Matt Johnson of The The talks about recods that changed his life

Melody Maker - July 3, 1993


  1. The Beatles: "The White Album"
    Walt Disney Fantasia Soundtrack: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
    Maurice Jarre: The Soundtrack to "Lawrence of Arabia"
    "My dad bought a radiogram. He bought these three records and never bought any more. We played them constantly. "The White Album" was the most influentual on my career. I consider it to be The Beatles' finest album. Ironically, it was made when they were at their most fragmented. It has a real loose, spontaneous quality, like they didn't care anymore. I think that liberated them in the studio. Harrison started to blossom as a songwriter and Lennon made some of his finest work."
  2. Bee Bumble & The Stingers: "Nut Rocker"
    Hot Butter: "Popcorn"
    Gary Glitter: "Rock 'N' Roll Parts One & Two"
    T Rex: "Hot Love"
    Alice Cooper: "School's Out"
    Mott The Hoople: "All the Young Dudes"
    David Bowie: "Starman"
    "These were the first singles I ever bought. I was 10 and we'd just moved to another pub. Me and my two brothers would play singles on the radiogram upstairs. We'd turn the lights off and dance around with tennis rackets, pretending to be in the bands."
  3. Syd Barrett: "The Madcap Laughs"
    Nick Drake: "Bryter Layter"
    Tim Buckley
    John Sebastian
    Neil Young
    "These are the singer-songwriters who most affected me. Barrett's wildness, word imagery, and voice were mesmerising. His records have an unearthly quality. He was on the brink of sliding into insanity, after all. There's a freedom in his work that is rare nowadays. Drake led a tragic life. He was a bit of a depressive and ended up dying very young. His songs have a fragile beauty. Buckley was the finest white male vocalist of the last 25 years. He died young, too. Not that I think that's glamorous. I think it's sad. Many musicians have had tragic lives. But I do think that, maybe their tragic lives gave their music a certain power it otherwise wouldn't have had."
  4. Velvet Underground: "What Goes On"
    I left school at 15 because none of the teachers were nice to me or took any interest in me. It was only recently that I realized it wasn't all my fault. I starting working in a recording studio. Everyone there was into The Eagles and Tom Petty and I hated all that. It made me feel queasy. One day someone put on The Velvets and gave me a joint. It was the first time I'd heard them and the first time I'd smoked. The experience knocked me for six. It was such a raw, loose, freed track. They didn't care about being great musicians, and never having been a great musician, I found that inspiring. The joint made it a symbolic moment."
  5. Thomas Lear: "Private Plane"
    The Residents: "Duck Stab"
    Devo: "Mechanical Man"
    "'Private Plane' was a catalyst for me to start making records on my own. Lear played every instrument himself and the record was made for very little money. Hearing it, I realized that I didn't have to be in a band. Things were much more conservative around then. Now, it's normal for kids to make music in their bedrooms with computers and samplers."
  6. John Lennon: "The Plastic Ono Band"
    "I particularly like the song 'Isolation.' It relates to when I'd come back from a rough time in New York. I was spaced out and lay[ed] in bed for a whole week recovering. I listened to this song over and over again and it brought me out of the strange state I was in."
  7. Can: "Soon Over Babaluma"
    Holger Czukay: "Movies"
    "Can's guitarist was a huge influence on me. Holger Czukay said, 'The reason that heavy metal guitarists play so many notes is that they can't find the right one.' Which I kinda bore in mind because, as a musician, I'm fairly limited. What I loved about his style was that he could play two notes which said more than some flash guitarist could say in a hundred."
  8. Blue records by Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson
    The simplicity of the blues had a huge effect on me, particularly because nowadays it's production and marketing that have become predominant. These people's musical knowledge was probably quite limited, but they touched so many lives with a simple, universal message. It makes you realize that you don't have to be complex. It was a pure outpouring of emotion. You realize that voices like that have to be earned. God knows what they went through in their lives."
  9. Everything by Hank Williams
    "I love the fact that his guitar ability was rudimentary yet he expressed so much. His voice, his words, his titles are fantastic. Look at these: 'My Son Calls Another Man Daddy,' 'There's a Tear In My Beer' -- I love that! 'I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive' -- that's my favourite title. 'When God Comes And Gathers His Jewels,' hmm, they're all inspired by the fear of God. Again, it's another tragic life. I guess that's what makes his stuff so potent."
  10. Various Film Soundtracks
    "Film music is something I want to get into. I've had some offers, but the right one hasn't come along yet. My favourite film composer is Bernard Hermann. He did virtually all the Hitchcock films, and 'Taxi Driver,' too. I first heard him when I moved into my studio. It kinda suited the apartment. Like most people, I like Ennio Marriconne. He's very hip. That's where people like 808 State nick all their ideas from. I loved his use of instruments in those Spaghetti Westerns. I love the main harmonica theme in 'Midnight Cowboy.' That was John Barry. More Recently, I've like 'Saloom Bombay' and 'Baghdad Cafe.'"
  11. Mahler: "Fifth Symphony"
    Ravel: "Pavanne"
    Mozart: "Requiem"
    Verdi: "Requiem"
    Beethoven: "Moonlight Sonata"
    "It's hard to understand how these individual pieces affect me. But they all have a kind of tranquility which makes them great for relaxing on the road."
  12. George Clinton
    Funkadelic
    James Brown
    "I work-out for 45 minutes before every show. I do squats and press-ups to dance music. It's like having a trainer there because you're always thinking, 'I have to keep up with the beat; keep going until the end of the tape.' I think dance music has a physiological effect in psyching you up and getting your adrenaline going. It's hard to keep up the same intensity on a six-month tour. Put it this way, I never have a problem with nerves. I'm too laid back. I have to push myself to get edgy."

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