Saturday, 20 June 2015

Patti Smith, part four and the story so far...

In the space of just under three years, I've spoken to Patti Smith four times, now. This has involved travelling all over the country and waiting outside four different venues for hours on end for the lady herself to arrive. Some might wonder (although I'm sure many don't) why I have put so much effort into speaking to the same person time and time again. The answer is simple: not only is she the most interesting interviewee I've ever had the pleasure to speak to, and that is up against some pretty strong competition, she is also the most humble and accommodating lady you could ever hope to meet. 

Surely, you would think the woman who basically invented a genre of music, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inspired thousands of people with her words, music, art and photography; not to mention winning a National Book Award and being listed in the top 50 section of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists - just to mention a few of her countless accolades - would at least have a small creative ego. No. Not a trace of one. On stage, even at 68 years old, Patti Smith is a menacing, spitting, fist-pumping rocker. Off stage, she is mild-mannered, reverent and very, very funny.

Backstage with Patti Smith - Manchester Apollo 2015
Backstage with Patti Smith at the Manchester Apollo before her concert
My picture with her on the right was taken backstage at the Manchester Apollo on Monday prior to her electrifying show, in which she performed her entire Horses album. This blog is to document our latest encounter, where we talked about a multitude of topics, but I thought it would be a good idea to paint a brief picture of the story so far before launching into interview number four...

It had been over two years since I last spoke to Patti. It feels like only yesterday since I was backstage with her at Burnley Mechanics; an intimate setting for 400 people, who watched a transcendent performance by the Godmother of Punk and her bassist Tony Shanahan, reading poetry and playing the gentler songs from her back catalogue. 

I first interviewed Patti at the end of June 2012, backstage at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. I'd travelled all the way from Yorkshire to Wolves in the hope of getting an interview with her. After waiting for seven hours for her to arrive, she very graciously gave me 15 minutes with her before she and the band soundchecked. It was this interview that earned me my first publishing in two large newspapers; the Manchester Evening News, and the Yorkshire Evening Post, which I still write for, prolifically. 

My next encounter with her took place just over two months later in early September, when she returned to do her second leg of the Banga tour, an album which was released in 2012. I waited outside the Manchester Academy, ironically reading the interview I did with her in Wolverhampton, which was published in the MEN that same day, until around 5.30pm. Thankfully, she remembered me and granted me an interview the next day in Hebden Bridge, where she was due to play an acoustic show of poetry and music. After sourcing a poem for Patti to read at that night's show, she added me to the guest list. Details of this day can be read on a previous article of mine - sufficed to say it was a truly magical day and performance - a day that will forever stay in my heart. 

Seven months later in April 2013, Patti returned to the north of England to play three more intimate performances in Burnley, Haworth and Scarborough. This time, Patti was working a few little shows, or 'jobs' as she calls them, around a trip she was taking with her little sister Linda, who introduced her to the work of the Bronte's. After waiting for around three hours outside the back of Burnley Mechanics, a black Range Rover with tinted windows pulled up and the by now unmistakable Tony Shanahan emerged from the drivers seat, trying to gain access to the venue. Patti remembered me for the favour I did for her in Hebden Bridge and whisked me into the venue with her for another interview. It was quite a surreal experience, getting to stand behind her on stage as she rehearsed Because the Night, holding the fruit and water she had very thoughtfully brought down for me from the dressing room. Much of this interview can be read here. 

This year is the 40th anniversary of her legendary album, Horses; the prototype for 'punk' rock as we know it today. To mark this milestone, Patti and her band, featuring two musicians that played on the original album, are currently on tour playing the record in its entirety. Since this is no regular tour, she was booked into much larger venues than she played on her last UK tour; the O2 Apollo is almost twice the size of the Academy Patti played on the Banga tour. 

Because of this factor, I decided that my best chance of getting an interview was to finally go down the 'official' route of emailing her management. You don't see that many interviews with Patti popping up in the press; probably largely due to the fact that she is practically un-contactable. She gave me her assistant's email address during our first meeting in Wolverhampton, presumably because she realised my objective for speaking to her was to discover, not sell, as is often the case with journalists. 

Patti's assistant Andi cc'd her tour manager Andrew into the conversation, who advised me to be at the venue for around 4pm, to wait around and find him, and he would try to get me 20 minutes to half an hour with Patti before the show. 

When people say you have to suffer for your art, it is completely true. Thanks to my pre-booked taxi arriving 15 minutes late, I missed my intended 2.13pm train to Manchester, meaning that I found myself doing the journey to hell on the later train, packed with mid-afternoon incoherent alcoholics, each of whom got on and off at different stations and each having a different story to tell the whole carriage. 

The Apollo theatre is well over a mile away from Manchester Victoria station, so speed-walking across the city centre, I called in at the W.H. Smith in Piccadilly station, which is en route to the venue, to purchase some lunch-come-breakfast. Naturally, my train was also held up at a signal, so when it finally did pull into Manchester, it was already after 3. Starving freelancers such as myself are often on the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances; so probably not for the last time and certainly not for the first, I walked as fast as I could with the blazing sun melting me in my wake as I crammed a £1.75 ham roll down my throat. After allowing myself an over-indulgent 30 seconds to stop and down a full bottle of Naked Smoothie, I was able to continue my brisk trek to the Apollo - by now accompanied by a wonderful abdominal pain. 

By the time I arrived at the theatre, just before 4pm, a foreboding thunder cloud was hanging heavy in the sky. There were the usual fans milling around - some who had come in the hope of having a brief moment with their musical hero, some who had just come to collect a signature from a celebrity. And so began the wait (are you starting to see a pattern forming, here?)

Patti always arrives at venues around 5pm, but it's always a good idea to get there early just in case. As was the case in Manchester and Wolerhampton, her band started to arrive at different times. Drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, who has been with the Patti Smith Group since the beginning, was the first to arrive, as usual, to soundcheck his drums before the rest of the band got there. As ever, he was very pleasant, signing autographs and greeting the waiting fans before entering through the stage door. 

It's always the same feeling when one waits by the stage door for an interview: there is a piercing silence in the air that creates an almost eerie atmosphere as every approaching car, taxi and van could contain 'that' person. Today was no exception. Eventually, around 4.45pm the rest of Patti's band turned up, minus Patti. The legendary guitarist Lenny Kaye, another of Patti's original musicians, received particular attention from the small milling of fans before he also ventured inside. 

Patti's manager Andrew had accompanied the band in the white splitter van that brought them to the Apollo, and before I was able to approach him, he was driven off in it once again, presumably this time to collect Patti from their hotel. 

However, upon his return, Andrew was alone. I took this opportunity to introduce myself to him as he got out of the van. Thankfully, he remembered our correspondence via email and escorted me backstage into the legendary theatre, uttering to the venue staff those famous three words that have gained me access to so many mysterious and otherwise impenetrable places: "He's with me."

Initially being placed in Andrew's office for the evening, he showed me the way to the front of house, where I watched Patti's band soundcheck. After finally negotiating my way around the narrow and winding corridors of the backstage area, I found my way into the theatre itself, where the band were playing an instrumental version of Kimberly. A massive amount of their time was spent running through a Velvet Underground medley they would perform that evening - what a professional set of musicians. 

Stood at the back of the 3,500 capacity venue, the band were something of a blur from so far away, but about half an hour into the soundcheck, the unmistakable figure of Patti Smith walked slowly onto the stage from the left hand side, apparently having only just arrived. Despite being a little slow in her movements, initially, she immediately surveyed her territory for the evening, dancing around the stage to the music playing in the background. 

After putting the band through their paces and giving them a run-down of what she expected from them that evening, she once again slowly walked away and left the rest of the group to continue rehearsing their medley. It was quite surreal standing that the back of the room, listening to an instrumental version of Break It Up and singing along where no one could hear me. Does this mean I was the Patti Smith Group's lead singer for half a song?

In any event, Andrew appeared at the door next to the stage and beckoned me over. It was time. Back we went up the staircases, two floors to the band's dressing room. The artist area is separated into two rooms at the Apollo: the green room, a dark space with leather sofas and chairs where the artists can unwind and relax before the show; furnished with a television, wine, snacks and various drinks, and the small dressing room itself - basic white painted walls, three mirrors and standard blue office-styled chairs, which was the room I was led into. 

Patti was stood on the other side of the green room when I arrived, signing merchandise for the evening's gig. "Patti, James is here", announced Andrew. As I walked into the room next door I heard her say she would be right there. Andrew told me he'd be back in 15 minutes so the band could go and have dinner.  

