On my radar: Guy Garvey's cultural highlights

The Elbow singer on TV monsters, a ballet version of Peter and the Wolf on YouTube, and Seamus Heaney on sofas

Guy Garvey was born in Bury, Lancashire, in 1974, the second youngest of seven children. At 16, he joined the band Mr Soft, who renamed themselves Elbow in 1997 after a line from Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective. Winning the Mercury prize with their fourth album, 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid, their last three albums all got to No 1, and a new live LP, Live at the Ritz: An Acoustic Performance, is out now. Garvey lives in London with his wife, the actor Rachael Stirling, and their three-year-old, Jack.

1. Documentary

Some Kind

of Monster

Metallica at the Some Kind of Monster premiere in New York, 2004.
Metallica at the Some Kind of Monster premiere in New York, 2004. Photograph: Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock

I rewatched this again recently – it’s a bit like comfort viewing for me. It’s an absolutely extraordinary portrait of what happens when you get stuck for ever in adolescence. Metallica are basically in crisis and, to help them out, are working with this performance enhancement coach, Phil Towle. Phil does all these mad things, like bringing Lars Ulrich’s father into the frame. He’s this ex-professional tennis player with a beard, a proper psychological torturer. I also love the bass player in his ranch, on his horse – it’s very clear he’s never been on a horse before. It’s a regular tour-bus favourite for Elbow. It’s a miracle it got released, frankly.

2. TV

Messy Goes to Okido

CBBC's character Messy – blue, big head, small body very smiley.
‘Absolutely hooked’: Messy Goes to Okido. Photograph: CBBC

Rachael, Jack and I are absolutely hooked on this, even more now we’re all stuck at home. It’s centred around this animated blue fuzzy monster called Messy, voiced by Adam Buxton, who goes on these five-minute adventures where he finds out about science. Buxton is his usual witty self. The BBC is brilliant with kids’ stuff, as so much of it is about learning. You get the sense everyone’s realising how important the BBC is now. Jack would also like to recommend Grace’s Amazing Machines and Andy’s Safari Adventures. I’d like to warn you all against Waffle the Wonder Dog, though. Someone was ordering a pizza when they commissioned that one. Dreadful.

3. Ballet

Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf, the Royal Ballet School (live stream)

Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf.
Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf. Photograph: The Royal Ballet

This was broadcast on YouTube as part of the Royal Opera House’s #ourhousetoyourhouse series. The choreography is brilliant, and Prokofiev’s music is fantastic, of course. I’ve always loved storytelling through music ever since I was a kid – surprising that, for a songwriter, although I’ve moved on a bit from Sparky’s Magic Piano. The generosity of arts organisations right now, putting stuff online for families, is amazing, although it can feel funny using this time to enjoy yourself with your family. My mum, who’s in her 80s and remembers polio and the back end of the war, said something the other day that stuck with me, though: “Son, it’s important to live when you’re surviving.”

4. Fiction

Eric Ambler’s thrillers

Black and white shot of four middle-aged men in hats and coats against wall covered in German graffiti calling for freedom for Soviet states.
Eric Ambler, second from left, with fellow writers at Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, 1987. Photograph: Jane Bown

I have a chap in Waterstones in Euston who recommends me books and, thanks to him, I’m holing up with Eric Ambler’s thrillers. Ambler did a lot in the 1930s, and Le Carré and Graham Greene really rated him. I’ve always loved the romance of a spy thriller: all those dramatic journeys across Europe. You can imagine Ambler’s characters being played by Lon Chaney and Jimmy Cagney, and Ambler is great at tiny details. I read a great line this morning in The Mask of Dimitrios: “The waiter was annoyed about something.” There’s a chapter in that alone.

5. Poetry

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney, 2002.
Seamus Heaney, 2002. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

Rachel has started buying me his stuff in slim volumes after the recent BBC documentary [Seamus Heaney and the Music of What Happens] shook me up. I read his poem Digging back in school, but I wasn’t interested then. A poem about a man admiring his father’s dexterity with a spade, you say? What? Then you get older, and you get it.I love how Heaney drops bombs in his poems, taking you somewhere, then throwing in a different register or image. I’ve tried to do that in my songs as far back as in 2001 with the single Newborn, when I said: “I’ll be the corpse in your bathtub.” My favourite of his right now is A Sofa in the Forties from The Spirit Level, where this old sofa becomes a train for some siblings. I love its rhythms and energy.

6. Music

Drab City

Watch the video for Working for the Men by Drab City.

I’ve been doing my 6 Music show from home for getting on for 13 years, and I still get excited about new stuff. I’ve only heard one song by Drab City, called Working for the Men, but I’m a bit obsessed with it – it’s very eerie, like it’s been made in a basement by a pair of kids who’ve got a few jazz samples to play with. I know very little about them, apart from that they’re called, brilliantly, Asia and Chris. It reminds me of Scottish 90s band Adventures in Stereo. It’s all jazz guitar, vibraphone and flute. Nothing wrong with a bit of that in my book.


Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
On my radar: Robyn’s cultural highlights
The Swedish pop star on her favourite authors, new music and old hangouts

Kathryn Bromwich

25, May, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
On my radar: Santigold’s cultural highlights
The US singer/songwriter on the political art of Nina Chanel Abney, her love of interior design and relating to Incredibles 2

Kathryn Bromwich

28, Oct, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
On my radar: Gwenno’s cultural highlights
The musician on the teen spirit of Derry Girls, John Abell’s medieval-style watercolours, and a book about cheese

Kathryn Bromwich

25, Mar, 2018 @9:00 AM

Article image
On my radar: Georgia’s cultural highlights
The singer on Armando Iannucci’s new comedy, what she could learn from Gary Numan and her favourite vegan restaurant

Kadish Morris

08, Mar, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
On my radar: Feist’s cultural highlights
The Canadian singer-songwriter on discovering podcasts, the ritual of eating good food, and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unrealised sci-fi epic

Interview by Kathryn Bromwich

30, Jul, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
On my radar: MNEK's cultural highlights
The songwriter and producer on the secret life of Mariah Carey, Korean fried chicken and being creative on Zoom

Jude Rogers

07, Nov, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
On my radar: Akala’s cultural highlights
The rapper, presenter and author on the album he’s listening to a lot, Idris Elba’s mean side, and the enduring power of Tupac

Kathryn Bromwich

19, Feb, 2022 @3:00 PM

Article image
On my radar: Lynette Linton’s cultural highlights
The Bush theatre’s artistic director on how Bridgerton, a hilarious internet dating show and an incredible debut novel are feeding her obsession with love

Killian Fox

23, Apr, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
On my radar: Rosie Holt’s cultural highlights
The satirist on her favourite superhero show, her go-to gym motivation music, and why she loves Tim Key

Kathryn Bromwich

09, Jul, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
On my radar: Lauren Laverne’s cultural highlights
The TV and radio presenter on a surprising history of menswear design at the V&A, classic Billy Connolly routines and her favourite London venue

Lauren Laverne

18, Jun, 2022 @2:00 PM