Today’s lockdown tracks are chosen by Martin Brammer, singer, songwriter, producer, Sunderland fan and, for his sins, composer of one of the most catchy theme tunes ever… for a programme set in a youth club in Newcastle, as well as a string of hits with The Kane Gang, Lighthouse Family, James Bay, manager with VANT and also responsible for SAFC’s 1992 FA Cup Final release on A Love Supreme records…
What sort of music were you exposed to as a child?
My Dad was an accordion player and, we all know the jokes about living with one of them! I actually still have it and feel quite nostalgic about it now but at the time, it wasn’t for me. He listened to a lot of James Last and Mahalia Jackson but then also he used to listen to the latest music too. I have very clear memories of him using a reel to reel tape recorder to tape the Saturday early evening programmes like Juke Box Jury for mum to hear when she got back from wherever she’d been. Then my older sister would bring back some amazing sounds to the house. I remember her playing Purple Haze for the first time. That blew my mind.
It’s a long way from James Last.
Yes, it is. It was just so different at the time. But then, I remember buying my Dad a record which was James Last playing something like Whole Lotta Love, like a big band version. It must have been Christmas or something.
Sounds like a half way house offering! Were you a fan of Led Zeppelin?
Yes, they were an amazing band. I actually saw them play in Sunderland at the Mecca Ballroom. There was a promoter in Sunderland called Geoff Docherty and he was promised a gig in Sunderland by Peter Grant. One day at quite short notice it was suddenly happening and my brother was going to get tickets. I asked my friends at school if they wanted to come and, to be honest, I don’t think they believed it was for real. They were the biggest band on the planet at the time, so it was fairly unlikely, so none of them came. Then I was there, about 10 rows back and Robert Plant walks out and does what he does. The ticket was 75p. Even then, that was mad for a band like that. I don’t think any other concert will come close to that experience.
What else were you in to at that time?
I remember at primary school I was asked about my favourite band and I said The Yardbirds. That’s fairly unusual I guess for that kind of age but, that’s what I was listening to. Then later on there was Motown with Marvin Gaye and I clearly remember buying a Cream album, the Doobie Bothers, 10cc and I was a massive fan of Steely Dan too.
There are some amazing artists in there. I love Cream. I feel like the music takes over me on tracks like White Room, like it becomes more than listening. I keep trying to get my children to listen to it!
It’s the power of music. I was watching Martin Scorsese’s Last Waltz recently with my daughter. She was blown away by it. We were watching it and I remembered the first time I’d seen it and there’s a scene away from the concert with the Staple Singers performing The Weight. It had reduced me to tears the first time and, all those years later, it did exactly the same to me. You just have those moments from time to time when you remember how much you love music.
Have you ever had that moment with a song you wrote?
A lot of it is luck when it comes to song writing and your song being in the right place. Tina Turner was looking for a song to help launch a greatest hits album and a few song writers were touting their wares. I didn’t think it was even worth putting anything forward and then, the next thing I hear is from Ben Barson, a friend I’d written a song with, that our song had been selected and she’d be performing it and adding it to her greatest hits album. That was pretty special, as she performed it on Parky and the radio and what have you. It was funny actually because another friend, Alan Jackson, helped prepare all the press kit for the album and he asked her about ‘Open Arms’. She said it was an old Al Green song and, after an awkward chat he had to say, actually it’s not, it’s by a friend of mine called Martin.
It’s actually quite a compliment to be mistaken for an Al Green composition! Other than Led Zeppelin in a bingo hall, any other stand out live performances?
A few years ago, David Frank, who I’ve known for years, was over in the UK with his son, Griff. They’re both amazing performers, David had a big hit with You Are In My System and Griff performs a lot of showtunes. They asked if I knew anywhere, they could play a small gig and so I got them a little slot somewhere in London. It was one of those gigs where everyone in the audience is a mate of someone who’s playing later and they didn’t look ready for 80s electro synth or American showtunes but, something about the performance was just extraordinary, technically amazing, like a real vibration in your chest and it carried everyone along with them. That was a great night.
Have you ever performed with people who were your heroes when you were younger?
I think The Jam were quite a big influence on us in the Kane Gang and then, during the Red Wedge movement in the mid 80s (a collective of artists working to raise the profile of the labour movement through music) we were playing at the same event as the Style Council and we managed to get Paul Weller to play with us. That was a real thrill.
How about dancing? What would get you on the dance floor?
Not a lot to be honest. There’s definitely a relationship between the amount of alcohol and the likelihood of me dancing. I’d say I was reluctant but it’s not unheard of.
And what would get you on the dancefloor?
I think I’ll go for Marvin Gaye, Sexual Healing.
And if we could let you out of lockdown for a day, where would you go?
I really miss seeing friends, so I think I’d go for playing football and then to the pub.
Do you play regularly?
Yes, I still play a couple of times a week. I love it. Then as I say down to the local, normally the Junction in Kentish Town after football. But, actually, I’m really missing the beer in the Dartmouth Arms as well!
Sounds like it might be a short pub crawl then. Last question I ask everyone, you’re ideally placed to answer because you wrote Gloria, the Premier League official anthem. What’s the best walk out or pre match song?
Ha. I’m really not sure! The Premier League piece was an amazing opportunity, but I don’t think we ended up with a piece that was as good as it deserved to be. It was one of those situations where we had a lot of requests and influences and expectations and I think we were probably pulled in too many directions and so it ended up being a bit too much of the lowest common denominator rather than what we actually wanted. I’m actually tempted to go back to them and ask if we can have another go at it. A post lockdown version to relaunch football perhaps, that would be cool.
Actually, if it hadn’t been for Sunderland, it would never have happened. I was on very good terms with Bob Murray and, when they were looking at Stadium fan experience I was involved along with Rogan Taylor. He later hooked me up with a Premier League project studying fans’ matchday experience where I met Cathy Long who many years later was involved in inviting me to help write the piece. But it all started at Roker Park.
And maybe the rewrite starts with this chat! Thanks for talking and keep well.