A few short seconds later, Patti entered the dressing room carrying her reading glasses and a marker pen. I was greeted with a handshake and a very sunny "Hello, James, nice to see you, again." When I jokingly asked if she remembered me she replied "Yes, of course - my rescuer!"

And so we slid right into the interview. The obvious place to begin was with Horses. Pointing out that it is 'obviously' one of the 100 greatest albums of all time, referencing Rolling Stone's feature, she laughed "Not so obviously, but thank you." 

Smith is always keen to play down her influence or success, seeming almost confused as to why her work has had such an impact. Obviously, she had no idea just how influential Horses would go on to become, but can she remember when she realised the impact it has had? "That's something that you never totally realise", she began. "People tell you, and it's not something that I really think about. One hopes that a work they do will resonate; it's still hard for me to comprehend that, but I just feel that if it's inspired people to do their own work, or gave them some kind of energy or helped them feel they're not alone... if it's done any good and continues to do any good, I'm really happy. 

"But I don't really think about it that way, because in terms of sales and everything, it never got a gold record, it never was a commercial success; so the Horses success has been word of mouth, or just in the way that people speak of it, which to me is a greater success, anyway. It's more enduring."

One of her most famous tracks is Land of a Thousand Dances, which opens with a poem about a boy called Johnny, who is in a hallway drinking a glass of tea. In the proceeding 40 years, Johnny has been in about a thousand different hallways as Patti performs free-form poetry at the start of this song during every live performance, and she told me that the original version of the poem on the album was just as spontaneous as the versions that followed. "That song and the way that we presented morphed. We started doing that in like '73, and it was originally with a whole different poem in front of it. I forget what the poem was called, but it began: 'Look at this land where we am, Night falls like a final curtain. How Shakespearian.' It was like some poem I wrote in the 70's and because it kept referencing 'land', it was really a poem about New York City, then we'd move into Land of a Thousand Dances.

"But then I would try different poems with it, and then I was reading The Wild Boys by William Burroughs, and Johnny in The Wild Boys sort of found his way into Land. It was just organic, I was reading a lot of books by Moroccan writers. The only way I could explain the references in it is to think of The Wild Boys, stories by Muhammed  Mrabet, because 'the boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea', it's like a glass of mint tea. A glass of tea is more Moroccan. They don't really drink glasses of tea in America. I was seeing a lot of Burroughs at the time, and it has that kind of resonance. It resonates the books I was reading that the poetry, it's just all the different thoughts and things that went through my mind. 

"The one on the album was just what we improvised that particular night, because it never had a script. They're still not finite, that's just one version and sometimes the versions are quite simple, some nights they're more complicated, it depends on the political situation; the mood, the energy of the night."

Patti Smith autographed photo
A photograph Patti signed for me in Manchester. This is the image that I always think of when I hear her name. 
Patti laughed when I brought up an interview I had read with her from last year, when a journalist said she went 20 years without working, and Smith came back at them explaining how she has worked all her life, but not necessarily as a musician. "I was writing, I was cooking, cleaning, washing the floors... I always think it's funny people think you're not doing anything if you're not on their radar, you know? And not only was I doing a plethora of domestic duties and raising children, but writing every day. I'm very disciplined and I like to work, and if I'm not publishing for 15 years it doesn't mean I'm not writing, I was writing every day. I think, for me, process is a lot more intoxicating than product. I do finish things and put them out in the world, but in terms of my writing, maybe about a fifth of what I've written is out in the world, most of it is piles", she laughs. 

In her award-winning documentary, Dream of Life, named after Smith's 1988 album, and filmed by Steven Sebring, Patti explains that she had to go back to work after her husband, the late great Fred 'Sonic' Smith of the MC5, passed away in 1994. Since 1996, Patti has released six solo albums, but to my surprise, she told me that had Fred not passed away, she never would have gone back out on the road. "I think that we would have done things in our own manner, but unfortunately, one of the things that would have made me want to perform in some kind of configuration was working with my pianist, Richard Sohl, and he died suddenly of heart failure in '91 and then I really thought that I'd never perform again. I couldn't imagine performing without him, I did my greatest work with him, and I really learned how to improvise and sing and so many things, even though he was much younger, he was a wonderful accompanist.

"But I mean Fred was a musician and we wrote songs at home, but I didn't have any real ambition to return to the road. I had ambition to write books and publish books. But if Fred would had lived, my life would have been much different. My life would have revolved around our life; I lived my life and before, I lived within 'our' life."

Even at the age of 68, Patti is still out touring the world. Most people 10 years younger than her aren't able to do even half as much as she still can. Where does her energy come from? "I'm just a worker, you know, that's what I do. I have to monitor myself, I mean I'm not out partying. I mean, my biggest problem isn't energy, it's allergies; I'm borderline asthmatic, I have a lot of bronchiolar problems, but I was born with them. And they were quite challenging to me in the 70's when I toured; I had bronchitis quite a bit on the road, so it's nothing new it's just as you get older, these childhood afflictions sometimes reverberate, but I do my best, I take care of myself as best I can."

Up until that evening, I had seen Patti play three times: once with a full band and twice acoustic in small venues in the North. Does she ever think she will return to play those intimate evenings of poetry and music again? "Oh, definitely, I mean I think I'll be doing more and more of that in the future. In fact, my next album, I think a lot of it will be acoustic. When I say acoustic, that's sort of a broad term, because it could be with some strings, it could be with a violin or six acoustic guitars. I'm not foreseeing that it'll be a rock and roll record, but you never know, I'm not saying there won't be rock and roll songs on it, 

"But I've written a lot of acoustic songs that we've never recorded, and on the records a lot of the little songs; Grateful, Libby's Song, Wing, Blakean Year - these are all little songs I've written myself and they're all simple acoustic songs, but I like them. Those songs get steam rolled", she laughs. 

© Melanie Smith

The 28th of June will see Patti make a return to the UK's biggest festival, Glastonbury. "It's the end of the first leg of the tour, actually, and that's the 28th of June. We're not doing Horses, we're just playing, in the afternoon; it's going to, probably, be some kind of afternoon blow out, it should be fun. I like the fact it's one of these really early slots, but it seems like it's going to be fun because it seems to me it's sort of a ragtag slot, so I'm looking forward to it, I like Glastonbury."

Great news for fans of Patti's books such as Just Kids and The Choral Sea is that she will be releasing a brand new memoir later on in the year. "I don't think of this one as a memoir, although I don't know what else to call it. It's called M Train  and it's M for 'mind', sort of a mental train of thought. I started writing it in a cafe and just decided to write whatever came to my mind; I had no idea where it was going, I just started writing and was curious to see what would happen if I started writing a book with no... it wasn't even improvised, because when you improvise you usually have some place you're looking toward. 

"I just started and kept on going until it was time to stop. So, there's a lot of things I didn't expect to write about; memories of Fred; there's a lot of coffee in it, a lot about books, so I'm well looking forward to seeing how the people like it. It's not connected with  Just Kids at all, it's really very present tense. It's present tense that goes back, mostly, into the 80's with Fred."

Something I have always wanted to know but that I never get around to asking is the meaning behind the song 1959, which appears on one of my favourite Patti Smith albums, Peace and Noise. It was this album I listened to while walking around Hebden Bridge on that sunny September day as I waited for Patti to arrive at the Trades.

The lyrics are very ambiguous and cinematic, which is probably the reason why I was so intrigued. I took his chance to find out exactly what it was written about. "Tony wrote that, my bass player, wrote the music. In 1959 I was like 12 years old and I loved Tibet. I was doing a current events story about Tibet in school; more specifically, everyone chose a country and then you had to cut out all the newspaper articles about your country. I chose Tibet and the teacher said 'well, you can't choose Tibet, there's never any articles about Tibet', and that was in 1958. So, I was obstinate and I wanted to have Tibet, and every week when we showed our scrapbook to show newspaper articles I didn't have anything. And the teacher said you me 'you're going to fail the whole year because you don't have anything.' 

"So, I just was steadfast and then one Sunday my father said to me 'Patricia, your country is in the newspaper.' And I looked and it was the cover of the newspaper that China had invaded, it was in March of '59. I was horrified, of course, it wasn't the kind of news that I wanted to report, but I'd studied so much about it that I knew all about his holiness, and it was a terrible thing, but my scrapbook got filled up and I had quite a bit of news to tell about my country. 

