“To limit it to only 10 favourite albums is so few it only results in many people and groups such as Love, Charles Manson, Talking Heads, Joe Meek, Wire, John Carpenter, The Ramones, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Pet Shop Boys, Buzzcocks, Dusty Springfield, many Tamla Motown acts from the 1960/70s and even current 93 being left out. There have been so many great recordings that have inspired my Life and Work. So, this must be seen as merely the tip of the iceberg revealed as ‘Zwielicht” comes to an end:
1. Hawkwind – ‘Space Ritual’
Shortly after I’d left high school at the age of 16 in about August/September 1972 I went to a free festival in Windsor Park not far from the Castle and met another school friend there called Gordon Matthews. He offered me some LSD which he’d managed to get and I dropped my first tab of Acid watching The Pink Fairies and Hawkwind. Both groups were great but Hawkwind had something special about them and after that night I was hooked to seeing them over the next 2-3 years. Along with The Clash and Joy Divison/New Order they are still one of the groups, that I’m not connected with, that I’ve seen more than any others. ‘Space Ritual’ represents very accurately what they were like during this period and everytime I saw them it was always really amazing. The way they pointed strobe lights into the audience and freaked a lot of people out, Lemmy’s incredible bass lines, not to mention his mere presence, and the literally sheer naked menace (some of the group and audience used to strip naked and dance manically) of their whole atmosphere was totally captivating. An indelible impression was made the next year when I saw them at a different spot at another free festival in Windsor Park when they were in full flight and the strobe lights seemed to be going exceptionally crazy. Then bodies started to fall out of the surrounding trees! People had climbed up them to get a better view of the show but because of the strobes, and possibly also drugs, they had lost their grip/balance and I could see the silhouettes of bodies starting to descend from the trees on either side of Hawkwind who were basically playing on the grass. I have no idea what injuries these people suffered but it looked incredible as these people fell to earth out of the sky, in what looked like slow motion due to the strobe lights!
2. David Bowie – ‘Alladin Sane’
Whilst the recently released ‘Ziggy Stardust…’ had formed an important part of my last day at school in July, 1972 as it was played over and over again, along with The Who’s ‘Live At Leeds’, in the leaver’s unit where we all got more and more drunk on whatever alcohol we’d managed to smuggle into school on the last day (and which the teachers seemed willing to turn a blind eye to) it was really David Bowie’s follow up LP that made me into a Life long devotee of his work. The expectation for ‘Alladin Sane’ the following year was massive after the success of ‘Ziggy Stardust…’ which made even pre-ordering a copy difficult as there were only so many allotted to each outlet. The hype beforehand was also incredible as there were strong rumours in the press that he would appear naked on the inside of the gatefold sleeve and it was during this period leading up to the release that David Bowie had ‘come out’ as being bi-sexual which, in turn, seem to have a domino effect on other artists such as the dancer/actor Lindsay Kemp (he’s the inn-keeper in The Wicker Man film) saying they wanted Bowie’s baby! Later even David Cassidy of the ostensibly insipid Partidge Family admitted that he too had taken LSD and was bi-sexual!
However, regardless of the difficulties of ordering a copy of it before it came out I did manage to do so at a place called Boots The Chemists in Guildford and cycled over in my best platform boots, loon pants and Afghan coat, shoulder length hair blowing in the breeze, to that town on the day of release to get it. Oddly enough the woman in the shop was unwilling to sell it to me as it was their last copy and had a glue mark across the front and back of the cover. New copies were due in the following week but in no way was I going to wait for those. I wanted that damaged copy of ‘Alladin Sane’ and I wanted it NOW! Repeated plays of that album later made me realize what a wise decision that was and I cherish that flawed copy of the ‘Alladin Sane’ LP to this day. It also motivated me to come out as being Gay to my 2 best friends. Thankyou David Bowie you gave me that courage during those initial, uncertain years when being Gay was very much illegal for those under 21.
