This is a revised and expanded version of an attempt I made in February 2011 to try and encapsulate my main musical tastes in just 10 albums.
My belief is that the most influential pieces of music in a musician’s life aren’t necessarily the artist’s favourites and aren’t necessarily the albums the artist considers to be the best of all time. Instead, they’re the albums that pointed the artist in a particular direction at a crucial time in their artistic or emotional development.
For obvious reasons, in the formative part of a budding musician’s - or music fan’s - life there’s a greater possibility of music having a massive impact (listening without prejudice and with little knowledge has its benefits). This isn’t to say that albums / artists can’t be emotionally or creatively influential later on, but in a lot of cases personal tastes can become set at an early stage.
The albums I’ve selected - and the stories behind my discovering them - have mostly stayed the same, though the coda needs context.
In 2011, streaming had yet to make an impact on people’s listening habits or the media’s coverage of music. For better or worse, the feted ‘legacy’ artists and entrenched values that dictated predictable ‘all-time best’ polls in music magazines and newspaper music lists a decade ago no longer seem culturally relevant in 2022. The times they have a changed and most people - both young and old - appear to have less rigid tastes than they once did. Again, for better or worse, taking cues from music journalists seems mostly a thing of the past. Since the original piece, Q no longer exists and the NME is now an online music news service, as opposed to a serious tastemaker. The ‘heritage’ music magazines that exist tend to provide information as opposed to analysis or opinion. No longer guided by accepted wisdoms, it seems that we’re all just attempting to find our own way through the massive overload of music and information that’s out there.
1. John Barry – You Only Live Twice (1967)
Huddled in the back row of the Warrington Odeon in the late 1960s, at the ripe old age of 5, I was first exposed to the cinema courtesy of the James Bond films. My Dad was a fan, my mum wasn’t. I was a very cheap date.
My abiding memories, beyond staring at the swirling clouds of cigarette smoke overhead, are the sense of excitement that the films’ action generated and the haunting nature of the music in the background.
Pouring scorn on Pinky and Perky and Rolf Harris, my early record collection proudly consisted of a John Barry Best Of compilation, the You Only Live Twice single (Nancy Sinatra sings John Barry), and an MFP LP of Geoff Love‘s versions of John Barry’s James Bond themes. Diverse it wasn’t!
Barry’s scores for You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the Harry Palmer film The Ipcress File were the ones that most grabbed my attention, with Capsule In Space - from YOLT - being a particular favourite piece.
My early love of evocative film music continues to this day with Barry, alongside the likes of Angelo Badalementi, Bernard Herrmann, John Murphy, Ennio Morricone, Jon Brion and Cliff Martinez appearing regularly on my playlists. Barry’s influence can also be heard in other subsequent personal favourites (Billy Mackenzie, Portishead and Radiohead, for example).
2. 10cc – The Original Soundtrack (1975)
For years I only listened to film music, hymns (courtesy of my stint in the school choir) and my parents dated record collection. Mainly comprising crooners of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams and Jack Jones, there were some deviations with the likes of The Carpenters and Diana Ross (whose Touch Me In The Morning album I loved). We also had the inevitable Beatles ‘red’ and ‘blue’ albums and Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits as well as many a Neil Diamond disc. Diamond’s covers album Rainbow, featuring songs by Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen and others, inadvertently introduced me to several future favourites. As any rational being would, I treasured my Dad's copies of A Whiter Shade Of Pale and Nights In White Satin (great singles both and, like The Beatles, outliers in a world of MOR).
Preferring Sinatra’s You Go To My Head to the Ballroom Blitz and Tiger Feet, I didn’t understand my school friends enthusiasm for The Sweet or Mud. On hearing 10cc‘s I’m Not In Love in 1975, I finally ‘got’ Pop music (that said, a year earlier, Sparks’ This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us had similarly intrigued me).
I’m Not In Love was the first single I bought, and I played the song and its equally beautiful b-side (Good News) to death. Soon after, I unexpectedly found the band’s current album The Original Soundtrack in a vinyl rack in a local Spar.
One bout of irrational pre-teen begging later and along with the Angel Delight, Golden Wonder and Smash, the goddamn album was mine.
