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Baker's Dozen

Survival Songs: John Grant's Baker's Dozen
Barnaby Smith , September 8th, 2021 09:05

John Grant takes tQ through the 13 albums that have defined his life and guided him through tough times, from the beauty of Fad Gadget to the joy of Bernard Fevre, via Ennio Morricone, Kate Bush and more


Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon

This was my gateway drug into Joni Mitchell. This is very acoustic-based music, but of course she got into all sorts of crazy shit in the 1980s too. These songs are so incredible: the tone of her voice, the way she uses her voice, the timbre, pitch and dynamics, and the quality and content of her lyrics, her mastery of English. And then all the intense emotion involved. I was walking around New York City listening to this album as I was packing up all my shit to leave for Texas to finish Queen of Denmark. I was walking the streets thinking about life, and I didn’t know if my record was going to be successful, or that it wasn’t a mistake to be leaving New York. I was really starting to put down roots there after three years, which is difficult to do. I didn’t even know if my record would see the light of day. So that was the mood of me listening to this – I was very open and very vulnerable. It hit me like a tonne of bricks in a great way.

I’d listened to Blue a bit before, after some hippy told me I had to, but I was like, “Alright, get off my back, Jeez Louise, I just want to listen to some Nina Hagen.” I knew Court and Spark too. People were always blabbing at me about her, but I just thought it was some hippy shit I didn’t need to pay any attention to. But when I was walking in New York listening to ‘Rainy Night House’, I just fucking fell off my rocker. It was so beautiful. It tore me apart, and I submitted, and I have ever since.

If someone had only ever heard Queen of Denmark by you, they might think that the music of this period and place – Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s and early 1970s – was a major touchstone for you. But that’s perhaps not the case?

Well I was very heavily into Bread, and a lot of AOR from the 1970s, I did love all that. I grew up hearing that on the radio non-stop, and loved it. I do have a huge place in my heart for that sound: Gerry Rafferty and Three Dog Night too. We could go on and on.