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Baker's Dozen

Is This Music? Norman Blake's Favourite Albums
Julian Marszalek , July 28th, 2021 13:06

From the overlooked influence of Throbbing Gristle to an enduring love of The Velvet Underground, via Broadcast, The Rolling Stones and more, Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake picks the thirteen records that shaped him


Joe Bussard – Down In The Basement

I actually discovered this after seeing the movie Desperate Man Blues, which is about Joe Bussard and his quest to travel across the mid-west to find shellac 78s and the rarest of the rare. I think he’s got the biggest collection of 78s in the world.

In that movie, there’s a particular story about finding this record, which is the rarest 78. It’s what they used to call a ‘race record’ at the time and he finds one in a yard sale in a job lot and he keeps quiet about it. He’s like, ‘Ooooh!’ but he doesn’t say anything. He waits for the lot to come up and then he sort of bids $10 for it and he gets it.

But I really love this because there are so many great things on it. It covers everything from the blues and bluegrass but there a couple of things that I really love. Part of the reason I chose this album is because it had one of my very favourite recordings. It’s by a guy named Charley Jordan and the song is called ‘Keep It Clean’. When I bought this album I couldn’t stop playing it. It’s from the 1930s, has a beautiful melody and is a great, great song, but lyrically, it’s a bit like one of those early Dylan things, one of the abstract ones like ‘Motorpsycho Nitemare’. The recording is just beautiful and there’s something about the sound of the shellac spinning round. You can hear the hiss and the sound of each revolution and there’s something in that that really does it for me.

Each of these records is capturing a moment in time. They would’ve been recorded into a big horn and straight onto a shellac disc. They’d have made a negative of it and then pressed then up and probably just about every copy that was made would’ve been broken because they were so fragile.

Joe Bussard once said that all the best recordings were made before 1936 and he won’t listen to anything after 1936. I don’t know if he still does this, but after a while you could write to him via his website and he’d make you a CD of tracks. I think, in the end, they made all these separate compilations but there are loads of things available from his website.

If you haven’t seen Desperate Man Blues then it’s really worth catching. It’s really entertaining and Joe Bussard is a really entertaining figure – he’s a proper enthusiast! He’s got a genuine love of the music and it really shines through when you see him being interviewed.