Soundtrack Of My Life: John Grant

Soundtrack Of My Life: John Grant

The first song I remember hearing

Roger Miller – ‘You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd’

“It was on 8-track tape and my dad loved it. I have memories of a dark blue Chevy Nova and a smile on my dad’s face. The lyrics blew my mind: ‘You can’t go fishing in a watermelon patch/You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd‘, that made quite an impression on me. I thought these were self-evident truths.”

The first song I fell in love with

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ABBA – ‘Eagle’

“It’s the crescendo, this rising glissando into the song on some sort of synth. I must find out what synth that was done on. My father added a den onto the house that we lived in in the ‘70s, it was called the family room and there was a lot of orange in there. I remember sitting on this thick rust carpet staring at the record player while it was going around and around and just thinking: ‘Holy premature ejaculation Batman! I have arrived!’”

The first record I ever owned

Missing Persons – ‘Spring Session M’

“I listen to it to this day. I have a poster of the band from that period on my wall in my studio. I remember sitting in my friend Danny’s Volkswagen in his driveway after church, listening to the cassette on his car stereo system. It was pure bliss. There’s so many good songs on that record but I remember listening to ‘Noticeable One’ and trying to think what [singer Dale Bozzio] was saying in the lyrics, and I couldn’t. Danny and I would talk about it over the phone: ‘What the fuck is she saying?’ She was one of the coolest looking creatures in the world, she made her own costumes and it looked like she had a stereo cabinet strapped to her waist as a miniskirt and this plastic globe cut in half that she fashioned into a bra with some wire. She looked so cool.”

The first gig I went to

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2nd Chapter Of Acts

“We were only allowed to go to see Christian music [when I was growing up in America]. They were really cool actually – two sisters and a brother and he has one of the greatest voices I’ve ever heard in my entire life, still to this day. He sounded quite a lot like Stevie Wonder, this incredible voice, and they were a rock band so it was quite loud. It was frowned upon by most people in the church community, those sounds couldn’t possibly go together with those words. They had these incredible harmonies – you know how siblings have these harmonies that you don’t get anywhere else, like the Everly Brothers and First Aid Kit – and they used synthesisers. They would find some church that was big enough to accommodate their crowd and set up shop in there, then blow the walls down with their amps. It was quite a juxtaposition.”

The song that reminds me of home

The Browns – ‘Three Bells’

“It’s something that my father had on 45 and it took you through the entire cycle of a man’s life, from his birth to his death. It always reminds me of sitting in that family room and listening to that song, and it terrified me. That’s why I remember it. it was talking about people going to this man’s funeral at the end of his life and those were concepts I found quite scary at the time. It’s still one of my favourite tracks, I come back to it quite often.”

The song I wish I’d written

Eurythmics – ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’

“I think it’s one of the greatest songs of all time, period. The juxtaposition of sounds with the lyrics and the melody, it’s incredible. I was listening to that album like it was going out of style at the time, I tore the shit out of that that thing, the cassette didn’t even have a chance. [Annie Lennox] was always doing really interesting things in the background on those first records – ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’, ‘Touch’ and ‘1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother)’. Those have always been hugely influential for me.”

The song I do at karaoke

Pat Benatar – ‘We Live For Love’

“I don’t do karaoke. But if you can hit the notes in the chorus to this then you could probably have your pick of the litter after the show.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Janet Jackson – ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately?’

“It’s one of the greats. The chorus, the lyrics, the melody and even the production of that record, it was so crisp and fresh and incredible. I got the repressing recently and it has been coming into my head quite a bit lately.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Burl Ives – ‘Jingle Bells’

“It’s probably from the ‘50s or ‘60s, one of the originals. It reeks of death. It reeks of the end. It’s about the death of one’s childhood as far as I’m concerned.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Burl Ives – ‘Frosty The Snowman’

“Isn’t it obviously about death? It is a very thinly veiled metaphor for the event that they’re taking part in at that point. It’s also just to bring about the collective consternation of those at the funeral saying: ‘Why the fuck aren’t they playing Devo right now?’ I just want to put a little burr under the saddle, one last poking.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Le Le – ‘Sachen’

“It means ‘things’ in German. That is a banger, a super-ultra-electro dance hit for me and it has been for two years now. He just goes through lists of things in German – although I think it’s a Dutch or Belgian band. The lists of things he’s going through are so hilarious and it really makes me want to shake my booty. In fact, it made me do that the other day, in spite of myself. I was in the studio with a guy I’m working on live stuff with and I was forced to move my caboose in front of this person whether they liked it or not, much to their chagrin. I went to this film festival where they were releasing a documentary I was involved with in Sheffield and Cate Le Bon was djing there. I was pretty much the only person out on this gigantic dancefloor for the first hour or two.”

John Grant’s new album ‘Boy From Michigan’ is out on June 25 via Bella Union

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