lundi, juillet 31, 2006

Top of the Pops

Savile finishes what he started

Rob Sharp

Sunday July 30, 2006

The Observer

Tonight at 7pm the last Top of the Pops goes out with the same front man as the first show had all those years ago in 1964, Sir Jimmy Savile. Sir Jimmy, in his shiny suit, his dress sense untarnished by the years, will have a little help from his friends Janice Long, Reggie Yates, Dave Lee Travis, Mike Read, Tony Blackburn, Pat Sharp, Rufus Hound, Sarah Cawood and Edith Bowman. The show's swan son will include the Rolling Stones, with a rendition of 'I Wanna Be Your Man' first aired in 1964, and recordings of the Spice Girls, the Jackson Five, Robbie Williams, Beyonce and Madonna.

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Useful link

BBC website: what viewers think of relaunch


Alexis Petridis: Final countdown
31.07.2003: Jimmy Savile: My Top of the Pops would never flop special report


Useful link

Top of the Pops

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

dimanche, juillet 30, 2006

Louise Wener

TOTP made me a star

As Top of the Pops airs for the last time tonight, former guest and fan
Louise Wener remembers

Sunday July 30, 2006
The Observer

'Your single's in the Top 10. You're going to be on Top of the Pops.' From the age of six, I'd played these words through my head thousands of times. When I finally heard them for real, I knew I'd officially become a pop star.

TOTP was the dream. I grew up on it. Every Thursday evening throughout its heyday, I'd capture the best bits by holding my tape recorder up to our television speaker until my arm ached. Between shows, I'd wear out the tapes I'd made, reliving every detail of my favourite performances. Bowie doing 'Ashes to Ashes'. Blondie oozing her way through 'Heart of Glass'. Bob Geldof spitting out 'I Don't Like Mondays' and, um, David Essex singing 'Gonna Make You a Star'. In a childhood landscape of power cuts, Mr Whippy ice cream and Morecambe and Wise, Top of the Pops was a piece of magic, a portal to an exotic and fabulous world.

My band, Sleeper, went on TOTP a dozen times or so and our first appearance was exhilarating. We arrived by limousine, high on nerves and champagne, and spent the first hour taking photos of ourselves in front of the iconic logo while calling our friends and families to ask them to guess where we were.

But the day was also anticlimactic. The set was smaller than we'd imagined, the dressing rooms were shabbier and the after-show bar had all the atmosphere and cool of a suburban pub. The make-up ladies were old-school, piling on the pancake and glittery blusher as if we were the offspring of Pan's People and T Rex. This became the essence of Top of the Pops for me; a surreal mix of the glamorous and the mundane. Over there was Kylie in rollers. Behind her, Barry White munched a bacon sandwich. In the corridor, Celine Dion practised vocal exercises while assorted members of Take That bounced around like overexcited puppies. In the lavatories, the new guitar kids on the block dusted their noses with cocaine, emerging with the residue glinting on their leather jackets like expensive dandruff.

In the mid-Nineties, the show was still powerful. The Britpop era was perhaps the last time when an appearance on Top of the Pops could be career-defining. Getting on to promote your single was the difference between sink or swim. The gloss wore down as the pressure ramped up and, like so much about the music industry, innocence was fast replaced with cynicism.

By now, bands were expected to perform live but the broadcast sound was notoriously ropy, and press officers would encourage their charges to mime if they got half a chance. Your best bet was to claim a sore throat, but you couldn't do it too often. It was a bit like playing your joker.

My love affair with TOTP faded after Sleeper split. I lost track of it. Tuned out from it. Switched allegiance, like millions of others. In truth, I haven't watched it in years, nor had I realised that the day it comes off air is the very same day I turn 40. It feels sweetly resonant. My youth, my musical history, is indelibly linked to Top of the Pops. There was a time when the show meant everything to me. As pale as its glamour became, as dilute its relevance, today I'll raise a glass to Jimmy Savile and mourn its passing.

vendredi, juillet 28, 2006


The moment that made Twiggy

Images of fame and famine go under hammer for charity

Mark Brown, arts correspondent
Friday July 28, 2006
The Guardian

Photo of Twiggy by Barry Lategan, donated for auction to benefit Help the Hospices
Gawky elegance... Twiggy, photographed by Barry Lategan
She was plain Lesley Hornby at the time, a pretty and slight 16-year-old shampoo girl from Neasden who became the world's first supermodel after her picture made it into the papers.

The striking 1966 picture of Twiggy taken by Barry Lategan was one of more than 200 images donated by photographers for auction last night at Bonhams in London for the charity Help the Hospices.

Lategan has fond memories of the day Twiggy walked confidently into his Baker Street studio. After she had had her hair done by one of London's top hairdressers, the photoshoot began.

"I looked through my camera and this face looked back at me and I turned round to Leonard [the hairdresser] and just went 'wow'. It was the effect of her looking back at me, I can't find the adjective to describe it. I think it was the eyes, she had such presence.

"She was gawky but she had a sort of elegance. Some people cower in front of the camera, but she became who she was."

One of Lategan's photographs was seen by Daily Express journalist Deirdre McSharry and it appeared in the paper headlined The Face of 66.

The photographer can even claim a role in selecting the name that identified her for the rest of a career which took in acting, presenting and music as well as being an international icon. "Her boyfriend said 'stop biting your nails, Twigs' - short for Twiggy. I said 'if you ever go professional you should call her that name', so I suppose I'm partly responsible."

Other photographs that went under the hammer include one from the 1998 Sudan famine by photojournalist Tom Stoddart. Capturing "a moment of love amidst the hell of the Sudan famine", it shows unbridled love and happiness between two siblings at an emergency feeding centre in Ajiep. Stoddart has witnessed events including the fall of the Berlin wall, Nelson Mandela's election and the siege of Sarajevo. In 1997 he was given behind-the-scenes access to Tony Blair's election campaign.

Tom Murray donated one of 23 images he took of the Beatles in a series known worldwide as The Mad Day: Summer of 68. And John Stoddart provided the snap of Pierce Brosnan from a publicity shoot for his first Bond movie, GoldenEye, in 1995.

Last night's auction, sponsored by the insurance firm Towergate, was the second Living Exposure event in aid of Help the Hospices - last year's event made £78,000. Most of the money this year will go towards the building of a hospice in north Norfolk.

Beastie Boys

Shock: Beasties Working On New Album

by Andrew Tijs

July 28 2006

Beastie Boys (photo by Tim Cashmere)

It’s been a mere two years but the Beastie Boys are already crowing about a new album.

