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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


Dexys Midnight Runners – Don’t Stand Me Down

I was one of those guys who bought the album or single of the week ¬– the NME was a bit of a bible for me. I was in Sheffield staying at my brother’s and I wanted to buy Closer by Joy Division, like everyone. And it was sold out so I thought ‘What about that band on Top Of The Pops that did ‘Dance Stance’?’ So I bought ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ and that just blew me away. And that was a design for living ever since. Earl Brutus was a very different animal to Dexys but hopefully we carried some of that attitude and that spirit.

I hitched it down to see them at the Old Vic but by the time I got there they’d ditched the sax and trombones and got a string section going. They opened with ‘Old’. I loved the second album. It didn’t bother me they were at number one – I never really thought of them as a ‘hit’ band. They were never a hit group who fell from grace. So I came back and bought Don’t Stand Me Down and the cover intrigued me. I loved the look…which I thought was very very cool. Like Joy Division in some respects with the shirts and slacks. But I realized it was Ivy League – an American Wall Street look. So the cover shocked me and when I first played the album it got under my skin.

The album touches on a lot of Irish politics, there’s a lot about coming from Ireland but you don’t have to be from Kevin’s perspective, if you like, to listen to this record. I’m an Englishman and I’ve got problems with the way England is run as well I have my own disenfranchisement, that emptiness and loss, I have my own version of the messages on this record, you can take a great deal from it.

‘This Is What’s She’s Like’ is just a great way of explaining how much you love someone. I was best man recently at my mate’s wedding and I kept quoting ‘This Is What’s She Like’ in my speech. I love the fact that the guy in the song knows about all the things he hates – creased Levi’s and the like - but he can’t find the words to say how much he loves somebody. We’re all a bit like that. That’s a real human condition. For me they are one of the most intriguing groups Britain has ever produced. And conversations I have with people are often about Dexys – the first conversation I ever had with Nick Sanderson was about Dexys tickets. They’re a talisman for me…