"So, the song reflects that; the song 1959, it's 'Listen to my story, got two tales to tell', it's like the Dickens thing, The Tale of Two Cities: there was the 1959 American dream happening with the big cars and the beatniks... everything. Thinking of what America was up to in 1959 and then on the other side of the world, the horror of what was happening in Tibet. It just came into my head. When I heard the music I really liked it, and Tony was born in 1959. 

"It was well received, it didn't win one but it got nominated for a Grammy, and I was happy for Tony because he's quite a good songwriter. I wrote this song for Amy Winehouse (This is the Girl), with Tony, as well."

My intention was to head off to the Box Office as soon as the interview was over, so I couldn't let her go without finding out what we were in store for that evening. "Well, we're doing Horses, the whole album, in sequence, which is challenging because when you sequence an album you're not thinking to play them in that... that means you have to open with Gloria. There's a certain challenge, but we're gonna do that, and then lots of whatever we feel like", she laughs. "Just songs that are fun, this is like a big club, it's a nice venue. So we'll do Horses, which is a little more formal, and then celebrate."

Interview over, the signing session began. Patti is always very generous with signing her work, and I always bring a handful of items for her to sign. This time I'd taken along CD copies of Radio Ethiopia and Gung Ho, two photographs, my ticket to her show at Burnley Mechanics, and my copy of her memoir, Woolgathering. 

Patti happily set to signing these items, disappearing midway through into the green room, and returning with a signed copy of her new live acoustic EP, which was recorded in Berlin in 2014. "We're selling this to raise money for the earthquake in Nepal, but I'll give you one because they're hot off the press!", she said. 

This acoustic live album is available at Patti's concerts. The money goes towards the Nepal earthquake appeal
Sitting back down to resume signing my things, she took my Woolgathering book and said "Just let me get a real pen for this". Reaching into my pocket, I produced the fine liner I wrote my questions out with that morning. Patti opened the title page of the book, checked that my name was spelled the conventional way, and wrote a personal message in there before handing it back to me.

Patti then took me into the green room, where the rest of her band were now sat, having completed their soundcheck. She first introduced me to Tony, who remembered me from our previous encounters at Patti's acoustic shows. Patti had Tony sign my ticket from the Burnley gig, which featured his name as a headliner, joking "This was when it was the Tony Shanahan band." She then introduced me to her band, one by one: "James, this is Lenny Kaye, Jack Petruzzelli, JayDee Daugherty. And this is James, who helped us out when we did a benefit in Hebden Bridge... I wrote about that place, too, it's in the book, you'll see." 

At that moment, Andrew returned to get the band and bring them downstairs for dinner. He happily obliged in taking a photo of Patti and myself on my mobile. "James, do you need anything? Anything to drink?", asked Patti, but I still had the water that Andrew handed me earlier so I left the band to dine in peace.

With an affectionate pat on my left arm, Patti and her band disappeared into another room as I gathered my artefacts from the dressing room. Andrew took me into his office to add my name to the guest list before escorting me back through the dark backstage area behind the stage and out of the stage door.

All at once, it was all over. It was 10 minutes before the doors were due to open and the queues were literally going down the street and around the corner - from both sides of the venue. Collecting my free ticket from the Box Office, I made my way into the venue. The stalls are the only place you can watch a Patti Smith gig, and I found myself on the second row, directly across from Patti's microphone. 

A Bob Marley compilation CD was played over the PA before the group strolled onto the stage a little after 8 pm. Patti was true to her word - the entire Horses album was played, to a staggering reception. Break It Up moved several people around me to tears; Land got the audience more than a little rowdy - so much so that security had to intervene, thankfully. Finally, my personal favourite from the record, Elegy, was played. It was incredibly moving to hear this track, which I'd never heard live before, especially the pitch-perfect howl in the middle of the song - goosebumps galore. 

Several times, security patrolled the front row, handing out half-full plastic cups filled with water for the audience, which was greatly appreciated. The 'hits' section of the show was kicked off with another favourite I'd not heard before, Privilege, from my favourite Patti Smith Group record, Easter. This was followed by the Velvet Underground medley, during which Patti walked along the front barrier, greeting audience members. From then on, it was Dancing Barefoot, a hilarious exerpt from her first ever recording, Piss Factory, her big hit Because the Night and finally, People Have the Power. 
Patti Smith live at the Manchester Apollo © Melanie Smith

Returning for a single song encore, My Generation ended the electrifying night. The 3,500-strong crowd of spectators of all ages and ethnic groups poured out of the theatre at around 10 pm. A large horde waited outside the stage door after the show for Patti to come out. 

A rowdy group of teenagers kept shouting for her, each promising to take each other's 'selfie's'. I quietly chuckled, knowing they had no chance. Around 10:20 pm, Patti and the band emerged. The barrier separated the audience to two different sides of the pavement, as Patti smiled and said she was too tired to sign for everyone as she had an early train to catch the next day, but waved and gave the crowd a lasting final memory of an incredible evening. 

As the band was driven off in the white van, I made my way back to the train station on foot. The stars lit my way as I walked through Manchester's deserted streets, a spring breeze gently blowing. I suddenly felt very nostalgic about my first meeting with Patti, almost three years ago. The atmosphere was exactly the same as I walked out of the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton, and once again, it was all over.

On my train home, just after 11:20 pm, I was sat behind two people who had also attended the concert. As they marvelled over their merchandise - souvenir tote bags and t-shirts, discussing the concert, I took this quiet moment to finally try to decipher the message Patti wrote in my book. After a careful study of her elaborate handwriting, I finally made out the message in its entirety: 'June 2015: To James, Wonderful to work with you. As Always. Patti."

My thanks to Andi and Andrew for their help in setting up the interview.

My thanks also to Melanie Smith for allowing me to use her fabulous photographs for this article. Check her out on Twitter and on her website.

Thanks to Patti Smith's band for their hospitality, and my particular thanks to Patti for her endless generosity with her time and allowing me to discover. Until we meet again...

By James Nuttall 

Patti Smith, Signed copy of Woolgathering - autograph
A dedication/endorsement from Patti Smith. Fast becoming my most-treasured possession; my signed copy of her memoir, Woolgathering 

Monday, 25 May 2015

It's been 40 years... does your mamma like her, yet?

Quite understandably, only the most hardcore Suzi Quatronians (like me) would be aware that this May is the 40th anniversary of her third studio album, Your Mamma Won't Like Me. As I have always considered this record to be her finest in terms of being a collection of 10 cohesive songs - not to mention featuring some of Suzi's finest compositions - I couldn't let this momentous milestone go unmarked. This article is especially ironic coming from me, considering that my Mamma liked Suzi before I was even born... oh, the irony.

Suzi Quatro - Your Mamma Won't Like Me, 1975
The album cover for Your Mamma Won't Like Me was a live shot taken in Sydney
The exact date of the release is unknown, nonetheless, I contacted Suzi at the end of April and we set up an interview to discuss her memories of the making of this record.

In her 51 year career, Ms Quatro has taken herself, and allowed herself to be taken, in various different musical directions. Her first album, the sterling Suzi Quatro, was a straight boogie-rock album, packed with strong compositions by both herself and former guitarist Len Tuckey, as well some excellent Chinn/Chapman (her singles writers) compositions, and some of her strongest covers to date.

A year later in 1974, the rather shaky Quatro was released. Despite excellent musicanship and production, Suzi's follow-up album failed to dent the UK charts - possibly thanks to her second number one single, Devil Gate Drive, being omitted from the record. With a slower version of The Wild One opening the album, Too Big  represented the only hit single on Quatro. With Suzi's 10 minute epic Angel Flight not being permitted to be featured, the record was packed out with rockabilly covers, showing a distinct lack of creativity compared to its predecessor.

However, by 1975 Suzi and her entourage were back on form, both musically and creatively. Your Mamma Won't Like Me represented the first major shift in her musical style, incorporating a horns section into many of the new tracks and exploring a much funkier rock sound, than ever before.

Speaking to Suzi about how she felt when Mike Chapman, who took inspiration from the likes of Rufus, approached her with this rather drastic shift in sound, she told me that the musical transition was an easy one for her. "You gotta remember my hero was Otis Redding, after Elvis. So, I liked all the soul and the funk, and I'm from Detroit, so no, I didn't mind, and the main thing being I trust Mike. If he wants to try me in a direction, I go for it and if I don't like it I tell him right away; I mean he wanted me to do Some Girls, the Racey hit that he wrote. He brought it to the studio and I said no. He didn't like it, but I said it's too poppy and it's not for me - and it was too poppy, I was correct. So if he suggested something I didn't like I said so, but most of the time Mike and I are on the same page."

