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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


Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

Which Miles to pick? This is the one I digest better than his others. Now I’m not a jazz expert but I realized that jazz had really always been in my life without even really noticing it. I loved Bowie’s Blackstar and the way he finished on a jazz note and how he embraced jazz. My old man, Walter, died in January, he was 91, and he parked up a lot of his taste when he was bringing us up. He just worked very hard and he didn’t have time to indulge – he created a world where my brother and me could do our own thing. But my dad had some earlier Miles Davis albums – the quintet ones.

Bitches Brew though – we’re talking Death Jazz! I’ve always liked this record and I’ve played it a lot in the six months since my dad’s death. Hanging on to the old man. But what knocked me back the other week was I’ve just read Kris Needs’ book on Suicide, the band. And I read that Martin Rev was into jazz, he as into Miles Davis and Monk. So maybe we’ve been listening to jazz all along!

One time, where my folks lived in North Wales, my dad took me and his pal Eddie to the North Wales Jazz Society. We paid £12 to get into this really shabby pub in Bangor. So we go into this back room and there’s a jazz trio with a guitarist, bass, and drummer. I’m getting the pints in because Dad and Eddie, they’re old guys wobbling on sticks. And then the pair of them sat at the table start losing it as the band play – they’re giving it ‘Yeah! C’mon! WOOO-WOOO!’ They’re thumping the table and I looked at them and thought: this is just like me and Gordon [King]. This is like us on a night out when we were young listening to Bauhaus or the Mary Chain.

So this is my jazz album. It’s just so evocative. There’s the connection to my dad’s jazziness. It makes me want to go on a jazz pilgrimage. Go to New York and take some black and white photos. Lie on a bench in Battery Park and listen to this. It’s Americana for me. I love anything overtly American. I was gonna put in ‘Born to Run’. But Bitches Brew is my New York album. It’s got that pace about it.

You know as you get older, maybe four to the floor isn’t enough now. I don’t want to get intellectual about music but I find certain things a bit flat. Like when we were young Sham 69 and the Anti-Nowhere League and Mensi – they weren’t enough. We needed more. Our imaginations were fired up by people like Roxy Music and Bowie. So Talking Heads were a natural fit. And as I get older I want more. I love listening to Neu! And for me Miles is like Neu! I want to hear more experimentation in music as I get older.