Beastie Boys are not necessarily renowned for being prolific. They’ve released six studio albums in fourteen years and only three in the last twelve, but Canada’s Jam! site reports that they’re already in the studio for a follow up to 2004’s ‘To The Five Boroughs’.

Their last album was an old-skool throwback to their roots, and disappointed many fans who were looking for a more adventurous effort to follow 1998’s eclectic ‘Hello Nasty’. Ad Rock told Jam! that their next album will be their “best ever”. But he would say that, wouldn’t he.

Although the band are in the studio, planning on self-producing this new effort, they haven’t settled on a title and Mike D professed that they are still in the “messing around” stage.

The band recently released a DVD called ‘Awesome: I F***in’ Shot That’, where live footage of a Madison Square Garden set from 2004 was edited from 50 fans who were given digital videos to shoot the event.

jeudi, juillet 27, 2006

Toni Collette

Toni Collette to Play Live

by Tim Cashmere @ Undercover

July 27 2006

Toni Collette

Australian actress Toni Collette will perform songs from her debut album at Homebake in Sydney this December.

Her debut album ‘Beautiful Awkward Pictures’ which is yet to be released, features David Lane (You Am I, The Pictures), Dave Galafasi (Gelbison) and Glen Richards (Augie March).

It will be the first time she has performed live under her own name, but she has sung in movies like Cosi and of course the internationally acclaimed Muriel’s Wedding as well as in the Broadway musical, “The Wild Party”.

The full Homebake line up is: Silverchair, Eskimo Joe, The Hilltop Hoods, Scribe, Gotye, You Am I, Youth Group, Björn Again, The Butterfly Effect, The Presets, The Models, Bob Evans, Toni Collette & The Finish, Little Birdy, Infusion, Midnight Juggernauts, Kid Kenobi & MC Sureshock, Parkway Drive, Augie March, Angus and Julia Stone and many, many more still to be announced.

mercredi, juillet 26, 2006

Cerys Matthews, The Point, Cardiff Bay

Homecoming proves post-pop rebel still has the power to carry on

By Owen Adams @ The Independent

Published: 25 July 2006

What is it about Wales? It's most precious cultural totems - Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, John Cale - always move to America, very rarely to return. Cerys Matthews has bucked the trend. After one post-Catatonia reinvention in Nashville where she drew out the folksy whimsy in her craggy, sea-breezy vocals, she's now settled again close to the west Wales seaside where she grew up. And so the next chapter opens on a beguiling talent.

Apart from a five-minute glimpse of her at the hangar-sized Cardiff International Arena, singing "Fairy Tale of New York" with the Pogues last Christmas, it's been a few years since Matthews dragged herself away from the Tennessee backwoods and ventured out on tour. This internet-converted church in Cardiff, the city where it all began for Matthews as a busker 15 years ago, is unassuming enough to cater for this former pop siren's apparent newfound bliss as a married mother of two children. Yet, despite not getting out much these days, Matthews still has something to sing about. Where many before her have failed, there's proof tonight that Cerys Matthews is strong and individual enough to rise above post-celebrity status.

Most importantly, her voice and the songs still have a fiery hint of the wild and rebellious. It is the most zestful she has sounded for a decade. Whatever demons she once had, she has vanquished them and she seems more a part of her new, all-American band, featuring Sheryl Crow's brother, than Catatonia. Matthews once sang: "Every day when I wake up, I thank the Lord I'm Welsh", and many missed the irony. But she has not forsaken her wondrously mellifluous elongated vowels nor the Welsh language songbook, even when she joined the lap steel guitar player Bucky Baxter for her 2003 album celebrating Americana, Cockahoop.

Tonight, she's here to air tracks from the soon-to-be released and adroitly named Never Said Goodbye. The new songs veer off in another direction, away from both the Britpop of Catatonia, where she had to compete with a barrage of rock guitars, and the pastoral mellow purity of Cockahoop, into something more joyous, more life-affirming, and less rooted in the morass of doomed love and more in the realms of sunny, quirky pop. The music touches on playful prog, kicking off with a wigged-out keyboard intro leading to the new song "The Streets of New York" and - despite the intense heat - she looks comfortable in a white petticoat, red belt and green stilettos. She has no need to rely on past Catatonia glories as the new material sounds so strong. "The Good In Goodbye" possesses the immense power she's been celebrated for. It's hard to imagine Matthews ever wanting to be drawn into the intoxicating pop machine again. From tonight's show it's obvious she no longer has to be all over the front page to make an impact.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

lundi, juillet 24, 2006

Those 50 records

The 50

Sunday July 16, 2006
The Observer

1 The Velvet Underground and Nico
The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

Though it sold poorly on its initial release, this has since become arguably the most influential rock album of all time. The first art-rock album, it merges dreamy, druggy balladry ('Sunday Morning') with raw and uncompromising sonic experimentation ('Venus in Furs'), and is famously clothed in that Andy Warhol-designed 'banana' sleeve. Lou Reed's lyrics depicted a Warholian New York demi-monde where hard drugs and sexual experimentation held sway. Shocking then, and still utterly transfixing.

Without this, there'd be no ... Bowie, Roxy Music, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Jesus and Mary Chain, among many others.

2 The Beatles
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

There are those who rate Revolver (1966) or 'the White Album' (1968) higher. But Sgt Pepper's made the watertight case for pop music as an art form in itself; until then, it was thought the silly, transient stuff of teenagers. At a time when all pop music was stringently manufactured, these Paul McCartney-driven melodies and George Martin-produced whorls of sound proved that untried ground was not only the most fertile stuff, but also the most viable commercially. It defined the Sixties and - for good and ill - gave white rock all its airs and graces.

Without this ... pop would be a very different beast.

3 Kraftwerk
Trans-Europe Express (1977)

Released at the height of punk, this sleek, urbane, synthesised, intellectual work shared little ground with its contemporaries. Not that it wanted to. Kraftwerk operated from within a bubble of equipment and ideas which owed more to science and philosophy than mere entertainment. Still, this paean to the beauty of mechanised movement and European civilisation was a moving and exquisite album in itself. And, through a sample on Afrika Bambaataa's seminal 'Planet Rock', the German eggheads joined the dots with black American electro, giving rise to entire new genres.

Without this... no techno, no house, no Pet Shop Boys. The list is endless.

