Credit: Ryan Johnston

Doctor’s Orders: Travis’ Dougie Payne prescribes 9 of his favourite records

10 Songs was the first Travis release in a little over four years, and in so many ways, it came at the perfect time. Released at the height of the pandemic in October of last year, the album provided the perfect melodic boon to float away from troubles with. The record celebrated the joyous melodic singalong poignancy that the group have been imparting for over two decades now. It provided the perfect opportunity to sit down and champion music’s healing power that Travis gorgeously elucidated themselves in the latest instalment of Doctor’s Orders.

Whilst the benevolent plus side of releasing music during the pandemic was the extent to which it offered deliverance from the turmoil and the gratitude of fans, the downside was that sadly bands couldn’t take their effort on the road. However, they will now thankfully have that opportunity as live music makes a much-welcomed return (tour dates are available at the bottom of the piece). To accompany this celebration, the band have also released a reissue of their classic hit-laden debut, Good Feelingwhich is available on their official online store and in independent record shops now. 

Whilst the forthcoming return of live music and the eagerly awaited shows by Travis and Co. offers in a break in the clouds moving in and a glimpse at brighter skies beyond, many are still struggling with the effects that the pandemic and the resultant lockdown. 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 and hear how music has helped them during their darker times, and their day to day life.

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. At a time when millions of people have been forced to stay home during strict lockdown measures, CALM has seen a huge spike in their workload.

We at Far Out believe in music’s ability to heal. It could be the moment that the needle drops on your favourite album 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 will be an ongoing feature that will see some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors comedians and more, offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.

If you’re able, and if you can afford to, please consider a small donation to help the CALM cause. £8 can answer one potentially life-saving call.

In support of this vital cause Dougie Payne took on the challenge of prescribing nine albums for living well and his stellar selections offer not only a perfect playlist but a distilled snapshot of his life so far, illuminating the ever-present boon and shaping influence that music has been in it. His record choices offer an eclectic mix all sharing a DNA of profuse creative brilliance coupled with a deep sense of originality and the inherent exuberance that comes with the simple joy of expression. 

Dougie Payne’s 9 favourite records:

Hunky Dory – David Bowie

David Bowie’s early work may be accepted as an essential part of his oeuvre by us devotees, but there is undeniably an aura of feet finding associated with the work. For many, his 1971 release, Hunky Dory, was when he finally fulfilled his otherworldly potential. However, as Dougie brilliantly quips, nothing is straightforward when it comes to the starman. 

“I think it’s the best record ever made, but I don’t even know if it’s my favourite Bowie album.” It might sound like Dougie is spouting confusing paradoxes, but there is a definite Bowiefied grain of truth to the statement. 

He then went on to discuss the profundity of the record on a personal level: “It’s important to me personally because it’s the first record I ever listened to all the way through. I was very young because I was lucky enough to grow up with three older sisters, so their record collections were like a sweet shop. My sister Gill sat me down one day when I was about five and played me Hunky Dory. The only way I can describe it is like all the lights came on. You’ve got this incredible range from epic songs to small songs, and it was almost like it gave you a window into another way of living, a more bohemian way of living.”

Aged just five when he first heard it, the goblin screaming ending of the record also had an effect of its own on Dougie. “It was absolutely terrifying,” he jokingly recalled, “But when it was over, I still asked my sister to play it again. And from those scary goblins, you go straight back to ‘Changes’ which is like this autumnal sun. It’s still just as remarkable to be me 43 years on.”

Revolver – The Beatles

The next record of choice was another bona fide classic, The Beatles’ 1966 classic Revolver. It was a record that heralded a new age for the Fab Four and once more it opened up new avenues for Dougie.  

“To my mind, The Beatles are like two different bands,” he explained. “When I was little, my sister was a Beatles obsessive, and her room was next to mine so their records would filter through the wall — so, they just sort of seeped in. But Gill was only into the mop-top Beatles albums so that to me was The Beatles. Years later when I discovered the weird, hairy, druggy Beatles I absolutely fell in love with them all over again. ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ 55 years on still sounds like it was recorded tomorrow. I go back to it quite frequently and it never fails. It’s just a thing of great beauty.”

Live at the Harlem Square Club – Sam Cooke

In the introduction, I described Dougie’s choice as sharing a DNA of exuberant joy, and that was far from a clutch at filler before getting to the meat of his choices, the inherent ties that bind the albums is a real force of creative joy. Sam Cooke’s live album captures the boon of performing like almost no other. As Dougie explained, “This is the greatest live record of all time.”

“It’s magical, you are suddenly in that club, you can feel sweat coming down the walls. It’s a wonderful atmosphere and a truly outrageous performance. His presence is so joyful. You cannot listen to that without smiling. The physicality comes across in the grooves, just with the pure joy of singing. It has been in my life about 20 years,” Dougie continued, “we picked it up on tour and we’d put it on backstage just to say ‘this is what it’s all about’.”

No doubt the simply scintillating singing performance by Sam Cooke also subtly piled a little bit of pressure on Fran Healy too. 

Around the World in a Day – Prince

It seems we all have one album that comes along and changes everything at some indefinable period, early on in our lives, but there’s also a second formative blow that resonates a little later on and scores our coming-of-age years. It would seem this was Dougie’s, “The Bowie obsession continues to this day, but the next big obsession for me was Prince. This record was the next point of my hero-worship.”

