Multi-award winning rock band Elbow are back this month with their fifth album Build a Rocket Boys! and an extensive UK stadium tour. Singer Guy Garvey took time out of rehearsals for the coming shows to talk to Nick Amies about the five albums which have been most influential in his life and career.
Led Zeppelin 4
The first time I heard this, I was at home, I was six and it was the first real rock record I’d ever listened to. It generated a lot of confusing feelings in me. Until then I always wanted to be either a soldier or a superhero but this album made me want to be a drummer. When I listen to it now, it still gives me amazing feelings. It’s quite a two-dimensional album in a way – Robert Plant’s lyrics are basically a load of old rubbish – but the sheer power of it and the stories surrounding the album just keep on producing magic for me.
Santana – Abraxas
My high school girlfriend bought this on cassette for me as it was the cheapest things she could find in Vibes, our local record store in Bury. I just fell in love with it. When me and my mates used to talk about the future, I said I wanted to be in band like Santana. Weirdly enough, it influenced the early Elbow sound although it’s hard to imagine that now. Our early shows would go on for hours with loads of solos and very few lyrics. It was music to groove to, our Santana era.
Joni Mitchell – For the Roses
This album stared my obsession with song writing. I progressed from scribbling abusive poems about teachers and love poems for girls to writing about the complexity of emotions after hearing this. Joni puts it right out there: she hates this man but loves him too. There are some complicated topics on there and it’s honest, generous and devastatingly naked. These are words from the heart and it made me want to say things in a very different way. It took a lot of time and work to open myself up to that kind of writing.
Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
You’d never be able to make an album like this now. To follow up an album of hits with such a brave, sparse, personal album – it just wouldn’t fly in today’s industry. It blew me away. It’s pure art. The music and production are excellent. When I listen to it with my eyes closed I actually feel like I’m physically moving. It takes you somewhere. This record had a profound effect on the whole band and we all agree that it hasn’t aged. I’d love to be able to write a record like that.
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
We love a bit of drama in Elbow and this is a series of dramatic events from start to finish. There hadn’t been a rock album like that for years and when it was released, it spoke to me. It has that theatrical quality we try to bring to Elbow but it’s also tight and controlled; those taught drums, the caged feedback. It’s edgy on the brink of explosive but still in control. It’s not my favourite Pumpkins record but for influence, this is the one.
Build a Rocket Boys! is released on March 7th on Fiction/Polydor.
First published in the Red Bulletin.