Wire’s, Colin Newman, picks Steely Dan’s, Can’t Buy A Thrill, as his favorite record

Well, to be honest he said it could be any of a hundred records, but… well, I’ll let him tell the story.
As someone who considers both Wire and The Dan as two of his favorite bands, I find this extremely satisfying. Now if only Donald Fagen wrote about the influence that 154 had on the recording of Gaucho.

“My favourite record – that’s an impossible ask. Any one of a hundred could fit. But I went for this one because I knew there’d be any number of people it would piss off, especially punk rockers. Steely Dan came in right when prog had ceased to be interesting – right when everyone was doing triple albums about goblins and things like that. They were very sharp, Steely Dan. The music was very precise. At the time it got called machine-like – machine-like refers to something very different these days, but that was how people saw it.

“They were so tight as to be almost soulless. It’s a jazz-funk of some kind, but very smart, with a quite intellectual approach lyrically. The opening track, ‘Do It Again’ really sums the album up. It’s breezy, it’s upbeat, it’s a bit Latin-influenced. I think it’s one of the tracks using electric sitar, and it’s got a great solo. You know, I like precision. I don’t like anything too flabby. I’m ruthless, totally ruthless about getting everything right so it all fits together. Some people think it’s perfectionism, but I just happen to prefer music that way. I don’t really like stuff that’s super-messy. There’s a tendency when you’ve got too many things going on – 15 things mixed together make grey. Or if it’s paint, brown.

“One person that I worked with, when I told them I liked Steely Dan, they said ‘Now I’ve heard it all.’ Malka [Spiegel, Colin’s wife and collaborator] didn’t get it when she was younger. She hates the harmonies. She hates the way it looks. It sounds like old music. Someone who wasn’t predisposed to it at the time might struggle to find a way into it. But when I listen to music, I hear harmonic worlds. I don’t think everyone hears music that way, I don’t think everyone gets what I’m talking about. Anyone who gets it will immediately see.”


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