For years afterwards, I devoured everything by the band and its offshoots (Sheet Music, Consequences, L and Freeze Frame are works of genius, I tells ya!). My other (limited) interests at the time included The Beatles, Lennon’s Mind Games (cheap on MFP!) and Wings‘ inventive 1970s take on the Abbey Road sound (Band On The Run was a near classic and, obviously, the band’s brilliant James Bond theme song didn’t pass me by).
In retrospect, the cinematic sweep of 10cc’s mid-1970s sound combined with Kevin Godley‘s and Eric Stewart‘s choirboy-esque vocals made them an obvious first Pop flirtation for me.
Part Psychedelic Beatles, part Beach Boys, part Zappa, part Floyd-tinged Rock, part Glam Pop, yet wholly themselves, the band’s love of beautiful ballads, any old irony and multi-sectioned epics (Une Nuit A Paris, Somewhere In Hollywood, Feel The Benefit etc) also paved the way for other future interests including Progressive Rock and the sophisticated Pop of Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Squeeze, Steely Dan and XTC.
3. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Two of the stranger mid 1970s obsessions were the cassette tape and Subbuteo. In the raging hot Summer of 1976, I was a willing slave to both.
Hiding from the sun, along with a group of friends, a Summer-long Subbuteo competition took place in my front room. While we excitedly flicked away during improbable encounters between Haiti and Leeds United (yellow away kit, of course) or Crystal Palace and Brazil, my Dad’s trusty Lloytron Music Centre provided a sonic backdrop to our less than beautiful games.
Bored with my limited supply of 10cc, Beatles, Wings and John Barry, my friends soon started bringing their own music in. Most of it passed me by, but one of our friends had a Dad with long hair, an afghan coat and a cassette collection of ‘hi-fi sensations’ (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream and the like). This may have been the Summer Of Punk in London, but the long-form ambition of Atom Heart Mother, Phaedra and Hergest Ridge became the revolutionary sound of the Cheshire suburb I lived in.
The most played track might have been Zeppelin’s Kashmir, but the album that most engaged me was Wish You Were Here. From its atmospheric opening onwards, this was an album that exuded mystique and depth. The elaborate artwork brilliantly reinforced this impression.
Smitten by this heady mystery, Pink Floyd quickly became another favourite band and just as some of my friends were discovering AC/DC or The Damned, my walls were being covered by the famous Dark Side Of The Moon pyramid posters.
I arrived back at school with Robert Plant’s (lack of) haircut and a nice line in badges on jumpers and logos on exercise books. The only pupil with longer hair was my future drummer and Granada TV’s future history presenter, Mark Olly.
As a result of my interest in Pink Floyd, I found my way to Genesis (and its multiple offshoots), The Who, Yes and King Crimson, which in turn drew me to Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Soft Machine, Frank Zappa, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Moody Blues, The Doors, Deep Purple, Gentle Giant, Caravan and many, many more. Like love, Prog was all around.
A lot of my albums came cheap. In 1977, visibly embarrassed, a friend’s sister gave me her complete ‘Progressive’ collection to make way for future Punk releases. How she could resist the appeal of H.R. Geiger’s cover for Brain Salad Surgery - and the musical insanity within - was beyond me! Around the same time, I obtained a sun-warped copy of King Crimson’s Lizard for the princely sum of 12 and a half pence from local drumming sensation Howard Jones (later known to some as Porcupine Tree‘s The Expanding Flan).
As for the Punk revolution, I really liked The Stranglers, The Buzzcocks and XTC and loved the New York bands (Patti Smith, Blondie, Television and Talking Heads). The slightly later Post-Punk/New Wave scene (particularly Magazine, The Cure, Durutti Column, B52s, Teardrop Explodes, A Certain Ratio and Joy Division) also appealed massively. That said, both then and now, the ire and dissonance in the music of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator seemed far more menacing to me than the comic-strip aggression of Sham 69 and Chelsea. Courtesy of the likes of Red and White Hammer, my teenage nightmares had a suitably apocalyptic soundtrack.
4. Kate Bush - Lionheart (1978)
Kate Bush is one of the artists I’ve closely followed since the beginning of her career.
Wuthering Heights was an extraordinary debut single, but her second release The Man With The Child In His Eyes was the one that made me a fan for life.
Although it’s regarded as the lesser of the two albums KB released in 1978, Lionheart was the LP that I played repeatedly on its release.
