This month we’re celebrating 20 years of Penguin Audio. That goes for audiobooks and music too…anything sound related. On that note, here’s Tim Burgess, author of TELLING STORIES and lead singer of The Charlatans, telling us about the songs that made him.

Listen to the entire playlist on Penguin Spotify here, or click on the links and listen as you go along.


1. New Order – Leave Me Alone

My favourite band but the songs and their hierarchy shift and swap almost daily. Definitely my favourite album. Power Corruption and Lies will always remain Number 1. This song is from that. It’s the finale – not their best known but had a profound effect on me.

2. The Jam – David Watts / The Jam – ‘A’ Bomb In Wardour Street – Single Version

One of the first 7” singles I ever bought. I took it to the local youth club and I was the only kid there with a record so I DJ’d both sides all night. My DJ style hasn’t changed a whole lot – either side could still get an outing on any given night.

3. Johnny Cash – Tear Stained Letter

Woah! The big JC. I’ve always loved his songs. I’d have loved to have told him. Has there ever been anyone so real as this guy? So open. And so honestly passionate. Yeah, he was a hellraiser too, but if you were Johnny Cash wouldn’t you want to be a little devilish? He seemed a man that fitted in in any decade. Who’d’ve thought he’d be at home covering 9 Inch Nails.

4. The Clash – Washington Bullets

Anyone aware of me already might be thinking ‘this is not teaching me much about the man behind this Spotify list’ but Washington Bullets and the album Sandinista changed my life. A triple album when most couldn’t even muster up a decent single. An album heavily criticized for being a tad indulgent, I still protest that this is my favourite Clash album. At the time I was supposed to be getting to grips with dull history at school but I wanted to know who Victor Jara and Allende were. I just can’t imagine anyone recording something so political anymore.

5. The Velvet Underground – What Goes On – Live (1972)

My favourite live recording of all time. Made on a 2 track recorder, it just goes to show how brilliant the band were. Minimal recording technique, incredible playing, nothing else needed. Well maybe something else. And that brings its own problems.

6. Throwing Up – Mother Knows Best

Taken from the album Over You which I have released through my label OGenesis. I only release records by people I love but TU mught just change my life. Actually I think they already have – I heard them on John Kennedy’s show and it reminded me of listening to John Peel when he played an absolute gem. For 3 minutes last night, it was 1981 in my head.

7. R. Stevie Moore – I Go Into Your Mind (by R. Stevie Moore and Krys O)

RSM and ex-wife Krys O can no longer bear to have any connection with this track yet it will be in my top 3 songs forever. I was asked by R Stevie to put out a Best Of… album for him. I asked if this could be included and he welled up and told me it couldn’t. Some songs never lose their power.

8. Wu-Tang Clan – Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours (still don’t nothing move but the money)

The Wu blew smoke rings out of their ears n shit. Well maybe not but they made Wu Forever. It was a sprawling quadruple album of near perfect East Coast hardcore rap/hip-hop and this is the best song from it. The ramshackle nature of the band and the fact they seemed to be seconds away from destruction at any moment had so much appeal. It drove what they did.

9. Memphis Slim – Mother Earth

Beautiful slow and heartfelt perfect for a slow sticky summer evening.

10. Crass – Mother Earth

Same title as the Memphis Slim song above but this one is about Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderess. I could have picked any song by this band – the first band I ever saw and the first band to blow my infant mind. I was 13 when I first fell in love with these commune living punks. I ended up friends with Penny and with Gee who did their artwork – she even did an album cover for us. Not sure I’ve ever properly told them what a profound effect they had on me.

11. The Fall – Solicitor In Studio

Saw The Fall on Granada Reports. At 6.30pm. After the news. It was like watching the odd guy who lived on your street, but he was in a band. And was the most captivating thing I’d seen in years. It started a love affair with The Fall. Other nominees for this spot were Dr Bucks’ Letter, Smile, Impression of J Temperance, Lay Of The Land, Gut of the Quantifier.

12. The Flying Burrito Brothers – Sin City

I love Gram Parsons. The king of American cosmic country, but a hugely troubled dude. He was friends with The Stones and pretty much turned country music on its head – even made it fashionable. When Grams’ flame burned bright country was hip. Check out Wild Horses by The Stones – we all know that it was Gram who really wrote that one. Keith’ll tell you it’s true.

13. Factory Floor – (R E A L L O V E) – Optimo Remix

Factory Floor are the best group around today if your cup of tea involves aural assault, whirling cutting teeth that eat your brains. Y’know, that kind of thing. They really do get to you whether you want them to or not. This song has all that but real atmosphere within, to give you breaks between being eaten. It’s like a friendly attack on your senses.

14. Dionne Warwick – Walk On By

The best, most heartbreaking lyrics ever written to a tune that milkmen whistled. I first heard it by The Stranglers but when I heard the original, it was like the most perfect song I’d ever heard. Such yearning, made public. Such toughness but so tenderly put.

15. Curtis Mayfield – Back To The World

The title track of an album, the first album I fell in love with when I moved to LA (I am now back living in UK). An oldie but goodie I based the Charlatans’ album Wonderland on this sound. So you could say this song was a huge influence, in some ways it shaped my band when I was living in America. It’s got a real life affirming feel to it. Instant soul.

16. The Rolling Stones – Gomper

I have to pick a Stones song. I just saw them at Glastonbury and they definitely haven’t lost whatever it was they had. They didn’t play this one but at a push it’s my favourite or, at worst a great one that doesn’t get mentioned everyday.

TELLING STORIES by Tim Burgess is out in paperback and audio now. Follow Tim on Twitter for his latest musings, and listen to the full playlist here.


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