John’s Desert Island Discs

2017 March 31
by John

Inspired by Dani’s selections last week (apparently Radio 4 do this as well), John Tucker - after writing his own introduction in the third person like an idiot - picks his favourite records, book and luxury item to take to the iconic desert island.

island

Nirvana  - Radio Friendly Unit Shifter

The “cool” thing at our school was stuff like the Artful Dodger, Dane Bowers, and the laughably rubbish Oxide & Neutrino, to which I paid dull lip service while knowing my heart was never really in it; I didn’t look good in Burberry and I didn’t like White Lightning. My relationship with that scene was destined to fail. I eventually began to toy around with the “alternative” music of the day, dutifully became a “mosher”, painted my nails black, and found my way towards Nevermind. It wouldn’t be until I saw this live recording on MTV a few years later that I really realized how good Nirvana were, and that their best work certainly wasn’t to be found on Nevermind.

This footage was what cemented the deal for me; the bands of the day, such as Papa Roach and Linkin Park (remember this is circa 2002, when I was a rebellious teenager) all seemed to lack the sense of urgency that Nirvana had - the sense that they really meant something to their audience. And of course, they still do - which is why Nirvana continue to sound fresh after all these years, and they remain one of my all time favourite bands.

Biffy Clyro - Questions & Answers

After I got into Nirvana, I became rather disenchanted with British rock music, namely because a lot of it really, really sucked. Having only access to MTV2 and Kerrang (before the internet became my life support machine and I still had something vaguely resembling a social life) - and with Kerrang basically serving as the Sum 41 channel (again, this was 2002/2003) - MTV2 was the only real glimpse into what was happening in the UK. And the results were largely disappointing - this was a time when The Darkness were the face of British rock music and Funeral for a Friend were the alternative (for whom the Welsh Assembly were later forced to apologize). Kinesis, Hell is for Heroes, Hundred Reasons, these were the names of the day and I didn’t like any of them. Then one afternoon I saw this (which was a stroke of good luck, as I only ever saw it on rotation once outside Biffy-specific playlists and shows):

Things very quickly changed as a result; through keeping an eye on Biffy’s tourmates and web presence I soon found what I’d been looking for, right on my doorstep. Bands like Yourcodenameis:milo, Jarcrew and mclusky - I found them all through Biffy Clyro. And Biffy, at the time, were the best of the lot; the album from which this song was taken, The Vertigo of Bliss, was my favourite album for a long, long time - right up until I discovered my next selection, in fact. I thought they went off the boil a little with the albums that followed but in the year or so when they were touring this album, Biffy Clyro could do no wrong, and this is still a tremendous pop single.

Jarcrew - Money Shot

It’s no secret that I think the world of Jarcrew - ask anybody who’s spent more than ten minutes in my company, at some point Jarcrew are bound to have cropped up. If I could only take one of the songs to the island, this would have to be it - in fact, any of Jarcrew’s songs would do. Because in their short lifespan they covered more or less everything.

They only made one album (released once as Breakdance Euphoria Kids on a Welsh charity label designed to assist bands in rural Welsh towns, and again as a self-titled album on Gut Records, albeit with two new songs and a bit of a polish), but that one album is one of my favourite things in the whole world. My favourite album for the last five years or so, it is without a doubt the single most innovative album I have ever heard, and will likely ever hear - while certain similarities can be drawn with bands like Les Savy Fav, mclusky, At The Drive-In and The Pixies to name but a few, I still haven’t heard any band that sounds like them. At no time, before or since, has there been a band that sounds anything like them.

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Part of this is probably because they didn’t stay still long enough to sound like anybody (or for anybody to sound like them) - their album flows like Niagra Falls and covers more or less every branch of music along the way; 1930s acoustic blues, IDM, punk-rock, metal, post-rock, pop, big band music, and everything in between. They were an absolute, total original, and if they’d stayed together long enough - they broke up in February 2005 - they could well have taken over the world. I was lucky enough to see them once before the split - I’d never heard them before and after hearing their album, music was never quite the same. I’d encourage everybody to seek them out, see if they do the same for you. If you do seek them out, this will be the first track you hear.

Ryan Adams - Give Me Sunshine

While I discovered most of the music I consider to be life-changing in my early years (between the ages of 14-17), Ryan Adams came a little bit later - I’d heard of him, and was aware that some of my friends liked him, but it was only after I met Paul Capewell in mid-2005 that I really started getting into him, partly due to the fact that Paul was already so far into him that it was hard to tell where Paul ended and Ryan began. I duly noted this, picked up the introductory works, and instantly fell for it. A thoroughly intoxicating blend of punk rock, acoustic folk and sheer heart-stricken misery, his work immediately rooted itself into my iTunes library and has not left.

