, Neil Hannon’s

wry take on everyday minutiae

was never destined for longterm

crossover appeal. Not

that he seems to care, and

from the moment the opening

Queuejumper channels Iko Iko,

he’s at his most mischievous

here. If I’m A Stranger Here is a

reminder that sincerity doesn’t

become him, the saga of Norman

And Norma (“got married

in Cromer”) is bitter-sweetness

itself. Elsewhere, Hannon turns

the heroically daft ‘Opportunity’

Knox [sic] into a modernday

madrigal, before it totters

into an Eastern European

drinking song. The title track’s

typewriter rhythm is surely

no accident; The Synthesiser

Service Centre Super Summer

Sale is as close to Throbbing

Gristle as he’ll ever get, while

Infernal Machines is part

Glitterstomp, part The Sweet’s

Block Buster, but, like the overwhelming

bulk of Office Politics,

it’s wholly bewitching.

John Aizlewood



Kang Sang Woo, Claudia Pajewski

Carwyn Ellis

& Rio 18




What’s Welsh for “Cari ?

Most recently

spotted collaborating

with Edwyn

Collins, the


frontman spent early 2018

with The Pretenders, playing

and shopping for music in

South America. When Chrissie

Hynde suggested he translate

his love for samba and bossa

into his own album, he recruited

Giles Peterson and MOJO

favourites Alexandre Kassin

and Domenico Lancellotti, and

began commuting between

studios in Rio and Caernarfon.

The results deserve to be the

feelgood hit of summer 2019:

right from the ragga-cumbia

of opener Unman, with its surf

guitar and retro synths, it hits

the spot. His bandmates excelling

at updating tropicália on

their albums, it never feels

anything but authentic, a

groovy mix you imagine every

Carioca in Rio shimmying

through club land to. If you

don’t speak the language, the

fact that Ellis sings throughout

in Welsh only becomes

obvious when you read the

titles. In a word: lovely.

David Hutcheon




12 Little Spells


Grammy-winning jazz

polymath’s bewitching

seventh album.

Like her mentor and hero

Wayne Shorter (with whom

she’s writing an opera called

Iphigenia, due next year),

singer/bassist Esperanza


power: Jambinai’s

heavy metal mass.

Spalding has created her own

idiosyncratic musical universe.

Part of her unique vision is

finding new ways of harnessing

her creative urges, which

she did spectacularly in 2017

by creating an album called

Exposure live on social media

in 77 hours. This new project,

first available as a download

last year, presents a dozen

sonic incantations exploring

the healing capacity of music

and its effects on the human

body. The long-awaited physical

version contains four newlyrecorded

bonus tracks, which

help to confirm Spalding as

one of jazz’s cutting-edge

conceptualists. Blood is a

quirky ballad, while Hair finds

Spalding reciting a poem over

a fusionesque backing. Much

funkier is Joints, though it’s not

as compelling as the grandiose

prog-jazz closer, Shoulders.

Charles Waring

Jake Xerxes



Out Of Sight


A crack songfinder

reconsiders the folk c

A soulful

curator of


song, Jake

Xerxes Fussell

is one of those

rare artists who can transform

folklore scholarship into living,

breathing new music. On his

third and best solo album, the

North Carolina resident once

again delves into a collection

of old blues and folk songs

from the Southern states and

Ireland – drinking songs and

deckhand laments, fishmongers’

calls and cotton mill

rebel anthems – then remodels

them in his easy-going

image. A companionable

singer and unfussily virtuosic

guitarist, this time Fussell has

a full band to flesh out his

vision, providing front porch

grooves that carry the same

kind of woody resonance as

those of The Band. Tragic

ballads are given a good-time

swagger, ancient sing-alongs

lovingly remade, for one of

the most life-affirming and

transcendent Americana

albums in an age.

John Mulvey





Third outing for the Korean

post-rock traditionalists

is a triumph.

Having used their second

album to take their love of

Metallica as far as it could go,

the trio have become five

(adding vocals, drums and

bass to guitar plus traditional

bamboo oboe, fiddle and

zither) and, inspired by the

natural world, tried to forge

strength from the precarious,

impecunious life of full-time

musicians. Countless bands

can switch from quiet to loud

effectively; few do it with such

overwhelming power as Jambinai.

In The Woods, the symphonic

13-minute centrepiece

to ONDA, opens as a threnody

for the planet then erupts with

a crescendo of white noise. It’s

followed by Small Consolation,

which goes from prayer-like to

piledriver. The title track closes

the LP, using every trick in the

Jambinai playbook to conjure

up a deafening heavy metal

mass (in the religious sense).

David Hutcheon

Teodross Avery


After The Rain: A

Night For Coltrane


A Bay Area saxophoni

takes his own giant st

If much recent

jazz has been

remarkable for

its fierce contemporaneity,

the strengths

of this new live set are a little

different. From the moment

Avery’s superb quartet swing

into Blues Minor at full gas, the

energy and ambience is that

of a smoky early ’60s night at

the Village Vanguard – a time

and place where the parameters

of bop were radically,

relentlessly tested. Avery is an

academic but not a purist; his

resumé includes work with

Amy Winehouse and Lauryn

Hill. After The Rain, though, is a

fluent homage to his first hero,

Coltrane, and a passionate

exploration of new possibilities

still to be found in this most

sanctified of repertoires. It

takes an audacious player to

try and stamp his own spirit

on Pursuance, from A Love

Supreme, but Avery is up to

the challenge; a historical

re-enacter alive to his music’s

capacity for self-renewal.

