Luke Haines. Author. Multiple band founder. Solo artist. Contrarian.
Since his band The Auteurs‘ Mercury-nominated debut album New Wave, Haines has trodden a unique path. His two books, Bad Vibes: Britpop And My Part In Its Downfall and Post Everything: Outsider Rock And Roll, are screamingly funny, self-aware and full of memorable episodes.
With Black Box Recorder he took to the Top Of The Pops stage. On calling for a national pop strike he was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today by John Humphrys. And he has a slew of off-the-wall solo releases to his name, including the soundtrack to a film that was never released.
Ahead of his latest opus NY In The ’70s and the reissuing of The Auteurs’ albums Now I’m A Cowboy, After Murder Park and How I Learned To Love The Bootboys, we invited Haines to tell us about the albums that influenced him most. Gamely, he did…
I was 10 when this lp came out in 1977. Punk meant fuck all to me. There was one punk in my town, he walked around in a sheet with ‘White Riot’ scrawled across it in felt tip. He was the village idiot. I didn’t realise that the tracks on this Shadows album had all been recorded in the early ’60s. The Shadows sounded both rumblingly ancient and blindingly futuristic at the same time. And those titles: ‘Apache,’ ‘The Savage,’ ‘FBI,’ ‘The Frightened City.’ The. Frightened. Fuckin.’ City.’ Woah!
I didn’t twig until years later but The Shadows were pretty much the first psychedelic band; all their great singles were other worldly. Listen to the album from start to finish and it’s like a wordless pre space rock song cycle. In 1978, my dad took me to see them at Portsmouth Guildhall. They were blisteringly loud, made MBV sound like pussies. My fucking ears felt like they were dripping blood. I was in so much pain I had to beg my dad to take me home. I remember crying all the way back in the car. This was my baptism in noise.
These days I’m pretty militant about my position on the Beatles. I won’t have ’em on in the house. I don’t watch programmes about ’em. If I’m with friends and they start droning on in that male bore way about ‘The White Album’ or what-not, I retreat. But there was a time when I loved them. I had this album when I was 11.
It’s the one with all their early hits on. Before the beards and the sitars and the monolithic drag that is their Huge Cultural Impact. Obviously, there is not a single new thing to say or think about the Beatles. But i’ll close my little meditation with the following. The Beatles: they were good when they screamed before guitar solos. When they stopped screaming before the guitar solos they were less good.
My Genesis phase didn’t last long, probably about two months. I only own one Genesis album. This one. I used to own ‘And Then There Were Three’ possibly one of the worst records ever made, and I guess that’s the reason why my love of Genesis is so minimal. I don’t even know side 1 of Foxtrot that well. Side 2 is where it’s at.
After a short and rubbishy pseudo classical guitar piece by Steve Someone (in the ’70s all British bands had a guitarist called ‘Steve’) you get the motherlode: ‘Supper’s Ready’ Genesis’ own ‘Apocalypse Now’, with Peter ‘Pete’ Gabriel as both Captain Willard and Colonel Kurtz setting off into the heart of Darkness and ending up in… Wimbledon.
It’s freaky as nails, this track. Like a weird crucifixion taking place next door to the house where Abigail is having her party. The BBC always wheel out that clip of Gabriel singing this song dressed as flower, when they want to remind as that prog rock was like, really funny. I don’t think dressing as a flower is too bad, I think it’s pretty righteous. The critic Charles Shaar Murray once tried to put me down over my love of this track. ‘Liking Genesis is just not cost effective’ he dribbled. What a plank.
The Floyd were ace from ’68 – ’71. Of course, they were amazing in the Syd era, but everyone knows that, right? So the post Barrett, pre ‘Dark Side’ years tend to get forgotten, and by the band pretty much disowned. Which is a shame because there’s great stuff on those albums, particularly ‘More’ and ‘Atom Heart Mother,’ but ‘Ummagumma is the one for me; yeah, it’s super indulgent, but it’s also super weird.
It’s a classic vinyl double with a ‘live’ album and a ‘studio’ album. The ‘live’ album made of long improvised freakout versions of their space rock classics. But the studio album is where it’s at. The band get half a side each to splurge out their individual ‘visions’. Only big Roger ‘Rog’ Waters has got a vision though; Rick Wright destroys a hammond organ for about half an hour, Dave Gilmour pretends to be stoned, and Nick Mason plays a drum solo through a phaser pedal.
Actually, it’s all pretty fine if you accept it as an inner logic channeled into pure English upper class weirdness. Waters wins the prize (or whatever it is that these ultra competitive public schoolboys win). His ‘Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict ‘ is one of the strangest things ever recorded by a ‘rock’ band and his ‘Grantchester Meadows’ is one of the greatest things the Floyd ever put their name to (after Syd failed the sling test, that is). The ’70s saw the Floyd getting ever more professional, peaking (commercially) with provincial- hi-fi-shop-speaker-bothering-classic ‘Dark Side Of The U Know What’. It wasn’t until 1975’s Syd-channeling ‘Wish You Were Here’ that The Floyd found their inner England weirdo once more. After that, as we comprehensive school boys like to say – it was all cack.
I’ve never grown out of The Doors. I first got into them at around 14. Same as The Velvets. The Velvets are critically immune (rightly so) but the Doors are now critically speaking – lame ducks. For two reasons. 1) Pretension: a word that when applied to art is now redundant. The Doors – Jim Morrison in particular – are now seen as the last word in ‘pretension.’
