LUCKY 7 is the feature where we ask artists to name their 6 favourite songs by others, and a lucky 7th song of their own…today it’s the turn of the magical, mystical, mercurial best new act in Britain (according to these pages), Bingo Harry.

I was handed his album by the top fella that is John Henderson of Tiny Global Productions when watching the Nightingales recently, and since I started playing it I basically haven’t stopped, such is the magnetic pull of the tunes therein.

Bingo Harry is the alter-ego of Benny Jones, and its funny that he’s my current favourite muse as he was originally “discovered” by Martin Bramah whose latest Blue Orchids record on Tiny Global is my album of the year (more of that another day). Bingo Harry as a band opened up live for the Blue Orchids and Martin was so taken with their other-worldly charm he ended up covering the BH original, the cautionary sting in the tail tale of “If They Ever Lay A Finger On Us” as a closer to the imperious album “Righteous Harmony Fist”. He actually got in there before Benny could – the song later appeared on the first self-titled Bingo Harry album but with no less heft or fractal heart.

These days Bingo Harry is mostly the vehicle for Benny than it is a fully fledged band, but don’t be fooled, this second album “Where Do We Go?” is no delicate folky solo foray. It’s a fully formed timeless slew of tunes, some instant classics, earworms from the off, others slowly insistent. It’s both grabbed me by the lapels and quietly embraced me, quite some achievement – usually you seem to get instantaneous songs or growers, not a melee of both.

Jones lives on a houseboat somewhere in Northern England and somehow also squeezes his studio in it – I say squeezes cos this is not a lo-fi effort, it’s big and broad (not Norfolk broad) and confident and fulsome.

It could be Kevin Ayers or Syd Barrett era psych, vocally it has aspects of Ty Segall or Sexton Ming meets the Pendle Witch, but lyrically it is also right now, stamped with the ills of a society that frequently stamps on its proletariat and which certainly doesn’t usually encourage artisans like Bingo Harry.

And yet, it’s also glimmering and simmering with an against the odds hope.

My hopes for Benny’s song choices were not unfounded…

1. David Bowie “Fill Your Heart”

This ecstatic track from my favourite Bowie record had a significant impact on me as a writer. His ability to convey esoteric messages gave me the insight that it is possible to transmit philosophical ideas through lyricism. Being into the occult at the time, David communicates ideas of using the power of the psyche and heart to overcome obstacles and to find positive outcomes in challenges. The messages herein have been carried with me every since, and overall the clear eyed confidence of David Bowie has given me and so many others the go ahead to be more flamboyant and light-hearted.

2. A Silver Mt Zion “Mountains Made Of Steam”-

A side project of the better-known band Godspeed You Black Emperor, A Silver Mt Zion are one of a group of experimental and post rock bands that I would listen to in my formative years. Significantly Godspeed where instrumental, and when my friends and I saw that A Silver Mt Zion were playing at Leeds Brudenell Social Club, we had to go. Never hearing them before, we were amazed to hear the lead guitarist and composer of sorts, singing! His voice was not your average, it was high, raspy, bending into notes and most importantly it cut through to your soul. It was a powerful performance and upon leaving all I could think was, wow he has the courage to use his voice even though it is so different, it gave me permission to express my own slightly unusual singing style more freely.

3. The Cure “Jumping Someone Elses Train”

The frenetic drive The Cure create in songs like this really sunk in, the ability to vibrate that passion and power in song is in my mind what people feel in a live environment and also absorb, as part of a musical experience.  Robert’s vocal style and approach is one that shifted my notion of what a singer should sound like, and that I didn’t need to aim for a classic singing style to be a singer myself. The topic of this song is highly perceptive, observing how so many people fall into a crowd to be accepted, this is especially true for music, where the courage to really be an individual is rarely seen, partly because it’s easier to be accepted if you fit in a pigeon hole, or a particular tribe. This song helped me to be weary of this danger.

4. The Incredible String Band “A Very Cellular Song”

In our days of musical exploration, my friend received a cassette mix tape from a local musician that we loved. It was full of wondrous new sounds, though in his cryptic style there was no track listing! So it took sometime for me to figure out who was on there, some I still don’t know! But I did discover Daniel Johnston and The Incredible String Band. This track is one of my favourites, I have learned and covered it in the past, partly in an attempt to uncover it’s magical flow. Shifting tempo and key, with cosmic, nostalgic and mystical subjects, it really is a treasure trove of beautiful song craft. Though not many of my own songs meander as this, I love the ingenuity and bravery they display by doing what they do, and expressing their own sound.

5. Animal Collective “Penny Dreadfuls”

A fascinating band in my eyes, their ability to go completely experimental and trippy, and then transforming it into a melodic pop tune is somewhat miraculous. The atmosphere they create in this track is one of rareness, their sound can draw you in and absorb you, take you on a journey and then place you out the other side. This mix of experimentation, of tapping into the ether, and then handling the creative rhythms that exist there to create a cohesive and catchy song is impressive. They are a band whose albums also differ greatly from one another, you hear their sound develop and mutate between records as they move from freak acid folk to electronic dance sounds. Their ability to rewrite the rule book and to be overly trip has impacted my own freedom to write as I wish.

5. Neil Young “Walk On”

I was first lent a CD of Neil Young’s album ‘Tonights The Night’, it was a weird one to have as my introduction to him, but it got a lot of plays and lead me down a road of Neil Young discovery that has shaped how I write and the subjects that I touch upon. The way that some songs seem to transmit energy from higher realms is what got me hypnotised by him quite some time ago. I’ve chosen this track because the satisfying groove that accompanies his ethereal voice is so moreish, it’s a short song and many times I just have to play it again and again. It has a priceless optimism that I love, a sunshine feeling that sets the pace for the rest of the record. He is a master of getting the tempo of his tracks perfect, they just strike you exactly right, being so full of soul. This helped me to realise that tempo is such an important part of writing and recording a great song. He is another artist who’s vocal goes against convention (he was known also as shaky, because of his high voice) and produces a sound so uncompromisingly his own. This was an inspiration for me to be me and really do my own thing, and to not be concerned with convention.

THE LUCKY 7TH: Bingo Harry “Fearsome Tannoy”

I wrote this on a 12-string guitar after visiting Valencia, where I had been to see friends and to record a track for the album. It was inspired by media in the airports that created messages of fear and paranoia, whether through billboards, television, newspapers . . . or over actual tannoys! These means of communication have effected the mental health, stability and humanity of society, and so I felt sufficiently impassioned to write and sing about it. It is inspired by the feeling of being watched by the authorities and being a suspect for no reason, of watching your step and looking round corners. Its does end on a positive note however as ‘fearsome tannoys soon disappear, in the fields where trees grow’, stating that we can find peace and solace in nature.

THANKS SO MUCH BENNY AND TO JOHN HENDERSON OF TINY GLOBAL PRODUCTIONS AND SEAN NEWSHAM AT MUTANTE

You should definitely get yourself a copy of “Where Do We Go?” by Bingo Harry – may I suggest via Bandcamp on tomorrow’s Bandcamp Friday (if you’re reading this on Thursday 3 Nov)

https://bingo-harry.bandcamp.com/album/where-do-we-go

or the debut…also on Tiny Global

I played Bingo Harry on these recent episodes of Velvet Sheep radio…

VELVET SHEEP RADIO SHOW EPISODE FORTY FOUR – REPEATER RADIO

VELVET SHEEP RADIO SHOW EPISODE FORTY THREE – REPEATER RADIO