Jamie MacColl

Music to make grown men weep

Words: Florian Obkircher
Photo: BBC

Jamie MacColl of Bombay Bicycle Club on his granddad’s finest phone call and the dance tunes that lead to tears

Bombay Bicycle Club aren’t Indian,they come from London, and when Jack Steadman, Suren de Saram and Jamie MacColl joined forces in 2005, it was not to go cycling. The band they formed, with Steadman on vocals, MacColl on guitar, de Saram on drums and, eventually, Ed Nash on bass, were indie darlings whose stock rose dramatically with their second album, Flaws. A subtle, folky revelation on release in 2010, it won them many new fans and the Best New Band at that year’s NME Awards. 

On their latest, fourth album, the chart-topping So Long, See You Tomorrow, they blend playful electronic music with euphoric pop melodies. MacColl, 25, reveals the music that turns on BBC.

MacColl & Seeger - The First Time Ever…

“I’m perhaps a bit biased because my grandfather, Ewan MacColl, wrote this song. Legend says he wrote it then sang it down the phone to my grandmother [singer Peggy Seeger, half-sister of the late Pete Seeger]. Hopefully that’s true, because it’s a lovely image. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is simply the finest love song ever written.”

Arthur Russell - Love Is Overtaking Me

“This is a song that Jack discovered when he was writing our second album, Flaws, and it became one of our favourites. It’s hard to explain what it sounds like. Arthur Russell delved into many kinds of music, but disco-folk seems quite apt. Perhaps the best description I can give is that I’d like to have it played at both my wedding and my funeral.”

Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman

“The most striking thing about this song is its simplicity. It only really has one verse, but the chorus is such a thing of beauty you’d be happy to have it nine or 10 times. ‘And I need you more than want you/And I want you for all time’ is perhaps the best couplet in any modern song; a sentiment that everyone has experienced at least once in their life.”

Fryars - On Your Own

“Who knows if it will stand the test of the time? At the very least, this is my favourite song of the last few years. Either way, I think Fryars will prove to be one of the great songwriters of our generation. He has that rare ability to articulate a sadness that we’ve all felt – ‘on your own, feeling like you don’t belong’ – in a way that doesn’t feel false or overly emotive.”

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

“Someone once said to me the best music should make you want to dance or to cry. LCD Soundsystem make you want to do both at the same time. At their gigs, I’ve seen grown men weep as they pull dance moves normally reserved for when they want to embarrass their children. It will always remind me of the people I love and our time together.”

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