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Baker's Dozen

Composites For A Generation: James Fry's Baker's Dozen
John Quin , September 14th, 2022 08:10

From the hits of Hot Chocolate and the trashy joys of Sigue Sigue Sputnik to the 'death jazz' of Miles Davis and the angst of Portishead, James Fry takes us through his life in thirteen albums


Patti Smith – Horses

My brother had the album and I absolutely fell for it. I used to carry around a picture of Patti Smith. I had this idea in my head that I’d move to New York and marry her. Or Debbie Harry. I liked the pop of Blondie – it was on the pub jukebox in Cheadle. But I preferred Patti because, like Suicide, she was for the cool kids and I aspired to be one of them. I think that ‘Free Money’ is one of the nicest songs ever written; I think it’s beautiful. I’d love to hear Levi Stubbs sing it! And I really like ‘Birdland’ – again there’s the jazz reference there. The go-to track of course was ‘Land’ with the boy looking at Johnnie and all that.

Now, back to school. I was incredibly rude to the geometric engineering drawing teacher. I asked him if his wife had a hairy fanny. So he picked me up and took me outside and he held me and banged my head against a locker. He realized he’d gone too far. But in my head I heard Patti giving it – ‘started crashing his head against the locker, started crashing his head against the locker!’

Then there was the time I was doing an exam in English that asked: ‘Describe a situation when you first stayed away from home’. So I wrote this story about a guy who went to stay with some mates where they smoked some hash. I mean it was rubbish. But then I gave this quote ‘Where is the sea of tranquility, where is the sea of possibility?’ All from ‘Land’, just copied and pasted. It was pathetic, a really pathetic schoolboy thing to do. It was not a great piece of writing. And then I got hauled into the head’s office. He said, ‘We’ve noticed you hanging around with the druggie boys.’ There was a big drug thing going on at our school, kids on pills, kids getting hauled up. It was in the local paper. So, anyway, the head is asking is this essay I wrote for real. I mean I’ve never taken acid in my life and here’s this headmaster going on and on about me being a druggie. And I’m like – no, sir, it’s Patti Smith! It’s a record! The copying annoyed them, mind.

So for me Horses is a schoolboy record! I went to see her supported by The Pop Group back in the day and then, much later, I found out that my partner Judith of now 35 years was at that gig. So together we went to see Patti 30 years later when she did Horses on stage. It’s a very special record.