Some of the world's biggest music stars reveal the records that changed their life

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Singers and songwriters from Robbie Williams to Suggs talk tell us the tunes that proved definitive for them

Ahead of the Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting, some of the world's biggest music stars reveal the song that they will never forget.

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Robbie Williams

“I never understood guitar music until ‘Girls & Boys’ by Blur – and that led into a love for Oasis – though I did not get bands at all when I was growing up (my first record was Glenn Miller’s Greatest Hits). I was into electro music, so I was cool at one point. And that was the point. And then my sister bought me Adam & the Ants’ ‘Prince Charming’ but I have never listened to it. I could not understand it. It all changed with Oasis.”

Ozzy Osbourne

“‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harum. It taught me when a song is perfect, not to attempt a poor copy.  It’s been covered by so many people and I was tempted – but it’s been over-covered, so I decided not to. And I’ve learnt I was so right. It’s difficult with covers, even doing one of your own material.”

Brian May

“Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll Be the Day’. Ah the sound; the sound of those guitars and the wonderful harmonies... Yeah, I think a good part of Queen was born right there.”

Cerys Matthews

“I absolutely love ‘Ace of Spades’ by Motorhead because it makes you feel like you’re on top of the world and you can still jump off and survive. And that’s me – the hang-glider fanatic – talking about jumping off and surviving. When I’m up there in the skies I put on ‘Ace of Spades’; it changes my life.”

Labrinth

“The James Bond soundtracks;  all of them are amazing, every single one of those changed my life. I am talking about the old-school, I’m talking about Shirley Bassey, I’m talking about ‘Goldfinger’, man, of course. I was listening to them the other day and I was just, like, totally going out of my head. I just think the way they used to create music back in the day, it was magical, it was a special thing.”

Beverley Knight

“The late great Sam Cooke originally did a song, when he was 19 I think, with the Soul Stirrers, called ‘Jesus Gave Me Water’. My mum and dad had the record and I would stand of a Sunday – a very religious household – and watch the player go round and round and round with this voice coming out. As a three- year-old it was like being hypnotised by this voice. That changed everything. I knew I was going to sing from hearing Sam Cooke.”

Marti Pellow

“Wow. I think the thing that turned me most on to music and influenced me would be my mum singing ‘Downtown’ when I was a wee guy – you know she would sing that and it made me feel... nice. So yeah, my mum with ‘Downtown’.”

Meat Loaf

“All my life I have been blown over by songs that tell stories so that when you hear them, you see pictures. Adele continues that greatness especially with her ‘Rolling in the Deep’ which is the best pop song ever – fight me if you don’t agree – she’s changed everyone’s perceptions. She makes great pop songs.

“Before that it was the best stuff from Jim Steinman – amazing – amazing – and right at the beginning ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles; all so visual. Henley when he wrote that was all over that song; you see the clerk at the desk, everything; ‘You can check out... but you can never leave!’. Oh boy, oh boy, is that true.”

Suggs

“The song that had the most profound effect on me was ‘Is That All There Is?’ by Peggy Lee. It’s a really funny song written by Leiber and Stoller, who wrote a lot of songs for the Coasters and Elvis Presley.

“‘Is that all there is – because is that all there is?’ It sounds like a sad song because it’s about a girl and her house burning down and stuff. She keeps saying ‘Is that all there is?’ – but basically it’s a song of keeping going through hard times.  I think it’s a really great song.”

Lachie Chapman, The Overtones

“Aretha Franklin’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’; I wasn’t expecting her to do what she did to that song. She’s my favourite singer; I am a big Aretha Franklin fan. I heard it when I was about 15, it was the first time I heard someone sing like that. I was just a kid and I thought ‘What on earth is this?’– and it turned out it was Aretha.”

Bruce Watson, Big Country

“The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ because I was really small and tiny in my gran’s house and I always remember getting a Beatles’ guitar for my Christmas you know and every time I used to watch the Beatles on the TV I used to get my guitar out. And once they finished their song they would bow and I would bow in front of the TV.”

Stephen Bowman, Blake

“‘Life on Mars’ by David Bowie and you can’t get more current than that right now, can you, frankly? He’s back and deservedly so. I guess because I grew up as a classical musician and there are very  few pop artists who embody a symphonic sound in a pop song – and he’s one of them – the Beach Boys are another.”

Rob Damiani, Don Broco

“It’s a toughie. I guess it was Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’. I think it was the first song where it was like ‘Wow, this guy’s badass, he’s on to something right here’. And then you know, it was ‘Bang! I want to  do music’.”

Noel Gallagher

“‘Pretty Vacant’ by the Sex Pistols.  I was not even a teenager; it blew open my eyes and opened my ears.”

Brian Wilson

“‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ from the Beatles’ album –  to this day I am still very jealous of the Beatles and the whole Sgt Pepper album. When I wrote the songs for Pet Sounds I was trying to emulate what they had done on that ‘Sgt Pepper’ track. After I heard it I was jealous of their fame, John and Paul’s singing  and their group harmonies.  I don’t think what I did was anywhere near as good as ‘Sgt Pepper’. Maybe other people consider me a genius but I don’t, not on their level.”