Recorded at the band's studio of choice, Audio International in London, Your Mamma Won't Like Me featured some sterling guest musicians who shared the RAK label with Suzi. The horns were provided by label mates Gonzales; Phil Dennys supplied the string section, and backing vocals appeared courtesy of session singers Sue and Sunny, as well as Suzi's sister, Patti - the guitar player for all-girl US band, Fanny.  

The record was also engineered by Peter Coleman, who would go on to aid Pat Benatar's career. By 1975, the songwriting duo of Chinn/Chapman was breaking up. Your Mamma Won't Like Me was the first of Suzi's albums to not credit Chinn as a producer; rather this was credited as a Mick Chapman production, in association with Nicky Chinn. 

Suzi Quatro singleYet despite the massive shift in sound, and the strained relationship between Chinn and Chapman, Suzi remembers her third album as being an enjoyable one to record."It was a very creative album and it was a musical genre that I was very comfortable in, actually. Having been an Otis fan and all that, that's what I did when I was learning the Otis songs, I listened to him doing that and I imitated him. So it was not a problem, at all, I found it very exciting, that album, because it was different."
Much of her own material was also very funk-oriented. Did she write with this particular style in mind? "No, I did not, in fact maybe that's why Mike thought of that style because what I was writing was going in that direction, you know? I don't write for a style, when I write I just simply write and whatever comes out, comes out."

One of my favourite Quatro compositions, Michael, closes this record. This track uses a string section and is a very anthemic ballad - a far cry from the rest of the album. How about this track? "It wasn't written for the album, it was just written and I loved it from the second the first chords came out. Mike Chapman loved it and it just found its way onto the album, that's a particularly good song... and I will never tell who it's about. I don't think anybody would even know it anyway, but I think maybe the Michael in question knows it!"

Suzi Quatro on the cover of Rolling Stone
1975 was also the year Suzi made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
Despite Your Mamma Won't Like Me's funky sound being spearheaded by Mike Chapman, and the majority of the songs being supplied by the Quatro/Tuckey duo, Suzi says that the album cover - a live shot taken during one of her countless Australian tours - was Mickie Most's idea. "He was very artistic and he had a good way of picking out pictures. If you gave him a whole contact sheet of maybe 25 pictures, he would pour over them and pick out the exact right one.

"When you look at the iconic photo - hands on hips and all that, a la Unzipped - Mickie had maybe three of four contact sheets to look at when I had that first session and he picked that one out, so he was good at it. I remember him looking at it in his office and he said 'this is the one', he was just absolutely sure."

Is that the picture Suzi would have chosen? "Well how can you beat it? It is the photo, isn't it? Even all these years later, it is the photo: it's the attitude, it's the hands on the hips, it says, whatever Suzi Quatro was and is, that photo says it. It doesn't look out place today, that's the most important thing."

Suzi wrote in the booklet her new box set, The Girl From Detroit City, released to commemorate her 50th year in the music business, that the opening track from the album, and one of the singles, I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew, was her original band's finest moment. This song hasn't been performed live since she toured the States with Alice Cooper in 1975, but she added it to her final tour of Australia, this year.

Despite being a four minute single, the outro runs for some 10 minutes. "When I did my final tour (of Australia), I actually did a little speech about this. I said every line-up has a 'moment'; I said there's been lots of musicians through my career. Every line-up has its moment and this was the first band's moment. We were doing it in the studio and Mike just kept the track going, it must have lasted 10 minutes. 

"Usually, the producer will push the button and say 'okay, thank you', and he didn't; and it went on, and on, and on. And when we heard it back, Mike said 'I couldn't stop you, it was too good', so whatever was happening in the studio that day, it was the band's 'moment', that's what I always say. Us musicians, we say it 'sits in the pocket' - that one sits in the pocket."

Despite Your Mamma Won't Like Me not making much of a dent in the charts, the lead single did get to #31 in the UK charts. In August that year, I May Be Too Young, a single not on the album that was more straight rock than funk, just scraped into the UK Top 50.

However, as a live act, Suzi Q was still a draw. In February she embarked on a UK headline tour, RAK Rocks Britain, with Cozy Powell's Hammer and The Arrows. Later on in the year, she would go on to tour Australia, Scandanavia, New Zealand and Japan.
Suzi Quatro plays live in 1975
Suzi playing live on the Alice Cooper tour
After that, she toured the States with Alice Cooper for four months as his special guest on the Welcome to My Nightmare tour; the same tour she broke his nose with a dart gun. She then continued touring for two months after those 75 shows were completed.                                                                             So, where does Your Mamma Won't Like Me rank in Suzi's estimation? "It's up there, I'd say it's probably number four, maybe number three, it's a good album. I think it's my family's favourite album, actually. Back to the Drive, I love. Spotlight has got some great moments on it; I love Four Letter Words. The first album is always gonna be special because it's the first album, and that actually was very 'Suzi Quatro' - it was very boogie, it was very me.

"If You Knew Suzi, it had some good stuff, but I wouldn't say overall it was my favourite album, I think the picture is the best part of that one. It had some good moments, but I wouldn't say that every track was a winner, but it was a good album."

Many thanks to Suzi, as ever, for her time.

Your Mamma Won't Like Me was remastered and released by Cherry Red in 2012, and can be purchased on CD here.

For the latest news and dates, visit Suzi's official website. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

More Jack than God

I never usually write personal tributes to musicians who have passed.

However, this weekend, I lost the first of my real heroes – the man who is responsible for me playing the bass in the way that I do; one of the three men who created the first real 'super group', and bonded me to one of my best friends more than any other band.

Of course, I am talking about Jack Bruce, the greatest bass player in popular music history.

Jack Bruce, live at the Holmfirth Picturedrome, March 30th 2012
Anybody who knows me will know that under this cynical exterior lies the heart of a sentimental old fool. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to many that I was not ashamed to shed a few tears when news of Jacks' passing was reported on BBC News, last night, and they showed a clip of Cream's farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall from 1968.

Predominantly being a fan of music that was recorded usually at least 10 years before I was born, I have always known that I would be there to 'see' the great heroes of mine pass. But I was so 
unprepared for this one, and for the first passing to be one of the most influential people in music to me, is why I am writing this. I think Mr Bruce deserves a small tribute for all his inspiration.

The three piece that was my last band, was
modelled on Cream. The guitarist in this band, and lifelong friend I made as a result of the 60's power trio, modelled his playing on Eric Clapton, and my playing was modelled on Jack Bruce. If I do say so myself, we weren't bad imitations.

But nothing could ever really emulate the real thing.

When I heard of his passing, I immediately text my friend the news. I knew he would not have heard, because if he had, there would have been a text in my inbox quicker than you could say Spoonful. Sending that text was what I imagine it must be like for parents when they have to tell their children they are getting divorced. Inevitably, we ended up having a little reminisce about his greatness and the impact he had on both of us. Do I need to elaborate further on my compulsion to write a tribute?

Bruce is unique in the world of bass playing, because he was one of the very first revolutionaries. With his Gibson EB-3 model, it became more than just a bass. For the first time, it was a bass guitar. Whether on Cream albums, or on his much overlooked, sterling solo albums, Jack's playing was always so exciting to listen to. Until he came along, the entire function of a bass was just to pin down the basics.

Jack was more than able to do that. What made him unique for his time, was that he also had an amazing improvisational talent, which enabled him to create serious grooves, hooks and solos, but still be able to pin it down, every beat. Any time I pick up one of my basses, which is regularly, I always find myself drifting into one of his blues/jazz riffs, which you can hear wriggling around, underpinning all of his songs.

The best example of this is the Cream song, Crossroads, from the Live version of Wheels of Fire. Eric Clapton's screaming guitar is always at the forefront of Cream's material – rightly so, Clapton is a guitar god. But the whole foundation of Crossroads relies on Bruce's bassline, which groans underneath Clapton's vocals and Ginger Baker's rock solid drums. It was this song that inspired me to become a bassist in the first place. During all the verses and solos, Bruce is playing a mile a minute bass line, which just gets faster and faster, especially during Clapton's blistering guitar solo.

I always have to chuckle to myself when I hear Bruce singling Clapton out at the end of the song, because he sang it. Well, Eric, you may have done a bang-up job of singing it, but I think you'd agree with me when I say Jack made it.

Recorded live from the band's gig at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1968, this song showed that bassists are allowed to be just as improvisational and creative with their playing as the lead guitarist – providing they can still lay it down.

