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Baker's Dozen

Peculiar Relationships: Neil Gaiman’s Favourite Albums
Emily Mackay , November 21st, 2013 08:30

Following this week's release of his live collaborative album with Amanda Palmer, the fantasy and science fiction author picks out the records that have most inspired and informed his writing


Al Stewart - Past, Present And Future
There's much better Al Stewart albums out there. In fact, it's almost a car crash, because prior to that time he was a troubadour of the bedsit, this folk singer creating these little songs of pain and alienation in a rather damp, middle-class kind of way. And after that, he was doing weird folk-pop about weird historical matters and pop culture and goes off into really cool places. This one album is the place where that whole thing intersects. And it has 'Nostradamus' on it, which is a terrible, terrible, terrible song. That used to be beloved by college DJs, who used to put it on whenever they needed to go to the toilet, because it was so long. It was the first Al Stewart album I heard, my cousin Adam played it to me in his bedroom when I would have been 12 and he would have been 13, and I loved it partly because I was this little kid who loved Gilbert and Sullivan, and the song 'Soho (Needless To Say)' came across like a WS Gilbert patter song, but it was a WS Gilbert patter song about Soho on a Friday night, “Chocolate coloured ladies making eyes through the smoke pall”, “Rainstorm, brainstorm, faces in the maelstrom/ Huddle by the puddles in the shadows where the drains run”. That's glorious! And there's that fantastic image on the original record cover, which is almost forgotten now because it's been replaced by things that are less naff. The shot of a very young, slightly spotty Al Stewart standing looking awkward in posh clothes, which was the original cover, I think is one of the greatest record covers of all time. It is so awkward. You feel contact embarrassment just looking at it.