Chris Thomson: 50 Songs I Love

The man behind cult acts Friends Again and The Bathers lays down the tunes he'd save from a burning building...
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Championing the criminally overlooked is part of the job detail at Sabotage, so we asked Chris Thomson, formerly of Scottish guitar pop sensations Friends Again and now (since 1985, at least) of The Bathers to list 50 of his favourite songs.

Friends Again released three fantastic singles, an EP, and an album before disbanding in 1984. While his band mates regrouped as Love And Money, Chris reappeared fronting a new band called The Bathers. Their debut album, Unusual Places To Die, was released on Go Discs but sadly seemed to get lost amid label politics. It is truly one of the great ‘Lost Albums’ of our time. If you see a copy buy it, don't hesitate. Over the years Chris, The Bathers, released a further six albums to, as they say, critical acclaim, though sadly not commercial success. Chris is a talent on a par with the likes of Roddy Frame and Mick Head, and The Bathers are a cult band if ever there was one.

-Words by Johnny Lake


50. The Healing Has Begun – Van Morrison

 From the Columbia hotel in west London I used to walk for ages with this repeating on my first Sony Walkman. Great song which segued into another great song, ‘It’s All In The Game.’

49. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones 

As The hippie dream collapses The Stones unleash this classic.

48. My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

Plagiarized or not this is just a fantastic single.

47. Just Like Gold – Aztec Camera

 “What do you find that is small and rolling around on the floor clutching a Gretsch guitar?” quipped Edwyn, “Roddy Frame overdosing on Keats.” A wonderful song!

46. Poor Old Soul – Orange Juice

The Sound Of Young Scotland… augmented chords and all!

45. Turn Blue – Iggy Pop

 Poetry in commotion… almost seems to collapse several times but rallies to a fitting climax with Bowie’s great backing vocals and the Sales Brothers on bass and drums.

44. Somewhere Down The Crazy River – Robbie Robertson

 Intriguing narrative in verses reminiscent of Tom Waits yield to the lovely uplift of, “take the blue train…”

43. Duthaich Mhicaoidth – Starless featuring Julie Fowlis

 “MacKay Country” Michael Nyman used this traditional Gaelic tune for The Piano soundtrack. Julie’s interpretation is really lovely.

42. She Belongs To Me – Bob Dylan

He does it again and again…

41. The Rainbow – Talk Talk

 James Grant played this to me late one night…initially confusing but wholly absorbing. The Spirit Of Eden album grew to be a real favourite.

40. Love Is A Losing Game – Amy Winehouse

 Always sounded like an instant classic and an immaculate vocal performance. Rightly underplayed.

39. L.O.V.E. Love – Al Green

 A joyous song from the revelling soon to be Reverend Al.

38. Search And Destroy – Iggy And The Stooges

 I imagine steam rising from the mixing console as Bowie tried to tame this beast for CBS/Tony Defries et al… untamable, glorious chaos.

37. Let’s Go Out Tonight – Craig Armstrong featuring Paul Buchanan

 A great version. I had the good fortune to first hear this in Mr Armstrong’s studio at full volume as he was mixing it down.

36. Pandemonia – The Bathers

A funky folie de grandeur at 13 plus minutes with a denouncement in a Parisian Street… “I thought of what might be in store for me…”

35. Carolyn’s Fingers – The Cocteau Twins

You are closer to me but you didn’t want my hand.

34. Lover You Should Have Come Over – Jeff Buckley

 A fully realized classic from the gifted son.

33. Sweet Surrender – Tim Buckley

. Post tour, sensually sleazy, hypnotically horny… really quite smitten.

32. Street Hassle – Lou Reed

 Riffing Cellos, and operatic voices and Lou summoning up a now lost New York.

31. The Last Time I Saw Richard - Joni Mitchell

 Joni at the very peak of her powers as a writer and performer. Everything on Blue is special.