In 2012, my friend and I were lucky enough to see Jack play live, and at my favourite venue, to boot, the Holmfirth Picturedrome; a fantastic venue, and ideal for hard rockers such as Mr Bruce and his incredible blues band.

I remember his bass solo during Sunshine Of Your Love literally giving me goosebumps. It wasn't so much a solo – more like a conversation between Bruce and his Warwick Fretless Thumb bass – a secret that they weren't letting anyone else in on. A look of deep concentration remained on his face throughout, as he negotiated the highest notes on the neck, and strummed the lowest chords possible. And the bass responded, loyally, every time.

During an extended number, guitarist Tony Remy performed an ear-splitting guitar solo. Stood in the front row, we could see the sweat pouring out from his forehead, and dripping onto the floor like a tap onto a tiled bathroom floor. The whole room was going wild with admiration. And the whole time, my eyes were fixed firmly on the other side of the stage, where Bruce was stood by the amplifiers, pumping out a simple groove to support his bandmates. I remember my friend turning to me and saying “Only you would still be watching the bass player, right now!”

But JB wasn't just an inspiration for his bass playing and singing ability. He was also a rare example of someone who had made it as big as you can get, but maintained his modesty and humanity.

His last album, Silver Rails, was released earlier this year, and he was booked to go on a UK tour, which was later cancelled due to illness... looking back, a harrowing sign of things to come. In my capacity as a freelance journalist, I had arranged an interview with him.

About thirty seconds into beginning, he recommended rescheduling for when I had heard the album, which was, at that point, yet to be released. Apparently, a cock-up on the PR front meant that, despite his wishes, a lot of reporters had not received the album, as intended. However, I did manage to tell him how much of an inspiration he was: how I took up the bass thanks to him, and how he influenced my playing. “Well, I'm very sorry or very glad, depending on which way you want to look at it!”, he laughed. “I'm glad. That's nice, thanks very much.” was the modest response to such a huge compliment.

Unfortunately, the tour didn't get rescheduled, and as a result, neither did the interview. Although I did receive a nice, signed copy of the record in the mail for the intended rescheduled interview. When I saw that Jack had died, the first thing that came into my mind wasn't how much of a great player he was; it wasn't how fantastic his live show was; it wasn't even how much of an inspiration he had been to me. I just thought 'thank god I told him how influential he had been to me when I had the chance.' Amen.

Personal tributes are not going to be something I make a habit of writing, but in the case of Mr Bruce, it seemed like the very least I could do. Musicians young and old would do well to listen to his music and hear his pure talent: as a classically trained composer, singer, songwriter, and, of course bass player. Another thing they could take note of is his humble nature, and accessibility to his fans.

Although the days of hard living in the 1960's and 70's did manage to catch up with him in the end, JB will always be remembered as one of the first true visionaries of rock and roll. Cream were revolutionaries in their day, and their mix of blues, rock, jazz and psychedelic continues to inspire artists, even today. My friend and I were already third generation fans when we decided separately which instruments we wanted to pick up and who we wanted to emulate. Music is more than just something an individual listens to. It's a magnetic charge that brings like-minded people together.

Many thanks to Jack for his music, inspiration and legacy. A cliché it may be, but he will live on through his legacy of fantastic music. His influence is inescapable.

By James Nuttall

Photographs Copyright James Nuttall 2012

Monday, 3 March 2014

UK vacancies for The Motels?

In 1979, The Motels, fronted by single mother of two, Martha Davis, were one of the first bands to check-in to America's new-wave music scene.

Releasing their début album, The Motels that year, they soon received worldwide critical acclaim for their collection of 10 strange tracks, particularly the top five hit in Australia, Total Control

After a worldwide tour, they released Careful in 1980. Very similar in style to their eponymous release a year previous, two singles from this album became the only two songs of the band's career to chart in the UK. However, things were certainly looking up for Martha and her boys, as this album also received a warm reception from critics, and also made the top 50 in the US album charts, as well as the top 30 in Australia.

The Motels have always been famous for their striking and original album covers. Whereas their first album is modelled on a postcard seen by Davis in a motel, featuring a sunburnt middle-aged woman wearing a swimsuit, the distinctive artwork for the Careful album cover pretty much sums up the band's music. "Love the Careful album art", comments Martha. "That's the very talented Mr Duggie Fields ( I found  a copy of the print in a book in a thrift store... immediately bought the book. I've always been very involved with the artwork."
Careful's album cover personified The Motels' original unique and unusual sound

None the less, despite their growing success and popularity, The Motels were still at the mercy of their record company when it came to putting out albums; so when Capitol Records refused to release the band's would-be third album, Apocalypso, Martha and the band were distraught. As Davis has since explained: "They said this album is a little too dark, a little too weird, a little too strange... and there's no hits on it." Because of this, an album that was supposed to be released on August 9th 1981, finished up finally being released 30 years to the day after it's intended release date, complete with original artwork of Davis dancing in real flames. An incredibly graphic and interesting story is included in the CD booklet about that particular photo shoot.

Martha says that there is still much unreleased Motels material. "There is so much unreleased material that it's kind of crazy... more than anything I write, that's what I do and have done since I was 15. To make it worse, I'm kinda fast, so yes James, way deep archives..."

With a new producer and a much slicker new-wave sound than that of their first two albums, The Motels' third album to be released, All Four One, was a surprise to critics, fans, and the band itself. Hiring a new guitar player, Guy Perry, the third consecutive new guitarist on the third consecutive album, All Four One proved to be the group's best-selling release to date.

Their single Take the L became a huge hit in Australia, whilst also faring quite well in America. But the album's second single, Only the Lonely, originally recorded for Apocalypso one year earlier, proved to be one of their two biggest and most enduring songs. As well as Only the Lonely, six other songs on All Four One had originally been recorded for Apocalypso. Having access to both versions of these songs, it becomes apparent just how drastically the different producers changed the sound of the band in such a short space of time.

The Motels' third album, All Four One, was their most commercially successful and featured their biggest hit, Only the Lonely.
As the group's commercial success grew, their control over how the music sounded shrank. Their next studio offering was 1983's Little Robbers. A rather manufactured looking album cover of Davis, standing prominent in the foreground, while the other five members of the band (by this point they had added a second keyboard player) were obscured in the background, suggested that the unit was collapsing and more and more focus was being put on Martha, making a clear statement that the record company was starting to single her out as 'the' Motel.

Despite a number of gems, such as the reggae-infused Isle of View, and good rockers like Remember the Nights and Monday Shutdown, this release lacked the originality and edge of it's predecessor, All Four One, and sounded more like The Bangles and less like the weird artistes they had been just three years earlier.

Davis has often expressed her unhappiness on how the original sound disappeared after All Four One became successful. "I kind of like the first album, I think it represented more of the quirky style that I embrace. To be perfectly frank the more polished sound was not my favourite, I'm really not a M.O.R. (middle of the road)  kinda gal...the hard part was that when we got all "gussied up" and slickly produced, we finally started selling... the pressure was on to sell more... and there in lies the rub, commerce vs creativity."

None the less, Little Robbers proved another commercial smash, hitting number 22 on the US Billboard, and only last year Rolling Stone magazine included the top 10 hit single Suddenly Last Summer in their 'Best Summer Songs of All Time' list. The single also hit number 1 on the US Rock charts.

As the pressure for more success took hold, tensions within the band were stretched to their limits, and Davis in particular felt the strain. As she began to lose more and more control over what their music should sound like, her drinking increased. She commented in 2004 on the band's episode of VH1's Band's Reunited: "I was a drinker, I liked wine. I had red writing wine, white working wine." The fact that she could say that tongue-twister in one go is evidence of her long-time sobriety.

The band's final album is up there with releases such as The Hunter by Blondie and The Rolling Stones's Dirty Work. A critical failure, original member, keyboardist and saxophonist Marty Jourard states on his website that by the time The Motels released 1985's Shock, they had "...delved into the hideous world of over-produced mid-80's techno rock", and that "Martha's writing had become professional but to my mind the craft was replacing the passion." 

By the time Shock was released, The Motels's middle of the road sound had driven them into the ground. Headlines such as 'The Motels play it safe' and 'Motels need to rediscover grit' had started to surface in the music press. 

In January 1987, the weary band reconvened to begin recording a new album. However, in just a matter of weeks, Guy Perry quit, and Marty Jourard followed suit just two weeks later. Finally, Davis dissolved the band. She took each member individually to a bar down the street from their recording studio, and explained to them, over a drink, they were out of money and that she was continuing as a solo artist. 