Straight Outta Compton (1989)

Like a darker, more vengeful Public Enemy, NWA (Niggaz With Attitude) exposed the vicious realities of the West Coast gang culture on their lurid, fluent debut. Part aural reportage (sirens, gunshots, police radio), part thuggish swagger, Compton laid the blueprint for the most successful musical genre of the last 20 years, gangsta rap. It gave the world a new production mogul in Dr Dre, and gave voice to the frustrations that flared up into the LA riots in 1992. As befits an album boasting a song called 'Fuck tha Police', attention from the FBI, the Parents' Music Resource Centre and our own Metropolitan Police's Obscene Publications Squad sealed its notoriety.

Without this ... no Eminem, no 50 Cent, no Dizzee Rascal.

5 Robert Johnson
King of the Delta Blues Singers (1961)

Described by Eric Clapton as 'the most important blues singer that ever lived', Johnson was an intensely private man, whose short life and mysterious death created an enduring mythology. He was said to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi in exchange for his finger-picking prowess. Johnson recorded a mere 29 songs, chief among them 'Hellhound on My Trail', but when it was finally issued, King of the Delta Blues Singers became one of the touchstones of the British blues scene.

Without this ... no Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin.

6 Marvin Gaye
What's Going On (1971)

Gaye's career as tuxedo-clad heart-throb gave no hint he would cut a concept album dealing with civil rights, the Vietnam war and ghetto life. Equally startling was the music, softening and double-tracking Gaye's falsetto against a wash of bubbling percussion, swaying strings and chattering guitars. Motown boss Berry Gordy hated it but its disillusioned nobility caught the public mood. Led by the oft-covered 'Inner City Blues', it ushered in an era of socially aware soul.

Without this ... no Innervisions (Stevie Wonder) or Superfly (Curtis Mayfield).

7 Patti Smith
Horses (1975)

Who would have thought punk rock was, in part, kickstarted by a girl? Poet, misfit and New York ligger, Patti channelled the spirits of Keith Richards, Bob Dylan and Rimbaud into female form, and onto an album whose febrile energy and Dionysian spirit helped light the touchpaper for New York punk. The Robert Mapplethorpe-shot cover, in which a hungry, mannish Patti stares down the viewer, defiantly broke with the music industry's treatment of women artists (sexy or girl-next-door) and still startles today.

Without this ... no REM, PJ Harvey, Razorlight. And no powerful female pop icons like Madonna.

8 Bob Dylan
Bringing it All Back Home (1965)

The first folk-rock album? Maybe. Certainly the first augury of what was to come with the momentous 'Like a Rolling Stone'. Released in one of pop's pivotal years, Bringing it All Back Home fused hallucinatory lyricism and, on half of its tracks, a raw, ragged rock'n'roll thrust. On the opening song, 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', Dylan manages to pay homage to the Beats and Chuck Berry, while anticipating the surreal wordplay of rap.

Without this ... put simply, on this album and the follow-up, Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan invented modern rock music.

9 Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley (1956)

The King's first album was also the first example of how to cash in on a teenage craze. With Presleymania at full tilt, RCA simultaneously released a single, a four-track EP and an album, all with the same cover of Elvis in full, demented cry. They got their first million dollar album, the fans got a mix of rock-outs like 'Blue Suede Shoes', lascivious R&B and syrupy ballads.

Without this ... no King, no rock and roll madness, no Beatles first album, no pop sex symbols.

10 The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds (1966)

Of late, Pet Sounds has replaced Sgt Pepper's as the critics' choice of Greatest Album of All Time. Composed by the increasingly reclusive Brian Wilson while the rest of the group were touring, it might well have been a solo album. The beauty resides not just in its compositional genius and instrumental invention, but in the elaborate vocal harmonies that imbue these sad songs with an almost heartbreaking grandeur.

Without this ... where to start? The Beatles acknowledged its influence; Dylan said of Brian Wilson, 'That ear! I mean, Jesus, he's got to will that to the Smithsonian.'

11 David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)

Bowie's revolutionary mix of hard rock and glam pop was given an otherwordly look and feel by his coquettish alter ego Ziggy. It's not so much that every act that followed dyed their hair orange in homage to the spidery spaceman; more that they learned the value of creating a 'bubble' of image and presentation that fans could fall in love with.

Without this ... we'd be lost. No Sex Pistols, no Prince, no Madonna, no Duran Duran, no Boy George, no Kiss, no Bon Jovi, no 'Bohemian Rhapsody' ... I could go on.

12 Miles Davis
Kind of Blue (1959)

A rare example of revolutionary music that almost everyone liked from the moment they heard it. Its cool, spacey, open-textured approach marked a complete break with the prevalent 'hard bop' style. The effect, based on simple scales, called modes, was fresh, delicate, approachable but surprisingly expressive. Others picked up on it and 'modal jazz' has been part of the language ever since. The album also became the media's favourite source of mood music.

Without this ... no ominous, brooding, atmospheric trumpet behind a million radio plays and TV documentaries.

13 Frank Sinatra
Songs for Swingin' Lovers (1956)

The previous year Sinatra had cut In the Wee Small Hours, a brooding cycle of torch songs that was arguably pop's first concept album. Once again working with arranger Nelson Riddle, he presented its complement; a set of upbeat paeans to romance. Exhilarating performances of standards like 'I've Got You Under My Skin' defined Sinatra's urbane, finger-snapping persona for the rest of his career and pushed the record to number one in the first ever British album chart.

Without this ... the 'singer as song interpreter' wouldn't have been born, karaoke menus would be much diminished.

14 Joni Mitchell
Blue (1971)

Though Carole King's Tapestry was the biggest-selling album of the era, it is Joni Mitchell's Blue that remains the most influential of all the early Seventies outings by confessional singer-songwriters. Joni laid bare her heart in a series of intimate songs about love, betrayal and emotional insecurity. It could have been hell (think James Taylor) but for the penetrating brilliance of the songwriting. Raw, spare and sophisticated, it remains the template for a certain kind of baroque female angst.

Without this ... no Tori Amos or Fiona Apple - and Elvis Costello and Prince have cited her as a prime influence.

15 Brian Eno
Discreet Music (1975)

Brian Eno, it is said, invented ambient music when he was stuck in a hospital bed unable to reach a radio that was playing too quietly, giving him the eureka moment that set the course not only for his post-Roxy Music career as an 'atmosphere'-enhancing producer, but for the future of electronic music.

Without this ... we wouldn't have David Bowie's Low or Heroes, the echoey guitars of U2'S The Edge, and no William Orbit, Orb, Juana Molina. To name but a few.

16 Aretha Franklin
I Never Loved a Man the Way I love You (1967)

'R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me!' Is there a more potent female lyric in pop? Franklin's Atlantic Records debut unleashed her soulful ferociousness upon an unsuspecting public, and both the singer and her album quickly became iconic symbols of black American pride.