30. A Case Of You – KD Lang

 Love the original on the Blue album but this might just pip it for the sheer elegance in the arrangement and vocal performance.

29. If You Go Away – Scott Walker

Fine version of one of Jaques Brel’s many fantastic songs.

28. Winner Takes It All – Abba

 No denying the quality and the power of this highly personal song from Sweden’s finest.

27. Dear Darling – Mary Margaret O’Hara

 A standout from the brilliant Miss America album.

26. St Elmo’s Fire – Eno

 Very charming from the great Another Green World LP, featuring Robert Fripp’s ripplingly fluent guitar work.

25. Sweet Thing/Candidate – Bowie 

Post Spiders, Bowie retreats to a murky soundscape and throws light in dark doorways.

24. Fisherman’s Woman – Emiliana Torrini

 Eerily beautiful from Icelandic shores.

23. White Man In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash

 A gritty and defiant call to arms against injustice.

22. A Soldier’s Things – Tom Waits

As featured on Peaky Blinders recently. A lyrical genius.

21. Rainbow Sleeves – Ricky Lee Jones

 Not familiar with the Tom Wait’s original but this is just mesmerizingly, heartbreakingly lovely.

20. Boots Of Spanish Leather – Bob Dylan

Absolute classic from the master of lyric and song.

19.Atmosphere – Joy Division

 How could something so bleak and austere be so beautiful?

18. She – Charles Aznavour

 Drenched in champagne, bombast and romance… a wonderful thing.

17. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison

 An unforgettable journey to the Belfast of the late 50s and early 60s.

16. Marquee Moon – Television

 I hear your dueling banjos and raise you Lloyd and Verlaine’s epic Fender duel…great imagery and a magical symmetry in this 70s classic.

15. Forest Fire – Lloyd Cole And The Commotions

From the wonderful Rattlesnakes debut LP. I heard it on the radio last week. The guitar solo still amazes.

14. I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good – Nina Simone

 Ms Simone delivers her usual magic on this Duke Elington/Paul Webster song.

13. Cosmic Dancer – T-Rex

I first heard this at a Michael Clarke ballet in Edinburgh… utterly magical.

12. Love Is The Drug – Roxy Music

 Sexy, seductive and stylish.

11. Revolution – the Beatles

 Set the faders to stun but the melodies to kill…

10. New Age – the Velvet Underground

 Lou in contemplative form. Faded Hollywood dreams. The cracked actor’s less successful cousin? But really quite an affirmation of hope in the choruses.

9. Graceland – Paul Simon

She came to tell me she’d gone…as if I didn’t know that, as if I didn’t know my own bed. A beautiful song, all the more poignant as my first great love was working on the Graceland tour in Europe… and did just as the record describes.

8. Amsterdam Stranded – Midnight Choir

Stately, epic, Nordic beauty.

7. Sound And Vision – Bowie

 The sad-eyed dame from the Arts Lab… pale blinds drawn all day…

6. China Girl – Iggy Pop. T

The Thin White Duke and Mr Osterberg, European adventures. Chateau d’Heroville en passant, destination Berlin… you shouldn’t mess with them.

5. One Day You’ll Dance For Me New York City – Thomas Dybdahl 

Perhaps, as in political life, all musical careers end in failure… but then again no.

4. Hounds Of Love – Kate Bush 

Eat your heart out Baskerville, these hounds are clearly barking, a maddening heliotrope haze.

3. Fruit Tree – Nick Drake

 Intimations of mortality…somber, delicate and sublime.

2. Song To The Siren – This Mortal Coil

Elizabeth Fraser’s supernatural singing shades the haunting charms of this Tim Buckley song.

1. My Funny Valentine – Ricky Lee Jones

Amazing fragility and beauty in this live rendition of an all-time classic.

The Bathers are currently working on a new album and plan on re-releasing their back catalog in October. Live dates are penciled in for London, Glasgow and EdinburghGet all info on The Bathers at their website  and on their Twitter