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Baker's Dozen

The Right Things: David McAlmont's Favourite Albums
The Quietus , October 1st, 2015 13:22

As McAlmont And Butler mark the 20th anniversary of The Sound Of... with a deluxe reissue and a run of tour dates, David McAlmont pens us his own Baker's Dozen, moving through his 13 most formative albums


Prince - Sign "☮" The Times
Fast forward to 1987. I came back to the UK and was concerned about cash. My cousins told me to "go down to the social". I claimed supplementary benefit. I went directly to Our Price and purchased Purple Rain, Parade, Around The World In A Day and Sign "☮" The Times.

Croydon, 1987: no job; lots of disappointments at interviews; sharing a room with my younger cousin; feeling cold and ill all the time because I'd lived in a hot country for so long. I was dealing with depression and profound culture shock. I wasn't knowledgeable enough to know why I was feeling what I was feeling. I was still a born-again Christian, but even church was less than comforting. It wasn't the same as it was in Georgetown.

It could have been a worse time if I hadn't spent my dole money on Prince's music. It felt rebellious. In Guyana pastors had preached that Prince was satanic. I was kind of confused when I heard 'The Cross' for the first time. I had a long period absorbing the four satanic albums I had bought. Sign "☮" The Times was the one that stood out. It distracted me from Purple Rain.

I loved it. It didn't sound like anything else. I hadn't yet spent any time in recording studios or become acquainted with sonic trickery. These days I can identify a vocal that has been sped up, or drums that have been distorted, or a guitar that has been recorded backwards. Back then it was all just weird and wonderful noise.

I used to get upset that some of his singles didn't perform that well in the charts. I thought they eclipsed everything else out there. The variety and creative flight that Prince took on these records instilled a sort of hero worship in me. I fought his corner often. I even got into spats over whether he was better than Michael Jackson or not. I liked that his music was neither rock nor soul, just him.

The lyrics were surreal and unique. I obsessed over their meaning. Expressions like "world series of love", "closing time; ugly lights", "green eggs and ham", "I took another bubble bath with my pants on", "starfish and coffee" all intrigued me. I wondered what it was about him, and what it was about me, that hindered me from expressing myself with such freedom and colour.