The Mutts – Life in Dirt
Easily the most underrated and unknown of my picks. The Mutts were a Brighton scuzzy rock band in the early ‘00s and probably had the biggest influence on my own music career. Unfortunately, the lack of success seemed to be contagious.
The Mutts founding members were made up from older brothers or friends from the same seaside town I grew up in. We watched on with awe as they moved onto the bright lights of Brighton and were eager to follow them. This dream never did materialise but didn’t stop me and some friends travelling down to watch them play whenever we could. The filthy guitar riffs and dirty bass lines invoke something in me anytime I put this album on.
I don’t play guitar as much as I should these days but tunes such as ‘My Town’ and ‘Incest City’ immediately have me reaching for the axe. Each time I’m transported back to those days of couch hopping, bumming fags and not feeling hangovers. Life in Dirt!
Radiohead – The Bends
Aside from Pablo Honey (sorry) I never did buy another Radiohead album. My old man received four free album vouchers for Virgin Music when it first opened. Me and my sister were pretty made up. This would be the first album that I owned. My sister is three years older than me and was still enjoying the novelty of having a brother who appreciated her taste in music (more on that later).
Predictably I’d fallen in love with ‘Just’ from the radio. As an eleven-year-old boy I’m not sure I knew how to deal with the rest of the album at that time. It was the first time I discovered what melancholy meant. I was just happy that I had an album my sister wanted to borrow for once. It wasn’t until I was watching the film Clueless a couple years later that ‘Iron Lung’ was playing in the background and that riff took me back to that melancholy feeling again. The Bends will always help me remember when we all lived together and probably one of the last times we all did something together as a family.
Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks (Here’s The)
I might not have owned my first album until I was eleven, but I was blessed with a fine library in the living room. My mum and dad were very into music and dad had an immense collection of vinyl. It wasn’t just the energetic rawness of punk music that drew me to the Pistols. The vibrant cover, the happy faces of my parents as I pogoed around the living room and of course this newfound naughty word that I was allowed to use when talking about the album. It all filled me with a new excitement that was a million miles away from the Stones, Dylan, Bowie or Billy Bragg I was used to. The punk was born in me and I hadn’t even reached double figures. I had to ask permission every time I wanted to listen to it due to my dad’s very rare record player. It’s the same one used by Alex in Clockwork Orange and we were reminded of this every time dad walked by it (still am!). It probably didn’t help that I snapped the arm off it when I was much younger, and my sister munched through several vinyls when she was teething. Not a Christmas goes by without him mentioning this.
Blur – Parklife
I don’t have a favourite Blur album but Parklife would be up there.
This little beastie arrived in our house compliments of my then thirteen-year-old sister. I owe Amber so much for my music taste. Even then I knew we were listening to the beginning of something very special. Both my parents couldn’t get enough of it either. This was the beginnings of Brit Pop and thanks to bands like Blur this blew my musical worldwide open.
I was still painting Warhammer models in my bedroom at this point while my sister was getting ready to go out with her friends. Parklife would echo down the corridor until I could recite each song. It didn’t take long until the CDs started coming down to my room as soon as she had left.
I went on a school trip for a week shortly after Great Escape came out and we were encouraged to bring our own music for a disco. The teachers stressed that we should write our names on each one so not to get them mixed up. There was no worry of that happening as my friends hadn’t ever heard of bands like Suede, Manics, Charlatans, etc. However, much to Amber’s despair I arrived back from the trip with several of her indie CDs now inked with ‘JAMES JENKINS’ on every sleeve. I think it was around this time that the novelty of having a younger brother liking her music evaporated. We laugh about it now (she made me buy them off her years later and replaced them).
I love that this album will always remind me of my sister. It doesn’t matter what name is on the inlay, this will forever be Amber’s album.
Queens of the Stone Age – Queens of the Stone Age
The Queens’ first album even if I’ve had to fight this many times! Rated-R is so often given that accolade.
