Father’s Day is upon us and with that in mind Getintothis‘ contributors pay tribute to their dads and the lasting influence of their music tales and record collections.
Father’s Day is just around the corner and for many of us it’s a time to thank our dads for pretty much helping us keep everything together – whether that’s building bookcases, making decent bacon butties or simply picking us up when half cut from outside a nightclub having failed miserably to sort a cab out. There’s a myriad of memories we each associate with our dads (check out this awesome My Old Man blog by music writer Ted Kessler) and for some of us they’re firmly linked to music. This year we asked some of our contributors to send us their stories – we hope you like them and feel free to share your stories on our Facebook.
Jeffrey Ward Cullen. Even his middle name is bit cowboy-like.
The man was my dad and my dad passed away 20 years ago. His greatest demon, booze, took both nearly all of his attention from my precocious young self and even more tragically took his life at age 47.
What is left in my possession to help me make sense of this mythical, strange, amazing and sometimes terrifying human (as well as a huge chunk of myself) are fragments of stories many times told and worn like a pebble with telling, and a few objects including a set of birthday cards from him to me ages one to five, some scrawled, some cursive, some in all block capitals, all highly amusing.
There’s a table he made of two chunks of a huge tree, for the man was a self-appointed tree surgeon, and a talented one by all accounts. Lastly, a 7″ record, Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes, emblazoned in thick black marker with a skull and crossbones and ‘do not touch, property of JC‘. The man didn’t own much but what he did own, he needed.
To my sister he bequeathed a chainsaw, a pair of Levi’s and a wax jacket. To my brother I’m not sure what he left as I never asked him and I’ve not seen my two younger half brothers since the funeral. I actually had to nick that record, it’s not like there was any formal will (he died suddenly, and was not a man of paperwork, I don’t think he even had a bank account) and I felt that it was fair to assume that the skull and crossbones warning expired upon the owner’s death.
I had listened to that record over and over as a kid, as an adolescent and I have as an adult too. Initially it seemed to contradict what I knew of him, the cowboy film watching toughman, the man who owned a sawn off shotgun, who seemed to dwell outside of the law but somehow managed to never fall foul of it, the fella with strong sinewy hands and arms in denim cuff-unbuttoned shirts who always reminded me of Jimi Hendrix with his strut-walk (perhaps rather fanciful of me, that comparison), the man who was friends to the local Gypsy king, the man who would mount a thoroughbred stallion in its field bareback for a bet – resulting in a broken wrist.
What I hear in this song is a story of a woman (and Jeff certainly had a weakness for the women) who, ‘pure as New York snow‘, could look right through you, a woman with the ability to disarm a man with her street smarts and hard won worldliness and very obvious charm.
A woman who, I suspect, could right stare at you unabashed, right out of her loneliness and into yours. I’m pretty sure that’s just exactly what my dad craved, I’m pretty sure that several people, not least my lovely mum, tried. I’m pretty sure alcohol perhaps at first made it seem possible that someone could.
Ultimately though, I think that possibly the blindness of being blind drunk thwarted any opportunity he might have to make that kind of connection with anyone.
They say you can’t choose your parents, well, you certainly can’t choose their record collection either. It must be a strange and unthinkable scenario to have little musical influence in your upbringing – and I find myself in a considerably privileged position to have a set of parents who are not just loving but loved their music.
While my mother undoubtedly enjoyed music (The Beatles, early rock & roll and The Hollies 45s were particular favourites) in her teens and early 20s her commitment to seeking out new sounds petered out when maternal duties and other such commitments kicked in.
My father on the other hand has been responsible for a better form of schooling than I’ve received through any educational system. His record collection, albeit somewhat modest in comparison to other collectors (there’s perhaps several hundreds gathering dust in his garage or my back bedroom – I’ve cherry-picked the tastiest offerings to save them from being eaten up by a skip in Maghull) contained many a cornerstone classic laying the foundation for a lifetime of music enthusiasm.