The album they had begun to work on ended up being a Martha Davis solo record called Policy. Being a solo artist proved to be a difficult transition for her. "I'm terrified of being a solo artist, that's why I always have a band, which I did for my solo album. The transition to solo was more heartbreaking than anything else... the Motels had been a family for 8 years... it was hard."
As ever, the album cover did the talking. Shock was an intense and erratic final album 

While Davis pursued a moderately successful solo career, the other ex-Motels pursued other ventures- some completely away from the music business. Bass player Michael Goodroe got a Bachelor of Science degree and worked in a medical centre. Drummer Brian Glascock became a photo finisher, whilst Marty Jourard stayed true to his passion and became a music teacher, whilst Guy Perry began working in a guitar shop. 

The quintessential line-up of The Motels reunited in 2004, thanks to VH1's programme, Bands Reunited, for a one night only performance in the US. Unlike other groups that were featured on the programme like Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Squeeze, it was a welcome sight to see the five-piece genuinely pleased to see each other again. "I still work with Marty Jourard", says Martha. "He lives pretty close to me in Seattle. A couple of years ago he partnered up with me to help me with a Jazz/Standards album that I had written, which also contained a co-write with Marty.  He also comes out on the road with us when we're lucky enough to have him. I'm also still very close with Michael Goodroe, one of my dear friends. Sadly, Michael and I aren't as geographically blessed, he's in New Mexico, but we sure as hell will get on the phone and gab for hours. The rest of the guys I don't really have much contact with. The funny part is the guys I play with now have been with me longer than the old Motels were together."
Apocalypso was recorded in 1981 and not released for 30 years.

Since this reunion, Davis has hit the road with a brand new band, entitled 'Martha Davis and The Motels'. As well as releasing Apocalypso after 30 years, they also released This in 2008 and Clean, Modern and Reasonable the year before. Now this incarnation of The Motels is working on a brand new album. "The new album is forming itself as we speak. I'm a firm believer in the organic process... you scatter a bunch of seeds, not entirely sure what kind they are... as things start to bloom they present you with picture of what your crop will be. Because I've been writing so long, it is not difficult to come up with "a song" or "a bunch of songs", so of late I've become more interested in cohesive interwoven projects, more like a loose weave concept album. I'm happy to report, it has informed me of its direction and songs are availing themselves... though to be perfectly honest, if the songs should decide to do something completely different, I would just have to obey. My credo... the only ego allowed in the room is the songs."

Martha and The Motels are still a popular live act and just last month performed at the Whisky A Go-Go's 50th anniversary show. Davis says she still gets a huge kick from performing. "Shows are like your kids or your songs, they're all different, but for the most part you love them all. Because this band is so great, no matter how produced or polished the original track, there is an urgency, and great energy to whatever we play. My favourites are always new songs. We play songs from all the albums; somehow it works."

But when not on the road, Martha leads a very different pace of life. "I'm on a farm outside of Portland, Oregon... so when I'm not playing music, I'm working on my house and farm, and trust me, there is a lot to do!"

With a new album in the works and still so much energy in her performances, surely it can't be long until The Motels check in to play more dates in the UK? "It's been since the 80's that we've been to Europe and the UK, and it sucks!  Hopefully this year we will get there... I have a new manager and he's great, he very much wants to get us over there... so, soon?"

Martha, with the latest line-up of The Motels 
Davis's bluesy and sultry voice has never been shaken, and she remains just as strong a singer as she ever was. Surely there are more UK residents than one 20 year old with a schizophrenic taste in music that wants to see Martha tour Europe again, but how much longer will we have to see this lady in concert? Will she stop when she drops? "Retiring is a very strange concept, one that I reject. Life will engage you as long as you're engaged.  There is always something new and wonderful around the corner, so yes, I will take the "drop" option, thank you."

By James Nuttall

Many thanks to Martha Davis and Marseille & Company Management

News of Martha Davis and The Motels can be found here.
Martha Davis and The Motels Official Facebook
Martha Davis's Official Twitter page
For UK residents, The Motels's albums can be purchased here.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Late night listening- by James Nuttall

Now, people who know me best, and even those who don't, will know that I love music. It has been my biggest passions since I have been able to style my own hair. (That's a bloody long time.) 

I seem to have been forever spouting my mouth off to people about what they should be listening to and why- not in a snobby way- music is just noise, after all, but my passion for what I believe to be good music overrides everything else in my brain when I become locked in a war of words about what is wrong and right music to play.

I am not sure if this is the case for all music lovers, but for me many albums and songs become synonymous with, not only a time, a place or a memory, but also with a time of year and, indeed, what time of day I was listening to it. This usually stems from the first time I hear something being played and it clicks with me... normally when I have ripped a fresh CD onto my laptop, stuck it onto my MP4 Player (never to be replaced with a soulless iPod), and gone off to do whatever I had planned that day.

However, there are some albums that, for me, it is essential to listen to them at night time, for it is at night time that they are at their most poignant. Listening to Sheryl Crow's 100 Miles from Memphis CD at quarter to two this morning gave me the idea to share with you, dear and blessed readers, ten albums that I consider to be exclusively late night listening...

Artist: Richard Hawley
Album: Truelove's Gutter

If the album cover doesn't give it away, Mr Hawley's masterpiece of a sixth studio album is his most sombre work to date.

None the less, it does not necessarily mean that Truelove's Gutter is a work of sadness. Hawley's voice, as deep, calm and cool as an Iceland lake, soothes one into a state of reflective mellowness. This is very much an album for after the after-party. When all the guests have gone home at 3am and you are left sitting in your living room, pouring out the one glassful of red wine from the bottle, there is no better opening song than As the Dawn Breaks. Equally fitting is Ashes on the Fire. an excellent song to play in your earphones while preparing for bed; nothing ensures you are relaxed when you close your eyes like holding down the 'off' button as the final chord fades out.

But don't let the sombreness detract from the album's unexpected twists and turns into sometimes euphoric and sometimes despairing explosions of electric guitar and piano melodies.

A good example is perhaps the best-known track, Open Up Your Door, any fans of Haagen Daz ice cream will remember this song providing the soundtrack to their adverts. Out of nowhere it launches into an anthemic bridge and ends on a much more hopeful note than it began.

The reverse of this is represented in Soldier On, which begins very much in the same way as the aforementioned song, but instead of launches into euphoria it launches into anguish with lines such as "I'm left with a loneliness that has no name." Maybe that isn't the best song to turn out the light to at night, but it makes for good reflective music.

Stand out tracks: Open Up Your Door, Ashes on the Fire, Soldier On

Artist: Goldfrapp
Album: Black Cherry

People who have heard this album already will agree with me that Black Cherry is pure sex from start to finish. This was the album that made me quite literally fall in love with Alison Goldfrapp.

No other voice on this planet can turn me into a feral adolescent purely by panting a line such as 'wonderful electric', a line from Goldfrapp's signature song, Strict Machine, which is about using electrodes on lab rats. However, on the surface it would appear to be about something much more passive than a rat. And you don't need to plug it into the mains to use one.

The groaning synths are just as sensual as the smooth and hypnotic waves laid down by Will Gregory.

The title track may be a sweet ballad, but don't let its innocence deceive you. Perhaps the most unusual song is Hairy Trees, which features a melody that could have been used in a Mary Poppins song, juxtaposed with lines like "Touch my garden." Twist is again a hidden meaning, but on the surface just tells of Goldfrapp's urgent need for oral sex, whilst Slippage is just four minutes of sexual synth beats and endless panting and moaning from Ms Alison.

So, why is this exclusively late night listening? Try listening to Black Cherry on your way to work... your mind may well be 'on the job', but not necessarily the one in hand... unless you call for a toilet break.

Stand out tracks: Crystalline Green, Train, Hairy Trees, Strict Machine

Artist: Sheryl Crow
Album: 100 Miles from Memphis

Admittedly, not my favourite offering from Sheryl Crow; after Detours two years before, which was packed with the same angry and searching politically-charged rock songs her first three albums, all works of brilliance, came out, 100 Miles From Memphis contains more than its fair share of forgettable songs. 

None the less, the funky and soulful brilliance of the album makes up for weaker tracks such as Stop. It was also this album that gave me the idea to write this article, and for that reason alone it deserves to be here. 

This album invokes all kinds of moods and atmospheres. The first track, Our Love Is Fading, is an up-tempo shuffle that finds Crow in fine voice, as always, as it does with her excellent backing vocalists. Groovy bass lines and a sterling horn section boasts that here are possibly the best musicians she has ever worked with.

