My Pop Life – Mark Millar
By Steve O'Brien | September 7, 2023
The comic book writer – and creator of Kick-Ass and Kingsman – reflects on his music obsessions…
Who were your musical heroes growing up?
Undoubtedly Queen. I’m the youngest of six and there’s 14 years between me and my nearest brother so at the peak of the UK mid-80s alternative scene I was listening to 1972 albums that people’s dads were into. The press at the time were absolutely brutal about Queen so I felt hugely vindicated when they ruled Live Aid and everyone else’s guitars went limp. This was my Pretty Woman in the department store moment when I swaggered into school on the Monday.
What’s the first song that you remember loving?
Simon & Garfunkel’s El Cóndor Pasa. It’s traditional in Scotland to have a song as your party piece at family events, and when I was three this was the one I’d have to stand on a chair and sing. A three-year-old singing every lyric of Simon & Garfunkel songs must have looked like I was possessed.
Who were your favourite artists as a teenager?
Queen, ELO and The Bee Gees were my favourites when all my pals were into The Smiths, The Pixies and The Stranglers etc. I’m amazed I wasn’t bullied for loving these, but I think other kids just seemed baffled and possibly thought I had learning difficulties. At the same time I was dressing up as Sherlock Holmes and reading a lot of Agatha Christie.
What’s the song that’ll always get you dancing?
I’m a 53-year-old Scottish guy. That means I only dance ironically and at weddings.
What was your first single?
Flash Gordon by Queen. Kids walk out of movies and will buy absolutely anything with their favourite character from slippers to Shreddies. The fact that this movie was so good and had a Queen soundtrack was like a speedball for me. I almost couldn’t process the pure joy of it all and literally stepped out of the cinema, aged 10, and bought the single for 99p on the way home. I bought the album later and my friends and I would stick it on and beat the shit out of each other, acting out every scene. I still hang out with these guys so we should do this again after the pub sometime.
Your favourite pop album?
My wife has the greatest answer when someone from the music industry asks this question, as the typical response is: ‘The White Album’ or whatever. But she always says Now That’s What I Call Music 24. They always ask why and she explains that it’s 55 No.1s for the price of a normal eight-track album. I love this answer so much I’m going to steal it, though my NTWICM album would be number four. The Reflex? Ghostbusters? Radio Gaga? Together In Electric Dreams? Come on! I loaned this to my cousin in 1988 and he still hasn’t given me it back.
And what’s your favourite 80s single?
I’ve given this a lot of thought and I almost can’t come up with an answer. In the 80s I was listening to 70s tracks, but I realise now I picked up a huge love for this era from school discos and nightclubs I was sneaking into underage. So now almost every song has a happy memory that makes me warm to the music in a way I didn’t at the time. I like upbeat stuff. Maybe Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor. But I’m also a big movie soundtrack guy. I loved A View To A Kill by Duran Duran.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
No question – Burt Bacharach when he did Glasgow. I’m a huge fan of Burt and Hal David, but it was quite surreal as I was 50 years younger than anyone else. Someone genuinely died a few rows behind us and everyone acted like this was a completely normal thing to happen on a Tuesday evening.
What’s your favourite needle drop moment in a movie?
Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis in American Psycho. I really enjoy that blue collar Americana kind of music and loved this when it was featured in the movie. Like Singing In The Rain in A Clockwork Orange, it messes so brilliantly with our emotions. Another favourite, if I can pimp one of our own movies, was The Banana Splits used for Hit-Girl’s entrance in Kick-Ass. We used that as a temp track and never thought we’d get away with it in the actual movie.
What pop song – if any – will you have played at your funeral?
Oh, I’m a Catholic so it’ll be all hymns for me. Also, as a movie producer, I like the idea that this means no copyright issues.
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.