Unsung Heroes of Bass Guitar: #3 Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn

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At the same time that Motown was producing some classic records in Detroit, a small label in Memphis, Tennessee called Stax was working it’s own magic. The house band, Booker T. & the MG’s were a tight, funky unit of bass, drums, guitar and organ infused with the blues, country & western and gospel of the Southern states of America.

And much in the same way that James Jamerson was to Motown and The Funk Brothers, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn was to Stax and the MG’s. Dunn’s subtle, yet highly effective melodic lines intertwined with Al Jackson Jr’s on the nail drumming gave the Stax sound it’s solid foundation. Once you added in Steve Cropper’s slinky guitar work and Booker T. Jones’ masterful Hammond B-3 organ then the Memphis label could do no wrong. Stax had an amazing roster of singing talent including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Rufus Thomas, but it was the MG’s who gave those singers a platform by creating that Memphis groove.

Donald Dunn was born on 24 November 1941 in Memphis Tennessee. He started playing guitar along with his childhood friend Steve Cropper and when Cropper formed a band called ‘The Royal Spades’ which already had a second guitarist, Dunn switched to bass to join them. “I saw a picture of an electric bass somewhere and thought, Hey, four strings- I could play that! I bought a ’58 Precision and started working.”

Dunn eventually left the band in 1962 with Cropper going on to form the MG’s with Booker T Jones, Al Jackson Jr and Lewis Steinberg on bass. They had an early hit with the classic instrumental ‘Green Onions’ and when Steinberg left in 1964 Cropper brought in his old friend Dunn to replace him.

Booker T. & the MG’s continued to have hits through the sixties with Dunn on board but it was with Stax’s array of vocal talent that they really made their mark with hits like ‘In The Midnight Hour’ by Wilson Pickett, ‘Walkin the Dog’ by Rufus Thomas and several classics by Otis Redding including ‘Respect’, ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘Try A Little Tenderness’.

Things at Stax started to unravel a little and by 1968 Sam & Dave had split, Otis Redding had passed away and Jones had moved to the West Coast to start producing other artists. Through the seventies Dunn continued to work and record with many other great performers such as Elvis Presley and Bill Withers (it’s Dunn’s bass you can hear on the mournful soul classic ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’)

His career took a slightly different turn in the late seventies when he was asked by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi to join the Blues Brothers Band along with Cropper and a host of other star names. Dunn plays himself in the film, where he utters the immortal line “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline!”

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The Blues Brothers Band toured and recorded through the eighties and Dunn continued to play right up to his death on May 13 2012 in Tokyo where he died peacefully in his sleep after playing a gig with Steve Cropper the night before.

‘Soul Man’ – Sam and Dave

Cropper’s guitar riff backed by Jackson and Jones (on piano instead of organ) gives way to a soul-drenched one chord vamp. Cropper chugs his way around the fretboard (Nile Rogers was still in short trousers in 1967) whilst Dunn grooves a repeated ‘down and up’ figure which holds the whole thing together. He plays it simple during the chorus holding down root eighth, notes lending some tension to proceedings, which are resolved once we get back into the verse again. He handles the bridge and key change with aplomb before we head into the fade with that bouncy down and up figure again.

‘(Sitting On The) Dock Of The Bay’ – Otis Redding

I’ve already covered this track in my very first blog when I almost wore the grooves out on an original 7″ single as a teen. It’s certainly worth revisiting this mournful, poignant song (it was released after Redding’s death and he never got to hear the finished version) just to listen to Dunn’s understated, yet highly effective, work.
The introduction features a simple three note bass line which is now an instantly recognisable classic. All he does is play the root of G and hammer-on up to the fifth of D from the C a tone below. Simple, but brilliant.
The verse grooves along using roots and fifths again until Redding sings the title of the song where he cleverly follows the vocal line with an ascending line of his own, before going into the opening figure again. Sublime.

‘Shake a Tail Feather’ – Ray Charles

It would be churlish not to include a Blues Brothers track so here is Dunn and the boys getting down with Ray Charles. Again, the bass drives things along with the drums and just listen to the end segment after the ‘call out the dance’ section- there is some glorious octave work and a walking section where no part of the fret is left untouched. It pays to learn your scales!

