Captain Sensible's playlist – Soft Machine, Mylène Farmer, Terry Riley and more

Forty years after helping to form the Damned, the Captain picks a punk-free playlist of all-time favourites

The Groundhogs – Garden

My musical awakening coincided with the British blues boom of the late 1960s, which produced an extraordinary number of world-class guitarists like Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and my fave, Groundhogs guitarist Tony McPhee, who is now a chum of mine. How nice it is to buy your guitar hero a pint while gossiping about tour shenanigans. Thank Christ for the Bomb was an outrageous title for an album, and the songs are full of angst and drama too, not to mention fabulous interplay between the three band members.

Listen to Garden by the Groundhogs

Soft Machine – Moon in June

The most innovative of the Canterbury proggers, Soft Machine were in the process of splitting when Robert Wyatt wrote Moon in June – the poppiest prog song of them all. What a fabulous way to tender your resignation. The rest of the band, earnest jazzers to a man, must have been appalled at all the sumptuous melody. In 1970, Soft Machine were the first rock band to play the Proms, and although not remotely her cup of tea I managed to persuade my mum to take me.

Soft Machine play Moon in June in 1969

Jimi Hendrix – The Wind Cries Mary

Somehow I managed to blag an invite to the unveiling of Jimi Hendrix’s blue plaque, outside the apartment he shared with his lovely girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. If he’d been with her that fateful night in 1970, and not partying with a Danish groupie, the greatest rock guitarist who ever lived might still be alive today. This is the lovely song Jimi wrote for Kathy.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience play The Wind Cries Mary in Paris

Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air

Nobody likes visiting the dentist but I got round my own personal aversion courtesy of a glorious bit of improv by minimalist pioneer Terry Riley. His Rainbow in Curved Air is a long, meandering piece with a distinctly hypnotic tendency – and when delivered to the ears via a decent pair of headphones it turns a trip to the dentist into a psychedelic dream.

Listen to Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air

Mylène Farmer – Libertine

In the 80s, I was as surprised as anyone else to do a stint as Britain’s most unlikely pop star, and I was shifting some serious units abroad too. It was on a promo trip to Paris that I discovered Mylène Farmer who, despite having a long and successful career in Europe, is virtually unknown to the English-speaking world. Her finely crafted pop music produced hit after hit – but the videos take things to an entirely different level. At a time when Adam and the Ants’ Prince Charming was on every screen in the land, this is what was happening on the other side of the channel.

Watch a video for Mylène Farmer’s Libertine
  • The Damned’s 40th anniversary tour begins on 12 November at the Assembly, Leamington Spa, continuing until 9 December. Details:
Captain Sensible

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Readers recommend playlist: songs about purple
This week, reader saneshane creates a playlist from your suggestions – including songs by Jimi Hendrix, MIA and Marc Almond

Stephen Males

09, Mar, 2017 @12:00 PM

Article image
John Foxx's ambient playlist – with John Cage, Popol Vuh, Elgar and more
The singer and artist selects music from the tranquil end of the spectrum – from Erik Satie to Thomas Tallis via Virginia Astley and Aphex Twin

John Foxx

03, Oct, 2016 @12:00 PM

Article image
The playlist: new bands – PWR BTTM, Liss, Whitecliff and more
Playful queer punk from a New York-based duo, Steely Dan-indebted languor from a London group and some pounding indie-pop from Liverpool

Paul Lester

17, Aug, 2015 @11:06 AM

Article image
playlist: experimental music – Africa Express, Colin Webster, Rutger Zuydervelt, Laurie Spiegel
The funkiest version of Terry Riley’s In C ever recorded and a project on 1950s telephone operators – consider your mind expanded

Philip Clark

11, Mar, 2015 @5:23 PM

Article image
The playlist: new bands – Bossy Love, Honne, Purple + more
Bossy Love serve up ‘Prince on a trampoline’, Owlle gets creepy, Attaque purveys shoegaze electronica and Purple shouts it in your face…

Paul Lester

27, Oct, 2014 @11:50 AM

Article image
Bonobo's playlist: The Invisible, Pional, Yussef Kamaal and more
The producer picks his current favourite jazz, LA-Ethio funk and ‘non-electronic electronic music’

Simon Green

31, Oct, 2016 @10:00 AM

Article image
The playlist – new bands: Girli, Tabanca, Snøskred and more
Dreamy indie-sounds from Snøskred, bad-girl budget electro from Girli, and Parlour Tricks release their distinctive vintage pop for the future

Paul Lester

28, Sep, 2015 @1:41 PM

Article image
Rudimental's playlist: Tourist, J Hus, Anne Marie and more
Ahead of their sold-out show at the O2 Arena in London on Thursday, Rudimental’s Leon Rolle picks the biggest bangers around

Leon Rolle

03, Mar, 2016 @11:01 AM

Article image
The playlist: electronic – James Blake, Jackmaster, Beats in Space and more
A new track from the 2013 Mercury prizewinner, PC Music’s latest offering, one for your Christmas party soundtrack, a mysteriously titled slice of techno, and a Beats in Space celebration

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

28, Nov, 2014 @1:24 PM

Article image
The playlist – new bands: Vogue Dots, Gold Celeste, Palace Winter and more
Our latest roundup of new music presents textured synthwave and an Australian band that War on Drugs fans might fancy

Paul Lester

31, Aug, 2015 @2:42 PM