Tim Burgess: 50 Songs I Love

Charlatans frontman and solo artist Tim Burgess talks us through 50 of his favourite songs, from New Order to Crass.
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Charlatans frontman and solo artist Tim Burgess talks us through 50 of his favourite songs, from New Order to Crass.

1. Your Silent Face - New Order
Always my favourite, yep always the favourite and this song, yep you guessed it – it is my favourite. Sublime synth, deadpan vocal beauty and a final put down “you caught me at a bad time so why don’t you piss off.” Perfection. Grumpy perfection.

2. Cash Still Rules/ Scary Hours - Wu Tang Clan
In the early 90s Wu Tang dropped heavy weight bombs of acid / ganja blunt / coated lyrical masterpieces. This is a great one taken from 2nd album Forever. They had a bigger influence on The Charlatans than you might think. Unless you know what influence they had on The Charlatans.

3. I Go Into Your Mind - Stevie Moore
Probably the most genuinely affecting Moore composition - this version is a duet with Krys O – there’s a real pain in this song as they were together but aren’t now. Space rock at its most glorious. In my top 10 always. I Google-mapped him up, we made a record. No biggie – he’s my friend now.

4. Follow Me - Amanda Lear
I always thought Ms Lear was hot even though most people thought she was a He. Dunno where they get that from. D.I.S.C.O diva the cover star of a Roxy Music album. There’s a blue puma on there too I think. Bryan thought she was hot. Look this song up. She was a muse for Dali – aw c’mon is that not enough for you.

5. Real Love - Factory Floor
I fell in love with FF in their rumble beginnings in 2010. They have now become the best live band in UK and will explode next year. Just make sure you stand back or you’ll get covered in cowbell.

6. Insignificance - Jim O’Rourke
Lives in Tokyo, makes me melt – I play it to people and if they like it I like them. And if they don’t, well, I might not be able to get on with them. Don’t judge a record by its cover though, there’s some challenging illustrations on the sleeve but look beyond. There’s beauty in a Bacharach baroque stylee.

7. Reminiscenses - Ariel Pink
I love Ariel and his Beta male actions. This is a cover version of an Ethiopian Classic. Never thought I’d write that.

8. The Pink Room - David Lynch
Someone suggests on YouTube that it is the best stripping song ever – I guess that’s what is so David Lynch about David Lynch – he just has it, every mood he creates is perfect – I took acid to this when I went to the cinema when it first came out, it was the done thing but I was scared. Flashback alert kids.

9. Activation - Atlas Sound
I just love this guy, I’m so into the feel and his melody. I like his height, I like his cheekbones and his power.

10. See Tha’ Light - Alan Vega with A.R.E Weapons
Possibly my most DJ’d record of all time. Guaranteed floor emptier if nobody has taste. Then you can just leave too. Taxi for Burgess.

11. Habit of You - Arthur Russell
Arthur is one of my favourite artists of all time this is one of many beautiful pretty ones. He has dark ones and dancey ones and echoey ones too. This is particularly pretty. It’s about addiction and I listen to it over and over and over.

12. We Have All The Time In The World – My Bloody Valentine
James Bond string sounds. Covers aren’t allowed in these lists right? Uh uh. Kevin told me this took them three years. Time well spent. Kind of ironic with the title.

13. Banned in D.C. - Bad Brains
I used to listen to the Dead Kennedy’s right – when I was more punk. These black kids came along, knocked everything over, kicked ass and left with all the girls.

14. Gimme Some Truth - John Lennon
There is only one other person in the world who says the phrase ‘soft soap’ as well as John Lennon and that’s Bruce Mitchell who jokingly said to me: “You don’t have to soft soap me Burgess.” It reminded me of this song Lennon’s finest moment.

15. Too Many Birds - Bill Callahan
I love Bill he is just the funniest guy ever. Everyone seems to think his songs are dark serious and moody. I think they’re incredibly uplifting and serene. Take that Dour pushers.

16. Freeway - Kurt Vile
I once drove on the 101 freeway listening to this, it was immense. Wasn’t it the name of the dog in Hart to Hart too?

