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Baker's Dozen

Chance-Taking: Stephen McRobbie Of The Pastels' Favourite Albums
John Freeman , June 3rd, 2013 08:53

With The Pastels releasing their first album in 16 years last week, original member Stephen McRobbie reveals the 13 albums that “defined his taste” and inspired his band


The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground And Nico
This record was such a big influence on The Pastels, as was all The Velvet Underground's music. We loved the crazed mayhem of The Velvet Underground mixed up with these incredible melodies, the sad sound of Nico's voice bringing a kind of European influence and the fantastic youthful energy they had as a group. They seemed to not over-intellectualise every single gesture, although, after a while Lou Reed made everything seem like some sort of grand design.

With the early records by The Velvet Underground there was a real roughness and the rhythm section of Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker gave a really primal - almost R&B - sound. John Cale brought a European classicism and Lou Reed was a really great 60s pop songwriter and they would make these crazily intense pieces with a wild, poetic lyrics over the top. When I found them, I just thought they were the greatest group. They are still perfect, even now.

I love 'Sunday Morning' as it is such a beautiful song and it is a nice recording as it has all this space, while the rest of the record is pretty rough and in fact rougher than the early 60s Rolling Stones' records, in a way. It's such an important record - I think records like it can be taken for granted. It's that 'doughnut effect' again, where people know the interesting peripheral stuff but haven't explored the core - but they need to listen to The Velvet Underground, The Beatles or Aretha Franklin just to ground themselves.

The records were quite accessible and Brian [Superstar nee Taylor], who played guitar in The Pastels, was a really big fan. He was a bit older than me but it was a real touchstone record that everyone was talking about. I might have first heard it in 1980 and I knew that The Velvet Underground had been a big influence on Orange Juice and it was at a point where I wanted to move back from the moment I was in and trace the roots. It led to groups like The Velvet Underground and Love and Big Star, to an extent.

Around that time there were all kinds of The Velvet Underground bootlegs, which were good but usually poor quality. But, when we got hold of the 'Banana' album, the music still seemed really fresh - it didn't feel 'used up'. For me, The Velvet Underground had so much more ideas than someone like the Sex Pistols. The Pistols had this really exciting wild energy, but the Velvets had so much more context and influenced the music that I really liked - Subway Sect, Orange Juice and TV Personalities. They are such a great group and impossible to deny.