Yannis Philippakis, Foals

“‘Enjoy the Silence’ by Depeche Mode. That song was actually introduced to us a few years ago by a friend of ours. I think we were quite old when we first heard it, maybe like early twenties, and it just blew our minds. It’s incredible.”

Mark Owen, Take That

“‘Space Oddity’ – amazing record.”

Brandon Flowers

“‘Sing Your Life’ from Morrissey. It’s one of those things you can’t talk about or put your finger on, it just is what it is – but that song really affected me.”

Bobby Gillespie

“‘Sugar Sugar’ by the Archies. It makes me happy and it makes you dance as well. That’s pretty much what pop music’s supposed to do.”

Johnny Marr

“‘Metal Guru’ by T. Rex because it sounds like it’s from another world – and somewhere that I wanted to live in.”

Brett Anderson

“‘Bodies’ by the Sex Pistols really influenced me because it’s visceral and because it’s hungry and because it’s violent. And because it’s teenage and all the things pop music should be, all the things rock music should be.”

Miles Kane

“‘No Limits’ by 2 Unlimited, because  it was the very first single I ever bought. I can’t remember how old I was – let’s just say I was very young.”

Carl Barat

“‘Venus in Furs’ by the Velvet Underground totally grabbed me by the spine and threw me against the wall into an entirely different world. It jolted me out of the Top of the Pops and 1980s Smash Hits life I was living and it opened up the past and the classics and the greats and a whole different way of thinking about music.”

Marc Almond

“Marc Bolan’s ‘Ride a White Swan’ – it was a simple, beautiful pop record. Before then there was only really progressive blues music and progressive rock and when ‘Ride a White Swan’ came along, this beautiful 2½ minute, very simple, simple song changed the whole face of music I think.”

Jake Bugg

“Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’. It’s an incredibly inspiring song; it influenced me to go on and play music.”

Tim Burgess

“‘Blue Monday’ by New Order. Back in 1983 when I heard it, it totally changed my life. It’s such a good composition.”

mr hudson

“‘Five Years’ by David Bowie; it just blew my mind basically. It just made me realise you could squeeze a feature film into a song.”

Dan White, Tribes

“Pulp: ‘Common People’. I just loved it. I was growing up when that came out. It just seemed to tell a great story. I must have been about 13.”

Jim Cratchley, Tribes

“‘The Rain Song’ by Led Zeppelin – it has beautiful guitar work in it. An inspiring track.”

Ryan Jarman, The Cribs

“‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by the Bee Gees – the late-period Bee Gees track. It’s a good one, a classic. It’s a big power ballad. We really loved it.”

Aluna Francis, AlunaGeorge

“‘By Your Side’ by CocoRosie – their voices together sound mind-blowingly bizarre and wonderful. The character in the voices are like nothing else; it’s the most unique sound – a sweet, weird, voice combined with a more operatic style of vocal. Unique and amazing.”

Adam Anderson, Hurts

“‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ by Sinead O’Connor – that’s a big song for us for when we started the band, a really important tune. We ran a lot of slow songs and that was one of the best ever, so we were like ‘Right let’s make our music like this’.”

Conor Maynard

“‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’ by John Mayer was a song that I thought was just written incredibly and it kinda really made me think I really want to start writing my music. Before that I was doing a lot of covers, I loved doing my covers online, on YouTube, and then when I heard that I was like, I want to write music. I want to write my own lyrics, I want to write my own stuff – so that definitely inspired me to do that I would say.”

Dougie Poynter, McFly 

“‘I Get Around’ by the Beach Boys is the most happy-making song ever and if a song can actually make you feel better about the day then it’s an amazing thing. Collectively as a band, it’s one of our favourite songs.”

Elly Jackson, La Roux

“Weirdly it’s a cheesy one; I love ‘Right Down the Line’ by Gerry Rafferty that song makes me cry every single time. I love Gerry Rafferty. There is just something about the chords and the fact as well that me and my mum used to drive around and that was the only tape in the car and we used to listen to that and it reminds me of driving around in the rain in her 2CV and we used to sing all the songs. It’s cheesy but it’s still a great song.”

Tony Hadley

“‘Ziggy Stardust’ David Bowie. Everybody says ‘Ziggy Stardust’.  It was such a different sounding record and Bowie was such an innovative guy. My generation – I’m 52, I’ll be 53 in a year (yeah,  I know, I can’t believe it either) – he did have a massive impact on us and there are lots of other records around that time – ‘Virginia Plain’, ‘Seven Seas of Rye’ – but probably ‘Ziggy Stardust’– and the album.”

Olly Murs

“Meat Loaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’. I had it on vinyl and I used to play it all the time in my room. All the time. That was the only song I used to play. I never get bored of it.”

Lemar

“Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ – that made a big difference to me. You know, for many years I was listening to music and – I don’t know – something about his voice really, really, resonated with me and as a result I learnt the song inside out and I found similarities between his voice and mine, so maybe that was the thing.”

The Ivor Novello Awards celebrate, honour and reward excellence in song writing and composing. They are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PRS for Music. The winners for the year 2012 will be announced at a ceremony in London tomorrow (theivors.com).

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