Rock's Backpages

Rock's Backpages

They were so much older then, they're younger than that now: Mark Pringle and Barney Hoskyns reel in the years and riff on all that's new this week in the world's biggest library of music journalism – definitive interviews with legends of the last 60 years by the pop press' greatest writers ... and much much more. Produced by Jasper Murison-Bowie.

  1. Thumb 1556900348 artwork

    E26: Mavis Staples + Bob Stanley/Saint Etienne + The B-52s audio

    This week, Barney, Mark and Jasper start with free feature Mavis Staples and discuss her legacy as a member of the Staple Singers as well as her solo output with various producers including Prince and upcoming release We Get By with Ben Harper. Three pieces by featured writer Bob Stanley spark discussion of Johnny Cash, self-proclaimed 'best group on the planet' the Stone Roses and the peculiar appearance of Sparks. As a bonus, a 1992 interview with Saint Etienne charts his 'poacher turned gamekeeper' status with his subsequent success as one third of the band. The week's audio interview is Ira Robbins in conversation with Keith Strickland and Katie Pierson of the B-52s, in which they skirt round the subject of bandmate Ricky Wilson's AIDS related death and talk about why touring without him wouldn't feel right. The boys consider their status as darlings of the New York scene and hail them as one of the 'best things to come out of New Wave'.
    Launching into the highlights of the rest of the week's additions, Mark selects a diverse selection of pieces including a live review of the Rolling Stones, an interview with jazzman Horace Silver, and Bobby Brown of New Edition being spectacularly lacking in humility. Barney's picks range from an irascible Mark E. Smith to a review of Ellen Willis' book Vinyl Deeps, while Jasper introduces the other two to the band Crystal Fighters (even though he knows they'll hate it).

  2. Thumb 1556296717 artwork

    E25: Jordan's Story + Goth + Bay City Rollers with Cathi Unsworth

    In this week's episode, Barney Hoskyns and Mark Pringle are joined by special guest Cathi Unsworth to talk about her new book, Defying Gravity: Jordan's Story, written together with Jordan herself. They consider her influence on the London punk scene and talk about its female-driven side, in which women carved out a voice and space for themselves where they previously hadn't been afforded one. A history she wrote of 80s goth lead Cathi to reminisce about her goth days before articles of hers on Dick Dale and Kelly Osbourne provide the basis for discussion of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and The Osbournes on MTV respectively. The three of them don't have an awful lot to say about free feature The Cranberries, but they make a valiant effort to at least mention them before moving on to the week's audio interview with disgraced Bay City Rollers manager Tam Paton. (Or, as Mark refers to it, 'the "I'm not bitter and twisted" tape'. ) Tam, from his bungalow inside a barbed-wire-walled garden, complains that nobody sends him Christmas cards any more and explains why the Bay City Rollers broke up (jealousy, apparently). Finally, Mark and Barney tell Cathi about some of their favourite pieces from the week's library additions, including a 1966 Rave magazine feature on drugs ('a drag on a drug is still a drag'), Paul Morley falling in love with Girlschool and Richard C. Walls on the total bust that is Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.

  3. Thumb 1555690725 artwork

    E24: Al Green + Anita Pallenberg audio + Thundercat

    Mark Pringle and Jasper Murison-Bowie explore what's new in the RBP archive this week, starting with free feature Al Green—three articles take them through the various stage of his career, including his stint recording only gospel music and his return to secular music in more recent years. They then discuss featured writer Ann Moses, whose editorship of Tiger Beat magazine and contributions to the NME led her to interview the Beach Boys, the Monkees and many more, as described in her 2017 memoir Meow! My Life with Tiger Beat's Teen Idols. Barney Hoskyns makes an appearance on the podcast despite his absence via the audio interview, which features him asking Anita Pallenberg about her experience of being a rock muse. Mark and Jasper listen to her thoughts on how men in rock still just want blondes, how they sometimes get more than they bargained for, and how things still aren't close to equal in such relationships. To round things out, your two hosts present their selections from the week's other additions to the library. The boys talk about everything from an ignorant piece on 'The Jamaica Ska' to an all-night graduation party in Detroit (featuring possibly the first ever in-print mention of the MC5!), from Sun Ra's cosmology to Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G, and from Bob Marley to Lenny Bruce, with much else in between. Finally, a discussion of Thundercat in response to a 2017 review of him live in London rounds out the proceedings.