John Mulvey

Teho Teardo


Grief Is The Thing

With Feathers


Italian composer scores anguish,

heartache and heaviosity.

THIS IS TEARDO’S second collaboration with Cillian Murphy and

Enda Walsh. His first, for the manic Keaton-esque stage-comedy,

Ballyturk, was a mix of autumnal foreboding and romantic

sweep. This is far darker. Based on Max Porter’s folkloric 2015

novella about a father and his two sons coming to terms with

death, the play, and the score, are externalisations of the father’s

inner grief. Murphy plays both the dad and the trickster crow

that visits him in times of stress and woe, and Teardo’s score

similarly inhabits different characters, through strings and

electronics, from the graceful, aching sadness and ghostly choir

that represents the family’s dead mother, to the dark scrape and

claw-scratch of bowed bass that voices the crow itself. Moving

with the emotional rise and fall of the novel, this is less a simple

soundtrack than a stand-alone sonic adaptation.

Guy Skornik




Label bosses Doug

Shipton and Andy

Votel continue to

fly their freak flag

for Alejandro

Jodorowsky with this soundtrack

to his disowned 1980 “family

film”. The movie might be a

rambling stinker but Skornik’s

cues are a winning mix of wibbly

Magma-rock, Ash Ra futurism

and romantic Fender Rhodes


Bernard Herrmann




Bernard Herrmann’s

massed strings

expressing the sour

romanticism and

neurotic hysteria of

Tippi Hedren’s lead character

(and his own personal

discontent) isn’t the most

soothing of soundtracks, but this

is an exceptionally gorgeous

gatefold reissue, all the film’s

cues collected on weighty

double vinyl, complete with

free poster, CD and facsimile

promo 7-inch.







Assembled with

the help of director

William Friedkin,

this deluxe triplevinyl

soundtrack to

his most vilified film is an

absolute treat, featuring

previously unreleased cuts from

The Germs and Willy DeVille, plus

pulsing ECM jazz from Ralph

Towner and Barre Phillips, and

the subterranean Clinton funk of

Parliament outcasts Mutiny.

Årabrot Speciale


Die Nibelungen


Performing live

at the Tromsø

International Film

Festival in 2016,

with Swedish singer

Karin Park, this expanded version

of the Norwegian avant-noise

outfit augment Fritz Lang’s

brooding 1924 adaptation of the

epic German poem, moving from

ghostly chorales and malevolent

drones into a closing 20 minutes

of explosions, machine guns(!)

and Sabbathmendous powerriffage.



Fire, walk with me:

the strange vision

of Flying Lotus.

Hearts of


Maverick Los Angeles producer/

composer Steven Ellison enlists

an all-star cast for his dark and

remarkable sixth album.

By Stevie Chick.

Flying Lotus




DISORIENTATION HAS long been a feature

of Flying Lotus’s music; not a bug, but rather

the result of his warping through genres like

he was travelling via wormhole, tapping deep

into the past while charting unexpected

futures. Often, the sheer riot of ideas within

his albums encouraged the listener to simply

surrender and revel in the thrill of the

onslaught. Yet there was also a suspicion that

‘more’ somehow amounted to less. Although

you could grab hold of flashes of brilliance

within these dense exercises, making sense

of the larger whole was a fool’s errand.

Lotus’s previous fulllength,

You’re Dead!, felt

much longer than its

36-minute duration.

Flamagra runs almost

twice that length, and is

certainly as dense,

complex and eclectic as its

predecessors. It’s also

Lotus’s most compellingly direct album.

He spent five years on it, and this slow-burn

gestation has given him time to artfully

assemble this blizzard of tracks, establishing

a newfound coherence.

The instrumentals veer off at inspired,

acute angles: the clavinet-led funk of Takashi,

like prime Stevie Wonder over broken beats;

Pilgrim Side-Eye imagining Herbie Hancock

soundtracking an 8-bit videogame; All Spies

offering swooning, oceanic electronica.

Elsewhere, however, the human element –

the emotional quotient – is more explicit than

before. Lotus pushes his stellar collaborators

in unexpected, remarkable directions. George

Clinton is employed not in his typical role of

lurid party-starter but as paranoid crooner,

revealing private shames and fears, growling

in agony: “The fire won’t stop burning.”

Anderson .Paak, meanwhile, is provoked

beyond the easy swagger of his recent work,

to somewhere darker and more vulnerable.

