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Baker's Dozen

Perfect 13: Paul Heaton's Favourite Albums
Adrian Lobb , August 16th, 2017 07:30

Paul Heaton ex of the Housemartins and Beautiful South guides Adrian Lobb through 13 favourite albums - there's a lot of soul in there, but which ones did he nick?

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Al Green - Spotlight On
There was a period when it seemed like I was only really listening to this record. I didn't have a large record collection when I was listening to this. It was a double album, I bought it in Hull in about 1983, and I listened to all the songs on it before going back to buy all the albums they came from and all his future albums.

I have about 30 Al Green vinyls upstairs. I bumped into somebody in a record shop in Scarborough, while buying some smoother soul, Stylistics or something, and he told me if I liked them, I would love Al Green. He gave me a very rare copy (he didn't know it was rare, but it actually has his name spelled Al Greene on the single). I wasn't bowled over, but this album really got me into him.

Every song I liked, although his cover of 'Oh, Pretty Woman', wasn't great. But I loved 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart', 'Schooldays', 'Let's Stay Together'. So I got The Bell album and all his religious albums after that – Chief In Time, the stuff he did with his pentecostal choir.

I remember watching a programme about him. We didn't have a video, so I recorded it on a cassette recorder on top of the telly, and for years I listened to that as well. I was totally immersed in him and he was a big influence on my singing style at the time. I would never go near anyone like Solomon Burke, but I taught myself falsetto connected to Al Green and a few of the higher singers, like Claude Jeter from The Swan Silvertones and Robert Williams from the Gospel Keynotes. People like that who would sing high and expressively. Al Green was leaving a lot of gaps in his songs, trailling off on notes, which for me he had quite a lot of country inflections. We had a song called 'Drop Down Dead', which was the b-side of the first Housemartins single and we'd start our sets with it. It would be played on the cymbals, just Hugh plus me singing – not a sermon, but singing along to just a cymbal, which was very close to things like 'Love And Happiness', which he starts with the chorus accompanied only by the drums. So we were ripping him off with that song.

I met him as well. I am not good with stuff like that, how do you tell someone that you are his biggest fan? I should have said how much he meant to me and what a big influence he was. I think this was in Manchester in about 1994.

I am not great at dealing with fans who come up to me either. Billy Bragg supported us the other day and he was brilliant. My daughter brought along a couple of people who really like him. They are only young, and he led the situation perfectly. But I think Al Green is quite shy and so am I. I would like to see him at his church, at the Full Gospel Tabernacle. That would be quite something.


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