This is incorrect, a rock star when describing himself as ‘The Lizard King’ cannot be pretentious, he is merely following his birthright (as a rock star) to be reborn as ‘the Lizard King.’ What in the name of the Aztec gods is wrong with this? 2) Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer was not Jim Morrison. He is an actor who played Jim Morrison. OK, so we’ve got that sorted.
‘Waiting For The Sun’ is The Doors pop masterpiece, bubblegum and dread. It’s the album they made before Jim was hounded to death by the authorities. In late ’60s Amerika The Man was a very real thing, not just a joke in inverted commas. You had long hair and a loud mouth then you’d get hunted down. Morrison was seen as a genuine threat to the establishment…difficult to believe in these Post Everything 21st century times.
Like many formative albums, you don’t always buy the best one first. This was the first VU album I bought mainly because at £2.49 it was the cheapest. It had all the famous songs on it so that’s all that mattered – mythical songs: ‘Sweet Jane’, ‘Rock And Roll’, ‘Waiting For The Man’.
Live albums used to be important as they served as a cheap greatest hits set. ‘Live At Max’s…’ is the second greatest live album ever made (‘1969’ by the Velvets is the greatest). In 1970, The Velvet Underground played a 10 week residency in New York’s Max’s Kansas City restaurant and bar. Max’s was the home of the Warhol set; Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn…Freaks, scary transvestites, frightening ‘A (amphetamine) Men’.
The Velvets were by now a straight rock n roll band. A straight rock n roll band with the greatest songs that anyone has ever written. I know all of Lou Reed’s spoken intros on this album. And of course, I also know all of poet Jim Carroll’s (he’s in the audience sat right next to the recording mic) off stage interjections – he’s ordering double Pernod’s and trying to score tuinals. I had this album when I was around 15 and living in Portsmouth. I used to wander around the streets at night on my own, peering into the pubs, wondering if there could be anywhere as fantastic as Max’s in my town. There wasn’t.
Another live album as greatest hits.
This one was always seen as the runt brother, to ‘David Live.’ ‘David Live’ has the fantastic front cover with Big Dave in a the famous ‘big trousers.’ (You used to be able to order those trousers from the back pages of the NME, though I’ve never met anyone who did.)
‘Stage’ was where I first heard the Ziggy songs, in all their frozen – frantic Berlin glory. I’m nominating ‘Stage’ as the 14th best live album ever, should you be interested.
I was trying to write this without including a Fall album, but I would be a liar if I didn’t. Perhaps The Fall will one day replace The Beatles as the go-to-male-pub-bore conversation. Maybe they already have. No matter, back in 1981 when I got this album it was The Game Changer. Mark Smith as he was commonly referred to back then, as working mans club Shaman. A Salford Jim Morrison minus the leather kecks and dressed in a jumper from C&A.
Again it’s a greatest hits recorded in various working mans clubs around the North. The sound ‘quality’ is appalling, (‘Mickey Most could getter a better sound on a Lasky’s tape recorder with his toupé on backwards’ boasts Smith in the sleeve notes) and the mainly teenage band is ragged as fuck. Smith dominates, the seer of visions. William Blake as Lenny Bruce as ancient ranter in the fish-finger aisle of the fucking Co op. Just buy it.
Woah, this is a record that all the cool people in Portsmouth had (there were quite a few, I was one, probably about 3rd coolest if you must). This fucker was like the holy tablet from the mountain, if you didn’t know every word of this savage nut job then you were quite rightly regarded as a major twat.
I didn’t give a shit when Iggy started doing insurance ads. I did give a shit when he put The Stooges back together and performed ‘Raw Power’ claiming it back as some undervalued classic. Er, well maybe in 1973 but a mere couple of years later and Raw Power was the friggin’ jugular for everything that was to follow.
Put simply: Punk (US and UK versions) could not have happened without it. Get the wild Bowie mix if you can.
Man, I used to laugh at people who liked Hawkwind. In 1984 I was (I thought) a cool art student with immaculate ‘taste’: The Fall, The Birthday Party, PIL etc. I didn’t dig stuff that was ‘old.’ Iggy, and the Velvets could be justified as ‘punk.’ But Hawkwind, Hawkwind were just useless hippies. I came to associate Hawkwind as the soundtrack to the point in the evening (or worse still the afternoon) when someone would suggest doing ‘hot knives’ – a really horrible way of getting massively paranoid via huge and quick inhalation of dope fumes through plastic bottle rendering the user utterly fucked.
This is how I viewed Hawkwind: as an utterly fucked old hippy thing. I was wrong. Years later, with ‘hot knives’ a thing of the very distant past, I gave ‘Space Ritual’ another shot. Fuck me, was I wrong – this is no hippy shit, this is biker space metal, all played on the fucking down stroke. The Space Ritual Hawk line up was possibly their greatest, boasting a front line of Dave Brock, Lemmy (bass strangler) and genius space poet Robert Calvert. Time has been good to Hawkwind, even the tired old heritage rock mags have begun to acknowledge them as one of the greatest British bands ever. For once they are right.
Luke Haines’ new album NY In The ’70s is out through Cherry Red on 19 May 2014. He plays London’s Bush Hall on 3 June. Expanded and re-mastered editions of The Auteurs albums Now I’m A Cowboy, After Murder Park and How I Learned To Love The Bootboys are out through 3 Loop Music on 2 June. Find out more about Luke Haines at lukehaines.co.uk