After a summer of fantastic festival appearances, del Amitri are currently filling venues across Europe throughout September 2022, and they have a major Australian/New Zealand tour scheduled for February 2023. Their 23-date tour of North American in the spring this year was their first tour in the US for 25 years, and a big success.
They sold out three nights at Glasgow’s famed Barrowlands venue in June – the first night a free show for NHS workers. Two of those gigs were filmed and recorded for a live DVD.
del Amitri’s latest album, “Fatal Mistakes, which was released in May 2021, was their sixth album to go Top five in the UK chart.
Scottish band del Amitri (stylised lower case ‘d’) were the darlings of the ’80s and ’90s, with 15 UK top 40 hit singles, seven studio albums – five top 10 albums, one live album, four compilations, one top ten and three top 40 US hits – and at least six million records sold.
The band formed in 1980 until 2002, when they took a hiatus until 2013. They are the subjects of a fascinating Sky Arts documentary “You Can’t Go Back”, broadcast in September 2021. Their second documentary.
Everyone for Currie?
Justin Currie, the band’s lead singer and songwriter has released four solo albums – the last one 2017. The del Amitri album “Outtakes & B-Sides” was released in August.
Music Republic Magazine caught up with Justin backstage at Towersey Festival in Buckinghamshire at the end of August, before their triumphant main stage headline slot. Towersey is the UK’s longest running independent festival.
Read Justin’s fabulous “Track Record” Q&A below and find out his “guilty secret” and what he finds “terrifying!” Plus, his eyebrow-raising anecdote about supporting The Rolling Stones with del Amitri…
Justin Currie’s “Track Record”…
1. First song you recall hearing as a child?
When I first heard the early Beatles stuff when I was about 10 or 11, I felt like I knew all the words, so I must have been exposed to them much earlier; I was born in ’64, so I must have been exposed to them as a baby.
“She Loves You” and “Hard Day‘s Night” and things like that. Those songs just instantly sounded familiar to me when I first heard them o record in the ‘70s.
2. First single you owned?
First single I bought was “Y Viva Espana” (1974) by Sylvia. I think I was about nine, and she came on Top Of The Pops with a big hat and I thought she was gorgeous, so mum took me to the record shop in Leicester City.
We lived in the Leicestershire countryside at Kibworth Harcourt for four or five years as a kid and I loved it. We left in ’75 when I was 11 back to where I was born, Glasgow. My dad got a job at Leicester University, and it was the happiest time of my life.
I didn’t know what to buy. My big sisters were into pop music, so I didn’t want to buy anything they would buy, (Mud and stuff like that), so I bought the Sylvia record because I thought that would be a bit different, but I have to tell you that I probably listened to it twice.
3. First LP/album you owned?
“Moonflower” by Santana (1977). My cousin was into all sorts of dodgy rock music and some very good rock music, and my sister was quite into Santana. I don’t why I bought it because it’s kind of a horrible record, and I think I sold it two years later to some guy in sixth year (aka sixth form).
4. First CD you owned?
I think that might have been “Fire and Water” by Free. I was quite an early adopter of CDs, and there wasn’t that much available when I started buying Cds.
5. Last music you bought and in what format (CD/vinyl/digital download)?
I bought something on vinyl the other week, but I honestly can’t remember what it was. My memory is terrible for things like that!
6. Which album would you be happy to receive as a gift?
Any Beatles album in mono. Or any American pressing of early Beatles. The White album # 1 would be very nice (Justin laughs), as long as it has got the postcards intact!
7. Favourite album? (Choose more than one if need be…)
“Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles. “Highway 61 Revisited” by Bob Dylan. “Bringing It All Back Home” by Bob Dylan (known as “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in some countries). “Love Bites” by The Buzzcocks. “Hejira” by Joni Mitchell. The second Curtis Mayfield album which is just called “Curtis”.
8. Best record ever made (can be single/album/EP – and choose more than one if need be)?
I might just go for “Ticket To Ride”, the single. The Beatles.
9. Guilty secret (or anything unusual or perhaps unexpected) in your music collection?
Before I became a middle-class punk, I listened to a lot of Prog Rock, a lot of Genesis and Yes and Pink Floyd. I just had tapes. I got rid of all that stuff when punk came around. The only thing I can still vaguely listen to is I can sort of tolerate bits of Pink Floyd, and there’s a Yes album called “Relayer” (1974) which is so ostentatious and ridiculously complicated that it’s actually really funny!
