As Jollification reaches a quarter of a century, Ian Broudie takes Rhys Buchanan through the pivotal songs in his life.
It’s been something of a celebratory year for Ian Broudie.
His compelling and introspective debut solo album, 2004’s Tales Told, has recently had its first vinyl release through Needle Mythology, a new label formed by music journalist Pete Paphides. Even more recently, The Lightning Seeds’ much-loved third album Jollification has hit its 25th anniversary, with a tour and reissue deservedly in place to celebrate.
Broudie says he feels a sense of pride seeing the album back on the shelves, “I think everything had led up to Jollification. I still recorded it myself, but I’d signed to Sony which was kind of weird having been on an indie label up until then.” Understandably, it’s something of a trip down memory lane for the Liverpudlian.
“It was a moment where all of the music came together, I really wanted to start playing live and to really commit to it. It was a real labour of love, I didn’t have a record contract at first because Rough Trade had gone bankrupt, Ghetto had gone and all this sort of stuff, so I started doing it myself unsure of whether it would come out. I got about halfway through the album then I met a guy called Rob who’s a great friend of mine. He started a record company, signed me and then it all came together.”
Having not played any shows up until the release of Jollification, the record ushered in a new chapter for the band. “It became a real thing at that moment. I hear the songs now and I’m very proud of the way they sound. I think it still sounds of its time, but not of its time if that’s possible. It’s funny, because I think it’s quite evocative of that era, but it doesn’t sound like any other records of that time.”
In the here and now, Broudie’s preparing for the new challenge of adapting the record for the road later this year. “With these gigs, it’s going to be the first time I try and recreate the album and use some of the original technology mixed with live stuff in a creative way, not in a mimicking way. Hopefully it will be a special moment, because I don’t think I’ve ever really done that.”
It’s not long before we get stuck into discussing his choice of nine pivotal songs in his life. The rich and familiar selections feature anthems of his upbringing on Merseyside, ghoulish tales of trips to the dentist and unmistakable songs Broudie has produced and written.
“There’s so many Beatles songs that I could have chosen, my entire list could have been made from them and they’ve all meant quite a lot to me. I picked “In My Life” because everyone relates to that one in a way, everyone has experienced that feeling of when they go back to their hometown and the little odd things that spark off a memory.
“I think it was John who wrote this one and he was quite young when he wrote it. I grew up in a place called Menlove Gardens and he grew up on Menlove Avenue, so I felt the connection. I was born in Penny Lane in 1958, so it was the ‘60s when I was growing up and a lot of the landmarks were the same. I remember reading a magazine that had a page of the original lyrics, and it was talking about getting the 72 bus at Penny Lane into town. I recognised all of the roads and it was very close to home for me. Even if I hadn’t recognised all of that though, I still think that this song has the power to do that.
“It does bring me back, to places that I’ll remember all my life. I go back to Liverpool now and a lot of places have changed. The town is great and always very vibrant, but there’s a park called Calderstones Park and it’s very beautiful and very green and places like Princes Avenue and Menlove, they’re all full of trees and very green and quite lovely really, which people often don’t associate with Liverpool. My memories are mixed with these beautiful parks, greenery and trees, but at the same time the city centre was quite stark, but very vibrant in the ‘60s, it was a bustling city.
“I think if you live on planet earth then The Beatles are an influence, even if you don’t know it. Even if you’re Jay Z, The Beatles are an influence. The Beatles, Bob Dylan and a couple of other people changed music into an art form, rather than a commodity. At a certain point in the ‘60s, all of a sudden you had people making artistically fantastic records, breaking the boundaries technologically and emotionally. It turned into something else and although it feels like it’s turning back into what it was right now, I feel like The Beatles and Bob Dylan were responsible for that change”.
“I really like songs that are storytelling in a way and The Kinks are great at that. “Waterloo Sunset” in particular sparked a lot of images in my mind about how you write songs and the way that melodies flow.
“I think the best songs make you feel a certain way, and it’s a bit more than just the lyric really. The lyrics for “Waterloo Sunset” are brilliant but the song makes you feel like there’s a longing for a lost moment. I love the idea of two people meeting in a crowd, but with the whole atmosphere of the song, as soon as I hear it, I slip back into it and it just overwhelms me.
"There’s also a beautiful lost story within the song, the tale of a city and a river. I read that Ray Davies originally called it “Liverpool Sunset”, from when he was on tour in Liverpool and then later he changed it.
“I was pretty obsessed with music from when I was quite young, and I still listen to music an awful lot. I don’t listen to these songs much anymore, but when I hear them, I love them. I think on my musical journey and absorbing that stuff, The Beatles and The Kinks were very much the beginning of it. I’m definitely sticking in an era here!”
