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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


Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77

Again, the back cover and the preppy thing which links back to Dexys. And again, a big brother helps you enormously when you’re fifteen. Martin took me to see the Pistols at the Electric Circus on the Anarchy tour. We saw them twice and then a couple of months later I saw the Ramones with Talking Heads supporting. The Circus was a scummy little dance hall in the north of Manchester on an estate and it was quite hard to find. It was rough, a bit racy, and you ran a gauntlet getting up there and then out, back to suburbia where we lived. Anyway the Talking Heads turned up and they wore Fred Perrys – they’d done their research, they knew Perry was from Stockport. They’d been on The Old Grey Whistle Test in Lacoste gear but they wore Fred Perrys for Manchester.

So I bought this album and I loved the artwork. Usually I warm to a decent album cover that someone’s put some thought into and this one looked like a book that a preppy student would be reading taking home from uni. But it was the songs that were unbelievably well crafted. And again, very stripped back, really, really simple and to the point.

Moving forward, I’d been a freelance photographer for most of my life –since I was 18 - but I worked for Channel 4 for about fourteen years, and it was quite punky when I started there and had a nice rough edge to it and people were open to new ideas. Towards the end of my time there it was all talk of the Tory government selling it and then they moved the jobs up to Leeds. I didn’t fancy that so I took my redundancy package, which was a great thing. I’m not complaining, but I felt like I’d been duped into being a civil servant. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a civil servant but it wasn’t my career path and it was not what I signed up for. So when I left I made sure ‘Don’t Worry About the Government’ was played at my leaving do. There’s a great line in the song that goes: ‘Some civil servants are just like my loved ones, they work so hard and they try to be strong.’ I just love that line.

And I love ‘The Book I Read’ – that preppiness Byrne sings about too in ‘Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town’ where he goes ‘I’ve met the people who you read about in books’. Where I lived was just… fucking boring. It really was. It took an hour to get into Manchester and then 40 minutes to get to the Electric Circus. I was lucky to have a brother who had just gone to uni, to Sheffield to do English, so I think this record got into his head at the time. Their words are very smart without being smug. It’s a post-punk record really. And it was a great statement to make at the time because they could have blown it. Britain could have turned its back on the Talking Heads. But we didn’t. We adore them.