Each week we invite music lovers to share seven songs that have shaped their life. This week, we speak to Jean-Jacques Burnel, legendary bassist for The Stranglers, ahead of Saturday's show at the Auckland Town Hall.

1. You Really Got Me - The Kinks

The Kinks, (L-R) Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife, and Mick Avory. Photo / Getty Images.
The Kinks, (L-R) Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife, and Mick Avory. Photo / Getty Images.

This song kick-started my teenage years and now I know it's probably the first metal-type riff.

It was just so different from anything else, the chord changes and the guitar solo in the middle, that some people say was done by Jimmy Page, but I believe it was Dave Davies.

I remember seeing The Kinks during one of the first colour broadcasts on BBC Two. They were wearing sort of red hunting jackets and it was like "Wow this is colour!" We take it for granted now.

Years later I met Ray Davies and he was a bit of a twat but that doesn't detract from the fact that he wrote some of the most iconic songs of that period.

The Kinks were playing at Wembley and The Stranglers were the first band in support but they didn't allow us to have a soundcheck. I really hold that against them because we've always made a point to give support bands a decent soundcheck and a chance to shine.

It's just a basic thing but The Kinks were a bit old school and kind of sabotaged us. I wanted to punch his lights out actually.

That happened once with us with Alice Cooper – it took five Hells Angels to pull me off his production manager. But that's another story.

Advertisement

2. My Generation – The Who

The Who on the set of the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968. Photo / Getty Images.
The Who on the set of the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968. Photo / Getty Images.

This was a game-changer sonically for a generation and it coincided with the time I started to ride a scooter and wear a parka. Two years later I got into motorcycles and I've been a biker ever since.

I was 13 to 14 years old and reading about all the rockers and mods having punch-ups in Brighton, and huge riots, and there was all the outrage over 'what's happening with the youth of today?'

It was 20 years after the war so you had people in their late 30s and 40s who had been through the war. They couldn't understand that young people didn't know anything about it and were riding motorcycles and scooters and having punch-ups and listening to music.

So this song coincided with the awareness of being a youth in the UK at that time and was a bit of a soundtrack to my schooldays south of London.

3. Light My Fire – The Doors

The Doors (L-R) Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek, and Robby Krieger. Photo / Getty Images.
The Doors (L-R) Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek, and Robby Krieger. Photo / Getty Images.

The Doors and this song were a soundtrack to my student days at university up in Yorkshire.

The Doors influenced me for quite a few years after that and when we started The Stranglers that was kind of a template.

The line-up was just great – Robby Krieger, one of the most underrated guitarists and a finger-picker as well, Ray Manzarek, who just came out with some amazing lines, and of course, Jim Morrison, with his dramatic personae.

They were a perfect band and they wrote really wonderful themes and Light My Fire was just something different.

4. Mr. Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra

Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra performs on stage in London in 1977. Photo / Getty Images.
Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra performs on stage in London in 1977. Photo / Getty Images.

There are few perfect pop songs – another is Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys - you've got everything in three and a bit minutes.

Mr. Blue Sky is the same. The production is perfect, the arrangement is perfect, and the sound just takes you away.

Advertisement

I think Jeff Lynne's a genius. To be able to do everything in just a three-minute song, it's just great talent.

5. La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin (The Girl With the Flaxen Hair) - Isao Tomita

Electronic music composer Isao Tomita in his studio in 1977. Photo / Getty Images.
Electronic music composer Isao Tomita in his studio in 1977. Photo / Getty Images.

Japanese musician Isao Tomita did an album in the very early 70s called Snowflakes Are Dancing and it was the works of Claude Debussy, but on synthesisers.

I probably discovered this album while getting stoned with an old school mate. It introduced me to the works of Debussy, one of my greatest idols now. I suppose he's an impressionist like Erik Satie.

This record opened up a whole new world of synthesisers, which were just coming in at the time, and a world of possibilities for years later with The Stranglers.

I realised that synthesisers could do anything and the emotion on the track La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin is incredible.

But The Stranglers, we were criticised by our peers, the other punk bands, for having a synthesiser - "Oh they've got keyboards – f*** off!"

6. In Dreams - Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison performing live. Photo / Getty Images.
Roy Orbison performing live. Photo / Getty Images.

There are loads of Roy Orbison's songs that I could choose, but In Dreams shows there's no one that could get away with singing falsetto like he could and not be laughed at.

I just wish I'd discovered Roy Orbison's music earlier. I don't know the moment I discovered him – probably listening with friends and suddenly "Can you play that again?" – it was one of those moments.

What a voice and what a structure of songs. Also, I like the aspects of a little Tex-Mex, whether it's brass or strings, a bit of that Latin influence. Very light, you know.

7. Nowhere to Run - Martha and the Vandellas

Martha and the Vandellas - Annette Beard, Rosalind Ashford and Martha Reeves. Photo / Getty Images.
Martha and the Vandellas - Annette Beard, Rosalind Ashford and Martha Reeves. Photo / Getty Images.

The last one is another discovery from very late in life. About four years ago we were playing a festival in Scotland and just before us, there was a band with these three old-ish African American girls who sang like gods. They were wearing red silk dresses.

During our set, Martha was behind my bass stack dancing to one of our songs called Peaches. She was talking to our guitarist's girlfriend at the time and saying "Wow these guys are great – do they have a CD?"

I thought that was f***ing great and when I started listening to them I thought "Wow!"

They've done four tracks which are really amazing, one of which is Nowhere to Run.

- As told to David Skipwith