Roll With It: Sir Bradley Wiggins On His Life In Music
, October 10th, 2013 04:46
Luke Turner was unable to convince Sir Bradley Wiggins that Kraftwerk were synth-wielding mods, but here the Tour De France and Olympic cycling champion talks about his love of music, and how Liam Gallagher inspired him in his youth
The first album I ever loved was The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead. The opening seconds of the opening track, I fell in love with it. I was probably about ten years old, and it was a good few years after it had been released, I think I got it from a car boot on vinyl. I don't think they've ever been able to exist individually, none of them have been as good as they were together. Morrissey's lyrics, Marr's guitar, Rourkey, that's why they were the best band in the world. I wasn't an obsessive Smiths fan at the time, I just liked the music, but in latter years as I've got older, much more so. I was more of an Oasis fan during my teens, since '94. They were always talking about their inspirations, Weller and The Smiths, so I was like 'yeah I remember, I like The Smiths, what was it about The Smiths?' I'm fascinated by Morrissey to this day, and I can't listen to him all the time, I struggle to get my head around some of the stuff he sings about, it's quite depressive and morbid, and I really have to be in the mood for him. But then I go through phases when I listen to him all the time, and try and dissect what he's saying. I find it does that to you, it's not easy listening. It's a bit like Joy Division, it's intense, there are a lot of sub meanings, and it's quite tricky in places.
I first heard Oasis on The Word, when they played 'Supersonic'. I took the confidence from Oasis directly into cycling, the way Liam was on stage, the swagger, it inspired me. We'd drive all over the country to races, and I'd be listening to Oasis, I took that onto the bike with me, 'Rock & Roll Star'... I would listen to The Prodigy too, or Kiss FM. Norman Jay had a set on there, I used to record it on cassette and just listen to that radio show, and tape over and tape over. I didn't have money back then to go and buy ten LPs in Our Price, so I'd tend to record it off the radio. I used to use music for motivation then, though less now. It certainly helped me get into cycling - everyone finds inspiration and confidence from things, and for me it was music. As a 14-year-old there were no role models at school, and I definitely had more musical heroes than sportsmen. You'd hear stories about the Gallaghers coming from Burnage and coming from nothing, almost, so you felt like they were one of you. I liked that about it.
I think culture has changed in this country now, for your working classes now, youth culture has changed, and it's become a bit of a problem. Kids always got into bother, whereas kids would find a guitar and form a band... there's probably untold talent somewhere out in these places that'll never be discovered. With the lack of sportsmen or whoever coming through from that background, there's no-one to inspire the next generation, like Oasis being inspired by The Smiths or Stone Roses. If you have success on the track, it breeds more success, and if that stops... it's the same pretty much with the bands.
Oasis were always singing about getting up from where you are and becoming better, they made you confident that you could go and do other things. My teachers didn't know I was cycling, I would just not turn up to school. They'd be saying "You need to come and get your GCSEs, you'll be leaving school in three years". I was "Nah, you're alright, I know what I'm going to do". That attitude I took with me was inspired by their music, and the way they were in interviews at the time. My whole generation grew up with that, and everyone started growing their hair long like Liam, wearing those big parkas with furry hoods, cagoules, or wearing those England Umbro training shirts like he did at Maine Road. Oasis started nodding to mod culture, but at first Liam just dressed like everybody who went to watch football matches on a Saturday. They both did. You realised you were one of them already, because I used to go and watch football every Saturday with my mates, and everyone on the terraces, you all dressed the same. Without thinking about it at the time, you were part of a gang. Which was the mod culture then, not cliché mod with scooters and parkas, but you were part it it without really realising it, because the mod thing evolved into terrace-wear. Oasis just flagged all that up really, and it became mainstream. They started hailing Paul Weller as the Modfather, and when I was 13... you're really influenced at that age, and I was part of all that. It was an exciting time.
When I was a kid I didn't have the internet, Twitter, iTunes, so I only found music through the NME and Our Price. The NME only ever reported on the stuff they liked, so I'd never hear about the underground bands like you would now. I remember in 1990 New Order did 'World In Motion' for the England World Cup team, and I bought that and liked it, and read in NME an article saying 'since their Joy Division days...' and wondering what this Joy Division was. That's when I started getting into them. It's a long way from 'World In Motion' to 'Dead Souls'. I was fascinated by the stories of a lot of those bands, the Joy Divisions and The Smiths, I was fascinated by how they got together, that was a huge interest to me.
I started playing guitar when I was a kid. Like anything really, you're useless when you start, and I'm self-taught - I almost like them more as objects now, I hang them on the wall and they look brilliant. There are similarities in the aesthetics of guitars and bikes, especially the vintage guitars, the way they were in the 60s, and not necessarily the modern-day carbon bikes but some of the way the old welded bikes were put together, there was a lot of craftsmanship in those, and that's what I like. That classic design has stood the test of time, same with the clothes, Rapha and all of that.
If my house was burning down I'd take my guitars over anything sportswise. Playing guitar with Paul Weller was the best thing I did all last year, without doubt, better than the Olympics, just because it was something I never expected or imagined I'd do. I always get asked to play guitar with other people, but I think I'll leave that to the experts.