The former Go-Between on the records that lit his candle: “Everything changed at that moment”
I was 16 when this came out and I’d lived a fairly sheltered life, so it felt like a very exotic record. It’s also a great collection of songs: “Song For Europe”, “Serenade” and “Mother Of Pearl”, which is one of my all-time favourites. There’s still a lingering sense of experimentation from the first two albums – Eno’s ghost is in there somewhere – but it’s a little more rock-y, the production is a lot better. It was just a very exciting record. I saw them live in Brisbane in 1974, my first ever concert. There were people dressed in ’30s clothes, women in furs, guys in fedoras. The band started playing and Ferry did this sort of cha-cha dance as an intro. I really fell for that.
Tonight’s The Night
It’s almost the complete opposite of Roxy Music: it’s denim and rootsy where Roxy are fabricated and arch. But it’s a record I’ve gone back to a lot. It’s very woozy, very floaty; ramshackle, but with musicians who know what they’re doing. I like that he’s singing off the microphone – you can hear him swaying back and forward as he’s looking down at his guitar or turning to see what someone else is doing. It’s a great mood. You imagine it’s very late at night and the band has played past their peak. All the songs sound like the most sparkling take was three or four takes back, which I really like ’cause people don’t do that.
As the Ramones made more albums they became a rock’n’roll band and fell into the system, but when that first album came out in ‘76 it sounded more like an art project, it was very conceptual. The songs were really simple, there were no lead breaks. It was very fast compared to Led Zeppelin or The Stones, and the lyrics were funny. By this time I was playing guitar in a garage band, and this record just wiped the slate clean. Everything changed at that moment, and I lost my fear of songwriting. When I heard <Hunky Dory> or <Blood On The Tracks>, I thought, “I couldn’t do that”. But the Ramones, I could get there. So it’s a big one.
PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
PAISLEY PARK/WARNER BROS, 1986
Back then, everyone that was on the radio – Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson – was making very loud, dense, thundering music; quite po-faced, in a way. Whereas Prince was in the mainstream having hits, but he was very witty and mischievous, which appealed to me. I loved the dancing, the singing, the look on his face, the production of his records, the songwriting, all the way from Purple Rain to Sign O’ The Times. Stylistically, he’d be all over the shop – on Parade you’ve got “Kiss” and “Christopher Tracy’s Parade” and “Boys And Girls”. Every trip was very different because he was so talented. But because he was at his peak, wherever he went, he was hitting it.
Old No. 1
This record came out in 1975 but I didn’t really appreciate it until 1987/88. The songwriting is very literate and it’s got a warm, beautiful feeling to it. It’s like the Astral Weeks of country music – it just <swims>. For anyone who’s not sure about country, this would be a good place to start. If you like Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, you’ll like this – it’s of that standard. I didn’t have time for Guy Clark when I was 19 but I came back to him in my early thirties and it knocked me out. The influence on me was fairly instantaneous, and I was happy because I didn’t want to continue making rock records at that time.
THIS WAY UP, 1993
This record replenished me. I was in a complete hole with my songwriting, my career was going nowhere, and I found this record very liberating. It broke many rules. It could have been your standard 10-song classic, but all the instrumentals and the spoken word passages give you a far bigger and more interesting picture. I’d lived on the breadline in London with The Go-Betweens, so I knew this London they were singing about – I knew about sitting in the pub, counting the cigarettes as you smoked them. But the majesty of their sound gives that world a sort of glamour. The instrumentation is really wonderful and inventive.
Dig Me Out
KILL ROCK STARS, 1997
Sleater-Kinney were the first rock band in a long time that I found totally convincing. <Dig Me Out> jolted me, in a really good way. The songwriting was strong, the lyrics were cutting and aggressive, and the guitar riffs were fantastic. I love three-pieces because everyone’s gotta be firing, there’s no-one to weld it all together. And I like that it came from the Pacific Northwest. If it was coming from LA or London or New York, it would be more conceptualised and jaded, but the fact that it came from far away is something else I can relate to, coming from Brisbane. I could tell that it was from a corner.
I have a theory: there’s three adventurous New York pop bands and they’re all linked – The Lovin’ Spoonful, Talking Heads and Vampire Weekend. I heard “Oxford Comma” first and I was totally taken with it. The songwriting was just so hooky and the production was incredible, but
it wasn’t as if they’d gone into a $200,000 studio with a big producer. There was a homemade feel to it, which I loved. There was something organic about what they were doing and it sounded really fresh. As a songwriter, it really took me back to a love of pop. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get more melodic and up the tempos!’ And it still stands up, it’s wonderful.
Robert Forster’s The Candle And The Flame is out now on Tapete