Moving onto track two, Eye To Eye, sees her take on a brand new and until now unexplored territory- reggae. Thankfully, she pulls it off fantastically, made even better by Rolling Stone, Keith Richard, laying down one of his instantly recognisable rhythm guitar parts. 

The real groove begins with her cover of Sign Your Name. Crow's cool vocals, lifted by the harmonies of her male backing singers, lay so smoothly over a pumping bass riff, accompanied by a sparse guitar chord. But the highlight of the album is undoubtedly the title track- the instigator of this article. Almost two years after first buying the album, (one of the best '2 for £10' deals I ever got at HMV), I still get chills as the opening grooves kick in. The male harmonies whisper of "Scent of an angel" begins a fantastic narrative which keeps Crow "driving all night just to get to you". The shuffling bass line and the groovy vocals make this one of those songs that turns you into the most soulful pigeon in the neighbourhood as you groove your head back and forth to the inescapable grooviness of Crow's outro "here comes the morning." Even if a chino-wearing, accessory glasses-sporting hipster walked past me playing this song, I would consider him to be cool. It's just that powerfully groovy, Daddio.

The album ends with a fantastic cover of The Jackson Five's I Want You Back, a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, who Crow sang backing vocals for on his Bad tour.

Why is this night time music? You can't groove like this outside the privacy of your own home- it's a health and safety thing. 

Alternatively, tracks like 100 Miles from Memphis and Long Road Home make great night time driving companions to any long-distance truckers out there who don't mind risking a bit of ribbing from fellow truckers that are blasting out Deep Purple and suchlike. 

Stand out tracks: Our Love is Fading, 100 Miles From Memphis, Eye to Eye, Roses and Moonlight

Artist: The Eagles
Album: One of These Nights

When most people think of The Eagles, they think of classics like Hotel California, Peaceful Easy Feeling, New Kid in Town and God knows how many more country rock hits. Now, these songs are perfect for summer days: whether you are going for a long walk or just sitting in your kitchen watching the world go by.

However, betwixt the laid back country songs of Take it Easy and the arena filling success of Hotel California, The Eagles released two albums that were a mixture of both their country roots and a sign of things to come.

One of These Nights was the second album of this flavour. Although not exactly a Led Zeppelin album, it marked a much rockier sound than that of their first two albums and carried on the same formula as that of its predecessor, On the Border. The difference was that One of These Nights gave The Eagles their first number one album in America, and rightly so, in my opinion.

This 'ere CD landed on my doorstep on new years' eve of 2011 and has become synonymous with that occasion every year since. Of course, it was played in the evening of 2013's NYE, when I was sober enough to trust myself with a record player needle.

From the moment the opening bass riff of the title track starts, they immediately have your attention. Initially you are unsure where they are going to go, but from the moment Don Felder's electric guitar cuts through the speakers, you know you are in for some serious southern rock. Don Henley's brilliant voice goes from being huskily sensuous to the very top of his range as the song fades away, proving his excellence as both a great drummer and one of the 1970's finest pop singers.

Even heavier is the second track, Too Many Hands, sung by bassist Randy Meisner.

The mid-tempo country songs you come to expect from The Eagles come in the form of Glenn Frey's brilliant Lyin' Eyes, and Henley's Hollywood Waltz. 

The unexpected twists and turns come in the form of Journey of the Sorcerer, a banjo-led instrumental and Don Felder's Visions, which gives a taste of things to come as the band moves more and more towards heavier guitar parts and more searching lyrics.

One of These Nights is the song you play to give you a bit of a confidence boost as you get ready to go on a night out. The rest is what you listen to when you get back from a night out that hasn't gone exactly as you would have liked it to.

Stand out tracks: One of These Nights, Lyin' Eyes, Take it to the Limit, Visions

Artist: The Motels
Album: All Four One

Time for a little more 'oooh' and a little less 'uh-huh'. The Motels released two fantastic rock albums in the new wave period. However, by 1982 they had changed tact. All Four One represents their shift into the new romantic movement, alongside the likes of Joe Jackson and Spandau Ballet. 

Howver, the change in sound does not take anything away from Martha Davis's songwriting skills; it just means that they are presented in a much more polished format. 

I first discovered The Motels last July when they were compared to one of my favourite bands. Discovering the moody perfection that is Only the Lonely on YouTube compelled me to buy this album. 

Like most 20 year old students, I am terrified of what the future has in store. All Four One arrived on one of those all common days of isolation and fear. As usual, it went straight onto my MP4 and I went straight out the door for a summer evening walk.

Mission of Mercy is a seriously heavy rocker that invoked such a sense of urgency I realised I had walked nearly half a mile by the time it ended. Tracks like Art Fails, Change My Mind and Forever Mine are great feel-good numbers; but in my despondent state, when a song like Only the Lonely creeps in with its foreboding opening synthesiser chords, it makes isolation even more poignant, particularly when you are stood on a hill watching a glorious sunset and all you can hear is Martha Davis's bluesy voice declaring "I feel so lonely way up here."

None the less, although it might be quite a moving and introspective album, All Four One is by no means sad, at all. It is the kind of album that all teenagers who feel marginalised- in other words, all teenagers- should own. The pounding beat of So L.A, a song about the superficial side of Los Angeles, will have you walking to the thumping rhythm of the chorus as Davis chants "And the man on the corner got something new and something new is good for you tonight." This album is half moody, half manic and what better time to feel that way than when you can burn it off, knowing you have to be in bed a few hours later?

Stand out tracks: Mission of Mercy, Only the Lonely, So L.A.

Artist: Curved Air
Album: Midnight Wire

There is no definable reason why this album is for night time, it just is. Granted, the title suggests that is best suited for post-watershed listening, and two tracks are absolutely essential night listening, but it is very difficult to put into words why this album made the list.

Curved Air made their name as the most successful prog rock band fronted by a woman, the exotic Sonja Kristina. After releasing four excellent progressive albums in their own unique flavour, incorporating rock, folk and medieval fanfare styles, 1975 saw the release of the much more mainstream rock flavoured Midnight Wire

Police drummer and Kristina's ex-hisband, Stewart Copeland, played drums on this seven track curio. Opening with the fantastic hnoky-tonk-styled rocker, Woman on a One Night Stand, a track that sounds like it was penned for Shirley Bassey, Curved Air are almost unrecognisable apart from Sonja Kristina's almost operatic voice, leading a song about a woman who is only out for one thing. 

Moving onto the more sultry and sexy Day Breaks My Heart, the band is more recognisable as the musicianship really takes hold in true Curved Air fashion. 

Possibly the albums' best track The Fool, an exquisitely jumpy shuffle that sees Kristina sing the chorus accompanied by a tumbling violin part. This track is the first song that is completely recognisable as a Curved Air song. Followed by the mellow instrumental Pipe of Dreams, one is lulled into a calmness that is not again heard on this album. 

The ending song, the title track, is a soaring seven minute epic is a roller-coaster that brings you to the brink of tears as Kristina asks you "What do you know of drowning off the midnight wire?" and singing of "ritual dying on the stage", a description of her stage performances around that time. The diversity of this song becomes obvious when the melancholy verse, accompanied only by a piano fades away and the soaring chorus kicks in with Copeland crashing in with the rest of the band as Kristina asks: "Who's that calling from the midnight wire?" That is a song to play as you climb the stairs to brush your teeth to remove the taste of pork scratching from your mouth.

Stand out tracks: Woman on a One Night Stand, The Fool, Midnight Wire

Artist: Jackson Browne
Album: Late for the Sky

I don't see how anyone who claims to be well versed in terms of music could possibly omit this absolute masterpiece of both musicianship and songwriting. I have been walking into the hairdressers with a photograph of this man's excellent hair for as long as I can remember. But it's not just his style that I admire. 

In the words of Bruce Springsteen: "What drew women to Jackson, besides the obvious, was that they finally felt that they were listening to a guy who knew as much about love as they did. And what drew men to Jackson was that when they listened to him they realised that they knew more about love than they thought they did. In seventies post-Vietnam America there was no album that captured the fall from Eden better than Jackson's masterpiece, Late for the Sky."

Amen, Mr Springsteen. Browne's third album is much darker than that of his earlier eponymous album and For Everyman. From the moment the weeping guitar and piano chords of Late for the Sky lilt out of your speakers, you know that you had better be in the mood for some serious soul-searching. This is not the album you want to listen to if you are on top of the world. No matter how good a mood you are in, it simply cannot last as you hear Jackson declare "Awake again, I can't pretend. And I know I'm alone and close to the end of the feeling we've known."

