Professor Green

Originally I got into jungle and flirted with that scene. All the kids on my estate were driving around in their Mini Metros – stolen or otherwise – playing their jungle tapes after coming back from squat raves. I was too young for all that. But the first genre I really got into was rap.
I first heard Biggie Smalls – the ‘One More Chance’ remix featuring Faith Evans. I first heard it at Roller City, a place we used to go to that was a skating rink. From that, I started looking up all his stuff and he’s still my favourite rapper today. Life After Death is my favourite album.
Obviously the beat was incredible but it was also his flow and his delivery. There was a real honesty to him. There was a really good vibe to the track and that continued throughout all the music I heard from him. I heard tracks of him with Jay-Z so then I started to check out Jay-Z. There was also a track with him and Method Man so I started to check out Method Man and, via him, the Wu-Tang Clan. So that introduced me to the whole East coast rap scene.

Joseph Mount (Metronomy)

I was learning to play music with my friend James, who now plays guitar in Veronica Falls. We lived on he same street. I played drums and he played guitar. From that point on, we had a band – even though we just had each other to play with. At that stage you are just listening to songs which have drums or guitars in them that you like and think you can play. It began with a few songs here and there – like ‘All Right Now’ by Free. James would buy tablature and one of the songs he bought was by Crowded House.
That all led up to me getting properly into The Who. I guess I was looking for drumming role models. I just started hammering The Who. And a bit of Led Zeppelin as well. I was just listening to it like crazy.
The first Who songs I remember are the obvious ones like ‘My Generation’. When I was in my early teens and started playing music with people slightly older than me, there was this girl I fancied. She was called Lily and The Who has that ‘Pictures Of Lily’ song – which I really enjoyed playing. Until my dad told me it was about masturbation!
I remember there being an intensive period of listening to The Who, but it actually wasn’t that long before I moved past it. I found out about Tommy, this musical they had done, and hearing it was on TV. I stayed up late to try and watch it. At that point I hadn’t necessarily seen what The Who looked like. In those days you didn’t have those resources readily available to find that out. When I watched Tommy, I think I found the aesthetic slightly grating. Up until then, the only other musicals I had watched were West Side Story and A Hard Day’s Night. I was never really a fan of the glam look and so at that point I jumped ship.
I’m not as into The Who as I used to be, but there are still songs that I have a fondness for. Then later I discovered Pete Townshend’s interest in electronic instruments, which I find really interesting. But I wouldn’t put The Who on that often any more.

Gaz Coombes

The band that lit the fuse was The Cure. In the early-Eighties when I was getting into music, I remember hanging out with Danny Goffey in his parents’ attic room. We’d go there and smoke a lot of grass and try and hide away from the parents. I remember listening to the Seventeen Seconds album there.

I was previously familiar with ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and the Three Imaginary Boys album. They had a massive impact on us in making us want to play music and be in a band. Seventeen Seconds seemed weird and unlike their other records. Maybe it was the setting as well – this smoky attic and the feeling we had there added to the magic of it.

Later on, we did some gigs with The Cure and met Robert Smith. We got on really well and it was amazing to meet the guy who was such a big influence on me starting out in music. Chatting with him about music was a really cool moment. In those early days, I pretty much did buy up everything by them. I remember Concert: The Cure Live being a big record. I got hold of all I could as well as watching The Cure In Orange film.

They were definitely a big influence – especially the early songs when they were a three piece. Which is what we were when we started the band [Supergrass]. It was a beautiful moment when we played with them and came off stage and he said we reminded him of the early stages of The Cure. It was a beautiful compliment.

Sophie Rose

I was 4 when Toni Basil’s Hey Mickey became an all consuming obsession in my life. My father never the most technologically gifted man accidentally recorded the wrong channel. Hey Mickey had been released a couple years earlier and someone seemed to be mocking Toni?! I couldn’t understand, I was immediately smitten, this was ace. That year I insisted on having my hair in bunches every day, raced home from playschool every afternoon, stole my mum’s red lipstick when I could get away with it and put in the VHS and worked on my ‘choreography’. I reminded my parents at every turn that what I REALLY wanted for Christmas was a pair of pom poms. I later found out that while I was leaping around the lounge thinking ‘I’m totally getting this, it’s like I’m in the video’ from behind the door my parents killed themselves with laughter. Christmas came and went, no pom poms, devastated. Then the VHS eventually run out from the constant wear there were floods of tears, I was inconsolable it was worse than losing my beloved Sammy the Seal toy.

