We have a leaf through Pub Landlord Al Murray's record collection
He got into prog as a reaction to punk, now Al Murray is rocking our world with the theory that prog’s King isn’t necessarily Crimson…
"I went to boarding school in Bedford and everyone was into punk. I thought, ‘I want to be into something for myself, how can I carve out my own thing?’ Someone had a copy of Genesis’ Seconds Out so I got into that. The sound of strings doesn’t frighten me, I don’t come at prog thinking that it’s elitist music. I played in orchestras growing up and they were not elite, they were people scraping away to make a nice sound. So I don’t have an allergy to musicianship or classical music. I was always coming at rock music with that on board.
The first album I bought was And Then There Were Three. You’d go into Andy’s Records in Bedford with four quid in your pocket and you’d think, ‘Well, I like that band but I can’t afford that double album, so what can I get?’ It was all about cassette tapes for me because at school you couldn’t have a record player and you had to pack things away neatly, like being in the army. So you might not buy that expensive double, but you’d get what was in your price bracket. Browsing in record shops would be exactly how Nick Hornby describes it [in High Fidelity], you don’t just look at the records you want, but the ones you already have. You’re touching base. I was looking at stuff I couldn’t afford and I’d be thinking, ‘One day I’ll buy that copy of Relayer.’
I’d learn about prog through making friends who were into it. When I got to uni – I studied History at Oxford – on my first weekend, I met Simon Oakes [from Suns Of The Tundra] and he had a tape of Genesis at Knebworth – wow, that was like gold dust. At uni I had more money to spend and that’s when I really started listening to music, and playing music. I’d studied percussion at school and I played in a jazz band there. On my year off I was in a covers band who I tortured into playing Solsbury Hill. I was like, ‘Right lads, this is in 7,’ and they’re like, ‘What the fuck are you on about?’ ‘Basically we miss a bit of the end of this bar, don’t worry, I’ll play it right. Don’t panic, we’ll get to the end.’ And then there’s be that bit where we’ve all got to really count. At uni I had a friend who was a massive Rush fan so occasionally you’d try and play some really difficult music. It was fun, but I always just tried to have a broader palette than fall back on the music I really love – I’m a big fan of lots of ‘normal’ rock and pop music too. Although I do remember a friend coming round with a Jane Siberry tape and me throwing it behind a cupboard because I wanted to listen to Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. I lied to him about it for ages. He still won’t know, he’s not a Prog subscriber [laughs].
Al Murray is on tour now as the Pub Landlord, see www.al-murray.com, or find him on Twitter @almurray.