Aside from being one of the nicest men in music, Romeo Stodart is of course The Magic Numbers‘ singer and guitarist and has collaborated with the Africa Express project, McAlmont & Butler and many others.
His evident love for music and his wish to experience as much of it live as possible means that he’s often spotted at other people’s gigs; we probably bump into him more than any other musician in London when we go to see people play music.
With The Magic Numbers’ new album Alias due later in the summer – stream the track Shot In The Dark from it and download another, Roy Orbison, below – we asked Romeo to have a think about the albums that have influenced him most for his This Music Made Me. Cast an eye over the results of his ruminations below…
It’s been a really interesting experience compiling this list as I instantly started writing about certain records that obviously had real life changing effects on me upon my very first listen to them. I decided to stay with that trail of thought and surprisingly remembered where I was for most of them and the feelings that came over me.
There are so many other records that I could have chosen but I wanted to stay true to my thought process hence some of my favourite artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits or even Kate Bush aren’t on here because they either weren’t at the forefront of my memories or in some cases they’d taken a while to grow on me.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
Appetite for Destruction was the first record I ever bought with my own money. I was 10 years old, living in Trinidad & Tobago in a house where my uncle’s record collection was predominantly country music.
There was lots of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt and Patsy Cline. I loved listening to those albums and still do -in fact Patsy’s I Fall To Pieces is the first record that I can remember hearing as a child, as I recall an evening at home where most of my family were all crying, I’ve gotten somewhat used to the emotional commotion that usually ensues when we’re all together but back then I was really concerned. Why’s everyone crying? Is everything okay? The response was ‘it’s in the song, the sadness, listen to it.’ I eventually did get it, thankfully, but in the meantime Guns N’ Roses were my real introduction to music having any profound effect on me.
A friend from school invited me over to his house one day, he had Cable TV and the two of us decided to stay up late and watch Headbangers Ball together and there they were. I fell in love with them instantly, the gang mentality – the whole look and attitude, the fact that they were just saying a big Fuck You to the world. I liked that.
From the opening guitar riff of Welcome to the jungle you just know you are in for a crazy ride.
It was a revelation, I knew exactly what I wanted to do then and there. I wanted to be Slash.
I still think the arrangements within the songs on Appetite are amazing, no one seems to care anymore about writing killer middle 8’s that can lead the song somewhere else, a prime example being Rocket Queen, it still sounds so exciting to this day.
I got the chance to meet Slash at an awards ceremony where I had the opportunity to tell him he was the reason I wanted to play the guitar, immediately after I said it he walked over and said the exact same thing to Jeff Beck, who was standing a few feet away. It was just such a cool honest moment.
The Cure were an integral part of my teenage years when my family and I decided to immigrate to New York. I’d have my heavy metal friends whom I’d go see Slayer or Carcass and Morbid Angel with but I also lived a double life with my goth friends who had introduced me to The Cure.
I quickly became obsessed with them and soon after they were the only music I would listen to for ages. It’s hard to chose one album as to me it’s all just The Cure and it’s engrained within, but Disintegration holds lots of memories for me as was my introduction to them and I’m sure I must’ve listened to Pictures Of You a million times.
Robert Smith’s lyrics can be very direct and incredibly beautiful, not overly trying to be poetic just honest and you can’t help but get tearful. It happened the other day when Trust off of their Wish album came on and I was almost in a sobbing mess. They’re a band I really believed in and I still do, there aren’t many groups like that anymore, groups that create this world you can escape into and feel like you belong. They’ve had so many killer catchy singles yet they’ve also made some seriously amazing dark records, and it all just co-exists really naturally. I can’t think of many groups that have done that.
Burt Bacharach & Hal David – Songbook
My mum would sing most of these songs around the house when I was a kid so whenever I hear them, there’s this resonance there through association and it makes me very nostalgic. I wanted to learn to play these songs as soon as I had a guitar, but it would take a while with some of these suckers. Although they sound very simple, these songs are pretty complex in their time signatures, with missing bars here and there and some incredible chords. Through Burt I discovered my love for major seventh chords which I now have to make a conscious effort not to overuse them when writing.
Some people think it’s easy listening or light pop music but I’d much rather listen to Alfie or Anyone Who Had A Heart than some wannabe hipster try-hards who are too cool for school blaging their way through a one chord indie guitar effort. The thing with these songs is finding your favourite versions as there’s so many, some people love Aretha’s I Say A Little Prayer and some prefer Dionne Warwick‘s, depending on whatever rocks your socks you’ll be fine.
Here’s some of mine: Please Stay by The Cryin’ Shames, Lou Johnson‘s Last One To Be Loved, Dionne Warwick’s Don’t Make Me Over, Shelby Lynne‘s Anyone Who Had A Heart, God Give Me Strength by Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach – but I think the version in the Grace Of My Heart film sung by Kristen Vigard.
It’s too difficult to just pick one David Bowie album, as it’s an all encompassing thing with him but this album still blows my mind whenever I put it on. I love listening to this on vinyl – there are some albums you just have to and this is one of them.
I love Ken Scott’s super stereo production, Bowie’s 12 string on one side, Ronson’s on the other. The intimacy of the bone dry lead vocals on songs like Quicksand and Bewlay Brothers with him accompanying himself doing his usual monotone talking, mental varisped vocals – then you have those unbelievable arrangements like on Life On Mars – I mean really?