“I first saw the video for ‘When Doves Cry’ and I fell in love. I was about 12 when it came out and I bought the 12” straight away. That was like striking oil because you had this brilliant back catalogue. From that moment on, I was a pop kid and any pocket money I got; I was straight to the record shop to buy pop music, and this record, in particular, is pure pop perfection. For me, Prince bestowed that decade like a little colossus.”

Scott 4 – Scott Walker 

In 1997 David Bowie described Scott Walker as “my idol since I was a kid.” It was a quote that turned a legion of younger Bowie-heads onto Walker’s work, and it was this unique quality of opening doors to a world of curated art that Dougie greatly admired about both Bowie and Walker. 

“Going back to Hunky Dory,” he explained, “One of the big things with Bowie was that he opened up pathways to other artists. He did Jacques Brel songs on his Ziggy Stardust tour and I was fascinated by these strange songs. My brother-in-law got me a tape of Scott Walker sings Jacques Brel and I was blown away by the liquid bravado. Scott Walker, once again, is an artist who creates atmosphere and on Scott 4 his enticing cosmopolitan ways really are at the pinnacle.”

(For big Scott Walker fans Dougie also recommend the album Soused which he recorded with Sunn O))) in 2014.)

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

Naturally, bass playing had to enter Dougie’s choices at one point. Although he is a multi-instrumentalist, the bass is his natural home, and it was this seminal album that drove his four-string obsession home.

“Growing up in the ‘80s Motown was a little soft and it just sort of passed me by. Then I started going out with a girl from San Francisco and she started playing me all this good stuff, and it was amazing. Later on, I saw the movie Standing In The Shadows of Motown and became utterly obsessed with [bass player] James Jamerson. I started obsessively listening to his basslines. Then I heard a story about how he was playing on stage in a club once and Marvin Gaye arrived and physically dragged him off the come and play on his record in the studio. Jamerson was so steaming drunk that he played all the basslines lying down. I’ve tried doing it myself,” Dougie joked, “And it’s just about impossible.”

Dougie continued, “Because I’ve listened to the record thousands of times you begin to realise what the album is and what it means. The title of record isn’t followed by a question mark – it’s a statement – this is what’s going on. And tragically it is as relevant today as ever.”

Transformer – Lou Reed

The list of absolute classics continued with Dougie’s next pick. The Lou Reed team-up with David Bowie and many of his Stardust bandmates resulted in a masterpiece back in 1972 that still sounds fresh and influential today. However, it was the contribution of Bowie’s famed guitarist Mick Ronson that Dougie chose to shine a light on, “Personally, I think this record is a testament to Mick Ronson,” he explained.

“His arrangements all the way across and his playing is beautifully put together. The whole record is kind of perfect; it’s funny and it’s sad and it’s filthy and it’s sweet, it’s got everything!” 

He continues to discuss the legacy of the record and the impact that it still has on him when the iconic songs work their way to the right settings once more, “You can tell it’s a classic record because some of the songs have been blunted by familiarity, but sometimes it will hit you like you’re hearing it for the first time, and I had that recently with ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ after hearing it a million times.” Dougie concluded, “With the record you feel this sense of playfulness and magic.”

Dog Man Star – Suede 

Of all the contemporaries to blossom in early ’90s Britain it is Suede that Dougie holds dearest. Around about the time he joining Travis (who were still Glass Onion at the time), Suede came along and changed the picture. “I absolutely adore this band,” Dougie eulogises, “From when ‘The Drowners’ came out to now.”

“I first heard ‘The Drowners’ in Fran’s [Healy] car one night. He picked me up and said, ‘listen to this!’ and from that point on I was hooked on Suede. As far as I’m concerned, the Britpop wars were won by Suede and Pulp. They were the most interesting and adventurous people in the movement. Suede had a depth that the things that followed didn’t have.” Dougie concludes, “Dog Man Star is a band chucking absolutely everything at a record and it’s superb!”

The Bends – Radiohead

The kinship between Travis and Radiohead stretches beyond the nebulous ties of sound. In the past, both bands have enlisted the services of legendary producer Nigel Godrich. The first thing that Dougie rushed to do in thanks to Godrich’s endless support was to extol his work on his favourite Radiohead record… oh no, sorry, he didn’t. As Dougie joked himself, “I feel a bit disloyal to Nigel Godrich,” he laughed and, later, respectfully clarified that his friend’s work on the Radiohead records that he actually produced is absolutely stellar, “But The Bends is the one for me.”

“It was the soundtrack to my first visit to New York,” Dougie explained. “I walked around the city and just listened to it on my Walkman on repeat. It’s got it all!”

Dougie then described the story of how Thom Yorke encountered a stumbling block while recording ‘Fake Plastic Trees’“They couldn’t get the song to work,” he explained. “So, they went out to see a Jeff Buckley concert. I actually went to see him on the same tour and it was unbelievable, still the most intense show I’ve ever seen. There was about 40 people there and nearly everyone there was in a band. Buckley had this spellbinding effect that caused Thom Yorke to complete change the way he was singing.” And the rest, as they say, is ancient history. 

Travis have also rescheduled their UK tour for May 2022, including a show at London’s Roundhouse on 20th May.

Tickets available here.

May
10th – Corn Exchange, Cambridge
11th – O2 Academy, Leeds 
12th – The Forum, Bath
14th – Victoria Hall, Stoke
15th – Symphony Hall,  Birmingham
17th – Albert Hall, Manchester
18th – O2 Academy, Bournemouth
20th – The Roundhouse, London
21st – O2 City Hall, Newcastle
22nd – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

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