Top 10 Songs – James Johnston of Gallon Drunk

With Gallon Drunk about to commence a five-date UK tour (details below), lead singer, guitarist & organist James Johnston gives Louder Than War the lowdown on his ten favourite songs.

Shake it Baby – John Lee Hooker

“This is off the Serve You Right To Suffer album from the sixties. Often Hooker with a band doesn’t really work, but this really rocks. It’s on Impulse, and he’s teamed up with jazz players. Great riff, cool hook line, what else do you need?”


Hobo Ho – Charles Mingus

“I love a lot of Mingus, but this one really stands out. It’s off a fairly obscure later album, “Let My Children Here Music.”
Wild, raunchy and unstoppable. The riff was the basis for ‘Two Wings Mambo’ by Gallon Drunk. What a baseline!”


Run Run Run – The Velvet Underground

“Superb guitar solo on this, and the crunchy sound quality is absolutely beautiful. I often listen to this before we do a gig. Sounds more like a track off White Light White Heat.”


I Just Want To See His Face – The Rolling Stones

“I adore the creepy atmosphere of this, such a great album too. Another blueprint for Gallon Drunk in the early days. Been listening it since I was about ten, my brother had the album in the 70’s. There are so many great songs on the album, ‘Loving Cup’, ‘Rocks Off’, ‘Shine A Light’, ‘Tumbling Dice’. ‘Let It Loose’, ragged and timeless. We were listening to this record a lot before recording The Road Gets Darker From Here.”


Dambala – Exuma

“Incredible heart rending record by a Haitian singer, from 1970. Takes you to another world, moving, exotic and terrifying. The production is sublime, whispering ghost voices dry and upfront, deathly cannon-like and heavily reverbed bass drum explosions in the back, and all driven by voice and rough nylon string guitar. Sonic poetry, and bloody beautiful. Nina Simone did a great cover, but this is the one.”


Ghost Rider – Suicide

“What a riff. Such an unbelievably good band. If you want to read my appreciation of this seminal record, it’s here. I don’t know what else to say about this one, just perfect…chilling, spacey, raw electric music that goes straight to the subconscious”


Smokestack Lightening – Howlin’ Wolf

“A friend played me an old Howlin’ Wolf EP when I was at college, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, such mesmeric intensity.  For me one of the most powerful records imaginable. I also really love ‘No Place To Go’ off this album, relentless and hypnotic. Like ‘Ghost Rider’, the simple, almost impressionistic lyrics married with the music create a dreamlike place all of their own, draw you into their world.”


Spoonful -Gil Evans

“Jazz version of the Willie Dixon track made supernaturally timeless by Howlin’ Wolf. Gil Evans drags it out into an enveloping sadness, drawing out all the urgency and desperation of the original and orchestrating it into full-scale cinematic tragedy. It’s off a fantastic album called The Individualism Of Gil Evans. Out Of The Cool by Gil Evans was the first jazz I heard that really struck a chord with me.”


My Angel – Archie Shepp

“As loose as it gets, jazz and blues collide head on. Sexy and crazed, the piano never straying from the most simple of riffs, just great. I saw Archie Shepp playing with the pianist Dave Burrell in the 80’s, an incredible gig, they were playing stuff like ‘Poem For Malcolm’ and people in Ronnie Scott’s were aghast and walking out mid dinner. The band would stop on a signal from Shepp as people got up to leave, then start again as the door swung shut, so exciting to watch. It’s off the album Blasé, the title track too is out of this world. One of the saddest songs ever. The harmonica use on this was another big influence on early Gallon Drunk.”


Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix

“The long, slow version off Electric Ladyland. Such a great groove and massive sound. Almost like all the other tracks I’ve listed rolled into one. Music as it should be, free and full on.”


Gallon Drunk UK dates

Macbeth – 22 November 2012 LONDON.

Green Door Store – 27 November 2012 BRIGHTON.

Kazimier – 29 November 2012 LIVERPOOL.

Nice N Sleazy – 30 November 2012 GLASGOW.

Georgian Theatre – 01 December 2012 STOCKTON-ON-TEES.

All words by Ian Johnston. More Louder Than War articles by Ian can be read here.

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  1. […] Yep, we’re listening to James Johnston’s top 10… […]

  2. What a predictable list. Fucking hell middle class rock boy digs the blues, this private educated intellectually superior, lingusically elegant musician understands the pain and despair rooted in blues music.

    WHat a C you Next Tuesday

    • What a puerile and pathetic comment from a typically anonymous person – too scared to put their real name up. Typical digital coward with a critique that is so flimsy it’s laughable. Who cares what school James went to – this is a great list of records.


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