  4. Thumb 1555030620 artwork

    E23: Todd Rundgren audio + Orange Juice + Danny Goldberg

    This week, Barney, Mark and Jasper listen to excerpts from a 1997 interview with Todd Rundgren in which he is remarkably prescient about the impact of the internet on music production and distribution and talks about how difficult it is to be original when writing songs. Barney sings his praises as one of the most intelligent men in rock, but laments the fact that he has never quite been able to make enough of himself despite being ahead of the curve. They then move on to free feature Orange Juice and their label Postcard Records, which provide the basis for a discussion of the disappearance of regionality in music and the rise and fall of the indie label in the late 70s and early 80s. Danny Goldberg, erstwhile manager of Kurt Cobain, is the featured writer for the week and the boys consider his pieces on Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin and going to school with Gil Scott-Heron before selecting their favourites from the new additions to the library. Mark chooses pieces on Gerry and the Pacemakers, more Alice Cooper (the earliest on RBP!), Yoko Ono on rescuing John Lennon from chauvinism, Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Foo Fighters, while Barney highlights record exec Lenny Waronker, The Stooges and Paul Morley's complaints about the Rolling Stones headlining Glastonbury in 2013. Jasper rounds out the selection with album reviews of Mel C's (of the Spice Girls) Reason and Clipse's Lord Willin' plus an art historical examination of the over-the-shoulder pose and a live review of Lauryn Hill.

  5. Thumb 1554471581 artwork

    E22: Joy Division special + Dizzee Rascal audio with Jon Savage

    In this week's episode, Barney Hoskyns and Mark Pringle are joined by Jon Savage to talk about his new Joy Division book This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else. Jon tells the story of moving up to Manchester and getting to know the band plus Tony Wilson and Martin Hannett, and speaks about how seeing Joy Division live still haunts him to this day. They then listen to some excerpts from a 2007 audio interview with Dizzee Rascal, in which he and interviewer Maureen Paton take a taxi ride through his old East London haunts. Dizzee tells her about how music has shaped his life, how London knife crime is influenced by skunk and about getting stabbed in Ayia Napa. Mark then highlights a number of interesting articles from the new additions to the library, including pieces on the Yardbirds playing the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, George Harrison in full 'mystic' mode, a scathing review of David Bowie's 'Young Americans' and Johnny Rotten right after the Sex Pistols split.

  6. Thumb 1553875102 artwork

    E21: Tribute to Scott Walker + Jimi Hendrix + ABC with Keith Altham

    In this week's episode, Barney Hoskyns and Mark Pringle are joined by special guest Keith Altham to pay tribute to Scott Walker, whom Keith interviewed many times throughout his career. They consider Scott's beginnings as a teen idol, which he was never comfortable with—he wanted to be taken seriously as a musician and anyway felt he 'looked odd' and his metamorphosis into a radical avant garde artist. Keith tells Mark and Barney stories of being on tour with Scott and Jimi Hendrix and of introducing the New Musical Express to the concept of 'humour'. The three of them then listen to a clip from an interview with Martin Fry and Mark White of 80s pop band ABC about Trevor Horn's production of their first album before Mark and Barney introduce their selections from the new pieces to go into the archive: Mark brings Mick Jagger to Dawn James in 1965, Anne Briggs 'zooming down a whirlpool to annihilation', David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, My Bloody Valentine live at The Clarendon in London, John Mellencamp's self-confessed status as a rock cliché and Salt-N-Pepa being denied their rightful place in hip-hop's history. Barney rounds it out with a piece on T. Graham Brown and tributes to Steven Wells and Mick Farren.

