The BMX Bandits have, for 28 years and with a variety of band members, produced buoyant indie pop; painting pictures of love and its many compromises and disillusionments with lyrics full of both humour and warmth that play alongside those of self-doubt and the eternal fatalism of our vulnerable hearts.
Now with Elefant Records they last year released BMX Bandits in Space, an album that returned them to their traditional, well-crafted writing roots, songs swathed in beautiful harmonies which create songs that give you a metaphorical hug and which are cheaper than therapy assistance for those nursing a damaged cardiac organ and / or for those deep in the pains of unrequited yearning.
Founding member, composer, songwriter and singer Duglas T Stewart has been a constant figure head and guiding light through the band’s incarnations. Catching up with him prior to the start of a series of special Pop Brothers from Glasgow concerts in Japan, with Eugene Kelly and Norman Blake, Duglas was kind enough to talk with us about some of the albums that hold special meaning in his life.
Jonathan Richman Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers (Beserkley Records 1977)
Duglas: These are not in any particular order, however the first album I’ve picked is what started everything off for me, it is the album that made me know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Jonathan Richman Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers (Beserkley Records 1977) My sister had a very groovy geography teacher who use to play records to the class in high school and one day she came home and told me about this record he’d played and from her description I was like: “this sounds like my favourite record” and I’d not even heard it. It sounded unlike anything else that was happening in 1977.
In a way I related to punk rock, but I never liked the ideology of destroying. Jonathan Richman was flying in the face of that destroy attitude, he was a lot more life affirming while still being ‘other’ to what was ‘normal’. I found a copy in Woolworths in Belshill, put it on and even the way it was recorded, where you could hear the creaks of people moving on the floorboards while playing, it was much more organic than records I’d heard before.
It had an unrestrained exuberance and joy about it, but was also touching with beautiful tenderness. Additionally it made me think, although I didn’t have the musical chops that Jonathan Richman and his band had, I thought I could do something like that, I can aspire to something like this. I couldn’t see myself building a character like David Bowie or destroying society like a punk rocker, but I could connect to Jonathan Richman. The record was very inclusive, I’d put it on and everyone in my house would love it, kids would come and visit and they would love it and I liked the fact it was inclusive, I felt it was quite subversive to not exclude but to include and bring people in.
Jonathan Richman – Summer Morning
Ennio Morricone Fist Full of Dynamite (Cinevox 1971)
It is another early album for me, I was watching Swap Shop with Noel Edmonds and Todd Carty who played Tucker Jenkins on Grange Hill was on, he really was just a kid at this time, and they were having a phone in and someone asked ‘What kind of music do you like Todd’ and he said ‘I really like Ennio Morricone’. I was like right – Morricone! What’s this? So I went to Bellshill Library and got a compilation which had things like The Good the Bad and the Ugly on it and although I hadn’t seen the movies I’d heard things about them because things like that can be omnipresent. From there I found (my second album for this list) Ennio Morricone Fist Full of Dynamite (Cinevox 1971).
It is extraordinary music that uses sounds in such a different way, after getting that record I started hearing soundtracks you know during situations in my mind I would be doing a soundtrack: I expect nothing to rival Morricone. The music expresses humour and deep deep sadness in a way that the script and pictures alone just can’t.
Ennio Morricone – A Fistful of Dynamite Theme
Kraftwerk Computer World (EMI 1981)
And so to Kraftwerk Computer World (EMI 1981). My dad did not approve of music in cars because it distracted you, but he liked the idea of Autobahn: utilitarian music written about driving on the motorway, so he had a tape of that and it was the only thing we could listen too in the car when we were younger and I loved it. Then, when Computer World came out I found it very intriguing that music that was about something so cold and could be seen as the opposite of humanity: to me had so much warmth and felt so organic. I’ve seen Kraftwerk live and have been reduced to tears when the robots have been on because there is something incredibly moving about it. Such beautiful melodies that even now don’t sound dated, it is an incredible record. Now there is a connection between Kraftwerk and The Beach Boys on Autobahn there is a direct tribute to Fun Fun Fun.
Kraftwerk – Computer World
The Beach Boys Love You (Brother 1977)
So next is The Beach Boy: I had heard the hits before of course, but when it came to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds (Capitol 1966) things changed for me, it was a very strange album because it had this very real sense of loss and sorrow about it, but also somehow it had a beauty that felt like a guiding light. I am someone that spends a lot of time in darkness, an emotional darkness, with Pet Sounds I felt like someone else was feeling that darkness so there was a connection and a sense of hope.
Musically the incredible experimentation of Pet Sounds some people find hard to hear. Now, you listen to Sgt Peppers which has got quite obvious tricks, and in no way do I mean this in an insulting way, and novelty sounds, Pet Sounds did it a different way. I read that Brian Wilson said that he wanted people to feel loved when they listened to Pet Sounds: that if there was no one there to love you, at this time, it would give you a hug. The musical brilliance is incredible and the emotional depth, to me, is even more profound.
I love Pet Sounds and I found I was gobbling up anything and everything with any connection to them, even Brian Wilsons’ dad’s album The Many Moods of Murry Wilson, but the next album is my favourite Beach Boys album The Beach Boys Love You (Brother 1977). It’s an album that really splits the vote because replacing the orchestral sounds, blends and arrangement’s along with the beautiful angelic harmonies of Pet Sounds you have Brian Wilson sounding really gruff, his voice is pretty fucked up. At first the album seems built on primitive pop and even the lyrics seem very childlike: but as soon as you start to really look at them trying to play them yourself you suddenly realise these are every bit as musically sophisticated and profound as anything on Pet Sounds. I love the combination of innocence and sophistication , sometimes people are too clever – too cerebral, yet Wilson’s records still seem honest. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Wilson twice and without prompting him both times he said Love You was his favourite, Alex Chilton too said it was his favourite album, people all round the world love it.
The Beach Boys – Let Us Go On This Way
BMX Bandits latest single available ‘Beautiful Friend’ is now as a Limited Edition Yellow 7” vinyl. Details of this as well as other available releases and BMX Bandits news can be found on their Elefant Records band page.
Part two of Duglas T Stewart’s Top Ten Albums can be found here.