17. Soulflexin’ - KMD
I needed more De La Soul, this is what I needed its like De La but different. De la Different.

18. Rights for Gays - John Maus
It’s kind of a protest song that’s protesting about something anyone would think was not an issue. John often punches himself in the face on stage. More of a performance artist than singer. You can’t dance to this but you couldn’t possibly not be moved.

19. Draft Morning - The Byrds
It’s 1967, it’s America and it’s about waking up and reading a letter telling you to go to Vietnam, man. The Byrds mean everything to me: Gene, Rog, Crosby, Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Clarke had the best hair in pop music, full stop - a bit like mine only slightly better. Yep maybe even better than mine and that’s saying something. Oh, we were talking about The Byrds weren’t we? Well, Gram Parsons joined ‘em after this record and their story got even wilder and somewhat cosmic.

20. The Set Up - Caberet Voltaire
Could have chosen one of many, even though this is meant to be a fave track of all time kinda thing. I love The Cabs and this one just gets me crazy, but in a more obscure way than say Nag Nag Nag or Yashir. They’d be in this list on another day. You know, like tomorrow or maybe Tuesday.

21. I Turned Out A Punk - B.A.D. II
Mick Jones is Mick Jones that’s all you need to know. This song is rad. He signed a handful of my B.A.D. and Clash singles, one of them Train In Vain (US import). It read: Dear Tim - I Love you Man, Mick Jones x I Love you Mick x You’re the Greatest.

22. The Greatest - Cat Power
The greatest full stop. Well maybe not full stop but definitely a comma, amongst the biggest influences on Oh No I Love You.

23. What! - Judy Street
Jumping soulful goodness – the benchmark for Northern Soul. If you know it you’ll love it, if you don’t know it, then maybe even better. Go and have a listen to it.

24. Sweet Mountain - American Spring
Brian Wilson produced this one. Saccharine darkness. This is David Lynch way before David Lynch.

25. Washington Bullets – The Clash
Sandinista! was a triple album jam junk gem. I learned more Spanish and more about central and South American history from this song than anywhere else. But then again I was 14 and living in Northwich. We didn’t generally know much about Victor Jara or the Santiago Stadium but I became a fully signed up Cheshire revolutionary after this.

26. V3 - Carter Tutti Void
From my album of 2012. I always play this when I DJ and whenever I do, anyone with any anything always comes and asks what it is. My own updated version of Dry The Rain in High Fidelity. I play it and just stand back and the rest takes care of itself

27. Dancing in the Street - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
I’m not sure when I first heard this but it’s DNA is buried deep in the heart of dance floor classics. I gave Martha Reeves an award last year. I was honoured but I’m not sure she knew any of my songs.

28. I.O.U. – Freeez
Arthur Baker production that influenced my fave new order single, Confusion. Deftness indeed.

29. Primitive Painters - Felt
Natch an absolute life changing record for me. Loz and Liz with Martin Duffy on the Hammond… righteous indeed. Some records defy an explanation and this is one of them so you can stop reading now.

30. Bata Motel – Crass
From the album Penis Envy – their third LP, only female singers. The best Crass album. My short sharp shocking intro to feminism – pre-cursor to Riot Grrrl. It had a lot to be proud of. All songs by girls and a boy called Penny.

31. Millions of Images - William Burroughs and Gus Van Zandt
Mind-blowing mescal murmurings over a No New York stylee guitar twang, big bass. Don’t go chasing after this record ‘cos I am the only person I know who has it. Let’s keep it that way, eh?

32. Back To The World - Curtis Mayfield
One of the best songs ever written. Totally moulded The Charlatans’ Wonderland album around this. This song was Curtis’s ‘What’s Going On’ where he out Marvined Marvin.

33. Kebab Traume - D.A.F.
Dusseldorf electro punk. Well you didn’t think I’d get to 33 without some Dusseldorf electro punk did you? Meaty Dreams indeed. It’s a massive rabble-rouser – play it any time you’ve got rabbles that need rousing.

34. What Time Is Love? – The KLF
Bill Drummond is the benchmark for what is achievable in terms of credibility mixed with art terrorism. Yet none of that counts when you fire out one of the all time best dance floor bangers. Situationism goes to the disco.

35. Magic Number - De La Soul
Love the Bob Dorough version too. From the scratchy sampled outset to the drum centric shout along chorus. Got to have soul.

