As their recently released album, Starlite Campbell Band Live! demonstrates, Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell can do a classic British rock sound with the best of 'em. But these musical nomads, currently living in Portugal, have interests and inspirations that range far and wide.
So let's join their Gimme 5 magical mystery tour as they share 5 songs that have clicked with them lately, 5 key influences, and 5 guests - well, six, because they cheated - they'd love to invite to a long lunch. Start the engines, Suzy and Simon!
Gimme 5 songs, old or new, that have been on your radar recently.
‘The Same’ by The Smile: “Simon has loved and devotedly followed Radiohead ever since he heard ‘Creep’. We think they are the most important band around right now as they continue to push musical boundaries and really love the collaboration with Nigel Godrich as a producer. The Smile is the latest side project from Messrs Yorke and Greenwood from the band and we saw them live early in July in Lisbon. It was a masterclass in modern rock music, the star of the show being the drummer Tom Skinner. But, it's not just the music. Yorke’s lyrics are always poignant but this particular track really speaks the language of 2022.”
‘A Minha Menina’ by Os Mutantes: “Suzy is always off-piste with her music tastes and since being in Portugal has been investigating the music of our new adopted home. Os Mutantes are Brazilian, but of course sing in Portuguese, albeit the Brazilian version. The album was released in 1968 and feels very much a part of the psychedelic scene, but with a wonderful Latin twist and fabulous fuzz guitar.”
‘Flowers of Neptune 6’ by The Flaming Lips: “Simon saw the Flaming Lips at Glastonbury a few years ago and became aware of them through the album Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and later when Wayne Coyne featured as guest vocalist with The Chemical Brothers ‘Golden Path’. ‘Flowers of Neptune 6’ is from the album American Head which is totally wonderful, and we love Coyne’s broken vocal and childlike lyrics, both of which convey insightful messages. The production is wonderful, in parts Beatle-esque but still rooted in their chaotic Oklahoma sound. He likes dinosaurs and spaceships and that's good enough for us.”
'That's The Way It Is’ (live version) by Daniel Lanois & Heavy Sun: “We talk more about Lanois later, but this particular track was written for the Amazon video game Red Dead Redemption 2 and is just outstanding. We love the general vibe, guitar and vocal sensitivity of the Hammond, the falsetto vocal - basically everything.”
'I Believe In You’ by Talk Talk: “Talk Talk always give waves of ‘80s nostalgia with their big hits ‘Life's What You Make It’ and ‘Living in Another World’. But to us, it’s the album Spirit of Eden that really defines the band. It was engineered by our good friend Phill Brown who has worked with an amazing array of artists from Led Zeppelin to Bob Marley. Phill’s excellent book Are We Still Rolling? details the torturous recording process plus a plethora of fabulous anecdotes from his life as a premier league studio hound. The atmosphere, instrumentation and vocals on this track are totally spellbinding.”
Gimme 5 artists or bands who have had a big influence on your work.
Daniel Lanois: “We fell in love with Lanois through his production of Bob Dylan's masterpiece Oh Mercy and quickly found the other records in the trilogy: Yellow Moon (Neville Brothers) and his first solo album Acadie. All three were recorded in New Orleans using fabulous local musicians plus the wonderful talents of our friend Malcolm Burn along with Mark Howard and Brian Eno, plus Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton of U2. Over the years we have followed him with a passion, and the rockumentary ‘Here Is What Is’ is a great favourite of ours. Lanois has produced some monster albums, working with a stellar array of artists from U2 to Robbie Robertson, Peter Gabriel to Sinéad O'Connor, but it's his collaboration with Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris that really floats our boat. He works with Brian Blade, who along with Vinnie Colaiuta is one of our favourite drummers. The fact that he is a songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, producer and engineer provides a deep connection with Simon who plays our vinyl copies of Acadie and Oh Mercy before every session he records - just to set the standard. ‘Nuff said.”
Nigel Godrich: “Godrich is Radiohead’s producer and works also on Tom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood's side projects. We just love his production sensibilities making complex music very accessible and appears to be very much a part of the creative process. But he is much more than just Radiohead. The From the Basement series of live performances is totally amazing, taking its inspiration and vibe from The Old Grey Whistle Test. Outstanding."
Jimmy Page: Simon says, “I was born on January 9th, the same date, but not the same year as Page, and feel a real connection with his playing and production. He is a very ‘British’ guitar player, a bit sloppy - not as clean and refined as some of his American counterparts. Zeppelin III was my first introduction after an older boy at school who didn’t care for the music gave it to me. Of course, I voraciously consumed all the albums and using a reel-to-reel tape machine to slow them down, learned every track. Houses of the Holy and Zeppelin I have remained my favourites and are on regular rotation in our studio. It was these that made me want to learn how to write, arrange and produce records. To this day his slightly crunchy guitar sound always sounds great to me and made me dislike the muddy overdriven sounds of many ‘modern’ guitar players. Take a listen to our new album Starlite Campbell Band Live! and you’ll see what I mean.”
