Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Mighty Mighty Boosh Tones: Julian Barratt’s Favourite LPs

As Julian Barratt releases 'You Can't Handcuff The Wind', a single by alter-ego Richard Thorncroft, he guides Adrian Lobb through 13 favourite albums, from Miles Davis to Zappa, Fela Kuti and the soundtracks of the Wicker Man and more

Spare a thought for Julian Barratt. As you read this, the star and co-writer of recent comedy film hit Mindhorn, is probably listening to a barrage of Chris De Burgh, Bruce Hornsby and Don Johnson. This is, apparently, work for the 49-year-old screenwriter, actor and comedian.

"I am listening to a lot of pomp rock, power ballads, really over-confident stuff," he says, explaining how he is getting in the zone to write an EP that Mindhorn’s fictional actor Richard Thorncroft would have recorded in the 1980s. "I like thinking about the music he would have made, the idea he got together with a jazz rock group who he had differences with but they made this record. I’m imagining the work of Don Johnson or Dennis Waterman – someone who had an acting career and got into music.

"We will release this EP as though he had released it in the 80s. I wanted to just put it in charity shops. They didn’t like that idea. But I might put a few in, with old stickers, scratches and coffee stains on the sleeves. I love the idea that some old dude picks it up, will not realise it is a new record and will listen to it wondering who he was. That would amuse me no end."

It’s little surprise to hear that music plays a vital part in Barratt’s creative process. His breakthrough show, The Mighty Boosh, was a surrealist, psychedelic farce, a comedy that grew from stage through radio to screen success, but originated, he claims here, through an attempt to combine the comedy of Morecambe & Wise with the music from one of the few points of intersection in the musical taste of Barratt and his erstwhile comedy partner Noel Fielding (read on to find out who!).

Barratt’s musical contributions were a huge element in creating this off-kilter comic universe in which, as the classic song says, "cheese is a kind of meat".

"If I am writing something, as soon as I start to hear the music that the person I am writing is into, or a soundtrack to the scene – once I get a musical idea, it comes alive for me. That’s when I know I’m on the right track. But I need a character gateway to get the music out. I’m not happy writing as myself."

While writing, he says, repetitive minimalism can aid getting into "a zone of weirdness" while the soundtrack to The Shining is great for writing scares. But, he warns, "it is not good to listen to Bartok when you are writing comedy."

As he enjoys a Chris De Burgh singalong, it won’t be the first time Barratt has found himself at a distance from the fashionable music of the day. This is a man who once held the ambition to become the fastest guitar player in Yorkshire and spent his teenage years obsessed with jazz fusion and prog rock.

"I think my music taste often put me out of step," he says. "I vaguely came back into step during the acid jazz phase of the early 1990s. That is when my weird obsessions suddenly became sort of useful. It became useful again, my ability to play guitar and use a wah wah pedal came back in for the smallest window. I was in again, able to perform and show my skills off. It stopped quite quickly, but it was quite a fun time…"

‘You Can’t Handcuff The Wind’ is out now as a single, and Julian Barratt’s Mindhorn is likely playing at your local moving picture house. Please click the photo of Julian to begin reading his selection

First Record

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