“I’ve got a weird story about when I first heard “Good Vibrations”. I was really scared of going to the dentist and my Mum had made me this appointment. I was literally terrified, we were sitting in the waiting room, there was a radio and “Good Vibrations” came on. Then they called my name to go into the dentist and I was still really scared, but at the same time this beautiful thing was coming out of the speakers
“When I went in, they had the radio on in there as well. It was absolutely mad and my emotions were on edge, but I just couldn’t get over hearing that song. I don’t know if it was because I was in that situation and really hyped up emotionally, but every time I hear that song I remember that feeling.
“It really stuck with me and obviously when I hear it now, it’s such a brilliant record, but it’s great that you can hear something that brilliant when you’re sitting in a waiting room, in a place where you’d hardly expect to have a musical revelation.
“It’s funny how you used to listen to the radio more back in those days. I wouldn’t have had the ready cash to go out and buy “Good Vibrations”, so I’d just listen to the radio until it came on. People did that more, you’d have little transistor radios everywhere and you’d be waiting for your favourite music to come on, and when something came on you loved you’d turn it up.”
“The ‘60s things we’ve discussed were a really big influence on me - it almost seemed like an early dream - but then I got into the Bowie, glam rock thing, which was my first choice of things in a way. That led me into New York punk rock and that’s the bit that made me pick up the guitar.
“I’d played the guitar a bit, but along with Television, Talking Heads made me want to be in a band and that whole scene inspired me much more than English punk rock. That time very much felt like a new chapter - ‘out with the old, and in with the new’ - and I guess that’s what punk rock was, but I thought a lot of the English punk bands were a bit crap. There were a few good ones and a lot of people talk about The Clash and The Pistols, but for me it was Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie, MC5, New York Dolls and Iggy Pop. I loved all that stuff and it somehow seemed to fit with glam rock, with Bowie, Roxy Music and Marc Bolan and led me into Talking Heads and that whole thing.
“When I was an unemployed kid I’d get the bus into town, wander around and meet loads of people who wanted to form bands. There weren’t many people into The Velvet Underground back then, which I was at the time and I was a bit of a misfit in many ways. Matthew Street in Liverpool was a run-down area of empty warehouses then and there was nothing much there, but I met a lot of likeminded people around a warehouse called The Liverpool School of Music, Dream, Art and Pun and that was where I first met a lot of the guys who ended up in my first band.
“Opposite to that there was a record shop called Probe, a tea rooms and a club called Eric’s, and they became the centre of my everyday existence. Eric’s was set up by a guy called Roger Eagle who had been in Manchester. He was a Northern Soul DJ and a music aficionado and was heavily involved in the scene. Although those bands weren’t mainstream at that point, I got to see them all at Eric’s, which was brilliant. We got let into the gigs for free in return for helping them to carry amps and I got to chat to all of the bands that I loved at the time.
“As a song, “Psycho Killer” really stood out. It was very compelling and there was the whole idea of how David Byrne looked like he was a college professor or something, he was so awkward and gangly, but he had brilliant words. I remember thinking at the time ‘He’s not singing about the usual things, how are these words in a song? How do you do this?!’”
“The ‘60s was such a powerful decade for music, but in the ‘70s it suddenly felt really old to me. If you’d have asked me about The Beach Boys and The Beatles at that point, I’d have called it a load of old tosh. I was looking for my thing and the new thing, and Bowie led me into The Velvet Underground, which led me into glam rock and the New York punk scene.
“I remember first seeing ‘Starman’ on Top Of The Pops and I’d never seen anyone who looked like David Bowie did - it was all sparkly and mad hair, but the song sounded amazing. The message of there being something out there for you really hit home with a lot of people who were my age, and it came at a time when everyone was searching for something that our generation could call music.
“Bowie had his moments as an artist, didn’t he? It’s a controversial thing to say, but I think Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory were the only great albums he did really. He had fantastic tracks from other albums - I love “Heroes” and I love “Ashes To Ashes”, they’re brilliant songs - but in terms of albums, it’s Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory that mean a lot to me.”
“I produced this track, so that’s one of the reasons why I put it in here and “The Cutter” was one of those songs that meant a lot to me, because they were my mates.
“We’d all talked about being in bands and we’d all been in bands together - even though half of them had never had a rehearsal! When Echo & The Bunnymen actually did rehearse, you could instantly see the chemistry from the very start. There was just three of them with a drum machine at first, but right from the start it was very special. I was shocked actually, I remember being shocked at how good it was.
“I’d never produced a record and I had no ambition to be a producer, so it was a real surprise when they asked me to produce a track. “The Cutter” was the breakthrough track, we’d done “The Back Of Love” which had made it to Top Of The Pops and was in the top twenty, but “The Cutter” took it to another level.
