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The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music: Benjamin Myers’ Favourite Music
The Quietus , September 29th, 2021 09:41

Music journalist-turned-novelist Benjamin Myers shares the music that made him a writer from The Slits to Slipknot – and why almost all of it is impossible to write to…


John Coltrane - Giant Steps

I bought this at Tower Records in Times Square on my first trip to New York. I was 21 and Melody Maker had sent me there to interview The Wannadies who had just had a hit single, and who I knew a little bit because a couple of months earlier we had been to Legoland together to do an interview on a fucking rollercoaster while I was suffering the worst speed comedown of my life. The Wildhearts had given me some “Hell’s Angels whizz” that was so strong I had stayed up all night cleaning my flat and was a wreck by the time I reached Windsor. Now there’s a 1990s paragraph if ever there was one. Ah, different times!

Like most music journalists, upon arriving in New York I took the opportunity to do as little work and have as much fun as possible: sight-seeing and record shopping all day, then popping back to the hotel do a quick perfunctory interview, then out again to investigate the nightclubs, many of whom let me in for free when I said I was “The Verve, just over from England.”

A month later I was back in New York, to interview a fifteen-year-old called Ben Kweller, whose band Radish had signed to Mercury and just had a 16-page profile in one of the big magazines out there. It was nuts. We spent two days taking taxis around the city to find a good photographic location – Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem, Coney Island – and then when I finally interviewed Ben, we sat in a hotel lobby bar smoking cigars, thinking we were kings of the world. I’d only graduated from Luton a fortnight before, so was quite disorientated; two days later I had to be back in Durham, where I was to be godfather at my nephew’s christening.

As corny as it sounds, the soundtrack for those first trips New York was the one jazz album I owned at the time: Giant Steps, which I played constantly on a CD Walkman. It was the sound of possibility, energy, mellifluous in its execution. It was far beyond anything that I was writing about during that strange period, just before the music business slid into terminal decline.