Neil Gaiman is one of the most eminent contemporary writers. The mind behind The Sandman, American Gods, Coraline, Stardust and Good Omen’s, his pedigree is of the highest order. There’s no coincidence that many subsequent fantasy writers have cited him as their defining stimulation.
Much like his friend Alan Moore, Gaiman is a polymath who cherrypicks from different areas in culture and weaves these diverse strands into a multi-faceted and dense tale, something that all writers should take note of. Like with Moore again, it is Gaiman’s self-awareness that brings his characters and stories to life, and it is this worldliness that has imbued his stories with an endurance that many writers could only dream of cultivating.
Unsurprisingly, Gaiman as a man is fascinating and is one of those rare figures that you could listen to for hours. Be it his in-depth knowledge of literature, advocacy of open marriages or even his unwavering use of the fountain pen, Gaiman’s a real character, and you can feel it in his array of works. His 2019 Masterclass is a must-watch for all those wanting to understand his creative process a little better.
It may also come as little surprise that Gaiman is a huge fan of music; after all, he is married to Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls. The two have collaborated on the live circuit before, which even saw the author singing a selection of songs. Back in 2013, Gaiman was kind enough to reveal his favourite 13 albums as part of The Quietus‘ ‘Baker’s Dozen’ column, and his selections did not disappoint. A varied and often surprising list, there’s some classics as well as more left-field choices, indicative of the modus operandi that colours his work.
The first record chosen was The Velvet Underground’s fourth album, 1970’s Loaded. Technically the ‘final’ Velvet Underground record before the remnants of the classic lineup went their separate ways, it’s a thing of real beauty. Featuring tracks such as ‘Sweet Jane’, ‘Oh! Sweet Nuthin” and ‘I Found a Reason’, it’s strange to think that Lou Reed often criticised the album, given how strong it is.
In the interview, Gaiman noted how the album had aged well, and its underappreciated nature within the discography of The Velvet Underground. He said: “This actually is as great an album as I thought it was when I was 13”.
Of course, elsewhere in the list, Gaiman included an album by his long-term friend Tori Amos. Picking her 1992 debut album, Little Earthquakes, the author recalled: “The first version of Little Earthquakes I heard was handed to me at San Diego Comic Con by a man named Rantz Hoseley, who said, ‘Here’s a cassette tape by a friend of mine, she sings about you on one of the songs, go and see her.’ And it wasn’t actually Little Earthquakes. It was 50 per cent Little Earthquakes and 50 per cent things that wound up on B-sides, like ‘Flying Dutchman’ and ‘Sugar’, and a lot of songs that could have been on Little Earthquakes and were at one point or another recorded for it.”
After hearing the first version of the album, Gaiman thought to himself, “This is fantastic, this person’s great”. This was to be the start of a very long and fruitful friendship between him and the singer-songwriter. He explained: “There was a phone number, and I called up, and she answered, and I said, ‘I think you’re great.’ We used to chat on the phone once a week. So for me, it was much more about this wonderful, elfin, red-haired, brilliant person that I’d met. And it was this peculiar bonding experience with somebody that became my sister and has stayed one of my best friends year in, year out.”
Showing just how varied Gaiman’s taste is, he also picked Cast of Thousands by punk legends The Adverts. Showing that his array of knowledge extends to all corners of music as well as literature, he explained: “For me, the great post-punk album is Cast Of Thousands. It’s one of the strangest examples of an album happening at the wrong time or just happening ahead of the curve. People forget that The Adverts were right in the beginning of punk.”
Gaiman said: “It’s TV Smith at his sharpest lyrically, as an Advert, and the band sounds amazing. It’s a really strong album in this weird melodic post-punk way. It hasn’t really gone off into powerpop, which hadn’t really quite happened yet anyway. But that’s not where it’s going. It’s going, well, we’ve done this loud, three-chord bangy thing, let’s go deeper and let’s write better and smarter and more complex songs. At a time when nobody was ready for that.”
There are offerings from David Bowie, Nouvelle Vague, and even Jason Webley included in Gaiman’s list. Clearly, his taste is of his time but he’s also a fan of those who diverge from the norm, an ethos that permeates all his work. Find the 13 treats Gaiman listed below.
Neil Gaiman’s favourite albums:
- The Velvet Underground – Loaded
- Al Stewart – Past, Present And Future
- Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes
- The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs
- Penelope Houston – Tongue
- The Adverts – Cast Of Thousands
- Thea Gilmore – Avalanche
- David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
- Nouvelle Vague – Nouvelle Vague
- Lou Reed – Lou Reed
- Elvis Costello And The Attractions – Imperial Bedroom
- Michael Nyman – Drowning By Numbers
- Jason Webley – The Cost Of Living