Early memories centre largely around holidays to France accompanied by a Saisho (Dixon’s own brand) personal stereo that looked like something out of an early series of Star Trek – it was rather large with space-age font and sky-blue graphic equalisers which no matter what setting were adjusted to resulted in a pretty diabolical sound quality. They were accompanied by a metal and plastic set of headphones with spongy exterior. The experience of wearing them was rather uncomfortable to say the least. But that didn’t stop me from devouring literally hundreds of hours of my father’s music while being driven round the entirety of northern France as two history loving parents took in every chateaux there was to visit. I remember discovering his set of tapes (the 12″ record collection had long been shipped to the loft by my mother’s over-zealous want for tidiness) in the bottom of various wardrobes in faux wooden containers with dusty plastic hinged lids – inside there was a myriad of music; Neil Young, Steely Dan, Black Sabbath, Emerson Lake & Palmer, ELO, Camel, numerous reggae compilations with exotic names like Black Uhuru, The Alan Parsons Project, Genesis, Ian Hunter and Kate Bush. Each one had been copied from their vinyl equivalent and then meticulously hand-scribed with blue or black biro in my father’s handwriting – every letter perfectly formed with no mistakes or errors – together they had a uniformity like they’d been bought in a set down some official collectors shop.
Nearly all of these tapes were listened to at some time or other but around a dozen made more than a lasting impression. The first was a Prince compilation – an irresistible assortment of songs hand-selection by my father from his sister’s (my Auntie Val’s) collection; half of 1999 segued into a handful from Purple Rain that then bled into much of Sign O The Times – it was near enough the perfect introduction – yet I’ll always wonder why When Doves Cry was omitted. The compilation was played on so many occasions that the sound dipped in and out of certain sections as the tape disintegrated into near translucence. Similarly, just before hitting my teenage years, REM‘s Murmur – one of few cassettes bought as an original – was played relentlessly as I battled in vein to decipher Michael Stipe‘s incomprehensible lyrics in the back-seat of car journey’s to my grandparents. Oddly enough, The Travelling Wilburys debut record was another which would strike a chord; the mixture of Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lyne‘s harmonies with Bob Dylan‘s storytelling (Tweeter and the Monkey Man proved a particular favourite) proved a winner with my young ears.
As the years rolled by my best friend Rob became more of an influencer in my music tastes introducing Public Enemy, The Stooges, Tribe Called Quest, John Coltrane and Aphex Twin to my early teenage years, yet my dad continued to surprise – it was always something of a revelation when he procured albums like The Slim Shady LP, It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah!, Mezzanine, the list goes on…
But if there’s two bands who came to define my listening tastes and those early years it’s Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd – sure, they’re perhaps stereotypical dad rock choices but the reason they’re so ubiquitous is too obvious to mention. I was never a cool kid at school, with terrible haircuts, ridiculous glasses and not quite naughty enough to be a complete outsider, yet, it was my dad’s record collection which stood me in good stead many a time in conversations with my peers. More often than not with the true dickheads at school anxious to be perceived as in the know. I’ll always remember a particularly mundane physics lesson being brightened up when the hard-knock of our year (he’s miraculously still alive, so let’s just call him Phil for sake of rattling his cage) shouted across the room, ‘Eh Guy, what’s the best Led Zeppelin album, it’s Led Zep One, right?‘ Remembering my dad’s words, I diplomatically replied, ‘One’s a good place to start but I’d say they get better with each record, IV is a classic but Physical Graffiti is probably the best.‘ He looked kind of stunned and said quiet quietly, ‘Not heard that one, nice one.‘ It was those little things which kinda kept you from being knocked out during lunchtimes.
But The Floyd will always be dad’s number one. Well, I’m presuming so, I’ve not asked. But given it’s the band he gets most agitated about when I borrow (steal) his albums I’m taking that as red. Ironically, they’re a band I rarely heard him play much as a youngster, perhaps because my mum would usually dictate what went on the car stereo – however, judging by the dozens of cassettes and every single vinyl there was to collect, Pink Floyd was very much top of dad’s agenda. From The Kop anthem in Fearless to the vitriolic riffing of Dogs through to those chiming clocks on Time and that great wave of magnificence throughout Echoes these are all musical moments that are quite simply timeless – ones I’ll forever associate with my dad. Shine on, indeed. Peter Guy
When it comes to music I am very much my mother’s daughter. The Saturdays of my childhood seem soundtracked by her singing along with Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac or Van Morrison as she danced the hoover round the various living rooms we inhabited over the years. It was my mother’s cassettes that I poached for my own, my mother who brought me to my first gig and with whom I still trade albums and new artists.
My mother simply planted seeds and let them grow. My dad, however, was not quite so patient.
I don’t believe my father has ever listened to a piece of music at a tolerable volume. In his not so humble opinion, most of what the music industry has ever produced is crap.
And if it isn’t crap, it should be loud. Very, very loud.