Fast forward 26 years to my 31st birthday having chosen the venue I began to get nervous, friends coming from work fell into 2 distinct tribes Intellectuals and Trendies. I don’t fit neatly with either and South Pacific was definitely not a place they’d be seen, it wasn’t ironically cool or kitsch they’d deem it cheesy and naff. I was about to out myself as an imposter. My friend Kate arrived flustered because she’d been being scolded by her 3 year old for buying them wrong the birthday present. Playing devils advocate I took her childs side and recounted the Toni Basil story and the disappointing lack of pom poms at Christmas. Kate disappeared get some drinks. Many drinks later Hey Mickey came blasting out with a DJ dedication to me. Hearing the intro invoked a pavlovian response in me as I stridently marched onto the dance floor and enthusiastically began my ‘routine’. Some friends looked on in disbelief, most laughed uncontrollably. Sensing I was humiliating myself, VERY good friends tried to lessen the blow by joining me on the floor and throwing some shapes. Little did I know that Kate had broken the ice with my work colleagues by sharing the pom pom story. I returned later that week to find, where my desk should have been, a pile of about 20 pairs of homemade pom poms. It was hilarious, as was the nicely shot footage of my performance.

But you know what? I’ll still always bop along to Hey Mickey and at least I finally got my pom poms.

Kat Rolle

I grew up in a musically enlightened household; in my early twenties, I’m often played “cult”  songs or “forgotten classics” by friends, only to find they’re already in my childhood memories. As an only child, I had no older siblings to bring me into the 1990s and remained blissfully unaware of what my contemporaries were listening. My mum played me Radiohead and R.E.M., but I had no idea about pop music.

When I was about 7, I remember telling a kid at school that David Bowie was my favourite musician. They weren’t impressed that I hadn’t heard of Boyzone or B*Witched. And whether through peer-pressure or a simple desire to fit in, soon I was ditching my parents’ carefully chosen music education, and insisting that Robbie Williams was better than Bowie, better than the Beatles or the Stones, better than Oasis and Blur.

He was cute, he was edgy (I didn’t know about Take That at this stage) and he had hooks that, with my initial hipster grounding in the classics, I decided were far superior to anything else in the charts. In the space of a month, I bought all his albums; but I fell hard for Sing When You’re Winning. I loved Supreme (not realising it was ripping off I Will Survive), loved the naked-Robbie Rock DJ video and felt pre-teen angst when I blasted out The Road to Mandalay.

Inevitably my love manifested itself mainly through merchandise. I bought biographies; a troubled, melodramatic Robbie? Cheeky chappy Robbie? He was such an enigma! I bought posters, so he stared down at me from around my room. One of them featured a nude, head-to-hips Robbie. I was a bit uncomfortable about the darkened bottom of the poster, and hid it behind my drawers so I only had a tummy-up view.

When I was about 13, I discovered punk and Nirvana and remembered how much I loved David Bowie. I gave all my CDs away - Busted, Robbie, Avril… He still holds a place in my heart, and nothing makes me happier than drunkenly sobbing to Angels. Post-obsession release, Me and My Monkey (a glorious, trumpet-filled Mexican epic) has a guaranteed place on most of my playlists. Somewhere in my parents’ house are those posters… Maybe I should face my fears and re-embrace Robbie.

Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley

Elizabeth Sankey

Cassettes. I loved cassettes. I had shoe boxes full of them. I made mix tapes from Capital FM and then I’d listen back and pretend I had my own radio show. I’d talk about the things that really mattered - leotards, yorkie bars, and Blur. I loved Blur, I still do.  I could write endless Popfessions about that band, but instead let’s talk about Shampoo.

