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Baker's Dozen

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…


Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

In 2009 I was finding it near-impossible to continue living in London while being a self-employed writer. Every single penny seemed to be going on living costs. Even just buying a cup of coffee felt like a luxury, so my wife Adelle and I packed up everything we owned and randomly moved to Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, a mile from Hebden Bridge, a place I had driven through once, briefly. For half the cost, we rented a little ivy-covered cottage that was built in 1641 down the end of a country lane, and whose water supply came from a spring up the hill. Here I wrote my novels Pig Iron and Beastings in quick succession.

We had to do it in order to become writers, because London will just drain all your resources, energy and blood if you’re not careful.

A couple of weeks after relocating I got sent a copy of Two Dancers, and before I heard a note, I read the lyrics and knew it would be special; this had happened once before with Tom Waits’ albums. The lyrics on this are poetic, grubby, domestic, provocative, violent and often very funny, with lines like “This is a booty call, my boot up your asshole / This is a Freudian slip, my slipper in your bits”. Or another one: “They dragged me by the ankles through the street / They passed me round them like a piece of meat / His hairy hands, his falling fists, his dancing cock, down by his knees”. To me, that’s modern gothic, like David Peace or Dead Man’s Shoes.

Wild Beasts also had a northern otherness I could relate to – they were outsiders from up the road in Kendal, yet a million miles from the grim stereotypes perpetuated by Oasis, Stone Roses and all those other cavemen. Their music is so baroque and feminine, and perfect for those of us too young to have experienced bands like Talk Talk or The Associates.

At the time there was barely any music scene in Hebden Bridge and its main venue the Trades Club, a former working men’s club in a building owned by the Labour Party, wasn’t doing so well. But then only a couple of years later, Mal Campbell moved up from London and became the promoter and started putting on amazing shows, and it became a sort of second home for us, and subsequently spawned a new generation of young bands.

I’ve had some amazing nights there seeing late-period The Fall or British Sea Power or Fat White Family who were blasted on DMT. I saw King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard play to 150 people the night after filling Brixton Academy, and half the Heavenly Recordings roster. On any night in the Trades you might see some cranky old duffer playing pool, while Donovan – the actual Donovan - is singing songs in the background.

One time there was an Alsatian in a knitted balaclava running around the bar. And that wasn’t even particularly unusual.