Part of my reason for selecting Ryan Adams, apart from the fact that I’ve listened to more of his songs than Radiohead and Jarcrew put together (partly down to his ability to shit material, releasing as many as three albums a year and having countless others rejected by his label), is largely the memories I have in connection with his songs. Adams has been the soundtrack to some of the best times of my life - namely because for a while, myself and a few of my friends (more often than not led by Capewell) would use his tours as excuses to go on holiday for a laugh. In the space of nine months in 2006/07, I went to London, then Glasgow, then London again, then Geneva, then Paris - all because the Ryan Adams Roadshow was passing through those towns. Flights were booked, times were had - and we probably would never have gone to those places if the tour hadn’t been stopping there. This was in the two years between dropping out of sixth form and coming here, when I had no commitments to anything/anyone and a regular income, the years I now refer to as “the gold-tinted jewel-encrusted super-awesome-glory years”.

Love is Hell

Anyway, this track - like many of Ryan’s real gems - was never made commercially available, and instead was bunged on some obscure bonus disc that came with a Japanese re-release of his incomparable Love Is Hell album. When I saw this track was on it, I had it imported, at great personal expense (although cost was not much of a factor back in the gold-tinted jewel-encrusted super-awesome-glory years) - I had heard it on an early bootleg (Pinkhearts & Q Division Demos) and was immediately taken with it. This version, recorded for the Elizabethtown soundtrack, has everything you need from a Ryan Adams song - a knockout melody, wistful crooning, and an overall mood and tone that will make you want to kill yourself.

Radiohead - All I Need

I’m aware of the clich√© that surrounds Radiohead, and particularly people who proclaim them the best band ever - but if they’re good enough for Ricky Gervais’ Desert Island Discs, they’re certainly good enough for mine.

I didn’t like Radiohead for a long time, and then almost overnight, I suddenly became enamoured with them. This was shortly before I left sixth form, and for part of my music technology A-level we were asked to study record production. Some looked at What’s Going On, others looked at Pet Sounds, I looked at Kid A. This is when I really began to realize how good they were, and how they’ve improved with every record. I could have picked any number of tracks to fill my Radiohead quota, because they have an amazing range of tunes - it was a close call between Life In A Glass House (which deserves to be played in a 1930s speakeasy on a gramophone), Myxomatosis (or its wondrously hideous cousin, Christian Vogel’s Remyxomatosis, which is hands down the most troubling piece of music I have ever heard, and the only piece of music that makes me genuinely uncomfortable) and Climbing Up The Walls - but eventually I settled on this:

This track contains everything I love about Radiohead, and encapsulates everything that makes In Rainbows (my favourite Radiohead album by a country mile) such a joy to listen to. So much so that when I saw them perform it live last summer, it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen - I very nearly shed a tear, which for me is the equivalent of a deluge. Then again, I did see them in Amsterdam (again, gold-tinted jewel-encrusted super-awesome-glory years, fancied a holiday, boom, sorted), and perhaps the very fine drug haze that clouded the stage may have influenced my emotions, but I care not.

Converge - Bitter & Then Some

While most of the music I listen to can be put in one of two categories (punk rock or faggotry) I have - like people who eat bizarre foods like tyre sandwiches and peanut souffle - an unquenchable appetite for speed metal and all of its derivatives. It started out, I’m sure, with my early penchant for bands such as Papa Roach and Slipknot - these were later discarded in favour of the real thing (Slayer, Hate Eternal etc.) and bizarre, hilarious offshoots of metal such as The Locust (a band that is infinitely funnier and more entertaining than anything currently being aired on BBC Three).

I think it’s possibly because metal is, inherently, quite funny - lots of very fast oom-pa drumming, twiddly guitar and ludicrous growling, what’s not to like? Of course, more often than not, the purveyors of this absurd spectacle put on one hell of a show - I have often said that the best value-for-money to be had is at metal gigs, where the bands are generally of a very high standard. This has been further confirmed since I moved to Manchester - the birthplace of The Smiths, Madchester, Joy Division and countless other musical legends - only to find that Bisonhammer are far and away the best live act in Manchester. Indie smarm and smug twattery is all well and good if that’s your scene, but on entertainment value and charm - things I rate quite highly from live performers - Bisonhammer come out on top. Prove me wrong, fuckers.

So. It would be incredibly churlish of me not to include some metal on my list, and who better to fill this slot than Converge. Converge I like in particular, probably because they meet all the criteria for metal but mix some punk-rock in there as well - among all that brash screaming and deafening metal there are shades of Minutemen and bite-sized bits of Black Flag to be heard, which for me is a huge plus. This track is a snip under ninety seconds long, goes a mile a minute, and is one of the most ludicrous pieces of music I’ve ever heard. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Laura Marling - Blackberry Stone

I’ve spoken highly of young Ms. Marling prior to this: I saw her a few months ago, and this track was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening. I can’t say too much about it, as this is the most recent addition to the playlist, but needless to say it ticks virtually every one of my boxes: absolute bare-bones production? Sounds like it was recorded in a living room, with a maximum of two overdubs. Tick. Minimal arrangement? One woman and guitar (on record), tick. Sickeningly depressing? Very much so. Tick. Laura Marling may be young, but if you look close enough at the whites of her eyes, you can actually see vast chasms of abject misery and despair. She’s got a great career in front of her, I can tell. If her audiences don’t top themselves.