The exotic chords, yearning voice and intimate arrangements beguiled me and the likes of In Search Of Peter Pan, Wow and In The Warm Room provided a strangely comforting soundtrack to the raging domestic disharmony in the background. Lionheart’s enigmatic gatefold cover with embossed text seemed a perfect match for the mysterious contents inside. There was also something intrinsically connected with the emotional turmoil of adolescence about this music. Without me fully understanding it, it spoke to me (Bowie's Life On Mars had a similar 'queasy' effect on my 14 year-old brain).
From this point on, as an artist KB continued to grow and grow. While I may consider The Dreaming (1982), Hounds Of Love (1985), Aerial (2005) and 50 Words For Snow (2012) to be better albums, due to the nature of the time I first heard it none touched me quite as much as Lionheart did.
5. David Bowie – Low (1977)
As the late 1970s advert went, ‘There’s Old Wave, New Wave and there’s David Bowie.’
Low came to me via a school friend who bought illegal cassettes cheaply in Saudi Arabia (where his Dad was working). At 5p, I couldn’t resist.
Still one of my favourite albums, side one’s warped electronic Pop songs and side two’s desolate proto-Ambient atmospherics, paved the way for many of my tastes to come.
The treated drums, synth textures and emotional yet mannered croon may have derived from elements of Kraut Rock and Scott Walker, but (along with Peter Gabriel‘s later 3 album) they pretty much defined the sound of the early part of the decade to come. Inspiring countless New Romantic, Goth and early Factory / Mute bands, Low remained a vital album years after its release.
As for me, I investigated Bowie’s diverse back catalogue and the work of his colleagues in spirit, Roxy Music and Eno. In 1979, I also foolishly bought a pair of baggy ‘Bowie trousers’ from Affleck’s Palace in Manchester. Making me look more Euston tramp than Station To Station fashion icon, they weren’t my finest purchase. Some pleather trousers purchased around the same time were similarly unbecoming.
Between 1977 to 1985, Bowie’s influence and influences seemed to crop up everywhere I looked, from emerging talents such as Japan and The Associates (where the ‘doors lead to other doors’ title comes from), to older artists like Scott Walker, Cluster and Jaques Brel.
Where Bowie was concerned, doors frequently led to many other doors.
6. Peter Hammill – Over (1977)
This was an album recommended to me by John Kerfoot, a staff member at Manchester’s Piccadilly Records, and it came to define half a decade for me.
Discovering it at a difficult time in my life, its tales of love, life and hope lost resonated strongly. Time Heals and (On Tuesdays She Used To Do) Yoga were the tracks I was most drawn to, but the raging howl of anger that was Betrayed also cut deep.
Over's articulate, highly personal lyrics and blisteringly raw, yet intimate, sound gave me something I could identify with as well as the courage to feel that I could possibly make music other people might be interested in. Without doubt, Hammill’s uncompromising individuality influenced many of my painfully unlistenable early adventures in music.
At various points, seeing I liked Hammill, people encouraged me to listen to artists such as Kevin Coyne, Nico, John Cale, Leonard Cohen, Kevin Hewick, Tim Buckley, and Robert Wyatt, which I did.
Borrowing heavily from all the above (but particularly Hammill), my first ever solo recordings were introspective, over-written and relentlessly dark. Most of what I produced was unbearably bad, but the albums that influenced my directions, I still admire and play (The Future Now, Rock Bottom, Beautiful Extremes Etc, The Marble Index, Music For A New Society and so on).
7. Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (1975)
After the darkness, came the light (of a sort).
Seeing what I listened to and liked, in the early 1980s, future No-Man member The Still Owl introduced me to a whole host of artists I’d only read about. As well as a lot of Progressive music, his vast collection contained Classical (Stravinsky, Satie and Debussy appealed), Jazz (Miles Davis and John Coltrane became instant hits) and singer-songwriters galore. Of the latter, Joni Mitchell was the one who most impressed me.
Stunned by her musical diversity, compositional sophistication and effortlessly perceptive lyrics, albums like the eclectic Hissing Of Summer Lawns and the intimate Hejira became oft-played firm favourites. I felt humbled by her immense talent and still do.
