Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Darkness And Relief: Sean Lennon’s 13 Favourite Albums

From Herbie Hancock's darkest depths to Brian Eno's anxiety-relieving light, Sean Lennon guides Patrick Clarke through thirteen records that changed his life

Photo by PJ Van Sandwick

Sean Lennon’s picks for his Baker’s Dozen arrived to tQ’s inbox to at least one raised eyebrow. With experimental cuts from a Delia Derbyshire project, a cult Indian tabla player, an orchestra of teenage Scottish students playing glockenspiels all named among his 13 favourite records, it’s as obscure as they come. Any fears of pretension are soon dissipated within the first few minutes of our conversation, however, as one thing becomes clear above all: when it comes to music, Lennon knows his shit.

When speaking to him, it’s easy to let thoughts of his career as a musician and a producer (he helmed two of this year’s best new LPs with The Moonlandingz and The Black Lips) fade into the background; nor indeed does his famous surname feel all that relevant. The impression, simply, is that he’s an enormous, passionate, and knowledgable music nerd. When we come to his love of Miles Davis, for example, he reels off what feels like every musician the jazz great ever worked with, his voice inflected with delight and glee: "Billy Cobham, my favourite drummer, and Jack DeJohnette, my other favourite drummer, on the same song!". Whenever he does forget a piece of information, however minor, I must wait for him to dig out the record and check.

On paper, the choices seem broad, though as we dig in it becomes clear how to track the connections in Lennon’s musical taste. It’s notable that almost all come at the most experimental phases of musicians’ careers. "I’m drawn to the moment when people seem like they’re having their mind blown or a sea-change that they’re discovering something and their sound is shifting – Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, The Beatles’ Revolver, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, those are the moments that interest me the most."

A teenage introduction to Bitches Brew and a youth spent following the various threads of the many brilliant musicians that Davis surrounded himself with is something of a year zero when it comes to Lennon’s love of experimentation, while the fact he grew up in such a musical household is to thank for that nascent artistic spark. "I do suppose I was genetically predisposed to music," he says. "When I was young my dad had a jukebox of old 45s. It was full of the music that he loved: Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry. I loved that kind of music, I was only 4 or 5 but I remember playing ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ on repeat. From an early age I definitely felt music deeply."

His eventual 13 choices boast varying degrees of darkness and light in their make-up, and veer from electronica to jazz via prog, pop and afrobeat. They come from different points in his life – from his earliest memories to just this year, working with Fat White Family’s Saul Adamczewski on their Insecure Men project – but there is one common thread. "They’re albums I feel I can put on if I’m in any mood, like an anti-anxiety medicine," he says.

The Moonlandingz’ Interplanetary Class Classics and Black Lips’ Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?, both produced by Sean Lennon, are available now.

The Moonlandingz are playing Brixton Academy on 29 July along with Goat and Jane Weaver, find out more here.

Click the photo of Sean Lennon below to begin browsing his Baker’s Dozen.

First Record

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