Without this ... Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, girl power would not exist, and rudeboys would not spit 'res'pec' through kissed teeth.

17 The Stooges
Raw Power (1973)

Produced by David Bowie, who also helped re-form the band, Raw Power was the Stooges's late swansong, and their most influential album. The Detroit group were already legendary for incendiary live shows and first two albums, but Raw Power, though selling as poorly as its predecessors, was subsequently cited as a prime influence by virtually every group in the British punk scene.

Without this ... no punk, so no Sex Pistols (who covered 'No Fun'); no White Stripes.

18 The Clash
London Calling (1979)

The best record to come out of punk, or punk's death knell? On this double album, The Clash fused their rockabilly roots with their love of reggae, moving away from the choppy snarls of the scene that birthed them. This was the album that legitimised punk - hitherto a stroppy fad - into the rock canon. Its iconic cover, and songs about the Spanish Civil War brought left-wing politics firmly into musical fashion.

Without this ... would the west have come to love reggae, dub and ragga quite so much? We certainly would have no Manic Street Preachers ... or Green Day, or Rancid ... or possibly even Lily Allen.

19 Mary J Blige
What's the 411? (1992)

When the Bronx-born 'Queen of Hip Hop Soul' catapulted her debut on to a legion of approving listeners, she unwittingly defined a new wave of R&B. Before Mary, R&B's roots were still firmly planted in soul and jazz (ie Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan). The emergence of hip hop and this album from Blige and her mentor and producer Sean 'Puffy' Combs (aka P Diddy) gave birth to a new gritty sound, informed by the singer's harrowing past.

Without this ... no R&B/soul divide, which means no TLC, Beyonce, or Ashanti, to name just three.

20 The Byrds
Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)

At one inspired stroke, Sweetheart vanquished the cultural divide between acid-munching, peace-preaching long hairs and beer-swilling, flag-waving good old boys by creating the enduring hybrid of country-rock. Allying rippling guitars and silky vocal harmonies with a mix of country tradition ('I Am a Pilgrim') and Gram Parsons originals, the record irrevocably altered the perspective of two previously averse streams of Americana. The group even cut their hair to play the Grand Ole Opry.

Without this ... no Hotel California, no Willie Nelson, no Shania Twain.

21 The Spice Girls
Spice (1996)

The music business has been cynically creating and marketing acts since the days of the wax cylinder, but on nothing like the scale of the Spice phenomenon, which was applied to crisps, soft drinks, you name it. Musically, the Spice's Motown-lite was unoriginal, but 'Girl Power', despite being a male invention, touched a nerve and defined a generation of tweenies who took it to heart.

Without this ... five-year-olds would not have become a prime target for pop marketeers. Most of all, there'd be no Posh'n'Becks.

22 Kate Bush
The Hounds of Love (1985)

On Side One our Kate strikes a deal with God, throws her shoes in a lake and poses as a little boy riding a rain machine. Turn over, and she's drowning, exorcising demons and dancing an Irish jig. All this to a soundscape that employs the shiniest synthesised studio toys the Eighties had to offer in the service of one women's unique yet utterly English musical genius. Listen again to the delirious cacophany of 'Running Up That Hill', and it sounds like God struck that deal.

Without this ... Tori Amos would have spawned no earthquakes, Alison Goldfrapp would lack her juiciest cherries and romance would have withered on the vine.

23 Augustus Pablo
King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1976)

Jamaica's invention of dub - a stripped-down, echo-laden instrumental remix of a vocal track - was spawned principally on the B-sides of local reggae hits and in the island's competing sound-systems, with technician-engineer King Tubby as its master creator, a man who could 'play' the mixing console. This collection of ethereal melodies by melodica maestro Augustus Pablo distilled the art into album form. It would be years before the West caught up.

Without this ... no DJ remixes, no house, no rave.

24 Youssou N'Dour
Immigres (1984)

The charismatic N'Dour, Senegal's top star, changed the West's perception of African musicians, just as he had revolutionised Senegalese music. Nothing sounded like the fusion on Immigres, with its lopsided rhythms, whooping talking drums and discordant horns, topped by N'Dour's supple, powerful vocals. Immigres also redefined the role of West African griot, addressing migration and African identity.

Without this ... N'Dour wouldn't have met Peter Gabriel, there'd have been no African presence at Live 8. In fact, 'world music' would not exist as a section in Western collections.

25 James Brown
Live at the Apollo (1963)

This remains the live album by which all others are measured, and is still the best delineation of the raw power of primal soul music. It propelled James Brown into the mainstream, and paved the way for a string of propulsive hits like 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' (1965) and 'Cold Sweat' (1967). The catalyst for many great soul stylists, from Sly Stone to Otis Redding, it also provided an early lesson in dynamics for the young Michael Jackson.

Without this ... great chunks of hip hop - which has sampled Brown more than almost any other - would be missing.

26 Stevie Wonder
Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

This influenced virtually every modern soul and R&B singer, brimming with timeless classics like 'Isn't She Lovely', 'As' and 'Sir Duke'. The 21-tracker encompassed a vast range of life's issues - emotional, social, spiritual and environmental - all performed with bravado and a lightness of touch. No other R&B artist has sung about the quandaries of human existence with quite the same grace.

Without this ... no Alicia Keys, no John Legend - contemporary R&B would be empty and lifeless.

27 Jimi Hendrix
Are You Experienced (1967)

Looking and playing like a brother from another planet, Hendrix delivered the most dramatic debut in pop history. Marrying blues and psychedelia, dexterity and feedback trickery, it redefined the guitar's sonic possibilities, while beyond the fretboard pyrotechnics burnt a fierce artistic vision - 'Third Stone From the Sun' made Jimi rock's first (and still best travelled) cosmonaut.

Without this ... countless guitarists and cock-rockers might not have been (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lenny Kravitz, even Miles Davis owes him), but most of all, without Experienced, there'd be no Jimi experience.

28 Prince and the Revolution
Purple Rain (1984)

Prince had been plugging away with limited success for several years when the man in tiny pants reinvented himself as a purple-clad movie star. Like Michael Jackson, he felt that the way to gain crossover appeal was to run the musical gamut: in this case, from the minimalist funk of his earlier albums to the volume-at-11 rock of Jimi Hendrix. The title track is a monumental, fist-clenching rock ballad that, perversely, whetted our appetites for far worse examples by Christina Aguilera among others.

Without this ... no Janet Jackson, no Peaches, and certainly no Beck.

