My Pop Life – John Thomson
By Steve O'Brien | February 24, 2023
The Fast Show and Cold Feet star shares his lifelong musical obsessions…
Who were your musical heroes growing up?
I loved John Barry as I’m a big Bond fan. There was a 25th anniversary double-gatefold James Bond album and I adored that. I used to listen to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service over and over again. I loved a lot of composers, like Lalo Schifrin, Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones – he’s done a few soundtracks.
Who were your favourite pop bands as a teenager?
Probably my favourite band growing up was Earth, Wind & Fire, I just adore them. But also Level 42. I love their Live At Wembley album, but particularly enjoy their first stuff, too, like The Early Tapes. Here’s a funny story: Level 42 were guests on The Fast Show on the ‘Anyone fancy a pint?’ sketch, and in the green room at the BBC, Mark King was there.
He was restringing his bass and took the old string off and I said, “Can I have it?” and he was like, “What on earth would you want that for?” and I said I was a big fan. So we got chatting and we’ve been friends ever since. I’ve always got a ticket if they come to Manchester. I love bands where they have a high level of musicianship and Mark’s one of the best bass players in the world.
Were you into indie at all?
I always loved soul and never understood people who liked indie, ‘cos it was quite mournful and sad. It’s just one of those things I’ve never been into, like The Smiths or Joy Division – those bands that you could write onto a canvas bag. People used to do that on canvas bags, didn’t they? I’m sure that’s why Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark was abbreviated to OMD, so it’d fit on.
Are there any songs that you remember dancing to back in the 80s?
I remember when we went to discos, pre-drinking, there were certain songs that really hit home with me. One game-changer that always got me up to dance was Herbie Hancock’s Rockit. Also M’s Pop Muzik really excited me and Shannon’s Let The Music Play.
What was your first single?
This Is Mine by Heaven 17, because I loved the brass arrangement on it. It still works for me now, as does Temptation. They’re cracking tracks.
Your favourite pop album?
I really adore Love And Dancing by The Human League, under the name League Unlimited, where it’s all remixes of their hits.
Do you go to gigs or festivals much?
I used to like the Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai and all the acid jazz stuff. There’s none of that music coming through anymore, it’s a shame. So there’s not many people I want to see. It’s like the lineup at festivals, with the exception of Love Supreme, it just appals me! I’ve never been one to buy into the indie scene, ‘cos that’s what festivals are mainly. The best gig I’ve been to recently was Bruno Mars at Manchester Arena. I go to a lot of gigs because I’ve got two daughters. I’ve seen Little Mix, who are pretty good, and The Saturdays who were alright.
What do you listen to if you want to relax?
‘Cos I’m sober now I like chillout music such as Zero 7 and Alex Cortiz. I enjoy that kind of stuff, particularly in the car, because I can be a bit of hot head behind the wheel!
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Steve O'BrienSteve O’Brien is a writer who specialises in music, film and TV. He has written for magazines and websites such as SFX, The Guardian, Radio Times, Esquire, The New Statesman, Digital Spy, Empire, Yours Retro, The New Statesman and MusicRadar. He’s written books about Doctor Who and Buffy The Vampire Slayer and has even featured on a BBC4 documentary about Bergerac. Apart from his work on Classic Pop, he also edits CP’s sister magazine, Vintage Rock Presents.