3. The Beatles – ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
I first listened to this album in its entirety when I was 18 in 1974 whilst tripping on Acid at what we referred to as a ‘safe house’ in the university town of Guildford in Surrey, just outside of London. I only really knew one other person at this place but the 4 or 5 other people were all considered okay otherwise they wouldn’t know the owner of the house, get in or be able to get this particularly strong L.S.D. Once you’d taken it the likelihood of being able to move around in public without being noticed was considered dangerous so one safe place was decided to be the best place to experience whatever was going to happen to you. Not only did I experience very important spiritual/psychic/psychotic changes to me during these experiments and that ‘Sgt. Pepper’ demonstrated how The Beatles could write about anything and everything they wanted to and record with anything musically in a way that had never been heard before and throw the rule books of music out of the window they also flew in through the window! And, it wasn’t the bathroom window – the bathroom wasn’t my favourite place as it seemed to be inhabited by giant, seething worms made of shit!! At one point during the playing of Sgt. Pepper each individual Beatle flew in through the window of the room the 5-6 of us were tripping in dressed in their Sgt. Pepper uniforms but, also wrapped in shiny cellophane-like plastic body bags which made them look like odd, colourful corpses. They then flew around the room and then disappeared out of the window again. But, the truly odd thing was that everyone saw this happen. We all experienced the same vision. On a separate occasion in the same place and having taken the same Acid whilst listening to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Are You Experienced’ and ‘Axis Bold As Love’, (two other brilliant albums that I was really hooked on at that time) everyone there saw Jimi Hendrix step out of a poster and dance around the room whilst playing his guitar. Was it a mass hallucination or a genuinely magickal vision of an alternative reality? I don’t know but I’ll never forget those times and albums
4. Bob Dylan – ‘Desire’
In early 1976 this was the first Bob Dylan album I’d ever listened to and probably his last great album. I feel I came in at the end of his really brilliant song writing period and then went on to discover the beginning! I was actually in love for the first time where I could and did physically express my emotions and in my friend’s home in the countryside, which still contained the remnants of 1975’s Yuletide decorations, was this LP that would be played over and over again at the weekends I was there. These weekends would inevitably end with me standing on a freezing cold railway station early on a Monday morning waiting to catch a train back home or to work and not being able to get the events of the past weekend out of my mind. ‘Desire’ was the soundtrack to that intense affair. If I hear ‘Hurricane’, ‘Sara’, ‘Isis’ or ‘Joey’ I’m immediately back at that lovely house with my great friend Allen Cullen and on the Wintery cold railway platform. Dylan did better albums such as ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ but it’s ‘Desire’ that transports me to another time and place where so much was uncertain and the outlook very bleak. The affair ended after Easter 1976 about the time of my 20th birthday but years later my friend, who had by chance come back into my Life, would give me the Whiphand design which I first used on the “NADA!” album in 1985 and he continued to be a great friend and supporter until his sudden death in the 1990s. I inherited much of his III Reich memorabilia left to me in his will. Desire, indeed!
5. The Sex Pistols – ‘Spunk’
‘Spunk’ was the bootleg version of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks,…’ that was available months before the official release of The Sex Pistols album later in 1977. To me that was the better of the 2 versions as the official version of the album seemed too ‘clean’ in sound to me. If it wasn’t for The Sex Pistols there would have been no Crisis and, in turn, no Death In June. And I’d probably be in prison, a mental institution or dead, instead. I’m convinced of this. Johnny Rotten, Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook shone a light when there was none. They were the absolute Vanguard and better than I could have possibly imagined they would be. They looked and sounded what I’d been waiting for. The signpost on a road in the middle of absolutely nowhere in my Life.Tony Wakeford and I bought our copies of ‘Spunk’ (in case Germans don’t know it’s colloquial English for sperm) from a shop very close to the Westway in Nottinghill Gate in West London which had been the scene of some of the worst rioting during the Notting Hill Carnival the year before where I happened to be. As the rioting between the Carnival goers and the police got worse it was obvious that you had to defend yourself/join in or you’d be a victim of either the police or other Carnival goers. So, with bricks and stones in hand I started pelting the police with them which not only felt good as the British police then were extremely reactionary and provocative, it also safeguarded my friend and I against any of the blacks that might have resented our presence in their area if we weren’t prepared to defend it. Unbeknownst to me at the time Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer from The Clash were also doing the same thing that, in part inspired and, gave rise to…
6. …The Clash’s first album.
I’d awaited this album with more expectation than any other album up until then as I wanted to hear how they measured up against The Pistols. I’d already read their interviews, seen them on televison being interviewed on youth programmes whose presenters were now sniffing around the nascent Punk movement, got their free 7″ single that had been given away via the New Musical Express and had spoken to Joe Strummer after a cancelled Clash show in early ’77 so I knew they were determined to compete with The Sex Pistols and whilst similar they were also very much proud to be on the other side of the same coin. They were going to be different in that they appeared focussed politically which immediately appealed to me as I had already been involved in far-left politics for 2-3 years. I LOVE that first album. Songs like ‘White Riot’, ‘Career Opportunities’, ‘London’s Burning’ and ‘Hate And War’ had a profound effect upon me. I hadn’t heard anything so differently raw and exciting. And live they were sensational. I remember well pogoing with Tony down near the front of the stage during their White Riot Tour dates in London and the South East. Between us we agreed that Crisis shouldn’t just be like this but BETTER than this and The Clash inspired us to get on with what we had to do with our musical ‘Agit-prop’ Punk group. I loved a lot of the singles The Clash released after that first album and continued to see them live for a couple more years but for me, they never really topped the excitement of that first declaration of intent. Their follow up albums sounded far too tepid in comparison to this first release and I gradually lost interest in them and their apparent ‘Americanization’ which was disappointing.
7. The Velvet Underground – ‘White Light White Heat’.
This album was played to me by the first girl I ever actually had sex with. It was 1978, Punk was in full bloom and everyone that knew me knew I was gay. This seemed attractive to some Punk girls at the time as hang ups about gender and sexuality had also been thrown up in the air to see which side of the fence they came down on during those heady days. Either way, this Velvet Underground album was the soundtrack to that particular occasion where I must admit I imagined I was fucking the guy next door rather than the girl I was with. Afterall, as the Crisis song goes;
“I’ve never made it with a woman I’ve only made it with men But, I’d like to make it with a woman Just to see if I can.”
