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Bernard Butler

Bernard Butler is one of Britain’s most original and influential guitarists, songwriters and producers. He formed Suede with Brett Anderson co-writing and playing guitars on every recording until 1994, including the classic ‘The Drowners’, ‘Animal Nitrate’ and ‘Stay Together’, the Mercury Prize winning debut “Suede” and “Dog Man Star”, a concept of rare ambition which resulted in Butler’s untimely exit, his contribution remaining the defining moment in the band’s history.

He collaborated with David McAlmont on the anthemic ‘Yes’, bound together as “The Sound Of… McAlmont & Butler”, then signed to Creation Records for two solo albums, the acclaimed “People Move On” and “Friends and Lovers”. A second McAlmont and Butler album, “Bring it Back”, featured ‘Falling’; and The Tears’ ‘Here Come The Tears’, included the top 10 hit ‘Refugees’. In 2005 he contributed to Duffy 8 million-selling debut Rockferry. Butler produced and co-wrote the title track. He worked extensively as a producer for The Libertines, Tricky, Black Kids, Kate Nash, Nerina Pallot, Teleman, The Cribs, James Morrison, and Paloma Faith. Butler won the Producer’s Award at the 2009 BRIT Awards. Butler has played guitar on records by Bert Jansch, Aimee Mann, Bryan Ferry, Roy Orbison, Neneh Cherry and Ben Watt . New group Trans released 2 EPs followed by Mark Eitzel’s celebrated “Hey Mr Ferryman”, and the debut from QTY. His radio show BB & The King is broadcast via Boogaloo Radio each Friday.


Selected releases

  • 1. Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures

    I have a Dave Godin quote glued into my brain from so long ago I worry that I have made it up. It comes to the fore of my imagination every time I make music. In defining “Deep Soul” he said something along the lines of, it was the moment the singer was pushed to the edge of a cliff and told to sing for their life. I find that really affecting. I like the fantasy world musicians occupy in their minds which push them to at least try something extraordinary. Nobody is ever going to get pushed off a cliff to sing a song. But the drama, the theatre, the suspense, the electricity, the tragedy… the ridiculousness of it all. That’s what I hear in this music. These aren’t just soul collections; they occupy a place all of their own; Godin’s Treasures.

  • 2. James Burton: The Early Years 1957-1969

    I love Vegas Elvis. I have always adored the That’s The Way It Is movie, the staged rehearsal sessions, storming off stage into the limo, but mostly I loved the visual image of this very wide stage with your dream line-up going on endlessly, drummer to the fore, vocalists, strings, brass, even a conductor! And that’s where I first saw James Burton, with his paisley Telecaster. The hard-as-nails working session player. Telecaster – the working nuts and bolts axe. Almost no movement, nailing the riffs from the back row, glued to the groove. You don’t get the balls to stand next to The King after one audition. This early compilation explains why. It’s how James Burton ended up in Vegas. “Play it James!”.

  • 3. Link Wray - 3-Track Shack

    More guitar players. They’re supposed to stay in their boxes aren’t they? Defined from the first note they ever play, the first guitar they sling, the first haircut, the first hit. It took me hearing an alternative singer from Seattle (Karl Blau) being forced to sing this by a modern producer to fall in love with ‘Fallin’ Rain’ and wonder how this song hasn’t been around forever – it has. And these 70s log cabin sets are warm but confused, destined to be forgotten, or rediscovered. There’s not a baritone riff in earshot. 

  • 4. The Jack Nitzsche Story- Hearing Is Believing

    I like that pretentious, idealistic title. It reminds me of that Dave Godin quote. It’s an ethos. It’s visionary in the way only musicians have the ego to be without embarrassment. The great arrangers have an ear to detail like no other. I listen for symbolism in every nuance. You know, why does the high violin line come in a tone down from the key? The key change on “because”. Then Doris starts to vamp it – Doris Day starts to vamp it. I love “fickle thing”, then another key change! Great arrangers conduct like military generals. At least they make me believe that’s what’s happening.

