Soundtrack of our Lives: Pixy Jones of El Goodo

YOU MAY not have taken a dive into an El Goodo album; that, I’m afraid, may be a flaw entirely laid at your own door.

OK, they don’t work to a Tin Pan Alley rhythm – there’s only been three albums since their eponymous debut for Super Furries’ Placid Casual imprint in 2005, the most recent of which, Zombie, arrived a few weeks back.

It’s a very lovely thing, charting a path with swagger between country-rock, surf twang, garage-punk and Big Star’s way with a chime. We reviewed it, were utterly charmed by the sounds coming out of the Vale of Neath, and noted, in consultation with sciencey types who know about this sort of thing, obviously, that it had to be something in the water that gave them this deep understanding of tunesmithery.

We also noted how much fun it would be to sit, “… and flick through their vinyl. Oh you’ve got that (cool!), oh you’ve got that (jealous!); what is this??”

A seed, reader, was sown that day. We decided to ask singer, guitarist and songwriter Pixy Jones if we could kinda do that virtually, thus saving on the train fare. Step in then, for a gorgeously varied, candid, incredibly tasteful, Soundtrack of our Lives with Pixy.

Hiya Pixy. What’s the track that influenced you to start making music?

I don’t think I ever had a lightbulb moment, but the first thing I ever learned to play on a guitar was the riff to “Day Tripper”. I was about 20 at that point, so quite a late starter. I was asked to play bass for what became El Goodo on the basis that I could just about play the “Day Tripper” riff. I learned everything else from there.

Tour bus favourite?

We’ve toured sporadically and fairly infrequently over the past 20 years, but I think The Gilded Palace Of Sin, by The Flying Burrito Brothers, sticks out as a tour bus favourite. Never fails to get everyone in the bus belting out the harmonies.

Saturday night tune?

Ok, I’m going to go for three, in no particular order: The Velvelettes – “Needle In A Haystack”, for moving those feet and clapping those hands. The Stones – “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, for shaking those hips and thrusting those pelvics; and The Sonics – “Strychnine”, for jumping up and down and screaming WAAAHOOOO!

And a Sunday morning record?

Frank Sinatra – Watertown. Never been a huge fan of Old Blue Eyes apart from the magnificent In The Wee Small Hours, but I came across this a few years ago. It’s a gloomy concept album about a middle-aged man whose wife leaves him. It’s like a John Cheever story set to music. Nice late at night with a whisky, but also good on a Sunday morning. Amazing! Also, A Love Supreme, by John Coltrane, if I’ve got the house to myself and haven’t got the kids telling me to “turn it off, it’s rubbish, there’s no words.” There’s also never a bad time to play Love’s Forever Changes, the bonus being that the kids actually like it (Mainly because there are words in it and one of them is snot)!

The first record you ever bought?

I really can’t remember the first that I bought myself; but I do remember having all of Shakin’ Stevens’ singles when I was a kid.

The cover version you would love to play?

“Ugain i Un”, by Datblygu. I’ve been learning Welsh for the past couple of years which has got me back into listening to Datblygu. I became a bit obsessed with this song at the beginning of the year and played it on repeat for weeks. Because I’m nowhere near to being fluent at Welsh yet I’ve had to piece the lyrics together a bit. It’s about a horse race on the surface, but I think there’s a big metaphor in there about life in general, how one minute you’re on top of the world and the next minute you’re on the scrapheap. In fact, I’m sure that the winning racehorse ends up as tinned dog food in a French supermarket at the end. I might be overthinking it and losing a lot in translation, but if there are any fluent Welsh speakers out there reading this, I’d like to know their take on it! It’s got a great video, too. 

The best cover of all time?

Super Furry Animals’ version of Datblygu’s “Y Teimlad” is immense, one of my favourites ever. It’s the song that got me listening to Datblygu in the first place when Mwng came out. The vocals on it are something else! Both versions are great. I’d have to also pick The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie”, because they sort of made it their own and it paved the way to garage and psych bands of the Sixties that I love so much.

My musical discovery of lockdown?

The main one is The Wu-Tang Clan. I watched the documentary and it’s sent me down a hip hop rabbit hole! There’s a lifetime of stuff that I’ve got to catch up on, which is quite exciting. Liquid Swords, by GZA, is the one that’s doing it for me at the moment. Class!

Another one that surprised me was Fontaine’s DC’s A Hero’s Death. I heard one of their songs last year and sort of instantly pooh-poohed it as not my cup of tea. I put the new album on in the car on the way home from work late one night out of curiosity the week it came out and it got its hooks in straight away. Been listening a lot since. There’s a lot of late 90s’ “alternative” guitar band hints in there under the surface for me: Pavement, Sonic Youth, type of thing, etc, which I love and didn’t expect.

I also discovered the song “Where Evil Grows”, by The Poppy Family, just before lockdown happened when I went to watch Sonic The Hedgehog in the cinema with my son. I thought it was some modern recording that had completely nailed the 60s’ production because it sounded so huge in the cinema. Turned out it was from ’68 or ’69. Got obsessed with it and played it on repeat for the following couple of weeks.

My musical rediscovery of lockdown?

It’s not so much a rediscovery because it’s always been one of my favourite albums; but it’s what I discovered about the album Better Can’t Make Your Life Better, by The Lilys. I bought the CD when “Nanny In Manhattan” was on the Levi’s ad in the 90s and I’ve always loved it. A few months ago, I felt like listening to it and my only option was Spotify. I got a bit spun out listening to it because there were key parts missing (like the strings) and also some different parts which weren’t on the one that I’ve known for twenty-odd years. I looked into it and apparently there are two different versions because after the brief success of the single due to the Levi’s ad, the record label got it remixed and paid for extra orchestration to be added. I think that version was only released in the UK. Both versions are amazing but the one with the added stuff (which isn’t now available) is the best. There are some different tracks on them both too. Plus the b-side to “Nanny In Manhattan” is one of the best B-sides ever!

