Prince and the Revolution – Parade
As I have read people’s Eight Albums over the months and thought about how I would put mine together I thought of it as an opportunity to do a Desert Island Discs approach of signposting different times in your life. Now sitting down to do it I realise eight isn’t that many and so those early tapes which sparked my love of music (Complete Madness, Thriller, Now 3 and more) can’t make the cut. Prince though has to be here. I can remember singing 1999 with friends while queuing up for dinner in primary school. I remember my mate Andy playing me Darling Nikki off his older brother’s Purple Rain vinyl and knowing this was even riskier than Relax! I remember my Dad running in to the kitchen thinking I was being murdered as I screeched along to The Beautiful Ones on my Walkman as I filled up the bucket to wash his car.
Parade was the first Prince album I properly owned myself though. The black and white cover and the weird French vibe felt different to the other stuff my 12-year-old self heard while taping the charts or watching Top of the Pops. Seeing the lyrics to Anotherloverholenyohead in Smash Hits and just marvelling at that title. Yes, it has Kiss and Girls and Boys, but it also has probably my favourite Prince song of all time, Sometimes It Snows In April.
I am so pleased that I got to see him live in 2014. I absolutely love watching live music and much prefer smaller venues (I recently saw Porridge Radio in a library with about 20 other people which was probably my record for smallest and strangest venue). Prince though was on at the Arena in Manchester and it says a lot about him as a performer and my love for him that he not only didn’t disappoint but it is up there in my favourite gigs I have attended.
The Beautiful South – Welcome to the Beautiful South
I admit it, the late 80s were dominated by hair metal and rock for me. Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Poison etc. But I always continued to enjoy other types of music, driven by mum’s influence and her love of the Beatles, the Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, the Kinks etc.
The Beautiful South appeared singing about pencil cases and this 15-year-old heard that link to the Kinks and quintessentially English songs. I loved this album and a few years later my soon to be wife, Becky, and I discovered a shared love when I found the tape in her belongings as we were moving in together. To then discover that we both had the same favourite song, a song about a man killing his wife, concealing her body in the wall, and pretending that everything was ok, was another point to prove that there was something special between us! On the rare occasion where we have been drunk enough to step up to the karaoke mic it is that song of love falling apart, You Keep It All In, that we happily duet on.
I got to see Paul Heaton (and Jacqui Abbott) live in Castlefield Bowl (what a venue!) in September 2021 in a run of several gigs over a three week period (including that library) that had been delayed due to the pandemic. As they came back out for an encore I turned to Becky and said how much I would love it if they played I’ll Sail This Ship Alone and then there it was. I closed my eyes and sung my heart out.
James – Gold Mother
Being a 16-year-old in Manchester in 1990 I realised that there was something happening closer to home than listening to men in spandex pants singing about frat parties and cowboys. Manchester felt like the centre of the universe. Stones Roses, Happy Mondays, the Carpets, Charlatans, Northside started to fill up my record collection.
James though felt different. They were “ours”. They were the band that were on the most in the Sixth Form College common room. They were the band that felt like our secret and no-one outside of Greater Manchester knew of them (obviously not completely true). We knew people who knew them. They sang songs about taking down the government (this was the exact time that Thatcher was on her way out). They were just right for us there and then.
My first ever live gig was James. It was December 1990 at the GMex in town. I remember that there was a bit of snow on the ground. Me and my two good friends turned up in our James jumpers (mine was blue, long sleeved, ‘Come’ on the front, ‘Home’ on the back) and walked across the bridge from Deansgate station to the GMex full of nervous excitement. Watching Tim Booth on stage that night really began my love affair with live music. The way he dances is so unique. I’ve still got my Come Home jumper somewhere, probably next to my Inspiral Carpets ‘Cool as F*ck’ top.
Finding the older albums, Strip Mine and Stutter, in Double Four records in Stockport gave me songs like Johnny Yen and Skullduggery. Those three albums will always be James for me because then something went a bit wrong.
You know what it is like when you are that age. Sit Down became a massive hit. Suddenly they were popular. Suddenly everyone knew about them. When they re-released the album with Sit Down and Lose Control taking the place of Crescendo and Hang On, I took it personally. I never bought another James album. I have seen them live a few times over the years. A couple of times at festivals, once at the Arena, best at Parr Hall in Warrington. I’m going to see them at Castlefield in the summer. They are recreating the set list from their Alton Towers gig in 1992. For this stupid, stubborn old man I can pretend I am back at that age when the world held such promise and my love for this band was special.
Ride – Nowhere
I tell my kids, like the middle-aged man I have to admit that I am, that life was different when I was growing up. Better in so many ways, harder in so many ways. We didn’t have Spotify. We had to work hard to find songs. Read NME, borrow tapes, take a risk. I got Nowhere because I loved the cover and it is probably my number one album throughout the years.
