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Baker's Dozen

How Was It For You? Tim Booth Of James' Favourite Albums
John Freeman , March 31st, 2016 08:03

After the release of James' Girl At The End Of The World, lead singer Tim Booth tells John Freeman about clandestine childhood listening and the redemptive powers of Iggy Pop in choosing the LPs that "saved his life"


Nina Simone – Feeling Good: The Very Best Of Nina Simone
Along with Patti Smith and Mary Margaret O'Hara, I would say that Nina Simone possesses the greatest voice I have ever heard. Nina's voice, my god, on songs like 'Sinner Man' or 'I Put A Spell On You' is beyond compare.

If you really want to get Nina Simone, you need to get on YouTube and watch the early footage. There is 25 minutes of footage of a performance she did in England, after Martin Luther King had been shot, and she is playing to mainly a white audience. It is the greatest set of protest songs I have ever seen. It puts Dylan or anyone else into the shade. If you wish to see how to change the world with music, look at this dignified woman holding back her rage at what had been done to her people.

[Fighting back tears] Nina Simone carried the weight of black experience more fully than anyone else I have heard. There is also some amazing footage of her dancing with the audience. It's when she was less bitter and her bipolar disorder hadn't kicked in, and she is dancing and singing. When you watch her move, you can see the music is in every part of her body.

With the songs Nina wrote, her position in the civil rights movement, and then the fact she became broken, it is just one of the most devastating stories. [Crying]. But, her voice, fucking hell. And the song 'Ain't Got No, I Got Life' – on which she lists all the things that she hasn't got, but then lists all the things she does have, which are her passion and her spirit – gets me every time. It's important people go and check out the early footage on YouTube. When she sings 'I Put A Spell On You', you fucking know she has put a spell on that guy, who was her ex-husband. You do not fucking mess with that woman.

I heard a lovely anecdote about Angelo Badalamenti, who was a desperately impoverished guy who had just given up his job to become a songwriter. He had been earning nothing for 18 months, and had sent some songs to Nina Simone. He got a call from her manager saying that Nina would like to meet him. He went to the place at the arranged time, walked into a room and there was this amazing lioness, lying on a sofa dressed in leopard skin. She said, "I hear you have some songs for me. Play me one." There was no piano, so he had to sing to her. He sang about a minute of 'I Hold No Grudge' and she said, "I will take that" and asked him if had any more. He sang another song for about 30 seconds, and she said, "I will take that too", and he sang a snippet from another one, which she also liked. Within two weeks, she had recorded all three songs and launched his career as a writer. Angelo told me that story when I made an album with him.