Rebellious Jukebox

Source: Melody Maker
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) Melody Maker

Shane MacGowan, in a slight break with established form, on the music that changed his life. “I couldn’t just name 12 songs”, he agonises . . .

1) TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY IRISH MUSIC: “There’s loads of people l’ve left out, but especially Carolan, who is like the Irish Mozart, from the 18th century, absolute genius. His music’s still played in Ireland today, passed down by ear. The Chieftains and The Dubliners have recorded his stuff. Also … just too many. Christy Moore, Planxty, Sweeney’s Man, Joe Dolan, Big Tom & The Mainliners, The Fureys, Maggie Barry. It did feel weird at first hearing Christy doing one of my songs, yeah, but I like the way he does them. I just think it’s nice now. With the contemporary stuff, Thin Lizzy and Van Morrison were both really big influences on me, respecially Phil Lynott’s song writing, and I really dug The Undertones. Nowadays, I like Scary Eire and Therapy?, but there’s loads of others. There is something about Irish music. Always writes great songs, great melodies, and his lyrics … what can you say? Brilliant, yeah. It’s a raw engergy, it hits you in the heart and in the gut and the feel. It bypasses you intellect. It’s emotional music. It’s got soul, basically.”

2) JIMI HENDRIX: “Childhood hero, and the guy that really got me into hard rock. I remember the first time I saw him on telly, doing ‘Hey Joe’ on ‘Ready Steady Go’, thinking, yeah this guy is great. An then he came out with that riff from ‘Purple Haze’, which just blew my head completely. It was the whole thing, really, you can’t detach the persona from the music. He made that guitar speak. He was also a great lyricist, but people don’t remember that so much. I never got to see him live, unfortunately. He died when I was 12. I almost got to the Isle Of Wight festival, though.”

3) LOU REED: “A really big influence. I couldn’t pin down one record. Anything off the first Velvet’s album, I suppose, and I know he’s had his ups and downs, but I love everything he’s done. He’s still got it. It’s a shame The Pogues never recorded that version of ‘White Light White Heat’, yeah. We used to encore with it regularly. We did the feedback with a banjo, you know.”

4) TOM WAITS: “Same thing, really: great lyrics. great melodies, and he’s never afraid to try something different. Some of his old songs are really funny, some are really tragic, and some are both. That’s a hard thing to do.”

5) THE SEX PISTOLS: “Definitely the best rock’ n’ roll band of all time. The whole thing, you know, just brilliant, and Rotten’s lyrics were the cherry on the cake. They really did just sum up what being a teenager was like in the late Seventies. They didn’t play that many times. I really dug the first couple of Public Image albums as well. And the live one. And ‘Flowers Of Romance’. And that one with ‘Rise’ on it, that was another classic. Yeah, I’m a fan. Great voice. But I think a lot of the time he’s just taking the piss. Which is fair enough. The music industry deserves to have the piss taken out of it.”

6) BEBOP: “Charlie Parker, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Bud Powell, etcetera, etcetera. Again, it hits you feet and in the gut and just carries you along. They’re talking with their instruments. I particularly love jazz drumming, the way it can carry a song by itself.”

7) BLACK R&B: “And rock’n’roll, swing, doo-wop, etcetera. Everything from Little Walter to Lionel Hampton, all the jump blues bands. They were playing rock’n’roll but it only got called that when white people started playing it. That’s why I’m making the distinction here, but I really don’t like doing it. Some of this stuff can be hard to find, yeah, but every so often I’ll go around the collectors’ shops and see what I can pick up. I’m not really one of those people who thinks that part of it’s half the fun, no. It’s fun if you find what you’re after and incredibly frustrating if you don’t. I could go on forever listing this stuff, but a particular one is …”

8) SAM COOKE: “One of my all-time favourites, and anything…”

9) LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY: “… has anything to do with is great. I love reggae. Roots reggae, dub reggae, right back to the early days. I like good reggae, you know what I mean? And I don’t like bad reggae. And Lee Perry has generally produced good reggae for 30 years, longer even. He’s still going, still putting out really good stuff.”

10) BO DIDDLEY: “My favourite black rock’n’roller. Sure, yeah, I’d still go and see him. Bo Diddley is Bo Diddley. You never know what he’s going to come out with. Sometimes he comes out and he’s doing hard rock with lots of guitar solos and stuff, and sometimes he comes out and does the straight blues kind of thing. Whatever he chooses to do is fine with me, but what I really like is the classic records that he made in the Fifties and Sixties.”

11) WHITE ROCK’N’ROLL: “Covering every f***ing thing from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Pink Fairies to Led Zeppelin to Cream, to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash. Stooges, The New York Dolls, all that. I don’t know. Thousands. I just like music. And the music I like is … it’s exciting, you know, it moves you. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s sincere, it’s soulful.”.

12) THAI BEAT: “Thai pop music. Like Bhangra, the way they use traditional Indian music and electrify it, you know, turn it into beat music. In Thailand, there’s this huge industry, hundreds of artists. I’ve been to Thailand a lot of times and really got into it. Good Thai pop music has a really recognisable, very specific beat. It’s as recognisable as the beat you get in Indian film music. It’s slightly similar, in fact, but it’s not the same. I think it could catch on here if somebody marketed it over here, yeah. It’d catch on in the clubs easily. If I had the bread, I’d set up a label.”

(With special thanks to the staff of Filthy MacNasty’s, lslington, for their kindness, courtesy and hospitality)