The second track, Fountain of Sorrow, one of Browne's most famous songs sounds like you have to brace yourself for a seven minute whirlpool of despair, but this is not the case. An easy-listening soft-rocker, it is led by piano and bass as Jackson delivers some of the finest lyrics of his career.

For me the highlight has always been The Late Show, another mid-tempo easy listener, but this time the lyrics make it very much uneasy listening. Maybe it's Browne's cynicism that clicks with me, but when he ponders the line "Maybe people only ask you how you're doing 'cause that's easier than letting on how little they could care. But when you know that you've got a real friend somewhere, suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear", I don't think an adult alive could not find themselves agreeing with him, even just a little.

However, unlike many of the songwriter's of his time, Browne's writing has always got a glimpse of hope in it. The Late Show takes a hopeful turn towards the end as he sings: "You go and pack your sorrow, the trash man comes tomrrow. Leave it at the curb and we'll just roll away." This is made even more significant as The Late Show closes Side A (that's the top part of a vinyl for all you downloading philistines) with the sound of a car door slamming and a car revving up and driving away- as simple and effective as the man who wrote it. 

Late for the Sky might make you consider the answers to some questions about yourself you've been trying to avoid, but by the time the albums prophetic closer, Before the Deluge, ends, you will be strangely uplifted and glad you stuck out some of the most important songwriting of the 20th century.  

Stand out tracks: Late for the Sky, Fountain of Sorrow, The Late Show, For A Dancer

Artist: Stevie Nicks
Album: The Soundstage Sessions

There are very few Stevie Nicks albums I would advise anyone to listen to during the day. Music released from a woman famed for her black chiffon shawls, songs about witches and sorcerers and who, by her own admission, does not go to bed until 4am, is quite predictably not going to be overly drenched in sunshine... moonlight however, that's another story.

The Soundstage Sessions is in fact a live album. It features what Nicks considers to be more obscure tracks, with a few hits thrown in, from a live DVD released in 2008, Live in Chicago. However, the applause has been edited out and is basically a studio album made up of re-records and some interesting cover choices.

Beginning with a stomping version of her 1983 hit Stand Back, the nasal quality in Nicks' voice makes her sound quite flat. Thankfully, her fabulous band covers this. A cover of the Dave Matthews Band's Crash into Me, however, redeems her as she reworks some of the lyrics to make it work for a woman to sing. 

An excellent new version of one of Nicks' greatest ever songs, Sara, follows this. Extended and accompanied by her backing singers, Stevie still has the power to move people whether what she is singing is new or not. 

The live album element gives this album a sense of night time by default, but the later songs are just impossible to fully appreciate unless you have some serious mood lighting set up and there is no sun in sight. Most notable is the rather obvious How Still My Love. As Nicks sings "In the still of the night it's me that's talking to you", it's clear that this song was not made for daytime airing. Again, an extended version, it is perhaps even finer than the original version that features on her first solo album, 1981's bewitching Bella Donna

Followed up by a gorgeous cover of Bonnie Raitt's Circle Dance, transformed into a duet with Vanessa Carlton, follows the moody How Still. 

Two tracks from Stevie's 2001 album Trouble in Shangri-La provide the penultimate songs. Both versions of Sorcerer and Fall From Grace are, without question, far rockier and more memorable than the original studio recordings. Much like The Motels and The Eagles- if you are angry in the night, these are two songs you should stick on. 

Stand out tracks: Crash into Me, How Still My Love, Fall From Grace, Sorcerer

Artist: Jackson Browne
Album: Lawyers in Love

"Again?" I hear you cry. Yes, again; but not just for my own indulgement, Lawyers in Love and Late for the Sky are two different animals. Yes, the songwriting is still top-notch, yes it still makes you think, but this time around, nine years later, Mr Browne has grown up. 
His love songs are now not so despairing and more level-headed. His politics are less cynical and more in your face. 

The album's opener and title track is as satirical as its album cover. A rock song typical of its time, Browne sings of the "strangled cries of lawyers in love." 

The next two songs, On the Day and Cut It Away are very 1980's and could have been taken from All Four One. The first song is advice to a friend that if he carries on living in this way he will be in deep trouble when he falls in love. The latter is about Browne's own frustrations in love about why he "hungers for something more". In typical Jackson form, he sends everyone a message we will all need to hear at some point and you will find yourself taking a deep breath as he cries in anguish "I know I've gotta let you go. I know you should have left a long time ago."

The only problem with this album is that the rock numbers all sound so similarly. The title track is an excellent rocker, but when Downtown and For a Rocker kick in with the exact same opening beat and riff the sheen is taken off the album somewhat.  

Be that as it may, I have not yet mentioned the two best tracks on the album, which make it both essential as a night time album and a as a must-buy. The track of the album is Tender is the Night. One of the finest songs Browne has ever recorded, this is the only song to listen to when your love life has hit the skids and your claustrophobia has forced you out onto the city streets. So as the traffic passes by and the inevitable hand-holding couple walk past you, what better company is there than that of Jackson Browne saying that between the life he expected and the way it's always been, he can't walk back in again... truer words were never sung.

The second is the much harsher and colder Knock on Any Door, an almost mocking 'I told you so' ballad that hears The Pretender say to a former lover "Save your tears for some occasion. Leave the heartache to yourself." 

So, whereas Late for the Sky is perfect for late night contemplation with a glass of wine, Lawyers in Love is a much more active album. So get some walking boots on, switch on this album and take a long stroll, maybe calling in at a local tavern for just one drink... then two hours later, as a montage of all the signs above the bars you visit that night float past you in a haze, let Tender is the Night guide you back to your tastefully decorated bachelor/bachelorette abode.

Stand out tracks: Lawyers in Love, Cut It Away, Tender is the Night, Knock on Any Door

Artist: Marianne Faithfull
Album: Blazing Away

Another live album is a good one to end on, I think. There is next to nothing that is daytime about Marianne Faithfull: after a relationship with Mick Jagger and being present at Keith Richards's infamous Redlands bust for drugs, she ended up living on a wall, addicted to heroin. Needless to say, her image as the virginal song thrush of the 60's was shattered. 

In 1979, still carrying heroin problems she recorded a true classic, the dark and chilling Broken English. Her cracked and nicotine-stained vocals were completely unrecognisable, but far more preferable to the bland Sandy Shaw-esque songs Faithfull was singing in the 60's. Songs like Come and Stay With Me and This Little Bird simply were not Marianne Faithfull. Politically charged cringers like Broken English and foul-mouthed cult poems-turned-songs like Why D'ya Do It were. 

Blazing Away showcases songs from Faithfull's entire career, with a few new ones thrown in nicely. Recorded in a chapel, the opening track, Les Prisons Du Roy, features a choir and Faithfull singing completely in French. A live version of one of her masterpieces, Strange Weather, follows.

Live highlights include Working Class Hero, extended with an excellent bass solo, Faithfull's vocals are far more bitter than that of the version on Broken English. The same can be said for Sister Morphine, which she co-wrote with Jagger and is also featured on The Stones's brilliant Sticky Fingers album from 1971. 

One of Faithfull's finest tracks, Times Square, is another song that is better on this album than the original. Some real magic must have been in the air the night of this concert, making it even more important you listen to it at this time. The closer, and extended version of her masterpiece, Broken English hears her army of musicians attacking the pulsating and raucous intricacies of the song, while Faithfull absolutely spits the vocals, particularly the refrain "What are we fighting for?"  A re-worked version of her first hit As Tears Go By is a vast improvement to the original, willowy version she recorded in the 1960's.  

Studio-wise, the title track provides Faithfull with one of the most contemplative songs of her career, about a soul-searching down and out looking for a place to stay. The frustration in her voice as she asks "What is the reason that things change? What is the reason they can never stay the same?" will, like Jackson Browne, take you back to the point in your life where you felt like this- we've all been there.

Blazing Away is a good closer for this article because it is, in many ways, a culmination of all the aforementioned albums. It has the reflective songwriting of Jackson Browne, the sombre moodiness of The Motels, the soaring quality of Curved Air and The Eagles, whilst also genuine beauty of a Richard Hawley album... Granted, Faithfull's songs that are about sex are much more vicious than that of Goldfrapp's. 

Stand out tracks: Strange Weather, Working Class Hero, Times Square, Blazing Away, Broken English