Stuart Staples of Tindersticks: Records That Changed My Life

Lead singer of the cult indie band Tindersticks, Stuart Staples, reveals the records that played a major part in his life 

Dexys Midnight Runners Searching for The Young Soul Rebels

I was a kid in the mid-1970s and, in Nottingham, Northern Soul was everywhere. My sister was four years older and it was her music, the music of her cool friends with really wide jeans and cap-sleeved T-shirts. It was the music of the youth club and school discos and I tagged along the best I could, practising the dives and moves on the kitchen floor. 

Within a couple of years I was at the local record shop every night after school waiting for the new Clash or Buzzcocks single to come in—this music was mine, but it didn’t take long for that energy to wane. 
The 1970s turned into the 1980s and one night I was watching the TV with my dad, one of these after the news, local cultural programmes, maybe Look North. At the end of the show, this band Dexys Midnight Runners was introduced. I’d never heard of them. They played “Dance Stance” and all that soul and punk inside of me exploded, I had a new favourite band and scoured the shops to get my hands on that single. It seemed to take a lifetime for it to show up. 

Of course, a few months later “Gino” was a Number One hit but it didn’t prevent my love for them or this album. And it still sounds as fresh and believable today. The space between soul and punk music still feels like the musical space I can’t help but inhabit. It seems that there is no escaping where you are from.

 

Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul

Sometime in the mid-1980s I was offered some decorating/labouring work by a fellow struggling Nottingham musician. His brother was renting a room in a big Victorian house in Leeds and the owner wanted to do it up (on the cheap). 

We always did what we could to get by. So, for a few months, each Monday morning we drove the 80 miles from Nottingham to Leeds in a clapped-out Ford Transit van and returned on Friday evening. There was a lot of music played as we stripped the walls and sanded the woodwork. The first Dinosaur Jr album had just come out, it was a favourite for us both. At the end of one day the owner returned from work, offered us a beer and went over to the record player. He dropped the needle on side one of Hot Buttered Soul. I was transfixed, taken somewhere I had never been to before.

I rushed to find my own copy that weekend. This album, the approach, the texture, space, musicality, adventure and a total lack of trying to please has stayed with me ever since. I hear its effects right across all the albums we have made in one form or another.

 

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood Nancy & Lee 

Another story connected to a van. This time on our way to play a gig somewhere outside of London (we had recently moved down in 1990), probably third on the bill in the backroom of a pub. Our band was trying to do something, we were reaching for something. 

Anyway, David Boulter put on this cassette, music from his dad's record collection he listened to when he was a kid. The first track was “Sundown, Sundown” (my first glimpse in to the mind of Lee Hazlewood). Something happened, the van started vibrating. It was like the first time all these quite disparate characters in our band felt the power and beauty of one thing simultaneously. Music changed for me at that moment and has never been the same since.

 

Al Green I’m Still in Love with You

In 1997 we were making our (difficult) third album, Curtains. Our music had become dense and layered and in the studio we were trying hard, pushing ourselves. The only antidote I could find was listening to this album. The simplicity and understated nature of it. 

If you wanted the feel the power it contained, you opened yourself to it. If you didn’t, it didn’t care, totally at ease to go its own way, do its own thing. These guys were not trying hard. Listening to songs like “Simply Beautiful” showed a path forward for our band, something we were already trying find, maybe something we already held but didn’t know how to access.  

Tindersticks’ new album Distractions is out on February 19 via City Slang

 

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