29 Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Sounds like it was pretty tough to be in Pink Floyd in the early 1970s. You had all the money you could spend (ker-ching!) but you thought that was vulgar. You didn't get on with your bandmates because they all had superiority complexes. You couldn't enter the recording booth without having an existential crisis. Piper At The Gates of Dawn, their debut with the late Syd Barrett, turned out to be influential in a more positive sense (David Bowie, Blur).

Without this ... there'd be no Thom Yorke solo mumblings, and much less prog rock (if only ...).

30 The Wailers
Catch a Fire (1973)

Alongside The Harder They Come (movie and soundtrack), Catch a Fire changed the perception of reggae from eccentric, lightweight pop to a music of mystery and power. Dressed in a snappy Zippo lighter sleeve, and launched with rock razzmatazz, it delivered a polished, guitar-sweetened version of what Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer had made when white audiences weren't listening. By turns militant, mystic and sexy, it helped make Bob Marley the first Third World superstar.

Without this ... no Aswad or Steel Pulse, no native American or Maori or African reggae bands.

31 The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses (1989)

Until the late Eighties, Manchester was thought to be a forbidding, dour place where the ghost of Ian Curtis still clanked about. The Stone Roses' concatenation of sweet West Coast psychedelia and the lairy, loved-up rave culture was as unforeseeable as it was seismic. Ecstasy pulled the sniffy rock kids away from their Smiths records and into clubland; the result was an album whose woozy words and funky drumming sounded as guileless as it did hedonistic.

Without this ... well, a bit of the Roses remains in the DNA of every British guitar band since.

32 Otis Redding
Otis Blue (1965)

Until Stax Records and Otis Redding arrived, the Southern states were a place you had to leave to make it (unless you were a country singer). Recorded weeks after the death of Redding's idol, Sam Cooke, the album cast Otis as Cooke's successor, an embodiment of young black America with white appeal - alongside Cooke's 'A Change is Gonna Come' was the Stones's 'Satisfaction'. With terrific backings from the MGs and the Markeys horns behind Otis's rasping vocals, it defined 'soul'.

Without this ... no Aretha Franklin singing 'Respect', no Al Green, and no Terence Trent D'Arby.

33 Herbie Hancock
Head Hunters (1973)

It definitively wedded jazz to funk and R&B, and did it with such joyful confidence that it launched a whole new, open-minded approach to the music. Equally important was the use of electronic keyboards, then in their infancy, which vastly expanded the range of available textures. Head Hunters kickstarted the stylistic and ethnic fusions that have enlivened jazz for 30 years.

Without this ... suffice to say, almost everything in the jazz-funk idiom can be traced back to this.

34 Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath (1970)

A mere 30 minutes long, this was none the less the album where heavy metal was first forged. Its ponderous tempos, cod-satanic imagery (bassist Geezer Butler was a Roman Catholic and Dennis Wheatley fan), Tony Iommi's sledgehammer guitar riffs and Ozzy Osbourne's shrieking vocals all went on to define the genre and shaped most arena rock of the Seventies and Eighties.

Without this ... no Spinal Tap, no grunge or Kurt Cobain and, of course, no Osbournes.

35 The Ramones
The Ramones (1976)

'Fun disappeared from music in 1974,' claimed singer Joey Ramone. To restore it took he and his three 'brothers' just one album and 16 tracks, all under three minutes. Brevity was the New York punk rockers' first lesson to the world, along with speed, a distorted guitar thrash and a knowing line in faux-dumb lyrics. In an era of 'progressive' rock pomposity and 12-minute tracks, the Ramones' back-to-basics approach was rousing and confrontational.

Without this ... no fun.

36 The Who
My Generation (1965)

Alongside the equally influential Small Faces, The Who were the quintessential British mod group. Long before they recorded the first rock opera, Tommy, they unleashed a stream of singles that articulated all the youthful pent-up frustration of Sixties London before it started to swing. Their 1965 debut album, My Generation, included the defiant and celebratory 'The Kids Are Alright' and the ultimate mod anthem, 'My Generation', with its infamous line, 'I hope I die before I get old.' Angry aggressive art-school pop with attitude to burn.

Without this ... no Paul Weller, no Blur and, God help us, no Ordinary Boys either.

37 Massive AttackBlue Lines (1991)

Obliterators of rap's boundaries, Massive Attack pioneered the cinematic trip hop movement. After graduating from one of Britain's premier sound systems, the Bristol-based Wild Bunch, Andrew 'Mushroom' Vowles and Grant 'Daddy G' Marshall joined forces with graffiti artist 3D. Massive Attack's debut LP spawned the unforgettable 'Unfinished Sympathy' and remains a modern classic.

Without this ... no Roots Manuva, no Dizzee. In fact, there would be no British urban music scene to speak of.

38 Radiohead
The Bends (1995)

In parallel with Jeff Buckley, Radiohead's Thom Yorke popularised the angst-laden falsetto, a thoughtful opposite to the chest-beating lad-rock personified by Oasis's Liam Gallagher. Sounding girly to a backdrop of churning guitars became a much-copied idea, however, one which eventually coalesced into an entire decade of sound.

Without this ... Coldplay would not exist, nor Keane, nor James Blunt.

39 Michael Jackson
Thriller (1982)

Pure, startling genius from beginning to end, Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones seemed hellbent on creating the biggest, most universally appealing pop album ever made. Jones introduced elements of rock into soul and vice versa in such a way that it's now no surprise to hear a pop record that mashes up more marginal genres into a form that will have universal relevance.

Without this ... no megastars such as Justin Timberlake or Madonna, no wide-appeal uber-producers such as Timbaland or Pharrell Williams.

40 Run DMC
Run DMC (1984)

Before them came block-rocking DJ Grandmaster Flash and the Godfather, Afrika Bambaataa, but it was Run DMC who carved the prototype for today's hip hop MCs. Their self-titled debut - the first rap album to go gold - was rough around the edges and catchy as hell. As Rev Run spat, 'Unemployment at a record high/ People coming, people going, people born to die', the way was paved for conscious and political rap.

Without this ... no Public Enemy, Roots and Nas.

41 Chic
Chic (1977)

The Chic Organisation revolutionised disco music in the late Seventies, reclaiming it from the naff Bee Gees and ensuring the pre-eminence of slickly produced party music in the charts for the next three decades. Its main men Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards patented a sound on their 1977 debut that was influential on bands from Duran Duran to Orange Juice. They also created a hit-making formula that mixed dance beats with monster hooks.
Without this ... no Destiny's Child.