 

Leon Wilson

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Unsung Heroes of Bass Guitar: #2 James Jamerson

 

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As with the first in our series, Carol Kaye, you may not know the name of today’s subject, but you will certainly know their work. And what a body of work it is too.

James Jamerson played the bass on a huge amount of Motown’s hit records between 1959 and 1972 and his playing style has influenced generations of bass players since. From the classic opening to The Temptations’ ‘My Girl’ via Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ to ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ by The Supremes, Jamerson’s legacy is monumental in the pantheon of popular music. Like many artists touched by genius, his was a tortured soul and, tragically, it wasn’t until after he died a depressed alcoholic, having not worked for years at the age of 47 in 1983, that he gained widespread acclaim for his work.

James Lee Jamerson was born January 29 1936 in Edisto, South Carolina, moving to Detroit in 1954. He picked up a double bass in high school and found an immediate affinity with the instrument. He cut his teeth on the Detroit jazz and blues circuit and, much like Carol Kaye, was recruited by a local record producer to play on his recording sessions in 1958. That record producer was one Berry Gordy who used Jamerson, along with other musicians from that circuit, to record in his Hitsville USA studio – home of the Motown record label. That group of musicians (the self titled ‘Funk Brothers’) played, uncredited, on the vast majority of Motown hits in the sixties, and Gordy, the ultimate cutthroat businessman paid them a pittance for their work. After a day’s session in Studio A at Hitsville (which the Funk Brothers named ‘The Snakepit’), they had to supplement their income by playing the jazz clubs by night.

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For the first couple of years for Motown Jamerson was still playing double bass, but in 1961 his friend and fellow bassist Horace Ruth convinced him to try a Fender Precision electric bass. By all accounts he didn’t really care for the instrument at first, but before long he was developing a style incorporating syncopated melodic lines, string mutes and chromatic passing tones (more on this later) which were groundbreaking and forged a new role for the electric bass. He transferred his right hand double bass technique by resting his third and forth fingers on the bridge guard of the bass and plucked just using his index finger with up strokes. Dubbed ‘The Hook’, it’s incredible to think that those syncopated, intricate lines were created in this manner. He eventually acquired a 1962 sunburst finish Precision which he called ‘The Funk Machine’ (carving the word ‘FUNK’ with a ballpoint pen into the heel of the instrument). Using flatwound strings which he never cleaned or replaced until they broke: his mantra being “the gunk keeps the funk”, this was the bass that featured on the majority of those classic tracks. Sadly, the bass was stolen days before he died and has never since been recovered.

Jamerson was long troubled by alcoholism and when Motown moved to Los Angeles in 1972 he followed, but struggled without the support of his fellow Funk Brothers. As a result, the work dried up and the demons set in. He died, in 1983, of complications related to cirrhosis of the liver, heart failure and pneumonia, broke and bitter about his lack of recognition.

Jamerson did eventually get worldwide recognition. Six years later Allan ‘Dr Licks’ Slutky’s book/CD package featuring transcriptions of his basslines and accolades from well known bass players started the ball rolling which culminated in Jameson being elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the film documentary “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown’ in 2002.

So let’s have a look at some of Jamerson’s techniques and examples of his work with Motown. Firstly, I want to share my favourite bassline of his with you: ‘For Once In My Life’ by Stevie Wonder. I’ve already covered this one in a previous blog about my becoming a bass player, so to put a different slant on things I want you to listen (and watch) this piece on YouTube to demonstrate his amazing style. The bassline is Jamerson’s with a visual representation of the notes played, overlaid with the melody of the song. If you do nothing else on this blog, I urge you to watch this.

It’s a fascinating insight into his technique, with his trademark chromatic runs (up and down) between key notes, plunging note drops (he often used open strings as passing notes, something most likely learned from his jazz upright days) and just downright funky phrasing by the means of syncopation; in other words, he hardly ever plays a note dead on the beat, he’s always pushing forward or laying back to create a groove. Not only that, like many of his tracks, he never played exactly the same thing twice. Quite astounding.