Darkness is the dominant theme on these

tracks. Witness the trippy,

profane Yellow Belly, with

Tierra Whack rhyming like

she crawled from the scuzzy

grooves of a Melvin Van

Peebles soundtrack. There’s

the Afro-American Icarus

fable of Denzel Curry’s

Black Balloons Reprise,

the gossamer melancholia of Thundercat’s

The Climb, and Land Of Honey where, over

suffocating, downcast synths, Solange sings of

falling from grace. And there’s the unsettling

Debbie Is Depressed, a billowing, Prince-ly

vignette, Lotus wailing from inside a sleeping

pill fog: “All the days just feel the same.”

It’s as if, six albums in, the broken-heart

submerged within Lotus’s music is finally

reaching the surface.

This mood anchors Flamagra’s excursions,

lending the album an emotional heft that

Lotus’s previous releases had hinted at, but

never realised so completely. The album feels

confessional, courageous: that disorienting

rush of ideas is still headspinning but firmly

grounded, with sense and substance, and

meanings to decipher. Yes, it can be bleak as

hell – this is an album that closes with a

pitched-down sample of a voice murmuring,

“Can’t think of anything to take the pain

away” – but Flamagra’s artistic triumphs are

sublimely uplifting.



Nate Ryan

C. Joynes & The

Furlong Bray


The Borametz Tree



Debut team-up between

Cambridge guitarist and

soundtrack artists.

From his first mid-noughties

recordings, which exhibited an

honest debt to Jack Rose and

Bert Jansch, Joynes’ sound

now incorporates everything

from West African and classical

Indian musics to more impressionistic

cut-up techniques.

Named after a fabled Asian

plant believed to grow sheep

as its fruit, this is a strange and

beautiful collection of hybrid

oddities, the result of a fiveyear

collaboration with fellow

catholic experimenters Daniel

Merrill, Nathaniel Mann and

Robin Alderton (AKA, Dead Rat

Orchestra). On Jacket Shines,

banjo blends with rattling

percussion and high-wire

drone, like a ‘70s typing pool

dropped into ‘30s Appalachia,

while The Vegetable Lamb Of

Tartary suggests a 14th century

English ship’s dance performed

at a Byzantine Court.

An incantatory history of the

acoustic guitar, as instrument

of devotion, dance and

lament, at times The Borametz

Tree also feels like a book of

incantations, spells for the

universal elixir of joy, conjured

up by a master alchemist.

Andrew Male



Sun Cycle/Elk Jam


The American Primitiv

guitar sound goes cos

For anyone

who’s blissed

out to an


Ryley Walker

jam, at the

point where folk and jazz fuse

into something psychedelic, a

whole world of underground

freak-out lies tantalisingly

within reach. Take Elkhorn, a

New York-based instrumental

guitar duo whose stealthy

productivity has, this month,

resulted in two albums – Sun

Cycle and Elk Jam. Sun Cycle is

the more composed, pastoral

set, but Elk Jam is fractionally

superior; an ecstatic tangle of

acoustic and electric guitars,

with the pair joined by fellow

avant-folk outrider Willie Lane,

and Walker’s drummer, Ryan

Jewell. The triple-guitar attack

can be head-spinning – at

times it sounds as if Sandy Bull

has sneaked into a late ‘60s

Grateful Dead session – but

Jewell brings energising forward

momentum, and the

improvisation never becomes

incoherent. The dividing line

between downhome roots

and astral liberation has rarely

seemed more permeable.

John Mulvey

Ese & The

Vooduu People


Up In Smoke



South London busker

channels the greats on

her full-length debut.

It’s a safe

bet that Ese


walked a singular


path in her

formative years, her south

London friends rolling their

eyes whenever she tried to

introduce them to Hendrix or

the Isleys. Having endured the

eye-rolling, however, and

road-tested her self-belief as a

busker, it’s no surprise that her

debut album – recorded in

two days – displays the sort of

swagger and confidence that

belie her inexperience. The

title track and Silver Spoon

suggest Jimi is her main man,

both as a writer and a guitarist

(the playing on the latter is

definitely inspired by Purple

Haze), but Where Did I Go

Wrong may be the key to how

significant Ese could be: its

many twists and turns suggest

Frankie Lee




Sade fronting the Isleys on a

Wailers cut… and then it segues

into Sly’s Family Affair. The

eye-rolling days are over.

David Hutcheon

Mountain Goats


In League

With Dragons


One of indie rock’s bes

even nerdier with the

Carolina troupe’s 16th

Here’s the

pitch: “There’s

a wizard at the

end of his

career, see?

And he has to

defend his land from marauders,

but he’s got help from his

friends, the dragons. With him,

of course, there’s baseball

great Doc Gooden seeking a

comeback, and an arms dealer

who loves country & western

music. Plus other things.” Who

but John Darnielle could have

a prayer of pulling it off? (No

one.) And, with sundry trusty

Goats and producer Owen

Pallett, he nearly does it. On

the title track, myriad elements

gel, as the wizard

awaits his reptile protector

over an earnest country shuffle,

complete with pedal steel.

That song and others, including

a frighteningly peaceful

death wish, Going Invisible 2,

are united by a sense of melancholy.

In the end, though,

we’re kept at arm’s length, as

Darnielle observes his characters

more than inhabits them.

But what a world.