The Smiths - This Charming Man

I never really got into the whole Madchester thing - the Stone Roses are little more than a pack of scally Mancs lead by a chimp and the Happy Mondays make me feel physically sick. I find Joy Division similarly distasteful - even though I’m usually a sucker for the rock-n-roll-martyr story, it’s a little harder to get behind a stick-thin epileptic who routinely cheated on his wife, then offed himself where he knew she’d find him (I saw Closer and Downfall around the same time and frankly, as far as biopics go, I felt more sympathy for Adolf Hitler). However, not wanting to be totally pig-ignorant of the musical legacy surrounding my adopted hometown, I investigated a slew of Manchester bands, including a band to whom I’d never really paid much attention before - funnily enough, they were the band that really clicked. And like a lot of bands I really love, they clicked because they were funny.

There’s been a lot of post-match analysis of the Smiths after the fact - whole programs dedicated to the “hidden meanings” behind The Smiths’ songs and the poetry behind Morrissey’s decadent, flowery lyrics. Noel Gallagher called him the most literate man ever to write music, and while that’s neither here nor there, he definitely had a wicked sense of humour, and a hell of a set of lungs. This Charming Man is one of the best tunes ever written, and since moving here they’ve really become the soundtrack to the city. Manchester would look and feel entirely different to me if I’d never heard the Smiths - they’re the only band that could make Rusholme seem poetic.

It doesn’t really matter what later became of the Smiths - it doesn’t matter that Morrissey turned out to be a stupid, ignorant, racist twat whose relationship with Johnny Marr was roughly equivalent to the relationship Tiny Tim had with his crutch (clearly the smarter of the two but can’t stand up on his own), nor does it matter that The Smiths were so much greater than the sum of their parts. They were, once, the greatest band in Britain, and at a time when so much shit was in the charts, they came along at exactly the right moment. Hooray for The Smiths.

Book: The Time Machine Did It by John Swartzwelder

The Time Machine Did It

Probably the funniest thing I’ve ever read - Swartzwelder was a writer during the Simpsons’ gold-tinted jewel-encrusted super-awesome-glory years - all you really need to know about him is that he wrote “Radioactive Man” (specifically the greatest line in television history, “My eyes! The goggles do nothing!”) and a shitload of other classic Simpsons episodes, and thus is one of the greatest men alive. I’ve got all his books - they’re all absolute dynamite but this is still my favourite, and one of the only books to make me genuinely roar with laughter. And I’d imagine I’ll need cheering up on a desolate island.

Luxury Item: A lifetime supply of Bicycle Poker 808 playing cards

Bicycle Playing Cards

A slightly lesser-known side of me (apart from “music critic” and “dickhead”) is “total and utter magic nerd” - card tricks are something of a hobby of mine (enjoyed by nobody but myself), and while my time on the island could probably be better-spent writing about my experiences or reading up on the world (or indeed the subject I’m currently paying to learn about) I’d much rather spend the time dicking around with a pack of cards. Why a lifetime supply you ask? Because I wear out a pack of Bikes in about three straight weeks. Partly because I use them all the time, partly because my card handling sucks and I’m forever mangling the damn things with my ham-fisted sleights. Either way, I go through those things like a knife through butter. Better bring a stockpile.

John Tucker

7 Responses leave one →
  1. 2017 April 6
    Dani permalink

    Yay! John I didn’t know you liked Laura Marling?! When you sing along to her it doesn’t make you want to top yourself it makes you really happy because it’s all high-pitched!

  2. 2017 April 6
    John permalink

    High pitched (?) and upbeat it may be at times, but on Alas, I Cannot Swim she sings about night terrors, stalkers, suicidal psychopaths, drowning, emotionally-unavailable mariners and alienated youth. Blackberry Stone is about a funeral. Don’t be fooled, her output is a bigger downer than 50 ketamine and a copy of Gloomy Sunday.

  3. 2017 April 7
    Dani permalink

    Alas I cannot Swim is the album I have I really like it! Ghosts isn’t about depressing stuff! She jsut says she doesn’t believe in everlasting love but she likes this guy a lot, that’s nice! She’s giving him a chance to prove her wrong about love, I think it’s down to interpretation?

  4. 2017 April 7

    Yeah, that’s what Ghosts is about, what about the rest of it?

  5. 2017 April 9
    Dani Middleton permalink

    What the rest of the album? My Manic and I isn’t that depressing?

  6. 2017 April 10

    Really? Isn’t it? Captain & The Hour Glass? Your Only Doll? Night Terror? Shine? I understand they’re high-pitched, that’s plain to see, but I wouldn’t stick it on if I was on the up and up, to be honest. It’s a massive downer. It’s a great album but it’s a total buzzkill.

  7. 2017 April 16
    Dani Middleton permalink

    Perhaps I’m just way too upbeat and can’t be put in a downer mood?! John listen to Polly Scattergood- Other too endless.

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