  7. Thumb 1553266367 artwork

    E20: Van Morrison + Pink Floyd + Steve Earle with Tony Stewart

    This week, Barney Hoskyns and Mark Pringle welcome special guest Tony Stewart to talk about the glory days of the NME plus his notoriously tricky interviews with Van Morrison and Freddie Mercury. They then hear about the time Tony saw the first-ever performance of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, which was brought to a standstill by technical difficulties (something about the lighting rig running through the same circuit as the sound...who knows?) within half an hour of starting. The three of them then tune into clips from an audio interview with Steve Earle in 1996 following his recovery from drug addiction and consider his 6 (six!) marriages and lasting position as a country rebel. Free feature for the week is Lana Del Rey, whose noir-Americana Barney finds interesting conceptually if not always musically. (The name of her upcoming album is the source of some amusement, with only Mark daring to speak its full title, Norman Fucking Rockwell, as Barney resorts to self-censorship.) Last but certainly not least, Mark rounds up the highlights from the new pieces in the archive, starting with an interview with Ken Brown, member of The Quarrymen, who 'could have been a Beatle', followed by articles on Lulu & the Luvvers, L.A. mogul Lou Adler on the Mamas & the Papas, Orange Juice's Edwyn Collins, Sinead O'Connor's prescient comments on the pope, and the war between west and east in hip-hop.

  8. Thumb 1553251937 artwork

    E19: Morrissey + Minnie Riperton + Madonna with James Medd

    Joined by James Medd, Barney Hoskyns and Mark Pringle hear tales of interviewing Morrissey and Joanna Newsom for Esquire and of life at The Word magazine. (Despite himself, James rather liked Morrissey.) Paying tribute to Hal Blaine, one of the great American session players, the three of them discuss The Wrecking Crew and marvel at just how many hits they were essential to. Talk then moves on to the week’s free feature, Lambchop, via another great session player, Charlie McCoy, who plays on their upcoming album. James, Mark and Barnet then listen to an excerpt from an audio interview with the delightful Minnie Riperton and discuss her whistle register soul singing and breast cancer activism. Mark then presents his selection of choice cuts from the new pieces added to the archive, including articles on Rolf Harris, The Osmonds, Johnny Nash, Scritti Politti, Carl Wilson and Talking Heads’ film Stop Making Sense. The show this week winds up with consideration of Madonna, sparked by a 7000-word interview conducted by Barbara Ellen for the NME in 1995.

  9. Thumb 1552060779 artwork

    E18: The Prodigy's Keith Flint R.I.P. + Jayne County audio interview

    In the absence of Mark Pringle, Barney Hoskyns and Jasper Murison-Bowie pay tribute to Keith Flint of The Prodigy, considering three articles from the Rock's Backpages archive, including an interview conducted during the filming of the iconic 'Firestarter' music video. Three pieces by the week's featured writer, Jeff Tamarkin, spark discussion of a diverse collection of Bay Area musicians from Jefferson Airplane to The Residents before talk turns to the brief but brilliant newly added audio interview with Jayne County. Contemplating her influence as the first open transwoman in rock, Barney and Jasper listen to an excerpt from a 1985 phone conversation Jayne had with Ira Robbins, in which she talks about transitioning. Jasper then pretends to be Mark while he and Barney introduce selected highlights from the rest of the articles added to the RBP archive: Beatles court battles of the 60s, Jeff Beck at the Motown studios, Alice Cooper's shock rock, Rage Against the Machine's anti-corporate major label releases and The Associates' last holiday.

  10. Thumb 1551444442 artwork

    E17: Remembering Mark Hollis + Dead Kennedys Audio + Mark Leviton

    Paying tribute to Mark Hollis of Talk Talk, Mark Pringle, Barney Hoskyns and Jasper Murison-Bowie consider his influence on post-rock and trip-hop and trace the band's evolution from 80s synth-pop to the beautiful jazz- and classical-influenced Spirit of Eden. They then listen to an excerpt from an interview with Jello Biafra and Klaus Flouride of Dead Kennedys and discuss the LA punk scene and the rise of the independent American label, culminating in Sub Pop and grunge. Mark Leviton is the week's featured writer, with his piece about going on a 'rock cruise' terrifying Jasper and Mark and an article on Slash Records sparking yet more talk about punk. Mark then presents his highlight selection from the week's additions, including pieces on Scott Walker, The Beatles' White Album, Queen's Brian May, Jackie Wilson, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWBHM—'the worst acronym in music history') and an early scandal surrounding Michael Jackson and his alleged abuse of Jordy Chandler. Barney and Jasper bring the best of the last 20 years or so, and the gang discuss their dislike of the film Whiplash and its 'sports-movie' approach to jazz drumming, plus Andrew Lauder, Johnnie Allan, The xx and Alessia Cara.

View Older Episodes