Chris Nelson

Follow-up to 2015’s American Dreamer.

GIVEN THE attention and acclaim

of his last album, which Rolling Stone

named its debut of the year, you might

have thought that Lee would have spent

the last four years honing, perfecting and

worrying over the follow-up. But there’s

something casual and unpretentious

about this album. Just nine songs,

recorded live to tape with his band in a

makeshift studio in an empty house in

Stillwater, Minnesota. That Lee grew up

in this house might well account for the

nostalgic, dreamy retro feel of In The

Blue, or the slow, clapboard-churchy

piano on Ventura. With American

Dreamer, critics compared Lee to Bruce

Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Dylan and

Lucinda Williams. But here (especially

Only She Knows; Downtown Lights;

Broken Arrow; Blinds), he sounds

more Tom Petty, with the jangly

guitars and catchy songs about

smalltown life gone wrong.

Sylvie Simmons


Frankie Lee:

smalltown life

gone wrong.

Peter Perrett




Former Only Ones leader’s

renaissance continues.

Age, health and drug history

considered, Perrett’s 2017

comeback album How The

West Was Won was supremely

unlikely – as was the notion

that he’d be able to follow it

with another of similar quality.

But here it is. While never a

great singer or flamboyant

melodicist, Perrett has always

imbued his best songs with

presence and character. On

this taut, pithy set he offers

sardonic observations of

human folly, forseeing rallies

of “Stars and stripes and

swastikas” in Madison Square

Garden on the full throttle

War Plan Red, while Believe In

Nothing sees him retreating

to his bed of nails “never to

wake up”. But romance is still

in the air. “This situation seems

perverse/If I was young I’d call

it love,” he drawls on Once Is

Enough, while Heavenly Day

comes across like Lou Reed’s

Perfect Day minus the ironic

pay-off lines.

Mike Barnes

Mark Ronson


Late Night Feelings


After Uptown Funk, star

producer gets down.

With 2015’s Uptown Special,

Mark Ronson showcased his

innate ability to throw the

best kind of party, mixing

music and guests with the

right balance of sophistication

and incongruity. Late Night

Feelings, his fifth solo album,

exists in the chilly aftermath of

the good times, following

Robyn’s immaculate footsteps

through the dancefloor debris.

The title track, one of two

appearances from Lykke Li,

comes with damp carnival

echoes of The xx; Find U

Again, with Camila Cabello,

kicks off its disco heels before

slumping into maudlin pop.

There is a slight trophy cupboard

quality to Ronson’s

accumulation of contributors

– Alicia Keys on the splashy

defiance of Truth, Miley Cyrus

on Nothing Breaks Like A

Heart, Angel Olsen on True

Blue’s irradiated ’80s pop – but

the conception, if not the

feeling, is impeccable as ever.

Victoria Segal




Iron & Wine


Years To Burn


Old musical comrades

reconvene for new collaboration

– and world tour.

In 2005 Sam Beam and

Calexico teamed up on a

seven-song EP, In The Reins,

that led to a joint tour and

the promise of a full-length

album to follow. Fourteen

years later, here it is. Sort of.

At eight tracks – one a 1:52

instrumental – it’s not much

longer than its predecessor.

Recorded in Nashville, this

time there’s more of an

improvised, experimental feel:

see eight-minute The Bitter

Suite, with its shape-shifting

rhythms, languages and

harmonies. Once again, Beam

wrote most of the songs (just

one by Joey Burns and two

co-writes), but the imprint of

both acts is pretty equal.

Gentle country rocker Father

Mountain turns cinematic, and

Midnight Sun adds propulsive

drums and edgy guitar to the

gentle intimacy. All good, but

special awards for excellence

to trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela

and former Lambchop pedal

steel player Paul Niehaus.

Sylvie Simmons



Satis Factory


Bewitching follow up to

2017’s self-titled debut.


member/producer Randy Michael’s

Toco home studio, this second

album from the Atlanta three-piece

vibrates with a thrilling energy.

Singer Mattiel Brown is central: her

personal stories driven by a search

for meaning and her vocal

melodies rooted in pop

classicism are compelling.

But it’s the strange

controlled quaver of her

delivery that completely

mesmerises. When used as

an instrument, on ’Til The

Moment Of Death and

Long Division, it conveys

social disconnection with

an icy dispassion. Musically, tracks

range from bluesy guitar drones

indebted to Jack White – Brown

Erlend Apneseth

Trio with

Frode Haltli


Salika, Molika


Audacious agelessness

from the Norwegian

fiddle virtuoso.

Erlend Apneseth’s chosen

instrument is the Hardanger

fiddle, a form of violin first

used in 17th-century Norway.

Its defining element – shared

with the viola d’amore – is a set

of strings resonating beneath

those fingered on the neck;

what’s played is accompanied

by a sympathetic drone.