42 The Smiths
The Smiths (1984)

Yearning, melodic, jangly, and very northern, The Smiths' first album was quite unlike anything that had gone before. It helped that Morrissey was a one-off and that Johnny Marr had taken all the best riffs from Sixties pop, punk and disco and melded them into his own unique style. But there was something magical about their sound that endless successors have tried to replicate.

Without this ... there'd be no Belle and Sebastian, no Suede, no Oasis, and no Libertines - at the very least.

43 Primal Scream
Screamadelica (1991)

Thanks to producer Andrew Weatherall and some debauched raving, this former fey indie outfit enthusiastically took on dance music's heady rushes. It was a conversion bordering on the Damascene, but one being mirrored in halls of residence, cars, clubs and bedsits all around the nation. Screamadelica brought hedonism crashing into the mainstream.

Without this ... no lad culture - it was no accident that a mag founded in 1994 shared its name with Screamadelica's defining single, 'Loaded'.

44 Talking Heads
Fear of Music (1979)

There's something refreshingly jolly about the modern-life paranoia expressed by chief Talking Head David Byrne on this album that moany old Radiohead could learn from. Opening track 'I Zimbra' splices funk with afrobeat, paving the way for Byrne and Eno's mould-breaking My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album a few years later.

Without this ... Paul Simon's Graceland might never have been made.

45 Fairport Convention
Liege and Lief (1969)

The birth of English folk-rock. Considered an act of heresy by folk purists, this electrified album fragmented the band. No matter, the opening cry of 'Come all you roving minstrels' proved galvanic.

Without this ... no Celtic revivalists like the Pogues and Waterboys or descendants like the Levellers.

46 The Human League
Dare (1981)

Until Dare, synthesisers meant solemnity. Phil Oakey's reinvention of the group as chirpy popsters, complete with two flailing, girl-next-door vocalists, feminised electronica.

Without this ... and Oakey's lop-sided haircut, squads of new romantics and synth-pop acts would have been lost.

47 Nirvana
Nevermind (1991)

You might argue Nirvana's landmark album changed nothing whatsoever. All their best seditious instincts came to nothing, after all. And yet Nevermind still rocks mightily, capturing a moment when the vituperative US underground imposed its agenda on the staid mainstream. Without this ... no Seattle scene, no Britpop, no Pete Doherty.

48 The Strokes
Is This It? (2001)

Five good-looking young men hauled the jangling sound of Television and the Velvet Underground into the new millennium, reinvigorating rock's obsession with having a good time.

Without this ... a fine brood of heirs would not have been spawned: among them, Franz Ferdinand and the Libertines.

49 De La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

Ten years after hip hop's arrival, its original joie de vivre had been subsumed by macho braggadocio. Three Feet High made hip hop playful again, with light rhythms, unusual sound samples and its talk of the D.A.I.S.Y. age ('Da Inner Sound Y'all') earning the trio a 'hippy' label.

Without this ... thoughtful hip hop acts like the Jungle Brothers and PM Dawn wouldn't have arrived.

50 LFO
Frequencies (1991)

Acid house was sniffed at as a fad until it started producing 'proper' albums. Frequencies was its first masterpiece. Updating the pristine blueprint of Kraftwerk with house, acid, ambient and hip hop, it made dance music legitimate to album-buyers.

Without this ... no success for Orbital, Underworld, Leftfield, Chemical Brothers or Aphex Twin.

· Have your say

Restricting our anniversary list to a mere 50 was a tortuous process. We know you have opinions on these highly emotive matters, so join the debate and make a case for your choice of record at

dimanche, juillet 23, 2006


A decidedly fruity lady

Peaches dresses like a porn superhero and has a lot to say about gender politics. James Mcnair meets the singer in Illinois

Published: 21 July 2006

Showtime has started early for Peaches. As the first layer of a three-band sandwich that sees her followed by Brit-Goths Bauhaus and US tech-rockers Nine Inch Nails, her gig at the Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Illinois will be done by 7.30pm. Oblivious to any pre-watershed mores, she's dressed like some kind of porn superhero, her black PVC cape emblazoned with the letters XXX, and the rest just scanty pink undergarments.

"Fuck the Pain Away!" she screams as her drummer, Samantha Maloney, pummels her kit and blows bubblegum. Peaches roars it at least 20 more times as she jogs a circuit of the venue, hotly pursued by her minder. To my right, Chicago's answer to Beavis and Butthead smirk while cheering their support.

This is business as usual for the woman born Merrill Beth Nisker. Not for nothing did the bisexual star top a list of the Ten Wildest Woman In Music in the New York Daily News, and not for nothing does she count Deborah Harry, Madonna and Christina Aguilera among her fans.

Her new album, Impeach My Bush, is so kinky you'd think twice about playing it for guests lest it be thought a preamble to "adult fun", and listening to songs such as "Tent in Your Pants", one can only conclude that Peaches' weekends are not spent watching Little House on the Prairie re-runs.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I board her tour bus and find no "adult fun" under way. It's just her avuncular tour-manager Dave clocking the dying seconds of Brazil vs France. When Peaches emerges, she's kitted out, relatively demurely, in a long gold dress and gold sandals. Her striking green eyes register mild pique, but as Polish journalists have been telephoning her all afternoon to ask such searching questions as, "Do you rock?" that's perhaps understandable.

So, I say, this striking new band that she has formed with Maloney, former Courtney Love guitarist, Radio Sloan, and JD Samson from Le Tigre - how important was it that it be an all-girl affair?

"It's kind of sad that you even have to ask me that," Peaches says, jumping straight in with gender politics. "I'll be happy the day that someone says to me, 'Wow! Did you see that all-boy band? Every one of them a guy....'"

We should perhaps put the gender issues on ice to advise that Peaches' music is frequently superb. Her earlier albums, The Teaches of Peaches and Fatherfucker set out a distinctive, electro punk stall, their songs often built around little more than a beat-box and a blunt stab of fuzz guitar.

Peaches was a one-woman-band then, an iconoclast whose sexually confrontational live shows part depended on backing tracks. "A lot of people didn't realise I was making the music," she says. "They thought it was some weird performance art or something."

Performance art Impeach My Bush most certainly is not. This time, Peaches embraces a less lo-fi sound that incorporates a full band, the electric guitars wielded by herself and guests such as Josh Homme and Joan Jett as sparky and life-enhancing as defibrillator blasts. Produced by Peaches and Mickey Petralia (Beck, The Dandy Warhols), the stand-out track is undoubtedly "Boys Wanna Be Her."