Outside of my parent’s vinyl collection and the radio, the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ compilations were my source for new music. It was on one of these tapes that I discovered Shampoo. It was Christmas and my dad always encouraged us to play our new cassettes on the Big Stereo in the Posh Room. The Big Stereo was brilliant, mainly because it had a karaoke function that would sort of, kind of, almost, mute the vocals so you could plug in a crap microphone and sing along.  I think I’d asked for this particular compilation because it featured the Christmas number one by East 17, the one with the video of them rap gesturing in fake snow, wearing white bomber jackets. But over the turkey and stuffing it was ‘Trouble’ that seized my attention. Up until then my taste in music had been pretty vanilla, but Shampoo shook me slightly.  They definitely weren’t punk, but they were more dangerous than I was used to. They were girls, and they wore short skirts, but they seemed a bit different. Naughty, I guess. I was a bit scared of them.

In later years as my music taste became more varied than Capital FM, and I learnt about punks and being straight edge and tried unsuccessfully to join mosh pits, I dismissed Shampoo for saccharine pop.  But now I see it differently. I met their manager once, years later and he regaled me with shocking stories of their exploits in the days when they were pop princesses, and of their riot grrl leanings, confirming what I had always suspected. I felt slightly proud of the 10 year old me. Even if she was just a douchebag on rollerblades.

Jeremy Warmsley

When I was about 16 I got into indie music. A friend at school made me a mixtape called “GLASGOW INDIE 1999”. It had a good mix of Mogwai, The Pastels, Belle & Sebastian, etc etc. It was great and soon I was devouring the NME, rummaging through the shelves my local second-hand CD shop and generally being your average spotty 16-year-old music snob. 

Anyway that Christmas I asked my parents for a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album, but in a classic parent-misunderstanding scenario worthy of a cheesy 90s sitcom they got me the Lightning Seeds best-of, “Like You Do” instead. I was pretty disappointed, needless to say, but back in those days, music was pretty hard to come by (that sounds odd but I can’t think of another way of putting it: back then, if you wanted to listen to music you either had the radio, or you had to spend money). So I stuck it on.

And you know what? It’s great. Classic 90s power-pop with a smattering of lametronica, the only thing that sucks about this record is the cover, which features a badly photoshopped LS frontman Ian Broudie surfing down the Mersey, the purple clouds gathering behind him presumably symbolising the death of Britpop.

Ariel Archer

They say pop music is a religion for some. When I was small, I fell for the bombastic stadium sounds of U2 in a big way. To give you a sense of the intensity of my idolatry, I actually ERECTED A SHRINE between the wardrobe and the airing cupboard, pasted with ever-accumulating layers of pin-up posters, thumbnail pictures, even album reviews in miniscule typeface.

No media mention of U2 was too glancing for my papery grotto. So, perhaps something to do with my Catholic upbringing, hmm? I clearly remember Adam Clayton being arrested for something connected with cocaine. I went into a kind of mourning, saying prayers for the fallen bassist. It was around that time that I started to wear black. I blame Clayton for shattering my illusion that U2 were a wholesome boyband who just liked guitars and Americana. Never recovered, really.

My other Popfession is that, in my mid-teens, one of my closest friends and I formed a band inspired by our mutual love of The Cure. We called ourselves 2 Imaginary Girls and our kit consisted of a battered Yamaha keyboard (the kind with tinny, intrinsically hilarious pre-set beats called “Disco” and “Swing”) and my brother’s electric guitar (a learner’s model with what I now recognise as a distinctively Hair Rock design). So we were actually electro-rock pioneers. 

Whenever we recorded a performance of ‘Pictures Of You’ or ‘Just Like Heaven’ on my mum’s mono tape recorder, we would collapse with hysterical laughter, perhaps so that nobody beyond my bedroom door would make the mistake of thinking we took ourselves – or our music – seriously. If we’d had a laptop with GarageBand, I wonder whether we’d have developed into a world-beating female synth duo. Stranger things have happened. 

She’s now a music journalist by trade and an accomplished bluegrass musician. I’m a singer-songwriter who has had her stuff on the telly and radio.