The best song I’ve written?

Don’t know really. I suppose the most satisfying one to hear completed was “Baneswell Blues,” [from El Goodo’s latest album, Zombie] because it’s been kicking around for over 15 years and it came out exactly as I’d imagined it in my head for all that time (particularly the brass, strings and woodwind bit), which doesn’t happen very often. I wouldn’t say it’s my best song though really. “Susan & Bill”, “Forever Casting Shadows” and “Oh My!” are probably my most personal ones.

The best cover version of your music?

Haha, I doubt any exist! If there are any out there, I’d love to hear them. Here’s a cover I did in the lockdown though, if you’re interested.

The song that I remember most from my childhood?

This one always stuck in my head throughout my childhood even though I didn’t know where I’d heard it. I Googled some of the lyrics a few years ago and there it was – “Titw Tomos Las”, by Hogia’r Wyddfa. It made sense then because when I was really young my father only had three LPs – a Hogia’r Wyddfa one, Sgt Peppers, and Let It Be. Hell of a collection!

My favourite track made by friends?

Tricky this one because a lot of my mates are musicians and if I make a list and forget someone I’m going to get into trouble! I’m going with this one because they’ve just released their new album and it’s amazing. Keys – “The Strain”. We’ve known Matthew since we were kids (he’s from Resolven) and he’s one hell of a songwriter and brilliant musician in general. He’s what we refer to around our way as a “talented bwarrstud”.

And by the band that should have been/should be bigger?

El Goodo. *glugs down bottle of whisky. (I’m joking, ok!)

Actually, Keys are a good shout but my favourite band of all time are Olivia Tremor Control. I suppose I can understand why they didn’t go huge, because their music is quite out there, but it’s all rooted in amazing tunes. Also The La’s. I know they’re fairly well known but I wish they’d have continued. I bet Mavers has got about ten albums’ worth of unrecorded classics floating about. Damn shame. I’ve got to also mention Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. They are one of the best bands ever and should have been massive. Tunes upon tunes upon tunes.

My guilty pleasure?

I believe that if you like a particular film or band or song that isn’t thought of as cool you shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but trust that your own taste is the best and that everyone who wants to take the piss can go fuck themselves! I’ve always loved the film You’ve Got Mail, guilt free. I’m a huge fan of Greg Kinnear for some reason. I love Greg Kinnear, and if loving Greg Kinnear is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

The record in my parents’ record collection that attracted attention?

Sgt Peppers. I didn’t have much of a choice of LPs as a kid, but the artwork always takes me back to that time before I knew the music and they were just some weird looking blokes who dressed funny. George used to scare me.

The record I’ll have at my funeral?

I’ve planned my funeral in my head a few times because I’m a morbid bastard. “Gathering Moss”, by Super Furry Animals, during the service, just to confuse people. Big picture of me at the front looking gormless but with a slight smirk on my face (not unlike Greg, above, but not as handsome); and finally, as everyone’s leaving, “Hilltop Procession”, by Olivia Tremor Control. Good old happy/sad singalong at the end. Not a dry eye in the house.

The words of this song inspire me

I can’t think of any lyrics that actually inspire me, in terms of to become a better person or anything like that.

There’s a song on Nuggets that is one of my all-time favourites that gets me punching the air every time the chorus kicks in, partly because of the lyrics (which are silly but great (and true))!: “Moulty”, by The Barbarians.

Also, there’s a song called “Good Times”, by Nobody’s Children: another garage psych classic. The lyric goes, “I’m going bald and I’m getting fat too, and if you don’t like it, here’s something for you …” which always makes me flick the middle finger into an imaginary person’s face (I suppose it’s like the guilty pleasure thing). Great evil laughter and guitar solo too, “Axe it Ray, HAHAHAAAAAH!!…”

The best record ever?

Black Foliage, by Olivia Tremor Control. The ultimate headphones album. Mind-melting genius. Second best album ever? Music From The Unrealised Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle, by Olivia Tremor Control.

The record that makes me sad?

“Little Baby”, by Blue Rondos, is incredibly sad. Absolute stunner. “That’s The Way Love Is”, by Del Shannon. Could have picked about 20 Del Shannon songs. “Copenhagen”, by Scott Walker. I know that there are sadder songs by Scott, but when he sings “Caaaaa-Rou-SEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLL” it’s the only song that actually makes me fill up nearly every time. It’s always the vocal that does it. Sad songs are the best songs.

The record that gets me on the dancefloor?

OK, I haven’t been anywhere near a dancefloor for a while, so I’ll substitute the kitchen floor for the dance floor. I think “Needle In A Haystack” (see above) is a good shout but I’ve already picked that, so “Step On”, by Happy Mondays just so that I can do the Bez dance and shout “Caaaall da copssss”. Also, “Cyboogie”, by King Gizz. I’m a massive King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard fan and this is their most danceable one. “On A Ragga Tip”, by SL2 gets me up, too.

The best record I have ever written/ever recorded?

Zombie by El Goodo – Go out and buy it now everybody, so that I might be able to afford to make another one!

Pixy, you’re a star. Thank you so much for your time.

El Goodo’s Zombie is out now on Strangetown Records and may be ordered from an array of excellent emporia: here’s links to two such recommended dealerships, Piccadilly and Norman Records.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark
    September 11, 2020

    Big fan of the band. Coming from California in the US. I’ve always wondered if Susan & Bill which is one of my favorites as well was some sort of homage to the Cowsills? Perhaps pose that next time you speak. Thanks

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