David Bowie: Suzy says, “Who can’t love his style, avant-garde thinking, intelligence, and his constant pushing of musical boundaries. Like most artists, he was of course a musical magpie picking up musical ideas from the likes of Scott Walker and Jacques Brel. He also surrounded himself with great musicians, primarily guitarists such as Ronson, Fripp, Alomar, Slick, Belew, Rogers and Gabrels plus of course legendary producers Eno and Visconti. My all-time favourite ‘Bowie’ rhythm section is the combination of George Murray and Dennis Davis. Simon and I cried when we first heard ‘Where Are We Now’ as it was clear - to us - he was dying.”
Scott Walker: “This enigmatic, mysterious, troublesome genius has been so influential to vast swathes of modern music. He always lurks in the British psyche with his magnificent early Walker Brothers hits, but it's his solo material that really strikes home. The later material can be a very tricky listen but totally worth it.”
Gimme 5 guests you’d love to invite to your ideal long lunch.
"Of course, as a couple, we would always invite six as five is awkward so we popped in an extra chair at the table."
David Byrne: “Byrne is of the most intelligent musicians out there and sure would be an engaging guest adding some zing to this fabulous group of people. His fabulous book How Music Works is on its second read in the Starlite Campbell house and we never tire of the groundbreaking Stop Making Sense, critically acclaimed as one of the greatest rock movies ever made.”
Tom Yorke: “This activist, eclectic musician and visual artist would complement the other guests around the table. Witty, articulate and a very unique way of looking at the world.”
Annie Leibovitz: “What can you say about this legendary photographer? Is it the picture she took of Ono and Lennon five hours before he was tragically murdered, or the controversy that surrounds her shots of Queen Elizabeth II, Miley Cyrus and LeBron James? In any event, we think she would make a fascinating addition to the cocktail of guests.”
Quentin Tarantino: “Our favourite music director and lover of music. All his movies have magnificent eclectic soundtracks and we particularly love Urge Overkill’s version of ‘Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon’, Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ and The Statler Brothers' version of ‘Flowers On The Wall’. We’re sure we would be a riveting guest.”
Laurie Anderson: “Is one of the most renowned and daring creative pioneers and is bound to really make a fabulous guest. Visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist and instrumentalist.”
Pedro Abrunhosa: “We met Pedro at his studio in Porto last year not knowing he was one of Portugal's biggest artists. We really hit it off and a few weeks ago we went to stay with him. He again is a fabulous singer, songwriter, poet, philosopher, musician and composer. He founded Porto’s jazz school and has been immensely influential in the modern music culture of Portugal. He is well read and has tremendous gravitas. The man has his own library - that says it all.” [Not being remotely familiar with Pedro Abrunhosa myself, I've dug out his track 'Se Eu Fosse Um Dia O tea Olhar' by way of introduction. Nice piano!]
Just one track – pick one of your tracks that you’d share with a new listener to introduce your music.
“We’d go for the track ‘Lay It Out On Me’, from our album The Language Of Curiosity. We wrote and recorded the drums, bass and guitar whilst we were living in Germany. The grand piano was tracked at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales when we were in the UK on tour, two weeks before the first lockdown. Rockfield is famous for being the world’s first residential recording studio and also where Queen recorded ‘Bohemian Rhapsody, and many other monster bands have worked there including Black Sabbath, Oasis, Robert Plant et al.
For our session, Simon asked Jonny Henderson to play three versions of the song - busy, medium and sparse. We chose the sparse version which gives the track a very desolate and intimate feel. Although principally a love song, the lyric has a sense of hopelessness and brokenness and the very melodic and clean guitar adds to the atmosphere. ‘Lay It Out On Me’ has space, a naked vulnerability and we think it's one of the best recordings we have made and defines much that the Starlite Campbell Band were in 2021.”
‘Lay It Out On Me’ - Starlite / Campbell - 2021
I wrote you letters, parchment to hold
You brought suspicion, or so I am told
Love is a picture, to paint and to see
Lay it out on me
Walk in the forest, there’s nothing to fear
I am so right, when you are so near
Love is an anger, a sign, a decree
Lay it out on me
Walk through the water, just in and not on
Swim in the ocean, bask in the sun
I gave you my all, your love is my plea
Lay it out on me