Foundations: Andrew W.K. | Clash Music | By Robin Murray
Foundations is a column which allows artists to explore their roots, to reminisce about the albums which made a dramatic impact on their life.
It’s not necessarily their favourites – that’s a wider, more complex discussion – but rather focuses on gut instinct, on emotional response.
Something Andrew WK is renowned for. The American rocker has just finished partnering Marky Ramone on a world tour, re-visiting the glorious back catalogue of Da Bruddaz themselves: The Ramones.
For his Foundations piece, though, Andrew WK would make some surprising, rather un-expected choices.
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Well, I mean the first album that I specifically asked to get and had my mom go get for me was the ‘We Are The World’ album. I think the album has a bunch of other stuff on it, too, but I don’t even remember because all I cared about was that one main song. I think I had seen it on TV and was really amazed by the idea of all these different people that would never seem like they would meet up or match in their singing style together. There was just something about that idea of this huge group of people singing in unison that was very exciting. That was probably the first song or record purchase which really excited me. It was just a feeling of real joy and excitement, a very emotional feeling, but also that sense of size, of grandeur. It was this big group effort and all these voices together can sound maybe even more powerful than just one person singing.
There was another album – I don’t know if people will be familiar with this – but I think it was a whole series. It was called ‘Hooked On The Classics’. For all I know they still make ‘em. This was one I did not choose to buy, but it was the first time I ever felt emotions or physical feelings from music. I remember that album being on and running round the house with a certain kind of excitement, specifically realising that it was from the music. I don’t think I had really thought of music before that as something which could make your body feel a certain way. Give you this energy or these chills, almost like butterflies in your stomach. It was just a really palpable, clear feeling that I was able to tell like, wow it’s coming from this album! And of course it makes sense that all the greatest melodies, really, of all time, over hundreds of years put all together. So it was designed to be that immediate, that appealing and that effective.
Led Zeppelin’s first album. That was the first rock album which I ever asked to buy. Actually, thinking back I was just amazed that my mom would even get me that kind of album at that age – or even any kind of album. I got it, I listened to it and it wasn’t what I was imagining. It took a couple of years probably until I really almost was just like brave enough to get into the Led Zeppelin album. But I did and I was just completely blown away by just about everything about it. The copy that I had, this cassette, they had printed the wrong side so I thought the first song on the album was ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ which is actually the first song on the second side of the album, but that I think had a real impact too because it starts with that organ, that incredible, incredible organ solo. Obviously I was too young to really experience Led Zeppelin in their heyday but I was able to appreciate that music a lot.
Procol Harum have this ‘Best Of’ this greatest hits album where there’s like a comet, a galaxy on the front which is black and white. It’s one of their later greatest hits albums. I really liked that ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ song, from hearing it on the radio and seeing it in movies and stuff so I figured out – I think my mom, again, helped me figure out who that was – and went and got that cassette. That just blew my mind, everything about that album. That one had a more deep, direct influence in that it featured Keith Board on keyboard and piano so prominently. It had these very epic, far-reaching arrangements, and also some basic rock parts too and also some orchestras on some of the songs. It’s really moving melodies. That one definitely just was very primal, before I heard a lot of other music.
Then my fifth one would be the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ original London cast recording. Which is probably my favourite rock album – even though it’s a musical album it’s definitely rock instrumentation. I probably listen to it more than any other rock album except for maybe Napalm Death. There’s so much personality in everything about it: the music itself, the lyrics but especially the performances. It really was exciting to me to have these people who were very good singers and could just sing like themselves. I think the triumphant, sort of glory feeling as well that I was always looking for in music, and still do. I like all different feelings from music, you can even get those feelings from a small orchestration or a humble recording or someone just playing one instrument, it can still have a triumphant feeling but that’s always the feeling I’ve wanted out of life in general, it’s just something very powerful and makes me feel energized – just this glorious, glorious feeling.
I don’t really know what influence they have other than they make me feel fantastic. I know these albums, they’re so deep inside me that they’re always kind of playing in my head. I mean, I could sing the entire ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ album to myself, and I have if I don’t have a way of listening to it. Just close your eyes and you can hear it all. That’s the one amazing thing about music – even if someone isn’t especially musically inclined or plays an instrument there’s something about the way the brain absorbs that kind of information that it stays very deep and lasting in your spirit. I listen to those songs all the time, still, but the difference is that I don’t even need to. It’s still very satisfying to put it on and hear it, but sometimes I’ll just put it on my phone or something or look it up on YouTube, listen to a crappy clip and it’s just as powerful because all the value is already a part of you.