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Soundtrack Of My Life: Chuck Prophet

The San Francisco singer-songwriter about the records he loves...

The first record you ever bought.

I think the first record I ever paid for with my own money might have been a 45. A seven inch single. And I think it might’ve been “Heartbeat (It’s a Lovebeat)” by The DeFranco Family.

The record that taught you how to play guitar.

The gateway drug for playing guitar was probably “Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young off of Harvest.

I think my sister’s boyfriend at the time showed the lick to me. It’s got that little bass string figure. That makes it addicting to play. But the record that I copped a lot from in terms of the key of G would have to be Boomers Story by Ry Cooder.

The record that inspired you to sing my own songs.

Too many to mention. Whatever was in the air sparked my imagination.

Your favorite Rolling Stones album. 

I have to be honest, I can’t make intellectual choices with these kinds of questions, I mean Exile on Main Street is a good answer and a fantastic LP and I just listened to “Ventilator Blues” the other day very loud. Astonishing. It’s a universe unto itself. But, pound for pound the heavyweight knockout album of them all is Some Girls. And I think the first three songs use the same 2 chords. It’s ridiculous. But that’s just how good they were. They could make it happen. I like it because it came out in my lifetime. I hear it and I’m back in Orange County doing speed, driving around checking out surf spots with my childhood friend Mark in his Dad’s pickup. There was that one summer when Some Girls was everywhere. And you know, one hit and it feels like you might live forever.

Your favourite Paisley Underground album

Oh man, Green on Red. Somewhere between Gas Food Lodging and Here Come the Snakes. A lot of those Paisley groups looked better on paper, to be honest. But sonically, I thought that the 3 O’Clock were way out ahead of everybody with Sixteen Tambourines. That record had a sound.

The record that made you realize that rock music could be political.

Politics and music have always been around. They’ve always gone hand in hand. Four Dead in Ohio, anyone?

“Ohio” was the ultimate protest anthem written by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shooting. I don’t know, I do feel one was lucky to come of age when Reagan was in the White House. And it was a field day. It was a time of let-them-eat-their-jellybeans. But hand in hand with Politics is world history. With the Clash’s London Calling singing about Spanish Bombs. And “bullet holes in the cemetery walls”. When politics and music marry. In a good way. It makes you more and more curious about the world. I can dig that.

“Get Off The Stage” is so good, spot on, funny…Any reaction from the Trump camp ?

 

I’m still waiting to hear from somebody. I’m not so sure those narcissists have much of a sense of humor about themselves. Trump is a classic bully. They’re all the same.

The record I like to play that drives (your wife) Stephanie crazy?

The record I play that drives Stephanie crazy is a New York Dolls live album. She can never figure out why she gets irritable. First of all, I have to play it loud. One day when I was blaring that LP, she told me she was exhausted. And that she couldn’t imagine how David Johansen felt.  She’s really astonished at how loud and how long David Johansen can yell.

The record that reminds you of San Francisco

I’ve talked so much about San Francisco and the Groovies and the Kingston Trio and the Dead Kennedys and Romeo Void and Translator. But lesser-known’s too like Housecoat Project and Sister Double Happiness. Or maybe Non-Fiction. They made one instant classic LP and imploded like so many do. Record collectors unite! The definitive single of the New Wave era has to be SVT’s Heart Of Stone. It’s perfect. The 7” version, not the LP where they re-cut it.

 

The record you loved and your parents hated

I don’t think my parents had any idea of what I was up to. They could not have been less interested. But, they let me come and go as I pleased, so I can appreciate that.

Your favourite record by a friend

Oh man, if I mention one friend I will leave a hundred out. It’s not fair! But, sometimes I think about my old friend Kim Richey and her Bittersweet LP. The great country rock record that grew out of the cracks in the Nashville sidewalk.  Also, I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with Dan Penn and his album Nobody’s Fool is a killer. What about Kelley Stoltz and his first LP “Antique Glow”? A mind bender. So great.

The first record you got high to.

I think I discovered black tar heroin right about the time that I was completely obsessed with Richard and Linda Thompson. No joke.

Your favorite Johnny Thunders song?

I’d say “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” a song released in 1978. He was it. The pink and black king of style. And like Chuck Berry he was the whole package. That’s what you wanted to strive for. The songs, the instantly recognizable guitar style, the look… that voice. The whole package! Johnny delivers the mail.

The record I am listening to mostly these days – besides my new album

I’ve been re-discovering a lot of Loudon Wainwright III. Particularly the album with Hollywood Hopeful. Unrequited is the name of the LP.

How do you listen to music (spotify, cd, vinyl)?…

I guess I have a pretty healthy appetite for music. So I do listen to CDs and cassettes and vinyl. Of course I like vinyl! I like that it slows me down. And that an LP is art. It’s affordable art. It’s like I tell my friends, if you get a copy of the first Velvet Underground record, you’ve also got a Warhol. What’s wrong with that? Nothing is wrong with that.

Chuck Prophet’s excellent new album, The Land That Time Forgot, is out now on YepRoc.

Also, do not miss “Trip In The Country”, Chuck’s radio show on Gimme Country, every friday.

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