I was in my teens before I ever heard Pink Floyd played below the stereo’s breaking point. Subsequently, as a child I formed an instinctual revulsion to Floyd, and contrary to all his good intentions, my dad had actually given me an allergic reaction to one of the most revolutionary bands to hit the airwaves.
But not all his clamorous efforts were in vain. One of the definite images of my childhood which was replayed in various houses, gardens and cars over the years, is the figure of my father’s hunched shoulders and closed eyes, leaning over the stereo as he turned it up to eleven, crooning along to Elton John, Neil Young or Tom Waits.
In the background my mother rolls her eyes.
My dad never just listens to music, he is in the music, shaking his fist or howling along at the top of his lungs. There is no such thing as background noise.
Luckily he’s got a passable singing voice, one which in my youngest memories is always paired with my godfather’s in a husky Dublin rendition of Sinatra’s Under My Skin or My Way.
My dad cried the day Sinatra died. He cries readily. Every Christmas it is just a matter of time before he cracks to Fairytale of New York, the song which I most associate with our decrepit record player as he taught me how to place the needle on the groove. He is a man of sensitivity and passion who grew up in a gritty and pitiless time, his favourite records provide the drama and intensity which reality could never satisfy. It is perhaps why my most vivid memories of him resemble a scene from a Hollywood movie.
Damp and cramped in the backseat of car, the rain and wind devastating the Donegal coastline barely visible through the windshield, it is the mid nineties and my older cousin has discovered Oasis. My dad throws up the volume, rouses the shivering troops in the backseat and leads a rabble of Don’t Look Back in Anger to match the ferocity of the Atlantic throwing itself over the rocks just outside.
Another rainy Irish summer, on a windy hillside not so far away we are listening to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits on my mother’s battered car stereo. As the helicopter blades shatter the silence and the tremors of the keys creep in, my father throws up the volume and delivers the most stirring rendition of Goodnight Saigon ever heard within the confines or a Vauxhall Nova. Here were we on the coldest, dampest, most North-Westerly tip of Ireland yet he sang from the heat, humidity and intensity of a South-East Asian jungle. His obsession with the Vietnam War was endemic on our bookshelves, Apocalypse Now and Platoon among his favourite films, it is the conflict which filled the newsreels of his earliest childhood and I suspect was where he always played at soldiers in his mind. Now in his fifties he is the veteran of Billy Joel’s broken America, I can picture him in Allentown, but will always strive to remember him in his glory days as Frank Sinatra, or Tom Waits , but most likely, as Billy Joel in Goodnight Saigon. Emma Walsh
When I think of my dad’s taste in music, although he passed away 25 years ago, it’s no challenge to recall every single one of his favourite acts. Both of them.
In the days of car mounted 8-track cartridge players, he owned two favourite cartridges which were on constant rotation as he drove around. One was a compilation of Status Quo‘s 70s and 80s hits, spread somewhat incongruously, over no fewer than four sides. I hated it. It didn’t take long to tire of their three chord, piledriving, longhaired, double-denim ways. Actually, I’m being a little disingenuous there, as there were a couple of tracks where an impressive four chords were used. Sitting in the back of the car, between my two older Quo loving brothers, I had no say. Overruled at every turn. Gutted.
The other cartridge which accompanied the old man’s motoring exploits, was a collection of 32 tracks, 8 per ‘side’, of such wonder, such delight, and of such sheer unprecedented joy. This music filled my youthful soul with life, energy and love.
It made me think about music, developed a curiosity which remains in me now some 40 odd years later. I felt like I’d awoken, but I didn’t know what from, or why. I just loved that feeling, and I still do.
Ray Charles changed my life. Just sitting here typing this and considering the massive influence Brother Ray has had on me, and on my life, produces a rictus grin. This greatest hits compilation contained such beauty to me, that I’ve spent nearly half a century following up on these early listenings. I gave up counting how many of Ray‘s albums I own when I got to 50-odd. I’m lucky enough to have seen the brother play live twice with a big band, and I met him too. Just once.
I patted him on the back and said, “Thank you, Ray” as he stepped into his limo, outside the stage door of the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. He replied with four words in his characteristic Georgian drawl, “Why, thank you, son.” I’ve never forgotten it.
The dude was wearing a full length white fur coat, and a smooth and sharp blue suit. One very dapper, and exceedingly cool man.
Ray Charles changed things for many people. He recorded a country album simply because he was told that he shouldn’t perform white man’s music. He was a renegade, a rebel. He made new rules by breaking all the old ones. He campaigned tirelessly against racial prejudice in the US. He conquered jazz, soul, blues, country, film scores, and even the National Anthem. Everything he touched musically, became a part of him.