‘What’s Going On’ – Marvin Gaye

Jamerson used to record his parts in ‘The Snake Pit’ standing up. For this track there was some alternate positioning involved.
By 1970, his drinking was starting to become a bit of a problem (he apparently used to keep a bottle of the Greek sprit Metaxa in his bass case) and he had a very high tolerance to alcohol at this point. The story goes that Marvin Gaye had to go searching the Detroit clubs to find Jamerson to get him to lay down a bass track for ‘What’s Going On?’ Gaye found him playing a set and brought him down to Hitsville when he had finished. The only problem was that Jamerson was absolutely smashed. Legend has it that he looked over the chord charts and, unable to stand or even sit in a chair, he lay down on his back and recorded the track from the studio floor.
It certainly didn’t impair his performance with a fantastic groove, replete with those characteristic syncopations, chromatic runs and beautiful melodic flourishes.

‘Bernadette’ – The Four Tops

Another candidate for best Jamerson bassline is ‘Bernadette’. Like a lot of bass players (before and after) he built many basslines around the simple root-fifth-octave shape and you can hear this in the main chorus of the song. Again, it’s how he plays that shape, with chromatic passing notes between the chords and oodles of funk.

‘I Was Made To Love Her’ – Stevie Wonder

This bass part is so busy, yet it never gets in the way of anything, least of all Stevie’s voice. Much like on ‘For Once In My Life’ Jamerson’s bass acts as a glorious counterpoint to the vocal line. He switches to some down and dirty chromatic (there, I said it again) runs up the neck for the breakdown, and then it’s back to those flurries of notes. These aren’t notes for notes sake, God damn it; it’s all about the song.

 

Leon Wilson

Unsung Heroes of Bass Guitar: #1 Carol Kaye

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There are a handful of bass players, unknown to the majority of the general public, who were hugely influential in the world of pop, rock, blues and soul. They played on literally thousands of hit records from the 1950’s onwards.

This is the first in a series of blogs where I aim to shed some light on some of these players and show some examples of their top notch work.

I thought that the best place to start would be with one of the most prolific session musicians of the past fifty years, Carol Kaye.

Born in 1935 in Everett, Washington USA, Kaye was born into a family of musicians. When her parents divorced, Kaye and her mother relocated to California. Her mother bought her a guitar aged 11, and by the age of 14 she was playing jazz gigs semi-professionally and helping her guitar tutor teach some of his other students. She continued to learn her trade playing guitar in the California jazz clubs throughout the 1950’s and got her first studio session backing Sam Cooke in 1957.
Many of the top record producers of the time frequented the jazz clubs in order to recruit session musicians. “Jazz musicians invented rock lines”, says Kaye. “We could cut rock and roll real fast. Rockers weren’t good enough to play their own music. They had poor technique and the sound and feeling were wrong. They were stars, not musicians. We made people into stars ”

Over the next few years she played guitar on a number of hits like ‘La Bamba’ by Richie Valens, and various classics for the maverick producer Phil Spector, including ‘Then He Kissed Me’ by The Crystals and ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ by The Righteous Brothers.
The switch to bass in 1963 actually happened by accident, rather than design. She showed up as usual to a session at Capitol Studios where the bass player failed to show. “They put me on bass, and I found that I liked it immediately. I saw the potential for it, because I realised then that a lot of the hit records depended upon the role of the bass. And it was much more fun to invent on bass than the rinky-dink guitar stuff that I had to do. It just felt comfortable”

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By 1964 she was the ‘go to’ session bassist on the West Coast and subsequently played on thousands of songs and hundreds of hit records. There were also themes and soundtracks to numerous films and tv shows (Lalo Schifrin’s ‘Bullitt’ and ‘Mission:Impossible’ to name just two). She played a part in developing Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’, she played on The Beach Boys seminal ‘Pet Sounds’ album (influencing one Paul McCartney in his bass playing in the process) and she came up with, and played, the intro to arguably one of the best songs of all time ‘Witchita Lineman’.

So here are just three picks from the fantastic Carol Kaye (all, coincidentally, from 1966).

River Deep Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner

First of all, you can see why Phil Spector’s productions were dubbed as the ‘Wall of Sound’. The sheer number of musicians involved (allegedly over 30 on this track) doubling and sometimes tripling parts, all smothered in reverb, created a unique sonic landscape. The song starts with Kaye’s descending electric bass figure doubled by James E Bond’s upright acoustic bass in order to give an attacking sound with some huge bottom end. They stop dead to allow Turner’s vocals to set the scene with the bass(es) playing a persistent fifth-root figure which bounces the verse along. The whole thing builds towards the chorus where the strings and myriad of backing vocals push towards the stratosphere. A great use of dynamics sees the wall of sound come to a halt at the end of the chorus where the descending bass figure leads us into verse two. After the second chorus there’s a great bridge with a repeated line underpinned by some manic bongos which steadily builds until Turner can’t take it any more, and lets rip with a primal scream into the final chorus.

