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‘You Made Me’ is a Pete Astor album of other people’s songs. It was recorded with producer Ian Button and features Dave Tattersall (Wave Pictures) playing guitar and Andy Lewis (Spearmint, Blow Up) on bass and synth, with Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand), Sean Read (Edwyn Collins, Pretenders, and a mass of brilliant others) and Nina Walsh (Woodleigh Research Facility, Fireflies) joining on vocals.
From the pure pop ache of Gen X’s ‘Dancing with Myself’ to the stoic heartbreak of Cat Power’s ‘Manhattan’, via the shadowy rider in Elvis Presley’s ‘Black Star’, to the teenage ’50s gangster of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightening’, You Made Me marks some of the way stations of a life in music, songs to make sense of time passing and what that passing time can mean. Pete Astor shares his thoughts on You Made Me.
Like everybody, my life has been sound-tracked by the songs I listen to and sing along with. And a bit like a collection of photographs, I’ve lost some while some never even got taken. Nonetheless, some really good ones did get through. Here they are.
1. ‘Dancing with Myself (1980)’ Gen X, the song articulated the loneliness of the long-distance musician – and it sounded great.
2. ‘Black Star (1960)’ Elvis Presley This was intended as the title song to a so-named 1960 Presley film that got retitled Flaming Star. The title track of David Bowie’s swansong album is widely thought to have been inspired by this song.
3. ‘Chained to an Idiot (1974) This is the only original on the record – my response to the history that these songs have made; the tale of the permanent teenager chained to his needs, forever defined by the purest, libidinous pop – turning Kingsley Amis’ quote, the provenance of the title, on its head. 4.‘Manhattan (2012). Cat Power This is Chan Marshall’s paean to lost love and lost places, an elegy to the way we locate our lives and love affairs in times and locations – a hazy New York or London, say – that have now disappeared. 5.‘Nitcomb (1999’). Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. ‘Nitcomb’ will ring very true for anyone who remembers all the long evenings spent combing out those stubborn insects. As a musician, Strummer was a lifer, and like those nits, so very tenacious.
6.Vincent Black Lightning (1952)’ Richard Thompson This modern-day outlaw ballad tells the story of tragic love around the centrepiece of the mythic and very English titular motorcycle.
7.‘Solid Air (1973)’ John Martyn John Martyn’s plea to his lost and fading friend, Nick Drake, which becomes a touchstone and document of any lost and fading friends any of us might have had.
8.‘Can’t Hardly Wait (1987)’ The Replacements Paul Westerberg writing and singing about how it feels to be away from home, on tour, magnificently lost, aching to be.
9.‘Courage’ Villagers (2015)’ Conor O’Brien’s document of the heart’s travails re-imagined as lovers rock, making a gentle, steadfast march out of changing love.
10.‘Suffering Jukebox (2008)’ Silver Jews We recorded this in tribute to the passing of Silver Jews’ songwriter David Berman, a song about the plight of the record machine in the corner, devoid of agency, speaking for everyone who wishes things were different. Neil Scott (Felt, Denim, Everything But the Girl) joined us for this one on guitar.
11.‘One Man Guy (1985)’ Loudon Wainwright III Loudon lived in London in the mid ’80s. I once saw him eating alone in Parkway, NW1. Now I know how he must have felt.