  • 5. Jon Savage's 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded

    Savvo. Savvo’s collection. I met Jon in 1995 and spent a few years of hazy Wednesday nights on the couch in his LP-walled Elgin Avenue lounge. Him sashay-ing from cabinets of vinyl to his turntable, lecturing his way through the evening’s selections. “Isn’t she wonderful?” he would say of Dusty before the history of why Dusty was wonderful. Dusty was wonderful. ‘Little By Little’ swings between the glamorous verses and the dark stomp of the choruses. Jon’s “1966” swings and it forewarns. It’s heavy and it’s pop. Plus I hear ‘What Difference Does It Make’ every time I hear ‘Little By Little’.

  • 6. Sophisticated Boom Boom! The Shadow Morton Story

    “Shadow Morton”. Nobody is called “Shadow Morton” in real life. Only record producers and arrangers call themselves “Shadow” because there is no such thing as a record producer. They are dark magicians conjuring sonic fantasies to plastic, high theatre about places you can only dream of or fear or both, made by people called “Shadow”. The Shangri-Las probably never existed either, but these ladies are on the edge of that cliff again, singing for their lives. You can even hear the seagulls. The opening piano divebombs with impending doom. The metre change is pure melodrama. This record is heartbreak itself. 

  • 7. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

    The electric guitar is a wonderful thing. I arrived at this record in 1994 expecting funky workouts – not the stuff of indie fops drenched in overwrought suburban drama. What I heard instead was an overwrought suburban nightmare. I lay on the floor for hours letting this roll over and over me like waves of tears. This is an ordeal.  Turmoil. In grief. Two guitars: the steady, doleful, accepting rolling arpeggio tells it how it is. The violent drunk fights back, unwilling, out of control, resisting. To a guitar player there are more lyrics in this instrumental than in most songs. 

  • 8. Millie Jackson - Caught Up

    It’s the “There’s also the bad times…” that really kills. Millie’s tale is full of portent; you just know what’s coming. We hear the beach but this is no Long Hot Summer. Turning Bobby Goldsboro’s twee fantasy tale into something of sadness, confusion and taking charge is empowerment itself. It’s a mess, a web as the sleeve depicts. But it’s joyous, emphatic, tragic, beautiful and the whole thing grooves. The lover, the wife, the mistress – the left – a whole screenplay in two sides of vinyl. “I BECAME A WOMAN! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!”.  

  • 9. Gotta Get Up – The Songs Of Harry Nilsson

    Shangri-Las again. That sound. That is a singular voice, almost unimaginable as a solo vocal. Just a b-side – backing another weepy - ‘Past, Present And Future’, co-written with Spector and produced by our friend Shadow Morton – put that lot in a room together and see what you get. What I love about this set is that in my head, Nilsson sits cosily, elbow over the piano, pencil in hand, musing existentially, whimsically, setting things back on course for the lost hippies. But some of these recordings are incendiary, most eccentric, all hummable and they are all just great pop. How many great voices and arrangers can you get out of one songwriter?

  • 10. Land Of 1000 Dances 1958-1965

    I grew up at the wrong time to dance. No-one really wanted to dance to the Cure in long baggy jumpers. Morrissey could keep his “dance” to himself – I was watching Johnny Marr just standing there. Even ‘Blue Monday’ was for headphones only. But rhythms in songwriting fascinate me. And I’m jealous of 50s and 60s young Americans. The name of the song was the name of the dance. Most of them even offer helpful instruction. Often on the sleeve with diagrams. So why shouldn’t you dance? It shouldn’t have become a secret movement via Northern Soul and then chic “nightlife”. These grooves are meant to thunder over the floating floor beneath you, they scream from the Tannoys, they drop you down and pick you back up again. Even I want to move. Diagrams and instructions pending of course …