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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


Wire – 154

154 is my favourite Wire album, and they're still very active, and they've been very prolific for decades. My first manager, Tom Johnston, knew the guys from Wire, and they took me under their wing. We used to rehearse in Covent Garden which was a ghost town in those days. It's hard to imagine now, but the market had just closed down and it was a derelict part of London. And it was in the local pub there that Tom got friendly with the guys in Wire, and I got friendly with them through him.

They gave a white label copy of 154, which I've still got somewhere. The The supported them when they were promoting 154 for a couple of nights in Leicester Square [at the Notre Dame Hall, now the Leicester Square Theatre]. And then Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis produced the first The The single [‘Controversial Subject’/’Black And White’] and a couple of tracks from my Burning Blue Soul album. And I went onto work with Mike Thorne, who's the producer of 154, who produced ‘Uncertain Smile’ in New York, and Paul Hardiman – who was the engineer on 154, who became my co-producer on Soul Mining. Plus I supported Colin Newman. So there's huge interaction between The The and Wire around this period, and they were very, very supportive.

And I still love this. I was recently interviewed for a Wire documentary and for that, I got my Wire albums out again. And particularly this one, I think it's a phenomenal album. The guitar work is incredible. Bruce Gilbert is a highly underrated guitarist, and the guitar playing between Colin and Bruce is brilliant. 154 reminds me a bit of the White Album in that they weren’t getting along during the making of it. You had Colin Newman and the producer Mike Thorne on one side, and Bruce and Graham and the engineer Paul Hardiman on the other. There was a lot of tension, but it's one of those examples where harmonious working environments don't always necessarily lead to the most creative outcomes.