Image : Kim Crowley [Used with permission]
Guitarist & Songwriter Laurie Shaw on the soundtrack to his life
What was the first album/single that you ever bought?
The first album I bought was Gorillaz’ debut album. My mum bought it for me in Bath en route to a holiday in Cornwall when I was six. I really freaked her out singing that bit in 5/4 when he goes “she made me kill myself”. It was a bit of a disaster prone holiday to be honest, I got some wood in my eye from looking up at a tree and had to go to the Cornish doctors. They put some fluorescent goo in my eye to try and find the bit of wood and my snot came out orange. Then my mate stood on a wasp and got stung. I put the Gorillaz album away for a while as it was kind of an object of distress but I got back into it later on. It’s still a really fantastic record.
What is your earliest musical memory?
My mum says the first thing I sang when I was a baby was the GMTV theme tune but I don’t remember that. I suppose the earliest music I was subjected to was nursery rhymes in school, hymns in church and the music my Dad would be playing. I’ve never listened to it but I have very very strong memories of the album Raise The Pressure by Electronic knocking around on CD a lot when I was a baby and when I see the cover I can nearly smell our old house.
Is there a particular song/band/singer that made you want to be a musician?
Sounds daft but probably Michael J. Fox in Back To The Future singing Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry. It’s effortlessly cool how he’s reluctant to play and then just invents rock and roll. And that song itself got the ball rolling on my Chuck Berry phase which directed me to the importance of clever lines and all that. So yeah, a really key moment that!
Is there a song/band that you love that was introduced to you by someone else?
My dad got me into a lot of amazing stuff but that’s pretty standard I think, the parental influence. I remember my best mate in school, Jack, got me into Electric Feel by MGMT and I subsequently bought their second record “Congratulations“, which holds a place as one of my favourite records of all time. Growing up as a teenager, I got most of my recommendations from lists just like this in the NME. Recently, I found a lot of really good artists from James Acaster’s book, Perfect Sound Whatever. In particular, the album Friday Night by Will Butler. My favourite song off that is Son Of God.
Is there a song whose lyrics resonate with you and why so?
Again, it’s a really tough one to choose. One that immediately springs to mind is Whistle Stop by Jim Sullivan. There’s a line that goes “Do you know the feeling, can you love someone you’ve only met a while ago?”. That’s quite a powerful line, and it’s delivered in such a lovely understated way. My favourite line for a long time was from Five Years by David Bowie where he goes “Thought I saw you in an ice cream parlour/ drinking milkshakes cold and long/ smiling and waving and looking so fine/ don’t think you knew you were in this song” as I loved the way it distinguished the songwriter as an observer, not just a part-taker.
I also can’t help but mention Bill Ryder Jones’ Tell Me You Don’t Love Me Watching where he goes “I’m nothing but an only child/ I get my own way every single time” because I am one and songwriting wise I’ve often excused many of my anxieties and decisions on my status as an only child. Honourable mentions go to Nick Cave’s Higgs Boson Blues, Elvis Costello’s Town Crier and the whole PULP catalogue.
The band/musician that you grew up listening to?
It’s a very pedestrian pick, but The Beatles have been a constant from an early age. I remember when “Let It Be…Naked” came out. I was really young but I remember dancing about to One After 909 and Dig A Pony.
What song do you wish that you had written and why?
Most likely Bob Dylan’s Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again. Just a lyrical tour de force, and I don’t even really know what he’s on about half the time. There are some great little fragments of the larger picture that seem to resonate in some way; “Shakespeare he’s in the alley / with his pointed shoes and his bells / speaking to some french girl / who says she knows me well” for example.
There’s also some great swapping around in this song like “he just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette”. I also really identify his nonchalance when he goes “Grandpa died last week and now he’s buried in the rocks/ everybody still talks about how badly they were shocked / but me I expected it to happen”. I think I’m a bit like that sometimes, for better or for ill, when it comes to death.
What song transports you back in time and why?
There are countless songs that transport me back in time and carry a lot of emotional weight but I think the most unusual one and the one that nearly brings a tear is Elvis Costello’s A Slow Drag With Josephine. Seeing him play that on Jools Holland coincided with a very brief but infinitely affecting Christmas dalliance with a girl when I was 15/16.
Which song makes you dance when you hear it?
This is a really difficult question as it doesn’t take a lot to get me moving and shaking. I think it’s a toss up between Toto’s Georgy Porgy and Baby Come Back by Player. Those two kick off a really good Saturday night for me and they’re always at the start of my disco mixtapes.
Which song makes you sad when you hear it?
I’ve always found Laura Marling’s Night After Night very effective. As well as an album I often twin it with in my head which is Noah And The Whale’s First Days Of Spring, in particular the song Our Window.
What was the first gig you went to?
The first proper gig I went to was Arctic Monkeys in 2009 in Dublin. I would have been about 14. They were in the midst of their Humbug tour which is my favourite album by them. I especially remember the confetti canons during Secret Door.
What was the first song that you ever performed?
The first song I performed was a self-penned pop-punk song called Pain Next Door which I performed with my mate Alex in a talent show at Our Lady Of Pity primary school in Greasby. We couldn’t play guitar at that point so we performed on badmington rackets with a backing track.
Laurie’s new album “Annual” is out now, which includes the single “Hoovering up the glass” listen here
Laurie Shaw – Spotify Playlist
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