36. Oblivion – Grimes
I dunno. Sometimes someone just comes along and you think you know what’s up. Pretty sexy pop music and this is it for me – wish I’d seen her at Field Day last year but I was too busy roadying for R. Stevie Moore. He played just before her and needed helpers and I’m nothing if not a helper.

37. These Days – Nico
Almost sacred but hey, music is for sharing especially when it’s this quiet, orchestral and powerful.

38. My Face Your Ass – Lambchop
The first track I ever heard by this band – ghostly and mysterious, it completely drew me in – my admiration for Kurt is never ending. He’s become one of my closest friends and now he is a songwriting partner. Yep, you could say this song pretty much changed my life and you’d be right.

39. For Belgian Friends - Durutti Column
Essential track from Factory 24 – A Factory Quartet. This is just totally dancey and has the best kettledrum solo in history. Go Vini.

40. Cyber Insekt - The Fall
The Unutterable is their best album in my humble opinion. I was a Fall completest – I had everything from ‘77 to ‘86. But they can’t be second-guessed and they released this in 2000 - an hour-long opus. This is the first track, there are many more great tracks on this album like Dr Bucks’ Letter, but I thought I would choose this one instead. Tomorrow it may be Ketamine Sun

41. Sister Morphine – The Rolling Stones
Hmmmm what can I say? I used to know all the words to every Rolling Stones song but this one had some kind of outsider world power. Someone sold their soul for this surely?

42. It Happens - Primal Scream
Heard it on John Peel, went to the record shop the very next day on my bike. Brilliant Byrds inspired melody. Or as the shopkeeper who sold it to me said: “Early Jesus and Mary Chain without the distortion.”

43. Distant Dreams - Throbbing Gristle
Wow Genesis P-Orridge. Wow Throbbing Gristle. From Hull to Hackney - they invented genres like me and you eat breakfast. They spliced things that shouldn’t go together together. 20 Jazz Funk Greats is demonic listening. Evil and sweet at the same time. A bit like Damien from The Omen. Be careful with this one.

44. Sin City - Flying Burrito Brothers
This just conjures up images of unspeakable nights in Vegas. Gram Parsons was a rebel and a charmer, this song sums him up very well I reckon. I once went to the room at The Joshua Tree Inn where he died. I slept the night and heard the strings of an acoustic guitar playing in the night. Yep, spooky shit man. I had a photo taken in there too and guess what? There was a shadow of a guy in a cowboy hat behind me. I was the only person in the room. Again, spooky shit. What happens with the burritos stays with the burritos.

45. Two Tribes - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
I queued up for this song in Manchester for hours on the day it came out. What can I say? It’s just brilliant, Holly is such a talent. I count him as a friend now. I love that. Their early appearance on The Tube was one of the most brutal performances you could come across at teatime on a Friday or ever.

46. Kevin is Gay - Giant Drag
I love this band, I love this song. Fave Cally band of their time. Drank many pints with Annie at Spaceland in Silverlake. I left the pints behind but I didn’t leave my love of Giant Drag behind.

47. Rats - Syd Barrett
I was hooked on Bike and Interstellar Overdrive but this stripped down Syd I like more. None of the pomp of Floyd. Just raw and about Rats. At least I think it is.

48. My Drug Buddy – Lemonheads
Just for the lyric: “Is this the same stuff we got yesterday?” Like déjà vu of a drug life. Evan went through it so we could all be happy. And for that I love him.

49. Sister Ray - Velvet Underground
I first heard it by Joy Division. This is just almost too much to take in in one sitting. This song has taken me 20 years to love as much as I love it now. You could say it was a grower. It’s 17 minutes long. It’s as destructive as hell and it’s in me. New Order played this at the end of their Glastonbury set in 1987. I knew then that I needed to be doing what they were doing, especially when Bernard smashed his Stratocaster into his amp.

50. Dolphin’s Spurt – Minny Pops
They made the jump from Factory to O Genesis - my two favourite labels - over nearly 30 years. If you’d have said to me when I first heard this that I’d be producing them I’m not sure I’d believe you. If you told me that I was putting them out on my very own label, I’d check what you were drinking.

To buy Tim's book Telling Stories click the link below.

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