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Baker's Dozen

The Golden Section: John Foxx's Favourite Albums
John Foxx , October 3rd, 2013 04:16

The electronics pioneer pens his own Baker's Dozen and gives us a slightly different twist on the 13 favourites formula

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The Beatles - Revolver
I was in an all-night art school party in Coppull, Lancashire. One of the revered second-year students brought in a copy of Revolver – new Beatles record, just released. We sat around and played it all, as one did in those days, listening to messages from another planet, soon to be our own. The local copper came in off his beat and settled down for a couple of drinks. All the beautifully crafted songs floated by in 4D - then, right at the end, we heard ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, and that was it - forget the rest. We played that one all night, time after time.

It wasn’t like anything else we’d ever heard, but somehow seemed instantly recognizable. Sure, the words were a bit suspect, but the music, the sound - organic electricity, disintegrated transmissions, lost radio stations, Catholic/Buddhist mass from a parallel universe, what being stoned ought to be like - weightless, timeless, revelation, moving over luminous new landscapes in serene velocity. It communicated, innovated, infiltrated, fascinated, elevated - it was a road map for the future.

I realised much later that it contained a basic kit of almost everything I’d need to make music for the rest of my life - drones, chants, drum loops, bass beats, random sounds, reversed tapes, vérité recordings - and best of all it sounded nothing like the blues or american rock & roll. Much as I loved all this, I felt it was way out of my experience. You could admire it, but not imitate it without feeling a bit daft. So this record was also a great liberation in that sense, too. Another point to make about this track is it is impossible music – music you could never play live. It was a creation of the recording studio, and that was also liberating and revolutionary. As an art student I was becoming aware of that aspect of studio work, and loved it – all those possibilities of choice in the combination of inspired, momentary gestures, even accidents, with incremental, finely-judged work.

Much later, I read how George Martin had literally thrown in the random tapes, noises and reversed sounds after being engaged by new ideas from Stockhausen, Schaeffer and others making the new musique concrète. Martin was a sonic genius right up there with Lee Perry and Conny Plank. In that single move, before anyone else, he used tape as a music-making medium as well as a recording medium – a shift that laid open an entire new universe in popular (or any) music. He changed the future of recording, as well as the sound and the possibilities of popular music, in that moment.

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Oct 3, 2013 9:13am

Hm, the first two-thirds of the list is a bit too MOJO-reader classic albums predictable, but it picks up after NEU! - and the Shadows selection is a genuine curve ball, with an interesting view on their music. But credit where it's due, well written and intelligent thoughts on each selection.

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Daveid P
Oct 3, 2013 1:52pm

the first version of Ultravox... and for some of us the only version..

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Sue in Lincoln
Oct 3, 2013 8:34pm

Saw John Foxx and Ultravox in 1977 - when I listen and read his choices I can see where some of his influences come from - especially the Beatles Tomorrow never comes - which I've just listened to for the first time on his recommendation.

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Sue in Lincoln
Oct 3, 2013 8:37pm

In reply to Sue in Lincoln:

Tomorrow never Knows - now I know!

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Oct 3, 2013 9:51pm

FFS, it wasn't George Martin who was "engaged by new ideas from Stockhausen, Schaeffer and others making the new musique concrète." It was Paul McCartney. Jesus and people wonder why he's so defensive. The tape loops were McCartney's. The drum pattern on Tomorrow Never Knows? McCartney's.

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Oct 4, 2013 1:12am

In reply to caonai:

Yep, the Shadows disc makes a nice break from an all-too-familiar sort of musical biography. I like the connection he makes with Kraftwerk (Michael Rother's 'Katzenmusic' and 'Fernwaerme' make it explicit).

Love those classic-era Shadows sides, and that cover is fab.

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Steven Davey
Oct 4, 2013 5:28pm

And Lou's Walk on the Wild Side was lifted from the Nelson Algren lesbo exploitation novel/1962 Lawrence Harvey/Jane Fonda/Capucine flick.

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Oct 4, 2013 8:39pm

nice list, a lil' obvious outside of the shadows BUT...would this be the 'oh, so ordinary' in 1977, when ultravox released his first? i don't think so...anyway, it's great to discover that mr. foxx talent in prose match his one on lyrics. a fun ride.

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Paul K in Brooklyn
Oct 5, 2013 12:45am

great selection and personalized connections - I'd write more and possibly gushingly so but I Can't Stay Long (says it all really)

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Jim Marshall
Oct 12, 2013 6:55pm

A well written and thoughtful journey - Although I have seen both the Shadows and Kraftwerk live the connections between them completely passed me by. John Foxx makes a convincing and fascinating case.

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Oct 12, 2013 7:37pm

"Kept it in a drawer. Still got it. Evidence." Tremendous.... I love these Bakers Dozen selections and really enjoyed John Foxxes's making of connections. How about getting him to complete his initial list of 40 or so?

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Acre's Bludgeon
Oct 15, 2013 4:04pm

I have never got very excited by John Foxx's music and now I know why. Because he missed his vocation; this is some of the best music journalism I've ever read. I love it when cool people like uncool music and The Shadows is as uncool as it gets. His other choices are faultless and I don't think there's anything wrong with being Mojo-predictable. There's a reason that people rate those Dylan, Beatles & Velvets albums. And that's because they are awesome cultural pinnacles. I'm betting that Mr Foxx was into that stuff when Mojo's journalists were bopping to the Bay City Rollers. Write a book, John. I'd read it.

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Nov 2, 2013 5:44pm

Hope John writes more about music. Puts most music "writers" to shame.

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Sep 27, 2014 1:18pm

What a great top ten! All of them are good, and at least half of them would be in my top ten too.

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Tony Barnes
Feb 6, 2015 12:06am


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Jul 30, 2015 5:28pm

Right after reading some of your articles, I plan to put it both on my Google Reader & page.

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Jun 2, 2016 1:50am

Just discovered this today. I care less about his choices and more about how eloquently and succinctly he expresses his adoration for these records (his piece on Highway 61 Revisited is especially good). Love to hear how someone who has devoted himself to music sees others. Well done.

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