“When I worked with them it was a bit different because they were my mates, so I almost joined the band really. I played a bit of guitar and put in the middle-eights with Ian. I feel like a lot of myself went into that tune, and when it became a hit for them it was a really big moment. I think it made me feel like I could do something, I didn’t know what, but it made me feel like I could.”
“I always wanted to be a songwriter and not a producer. Even though I ended up producing a fair few bands over the years, it wasn’t something I ever particularly wanted to do.
“With Echo & The Bunnymen, they were such a special band because of the chemistry and I always wanted to be in a band like that. The Beatles were like that, as were The Beach Boys and The Kinks. I felt like that was never going to happen for me, I never thought I’d meet someone who would be a singer, and I never wanted to be a singer.
“When Ian Curtis sadly died and New Order were going to carry on, I remember hearing “Temptation” for the first time and thinking ‘Bernard can’t sing at all but it’s great, it doesn’t matter that he can’t sing’. I’d have these ideas in my head and I’ve always felt with music that if you’ve got a good idea but you don’t do it very well, then it’s still a good idea. If you don’t have a good idea, no matter how well you do it, it will never be a good idea. That sounds obvious, but it’s always been my mantra for everything I’ve done.
“I loved everything about that track, the backing vocals, the singing and it made me feel like I could maybe do that, that I could be not very good at singing as well. I was already doing music at the time, but it gave me the confidence to sing on my tunes and give up on finding a singer. “Temptation” inspired me to get behind the mic myself, and if you have a good idea, then something will come of it.”
“The reason I chose “Temptation” was because it gave me the confidence to write a song called “Pure”. I’d made my first album and it was quite difficult, because I didn’t have a band and I’d recorded it all at home. I was lucky in that it had done quite well and “Pure” had been in the charts in America and stuff like that, but I felt like I didn’t quite know what to do. It didn’t feel right to just hire a load of musicians and have a band that wasn’t really a band.
“Then I heard “Eye Know” by De La Soul and it was the first time that I’d heard people sampling records and using beats, I loved it and listened to it a lot. I’d been producing The Fall at the time and I was very friendly with a guy called Simon Rogers, who was a really good musician and he had a sampler. With hip-hop, they tended to have the samples and sing over the samples to come up with something, but I wondered if you could use the samples in your songs, and if it would be possible to craft a song while using samples.
“I don’t know if anyone had actually done that yet - it was mainly people singing over samples, but not making the samples fit in their tunes - so on the next album Sense that’s what I tried to do. It worked out quite well on the tracks like “Sense” and “The Life of Riley” but it was quite hard on the others. Then I honed it down and got better at it and I did Jollification, which is pretty much all recorded like that, with bits of samples.
“Jollification isn’t really a band, but a record constructed in a similar way to how De La Soul might have constructed 3 Feet High and Rising but using songs and not singing along over the record. That album really shone a light on how to make a more vibey and serendipitous record than if I just sat there with a computer.”
“I think “Pure” is a song that changed my life more than any other. I’d never really sung before or written any lyrics entirely by myself and it was kind of a first attempt.
“To put it into context, at that time in Liverpool loads of bands were being signed by record companies and being given big deals. Bands like The La’s were all doing gigs and that’s how they got signed, but I couldn’t really do a gig because I didn’t have a band, so I just had my tunes.
“I recorded about three or four tunes at home and during bits of downtime in a studio I produced in. It was a very tentative try, but there was a publisher guy who said, ‘I’d love to hear those songs’ and I played them to him and he said ‘We should put this out’. I said, ‘I don’t have a group and we haven’t got a label’ and he basically got some copies printed up and put it out.
“We had 500 copies pressed and released it through an indie label called Ghetto and nobody expected much to happen. I thought at least I would be getting a song out there, so it was very much an underdog type thing. “Pure” just hung around and then people started noticing it - we’d sell a few hundred copies and then they’d get some more made. Then DJ’s on stations started playing it and it was a very word of mouth thing. In the end John Peel played it a few times and spoke about it, but nobody really knew what it was, because nobody had seen us play.
“It culminated in me getting a call from someone in America. This station in LA called K Rock phoned me in my Liverpool flat and said, ‘Your record is the most requested record in California for the last two months.’ It was like fairy story, and then they pressed up a load more, we finished the album and it was the start of The Lightning Seeds.
“That song had a massive part to play for me in the whole way my life and career went. It was a brilliant moment and it started everything. I’d always thought that music was a form of magic, or alchemy or something and the idea that I could record this song in the top room of my house on a tape machine and that it could go out across the world seemed mad to me. I couldn’t believe it.”