Matt Forde is one of Britain’s leading satirists who is a mainstay of the Edinburgh Fringe and one of the names behind the Spitting Image reboot. Additionally, music is another passion of Forde’s, and here he exclusively selects his nine favourite records for mental wellbeing.
In another life, the Nottingham native worked for the Labour Party before swapping politics for stand-up comedy and leaving the world of Westminster behind.
Last year, Forde began the fascinating British Scandal podcast, which he hosts alongside broadcaster Alice Levine (BBC Radio 1, My Dad Wrote A Porno). The duo forensically inspects an array of cultural watershed moments, and nothing is off-limits. So far, they have covered topics ranging from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal to the story of The Sex Pistols.
“There was so much about that I didn’t appreciate, such as Malcolm McLaren,” Forde tells Far Out about their odyssey of the punk renegades. “There’s the real tragedy of Sid and Nancy, as well as the rock ‘n’ roll element. I didn’t realise how much of a plan there was behind it and the involvement of people like Vivienne Westwood. It has its dark, tragic element, but there were so many really funny moments in it too.”
Continuing with our Mental Health Awareness campaign, Far Out Magazine has teamed up with the suicide prevention charity CALM to help connect you with your favourite artists. The series attempts to hear how music has helped them during their darker times and day-to-day lives and, in turn, how it can help others.
The organisation, with the full working title of ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, offer a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support. Now lockdown measures have eased, that doesn’t mean that the impact of the last 18 months has ended, and CALM still needs as much help as possible to carry on with its excellent work.
We at Far Out believe in music’s ability to heal. It could be the moment that the needle drops on your favourite song and provides respite from a chaotic world, or, conversely, it might be the fanatic conversation you have with friends about which guitarist was the greatest. Music, it’s safe to say, has always allowed us to connect with one another and ourselves.
In support of CALM, we’re asking a selection of our favourite people to share nine records that they would prescribe for anyone they met and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians and more offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.
British Scandal from Wondery is available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and the Wondery app.
For now, we delve into Forde’s record collection, which includes an eclectic mix of genres and records that have been there to comfort him during the moments he has needed it most.
Matt Forde’s nine favourite albums:
Oasis – Be Here Now
Oasis’ divisive third album, Be Here Now, splits fans of the Mancunian band in two. However, Forde controversially believes it is their best album, and it’s the comedian’s go-to when he needs a pick me up.
“It’s big, it’s bombastic, there’s great tunes on there, and it’s just the motivating album you can listen to,” he enthusiastically says. “There was an inherent optimism and positivity about Oasis. They were always singing about how these could be the best days of our lives. When you listen to albums like Be Here Now, they just make you feel so good. It is Saturday night music, and I feel immediately better whenever I put it on.”
Amy Macdonald – This Is The Life
Scottish singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald’s chart-topping 2007 debut, This Is The Life, is his second selection. “It’s one of those albums that has become one of my favourites almost by mistake,” Forde explains. “Sometimes in life, you just find yourself listening to songs, and I’d always listen to the titular track and ‘Mr Rock & Roll’ on the tube”.
Forde adds: “I fount them very soothing songs in a stressful environment, even before Covid, when you’re all crammed in together underground, it’s not a nice way to travel. By pure chance, it became zen music to me, and the album would calm me down. It had a remarkable, soothing effect like medicine.”
Handel – Water Music
Next up on the Spitting Image star’s list is George Frideric Handel’s Water Music, which premiered in 1717 on a royal barge at the request of King George, and orchestras have since reimaged his classical composition on numerous occasions.
“I love everything on it, bought it from HMV when I was 17, and the particular piece of music on it that I think is incredible is ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’, which is my favourite piece of classical music,” Forde said.
“It was the first bit of classical music I got into when I must have been about four or five. I grew up in inner-city Nottingham, but there was a windmill at the end of my street among rows and rows of terraced houses. I used to go to this group at this little museum next to it, and I watched this film which had ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ playing in it. You just can’t beat classical music for full relaxation.”
Ghostbusters – Original Soundtrack Album
The fourth pick from Forde is the Original Soundtrack Album which accompanied the classic film of the same name, and it has a comforting appeal to the comic, which warrants its inclusion on the list.