Hejira possessed a hypnotic lyrical and musical consistency, while The Hissing Of Summer Lawns presented a variety of styles (from Electro-World Experimentalism to lounge Jazz to exquisite ballads such as Edith & The Kingpin and Shades Of Scarlet Conquering). To this day, I struggle to work out which of the two I prefer.
My love of Joni led me to discover other singer-songwriters of a similar vintage or reputation (John Martyn, Nick Drake, Neil Young, Rickie Lee Jones, Judee Sill, Randy Newman and many more) and pushed me towards some Modern Jazz (Weather Report / Pastorius / Metheny…).
As with John Martyn, Joni’s music was as personal and as intense as Hammill’s, Nico’s and Coyne’s etc, but there was also a lightness of touch and an occasional optimism (or submission to love, perhaps?) that meant it didn't seem as bleak. If The Future Now is a black and white arthouse cinema classic, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns is a technicolour production with genuine depth and scope.
There was a quality of sensuousness in the music of Mitchell and Martyn, which completely turned around my approach to creating music. From listening to their work, I learned to try and respond to musical ideas rather than just impose myself on them.
8. Steve Reich – Tehillim (1982)
Another Still Owl recommendation, this was unlike anything I’d come across before (though I could hear elements of Minimalism in Gabriel, Bowie, Eno and Discipline-era King Crimson, of course).
A complex ever-shifting music that superficially seemed to change little, I was blown away by Tehilim's insistent rhythmic sensibility and constantly rising sense of tension.
As well as becoming a regular reference point in my own music, my interest in Reich led me towards Philip Glass, John Adams, Arvo Part, John Tavener, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley and Gorecki, and more recently John Luther Adams, David Lang and Max Richter.
9. Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (1969)
A gorgeously shimmering yet restless (under)statement, In A Silent Way‘s contradictions make it an album worthy of frequent repeat plays. My favourite Miles album is Sketches Of Spain, but there’s no doubt that this period of ‘electric Miles’ ultimately proved more influential. Along with Bitches Brew and Live At The Filmore, it was also the first Miles album I heard.
The offshoots of In A Silent Way’s seductive electric pastoralism include early Weather Report, early Return To Forever, ECM Records (Eberhard Weber, Terje Rypdal, Benny Maupin and more), Sun Ra’s beautiful Lanquidity, Mwandishi, Van Morrison (his amazing odd album out, Common One), John Martyn, Zappa's The Grand Wazoo and Waka Jawaka, The Necks and Marvin Gaye (Trouble Man). In later years, Talk Talk, Modern Nature, Floating Points, Goldie, Bark Psychosis and others also drew from this period of Miles Davis’s ever-changing music.
An album of precariously suspended beauty.
10. David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees (1984)
The mid-1980s was a genuinely exciting time of musical discovery for me. The slightly emotionally inhibited approach of the late 1970s and early 1980s was being replaced with grander statements and the restrictive Rock quartet and Electro-Pop line-ups were being enriched by new sampling technology and a more exploratory use of acoustic instruments.
From a personal point of view, many of my favourite albums and artists emerged around this time.* Boasting David Sylvian's Brilliant Trees, The Blue Nile's A Walk Across The Rooftops, Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak, Thomas Dolby's The Flat Earth, Pat Metheny's First Circle, Prefab Sprout's Swoon, Durutti Column's Without Mercy, Eno & Budd's The Pearl, This Mortal Coil's It'll End In Tears, Prince's Purple Rain, Cocteau Twins' Treasure and Scott Walker's extraordinary Climate Of Hunter, 1984 made an especially strong impression on my tastes. Alternative Rock - as exemplified by U2's Unforgettable Fire, The Smiths' debut, King Crimson's Three Of A Perfect Pair and Echo & The Bunnymen's luscious Ocean Rain - was also taking some interesting detours.
Effortlessly emerging out of his work with Japan and Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian's Brilliant Trees possessed a constant, subtle sense of surprise. The introspective, ethereal promise of Tin Drum‘s standout track Ghosts and the grace and grandeur of Forbidden Colours were taken several steps further on a bold and beautiful debut statement.
As Sylvian’s artistry matured over his increasingly impressive 1980s output (with perhaps Secrets Of The Beehive being his greatest achievement), his inspired choice of collaborators (Hassell, Fripp, Wheeler, Torn, Nelson, Taylor, Sakamoto etc) served to push his music into an exciting and contemporary fusion of Jazz, Ambient, Singer-songwriter and Chamber Classical styles.
