Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Adam Stafford

Some time ago I was sitting on a bus with a token playlist of songs that had influenced my life in some way or another. Being somewhat refreshed, I started thinking of all the times that these songs had become significant and thought, wouldn’t it be an excellent idea to delve into other people’s ‘Life Record Boxes’. Luckily people have been wonderful and we have an incredible series continuing.

Today is the turn of Adam Stafford. You can find out more about his music here:

First Pop Song I Remember Loving:

Whitney Houston ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’

My mum used to play this in the car when I was a kid. Every time I hear this, Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlise and Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now by Jefferson Starship, I am a little boy once again. Although this isn’t subversive in the slightest, it still has a surprising, killer key-change!

First Band I got Into:

The Police‘The Bed’s too Big Without You’ (1978)

It’s highly unfashionable to declare your love for anything Sting-related these days, but I still can’t resist this faux Dub from the high-pitched Geordie One & Co, mainly because Regatta De Blanc was the first LP I ever really got into, when I was nine years old. My mum had a copy on double 10″ vinyl (which I still own) and I played it until the needle wore-out when I was a kid. I love when the guitar drops out and the drums go into a King Tubby-esque deep reverb mid-way, and the thundering bass plays only intermittent notes. I picked this song because it also reminds me of Gylla, my wife, as it’s one of her favourite songs and one we always sing along to after having had a few drinks, in my impeccable half Jamaican/Geordie Falsetto, naturally!

Song that Changed Everything:

Nirvana‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’

The minute long warbled distortion at the start of the song says it all. Nirvana were responsible for millions of teenagers smoking cigarettes, denounce phony 90’s pop and play their guitars down to their knees (my friend went one further and extended his guitar strap with half a belt buckle). I bought In Utero in 1993 when I was eleven-years old and it really did change my perspective and informed every musical decision as a fan and, later, as a musician from therein.

First Song I Properly Learnt on Guitar:

David Bowie‘Rock`n’Roll Suicide’

I started listening to John Peel regularly from aged fifteen until his death. He played this retrospectively from a session originally broadcast in the early seventies and it blew me to pieces, that dead stop before Bowie shrieks “Oh, no love, your not alone!” really effected me. I’d just bought an electric guitar around then (`97) and this, along with Where Is My Mind by Pixies were the first songs I learned by ear.

Song That Taught me That Punk Was Invented in The 1920’s:

Blind Willie Johnson‘Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying’

When I was about eighteen I bought a cheap compilation called The Essential Blind Willie Johnson, of songs recorded between 1927-30 and it really blew the doors wide open for discovering a plethora of old-time Blues, Spiritual and Country music from the American South. Willie Johnson’s slide guitar playing was a total revelation, it was Punk Blues essentially, and the roughness resonated with me much more than a lot of 1970’s punk did. His growl on this song is pure Kurt Cobain, only 60 years earlier, hard to believe that he was only twenty-three when it was recorded because he sounds like an octogenarian carved out of the hard earth.

Song That I’ll Never Tire Of:

Slint ‘Good Morning Captain’

Larry Clark’s film Kids was a big deal when I was a teenager, just because of all the controversy that surrounded it. When we finally saw it on home video in the late nineties, people wondered what the big fuss was about. The soundtrack, which was copied and passed around on cassette in the summer of 1996, turned me and my friends onto a lot of music that was totally out of our listening tastes – going from Green Day and Pearl Jam to Daniel Johnson and Folk Implosion! Good Morning Captain, by the mysterious Slint was the final song on the tape and it instantly struck a chord because it was so different: It was grungy, but angular; instead of singing, the song was spoken; it took Pixies/Nirvana Loud/Quiet dynamics to their limits; the metronomic drumming was aberrantly jazzy. Through the Kids OST we explored Slint further by picking apart the Spiderland LP and guessing their ages from cryptic, watery cover shot, which in turn led us onto love affairs with Palace, Tortoise, Mogwai, Papa M, Shellac, Low and many others.

Song That Reminds Me of Teenage Friends

Godspeed You Black Emperor‘Slow Moving Trains/The Cowboy’

Essentially two songs (or three if you include The Outro), but one, which reminds me very fondly of a core group of four friends whom were very close in the final years of high school (we all still remain relatively close). When I look back at my time spent with them in a wee village we all hung about in, it’s always autumnal and rainy. We would watch break lights disappear over the hill on the brae at night, and the two huge antennas always loomed large over the lunar ash park high above Forth Valley.

Song That Sends A Shiver Down My Spine

Leonard Cohen – ‘Avalanche’

There is such spite and bitterness in this beautiful dirge, which, on the surface, seems to tell the tale about the power struggle between a hunchback slave and his Mistress/master, or a man’s lowly opinion of himself reflected in the eye of his beautiful lover. I’ve always loved that ambiguity of the imagery in Cohen’s songs. Most people demand that films and music spell the emotions out for them, but I like to be challenged and provoked into thinking by art. And with Avalanche, you are in the presence of great art.

Song That Reinstated my Faith in Modern Music:

Lightning Bolt‘St. Jaques’

The very fact that two people came together to make sonances, this loud and demented and intricate totally rekindles my hope in new, boundary-pushing music. Is it Metal? Is it Jazz? Is it Techno? It is all three concurrently, and it also spawned a thousand Art-Noise copycats in the Noughties, but only Hella and Ruins come close to really matching LB’s technicality and intensity.

Song That Reminds me of My Wife:

The Velvet Underground‘She’s My Best Friend’

She’s my best friend/ certainly not the average girl/ She’s my best friend/ understands me when I’m falling down, down, down“. I couldn’t describe my wife better if I tried…

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