As Steve Pafford doesn’t release his new album, the journalist and author gives a rundown of the songs that have shaped his life.
The first songs I remember hearing
Clive Dunn – Grandad, Benny Hill – Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)
“My parents had an old Ferguson record player – almost like a long drinks cabinet – and you used to lift the lid up and there was a record player inside it. You could stack up singles on it as well. Mind you, the songs that made such an early impression on me all came courtesy of BBC Radio 1. These two singles – both novelty records by English comedy actors – were top of the charts in 1970, but trying to reform myself slightly, I think I’ve always known I’m Still Waiting by Diana Ross, from the same year. And she’s slightly sexier than the other two.”
The first song I remember singing
The Beatles – Let It Be
“I joined the Eaton Mill school choir in Bletchley, aged around 7. Mrs Felce was my favourite teacher and wrote in my school report that I was a “lovely singer.” The first song we learned was Let It Be, so it still has immense sentimental value even now.
Like most teachers in Britain at that time, my parents were from The Beatles and Stones generation. They were young when they had me and recently celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary. Dad was a mod and mum was a rocker, and has always vehemently disliked slow songs.
I was already on the way when they got hitched at Hampstead Registry Office, and on the day I was born the Fab Four were No.1 with two different songs – The Ballad Of John & Yoko in the UK, and Get Back in the US and Australia.
The first single and album I ever bought
Adam And The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier and Stand & Deliver
“I became an Ant fan in late 1980, and on the strength of the band’s fifth and sixth singles, Antmusic and Stand & Deliver, persuaded my mother to give me the £3.49 to buy their landmark album, Kings Of The Wild Frontier. It’s a dark, weird and quite paranoid album, even more so when you think of Adam’s subsequent struggle with mental illness. There was a lovely box set released last year too. Really a thing of beauty.
Preceding the Prince Charming long-player by a good six months, Stand & Deliver was released in the April of 1981, and was the first of Ant’s three chart-topping 7-inchers. Back in the 1980s singles rarely entered the charts in pole position, so when it smashed records by going straight to the top of the UK charts for five weeks I felt like I’d made the best decision possible.
Having saved up two whole weeks’ pocket money, the wet Monday S&D was released, I skipped off from Springfield School to buy it. I bought the limited edition poster sleeve – my very own First Day Cover, if you like (though the records soon replaced stamp collecting in my affections) – for 99p from Virgin Megastore in Central Milton Keynes.
And just to see the sleeve, with the randy, dandy highwayman image and the fold-out poster, and the stills from that video was magical. The B-side, Beat My Guest, was an old punk number with yodelling. It’s still one of the greatest flip sides ever made.
The following week, my Springfield classmate, Craig Margrove, had heard the chart preview BBC Radio 1 used to air on a Tuesday lunchtime, and came into the TV room and blurted out, “Steve, Stand & Deliver’s gone straight in at No.1!” I played the shit out of that single for as long as I could. Until the next Ant single, Prince Charming, came out, in fact. And ridicule is nothing to be scared of.”
The first gig I went to
“It was April 1984. I went to a place called the Dunstable Queensway Hall, which is near where I spent my school years, just outside Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire. Me and my fellow ‘weird’ pals, Andy Murray and the two Alisons, Ward and McDermott, got the National Express from MK in full make-up and androgynous get-up.
They were older than me so I was the only one conscious of getting the last coach back so I wasn’t grounded for the summer. I can’t remember too much about the show, but it was just the most exhilarating thing, to hear the music you were playing on crappy stereos in a live setting.
DOA had made their Top Of The Pops debut with their economic disco cover of That’s The Way (I Like It) just three days before, but I’d been buying their records since the previous year.
In the mid 1980s, Pete Burns and his colourful cohorts were a much-needed bridge between growing out of Adam Ant and discovering David Bowie, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have interviewed PB back in 2003 when the band’s greatest hits album, Evolution, was in the offing.”
The song I can no longer listen to
David Bowie – Heroes
“Well I’ve been thinking about this question, and it’s gonna be a controversial choice. There’s very few songs I’ve turned my back on over the course of time but I would find it really difficult to sit down and listen to Heroes isolated from its parent album. It was lovely that of all the Bowie songs that charted in Britain after his impactful passing, it became the highest charting, but for me it’s been played to death, and not helped by crapy covers from the likes of the X Factor contestants.
It’s nice sometimes when I hear something unexpectedly on the radio, an old song from whatever era, that’s always nice, because you hear it in a different context. But generally I can’t really listen to many of Bowie’s old records, because you know them too well. At some point there will be a sequel to the BowieStyle book though”
The song that makes me want to dance
Donna Summer – I Feel Love
“Probably the most influential song ever released. Dance music started right here. It’s the sound of the ground… being broken into little pieces everywhere. Donna Summer was such an underrated vocalist as well, and it still stands the test of time.
The Patrick Cowley Megamix that made it a hit all over again in 1982 is literally a vinyl orgasm.”
The song I want played at my funeral
“Well it depends really. If I get buried, probably The Jam’s Going Underground, and if I get cremated, Ashes To Ashes. Or maybe Disco Inferno, for the fun factor. If I want people to cry I could stick Being Boring by Pet Shop Boys in there.
But who knows. Perhaps I won’t have a funeral, I might just evaporate.”
Steve Pafford was talking to Steve Pafford