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Baker's Dozen

How Was It For You? Tim Booth Of James' Favourite Albums
John Freeman , March 31st, 2016 08:03

After the release of James' Girl At The End Of The World, lead singer Tim Booth tells John Freeman about clandestine childhood listening and the redemptive powers of Iggy Pop in choosing the LPs that "saved his life"

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Wire – Pink Flag
After Patti, I sold all my record collection because I felt I couldn't have any music around me that didn't do something to me like Horses did. For about six months, I had no other records, except Lou Reed's Berlin as I felt that was comparably powerful and emotive.

After those six months, punk started. I thought punk was fun and it reached the anger in me that needed to come out. I had been sent away to school; being sent to a boarding school was like being sent away to prison by parents who apparently loved you. So, I had a lot of anger and distress at this strange turn of events and I started going to punk gigs.

The first gig I organised to see was the White Riot tour with The Jam, Buzzcocks, Subway Sect and The Slits. It turned into a bit of a riot and we were these schoolboys in our uniforms with one teacher to chaperone us, and suddenly chairs and tables were flying through the air. After that, I was banned from organising any more trips to punk gigs.

So, even though I was banned, I decided to get the school magazine to employ me as a journalist. I would try to interview the first local punk band that came down to Shrewsbury. That happened to be Wire, who were a fascinating band. I think Pink Flag is one of the only punk albums that has stood the test of time. It is a remarkable piece of music. There are songs that last 45 seconds and others that last two or three minutes. It is quite a feat to pull off a 45-second song and make it work.

Wire were wonderful to interview – intelligent and articulate – and their music was brutal and yet humorous at the same time, which was a very odd thing for punk. To call an album Pink Flag, after the label that the Nazis put on gay people in the camps, was an incredibly brave thing to do in such homophobic times. Punk, although liberating in many aspects, was pretty homophobic until Tom Robinson came along and confronted it directly.

Pink Flag was a miracle of creativity in these short, harsh little songs. Even to this day, when I listen to it, I think it is a masterpiece. I think it would have influenced a band like Pixies. I don't know if Pixies ever heard Wire, but I would be very surprised if they hadn't.


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