One of my best and oldest friends Paul brought this around to my house when we were in our teens. At this time, we were playing in high school bands covering the likes of Green Day, Nirvana and The Offspring. The Queens turned this on its head. I hadn’t heard anything like stoner music at this point. I remember laying on my bed (after Paul left) closing my eyes and completely losing myself to the drowning melody and hard guitar. As a guitarist, riffs are everything to me and this album is the cause of that.
Stoner rock is still my most listened to genre and, thanks to Paul, I think I’ve pretty much completed it! Although I may have taken the genre a little too literally over the years, I can still listen to this album in any mood, anytime.
The Strokes – Is This It
The album that brought me back from the dark side. My parents split up when I was around fifteen and despite my beliefs at the time, I didn’t deal with it very well. With dad moving away, mum struggling with the divorce and having to raise a teenager on her own I lapped up the freedom I was allowed. Amber had moved out by this point and had her own emotions to deal with.
I went on this way, self-medicating and burying my feelings with anything I could get my hands on. I turned my back on rock music and decided that what the world needed was a middle-working class white boy to join the rap community… I cringe just thinking about it! Sadly, this would go on for another couple of years until me and my high school girlfriend broke up. I had changed so much by then that I don’t recognise myself looking back. I wasn’t a good person and deserved the heartache. Unfortunately, I’d distanced myself from my real friends in this time and these other pretenders offered no help either before or after. I did finally realise that they didn’t have my best interests at heart so reconnected with my real buddies. Rob, who is still to this day one of my favourite people, told me about this new band The Strokes and I headed out to buy it the next day.
Is This It became the backdrop to that summer and reminded me of what I turned my back on. Not just rock music but also those genuine friendships. The ones who are still there for me today and always were. I just didn’t realise I needed the help at the time. This album humbles me and reminds me of who I am. Unfortunately, The Strokes never did recapture that mood in me after this album. But they returned me back to what I was and for that I think it’s possibly the most important album in my collection.
Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
Not my favourite album by the Beasties, but it was my first introduction to hip-hop. That doesn’t mean I don’t love it though. It took me a while to properly take the leap into the genre and the Beastie Boys opened that door for me. I had decks in my last year of school and Sure Shot on twelve inch. It was my prized asset until I left it on the deck one summer's day. I came back to find it bowed like a dog’s back leg. No wonder my dad was so protective of his collection.
The combination of rap and rock on this album played a huge part in my naive adolescence. I still believed that you could either be a rocker or a hip-hop fan. Despite the teen life crisis I went through, Beastie Boys have always been a constant in my life. I’ve connected with so many people over the years because of a mutual love for their music. I’m a very proud dad now. It gives me great pleasure to know that if you ask either of my kids who their favourite band is, they will answer – The Beastie Boys!
RIP Adam Yauch – MCA
The Jam – Discography
I have no idea what ‘best of’ this was, and I feel criminal not picking a specific album. I could lie and say All Mod Cons as that has English Rose on.
I first met my wife through Rob and his then girlfriend, Brit, who is my wife’s best friend. Rob and I were playing in the band Man from Reno and used to hang out at a now defunct Ipswich pub called McGinty’s. Rob convinced me to come out that night and I’m so glad I did. I knew Lauren was the one for me after a night of equal piss-taking on both sides. It wasn’t that simple though as Lauren made me really work hard for it. After finally wooing her by a date go-karting, we agreed to meet up again for a drink. Lauren owned a Gary boy Saxo at the time complete with neon lights. It was hilarious but also sums up Lauren’s choice in cars to this day. The best part of that car was The Jam playing constantly on loop. When the night ended on Christmas Eve and she dropped off a very drunk me I knew she was a keeper – My English Rose.
Anytime I hear The Jam it reminds me of the beginning of what has been the most crazy and beautiful ride. English Rose was our first dance at our wedding and both Rob and Brit were worthy Best Man and Maid of Honour.
James Jenkins lives in Ipswich with his wife and two children. He is a writer of gritty realism and noir. His debut novel Parochial Pigs is available on Amazon and published by Alien Buddha Press. The sequel Sun Bleached Scarecrows is available from Anxiety Press and Amazon.
Sun Bleached Scarecrows