This week’s edition of the musicians’ favourite music comes from Royal Chant frontman Mark Spence. In addition to providing his list of favourite songs, Mr Spence also went to the trouble of writing about what made each song special to him. So we’ve included that along with his list!
10. The Secret Machines – Lightning Blue Eyes
It’s rare to hit this fine line between rock and romanticism, and this one completely destroys it like no other. A bit of a shame about this band, as they started off as a slightly more serious & considered rock trio in their first 2 albums before kind of splintering off into different bands and directions. I’m glad they did their own thing, whatever makes them happy, but the fact that I can’t think of any bands writing songs like this makes me a bit bummed. I suppose it gives me something to aim for?
9. Idlewild – Roseability
Sure it’s probably their biggest hit and one they’ve never equaled as far as sales and attention, but this is a great, ripping song by a writer who is clearly a few notches above his peers. There’s something going on here, but damned if I know. Definitely a band I can identify with.
8. The Pogues – Thousands Are Sailing
Sometimes I/we get compared to Shane MacGowan/The Pogues. I’ve loved The Pogues ever since I first saw them perform on Saturday Night Live when I was quite young. I didn’t know that he was completely wasted on stage and thought that not being able to understand him was my fault, but it didn’t matter, I loved it and it wasn’t until much later when I realized “hey, I can buy my own music now!” that I started diving in. I choose this one because it tells a great story and seriously makes me want to dance and howl at the moon. And the production is pretty banging, for a Pogues record, if you’re in to that sort of thing.
7. Sonic Youth – Teenage Riot
I know, I know, it seems like a cliched choice, but I bought this record right around the same time I got my first electric guitar (because I was still trying to sound like Bob-fucking-Dylan at the time), and this spun my head. I had a song called “I Hate It When You Kiss Me”, that is basically me trying to do that Sonic Youth droning guitar thing. For whatever reason, this made a lot of sense to me as wekk, and I still look to them as an influence not for their music itself, but for the ideas that helped shape the way it was made. Am I an über-fan of everything Sonic Youth did/does? No, but when they get it right, it’s really right. This is one of those times.
6. The Cars – Just What I Needed
I’m not sure if I’m remembering or misremembering, but I think there was some sort of connection between the city of Atlanta and the Cars and/or Rick Ocaseck. Maybe he just produced a lot of records that I would read about in the few street rags that Atlanta had at the time and I’m getting things confused. Anyways, this song is amazing and just a bit smarter than the average bear, you know? Also, he produced one of my fav GBV albums, which, of course, was crapped all over by their snotty fans when it came out. I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned in there, like “don’t have fans” or “don’t do anything, ever.”
5. Camper Van Beethoven – Take The Skinheads Bowling
This is what every pop song on the radio should aspire to.
4. The Bent Backed Tulips – Real Easy
Growing up in Atlanta, I had radio access to WRAS 88.5 FM, which was the college radio station for Georgia State University, where I would also wind up attending after high school. The weird thing is that although it was a very famous and very important college radio station (in that Pitchfork, CMJ kind of way), I felt almost no connection, either musical or emotional, to the station. I would turn it on all the time, but I had no clue what they were playing and I had no idea how or why college radio worked or WHAT THE FUCK AM I LISTENING TO?!?!? I am a little more wise to the way of things now, but that doesn’t mean I would have liked the music any better, only that I understand why they’re playing it. Also, in an odd twist of things, no one who actually WENT to the school seemed to listen to the actual station, but it was just the way it was. Anyways, this is one of 2 songs that I heard on the station that I liked, and went out and bought the album it was off of, because that’s what we did back in those days when record companies, even shitty indie ones, had us by the balls, and I was always an optimistic, naive customer.
3. Guided By Voices – Game Of Pricks
I knew I would have at least one GBV song on this list, but picking one was basically a coin toss, so I went with Game Of Pricks. Like a lot of GBV songs, they sound catchy to my ears (and why they aren’t/weren’t bigger I will never understand), but if you’re paying attention or looking at things from a songwriter’s perspective he always has something slanted or asymmetrical going on, and his verbal prowess is unparalleled. I usually either in awe or just plain ashamed when I listen to his best work, knowing deep down I can’t do that. It hurts to admit, but probably good for me.
2. Velvet Underground – Beginning To See The Light
There are quite a few different VU songs I could have included, but this was off the first album I bought and I’ve always thought it was overlooked. I mean, yeah, he sounds happy in a pluckish sort of way, but the message is an odd Lou Reed-way of looking at things and sometimes seems like the most right on thing in the world. And the way he lets himself go with the vocals with a few joyous yelps is a good reminder that we should never, ever try to act cool.
1. Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone
This song is the first one that made any sense to me as a songwriter. I was nearly asleep on the couch watching a PBS (Public Broadcasting Service in the USA) special on the history of rock & roll, and this song comes on and wakes me from my sleep and it was like a lighting rod had shot down my spine. I had written a few songs before this, and liked other bands and whatnot, but hearing this at age 16 was really what started it all. I’ve probably drifted away from Bob Dylan over the years, but mostly because I stayed under his influence for a good 5-6 years of hyper-verbal imitation. But yeah, for the record, he was my first big influence and probably the biggest reason I sound like I do.