Although I come from a musical family, this was mainly contained to my mother’s family. Nobody in my dad’s side of the family knew, loved or cared about music like in my mum’s. But my dad had his favourites. My dad gave me Ray, and I’m stupidly, incredibly, ridiculously proud and grateful for that. I’m a father now. Both my daughters are named after Ray Charles songs. Paul Fitzgerald
When asked to submit this piece I initially dismissed the idea because as much as I love my mum and dad, our musical tastes, if I’m honest, have rarely run parallel. We have always shared a love of 60s music, granted, but there has always been the underlying issue of their hatred of my beloved Smiths and my loathing of their Country and Western music (the and Western is key here). But mulling over this I did realise that two almost rival records in my parents’ record collection have had an impact on my own tastes much more than I have until now, given credit to, particularly the one owned by my dad.
My earliest memory however, of listening to my parent’s music as a child, concerns the more tolerable end of Country music. My mum would play the Jim Reeves album A Touch of Velvet seemingly endlessly and the soft lilting voice of Mr Reeves was warm and will forever remind me of being a child in the company of my mum.
My dad’s country tastes were (in my mind) the binary opposite of Jim Reeves but still Country in the form of the great Johnny Cash. I loved them both, but even at a very early age I knew the difference in tone of Reeves’ concerned questioning ‘have you ever been lonely, have you ever been blue?’ And Cash’s ‘Cocaine Blues’.
The fascination I had back then for the one Cash album my dad owned, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, is still strong. Being small and holding the record cover close to my face was intense. Cash was mean and I think I was actually quite scared of him.
Looking back over his shoulder in that cold green room, sweat beading across his pocked skin and scars running down his cheek, I truly believed he was an inmate of Folson rather than a visitor. Even the title, written in prison stencil style on the peeling laminated card cover was so far removed from the bright pink italics of A Touch of Velvet. Cash looks down on you with some disdain from the sleeve as Reeves stands smiling in his smoking jacket, open armed greeting you into his warm embrace, Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in he croons at the start of side two.
My perception of how the inside of a prison feels is probably down to the sensation I got from listening to the Folsom Prison album all those times. The production is cold and hard, Cash’s dialogue with the inmates is incredibly knowing and intimate, giving the listener a sense that he knows exactly how they feel. The music is Country, but the spirit is punk, pure rebellion from start to finish.
While there will always be a place in my heart for Jim Reeves, more from nostalgia, it’s Johnny that has stayed with me. He will always be synonymous with my dad as much as childhood trips to dump rubbish on Sefton tip, watching him referee at Buckley Hill and sailing boats in Coronation Park in Crosby.
While not entirely embracing punk in the 1970s, only being 10 when The Sex Pistols arrived, my underlying attraction with the rebellious nature of music, as set by Cash simmered until I was old enough to really understand what it all meant. A lot of the music that has had the greatest effect on me has its roots in the mysterious figure of Johnny Cash.
Nearly all of my musical heroes from Morrissey and Marr through the ranks of Elvis’s Costello and Presley, Dave Gahan, Nick Cave and on occasion, Bowie have all sported brush backs and quiffs, much like myself. Most of these figures are not opposed to wearing black either. Even The Fall’s strangely enigmatic Mark E Smith, who I find utterly mesmerising, has something of Cash about him in his refusal to adhere to any accepted idea of what a commercial artist should be, his Cash-like attitude summed up in The Fall‘s Rebellious Jukebox.
The twangy guitar of Cash has echoed through the years into the music of Morrissey, Gun Club, Imelda May and Clinic, all of whom have graced my turntable on many an occasion. The wonderful Cramps too have much to thank Cash for with Lux Interior’s Southern drawl and their VHS classic, Live at Napa State Mental Hospital being so much more than a nod towards Folsom Prison.
My CD copy of Folsom Prison holds very little of the allure of my dad’s old record; the hard plastic case and flimsy paper booklet is no comparison to the work of art that I used to immerse myself in and that is one reason why middle aged folks like myself channel their fond memories of their parents through such long forgotten items, in this case old records.
