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Baker's Dozen

Constant Companions: Matt Johnson's Favourite Albums
Jeremy Allen , October 27th, 2021 07:31

From a teenage encounter with Pere Ubu in a Wardour Street club, to the comforting effect of classic reggae and his love of Marc Bolan, The The’s Matt Johnson takes Jeremy Allen through his thirteen favourite records


T-Rex – Ride A White Swan

This was on the Music for Pleasure label, the budget imprint of EMI, and I bought it for 50p. I first saw T-Rex on Top of the Pops, it was ‘Hot Love’, and I became a big fan. The thing is, my brother Andrew was three-and-a-half years older than me, but there was a lot of sibling rivalry: he was a West Ham supporter and we grew up close to West Ham, so I chose Manchester United just because I wanted my own team. He had Thunderbird 1, I had Thunderbird 2; his favourite superhero was The Flash so I chose The Green Lantern, and he chose David Bowie so I chose Marc Bolan.

I think I bought it in the Co-op over the road on the high street. So I saw Ride A White Swan, and I didn't realise till years later that it was a compilation album. And I absolutely loved it, as I did love all the singles I’d accumulated. It was strange because it was the early stuff, so it was a bit less glam rock and a bit more folk hippy. But the production by Tony Visconti was great, and that was the first album that I ever bought with my own money. In those days you would play a record again and again, because compared to today, we had very limited access to music and obviously didn't have streaming services and the internet. Songs like the ‘King of the Rumbling Spires’, ‘Elemental Child’ and 'Salamander Palaganda’ were so strange, and it showed another side of Marc Bolan, I suppose.

Isn’t it strange how Marc Bolan has been written out of the story a little bit in recent times?

Yes, I agree. And if you look, I'm sure Prince was inspired by a lot of the early Marc Bolan performances. The way he would stand and sing and play. I don't know whether Prince ever publicly stated it, but I'm sure he would have had some influence on Prince. I agree, I think there needs to be a serious reappraisal really, because he was quite brilliant.