Like Miles Davis and David Bowie before him, Sylvian proved himself to be a great facilitator, providing a great basis from which to draw stunning performances from a dream team of gifted musicians.
11. Lou Reed/John Cale – Songs For Drella (1990)
Between 1989 to 1991, the UK music media obsessed about The Happy Mondays, Public Enemy, The Stone Roses, 'Daisy Age' Hip-Hop and Madchester. I genuinely liked a lot of this music and there's no doubt that it informed No-Man’s sound at the time and helped the band evolve into something it wouldn't have done otherwise.
Though the artists and styles mentioned above had a greater impact on popular culture, many of my favourite releases from this time were notably less feted and fashionable. Albums such as Steve Reich’s Different Trains, The Cure’s Disintegration, Kate Bush’s The Sensual World, Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, The Blue Nile’s Hats, Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock and Rain Tree Crow’s debut were ones I felt more emotionally connected to. Alongside these, It’s Immaterial’s Song, Momus‘s Don’t Stop The Night, The The's Mind Bomb and American Music Club‘s Everclear also made a big impression on me, as did the long-awaited Reed/Cale reunion release, Songs For Drella.
Song For Drella’s coherent stripped-down and drummerless blend of simple but affecting ballads and pummelling Minimalist song miniatures was moving, honest and sonically very raw.
In 1991, using Songs For Drella’s spartan piano, electric guitar and voice approach as a starting point, Michael Bearpark, Peter Chilvers and I began writing and rehearsing material as Samuel Smiles. Our first session was at Amazon (now Parr Street) Studios in Liverpool and Ken Nelson - subsequently, a world-renowned producer for the likes of Coldplay - recorded us performing 30-40 minutes of music directly onto tape. No overdubs allowed, we'd decided we wanted to recreate the way that 1950s Jazz albums had been made. Sadly, we lacked the finesse of the Miles Davis Quintet!
The bare Smiles trio sound was a universe away from the lush productions of No-Man (which I wholeheartedly loved), but it was equally thrilling - especially live - in its own way.
12. David Bowie - Blackstar (2016)
Blackstar makes for a suitably restless, creative and satisfying full stop to a great career.
From the breathtaking genre-shifting ambition of the 10 minute title track to the gorgeously wistful closing piece I Can’t Give Everything Away, the album possesses a dense, textured quality that marks it out as an album apart in Bowie’s rich back catalogue. An achievement in itself.
A late Scott Walker influence is apparent on a couple of songs but isn’t overwhelming, and the much-discussed Jazz inspiration provides expressive ‘colouring’ more than anything else.
As he often did, Bowie makes distinctive and accessible ‘music’ out of ostensibly difficult sources of inspiration. Being a new variant on the wilfully inventive crooning Art Rocker of Station To Station, the Berlin trilogy, Scary Monsters and Outside, Blackstar represents the side of Bowie I’ve most responded to in the past. Like a lot of his strongest work, the music and singing is powerfully moving without being sentimental or remotely obvious.
I listened to Blackstar for the first time the day before Bowie’s death. I liked it a lot and played I Can’t Give Everything Away on repeat a few times before going to sleep. Given the intimations of mortality in the album’s lyrics, waking up to hear of his death didn’t particularly surprise me. In Lazarus alone, there was a sense that this was a carefully and lovingly prepared final statement. The unexpected ‘breakdown’ ending to I Can’t Give Everything Away further supported this impression.
Beyond it being a brilliant album, Blackstar is a prime example of the fact that artists don’t have to creatively diminish as they age. Along with the likes of Scott Walker, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen and others, Bowie remained interesting and interested to his dying day.
Blackstar is also an indication that my personal love of music continues long after I first discovered music in the cheap seats at the Warrington Odeon in that distant universe the 1960s.
Many of my favourite releases have appeared in the 21st Century and I’m genuinely pleased that I’ve continued to discover new artists that move me.
Thankfully, it’s not over (yet).
Beyond the above, there have been many other albums and artists that have shaped what I do, as well as a great number of influential films, books and personal experiences, of course.