So whilst my dad and I continue to share a great many musical differences, I guess I have a lot to thank him for as the spirit of Cash has permeated through so much of my favourite music. Recently, approaching 80 he surprised me by borrowing, reading and enjoying my copy of Morrissey’s Autobiography and I found myself compiling a couple of Smiths/Moz CDs for him. Something I could never have imagined happening at one point. The apple hasn’t really fallen far from the tree. Del Pike
If I had to sum dad up in a few words, it would go something like this: blues, braces, jeans, long hair, guitar. As a kid, I used to wake up super early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, go downstairs on my own, put on a gigantic pair of headphones and listen to some music.
I often played LPs from the complete Beatles collection mum bought dad as a wedding present – my favourites were the White Album and Sgt Pepper’s. I loved sitting there gazing at the covers and all the original inserts; I was very careful with them, though – I knew they were precious. Other vinyl I remember included a lot of Stones and two 7″ singles – Free (All Right Now/My Brother Jake/Wishing Well), and Howlin’ Wolf‘s Smokestack Lightning.
I wasn’t so careful with the tapes, unfortunately. My favourites were box sets by Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. I listened to these a lot, sitting cross-legged facing the hi-fi, an ancient monolith reminiscent of Stonehenge. I remember one day my dad decided to listen to the Buddy Holly tapes. He was, to put it lightly, less than impressed when he discovered that my repeated early morning sessions had featured Buddy so heavily that I had worn the tapes out. Not a good day.
My dad has played blues and rock n roll in pubs and clubs since before I was born, with a number of musicians including my mum who played bass for a while, and both of my uncles on my dad’s side. Friday and Saturday evenings usually saw him getting a shower, brushing his hair, packing his gear and going off to a gig. When I was a kid it was my job to polish his boots and help load the car; when I was still too small to pick the PA speakers up I’d give a hand with the mic stands and guitars.
My first time playing in a pub on my own was during a break in one of my dad’s sets. I had refused to go out with them because I was so nervous, staying in and playing the song on guitar over and over. I got hold of myself after he had left, and ran down to the bar he was playing in time for the end of the first set.
It was some Radiohead tune if I remember correctly. I was so terrified I couldn’t sing properly, and 30 seconds into the song I began to forget first the words, and then the chords. It was a complete car-crash of a performance, and several drunken people were less than impressed with my efforts. My first solo live performance is not marked in my head for being heckled, however, but with the memory of my dad taking his glasses off (always a bad sign) and squaring up to the most vocal of my critics, who despite being much taller and bigger than dad, promptly apologised to him and shut up. This is the night I became brave enough to go onstage and open myself up to whatever the audience could throw at me.
At 30, I am still playing music. I have been in bands for around 20 years. Most of my closest friends I have met through music, which has taken me to L.A., Norway, Belgium, Denmark and the Isles of Scilly as well as all over the UK, as a performer, a promoter or a fan. I first kissed my partner of over seven years, at 6am to the accompaniment of a sunrise over one of our numerous Glastonbury experiences.
Christmas Eve every year will find my family in my dad’s local. My dad and his mates play tunes from the 50s and 60s onwards, and over the years younger people, both relatives and just young kids who want to have a go, have got up and performed. My brothers and cousins all get up on various instruments, and playing old blues numbers with my uncle on drums, dad and my cousin on guitar, my brothers on vocals and myself on bass is perhaps my favourite time of the year.
Music has given me so much, and it is my dad who must take the lion’s share of the blame, or the praise, for this enduring lifestyle. I have chosen a track that I remember watching dad’s band play at so many shows, before I was old enough and good enough to join in. Paul Riley
It was mum that provided my early years with musical grounding. Pelting around Crosby in her blue Ford Orion she’d boom out all the latest tapes – Bananarama, Bangles, Pretenders, Tom Petty.
We were subjected to Michael Jackson‘s Bad on every shopping trip from 1987 to 1990. The variety of bad, and sometimes brilliant, 80s pop reached a crescendo when mum joined Britannia Music Club which mailed cassettes to our house by the lorry load. My dad wasn’t into music much at all. Though he’d sometimes quietly retreat into our ‘posh’ back room where he could plug in oversized headphones and listen to Foster and Allen or Irish harpist Mary O’Hara.
