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Baker's Dozen

Kernow Calling: Mark Jenkin’s Favourite Albums
Sean McGeady , January 18th, 2023 09:12

Cornish bard Mark Jenkin talks Sean McGeady through the soundtracks to his teenage summers, long drives to the hospital, and lonely afternoons hand-processing celluloid, from Junior Wells to Joni Mitchell


Saint Etienne – Foxbase Alpha

I was working in a café in Polzeath on the north Cornish coast, where we used to live every summer. From being a teenager into my early twenties we used to live in caravans over there, and spend all our time working in surf shops, pubs or cafés. Just being a teenager: surfing a lot, drinking a lot, chasing rich holidaymakers around, these middle-class girls who used to come down and have their fun with the locals. While I was working in the café, a guy I worked with brought in these actual CDs. He said to me, ‘There’s these two albums…’ One was The Beatles, the other was Saint Etienne. The first time I listened to this I was like, ‘What is this?’ It’s dance music but it’s weird. It opens with a French radio announcement about a football match that I didn’t understand, and it’s interspersed with bits of Richard Whiteley from Countdown. The only song that I liked on the album to start with I then found out was a Neil Young cover [‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’], so I thought, ‘Oh god, they didn’t even write that’.

When he pitched it to me, he said it’s like house music but pop. And I thought, ‘Uh, what’s he talking about?’ Listened to it, didn’t like it. Tried to like it. Probably pretended I liked it to look cool in front of him. But then I just kept going back to it. And it’s stayed with me. This is the same CD. I don’t own it in any other format. I love how experimental it is. I love how technically innovative it is. All the bits I thought were weird and didn’t like to start with are all my favourite bits. At the time I was into 3 Feet High And Rising, the first De La Soul album. Everybody at school loved that album because it was fun and muckabout, and hip-hop that wasn’t illicit, but it used all those samples. This did the same but it was European. It’s a very European-sounding album but proudly British as well. I still listen to this all the time.

It’s like watching a film. You know, you think, ‘Oh god, I didn’t enjoy that film’. Then you realise, ‘I didn’t enjoy it but I think it’s my favourite film’. I think it was that. It’s just quite hard work. I knew 3 Feet High And Rising because I taped it off my mate Paul, but I hadn’t discovered it. Same with the first Stone Roses album, I taped that off my mate Dano. This was the one where, even though somebody had given it to me, I introduced it to our group. It felt like my discovery. And that is the actual CD, the very object. It’s all discoloured. Look at that? Disgusting.

It’s on Heavenly as well. I’ve met Jeff [Barrett] now, who’s Cornish originally. Which makes sense, him being a genius and all. Having got to know Gwenno and her relationship with Jeff and Heavenly, I realised what a brilliant label they are. This is the start of it for me.