Soundtrack Of My Life: Wire’s Colin Newman On Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones And Why He Can No Longer Listen To His Band’s Biggest Hit

The First Song I Remember Hearing
‘Telstar’ – The Tornados

“A person on the radio said it was the sound of the future, and that sounded good to me. I must have been five or six. It’s a Joe Meek production, a very thin sounding proto-synth played over a surf-rock guitar backing. Up to that point I couldn’t identify with music at all. I didn’t like ’50s rock’n’roll, what they called in the ’60s ‘mums and dads’ music. So this was the first.”

The First Song I Fell In Love With
‘Blackberry Way’ – The Move

“I’m not from the ’60s, but ask anyone who was a teenager in the ’60s and they’ll tell you The Move were the most important band to see live. They were the first band to smash up their guitars, the first to be really heavy. But they were a pop band, and had hit after hit. I guess what put it all in a bad light was Roy Wood went on to Wizzard. That Christmas song (‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’) – people look at that and go, how can he be any good?”

The First Album I Bought
‘Nice Enough To Eat’ – Various Artists

“The first album I had bought for me was ‘Sgt Pepper’s…’, but the first I bought for myself was ‘Nice Enough To Eat’, an Island sampler. As kids, we could never afford albums so everyone bought this, it was cheap – 99p. They were all quite hip groups – it had ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, my first exposure to King Crimson, and ‘Time Has Told Me’ by Nick Drake. At the time being a Nick Drake fan was a very lonely life, but I was always into him.”


The Song That Made Me Want To Be In A Band
‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ – The Rolling Stones

I used to think there were records you couldn’t improve on – The Beatles, The Move, Motown. But there was always records I thought needed improvement – the drums shouldn’t do this, they should do that. I had ideas above my station from a very young age. Me and my friend Desmond had a band around 1970 – we used to listen to ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’. I was the lead singer and played kazoo.

The Song I Can No Longer Listen To
‘Ex Lion Tamer’ – Wire

“I’m saying this to be controversial, I guess, because a lot of people say this is the best Wire song ever. We don’t play a lot of our old stuff these days – we only play the song ‘Pink Flag’ when we’ve got the full guitar orchestra. And we do it very, very differently. I find it hard to work up enthusiasm for ‘Pink Flag’ – the more people go on about it the less I want to listen, which is classically perverse, I know.”

The Song That Makes Me Want To Dance
‘One & Only’ – PFM

“It’s a drum’n’bass thing, released on LTJ Bukem’s label Good Lookin. It’s got a great bassline, it’s just very, very danceable. Quite a noddy dance, not a flinging yourself around the dancefloor dance. I was huge on drum’n’bass. There was a moment when it hit in London and it felt like nothing else mattered.”

The Song I Sing In The Shower
‘Out On The Weekend’ – Neil Young

Oh, God. I do a pretty good Neil Young impersonation. [Sings] “Think I’ll pack it in and buy a pick-up…” Nice and simple, just two chords. But that’s enough of that.

The Song That I Can’t Get Out Of My Head
‘Windowpane’ – Mild High Club
“A total earworm. It’s a guy called Alexander Brettin from Los Angeles. He has to his credit so far one single, two tracks. Wire are taking him on the West Coast leg of our American tour. It lives in a similar world to certain tracks on the last couple of Wire albums, and also Malka [Spigel, Newman’s wife]’s solo album. It’s an assemblage of harpsichord, flute, organ – it’s got a bit of Todd Rundgren, a bit of ’60s psychedelia, a bit of Sébastien Tellier.”

The Song I Wish I’d Written
‘All I Want’ – Joni Mitchell

“At the moment she’s in the news for all the wrong reasons [the 71-year-old Mitchell was recently hospitalised after being found unconscious at her LA home]. So I would like to get it on record that I’m a fan. The emotional content is great, but the sheer musicality of it all is amazing – it’s written on a dulcimer, one drone string, which really appeals to me a lot.”


The Song I Want Played At My Funeral
‘The Hall of Mirrors Palace at Versailles’ – John Cale And Terry Riley

“I’ve been to too many funerals recently. Let’s have a random choice – this is a beautiful instrumental from one of my favourite records, ‘Church Of Anthrax’.”