Maxine Frances Roper

It’s difficult to explain why you’re emotional about a band despite having been in short socks and pigtails when they released most of their records, and when anyone cared who they were. Some music is timeless, of course (everyone over 16 loves The Smiths and Kate Bush, and pretends to love the Velvet Underground). Other music is very much Of An Era and if you aren’t of that era you tend to be looked at askance for liking it, or even having heard of it. I often am by 40-year-olds, wondering why I know more about obscure Eighties bands than they do. 

At 17 in 2001, I became strangely obsessed with Eighties/early-Ninties indie and dance music, including The House of Love, Echo & The Bunnymen, Happy Mondays, The Wonder Stuff, James and several defining acid house DJs. My attempts at a simple, off-the-cuff explanation of how this happened have sometimes fallen flat, most memorably when given to a bemused careers consultant with the emotional intuition of a potato, who told me it wasn’t a very interesting story (yes, paying 50 quid an hour to someone tactlessly inept enough to dismiss a section of my life containing enough emotional baggage to sustain a Jeremy Kyle double-bill as ‘not very interesting’ felt great…).
Basically, it started with me trying to ingratiate myself to various older people whom I had some kind of interest in at the time, and bridge the generation gap. Or, to put it even more succinctly, to suck up to them like crazy.
Being 17, and therefore incapable of being endearing with a winning lottery ticket in my hand, my Cunning Plan was to charm them and give us something to talk about by listening to the music of their own youth. Like many a far-fetched scheme, it makes slightly more sense in my head than outside. Sometimes it worked (talking to someone who had her first snog in the Hacienda). Sometimes it didn’t (enthusing about the Hacienda to someone who grew up in Middlesex, for whom Manchester may as well have been Mars).
But my love for Eighties indie never waned. At university, I led something of a musical double life. On nights out, I’d sing along with my contemporaries to the fashionable strains of Franz Ferdinand or The Libertines. By day, I’d pause in the foyer of the students union to listen to VH1s retro indie hour, playing ‘Sit Down’ or ‘Shine On’ to a largely oblivious crowd. At 18, I declared I could never love anyone who didn’t love the Tony Wilson/Hacienda biopic 24 Hour Party People, which came out that year (my excuse, and I’m sticking to it). 
Alas, all the defining cross-generational friendships I made during my late-teens and early-20s have ended in broadly sad circumstances. One, S. acrimoniously, one, H. politely-but-awkwardly, another, T. took his own life last year after a long battle with depression. In each case, the music they introduced me to – knowingly or otherwise – is among the best thing I have to remember them by. After nine years of sporadic, fairly unwelcome communication with H., I inadvertently succeeded at doing something useful by gifting her my spare copy of the 20th anniversary reissue of the Stone Roses debut album (unknown to me beforehand, she’d been without a copy since her tape copy was nicked from out of her car back in the day).
Meanwhile, my most cherished possession of the late T.’s is his original CD copy of the House of Love’s debut album, which smells of two decades of stale fag ash and comes with a handy mini-booklet of instructions on “caring for your CD”.  A few months before he died, I went with him and a mutual friend Of An Age to a Wonder Stuff 20-year reunion gig in Cambridge, where I got caught in a mosh pit comprised of 40-year-old men who last frequented mosh pits at three stone lighter. To our friend’s delight, Miles Hunt still has The Hair. He also has a very attractive young girlfriend, meaning there’s at least one other strident twentysomething blonde in the world who knows all the words to ‘Size Of A Cow’….

Indu Chandrasekhar

In my first brush with an irresistible icon, I fell prey to television, not music. The year was 1994, and the man was Zach Morris. The star of Saved By the Bell may have had every girl in America swooning for his swoosh of blond hair, blinding pattern sweaters and futuristic brick-sized mobile phone, but in my young mind he only had eyes for me, and it was love.

In fact, I loved him so much I managed to divorce him. You may not have known it, but we were already married and living in Paris. Or so my young self believed when I wrote him a dear John letter, having the profound realisation that at age 7, I was not fit to be living with a man twice my age in a foreign city.

