Five Records That Changed My Life, Part 67: Tony Franklin

English bassist Tony Franklin, aka The Fretless Monster, made a name for himself performing with Whitesnake, The Firm, Roy Harper and Blue Murder. He went on to perform with artists such as John Fogerty, Marty Friedman, Kate Bush, Quiet Riot, David Gilmour and many more. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Tony to talk about the five albums that changed his life.

Queen “A Night at the Opera” (1975)

“I bought Queen’s ‘A Night at the Opera’ on the strength of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which ruled the UK charts in late 1975. I was transfixed. At 13 years old, I’d never heard anything like this album. Symphonic in its scope, musically diverse – from hard rock to vaudeville: operatic, adventurous and playful. I never realised that rock music could be so dynamic and daring. I went on to see Queen live six times from 1977 to 1986. Their recorded and live performances influenced me immensely. With innovative production techniques, bold songwriting, outstanding musicianship and powerful captivating live performances, Queen had it all.”

ABBA “Greatest Hits” (1975)

“My dad owned the album, and at 13 years of age I played the album repeatedly. I still love ABBA and consider them masters of pop music songwriting, production and performance. Even at that age, I was aware of how skillfully they created musical hooks and passages that filled every second with meaningful melodies, sounds and rhythms. As I grew older, I appreciated their talents all the more, as I understood how difficult it is to do what they did, especially in the pop music format. Anyone who wishes to better understand the art of crafting timeless pop music, should make a sincere study of ABBA’s music.”

Jaco Pastorius “Jaco Pastorius” (1976)

“This album was brought to my attention by brilliant British jazz pianist Johnny Patrick. The album was released in 1976, but I didn’t hear it until 1979 when I was barely 17 years old. I’d been playing fretted bass for six or so years. Johnny placed the headphones on me, late at night, simply saying, ‘listen to this’. I was astounded. I never realised that bass could do so much! Jaco’s harmonics, his tone, his groove, and his compositions spawned a complete paradigm shift in my musical journey. I had to have a fretless bass, which I did, later that same year. Fretless bass has become my signature instrument, and this was the album that ignited the fretless spark.”

Stevie Wonder “Talking Book” (1972)

“This album has appeared at various times in my life, each time presenting me with different gifts and inspiration. This might well qualify as my sole desert island disc if I was forced to choose. First introduced to me by a friend in 1980, it covers many aspects of music that are dear to me. Pure inspiration, phenomenal songwriting, great performances, daring creativity, passionate vulnerable love songs and a funk and groove like no other. Stevie Wonder taught me more than anyone about groove and pocket. His use of complex chords and harmonies in essentially ‘simple’ songs – as in the opening track, ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ – is nothing short of genius. Emotionally he shifts gears on ‘Maybe Your Baby’, which also has one of the nastiest and most innovative grooves I’ve ever heard. ‘You and I (We Can Conquer the World)’ is possibly my favourite love song, succinctly expressing vulnerability, inevitability, spirituality and commitment. Home to the iconic ‘Superstition’, ‘Talking Book’ is a stream of consciousness of consecutive musical gems that never fails to uplift, inspire and touch me.”

“Standing in the Shadows of Motown” soundtrack (2002)

“In 2008 I became aware of the powerful and emotional movie ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown’. Featuring the legendary Funk Brothers, the band that played on almost every Motown song from 1959 to 1972, it highlighted the little-known heroes and innovators of this groundbreaking era in Motown’s history. A friend of mine sent me the Deluxe CD of the soundtrack from the movie. Disc 1 featured music from the movie. However, Disc 2, is musical treasure – select (mostly) instrumental remixes of the original Motown masters. My appreciation for Funk Brother bassist James Jamerson went through the roof. My respect for him was already sky high, but hearing these remixes brought my love for him to a whole new emotional level. His creativity, boldness, vision, execution and pure instinct elevated him to an almost other-worldly status in my estimation. The inspiration I received from this album is boundless. While there are plenty of Jamerson bass-only versions available, as well as the original songs themselves, to my ears, nothing comes close to highlighting his brilliance (and the rest of the Funk Brothers) as this little-known album.”

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