"I was thinking how men seem to find it really difficult to look at a powerful woman and say, 'Wow! I wish I was you'", says Peaches. "The inspiration might have been 'TNT' by AC/DC, or any of those songs where it's like 'The boy comes to town! Lock up your daughters!' I mean, why is it always a guy who gets to play the Antichrist?"

Oh, I don't know, I say. What about Tom Jones's "Daughter Of Darkness", or "Devil Woman" by Cliff Richard? "Come on - you know how it is. Usually when guys have sex with these women, they turn out to be witches or something. My song is about straight-up admiration. The boys are in awe of this woman and they actually want to be her."

Born in Canada in 1968, Peaches grew up on the outskirts of Toronto. Her father was a "pro ball player" turned accountant, her mother studied psychology. The Jewish school she attended was very conservative, and she didn't connect with her schooling or her Jewish faith. "There were some beautiful stories, but I couldn't take them at more than face value."

Peaches always sung. She would eventually release an album, Fancy Pants Hoodlum, under her real name, but it was The Shit, an avant-garde outfit she formed with friends that opened the creative floodgates.

"It was a big awakening and the start of Peaches," she says. "Peaches is like an exaggerated me without the boring parts. It's not a mask, - it's me being honest and trying to make the strongest, most direct statement I can with my lyrics and my shows."

The gender-based double standards she perceives in the music industry keep cropping up."Take a song like 'Two Boys for Every Girl'," she says. "If I sing that it's considered weird, yet if some guy sings about having two girls, that's fine."

So is her music partly designed to free people's sexual thinking. "Definitely! And a lot of it is directed at you straight males. I want to include, not exclude. In the 1970s we women had a sexual revolution, but you guys never did, and I feel bad for you. Men always want to be in a position of power, but they need to make themselves vulnerable, and they need to learn to entertain girls they way that girls have learnt to entertain boys."

What might such a sexual revolution involve? "A lot of dick-shaking, and a lot of guy-on-guy action. Less clothes on men and a lot of tight clothes on men." I'll think about it, I tell her, but in truth I'm not sure I have the figure.

'Impeach My Bush' is on XL records. Peaches plays the Reading and Leeds festivals on 25-27 August

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

jeudi, juillet 20, 2006

Cerys Matthews

Home, sweet home

When Catatonia topped the charts, singer Cerys Matthews was one of Britpop's great hellraisers. But then she quit the band, cleaned up her act and went to have kids in Tennessee. What lured her back to Wales and the messy world of pop? She talks to Laura Barton

Thursday July 20, 2006
There are few sounds more beautiful than listening to Cerys Matthews talk: a babbling brook of a voice spills out of her, and she doesn't so much laugh as percolate. The first time I met her she was standing outside her home in east Nashville, a couple of weeks before the birth of her second child, and pointing up at a tree. "Look!" she said, her voice rippling across the warm air. "Raccoons!" Today she sits in the less pastoral setting of a north London hotel, looking fearsomely well and strong, like some kind of modern-day Britannia. But that laugh is still there, and those glorious vowels, the cappuccino machine ringing in with her gaspy spiel.

Matthews found fame and, furthermore, notoriety as the frontwoman of Catatonia, the band that formed in 1992 and later became entangled with Britpop, earned acclaim for songs such as Mulder and Scully and Road Rage, and frequently sang in Welsh. By the late 90s they were everywhere, the toast of the town. But in 2001, after four albums, Matthews left the band, spent time in rehab and seemed to duck out of popstardom altogether. The grapevine quivered with tales of her moving to Nashville, living in the woods and getting married.

It was some while later when she resurfaced, holding aloft a sterling record named Cockahoop, full of folk songs, Americanaed covers and paeans to chardonnay. The last time we saw her was in 2003, performing while heavily pregnant at the Glastonbury festival. And then she evaporated once more.

Now she reappears again with a new album, Never Said Goodbye. Only this time she will not be heading back to America. Instead, she, her husband Seth, their young children Glenys Pearl and Johnny Jones, and their 17 pieces of luggage have returned to Britain, with thoughts of settling in Pembrokeshire. "I miss the news," she says. "I miss the eccentricity and the individuality and the education of people and I miss the sea. So for all those things we hotfoot back."

In truth, Matthews was the last person one ever imagined might up sticks to America. Not only was she famed for being staunchly, proudly Welsh, but in the furious throes of Britpop, she seemed so deeply planted in the British consciousness that it seemed impossible that she could ever be uprooted: she haunted the gossip columns, was forever photographed out on the lash, wine glass in hand, or landing kisses on inappropriate celebrities. One time, she clambered drunkenly on stage at a karaoke bar in Ibiza to sing one of her own hits, only for the stage to collapse beneath her; on another occasion she woke up from an inebriated stupor just in time to perform her next show. The only problem was, she was in France and the show was in Britain. "Lively, game, populist, frequently drunk ... and apparently in imminent danger of collapsing at any moment," wrote one music journalist at the time. "It is hard not to feel a little bit worried about her these days."

Ultimately, perhaps, she became the loudmouthed, lairy figure that even she could not escape. "This life," she told Q magazine, shortly before the end of Catatonia, "it's not natural, is it?" And so it seems she welcomed the sweet anonymity that Nashville could grant her. It was, she says, "like having a parallel life, where you start from zero again, you know? Both musically and personally."

She tripped upon Tennessee almost by accident. "I left Catatonia, and I was completely free," she recalls. After 10 years of touring, and having her schedule meticulously charted for her, she revelled in the new-found nothingness of her days. "I can't even describe to you how good it felt," she says. "That sounds bad, and I don't mean it to sound bad, but it was time." And so she went wherever the impulse took her: the central Pacific, on road trips around Britain and across America and beyond. "I had a feeling of abandonment, and I didn't have any roots or anything to really pin me down to anywhere." All the while she was thinking about her next record and where to make it. And then she hit Nashville. "I came across this small studio in the woods, and so I recorded Cockahoop there. And fell in love with the place." She smiles broadly, her cheekbones sharpen. "Love and hate with the place."

Nashville offered a breed of hyper-Americanism after all the hammed-up nationalism of Britpop. "It's a very different culture from here, Tennessee," she explains. "People don't travel as much. Something that I battle with all the time is the influence that might have on my children." Nashville, in particular, she has found a curious place to live. Steeped in rednecked southernism, haunted by the civil rights movement, and stewed in both religion and music. "It's got this albatross of country music around its neck," she says, "but you've got the Kings of Leon that live there, Be Your Own Pet came out of there ..." The answer, she suggests, is simple: "Embrace all the good stuff and don't listen to Kenny Chesney.

