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Baker's Dozen

Never Gonna Give 'Em Up: Rick Astley's Favourite Albums
Colm McAuliffe , June 13th, 2018 05:41

The absolutely charming Rick Astley sits down with Colm McAuliffe to tell him about his favourite records, from Roxy to Biffy Clyro and Tori Amos, taking in his enduring love of pop and prog along the way


Roxy Music – Avalon

"Ooh! Oooh! It's almost like [an album] that's never been repeated. Bryan Ferry has come close but it was a moment in time for them as a band. It could have been a nightmare to make for all I know but it's beautiful and incredible. At the time I was listening to that, I was getting into the sounds of records and perceiving how they were made and the depth in that record is incredible. Bob Clearmountain mixed it and I wondered [at the time]: what does a mixer do? And then you start to realise 'ah – that's what he does'. The main difference between my hits later in the 1980s and a record like this is that the musicianship on Avalon is pretty amazing. They could choose anyone to play on their records as could Bryan Ferry afterwards. And the nucleus of what their band was pretty amazing itself. Their understanding of what you could get out of a studio was incredible.

My records with Stock, Aiken and Waterman are [comparatively] quite narrow. SAW had a bunch of keyboards but not many, maybe two or three they really liked. A Yamaha DX7, Jupiter 8 and the Linn 9000 were their workhorses. They had their little set up and that was the band. Mike and Matt were the two musicians. Matt was an amazing guitar player but he never put that to the front because it wasn't needed. He was a Ringo guitar player - he didn't do anything that wasn't needed! They were all about trying to write and produce hits for the Top 40. No – the top 5! That's all they were bothered about. They didn't do anything that was surplus to requirements. But they also made some crap records that nobody heard! But they found their formula and stuck to it like their Motown heroes. It never seemed cynical to me because they were honest about it. They weren't trying to be cool. They did go out and accept awards but generally speaking, they turned up in jeans and t-shirts – well, Pete was slightly different because he was A&R and the mouthpiece – because they viewed it as work.

I met Lamont Dozier once and he said 'I get up, go into my basement, sit at the piano, press play and record and sit there for two hours. Then I come up, have breakfast, answer my mail, do whatever I do, and I go and listen it afterwards, find the good bits and say 'that's a song''. So it's quite workmanlike in a way. I don't think anybody would belittle anything Motown did. But if you want to put a negative slant on it, it's a factory style of doing things. But I also think: that's bollocks. If you're gonna be good at something, you have to put the hours in.

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