Usually it’s employed for

traditional music, where

Apneseth is a prize-winning

virtuoso, but in his trio he

pushes boundaries to create

an analogue to Jon Hassell’s

fourth world music by merging

the traditional with the

experimental. Over 32 minutes

with accordionist Frode Haltli,

on this third album the trio

seamlessly meld archive vocal

recordings, electronic texture,

percussion, the fiddle, guitar

and zither. On occasions the

ensemble edge towards

traditionalism, but the overall

result is seven compositions

straddling the past, present

Canteen terrific:

Mattiel Brown

fills up.

and future at the same time.

Kieron Tyler

Guadalupe Plata


Three Demons


Andalusian rockin’ blues

trio get peyote strange.

calls him her hero

and he took her

out as support on his US tour – to

spiky rockers with a touch of Patti

Smith, another of Brown’s mentors.

Can there

really be



left to do with


Invasion rock’n’roll? Somewhat

heroically, this daemonic

threesome from Úbeda in

Spain’s arid southern interior

oppose such defeatist logic.

Their first three records spliced

echoes of Pixies/Gun Club

howlin’ with indigenous folk

forms, but as they toured

widely abroad, one imagined

their jagged idiosyncrasies

might be smoothed off for a

more internationally palatable

sound. Far from it: Three

Demons is yet wilder, more

alien and untidy, swerving trad

rockabilly’s regulation grooves

and crescendos in search of an

often sinister and cactus-trippy

otherness. While guitarist

Perico’s reverb’d-up electric

summons the recently

departed Dick Dale’s ghost,

his vocals are frequently

non-verbal, delivered in snaketongued

whispers and throatal

glugs (see the weirdly loping

Corral Corral). Elsewhere,

there’s unique cultural depth

in both plaintive Chilean

folksong Lo Mataron, and an

unsettling Spanish-language

reading of Screamin’ Jay

Hawkins’ I Hear Voices.

Andrew Perry

Dylan LeBlanc




Nouveau American FMrocker’s

fourth studio set.

Louisiana singer-songwriter

Dylan LeBlanc has stories to

tell: raised in Muscle Shoals by

a country muso father, and

later packed off to rehab, he’s

recorded three albums so far,

in between opening for Bruce

Springsteen and George Ezra.

Only a couple of songs here,

including the charming Sand

And Stone, reference the

subtler Nashville stylings of his

last album, 2016’s Cautionary

Tale, or its 2012 predecessor,

Cast The Same Old Shadow.

Instead, Le Blanc’s latest

vignettes about relationship

turmoil, small-town life and

the plight of modern-day

America are pumped full of

jangling guitars and spectral,

‘80s-referencing keyboards.

The title track, Damned and

Bang Bang Bang’s arena rock

moves echo vintage Tom

Petty, The War On Drugs and

– whisper it – Reckless-era

Bryan Adams, with everything

underpinned by soaring

melodies and LeBlanc’s

pained, fragile voice. The big

screen really suits him.

Mark Blake

On the sophisticated girl groupstyled

Je Ne Me Connais Pas,

meanwhile, Brown sings in French

and sounds utterly beguiling.

Lois Wilson

Hania Rani




Gifted Polish team pla

belatedly strikes out a .

One half of

an orchestral


duo and a


arranger with

numerous Warsaw and Berlinbased

artists, 26-year-old

Hania Rani relied only on the

expressive potential of a grand

piano to essay the Icelandic

mountain-saluting Esja. Pretty,

cyclical right-hand figures

offset by rhythmic left-hand

ostinatos may not be the most

devastatingly original

compositional modus given

the style’s legion post-Nils

Frahm adopters, but Rani’s

iteration is refreshingly subtle

and, at times, ravishingly

mellifluous, proffering enough

hairpin turns to keep bank ad

banality at bay. Thus, the

poignantly burgeoning Eden

eventually collapses in on

itself, judiciously abjuring an

obvious cinematic crescendo,

while the sudden semitone

lifts that punctuate the briskly

arpeggiating Now, Run recall

Philip Glass’s Glassworks – an

under-heralded lodestar for

the current wave of minimalist

piano music, to which this

crisply recorded album is a

more than worthy addition.

David Sheppard

Nils Lofgren


Blue With Lou


US roots-rocker’s song

love-in with Lou Reed.

Nils Lofgren

and Lou Reed

co-wrote 13

songs together

in 1978; Reed


staying up for three days and

nights to write lyrics to all of

them. Three tracks appeared

on Reed’s The Bells; two on

Lofgren’s Nils album, and two

more on later Lofgren

releases. The rest have been

exhumed for this new studio

set. The pick of the Lou-less

numbers are Dear

Heartbreaker, a marching

homage to Tom Petty, and

the shuffling, Springsteen-lite

Pretty Soon. But the Reed/

Lofgren songs muscle their

way to the top of the pile.

Lyrically, Reed was hardly

playing against type. Attitude

City, Don’t Let Your Guard

Down and Cut Him Up are

reassuringly misanthropic,

but all parties peaked on Give,

where Nils and his co-vocalist,

Cindy Mizelle, recite the

cynical wordplay – “Keep your

balls refrigerated/You never

know who needs them most”

– over Lofgren’s sublime,

sputtering guitar lines. A long

time coming, but mostly

worth the wait.

Mark Blake





Of Swords




A third of Mountain Man

goes it alone.



