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Baker's Dozen

Bombarded With Asteroids: Richard Hawley's Favourite Albums
Sharon O'Connell , February 17th, 2016 10:51

Before he heads off on a tour of the UK tomorrow, the Sheffield singer-songwriter and quiffsman takes Sharon O'Connell through the rock & roll, blues and rockabilly albums that shaped his early listening

Photograph courtesy of Steve Gullick

You might be tempted to call Richard Hawley an elder statesman, were it not for his bracing irreverence, his salty language and the fact that lounging about on laurels is absolutely not his way. The Sheffield singer-songwriter, who turned 49 last month, arguably came late to success, having served time, if not anonymously, then not exactly in the spotlight, first as guitarist with darkly rowdy, pre-millennial Britrockers Longpigs, then as a touring member of Pulp.

Telling stories through music was something Hawley had done for a long time (he formed his first band, Treebound Story, while still at school) before his initial recordings saw the light of day, on a self-titled mini-album in 2001. If there were hints then of the easy intimacy and spangled romance to follow, there was very little of the soulful scope and none of the timeless arrangements that subsequently bagged him two Mercury prize nominations and one Brit nomination. But Hawley's expression has always been as much about the grit in the pearl as its lustre, and deeply rooted in the particulars of (local) place and people. It's easy to understand why similarly keen, wry observers of small-scale human drama (and fellow Sheffielders) Arctic Monkeys were moved to quip, "Someone call 999, Richard Hawley's been robbed" in their acceptance speech, after his breakthrough album, Cole's Corner lost out to their debut at the 2006 Mercury awards.

Hawley's youthful interests were encouraged by an all singing-and-playing extended family. His father was one of three professional musicians in the clan and played with the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and Memphis Slim on their '60s UK tours. He backed John Lee Hooker when he was just 19. Hawley junior's musical enthusiasms (and he is hugely, entertainingly enthusiastic) – for the Sun and Chess rosters, especially – are signalled by his sideburns, sleek quiff and tender croon, but although early rock & roll, the blues, R&B and rockabilly are in Hawley's blood, he's no revivalist. "Apart from my dad and mum and my aunts and grandparents," Hawley tells tQ, "this was the first music I encountered. I know my dad was dead keen for me to get into it, but he never shoved anything down my throat. It was always up to me and I embraced it with both legs, both arms and 150 fingers." He certainly did that, and one visit in particular with his father to a closing-down sale at Bradley's record shop in Sheffield in the summer of 1977 is etched deeply and fondly in his memory.

But the man's knowledge and love range wide and deep, as his Baker's Dozen selection shows – from Bo Diddley to Syd Barrett, Elvis to 13th Floor Elevators. Here, Richard Hawley reveals which records can move him to tears and which make him want "to burn a village".

Hollow Meadows is out now on Parlophone. Richard Hawley begins a UK tour tomorrow at Baths Hall in Scunthorpe; for full details and tickets, head here. Click on his image below to begin scrolling through Richard's choices, which run in no particular order

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