It misses out my long-term interest in the work of The Blue Nile, Rickie Lee Jones, Prefab Sprout, The Smiths, Nick Drake, Talk Talk, Brian Wilson/Beach Boys and Randy Newman for instance, my fascination for Donna Summer’s disco epics, Frank Zappa's brilliant and bewildering back catalogue, anything and everything Mark Kozelek, Marvin Gaye, Flaming Lips, Wichita Lineman, Mitchell Froom, the voices of George Duke, Colin Blunstone, Dusty Springfield, Karen Carpenter and Bobbie Gentry, Eberhard Weber, Chic, Fela Kuti, 1980s gated drums, Cocteau Twins, Majical Cloudz, Thundercat, 1980s tribal drums,Nadine Shah etc etc….
Chronicling my own listening experiences in this way reminds me that most of us have highly idiosyncratic ‘journeys in music’ that rarely conform to the typical ‘greatest albums and artists of all-time’ lists that used to frequently appear in the likes of Q, The Guardian and the NME. Ultimately, I suspect that most music fans’ tastes are far more diverse and unpredictable (both more experimental and commercial) than the magazines would have us believe.
* From the mainstream (ZTT, The Waterboys‘ ‘big music’, Depeche Mode‘s Master And Servant, Prince‘s When Doves Cry, Genesis‘s Mama, Fleetwood Mac‘s Big Love, Gabriel‘s So, Eurythmics‘ Savage) to the underground (Pictures, The Wolfgang Press, Swans, Eyeless In Gaza, El Records), interesting things seemed to be happening.
Prefab Sprout’s glorious Steve McQueen, Thomas Dolby’s The Golden Age Of Wireless, Nico‘s Camera Obscura, Wire’s creative comeback Snakedrill and The Ideal Copy, XTC’s Mummer, The Big Express and Skylarking, Laurie Anderson‘s Big Science, Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs, Rickie Lee Jones’ The Magazine, Kate Bush’s The Hounds Of Love, The Smiths’ entire career, The The, Prince’s Parade and Sign “☮” the Times, John Surman‘s Such Winters Of Memory, Depeche Mode‘s Music For The Masses, Miles Davis‘s Tutu, John Cale’s Music For A New Society and Artificial Intelligence, Eno’s Apollo and The Pearl, Talking Heads’ Speaking In Tongues, Durutti Column’s Without Mercy, Pink Floyd‘s The Final Cut, Joy Division's Closer, David Bowie‘s Let’s Dance and This Is Not America, the ECM Records Works series, It’s Immaterial‘s Life’s Hard And Then You Die, the emergence of Public Enemy and hip-hop, Icicle Works, the birth of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance‘s Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun, Roedelius’s Gift Of The Moment, Godley & Creme‘s Cry and Birds Of Prey, FGTH's underrated Liverpool, Budgie's drumming for The Creatures and The Banshees, This Mortal Coil‘s It’ll End In Tears, Dali’s Car, The Sugarcubes‘ Life's Too Good, Jan Garbarek‘s It’s Okay To Listen To The Grey Voice, Holger Czukay‘s Der Osten Ist Rot, A Certain Ratio’s Force, Rush’s Moving Pictures, the Hugh Padgham drum sound, Chameleon's Strange Times, Marillion's Clutching At Straws, Big Audio Dynamite’s first two albums, Will Sergeant's guitar sound, Suzanne Vega‘s debut, Momus‘s’ The Poison Boyfriend, Virginia Astley‘s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, OMD's Dazzle Ships, Marianne Faithfull’s Strange Weather, Sparks' Change, King Crimson‘s Discipline, Philip Glass‘s Koyaanisqatsi, Scott Walker‘s astonishing Climate Of Hunter, Propaganda‘s A Secret Wish, Van Morrison’s No Method, No Guru, No Teacher, Grace Jones’s Slave To The Rhythm, The Blue Nile’s transcendent A Walk Across The Rooftops, Everything But The Girl‘s Eden, Talk Talk‘s breakthrough The Colour Of Spring and countless more things I can’t remember.
Some artists certainly found the 1980s a difficult period to navigate (Neil Young, Yes, Miles Davis, Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell and David Bowie, for instance, appeared more driven by fashionable outside producers than their own muse), while others creatively thrived (Prince, Gabriel, Bush,Trevor Horn, Bill Laswell and more). Regardless, for me anyway, the 1980s wasn't the creative desert it's sometimes been depicted as.
Tim Bowness, February 2011 / February 2022