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Baker's Dozen

Just Some Modern Rock Songs: Stuart Murdoch's Favourite Albums
Adrian Lobb , September 4th, 2013 07:02

The Glaswegian indie pop pioneers' frontman picks out his top 13 records


The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
This was absolutely the biggest moment for me. People may have heard it from me before, they might expect it, but I am unapologetic about including this record. I had heard The Smiths up to this point, I thought they were funny, they were strange, I bundled them alongside my other records – with my Hendrix or INXS or whatever But it wasn’t until I happened to be in a laundry room after I had failed my exams, and there was a TV in the corner and I think The Whistle Test was on. The Smiths were playing ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, and during the course of that song I became a different person. That is the only time that happened to me, it confirmed everything about what kind of person I wanted to be, little hints of moods and gestures, the way I wanted to act, what I wanted to wear, the things I wanted to say. It captured that and it was a catalyst. I knew afterwards that maybe I shouldn’t go back to college. You can pin it on that moment.

It was more of the mind, initially, I didn’t change everything about myself overnight, I wasn’t quite as much a teenage girl as that, although I was pretty close to be honest. I remember going into my parents’ garage soon afterwards, taking a white T-shirt and writing in thick, black emulsion paint “The Queen Is Dead” on it. I was about 17, probably old enough to know better than a self-painted T-shirt.

It is an LP that, if you break it down, actually gets quite weak around ‘Never Had No One Ever’, which is the same tempo as ‘I Know It’s Over’ and has the same feel. But they knew what they were doing. It is like the placid point before the whole thing revs up. Again, the denouement – sorry, I’m sounding so pretentious – is ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’, and ‘Some Girls…’ is the perfect coda. Everything is emotionally heading to track nine.

I remember reading a funny article by Robert Forster, one of The Go-Betweens singers, on the rules of rock & roll. He claimed that people always put their weakest song as the penultimate track, so you know you are getting a strong LP when they save their strongest track until then.

But they are all various degrees of magnificence. I don’t like the title track so much, but even the so-called funny songs are great. Nobody has written a song like ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly’ or ‘Vicar In A Tutu’. Nobody writes like Morrissey, although a lot of people try. The second side is about the strongest side of a rock record ever – starting with those two amazing singles.

For a so-called indie band, I also loved their ambition, Morrissey believed that his music should be heard by the world. We took certain things from The Smiths, but there is a difference between loving a band – needing them, being completely absorbed in them – and being influenced by them. Our artwork borrows from them, the duo tone, that look – but it is not a conscious thing. We were trying to make them have a Blue Note vibe.