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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


Dan Penn – Nobody’s Fool

This gets short critical shrift, which is insane because I think this album is a masterpiece. It’s funny, because I became aware of this album through Alex Chilton and he talked about Dan Penn a lot. Dan had produced The Box Tops’ ‘The Letter’ and as songwriter he’d written ‘The Dark End Of The Street’ but this was his own release.

He’s throwing in the kitchen sink here and the production is brilliant – big, lush string arrangements and all these amazing songs. ‘If Love Was Money’ is really funky and groovy. The first time I heard the opening track ‘Nobody’s Fool’ was Alex Chilton’s version and it’s an album that I’ve loved for many, many years. A few years back, on the occasion of my 50th birthday, my wife had bought me an original copy. It’s a real favourite and I love it.

But in a way, I think, ‘What was the market for this record?’ Most people would be unaware of Dan Penn even though they’ve probably got a record in their collection that he’s written a song on. And the cover’s got him standing in dungarees next to a big old car, so that was probably a bit of a hard sell.

It’s brilliant but stylistically it’s a bit all over the place. It’s got a bit of country, and it’s a bit funky with some New Orleans things thrown in, a bit of soul, some Muscle Shoals – all of that stuff is thrown in there. It’s got a great anti-racism song with ‘Skin’ and then it’s got a straight-ahead country song with ‘Raining In Memphis’, which is just brilliant. And ‘Prayer For Peace’ is this great anti-war, anti-Vietnam song

One of the other things that’s great about it is that it’s fantastic showcase for his voice. It’s a brilliant, brilliant voice.