It was just as well I ended our eternal union because another set of young men were to come along and change my life: the Backstreet Boys. I first heard their song “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” on the radio when I was 10. At that age I, like every other insecure child, needed someone else to tell me if the song was cretinously stupid (obviously the cool attitude) or a beautiful, heartfelt creation that must be memorised at once. My heart was in the latter camp, and luckily my twin sister Rajni felt the same way - and so an obsession was born.

We played their second album, Backstreet’s Back, over and over on our cassette player that summer of 1997. And 1998. And 1999, at which point we traded up for Millennium on CD. I’m pretty sure I still have some muscle-memory for the dance moves to I Want It That Way. My sister and I struck a diplomatic agreement - she could have mustachioed Kevin and blonde bowl cut Nick, while golden-voiced Brian and rebellious hottie AJ were mine. No one wanted Howie.

Of course we listened to *NSYNC and 98 Degrees and every other cookie-cutter boy band gem of that time, and *NSYNC definitely had better dance moves. But when I listen to their stuff now - only because it comes up when I have iTunes on shuffle, I swear! - it just sounds tinny and nasally and every other adjective you can now use to describe Justin Bieber et al. But hey, at least none of it ever touched the level of Rebecca Black.

I discovered ‘alternative’ music when I was 12 and the Backstreet Boys fell in the ranks to bands I’ve now forgotten. Then there was the time I listened to crooners and musicals, alternating Alanis Morissette and Rufus Wainwright with the old-favourite Disney and Broadway tracks I had managed to download on Napster and LimeWire. When I went away to university, Ray LaMontagne, Jamie Cullum, Coldplay and the Dave Matthews Band all had their turn as the soundtrack to my late-night studying.

But as I discovered at the quirky parties of my lovably nerdy undergrads, none of us had completely lost the taste for the sugary pop of our youth. Most parties would end as a tribute to Britney Spears, Backstreet and all the other one-hit wonder songs we somehow knew (but the last song was always Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing - I can’t hear that song without smelling cheap beer and the smell of frat house basements).

So it came as no surprise to my friends when I turned the first 30 seconds of Quit Playing Games into my phone’s ringtone. I refused to pay 99 cents for a chunk of a song I already owned, so I cut the file myself using Audacity, and went through a rather laborious process to get it onto my Motorola Razr. (We forget how easy we have it with the iPhone!)

That effort must have been a beacon. Because not long after, I moved to London to study for a half-year. My twin sister was also in London studying for the year; after going to universities 300 miles apart, we were together again for a few months. By coincidence, both of us happened across news that the Backstreet Boys were playing in London. It turns out we realised this at the same time, because when I text-messaged her about an amazing discovery, she knew exactly what I was going to say. We bought tickets five minutes later.

So there we were on concert day, two 20-year-olds united with the band that had stolen our hearts ten years earlier. And by the looks of everyone else at the O2, ours was a common story.

The Boys really outdid themselves in the concert - they were almost all safely in their 30s, but they danced the entire evening. We were treated to some forgettable songs from Unbreakable, their latest album at the time, and each played a solo act as well - Nick surprised us by actually being able to play an instrument (the drums), Brian serenaded with a soupy God-tinged love ballad, and AJ and Howie each sang mediocre ‘hot new singles’. But forget about that stuff. They didn’t let us down as they powered through their greatest hits - Backstreet’s Back (quite the relevant concert starter, I must say), Larger Than Life, The Call, Incomplete, I’ll Never Break Your Heart, I Want It That Way, and of course, Quit Playing Games.

Ever since I made that song my ringtone six years ago, I can’t hear it without reaching for my phone. But at that concert, all thoughts of the here and now flew out of the window - it was just me and the Boys, once more.

Tim Burgess

Automatic Lover by The Vibrators was the first time I heard something and woke up the next day a completely different person. One day you would be normal, like “Hi, this is Tim”, and then you’d watch something on Top Of The Pops and the next day walk into school, like,  “Hi, this is Tim”.

After I heard it I declared that I was a punk. It was 1978 and I was 11 years old. I’d be buying badges and starting to find records, wearing safety pins, trying to pierce my ear, doing that kind of stuff. I always had a leather jacket with paint on it and studs. I’d spend ages putting the studs in a line on the back. It was the first song that really changed my life.



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