God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

This Brian Wilson classic from ‘Pet Sounds’ started life from a prayer session in the studio and it’s another interesting arrangement with snare drum, sleigh bells, accordion, strings and horns creating the celestial mood. Kaye’s bass maps out the chords, loping through the song like a muscular Ghurka; never letting the listener stray from the mountain path of the melodic journey. The stars of the track though are The Beach Boys’ vocals: Carl Wilson’s beautiful, delicate lead vocal and the carefully woven intertwining lines of the rest of the band towards the end of the song.

I’m a Believer – The Monkees

This Neil Diamond song, covered by The Monkees (they sang on it while session musicians backed them), is driven by a tight bubbly bassline which perfectly compliments the upbeat nature of the track.

Carol Kaye continues to teach bass to this day (she recently turned 80) to musicians of all abilities (even spending time with talentless no-hopers like Gene Simmons from Kiss…). So let’s hear it for our unsung hero of the bass guitar.

 

Leon Wilson

Live in Cook County Jail: RIP BB King

 

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Last week’s sad passing of the great BB King brought me to rediscover my favourite album of his. I don’t proclaim to be a blues expert, and I certainly haven’t heard all of the 43 studio and 16 live albums King recorded since 1956 but this one is my favourite.

Invited by Chicago’s infamous Cook County Jail to play for the inmates, BB King performed in the exercise yard on September 10 1970. Security was at a minimum – the women sat at the front, the men were in a roped off section to one side – and inmates had to stay seated (those who wanted to dance had to stand at the back). Only the death row prisoners remained incarcerated, but they were allowed to listen through slightly open windows.

The concert was an experiment by the jail director Winston Moore who had taken control of the jail two years before when it was known as the “world’s worst jail”. Moore was trying to oust the so called “barn bosses”; jail guard lieutenants who kept a heavy-handed rule on the inmates using all means necessary (ie. beatings and the occasional use of a rifle). He wanted to offer the convicts a reward and the chance to show that they could behave themselves. They did.

He had a tight band and BB, with his trusty Gibson 335 named “Lucille”, were on top form on that hot September afternoon. Pick of the tracks for me is his version of probably one his most famous songs “The Thrill Is Gone”. Whilst the much celebrated studio version with it’s sumptuous strings saunters along nicely, King constantly keeps his band on their toes; tinkering with the tempo and changing the dynamics. A constant throughout is his throaty, mournful wail of a voice and his distinctive wrist-wrenching vibrato as he extracts the maximum blues from Lucille.

RIP Blues Boy.

Leon Wilson

Perfect Packet of Three : Fruit

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Right then health freaks, here are three of your recommended five a day.

The Lemon Song – Led Zeppelin

The third track on the 1969 album Led Zeppelin II, ‘The Lemon Song’ starts with the crash of a gong and a couple of bars of Jimmy Page’s ascending guitar riff before the bass and drums join in on the act. As a rhythm section John Paul Jones and John Bonham were always a force to be reckoned with, but Jones outdoes himself on this song. His beautiful fluid lines manage to weave elaborate textures whilst still doing the essential job of holding the whole thing down; it’s just incredible.

 “I could have quit you, long time ago”, brags Robert Plant on the opening line. The fact that this is the same opening line to the 1964 blues classic ‘Killing Floor’ by Howlin’ Wolf is no coincidence. A kind critic may suggest that Led Zep started playing ‘Killing Floor’ in their early live sets, applied their own unique twist on it, recorded it, and then ‘forgot’ to credit Wolf (real name Chester Burnett) for royalties. A harsh critic may suggest that they just nicked it (like so many white musicians did with black music). Either way, The publishers of ‘Killing Floor’ took legal action in the early seventies, an out of court settlement was made and Burnett’s name was added to the writing credits.