It suffered from being stored away with my other vinyl for all those years until my brother-in-law Ben (another fan) bought me the CD around 2005 or so and then the wonderful moment in 2015 when it was announced they were reforming for a tour and we went to see them at Albert Hall in Manchester for what I would almost call a religious experience. Seagull and Vapour Trail just took me back to my bedroom all those years ago.
Ben and I go and see them whenever they tour now, and Andy Bell often mentions that night and how special it was. We were at the Ritz the night of the 2019 general election where they played with a backdrop of ‘F*ck Boris' and the two of us went for a last pint before the train, checked our phones and realised that the rest of the country again seemed to just be on a different plain to us.
And yes, we will be there again in April when they do their delayed 30th anniversary tour for this masterpiece of an album.
Lou Reed – Retro
Not exactly a Greatest Hits but still a compilation. Another chance vinyl purchase back when I was around 15 or 16. I knew Walk on the Wild Side but this opened my eyes and ears to something different. Back then a couple of the songs were a bit too “weird”. I didn’t get Berlin but I needed to wait a few years for that song and that album to make sense. Most of the songs just felt right though. I think Coney Island Baby has consistently been my favourite, and Caroline Says II is such a hauntingly beautiful song about such a sad situation. It was this chance purchase that led me to The Doors, Bowie, the Velvets, Dylan, Iggy and many more.
Another one I am glad to say I got to see live, this time at the Bridgewater Hall days before my daughter was born in 2003. I was so worried she would come early and make me miss out! My friend Jon had somehow managed to get us front row seats. I’ve seen Dylan (biggest disappointment), Paul Simon, The Doors (well 50% of them), Iggy and others from that kind of era and Lou will always stand out as the best. Best lyricist, best gig, best attitude.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not
Let’s face it, music had got a bit crap hadn’t it? While I love my dance, soul and funk, the R ‘n’ B and Garage in the early 2000s left me cold, and fatherhood kept me occupied. Then this album came out of nowhere. So many of the stories told in the songs shouted to me from what I had been doing five to ten years before. Witnessing fights in the taxi rank, talking rubbish in the early hours after a night at Cream or the Boardwalk, just generally living at that time in Northern England.
It was the Arctics that made me realise my son was finally starting to get good taste in music. They were the band he wanted to go and see live and that made me realise there was hope. I have tried so many times over the years to learn to play guitar and while I have consistently failed. I am so proud that he dedicated time during lockdown when he should have been going out as a 19/20 year old to teach himself to play. Now I listen to him playing Hendrix on his guitar and think I have succeeded.
Also, an important band in that they were the first (and still only) band we have seen live as a whole family. Randomly it was in Toronto. We had booked a holiday there and saw that they were playing live on their Tranquility Base tour so we went for it.
Reverend and the Makers – A French Kiss in the Chaos
It is getting so hard now. Am I really not going to include an early ‘70s Stevie Wonder album? I have got to include the Rev though.
I’d been aware of The State of Things and the odd song over the years and counted myself as a fan, but then I saw them live at the first Neighbourhood Weekender festival in Warrington in 2018 and was blown away. As the Rev himself would say, banger after banger! We bounced and bounced in the sunshine.
We saw them again supporting Shed Seven at Castlefield a couple of months later and it was confirmed, these are one of the best live bands around. A headline gig at the Academy the following year and finally, the icing on the cake was back at Neighbourhood in September ‘21. That run of delayed gigs as life began to open up and the Rev in the tent was superb. My son and his mates were front and centre and, as the traditional last song of Silence Is Talking began, we saw him up on one of his mates’ shoulders, rising above the crowd as we bounced along over to the side.
But it isn’t just the live performances. The songs speak of life and a desire for a better place, a better time. I don’t want to die in the same hole I was born, I don’t want to live if it’s all been done before.
Oh, and Jon seems to be a genuine lovely guy. Doing zoom gigs for people over lockdown, genuinely caring about people, always doing an impromptu acoustic gig on the streets outside the venue after the main gig and, for this family, sending a signed personalised message on his greatest hits album to my son for his 21st via a friend of my sister. And exchanging thank you video messages. My son is just moving into his first flat, and that signed vinyl is in a frame and taking pride of place on the wall. Not bad for one of them Yorkshire types.
Caribou – Suddenly
And so to the last one. I have found myself drawn more and more towards electronic music over the last few years. Bands like Metronomy, Hot Chip, Chvrches, Superorganism have all been heavily played. Others like Phil France, Com Truise, Bill Laurance, Daniel Avery made a big difference while I went from the habit of being in the office every day to suddenly working from home all the time and wanted music there when I wasn’t dialled in to endless meetings.
The album that really got me through 2020 was this one though. Some people get motorbikes for their mid-life crisis. I have moved on from the guitar. I’ve bought myself a keyboard and a Korg drum machine and synthesiser. Now the kids have gone, I have the time. If only I had a bit of talent...
Andy Eaton is 47, grew up in Stockport and now lives in Wigan with his wife, getting used to the fact that the kids have just flown the nest. He works as a Finance Director and spends his time at Old Trafford, at gigs, or up hills.