MAGNET Feedback With The Dears’ Murray Lightburn

I generally don’t listen to much music at all, especially when I’m in “creation mode.” I like silence. It allows me to dream and give the music already in my head some space to breathe, thus maintaining whatever is left of my sanity. Even when I do listen to music, there’s hardly anything on the record player that was made past 1987. It’s kind of sad, probably. I listen to way too much Motown and almost anything with a harpsichord on it. When I saw this list, my first thought was “No Sly? No Miles? Oh well … ” As “white” as this list is, I’m surprisingly pretty familiar with all this stuff, and some of it even brings back memories. —Murray Lightburn

Leonard Cohen, “First We Take Manhattan”
I love the production of this and much of this era of Leonard Cohen’s work. As an artist, it’s easy to want to be like him. Being a poet is not easy. Being a great poet is a fantasy. Somehow, Leonard Cohen makes the fantasy of being a great poet a reality while making it look easy. Plus, I want those backup singers.

Serge Gainsbourg And Brigitte Bardot, “Bonnie And Clyde”
The string arrangement on this track is not something you hear often, especially in rock music. It almost puts the listener in a trance. It’s a perfectly trippy ’60s pop jam, and so perfectly French. You’ll hardly ever hear anything this authentic or so well put together today. I went through an intense Gainsbourg phase right around the time we recorded our first album, End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. That was almost 20 years ago, and I still play his records on a regular basis.

Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together”
I can literally listen to this guy all day long. This era of his work is untouchable. It seems that the idea of staying together through thick and thin is not something to which many adhere today. The previous generation, like my parents, really believed in “’til death do us part.” It’s easier to just give up, especially if there isn’t a lot of deep entanglements like house, kids, finances. Even then, people seem more drawn to looking after themselves these days as opposed to looking after “us” as part of themselves. It’s a bit heartbreaking. This track is very, very much in line with what we’re on about on Times Infinity, both sonically and conceptually.

Joy Division, “Ceremony”
When I was much younger, I played in a band that played a lot of covers, and this one we played a lot. I have a deep appreciation for Joy Division’s work. Stephen Morris is one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, and I never hear anyone talk about that. Today you hear tons of drummers trying to do what he does on this track and not come close.

Kirsty MacColl, “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby”
First, this song and main lyric is one of my all-time favorites that I continually love to quote. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of covers. Listening to this, I realize that is mostly due to the type of song and who is doing the cover. I no longer hold that feeling as of right now. I hadn’t heard Kirsty MacColl’s version before and, frankly, it is fantastic. I should be turned off, but I am not in the slightest. It’s wonderful.

Pixies, “Head On”
I was a Pixies nut when I first heard them. I saw them a couple of times back in the late ‘80s. I knew a lot of the songs on guitar, too, and I still play “Velouria” on the guitar when it’s my turn at every Dears soundcheck and no one knows what I’m playing. That said, I don’t know why they bothered with this cover. I don’t really like it at all. I like the Jesus And Mary Chain original so much more. See above.

Prince, “When Doves Cry”
Oh, man. This is a track that is in my blood, in my soul and tattooed on my heart. Everything about it is perfect. I love Prince. He changed my life, 100 percent.

Roxy Music, “Jealous Guy”
Again, right cover, right artist. I love Roxy Music to death. “Jealous Guy” is one of my all-time favorite songs! This is impossible to go wrong with, even with that cheesy, chorus-y electric piano.

Stars, “Ageless Beauty”
Of our contemporaries, Stars are probably our closest and oldest friends out there. We love these people to bits, and I remember when they were working on this track all the way back then. I knew it was going to be a big one for them, too. The very first time we met, a million years ago (1999), I was drunkenly way over-enthusiastic in expressing my feelings to Amy (Millan) about her voice. To this day, she lords this over me, reminding me all the time: “You said ‘[vulgarity]’ … Do you remember that?” God, I’ll never live it down, I reckon. Thing is, I still feel that way now and I’m pretty sure even Natalia (Yanchak, Dears keyboardist and Lightburn’s wife) is OK with it. I mean, who doesn’t get those feelings from that voice? Amy is amazing.

The Stone Roses, “I Am The Resurrection”
I got to meet Ian Brown many years ago when we were on the same festivals and he was doing a solo thing. Sweet guy. His band played a bunch of Stone Roses tunes and I, along with the audience, was just losing my shit. That record was a big deal for me, and this track is beyond classic. There is something both fresh and familiar with the guitar work, but mostly it’s incredibly melodic. These days, it’s hard to find a good singable melody out there. John Squire has that shit in spades—singalong guitar lines. Jesus.