Man’s 2010 and

2018 albums,



largely set music aside, except

in 2017 when her wobbling

relationship forced a creative

response. That rejoinder is

Dawnbreaker, ruminating on

the price of staying or leaving,

drawing from a well of

loneliness but resilience and

liberation too; from Mountain

Man’s Appalachian purity

(Feelings), country music’s

flatter plains (Easy) and

breezier folk rock (Fields). But

in every case, Sauser-Monnig

spins a gorgeously spare, frail

web, as if she and instrumental

allies Nick Sanborn (Sylvan

Esso) and Phil Cook

(Megafaun; Hiss Golden

Messenger) only pressed

‘record’ as dawn was breaking.

Point of fact: Sauser-Monnig’s

relationship ended before

Dawnbreaker was finished. As

she sings in Human, “You can’t

will a love to life/But you can

do the loving thing/Make like

a bird and fly.”

Martin Aston

Doug Seegers


A Story I Got To Tell


Country singer who to

Abba road.

Doug Seegers

is a 67-year-old



who, along the

way, worked

with Buddy Miller, became a

booze-fuelled dropout who

got lucky when a Swedish TV

crew tumbled to his talents on

a trip to Tennessee and hauled

him back to Stockholm, where

he topped the local charts.

What did they see in him?

Apart from that twang-tinged

voice, he’s a songwriter of

genuine talent, able to create

the kind of material that

Daughter Of

Swords: liberty

and resilience.


should see other Music City

residents queuing to cover his

songs. Additionally, he has a

knowing producer in Grammyaward

winner Joe Henry (AKA

Madonna’s brother-in-law)

who’s helped shape such

tracks as the cantina-cantata

Demon Seed, the tale of

redemption that is Give It

Away, plus the stomping

Rockabilly Bug. Despite the

quality of these originals

however, the standout track

is a memorable cover of

Johnny Rivers’ US Number 1,

Poor Side Of Town.

Fred Dellar

Chris Robinson



Servants Of The Sun


The former Black Crowe’s

“freak family” air studio

album number six.

They might shift the date back

four or five years, but the Chris

Robinson Brotherhood would

likely have some respect for

Homer Simpson’s notion that

“rock attained perfection in

1974”. This time out, they

dispense with acoustic

instruments, lacing their

earthy, possum-scaring guitars

with funky clavinet and

vintage synth leads that share

at least some DNA with Jan

Hammer’s fusion work (see

Some Earthly Delights and

Venus In Chrome). Though

Robinson’s limited lyrical

purview rarely moves beyond

“moths, dragonflies,

bumblebees”, the welltrodden

poetry of the road

and the inevitable woman

with silver rings on her fingers

(see The Chauffeur’s

Daughter), his soulful rasp,

when combined with the

Brotherhood’s easy, 200-gigsa-year

musicality, is hard to

resist. That vintage sci-fi-like

album title works nicely too,

Servants Of The Sun conjuring

some isolated clique of cosmic

country savants.

James McNair

Mark Mulcahy


The Gus


Sixth solo LP from insp

Ex-Miracle Legion-aire

Frontman of

’80s rockers

Miracle Legion

and widely

admired, Mark

Mulcahy is a

strange kettle of fish and so is

this, a series of short stories

about some weird, weird folks,

all told in his enraged, Tom

Verlaine-style whining sneer.

The surreal plays a major role.

On Wicked World, a guy taking

his dog for a walk is shot as he

steps out the door. It’s slow

and languorous, a barely-there

acoustic with bell-clear vocals

from Rain Phoenix as the

neighbour he was having an

affair with, and the distant

croon of sirens. Daisy Marie is

vindictive bubblegum pop,

and Later For the Box, a

laidback lo-fi ballad where the

recipient of a gift stares it out,

is insanely satisfying. Mr Bell,

the Trump supporter, growls

against harmonium and

hilariously ironic brass.

Mulcahy is a heavy-duty Randy

Newman for our times.

Glyn Brown



Vision & Revision


Brit folk luminaries ga to

celebrate world’s (alle )

oldest indie record lab

The subtitle

The First 80

Years Of Topic

Records may

be misleading.

This is not a

highlights compilation of the

label’s proud history (it did

that on its 70th birthday), but

an impressive homage from

some of the current folk

scene’s finest honouring the

label’s rich legacy. Many of

them – including Richard

Thompson, Oysterband, Sam

Lee, Chris Wood, Lisa Knapp

and Lankum – have never

previously recorded for Topic,

but acknowledge their debt

with striking new takes on

mostly familiar material. None

more so than Peggy Seeger

breathily interpreting Mike

Waterson’s brilliant song

Jack Frost and Martin

Simpson’s deliciously brutal

Beaulampkin; while Josienne

Clarke & Ben Walker offer

a sublime arrangement of

Banks Of The Sweet Primroses

and Lisa O’Neill applies

unnerving edge to As I Roved

Out. Multi-artist projects

often descend into selfcongratulatory


but this has a beating heart

full of love and conviction.

Colin Irwin

Naomi Bedford &

Paul Simmonds


Singing It All Back Home


Appalachian ballads

enthusiastically reclaimed.

