The Music That Changed My Life
From Deep Purple to Jay-Z’s The Dynasty, six stylish men recall the music that takes them back
Geoff Dann/ Getty Images
Certain stimuli – be it a specific smell, or a photograph – can instantly transport us back to significant moments in our lives. But nothing has the ability to evoke memory like hearing the music that was playing at the time. When we listen to songs, they stimulate our “pleasure circuit” – the part of the brain responsible for neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Which gives a little bit of scientific meaning to the whole “music is my drug” thing.
With the rise of YouTube and Spotify, alongside our ever-decreasing attention span – we’re aware this is already far longer than 140 characters, please bear with us – single tracks now tend to soundtrack our lives more than records (who has time to listen to albums any more?). So, when we visit memories via a record, we tend to conjure up especially poignant moments, further into our past. Perhaps when we were teenagers, busy finding ourselves, and our musical tastes.
With this rather romantic thought in mind, below, we asked six men to reveal the album that takes them back to a significant moment in their lives. Over on our Spotify account, you can listen to a playlist of their picks.
Mr Victor Cruz
“When I first heard The Dynasty, I was 14 and a freshman at high school – a time when I began to think about girls and was starting to learn what was expected of me as a man. A team-mate put it on after basketball practice. It was one of those moments that you never forget – it changed how I viewed life and music. I bought it the next day in a Sam Goody record store in New Jersey. On the cover, Jay-Z is putting up the Roc-A-Fella logo with his hands. Back then I did the same – thinking I was him. ‘Intro’ is my favourite track, where he lays out the vibe of the album and talks about his life. Because of the neighbourhood I grew up in, I related to the things Jay-Z was saying in the album as I could see it all around me. He was someone I idolised and admired. But now I can call him a friend. He’s a mentor – someone I ask about business ideas [he signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports in 2013]. With the artists he featured, the things he was saying and the timing of the record in hip-hop culture – for me, it is one of his top five releases.”
Mr Michael Hainey
“I was 14, living in suburban Chicago, and all I wanted to be was a romantic poet. I’d been bitten by poetry when I was 12, thanks to Miss Kulzer, and in high school Mr Davis turned me on to Wordsworth and the whole towering lot. And then I discovered Simon and Garfunkel. This was the late 1970s. They had split by then, of course. But I’d hear Sounds of Silence on the radio, which my mother kept atop our refrigerator. Their songs mesmerised me. I marvelled at their ability to conjure worlds and create stories of such emotional resonance. All in three minutes. I didn’t own any records. I mean, not only theirs. No one’s. We had no money for stuff like that. But I was determined to get their record. I heard, in their songs, narrative poetry on an epic, modern scale. So there I was, skateboarding up to Rainbow Records in Park Ridge, Illinois, buying their Greatest Hits. It’s an album that made me believe in my voice – even though I was a fatherless kid growing up in the flight paths of O’Hare Airport. They taught me how to tell a story with efficiency and power. They taught me, too, how to channel my emotions to make art. Songs like ‘America’ – and that opener: ‘Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping... Michigan seems like a dream to me now.’ It transports me. Still.”
Mr Gildas Loaëc
One-time manager of Daft Punk, Mr Loaëc is better known as the brains behind Kitsuné – the French music and fashion label he set up in 2002 with architect Mr Masaya Kuroki.
“I think Happy Mondays changed my life, especially with this record. It’s dancey, ravey, acidy, fun and colourful. My favourite track is ‘Hallelujah (Club Mix)’. I was a rave kid when I was younger and I was already into Acid House from America, but this pop crossover was definitely what I loved the most. I discovered the album on BBC Radio 1, which I could listen to in my hometown in Brittany. Released in 1989, it sums up a time when I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life. It made me want to work in the music business. I love the album now as much as I did back then and it brings back lots of special memories. A close friend and I would hitchhike to the UK to see the bands we were listening to on the radio. We went to some really crazy parties. I remember once being kidnapped by an ecstasy dealer in Bristol. We got into a race with a Golf GTi on the motorway and then we ended up spending the night with them in Cardiff. They were so friendly.”
Mr David Wild
Mr Wild is an Emmy-nominated TV writer, bestselling author and long-time contributor to Rolling Stone magazine.
“Everything I ever really needed to know about young love and lust, rage and regret I learnt by listening to this record. I bought the album at J&R, a giant store near Wall Street on a romantic day trip with my first girlfriend to New York from our homes in New Jersey. The relationship would soon blow up, as would my family life, and the album’s themes would resonate further when I took it with me to boarding school and my second girlfriend. My previous favourite album had been Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan but there was a more immature urgency about This Year’s Model that connected powerfully. Years later, I would get to know Elvis – and introduce him to his current wife [Ms Diana Krall]. One time, Elvis explained to me that he was the one behaving badly in those days, it just sounded better when he played the victims in his songs. I love every second of this album and still listen to my favourite songs such as ‘No Action’, ‘This Year’s Girl’ and ‘You Belong to Me’, and remember the good, the bad and the ugly of what it is to belong to someone else and believe they belong to you.”
Mr Michel Roux Jr
Mr Roux is a two-Michelin-starred chef based in London’s Le Gavroche and a familiar face on British TV. He has just launched a new beer – the Roux Brew 2015.
“This was a seminal record for our generation – Ian Gillan’s voice is so distinctive, you couldn’t miss it. I picked it up in a record store in Tooting, South London, in 1972, when I was just 12 years old. I think it was Goodness Records but like many of the great record shops, it has now disappeared. For me, it represents the growing pains of being a teenager: angsty, full of life and generally trying to work the world out. When you listen to the album, it evokes a feeling of rebellion. My favourite track is ‘Child in Time’, the 10-minute protest song against the Vietnam War. Lyrically, it is quite dark, but extremely powerful. Ritchie Blackmore’s two-minute guitar solo towards the end gets me every time. I’d often try to reach Gillan’s high notes but my mum would beg me to stop. She said the neighbours would think I was killing our cat! I saw Deep Purple live in Paris back in 1978 and most recently in London’s Wembley Arena in 2005. I still play the album – usually when I’m in the car on my own. It’s the perfect opportunity to scream out the lyrics and release all my pent-up anger.”
Having performed at this month’s LC:M Burberry show, Mr David Rhodes is one of the most exciting songwriters in Britain. His debut album, Wishes, is set to be released in September.
“My dad gave it to me on CD when I was 17. It was a timeless discovery. It signified exploration and opening up my mind to new things – and new music in particular. When I was at school I listened to the music my friends were listening to – dance, garage etc. But when I heard this for the first time it got me thinking about different styles. When I first received it, I just threw it onto the pile. I eventually listened, though, and I didn’t switch it off for weeks. It’s so expressive – very psychedelic. It gave me a desire to explore music more. I had just started to play in bands and it made me become more creative. It inspired me. Arthur Lee – the main songwriter and instrumentalist – uses different time signatures and textures. The last song, ‘You Set the Scene’, sums up the album for me. It expresses individuality. I’ve just bought it on vinyl, which has rekindled my love for it.”