“This is really sad,” the British Scandal host laughs. “Before Covid, I would go to New York with Jon Richardson every two years, and we’d go to filming locations of Home Alone 2 and Ghostbusters. So, we’d go to the bits where this film would happen while listening to the music. I do realise this is pathetic,” he adds with self-awareness.
“I would listen to it in the mornings when we were mooching around in Central Park, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s like being in the film’. I always loved the music. Obviously, the theme tune is magnificent, but the Alessi Brothers’ Savin The Day’ is just a really good euphoric 80s pop-rock song.”
Johnny Cash – Itchy Feet
Forde continues to sketch a broader image of his music taste with every album, and the switch from Ghostbusters to Johnny Cash is certainly a tonal shift. Itchy Feet is a 1978 compilation of the country legend’s work that the comic holds in unparalleled regard.
“Johnny Cash is my favourite singer,” he explains. “I got into him very young because of my mum, my grandmother, my uncle, and I just loved that really deep voice.
“What is amazing is the songs are really quick, and I don’t think you’ll find music more catchy than that. Also, It’s from a completely different time. I think the danger sometimes is if you go into music to make yourself feel better, you can find a lot of meaning in music, and the danger is you find bad meaning. I think if you pick something from a completely different time, it sort of frees you from that because it’s from a different area. It feels more escapist to listen to something like Johnny Cash.”
Dire Straits – Communiqué
His sixth selection comes from Tyneside, courtesy of the Dire Straits’ second record, Communiqué. “It’s really hard to pick a favourite Dire Straits album,” Forde stresses. “They get so much shit, but it’s some of the best music I’ve ever heard.
“I almost picked Love Over Gold, but the reason I picked Communiqué is because ‘Lady Writer’ is on there, and that’s a really good, fast, upbeat, pop song.
“I’ve just started buying vinyl over the last couple of years after we got a record player as a housewarming gift, and this was the first one I bought myself. I look forward now to listening to music way more now, and on a Sunday afternoon, I’ll have a lie down on the settee, I might read a book, have a cup of tea, and put that Dire Straits album on.”
Moby – Play
Moby’s breakthrough album, Play, introduced the electronic artist to a whole new audience and made him a critical darling, as well as a commercial phenomenon. “You’re not supposed to admit stuff like this, but I remember hearing one of the songs on a Nissan advert, found out it was Moby and bought the album.”
He continues, “It’s Sunday afternoon music when it is quite melancholic, and I like the synth-string element to it. It’s quite trippy and soothing. Obviously, he samples a lot of old music, which has a comfortable feel to it. You can almost hear the crackle of the vinyl on some of the samples he uses, which gives it a real warmth. When you just want to relax and clear your mind, this album really helps with clearing the rubbish out and just being absent-minded.”
Mark Knopfler – Sailing To Philadelphia
The penultimate pick is a second inclusion on the playlist for Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler and his sophomore solo album, Sailing To Philadelphia.
“There are so many beautiful songs on this album. It always reminded me of Christmas, and there are no Christmas songs on it. The first track is a song called ‘What It Is’, and it’s clearly about a little town during winter, people going in and out of pubs, and you can almost see this little snowy village.”
“I love stories in music, and with this, it’s almost they are like little films in a way. I mean this as a compliment,” Forde maintains. “But it’s a bit like sausage and mash. There’s something very comforting about it — it is cup of tea music.”
‘Pure Moods’ (Compilation)
Forde bent the rules slightly for his final choice and selected the 1994 compilation CD, Pure Moods. The release is another reminder of his childhood that he still finds himself returning to, and its impact on him hasn’t evaporated.
“I got this tape when I was about 10. I remember seeing the advert called Pure Moods, and it has stuff on it like ‘Tubular Bells’ by Mike Oldfield, ‘Return to Innocence’ by Enigma. It almost has that same effect on me as that Moby album, but times by 1000,” he chuckles.
“I don’t meditate, and I don’t believe in God anymore, so that’s the closest thing to going to church, and it feels quite spiritual. I realise I’m talking about fucking Abba and Elton John, but the album itself is majestic. It feels like space music, and you’re amongst the planets.”