Manchester native Guy Garvey has become an elder statesman in the world of British rock. In the past 15 years, the band he fronts, the arty yet accessible Elbow, has released five marvelous albums, including their breakthrough, 2008’s Mercury Prize-winning Seldom Seen Kid. That collection of anthems produced two classic singles, the anguished blues-rock of “Grounds for Divorce” and the intimate yet towering “One Day Like This,” the wedding song of choice for many dewy-eyed couples on both sides of the pond. Over the years in America, they’ve become the anti-Keane, the ambitious Brit rock group it was cool for the Pitchfork set to like, but in Britain, they are mainstream Radio 1 artists so revered that they received a money spot performing at last year’s London Olympics closing ceremony. Right now, Garvey is working on Elbow’s sixth album, set for a spring 2014 release, and promoting fellow Mancunian band I Am Kloot‘s September release Let It All In, which he produced.
We asked Garvey to pick songs that he’d include on a mixtape representing his nation. Here are the six tracks he selected, with a few explanations in quotes.
“Penny Lane” by The Beatles
“The quintessentially British sound is the sound of a piccolo trumpet. It’s come to represent British suburban life, the ‘My Pink Half of the Drain Pipe’ sort of British standards. And that was coined by Paul McCartney in ‘Penny Lane.’ And he had been to a concert, and he heard this piccolo trumpet, and he just decided to throw it at the end of this tune. That very sort of Kinks-y jangle, with that piccolo trumpet — that’s come to define Britishness in music terms.”
“Song 2” by Blur
“Damon Albarn, I think, is one of the best and most prolific writers we’ve got. He’s the Quentin Tarantino of the music world in terms of digging people out of obscurity and putting them back where they belong. And ceaseless in his efforts … I think I’ll have to go ‘Song 2’ with Blur. It hints at that sort of London punk thing. Manchester sort of took punk and made it into dance, embodied in Joy Division, but London really owns punk.”
“The Man with the Child in His Eyes” by Kate Bush
“I’m just really proud of her. Never met her, would love to meet her. She certainly is amazing. And how authentic to come back with a record about washing machines [‘Mrs. Bartolozzi.’] She’s just direct from the heart. It all becomes about the pursuit of authenticity, I think, in music and songwriting. It’s why everyone goes from lots of effects to stripped-down voice and guitar. The blues, basically.”
“London Calling” by The Clash
“Hallelujah” by Happy Mondays
“Let’s Go Out Tonight” by The Blue Nile
“‘London Calling’ has to be in there. And I’ll have to add ‘Hallelujah’ by the Happy Mondays. And we have so much great Scottish music as well — so I’ll have to throw some Blue Nile. “Let’s Go Out Tonight” because you can hear Scottish docks in the background.”