James Murphy is the brains behind LCD Soundsystem and with such an eclectic output with the project, it’s fair to say he’s had his time to ponder his own favourite songs list. The DJ has doubtless soundtracked many a fantastic evening for his audience but what would make his own playlist.
Below we’ve gathered some of Murphy’s favourite songs—tracks gathered from interviews and conversations—and built out a playlist of the musician’s favourite songs of all time.
The 50-year-old musician first broke on to the scene with LCD Soundsystem and their game-changing single ‘Losing My Edge’ which burst on to the scene in 2002 and announced a new chapter for electronic music.
It would take three years for the band to release their self-titled debut album (it would surely never take so long to make another alum again, right?), after which, would see Murphy at the pinnacle of electronic music. Below we’ve compiled a selection of Murphy’s favourite songs and while his pioneering sound may have laid the foundations for electro in the 21st century, his picks are a homage to the rock and roll of the past.
One set of songs Murphy is particularly infatuated with, however, is the Violent Femmes self-titled album. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Murphy describes the LP as one of suburbia’s quintessential coming-of-age records, along with records by The Clash and Dead Kennedys. “It was one of those rites of passage albums that sounded like being a suburban kid who would get himself punched in the face just by being annoying,” Murphy says, during the interview, he picks ‘Blister in the Sun’ as his favourite from the record.
The list continues and features stellar acts such as The Beatles, Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground and so many more. It highlights Murphy’s incredible taste and makes for one hell of a playlist.
Now, there is one inclusion in the list which we must preface with the caveat that Murphy picked it as part of The Guardian’s feature Soundtrack of my Life, in which he picked ‘the first music I can remember’ — picking The Tokens’ ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. While we can’t be certain it’s still a favourite, it left a mark on the young Murphy, “I have an image of hearing this in the hallway when I was three or four.”
“The sound of it was really crazy – like it was from another planet,” remembers Murphy. “Those early years in New Jersey were amazing. We lived in a really small town with tons of kids my age. There were fields and woods and a creek – it was a pretty ideal place to be a little kid.”
One man who also left a lasting impression on Murphy was David Bowie. The Starman once convinced the LCD man to continue making music and his song ‘Fame’ was the first song Murphy ever bought. You could argue the man outweighed the myth for Murphy, “I was always just blown away by David Bowie and how mannered the guy was willing to be. It was so far from what I imagined someone with my confidence to be capable of. I always wished I had a more flamboyant streak, but it’s just not what I’m made of.”
It allowed Murphy to reconcile with his own style, “Once I stopped feeling bad about that and started feeling, OK, why don’t I just be myself? – that’s when I started to make much better music.”
In the same feature, Murphy revealed the one record that influenced ‘the LCD sound’, picking ‘Is It All Over My Face’ from Loose Joints from 1980 he shared: “Starting DFA records, starting LCD Soundsystem, starting to DJ – it was one big cataclysmic event. After a lifetime of obsessing about sound, I just went crazy.”
“I really loved the drums on this Loose Joints track – dead and small and a little bit distorted – and it fed into the DFA drum sound. The other track that was huge to me at the time was Atmosphrique, the first Metro Area 12-inch. I was just floored that there was somebody else trying to make drum sounds like that.”
Of course, these favourite songs lists are always offered with a caveat. Like us, and many other music fans, we imagine that when Murphy is asked about his favourite songs the answers will change almost daily. However, the collection of songs below do provide one sensational playlist.
You can listen to the full playlist below:
James Murphy’s favourite songs:
- ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ – Yes
- ‘Alone Again’ – Gilbert O’Sullivan
- ‘Blister in the Sun’ – Violent Femmes
- ‘I’m So Green’ – Can
- ‘Rock Lobster’ – The B-52s
- ‘Atmosphrique’ – Metro Area
- ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’ – Heaven 17
- ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ – Roberta Flack
- ‘Paintwork’ – The Fall
- ‘Jump into the Fire’ – Harry Nilsson
- ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ – The Tokens
- ‘Rock & Roll’ – The Velvet Underground
- ‘Fame’ – David Bowie
- ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ – The Beatles
- ‘Mother Sky’ – Can
- ‘It’s All Over My Face’ – Loose Joints
- ‘Teen Age Riot’ – Sonic Youth