The 25-year career of singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding has skyrocketed of late with the publication of no fewer than three critically acclaimed novels under his birth name, Wesley Stace. Equally amazing, the artist named for Bob Dylan’s misspelling of Texas gunfighter John Wesley Harden has just released the finest album of a career that’s seen him record at least 18 longplayers for labels ranging from high-profile majors to imprints so small the back catalog was stored in somebody’s garage between the cat box and the washing machine. Produced by old pal Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and fleshed out by no less than R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and the Decemberists, The Sound Of His Own Voice (Yep Roc) is a full-bore stunner with Wes (nobody calls him John) weaving his usual lyrical magic through knockout arrangements of extraordinary songs that revive the ghosts of the Kinks, David Lynch soundtrack guru Angelo Badalamenti and wall-of-sound maestro Phil Spector. For yet another career-topping milestone (gasp), JWH will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week for (yes it’s true) the second time. Read our brand new Q&A with him.
Harding: Are the Rutles in any way not quite as good as the Beatles? I’m not sure. And they’re funnier, too. When I was a kid, I didn’t really bother, after buying the LP of The Rutles soundtrack, to discriminate between the two. Why would I have done? In fact, my first band (aged under 12) was called the Brutles, which, though it sounds quite appropriately punk for the time (1977) and should probably have been spelled the Brutals, was actually just a muddled-up tribute to both the Beatles and the Rutles. We never did a gig, though I do have a poster suggesting that we were thinking about it. None of us could actually play—art copyright either Wes, Stuart or Ed.
One of my most treasured 12-inch records is this Rutles EP, on yellow vinyl, with the classic banana logo. Does it get any better? Eric Idle’s expression alone … (Unlikely link to Patto? Barry Wom (John Halsey) was the drummer in Patto, and the guitars on the record were played by Ollie Halsall.)
Neil Innes is a great songwriter and an even greater parodist. It seems tragic that he didn’t benefit financially from his work on the Rutles songs; surely George got the joke and the genius.
Photos after the jump.