After the first verse the song goes into double time with Burnett’s original riff, where Page applies one of his trademark messy, yet effective, solos. After things slow down again for the second verse there is a glorious breakdown where Bonham shows he can actually play quietly sometimes. Page scratches and bends his way about the fretboard whilst Jones gives us a sublime tour de force lesson in how to play the bass. This is the part where the immortal line from which the song came (as it were…). “Squeeze me baby, ’till the juice runs down my leg. The way you squeeze my lemon, I’m gonna fall right out of bed.”

‘Nuff said.

‘Peaches’ – The Stranglers

Like the last song, ‘Peaches’ features a fruit-related anatomical reference and an awesome bassline. Released in the ‘Summer of Punk’ of 1977, this slice of lecherous, lewd genius was banned by several radio stations (including the BBC) for its rude words (ooh, he said ‘shit’!) and sexual theme.

Setting the mood from the off is JJ Burnel’s menacing, growling bassline (probably one of the most recognisable bass intros in history) sounding like a low frequency sexual predator. Dave Greenfiield’s organ then follows the bass like a partner in crime, with Jet Black’s loping beats giving a well needed laid back counterpoint to proceedings. Singer Hugh Cornwell takes up the role of a leering voyeur, prowling the beach, checking out all the bikini-clad women in a sort of pre-Loaded laddish monologue. “Walking on the beaches looking at the peaches”.

Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino

‘Blueberry Hill’ was written in 1940 and recorded by a whole host of artists including Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong. It was Fats Domino’s version in 1956 which popularised the song, selling over 5 million copies between 1956 and 1957. His boogie woogie piano style with it’s characteristic left hand bass figure was a big influence on many artists, not least Lennon and McCartney, who recorded and performed many of his songs pre and post Beatles. McCartney reportedly wrote ‘Lady Madonna’ for The Beatles as a tribute to Domino -listen to the left hand piano riff in this song and you can hear the connection.

Leon Wilson

How Strange The Change: Major to Minor and Back Again

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I have recently joined a new band.

I was not looking to join a new band, but fate intervened when three middle aged men were looking for a bass player and I seemed to fit the bill. We’ve had a few rehearsals now and it’s sounding great; we play mainly cover versions with some originals.

On the cover version list I knew about a third of the material, had heard of a third and had never heard of the other third. I just love the fact that there are still so many great songs and artists out there unknown to me and that just a few pointers can lead you on a voyage of discovery. The two main finds for me on my musical homework were the work of Sparklehorse and the song ‘Spirit Ditch’ and John Grant with ‘I Wanna Go To Marz’. Both of these songs have some sort of otherworldly quality (no pun intended) which I loved, and working out the chords I think I worked out why this was: major/minor shifts in key.

‘Spirit Ditch’ is a glorious thing where the song is much more than the sum of it’s faltering constituent parts: there are shimmering guitars, fragile vocals, creaking wooden chairs, off time percussion, fluffed notes and the most wonderful esoteric lyrics:

I want my records back
And that motorcycle gas tank
That I spray painted black
The owls have been talking to me
But I’m sworn to secrecy

I woke up in a burnt out basement
Sleeping with metal hands
In a spirit ditch

Both the verse and chorus end with a heart wrenching E major to E minor change in chords and it’s this major to minor thing that definitely does something to the brain.

It is well known that in Western music, songs in a major key generally sound happy and upbeat whilst those in a minor key sound sad and mournful.  (There are, of course, exceptions to the rule: ‘Alone Again’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan makes you want to throw yourself off Beachy Head but it canters along in a nice and jaunty major key and ‘Happy’ by Pharell Williams ironically takes a minor key twist in that chorus).

Why do we associate major with happy and minor with sad? You could argue that this is a learned response where all the songs we listen to from childhood reinforce this, along with the fact that we sing major key songs like ‘Happy Birthday’ at times of celebration and sing minor key funeral hymns at times of sadness.

To challenge this, research was done by Thomas Fritz and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. You can read the full paper here, but to save you an ardous job, I will kindly summarize.

Basically, African natives from the Mafa tribe with no exposure to Western culture were able to distinguish happy and sad Western music when played to them (It does not say in the scientific paper whether if they played the Mafa any Gilbert O’Sullivan…). This begs the question: what brain processes are happening for this to be the case?

This was answered, in part, by some more white coat-wearing boffins at Duke University, North Carolina. If you are a glutton for punishment you can read the full paper here but as we are all friends, I will give you the edited highlights.