NAOMI BEDFORD has been threatening to make an album this

good for a while. In company with The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s

Paul Simmonds – valuably augmented by producer/multiinstrumentalist

Ben Walker, Justin Currie, Rory McLeod, Ben

Paley and Lisa Knapp – she tackles, with compelling relish,

some of the great Appalachian ballads which originally

travelled from England and Scotland. Apart from anything else,

it gives us a very different vantage point on classics like Matty

Groves and Hangman, which bounds along at a cracking pace,

while the song selection throughout (The Rebel Soldier; A Rich

Irish Lady; I Must And Will Be Married; Sheffield Apprentice)

celebrates the music’s dramatic richness without descending

into pastiche or gimmicky imitation. A colourful melting

pot of Brit-folk and Americana, it sounds both authentic and

vital, with a great sense of fun to boot.

Eliza Carthy




We are so

conditioned to the


acts which Carthy is

mostly associated

with these days, it’s something

of a shock to hear her playing

completely solo – with sparing

contributions from Dave Delarre,

Ben Somers, Ben Seal and Jon

Boden (a superb unaccompanied

duet on Dream Of Napoleon),

and her dad. It’s her first album

of trad material for 14 years and

the spartan environment –

mostly recorded in her own

bedroom – reminds us with a jolt

what a vital singer and fiddle

player she still is.



The Great Irish



Dervish gather a

bunch of famous

guests for this

somewhat surreal

collection – Imelda

May singing Molly Malone, Steve

Earle’s Galway Shawl, Andrea

Corr’s She Moved Through The

Fair, Vince Gill’s Raglan Road and

Rhiannon Giddens’ The May

Morning New. Oddly enough,

they’re all blown out of the water

by the band’s own Cathy Jordan

singing Donal Og; Dervish offer

enough thrills not to need this

sort of frills.






The first album

in 14 years by the

influential flutedriven

band who

effectively opened

the door for wider acceptance of

purely instrumental folk music in

Britain. Virtuoso playing abounds

from flautists Brian Finnegan and

Sarah Allen, driven by the guitar

of Ed Boyd; but their crowning

glory is John Joe Kelly, the most

creative bodhran player on the

planet. Superb technique plus a

genuine feel and some stonking

tunes is a powerful recipe.

Rory McLeod




You know what

you’re getting

with Rory McLeod

– a roaring full-on

one-man band

bubbling over with scattergun

lyrics, big themes and

rampaging melodies. There’s

nothing left in the locker here,

with barnstorming harmonica,

guitar, trombone, footstomps

and improvised percussion.

Some cracking songs emerge

too – notably No Use For A Gun

and Galloway Girl – plus a couple

of live tracks, including a mighty

version of the trad song Berry

Fields O’Blair. McLeod wears his

heart on his sleeve, his collar, his

boots and his top hat too. CI



Bad Breeding




Disgusted Stevenage quartet

confront the machine on noisy,

nuclear, shitstem-bashing

third as up-to-speed anarchopunk

politics (Repossession;

Theatre Of Work; Tortured

Reality) brace choreographed

walls of sound. A pulse-racing

revolt into style. AC

Pip Blom




A dead cert for the 6Music

tea-time kitchen disco, Dutch

indie darling Blom hits all the

alt-rock pleasure centres:

jangly, whistle-able songs with

sultry VU vocals. Tight-wound

Buzzcocks riffs and Sleater-

Kinney choruses. Three more

from her later? Hope so. JB

The Catenary



Til The Morning


Rob Pursey and Amelia

Fletcher’s second set of deepconnection

duets has a simple,

directness that belies complex

instrumental arrangements.

Sixteen Again, a portrait song

of an emotionally adrift widow,

is a highlight. JB

Firefly Burning


Breathe Shallow


Third from the Tim Friese-

Greene-produced Brit quintet

whose audaciously thorny

arrangements, artful ensemble

playing and glassy singer Bea

Hankey, an acid-folk Kate Bush,

are easy to admire if not

always listen to. Forgotten’s

lullaby settings give respite. CP

Imperial Wax


Gastwerk Saboteurs


Ex-Fall brigade, plus spirited

new voice Sam Curran, put

lessons learned of speed, brawn,

twang and sludge into effect,

with relentless transmissions

of anger, frustration and other

volatile states (see Barely

Getting By’s apex of delirium).

MES would approve. IH

Johnny Hostile

& Jehnny Beth


XY Chelsea OST


Savages’ Jehnny Beth and

partner score Tim Hawkins’

film about Chelsea Manning’s

transition from military

prisoner to free woman in dark

Assault On Precinct 13-ish

instros. Jen sings the closing

hymn to liberty, Let It Out. JB

Kongo Dia





Multiple thrills on this spirited

London-based sextet’s second

outing, its title reflecting their

loose, loving approach to Afro

fusion, as interlocking

Congolese rhythms rub up

against reggae, Latin and hefty

horny jazz. A euphoric joy. AC

Lost Souls

Of Saturn


Lost Souls Of Saturn


Proper old-fashioned cerebral

techno epic with NY duo Seth

Troxler and Phil Moffa weaving

modal sax, tribal drums, bird

song, playground sounds et al

into their ambient space warp

and weft. Model 500 fans,

prepare for increased static. JB

Delilah Montagu


In Gold


Promising 21-year-old

Londoner cites The Smiths and

Bon Iver along with Joni as

influences. There’s a Canyonbaked

classicism to 7 Days Of

Rain, opening her debut EP.

