Ahead of art-rock legends Wire’s performance at Ray Davies’ Meltdown, which took place at London’s Southbank Centre in June 2010, we sidled up to the band’s Colin Newman to discuss some of his favourite albums. This is what he came up with…
THE LADY AND THE UNICORN
(TRANSATLANTIC RECORDS LP, 1970)
‘The Lion And The Unicorn’
Did you follow Pentangle, Renbourn and Jansch closely during the 60s and 70s?
“When I was at school the answer to the question ‘who is your favourite guitarist?’ was supposed to be either Jimi or Eric. I, along with a few others, personally found endless guitarwank highly unappealing so would give an answer of either Bert or John [laughs]. It was a way of showing you were cooler than the other kids…
“Did I see them live? I was at school in provincial Berkshire so didn’t see many bands live unless they passed through our town. Coming back to Bert Jansch’s debut album recently it sounds remarkably fresh for an album recorded in 1963.”
How did folk music fit into your Wire’s worldview in the 70s? Did it not perhaps feel like anathema to you and your peers at the time?
“I don’t think folk music fits at all into Wire’s worldview! Although it must be said Wire have never really had much truck with punk rejectionism, and stylistic fascism has always been alien to the band’s culture. For myself I was always interested in music from the British folk boom. I always think of myself as coming from several, what some may find quite different, musical traditions. My first ‘proper’ instrument was – and remains – the acoustic guitar, but then again I was as much a soul kid in the 60s and 70s as a folkie.”
Did Renbourn’s playing style impact on your own, and if so, how?
Are you kidding?! I’m the original crap guitarist [laughs]. However, I must say I heard enough ham-fisted renditions of ‘Angie’ in my school days to know what not to do with a guitar!
The Lady And The Unicorn was strongly influenced by Renbourn’s interest in early music – is this an interest you share?
The thing about The Lady And The Unicorn is that it’s a strange ragbag of various bits ranging from early music, through folk tunes to a rendition of Bach plated on slightly distorted electric guitar (a bit of a two fingers at the time). I like the plaintiveness of the very early pieces. Very minimalistic. I had just never heard anything like it before; I liked the way the music made me feel quite strange.”