Soundtrack Of My Life: Tony Visconti

Legendary producer of Bowie and T-Rex, does not enjoy Bonnie Tyler

The first song I remember hearing

Prudence & Patience – ‘Tonight You Belong To Me’

“It’s by two sisters and it was a massive hit in the United States, the kind of song you play on a ukulele and people sing along to. My father was a musician, he taught it to me and when I grew a little bit older I started playing it with other people. It’s a standard in my family now. I’ve got two daughters who sing it with me and I’ve actually made a recording of it.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Mickey & Sylvia – ‘Love Is Strange’

“It’s a real classic rock ’n’ roll record from the late ‘50s. Mickey Baker was one of the first guitarists to actually bend notes, so he had a very signature guitar sound. Sylvia [Vanterpool] ended up being an entrepreneur, she had her own record label whereas Mickey just sank into obscurity. She also had a fantastic restaurant in Harlem, New York, called Sylvia’s. It’s where you could get southern fried chicken and pancakes dripping with maple syrup – and maybe a scoop of ice cream if you were lucky.”

The first gig I went to

Little Richard at the Brooklyn Paramount, 1955

“I went backstage and got Little Richard‘s autograph. He was dressed all in lavender, down to his boots – and he had his hair all piled up. He even had a lavender Cadillac convertible, and he had the top down so that the car was all exposed. He and his mates sat on the top of the front seats and with his toe he was idly clicking a toggle switch on the dashboard that would make his electronic antenna goes up and down. He must’ve flicked his toe about 50 times while we were all staring at him agape because of the way he looked, and because we’d never seen an antenna go up and down by itself.”

The first album I bought

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Elvis Presley – ‘Elvis Presley’

“I was a crazy mad Elvis fan. I’ve got photos of me trying to comb my hair like his, posing with the guitar and all that at 11 years old. I played that record to death and I still have it, scratches and all.”

The song I wish I’d written

John Lennon – ‘Imagine’

“I had the honour of meeting him at David Bowie‘s hotel suite in Manhattan, when we were working on ‘Young Americans’ in the ’70s. John Lennon was going out with May Pang at the time. I rang the doorbell and there was a lot of shuffling behind the door before anyone would let me in. I opened the door and I found that John and May were hiding in the bathroom because there was a copious amount of cocaine on the coffee table. John was in danger of losing his green card, he had problems with immigration. If I was the police he would have been in big trouble. But everybody’s heartbeat started to come down and they let me in. David was afraid to talk to him because… well, John Lennon’s John Lennon. I looked around, he wasn’t chatting to anyone, he was just sitting on the couch idly. I said: ‘John, do you mind if I talk to you? Because I’ve got about 1000 questions to ask you’. He says ‘that’s cool, man, just shoot away!’ He was very, very open, very kind. I’ll never forget it.”

The song that reminds me of home

The Mamas & The Papas – ‘California Dreamin’’

“When this song came out in 1966, I was still living with my parents out of financial necessity. Later, we [Tony and Siegrid, Visconti’s band with his then wife] opened for The Mamas & The Papas at Carnegie Hall, New York. We shared a limo ride with them and Mama Cass asked what we called ourselves. I said Tony and Siegrid. She said, ‘You’ve got it wrong, the woman’s name should be first. You know, Mamas & Papas?’ We should have taken her advice.”

The song I do at karaoke

Bonnie Tyler – ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’

“I don’t do karaoke but there was one time I used to sing that. I hated the song, it was rammed down my throat because the media was always playing it and you couldn’t help but memorise it after a while.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Bonnie Tyler – ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’

“lf you eat too much cheesecake, eventually you’ll get sick of it.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Beethoven – ‘Ode To Joy’

“I actually have it written in my will but I think it’s so pompous that I’m going to take it out. I was always a fan of Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’ and I thought at my funeral I would like the end section of the fourth movement when the whole choir is singing. The orchestra is going full tilt and all that. But it is actually a bit pompous.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Johnny Nash – ‘Hold Me Tight’

“Back in the ‘70s when Marc Bolan and I were seeing each other all the time, there was a song that came out by Johnny Nash. We put that on a loop on a record changer one night at a party and Marc and I danced to it for about two and a half hours. We wouldn’t let anyone else change the record. If I heard this right now I’d have to get up and dance. Am I a good dancer? Well, I come from Brooklyn so that might help. You’ve seen Saturday Night Fever...”

‘Tony Visconti Presents The Best Of Bowie’ UK tour starts March 2 at Birmingham Town Hall

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