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Baker's Dozen

A Tower Of Songs: Sylvie Simmons' Favourite Music
Manu Ekanayake , August 13th, 2020 09:48

Like a gamekeeper turned poacher, rock journalist Sylvie Simmons has a new album of her own music out. Here she guides Manu Ekanayake through 13 lifelong inspirations, from Leonard Cohen to Johnny Cash, Miles Davis and Black Sabbath

Talking to Sylvie Simmons is like mainlining rock & roll history directly into your veins -a good thing, obviously. We speak as she’s about to release her second album of ukulele-led music (yes, really), Blue On Blue, but of course Simmons cut her musical teeth on the other side of the street: for decades she was one of us. As a music journalist, Simmons left her London life while barely out of university in 1977 to travel to LA “because I wanted to be this kind of rock chick and that just didn’t seem to be possible here”. Being in LA at a time when rock was undergoing cosmic shifts in terms of genre and content (and, by her own admission, when few journalists were based there) meant she was able to capture these shifts from the gig floor up, writing for Sounds as their US correspondent and later for its heavy metal off-shoot, Kerrang! This four-decade-long career led to a 2011 BBC documentary about her called, of course, The Rock Chick.

In 2020, this seems like a reductive way to sum up such a fruitful and diverse career. As much as Simmons is a walking compendium of rock knowledge – she was touring with Black Sabbath just as Ozzy was about to be fired – she’s also got wider tastes than just heavy rock: she also wrote the essential book on Leonard Cohen and became close with the legendary singer songwriter in the process (he encouraged her with her own musical dreams too), as well as writing a book about Serge Gainsbourg after being asked to do so by no less than his famous partner, Jane Birkin. This life immersed in music is reflected in her Baker's Dozen selection.

Sylvie Simmons' Blue on Blue is out this Friday, 14th August. Click the image below to begin reading her Baker's Dozen selections