While Temptation closes with

After The Goldrush piano and

romantic curiosity. JB

John Moore


It’s Hell Out There


Rock’s premier absinthe

importer reflects on murals of

Billy Fury, the death of Bowie

and teenage motorbikes to

mine the darkest poetic

melancholy – highlight: (Life Is

A Fucking) Fiasco. Sighs the

artist, “I am old enough now,

not to die young.” IH

Stay Free: The Story

Of The Clash


Spotify’s podcast series about “the only

band that matters” is now online via the

Spotify app. Warmly narrated by Chuck D,

it’s a high budget affair, telling the soup-tonuts

tale via a wealth of audio from rare US

and UK radio interviews, plus new

interviews with Palmolive from The Slits,

Don Letts, and Clash entourage members

Robin Banks and Johnny Green. The story

starts and finishes in chaos. Episode one,

Lost Boys, recalls the Notting Hill Carnival

riot witnessed by Joe Strummer and Paul

Simonon that ignited The Clash. Episode

eight, Straight To Hell W10, also ends in

disarray as an exhausted Joe loses his cool

on-stage at the US Festival in San

Bernardino, May 1983 – what would be the

final Clash gig with Mick Jones (“You don’t

understand, we’re nowhere!”). Jones’s

departure and the formation of BAD

provide a tense highlight as Paul tries to

make Don Letts take sides against the

perpetually late Jones (“you can’t

lay that on Don Letts”, says Don

Letts). As Chuck says, until

Strummer’s death in 2002,

“There never was a Clash reunion,

just Clash old-boy records”.


So bored: The Clash

down at the New York

waterfront, 1978.



Love & Other

Hopeless Things


Falkirk’s bedroom Bacharach,

David Scott, returns to provide

the final release for German

label Marina. Cue horns, piano,

guileless lyrics about beautiful

people, stars and sunsets.

Sweet as hell, but not to be

consumed in one sitting. CP



Together & Apart


Josienne Clarke and Samantha

Whates front this “acoustic

supergroup” whose magpie

moniker hints at stylistic

hoarding – folk, West Coast

pop, title track’s Eno-ish

ambience – with airy, sunny or

sepia vocal harmonies, but no

maniacal clacking. JB



Mark Kermode:

shining a light

on overlooked

modern music.


Photos: Scala Radio

The Big Score

Introducing , the new Leading the line-up of presenters is

award-winning broadcaster Simon Mayo,

home of adventurous music.

whose mid-morning show features celebrity

IT’S EASTER, and Mark Kermode is talking interviews and phone-ins interspersed with

about The Exorcist. An unsurprising fact in pieces by Bach, Grieg, and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

and of itself, given the 55-year-old’s undying Others include Edinburgh-based composer,

passion for the 1973 horror film, but context is Luci Holland, who explores fascinating, often

everything. The writer and broadcaster is experimental gaming soundtracks, and Alexis

hosting his weekly soundtracks show on Scala Ffrench, whose Sunday afternoon show takes

Radio and, as part of his regular focus on time out to focus on rebel composers who

overlooked scores by great composers, is used their music to carry political messages.

explaining the connection between Ennio However, Kermode’s show feels the most

Morricone’s gorgeous theme to John tailored to MOJO readers. A recent special

Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic and on the work of the former Pop Will Eat Itself

Lagrime di San Pietro, the haunting cycle of lead singer, Clint Mansell, highlighted his

Easter madrigals by Renaissance composer, emotional and sonic range.

Orlande de Lassus.

Towards the end of Kermode’s Easter

Such impressive, intelligent segues happen show, he reads an email from a listener who

regularly on Kermode’s two-hour Saturday thanks him for playing a track from Angelo

afternoon show, which uses the remit of a Badalamenti’s score to David Lynch’s still

soundtracks showcase to explore everything underrated 1992 masterpiece, Twin Peaks:

from Broadway melodies and ’70s classics to Fire Walk With Me, then asks him to play a

modern composers such as Tatiana Mikova, track from another overlooked work, James

Lesley Barber, Johan Söderqvist and Javier Newton Howard’s score to Lawrence


Kasdan’s 1991 film, Grand Canyon.

Kermode’s show is just one of the many It’s a lovely moment; two movie nerds

highlights of Scala Radio, the new digital radio sharing their love of modern composers on

station, launched on March 4, that aims to be a national radio, and introducing us to

new home for listeners who have discovered incredible music we might have overlooked.

the modern world of classical and film music “It’s what I love about this show,” says

through current artists such as Nils Frahm, Kermode, and he’s right.

Ólafur Arnalds, and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Listen to Mark Kermode Saturdays 1-3pm