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(Credit: Albert Hammond Jr)

The album that changed The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr’s life

When it comes to life-changing albums, Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys once stated: “There is always that one band that comes along when you are 14 or 15-years-old that manages to hit you in just the right way and changes your whole perception on things.” For him, as for many others of a certain generation, that band happened to be The Strokes as they delivered a sonic wallop with Is This It that reinvigorated guitar music back in 2001. 

Naturally, Albert Hammond Jr also had an album that stirred him into strumming existence. Although his father was also a famous musician, his life-changing moment came courtesy of the band that has doled out more epiphanies than probably anyone else over the ages in a maelstrom of musical originality.

In an interview with the Boston Globe, he not only championed both John Lennon and George Harrison among his favourite guitarist, but he also heralded the formers solo work as a pivotal discovery. Regarding George Harrison’s style, the fuzzy-haired Fender fizzer remarked: “He made it seem effortless. He had such a unique sound and style […] And his side notes or things he would say about life were really inspiring.”

But it was Lennon’s album that changed his life. As he stated: “When I was 18, I got the Plastic Ono Band album — I guess maybe I was doing softer things then, or I just didn’t understand there was a lot of edge in a way that was easily accessible. It could hit you immediately but still have depth, and that was very powerful. It took me a long time to try and feel like I could do it — I’m still not sure I can, but it’s fun to try.”

Lennon’s debut solo album from December 1970 was a profound moment in music. Lennon himself would go on to tell Rolling Stone upon the release of the record: “I think it’s realistic and it’s true to me that has been developing over the years from ‘In My Life’, ‘I’m a Loser’, ‘Help!’, ‘Strawberry Fields’. They’re all personal records … I didn’t really enjoy writing third person songs … But because of my hangups, and other things, I would only now and then specifically write about me. Now I wrote all about me and that’s why I like it. It’s me.”

Interestingly, however, Albert Hammond Jr.’s view on Lennon’s ability to lend introspection to the visceral edge of rock ‘n’ roll is not one that is celebrated by The Strokes frontman, Julian Casablancas. Aside from his work with The Strokes and solo outings, Casablancas is also a member of the Voidz, who released their second album Virtue a while back in 2018. During the promotion of the album, the frontman spoke about his distaste for how overtly influential The Beatles have been in his eyes. “I have that maybe advantage that I didn’t like or listen to the Beatles,” he said. “I feel like that’s almost like the branch of, like, 98% of stuff you hear. But then there’s the Velvet Underground. I know Lou Reed hated the Beatles.”

This comment is in reference to the famous Lou Reed interview in which he flippantly declared, “I never liked The Beatles. I thought they were garbage.” But anything Lou Reed said in an interview can famously be taken with a pinch of salt for the most part and, as his old pal, David Bowie, wisely posited, liking The Beatles and Velvet Underground are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they’re very much cut from the same cloth. 

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