"But he's not one of the worst," she says. "There's two channels - the Great American Country Channel and the Country Music Channel, and you watch it for a few seconds and you notice that it's the same make-up artist who does every single artist on there. And it's just hilarious."

Indeed, it appears the hilarity of being a stranger in a strange land never subsided. Matthews' in-laws live in South Carolina. When Glenys Pearl was born, they decorated the lawn with 26 pink flamingoes. It was not an unusual sight in the neighbourhood. "Around South Carolina, life sort of revolves in a constant stream of festivities and seasonal festivities," she says. "So you'll go from Christmas to Valentine's Day to Easter to July 4 to Halloween, and there's always something. You get these old women wearing cardigans with a pattern of pumpkins on them, or a pattern of snowmen, or a pattern of Easter bunnies, and it's disgusting! And," she adds, incredulous, "they wear matching earrings! And they're really coiffed, you know? Really solidly hairsprayed hair and [in] full make-up. You'll see them in the gym that way too, with nylon tights on and little white bobby socks and terrible trainers. And it's boiling hot outside, but they wear thick layers of make-up! S'very weird."

It has been particularly odd to live in America in a period of staunch conservatism, war and religious fanaticism. "It's bloody strange!" she declares. "It's strange because, where I live, people proclaim what they believe on these bumper stickers and on the church signs on the roadsides, and there's people gathering strength from the Bible but not being Christian at all. It's not about the whole proclamation of love that Jesus Christ is meant to have taught through the Bible and through Christianity. It's not about love," she says with exasperation, "it's about fear and about prejudice, and it just doesn't add up."

"It's almost like the polar opposite in Wales, where it's the old ladies, isn't it, that go to chapel. There's something very old-fashioned and it's so sweet, the religion in Wales. And you could not call it sweet in America. You get these churches where they're sending off missionary groups to help out in Germany. And then you go to Arkansas and you see people living in third-world conditions - in their own country. New Orleans!" she adds ruefully. "New Orleans, that's all I have to say: look at New Orleans."

All in all, perhaps America was getting a little too close for Matthews' comfort: Glenys Pearl, she says, "talks with a pure southern accent - southern Tennessee, not south Wales," she adds with a whispy laugh, and hauls out her best southern drawl to illustrate: "She'll say 'thurr's a barrnyarrd' and 'ahm sceeyarrd'. She calls me 'momma'." One of the reasons Matthews is returning is for her children to see a side of life that is not physically or intellectually land-locked. "I'd like them to have the experience of being brought up by the sea," she says, "and get instilled with the Welsh ways."

Did she always suspect she would return to Britain some day? "I didn't know, and that's the way I've decided to be right this second - just not to try and plan that long-term, just to merrily go along and let what happens happen, and keep making music and enjoying my family."

Matthews uses her children and their births almost as landmarks around which she navigates her thoughts - she'll steer her way from "almost three weeks before Glenys Pearl was born" or "just after I had Johnny Jones". The delight her family brings her is tangible, and when she speaks of Never Said Goodbye as a "joyous" album, her husband and her children seem wrapped in that sense of happiness, like a pig in a blanket.

"I think there was a level of contentment that I've never felt before, especially after the birth of Glenys Pearl when we were living in a shack in the country," she says, and her voice dips soft and low and doveish. "I had this porch and this swing chair and there was this organic herd of Hereford cows and this mad farmer where we were living, and I wrote A Bird in Hand. Just to find myself in a place that hadn't changed for generations, this farm and these huge trees, being able to play guitar and realising I wanted to keep doing music. I thought having a baby for some reason was gonna be the end." The prospect didn't scare her. "I just thought it was gonna be a different chapter. But then, actually, I feel a lot happier with making music than ever before."

Never Said Goodbye still proved a difficult record to make. She began with the intention of producing "a small, beautiful album". But just one day into studio recording she discovered it was going to be an entirely different sort of sound. "I'd just written Oxygen and What Kind of Man, and for some reason it just changed. They just blew up. And I had to put a stop to the proceedings, 'cos I was also five months pregnant with Johnny Jones at that point, and it completely took me by surprise. I was like, 'Oh lawdy! I really want to do it big again!'" One imagines Matthews in the studio, the music swelling to meet her belly. The result is an album that does sound in full bloom: rich and variegated, looped and layered, and quite startlingly unlike any of her previous work.

It was a sound she strived for through 14 months, several producers, various musicians and several heated debates with her husband who, as an A&R man, had his own fiery opinions on the record. She gives a diplomatic sigh. "Seth is very passionate about music, as I am. He's very knowledgeable about music, as I am not so knowledgeable. I wind my own way. He has an opinion. So there were many, many, many, many times during this album that it was very, very difficult." It was particularly difficult in the studio, "when a producer doesn't hear what you're hearing, or the musicians in the studio prefer to look at the male in the studio, whoever that might be".

"There is," she says, "a lot of blood and a lot of people on this album."

The main problem was trying to capture a sound that was new and entirely hers. How did she describe that to her producer? "Probably pretty badly in words!" she laughs. "But I just wanted a beautiful-sounding album with a meaty bottom end and with arrangements that didn't parody any other band, didn't parody the Beach Boys, didn't parody the Beatles and the Stones, didn't parody Motown. I think it's easy when you're starting out on a project; you have the information in your brain, but how do you explain to other people what you want without using reference points? There the danger lies."

A lot of people might have been expecting her to make Cockahoop 2, but Never Said Goodbye forgoes the folkiness of that album for a sort of unconventional poppiness - but not, she hastens to add, anything approaching Britpop. "Oasis came to Nashville recently," she says. "They played the Ryman auditorium - that's where they used to record the Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday night with Dolly Parton and Hank Williams, Patsy Cline." Did she enjoy it? "Well, it feels good when you go and watch them, like a greatest hits."

She speaks especially fondly of the final song on her album, Elen, one of two written with Gruff Rhys of fellow Welsh band Super Furry Animals. "It's almost like an opium trip back home," she says. "It makes the album a round - it starts off in this song about New York, goes south, and then there's this trip back down memory lane, about old horsemen being drawn back home by an old lady playing the piano, going come home for rest and respite." And is that how she feels? "Maybe!" She laughs gustily. "It could well be - come home for a bit of pure song and food and great relaxation, and then, when the sun comes back up, it draws the men back to the fields to work. I like that. I like that end to it all".

· Never Said Goodbye is out on Rough Trade on August 21. The single Open Roads is out August 7 and Matthews' UK tour starts this weekend. To download the track Morning Sunshine for free, go to