Next week marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Alastair Walker, co-founder of CMU. It was in early spring 1998 that he, Fraser Thomson, and current co-publisher Chris Cooke set out to launch a media that would bring together everyone working in music from the top executives at the biggest music companies to grass roots artists, songwriters, promoters, label owners and music journalists. CMU subsequently launched in May 1998.
Although Alastair’s premature death, just before his 30th birthday, of a heart attack brought on by undiagnosed diabetes, came just over three years later, by then he had put in place the musical ethos and editorial attitude that continues at CMU to this day.
To mark this anniversary and to celebrate his role in creating CMU, co-founder Chris Cooke has compiled a special Powers Of Ten playlist featuring some of the artists Alastair most admired, and some newer talent Chris is sure he would have been excited about.
Chris says of the playlist: “Both Alastair and I shared a very eclectic taste in music, which I think has always been represented in CMU. Though Alastair’s passion for and commitment to discovering innovators in every genre of music on a daily basis surpassed mine and pretty much anyone else I’ve ever met. Representing those eclectic tastes in just ten tracks is no easy task, but it’s a rule we’ve enforced on everyone else who’s put together a Powers Of Ten playlist, and I’m sure Alastair wouldn’t want us to break the rules just for him. Well, actually, he probably would, but we’re not going to”.
ALASTAIR WALKER’S TEN
Click here to listen to Chris’ Alastair Walker playlist in Spotify or listen via multiple sources on Tomahawk, and then read on to find out more about his selections.
01 William Shatner – You’ll Have Time
For reasons I never entirely fathomed, because this was before Shatner became cool again, Alastair was always a huge fan of the actor-come-singer-come-raconteur. In fact, a combined William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy album was always sitting next to the office stereo at CMU HQ. However, I’ve picked a track from Shatner’s more recent album, ‘Has Been’, rather than from that CD. Partly because it means I can include a nod to Ben Folds, another favourite of both mine and Alastair’s, who produced this album and track.
It might seem unusual to open a playlist marking the anniversary of someone’s death with a track that takes such a flippant attitude towards people dying, but as well as sharing eclectic tastes in music, we also had in common a rather dark sense of humour, and I am certain that Alastair would love the fact that his playlist opens this way.
02 Queen and David Bowie – Under Pressure
If there was one artist above all other that Alastair truly admired it would be Bowie. Actually, he’d hate me for choosing this track as the token Bowie appearance. He’d have probably chosen something from one of the BBC Radio Sessions. But this enables me to get Queen onto the playlist too, which I want to do because I remember Alastair’s mum telling me, not long after he died, how Queen were one of the few bands on which she and he could agree. Freddie Mercury et al were not a band Alastair raved about in public very much, but the way they frequently experimented with their sound would certainly have appealed to him. And all the more on the day Bowie was involved.
03 Stereophonics – Have A Nice Day
A band Alastair was behind from day one, initially as a student radio head of music in Edinburgh, and later as Co-Editor of CMU. Kelly et al returned the favour by writing us a column for a year in the early days of the magazine. We played this track at the end of Alastair’s funeral, knowing he would have wanted something upbeat despite the sadness of the occasion. Though as a result every time I hear this track, even though it’s probably the Stereophonics most cheerful song, it makes me a little bit sad.
04 Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid
I have a theory that every Scottish male has a soft spot for Shirley Manson. Certainly I know a lot of Scots with very diverse music tastes who would still put Garbage on the list of their top ten favourite bands. I’m not Scottish, but I did live there for four years, which is possibly why, like Alastair, I do like a bit of Garbage.
05 UNKLE feat Richard Ashcroft – Lonely Souls
I remember the first time Mo’Wax Records bought an advert in CMU. Alastair was very excited. And not because it meant we were some way closer to breaking even on that issue but because he was such a big fan of everything James Lavelle had ever been involved in. I’m not sure Alastair could have picked just one track off ‘Psyence Fiction’ to feature here, but personally this is my favourite.
06 Public Enemy – Don’t Believe The Hype
Talking about Alastair being excited, if I told you just how big a fan he was of the late 80s American hip hop scene, and Public Enemy in particular, can you imagine how happy he was the day Chuck D agreed to supply a regular column for CMU? If I’m being honest, as the person who had to sub-edit that column, I frequently didn’t understand a word of what he was saying. But somehow his almost poetic use of words was still awe-inspiring. Frankly, you could put any Public Enemy track into this playlist and Alastair would be happy, but I’ve chosen the crowd pleaser.
07 MIA – 10 Dollar
Right, given Alastair’s constant passion for new music, we ought to get some newer acts into this playlist. That is to say, artists who have emerged since his death. All I’ll say about Ms Arulpragasam is that if Alastair had ever prepared a checklist of what he wanted from a new artist, she would have ticked every box.
08 Sleigh Bells – Tell Em
Bringing us even more up to date, another band I’m sure Alastair would have been raving about is Sleigh Bells, who are coincidentally signed to MIA’s label. Like our columnist Eddy Temple-Morris, who first hooked up with CMU when Alastair interviewed him, he loved it when people made electronic music with a rock, or almost a metal, mentality. Of course that means there’s been a lot of music in the last ten years that Alastair would have highly rated – basically anything Eddy’s ever played on ‘The Remix’ – but there’s something so in your face about how this Sleigh Bells track opens, I think it deserves its slot in this playlist.
09 Faith No More – Smaller And Smaller
Alongside Bowie and Chuck D, the other musical innovator Alastair had particular time for was Mike Patton. So much so, we are possibly the only magazine basically aimed at a mainstream music audience to have featured Fantomas on our cover (back when we had a cover). But here I’m going to go with Patton’s most famous band, because you can’t beat a bit of classic Faith No More.
10 Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name
As someone who had been active on the world wide web from almost the first day it existed, it’s a shame Alastair never got to really experience the social media revolution, which he used to predict so frequently in the late 1990s. If he had been alive to see the day Rage Against The Machine beat the ‘X-Factor’ franchise to the Christmas number one slot via a carefully orchestrated Facebook campaign, I suspect he would have laughed for a week. The fact that it was one of his favourite bands who were chosen to defeat the pop machine would have made him happier still.