My late teen years must have been difficult on my parents ears. Croons and loud jangly guitar riffs suddenly emanated from my bedroom as I discovered The Smiths. The one big family outing to a gig that I remember was Paul McCartney‘s 1990 show at Liverpool’s Kings Dock. My dad rushed to buy us all a concert programme but came hot-footing back empty-handed when he discovered McCartney programmes were ridiculously expensive. He thought, like most rational people would do, that concert programmes must be the same price as football programmes…
In 2009, I took mum and dad to see a concert by my hero Morrissey. I wanted them to share – at least for one night – the singer I’ve been transfixed by for 20 odd years. I think they secretly quite enjoyed The First of The Gang to Die and When I Last Spoke to Carol. Outside the gig I asked my dad for his verdict: ‘It was a bit loud, son.‘
Two weeks after that Morrissey gig I became a father myself. I’d read one of those Advice for New Parents books which stated how important sound is to a new baby. So when we brought our little bundle of joy home from the hospital I quickly introduced him to Frank Sinatra. Our son is now nearly six and demands Lou Reed‘s Transformer when he gets in the car. Most recently he’s taken a shine to the Morrissey track The Bullfighter Dies – which he sings with much gusto on his way into school. He seems very musical and I’ve now bought him his first guitar. Dickie Felton
My dad, Dave Burgess, is famous in our family for getting the words to songs wrong, He also has the uncanny knack of deconstructing song lyrics to find humour where you’d least expect.
He’s a fan of Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Eagles and Frank Sinatra among others, and in the hours spent in the back of the family Ford Sierra during long drives to France for our summer holidays, the songs of these artists were indelibly etched into my brain.
The list of bands he’s seen live makes me insanely envious, yet his accounts of seeing acts who can only be described as ‘legends’ is always tempered with realism alongside any nostalgia. The Rolling Stones, who he saw 40 years ago, ‘couldn’t play their instruments’. Chuck Berry’s ‘guitar was completely out of tune’, The Beatles ‘had too many people screaming at them’. All of these stories are told with a smile.
Even the time he saw Little Richard at the Empire had its downside, as the rock n roll pioneer walked from the back of the room to the stage to begin his set, wearing a gown made of mirrors, “people grabbed at him and ended up cutting their hands!” He still put on a good show though, apparently.
It’s not just the usual 60s fare that interests him though. He and my mum once sat next to Condoleezza Rice (he thinks) at the Prague State Opera House – not bad going for a former Trade Unionist from Bootle.
My earliest memory of my dad’s own musical ability is him walking round the house singing The Witch Doctor by David Seville as loud as he could, to make me and my siblings laugh. The Stargazers’ 1954 number one hit I See the Moon is another song from his youth that he has delighted in singing to us over the years, and has become a sort of unofficial family anthem. Both songs, novelty hits as they were, must have had some effect on me, as I find myself inexplicably drawn to the outlandish, strange and humorous side of music a lot of the time.
Bizarrely, for many years he used to sing the chorus to Captain Sensible’s long-forgotten rap tune Wot which – looking back – seems a very unlikely choice. One of the greatest musical conversations I ever had with my dad was discussing the Katie Melua song Nine Million Bicycles, which he contended should really have been an uptempo George Formby song called There’s an Awful Lot of Bicycles in Beijing. I can’t help but laugh and think he’s right whenever I hear it.
However, the one song I associate with him more than any other is Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler, a song he brings out during family card games, inevitably getting the lyrics mixed up but leaving us all happily singing along. Chris Burgess
I recorded and released my first album in 1986. It was a collaboration with vocalist Peter Hope entitled Dry Hip Rotation.
I’d finished studying electronic music at university in London so I had time to spend the best part of a couple of months in Sheffield with Pete on the great work. I was using musique concrete, found sounds, random tape edits, serialism, prepared piano, drum machines and ring modulators – the full gamut of the 1986 young composer’s tool kit. Pete probed the extremes in his writing and vocal technique. Titles like Toilet, The Unknown Industrial Fatality and Canal were brought to life with screams vocoded with drills, car bonnets being beaten inside out, and vocal colours drawn from the primordial swamps of the human psyche. There’s some stormers on there too: The Unknown Industrial Fatality is apt for the dance floor and Kitchenette samples the kitchen sink itself in a relentless domestic shuffle.
Of course I was anxious to play this masterpiece to my family, so on a trip to Liverpool I went for a drive with my dad in his car long enough to play a cassette of the entire album. He knew it was important to me after listening to me develop as a musician over the previous 10 or so years, so he kept quiet throughout, as did I.
When it was finished I asked, “Well, what do you think?”
“It’ll never replace music.”
Dry Hip Rotation was re-released in 2009 on Klanggakerie records. Not sure if Dad’s got a copy. Jono Podmore
Lead image from LIFE Magazine – for more photos of classic rock stars at home with their parents, visit LIFE.com.