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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


Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence – Oar

The fact that this was even released is kind of crazy because Skip Spence said these were demos and you can hear a bit of that. He plays everything on it and it was recorded in a week. I think the story is that he rode in on a motorcycle from Bellevue Hospital after being in there with serious mental health issues and then spent a week in the studio on his own and then Columbia decided to release it, which is incredible.

But if you think of those Daniel Johnston cassettes, this has a similar feel to that. They’re quite fragmentary and some of the songs just fall apart. It starts with ‘Little Hands’, which is just incredible with a beautiful melody and it’s a great little pop song.

But it’s really kind of elastic, this album. It has a Jimi Hendrix grooviness to it, too. You can stretch it all over the place. And then it’s got these brilliant lyrics and I don’t know where they’re coming from at all, really. Experimentation with psychedelic drugs has definitely played its part in the formulation of the lyrical content on this album. I was thinking of the track ‘Broken Heart’, which is a favourite of mine, actually; it’s a slow sort of country groove and there’s this line that goes, “Like a thirsty cowboy/In a lake his tongue does rest/Jumps in and he cannot swim/And drowns himself to death” – the imagery in that song! I’m just thinking about this cowboy in the desert but this desert is like a Salvador Dali desert and everything is sorta melting; that’s what the song puts me in mind of. The music on this album is kinda melting, you know?

The melodies are so infectious and catchy. I love this album and I think it’s a brilliant, brilliant record. It’s one that I don’t have an original copy of and it’s one that I keep looking at and it’s getting tastier and tastier! I remember Gerry back in the day picking one up at a record fair and I’d love to have one too. I’ll have to keep looking but I’m gonna have to sell one of my kidneys to buy it, I think!