It’s proper jazz rock meets Prog and it’s so mad that if you get really pissed and listen to it, it’s just dead funny. I did listen to that about four months ago and I have to say, even though I am totally disgusted with myself, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
10. What does music mean to you and how does it make you feel?
I like what Phillip Glass said about music when he was being interviewed on the radio, and he was asked to explain what music is, and he said when he used to talk to students, he would describe music as a language even though he knew that was not right. Then he changed his mind recently and had started saying to students, music is a place, which sort of makes sense to me.
Good music, whether it is Mozart or Bach or Ace Of Spades by Motorhead, it puts you somewhere entirely different than where you are. It takes you out of the world you are in and takes you somewhere else and that’s incredibly valuable.
11. Which song or album is a guaranteed mood booster?
“Dare” by the Human League. There’s an instrumental version of that album (“Love and Dancing” is a remix album by The Human League, released in July 1982 by Virgin Records. Issued under the name “The League Unlimited Orchestra” as a nod to Barry White’s disco-era Love Unlimited Orchestra, produced by Martin Rushent as was the original “Dare” album.) That’s dead funny. It’s all kind of stiff…and it makes you want to ‘dad dance’.
12. Which song or album would be the soundtrack to a film about your life?
A pre-Grunge, droney album by The Drop 19s.
13. Your favourite driving track – or music to exercise-to?
Driving: The first Undertones LP is pretty good to drive to.
14. Best song or album for a romantic moment?
“Unknown Pleasures” by Joy Division. Very sexy record. Terrifying, just like sex!
15. Which song was played for the “First Dance” at your wedding (if you are married) or which song would you choose if you did get married?
Maybe “Never let me Go” by Aretha Franklin.
16. Your choice of song to sing at karaoke?
“Like A Rolling Stone” is my go-to track (Bob Dylan) and I sometimes do “Yesterday” (Beatles), which I make a right arse of. I am quite good at “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, because I used to do that with a jazz big band, so I can pull that off quite well. But in terms of sheer enthusiasm, “Like A Rolling Stone”, because I know all the words.
17. Which song takes you back to your childhood – and to which specific memory/memories?
Gilbert O’Sullivan’s first album (1971) which is called “Himself”, which my mum bought because we’d bought a stereo and I spent a long time listening to that album and wanting to be a piano-playing pop star.
18. Favourite band (or bands)?
I was very impressed with Nirvana when I saw them. I was very impressed with The Rolling Stones when I saw them. In Huddersfield in the 90s. Apart from Jagger and the bass player, they came on absolutely pissed; Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood were pissed, and they were fucking chaos for 20 minutes.
I was standing at the sound desk. First of all, I was standing at the back, and I thought, this is an absolute car crash, and went up to the sound desk and said to the sound guy, is this normal and he went, yeah, sometimes this happens.
They could hardly stand, the two guitar players. Jagger – I thought he was totally brilliant – just got on the mic’ and said, look, it’ll be alright, we’ll get it together, alright (Justin does an impression of Jagger’s voice), and he was like a school teacher just instructing all the pupils; look, just hang with it.
Then within two songs they turned into the best band I’ve ever heard. I would never have bought a ticket to see an act like the Rolling Stones, but we (del Amitri) were opening for them.
19. Favourite singer (or singers)?
I love Peggy Lee. I love Nina Simone. I really like Michael Stipe. I love John Lennon who is one of my all-time favourite singers. I have been listening to a lot of crooners recently, because I read Bob Stanley’s book, “Let’s Do It,” which is a look at pop music from the 1850s to the end of the 1950s. I went back to Jeri Southern who I had not listened to for years and was really loving that.
20. Which song would you like played at your funeral?
Something stupid like “Planet Claire” by the B52s.
Interview: Steve Best
Photos: Steve Best (marked ** ), Keith Buck: (1 x Justin Currie portrait – marked * ), Band pix: Supplied by del Amitri.
Sincere thanks to Justin Currie, Towersey Festival, Sacha Taylor-Cox.