Rick Wakeman‘s finest moment for sure and it was the Spiders’ first real album together I think, what a band! I can vividly remember chain smoking listening intently over and over to this album for the first time realising that music could have this pull, this power and this otherworldliness. For me it’s one of his stone cold classics; he’s quite a few.
Neil Young – After The Goldrush
Neil Young‘s someone I really respect, his music always reminds me of that honest pure emotion that pours out of you when you’re not thinking too much and you just let go when you’re writing, it just always feels like he’s just doing his thing- throughout his career he’s had ups and downs but he’s just living it and to me if you just do your thing, be true to yourself and make the music you want to make at any given point that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes the stars align and people will connect with it and it’ll transcend into something unfathomable but other times no one will care but you, and that’s the only person who cared in the first place so all’s rocking!
Apart from the fact that he’s a demon on the guitar, he’s got that voice that just really cuts into my soul. Proving you don’t have to be the best singer in the world you just gotta mean it. After The Goldrush was a bit of an awakening for me and probably the record that started steering me back into the direction of some the country music I grew up with. It then lead me to The Byrds, The Flying Burritos, Guy Clark, Townes, Emmy Lou and tonnes of harmony groups like The Lovin Spoonful and The Beach Boys. I made sure my son entered this crazy world with Neil Young playing on the stereo, it was very close to being The Black Eyed Peas.
I bought Leonard Cohen‘s Greatest Hits in Notting Hill Music & Video Exchange purely because of the cover and it was cheap. I just thought he looked a little like Dustin Hoffman looking into a mirror but I had a feeling that it’d be a good one, I used to be quite good at blind purchasing pre internet days. I don’t do much of that kinda thing anymore, only when blind drunk.
What I instantly discovered was that Lenny’s the master, the teacher and we can all learn from him as he holds the answer, or so I thought. A few years ago I got to see him live for the first time and he had his backing singers reveal that answer to be ‘Do dum dum dum, de do dum dum’.
The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs
This was my introduction to The Smiths, classic song after classic song on a well worn cassette borrowed from the library upon moving to England. I knew nothing about them whilst living in New York so everything about them took me by surprise, I fell in love with the song titles before I’d even heard the song.
Shoplifters Of The World Unite especially caught my eye because I was becoming very good at just that, many a five finger discounted music magazine went walkies when I was around, but it was This Night Has Opened My Eyes that really stayed with me, still one of my favourites. Andy Rourke is such an underrated bass player, I think it’s as much about his bass lines as it is about Johnny Marr’s guitar that makes those melodies weave and work like no other.
I don’t think it’s possible to do The Smiths half heartedly, people who love them have to love them in a way that becomes an unhealthy obsession. I delved wholeheartedly into the world of The Smiths, anyone who hasn’t is simply missing out, big time! – I meet people who say they’ve never ‘got’ them and I actually feel a little sorry for them. It was a complete obsession for me, owning everything – bootlegs, articles, photos, hanging on every word, trying to play along to every song.
This record is a really important one for me as I’d just moved to London and met the Gannons and was starting to form a band, at rehearsals we would cover Showgirl and Junk Shop Clothes and I was still struggling to play barre chords. I must have seen every Auteurs show in London, actually I’m pretty convinced I did. I think Luke Haines is an incredible songwriter who’s very sharp witted and intelligent but also really playful. He also has a really unique voice that’s perfect for storytelling.
The fact that he really knows himself and what he’s about means if you’ve any real sense you will go with him on the ride as it’s always rewarding, be it a psychedelic album about british wresting or this new concept album about his take on what the music scene from New York was like in the 70’s. I recently read that he wrote Junk Shop Clothes whilst in a queue in Asda which I think is just genius and I can totally relate to that as within the mundanity of every day life the key is to find creative ways to escape. New Wave still sounds as timeless as it did when I first heard it and is a great place to start the journey with Luke Haines.
Spiritualized – Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
I can totally remember the day this came out. I’d stayed up all night making music on my own, recording little guitar soundscapes and just messing about on my 4 track and before I knew it was early morning.
I immediately went to the record shop as I knew it was the day of release. I remember looking at the packaging and really not wanting to open it, I sat anxiously on the bus home knowing that it was going to be a classic.
I rushed home, put my headphones on and just laid there and let it wash over me. I listened over and over and then I fell asleep. I still love listening to this album like that to this day. There are certain albums that really require you to immerse yourself in them fully and this is one of them.
Jason’s become a good friend in recent years and invited me to play some guitar and banjo on his last album Sweet Heart, Sweet Light which was an incredible experience for me, pretty mad really.
Mavis Staples – Only For The Lonely
I thought I’d end with a recent discovery that totally stopped me in my tracks. Funnily enough it sat on my shelf as a purchase from being on the road, but I never got around to playing it until the other day. It’s got Eddie Hinton playing guitar on there who wrote the sublime Hard Luck Guy, Steve Cropper’s on there, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Roger Hawkins – really lush string orchestrations and Mavis at her best I think.
Her singing on this is incredible, I mean even now on the new Jeff Tweedy produced albums she still sounds great but her delivery for instance on the opening track I Have Learned To Do Without You really is way up there with all those gems on the Stax label.
The Magic Numbers play at London’s 229 on Monday 19 May 2014. The new album Alias is out through Caroline International in August. More on the band here.