The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Thirsty For Song: James Johnston Of Gallon Drunk's Favourite LPs
Julian Marszalek , November 16th, 2016 09:31

As well as being the lynchpin of suited rock howlers Gallon Drunk, James Johnston has played with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey - but we're not going to hold the fact that he's picked both of them for his Baker's Dozen against him. Portrait by Steve Gullick.

Lou_1479226226_resize_460x400

Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
When I was growing up, I had White Light White Heat, and my brother had the first Velvets album. They were so mysterious, there were so few photos of them, and the covers didn't really tell you much either. As with a lot of the records in this list they were windows into another world, and I'd play along to 'Sister Ray' in my bedroom when I was learning the guitar.

Metal Machine Music seems an odd choice for a Lou Reed solo record, rather than say, Street Hassle, which is a mind-blowingly brilliant record. Tracks like 'Leave Me Alone' are just so good, but in a way Metal Machine Music is a distilled version of what I so love sonically about the Velvets: the cover, the sheer attitude of the whole thing.

But the real reason I mentioned this one is because it takes me back to a very specific place. I used to have trouble sleeping, and when I'd moved up to London in the mid-80s and was living in a bedsit in Warwick Road in Earl's Court I'd try to go to sleep listening to records, and this and Eskimo by The Residents playing at low volume were the ones that worked best. Luckily I had a record player that turned itself off at the end of the side. That, and cassette recordings of my mum's hoover, and occasionally a cassette of the Alien soundtrack.

The noise of the record in some way reminded me of when I was in a choir as a child, this gorgeous texture, hearing the organ and voices bouncing around in a world of natural reverb. It has that same beautiful ethereal sound, as does the first Suicide album. Like a thousand screaming voices, or Ligeti's music that's used in 2001. The opening sound when you drop the needle, and that sense of, 'here we go', off on a journey.

Weirdly comforting, and a reminder of how screwy you can go left to your own devices. Me, not him!


If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.