Firstly, the boffins measured the distribution of tones from about 7500 Western Classical melodies and Finnish Folk tunes (yes, that wasn’t a typo, I said Finnish Folk tunes) in both major and minor keys. After this, the remaining 31% of researchers who hadn’t slit their own wrists compared these musical intervals with those between important tonal frequencies in spoken vowels uttered by American English speakers in either animated/excited or subdued/morose voices.

They found that the frequency relationships in the upbeat speech closely matched those of music in major keys, while those in the morose speech matched that in minor keys.

Are you still with me?

I think I may have lost myself there, so I think we will go back to the music itself. The other musical discovery, as I mentioned, was ‘I Wanna Go To Marz’ by John Grant.

Grant really messes about with the major/minor thing, flitting between the two like a vascillating butterfly. Now, bear with me folks, I’m going to give you some chords. If you aren’t a musician then try and stick with it, this should still give you an idea of how this major/minor thing affects the mood of the song.

Grant starts on a regular minor key verse which goes Cmin/Bb/Fmin/Cmin

The chorus chords are as follows:

C / Gmin / Bb / F

Cmin / G / Bb / F

So what happens is the C minor at the end of the verse gets an uplift into a C major in the chorus which gives it that temporary ethereal quality, only to be dropped back down into the minor dirgyness of G minor on the very next chord. After the F major at the end of the first half of the chorus, your ears would expect the next chord to be a C major again. Instead we get a swooning C minor followed by a triumphant G major.

Ok. So I may have lost myself again.

Listen to the songs, read the bloody chords if you want to and and just sit back and enjoy.

 

Leon Wilson

The Greatest Band in the World: Discuss

My ten year old son regularly asks me questions like “Who would you rather be: Aragorn or Legolas?”, “Who would win a fight between Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee?” or “What is your favourite band?”

Some of these are easy to answer (Aragorn, obviously – who wants to be a pointy-eared Orlando Bloom?), some are difficult (I think Lee would kick Chan’s ass, but who knows?) and some are impossible: I really don’t have a favourite band anymore.

There may be a particular artist or band that you keep returning to again and again, (and for me this would include Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and a host of others) but I think the notion of an outright ‘favourite’ is something which you just tend to grow out of. My favourite album right now is the one I’m listening to whilst I write this piece (Eno’s ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’ if you’re asking…)

Things were generally a lot simpler and a lot more black and white when you were younger. You did have a favourite band which you would defend to the hilt to your friends.

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My first favourite band were Madness. When I was the same age as my son is now I bought the greatest hits album Complete Madness on cassette in Derby Woolworths. I played that album to death, loving the scatty humour, ska influenced rhythms and great pop melodies delivered in Suggs’ inimitable style (I can still rattle off all the lyrics to ‘Baggy Trousers’ in an authentic North London accent without missing a beat).

In my teens I had a short love affair with Level 42 (which you can read all about here). For this, I got the piss mercilessly extracted from me by my peers. This makes perfect sense to me now, but at the time I just couldn’t understand why others didn’t share my enthusiasm. My nemesis with regard to band-baiting at school was my friend Neil. Neil hated Level 42 and took every opportunity to tell me how shit they were and how his favourite band, The Cars, were so much better. I hadn’t heard any Cars stuff apart from their hit ‘Drive’ (which I quite liked) but I felt pushed into a corner. So with attack as the best form of defence we relentlessly slated each other’s favourite bands from our entrenched standpoints. There was a brief truce when we agreed to lend each other an album to listen to (I liked the Cars stuff but wouldn’t admit it, he hated the Level 42 stuff and revelled in telling me so) before we got back to slagging each other off again.

The ultimate irony of this particular story is that years later when I had a MySpace site (remember MySpace!) featuring some of the songs I had written and recorded in my home studio, I messaged Boon Gould (the guitarist from Level 42 who was also on MySpace) asking him to have a listen to my tracks. He took the time to listen to them and gave me some lovely comments including this one: “I really like the guitar on the intro to ‘Catching Sunbeams’, it reminds me of The Cars.”

How Neil would have laughed.

Going full circle, I actually wrote that song for (and about) my recently born son, the one who now asks all the questions that started this whole thing off. Have a listen and then let me know what your favourite bands were.

Leon Wilson