Foundations: Glasvegas

James Allan on five inspirational LPs...

Foundations is so simple. Really. Clash speaks to an artist, or a band – you know, someone or some ones making music – about formative records from their past. Albums leaving substantial impressions, still supporting their craft in the present day. Foundations, if you will.

Here, vocalist James Allan of the returning Glasvegas guides Clash through five of his foundation(al) LPs. The Mercury Prize-nominated Glasgow-based foursome is back with a new album ‘Later… When The TV Turns To Static’, which is released on September 2nd. Taken from said album is the single ‘If’, the video for which can be watched below, before Allan explains his Foundation selections.

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Glasvegas, ‘If’, from the album ‘Later… When The TV Turns To Static’

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Elvis Presley – ‘Elvis Presley’ (1956)

Firstly, let me say that the fact I’ve not included any Beatles or John Lennon solo albums is a disgrace. But hey, gimme a break.

So my first choice is ‘Elvis Presley’ by Elvis Presley. This is raw power. This is totally electric. Like The Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ record, there seems to be some mad high adrenaline running through this album and I think that’s because Presley is pure, fresh and hungry for showing the world what he’s about.

Elvis didn’t write these songs, but his performance pretty much owns these songs. You could say the first rock ‘n’ roll record was Bill Haley & His Comets’ ‘Rock Around The Clock’, but this Elvis album is the breakthrough of an unprecedented talent and has never really been equalled in entertainment history. Enough said?

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Suicide – ‘Suicide’ (1977)

The first time I heard this record it was the sugary ‘Cheree’ that I enjoyed and could understand the most, but it was still obvious to me that there was some strange, unique cosmic energy that had got a hold of me. To me, ‘Cheree’ is like a sci-fi version of some stuff I already loved, like Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’.

Then as I listened closer I fell for the rest of it. There seems to be an otherworldly nature – ‘Rocket U.S.A.’, ‘Girl’, ‘Che’ – and vibrations of danger – ‘Ghost Rider’, ‘Frankie Teardrop’, ‘Johnny’ – running through this record.

This album sounds very futuristic, I think, and I was surprised to later find out that it had been recorded in 1977. More like 2077.

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The Doors – ‘The Doors’ (1967)

The debut album by The Doors is my next choice. This is my best mate’s favourite band. Growing up he'd say, “Listen to The Doors, James… They are amazing… You don’t know what you’re missing.” I was just, “Nah, no thanks.”

What changed things for me? Like most truly great things, you can turn it down or look the other way for so long but it’s only a matter of time before you must surrender to the magic and be absorbed in it. For me, The Doors have that magic.

What a way to introduce your band to the world, with the legacy of opening song ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’, and what a way to close your first LP, with ‘The End’.

Of course, the Beach Boys painted the world a picture of LA girls and waves, which I love, but I love even more the picture The Doors painted of the city, which to me is the true essence of rock‘n’roll-sex-thrills, Sunset Boulevard, night-time blues music.

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Phil Spector – ‘A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector’ (1963)

This album is mostly a bunch of secular Christmas standards that Phil Spector decided to reinvent with, in my opinion, a totally true and heroic vision not bettered by anyone in popular music, ever.

He recorded this with artists such as The Crystals, The Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans (great name) and Darlene Love. The Wrecking Crew are the [backing] musicians, who are one of my favourite bands ever, if not the favourite. Phil Spector is the creator/visionary/master of this operation.

This, alongside Elvis Presley’s debut, is my favourite album ever, with Frosty The Snowman magic dust sprinkled all over it. I don’t know where the sound starts and where it ends when I listen to ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’. I’ve got to add that the vocal by Darlene Love on that track is maybe the best I’ve ever heard.

This is not just an album for Christmas… this is an album for spring, summer, and autumn also. My neighbours think I’m crazy because in the middle of summer all they mostly hear is The Crystals’ ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ blasting out my window at home.

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Danny Elfman – ‘Edward Scissorhands Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ (1990)

This is perhaps my favourite movie ever. Like just about every classic movie, the soundtrack is just as memorable. After watching it a zillion times I started to dig deeper into the soundtrack as I found it fascinating and epic. This is fairy tale music and has clear Bernard Herrmann vibrations running through it.

It seems the two main themes on the soundtrack are: one, Edward’s memory, which has a dark and at times nightmarish feel to the music; and two, Edward and Kim. Anytime Kim catches Edward’s eye, whether she’s in the distance or in a photograph, the music turns from black and white into a warm, colourful glow.

If the feeling of falling in love could ever be captured in a piece of music, then this is it. For me, it’s captured just as true as Elvis Presley’s ‘Fools Rush In’, or Debbie Reynolds’ ‘Tammy’. Also, Tom Jones appears on this soundtrack with a version of an Abner Silver song called ‘With These Hands’, which is epic and sleazy.

When I started writing songs I always wished to record with either Phil Spector or Danny Elfman. I actually met [Edward Scissorhands director] Tim Burton after I came off stage one night and we spoke a little. What a lovely guy.

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Glasvegas’ third album, ‘Later… When The TV Turns To Static’, is released on September 2nd. Find the band online here

Previous Foundations features, with the likes of Washed Out, Jimmy Eat World and White Lies, can be found here

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