But on top of that, and despite all the great tracks on that LP, ‘The Gift’ really made a very strong impression on me. I would say that track gave me the confidence to write songs like ‘Red Dog – Black Dog’, ‘Brown Book’ or ‘Death Of A Man’ years later in Death In June. The girl was very nice, stayed a friend for years and ironically ended up giving me a gift of ‘The Velvet Underground’ LP which I still have to this day.
8. Joy Divison – ‘Unknown Pleasures’/’Closer’
These 2 albums have to go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned. Joy Division’s debut album came as such a revelation to me in such ordinary circumstances. It was the first record I’d bought after returning from a month of Crisis dates in Norway in August 1979 and I’d been playing it for days but not really ‘hearing’ it. I knew something was there but it wasn’t declaring itself to me until I was washing my hair one night! I was then working part time at a petrol station and the smell of the fuel would be all over your hands and hair when you got home. It was as I held my head over the bath, shampooing my hair that the unique brilliance of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ suddenly hit me!! Perhaps it was the extra blood flowing to my head but it was like an epiphany. Once again, it wasn’t like anything I’d heard before but now I somehow ‘understood’ and this is what I’d been wanting to hear. It was the sign – “This is The Way Step Inside”! Shortly thereafter I saw them perform as often as possible in and around London and they were stunning. But, then it was suddenly all over. I remember lying on the floor of the room where our stereo was with the curtains open on a moonlite night in May, 1980 waiting for the John Peel radio show to start and when it came on he announced that Ian Curtis was dead. What!? Within a few days of Crisis performing what was to be its final show this really was the symbolic death knell for so much and, what turned out to be, the true beginning of so much more. The rest of the night was spent continuing to lie on the carpet staring out the window at the night sky thinking where music and culture would go to now whilst John Peel played what seemed like endless Joy Division tracks.
The launch of ‘Closer’ a couple of months later by Factory was a strange affair in London at a small independent cinema where Factory director Tony Wilson acted as a DJ and played tracks from the new LP. Durutti Column and A Certain Ratio played live inbetween his stints as a DJ. I’d seen both groups almost as many times as Joy Division as they were always playing support to them but A Certain Ratio were particularly strange that night as they performed in their Afrika Korps-like uniforms in front of a silent screening of The Beatles ‘A Hard Days Night’ film which was projected behind them. ACR were another group I loved at that time. They spent a lot of the evening with their backs to the audience watching the film as they played material from ‘All Night Party’, ‘The Graveyard And The Ballroom’ and the yet to be issued ‘To Each…’ . It was a strange touch to what was a great evening when the gem of ‘Closer’ was first put on public display.
9. Ennio Morricone – ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’/’For A Few ‘Dollars More’
I’d always loved the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns but it wasn’t until an old school friend bought me this LP which had both sound tracks on by the phenomenal Ennio Morricone at about the same time as Death In June was forming in 1981 that I really appreciated how weird and imaginative the soundtracks were, especially for the mid-1960s. The creativity of the soundtracks reflect the creativity that was going on in music, films and society at that time. Films set in America, featuring Mexican bandits and a man with no name, made by Italians and filmed in Franco’s Spain. They were bound to be brilliant! They certainly inspired and encouraged some of the song writing in Death In June right from the start such as the title track of ‘The Guilty Have No Pride’ and made me go on and investigate much else by Ennio Morricone and the actor Clint Eastwood. His self-directed ‘Play Misty For Me’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’ rank as some of my favourite and inspirational films of all time.
10. Scott Walker – ‘Scott 4’
So much has already been said about Scott Walker and ‘Scott 4’. But, I think they both deserve it. After I’d become hooked on his solo work courtesy of Julian Cope’s superb compilation of some of his songs ‘Fire Escape In The Sky – The God-Like Genius Of Scott Walker’ I began seeking out his original LPs from the 1960/70s. This was no easy matter in the early 1980s but, gradually, I found the first 3. However, the legendary ‘4’ alluded me for some time. Fortunately through a record dealer I knew at Rough Trade where I was then working I eventually got an original copy for about 15 GBPs which was expensive then especially as it came without the sleeve! But, that didn’t matter. Once I’d put the needle on the record and it began to reveal itself it surpassed all expectations – which had been very high! ‘Scott 4’ was Life changing for me. It proved inspirational and the track ‘On Your Own Again’ directly inspired me to try and write a short and beautiful song which proved to be ‘Leper Lord’ on “NADA!” Chicken Pox, the Marquis De Sade and Scott Walker helped write that song! Also ‘4’ is aspirational and, in some of the darkest days of my Life yet to come in the years to follow, it became very comforting and reassuring. It didn’t matter about not having a sleeve that record became a good companion and travelled well with me in my Life. In fact, I didn’t know what the artwork actually looked like until years later in the 1990s when there were a series of CD re-issues of Scott’s recordings and I eventually, and reluctantly, succumbed to buying a CD version. In comparison to the LP I’ve rarely played that CD but the quote in the original artwork from Albert Camus was worth getting it for:
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
Douglas P. 3.IV.10.”