Ian Broudie may have left Liverpool for Twickenham but the city is still close to his heart; tomorrow his band, the Lightning Seeds, headline a Hillsborough Justice gig at Anfield.
If Ian Broudie had ever graced Sigmund Freud's couch, one suspects that he wouldn't have been the psychoanalyst's greatest challenge. The singer, guitarist and propagator of the Lightning Seeds was born in Liverpool's Penny Lane, and his childhood heroes were John Lennon, Pele and Kevin Keegan. At 38, Broudie is now unquestionably one of pop's most successful late entrants; his kudos assured in the eyes of his bank manager since Jollification went double-platinum. As composer of the Euro '96 anthem "Three Lions", he's also managed to get into football's hall of fame through the tradesmen's entrance.

"It's pretty easy to get me nattering on about football - I just love talking about it down the pub," concedes Broudie. Relaxed and softly spoken, he's quaffing his half of Guinness gingerly, having cricked his neck that morning while rehearsing the old Turtles' hit "You Showed Me" for TFI Friday. "The point is though," he continues, "I'm a fan of football, whereas music is a passion."

Together with his wife, Becky, and son, Riley, Broudie now lives in Twickenham, where we're in conversation at a rather deserted local pub. Behind the trademark glasses and three-day stubble, he's pretty much as I expect him to be: more McCartney than Lennon, more Lineker than Gazza, and, thankfully, more Des Lynam than Jimmy Hill.

As befits a family man, Broudie likes to work locally. Thus, The Lightning Seeds current album Dizzy Heights was recorded on a barge on the Thames which he rents from The Who's Pete Townshend. ("Coincidental really, but it's a great setting.") Listening to the record, it's clear that Broudie's love of Sixties psychedelia has influenced its production, occasionally lending it a slightly darker feel than we've come to expect from The Lightning Seeds. And though the trademark jauntiness prevails in the melodies, the saccharine content of the lyrics is lower. One wonders whether this is an attempt to assuage those critics who claim that everything from 1989's "Pure" to 1994's "Lucky You" rotted their molars, or just a natural progression. When I quiz Broudie about "Waiting for Today to Happen", a collaboration with The Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire, he's quick with a soundbite: "We're both hypochondriacs, and we knew there was a song in that." When I add that he doesn't strike me as a particularly fragile soul, he's quicker still: "What, after me banging on at you about my cricked neck?"

A recent re-run of one of BBC2's Rock Family Trees programmes focused on the vibrant and incestuous scene of late Seventies/ early Eighties Liverpool, thus highlighting Broudie's musical apprenticeship. In 1979, he was playing guitar with the post-punk outfit Big in Japan. The rest of the line-up included Holly "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" Johnson, Bill "KLF" Drummond, and drummer Budgie, who would later join Siouxie and the Banshees. The legend, Broudie says, outweighs the reality. "We only did about 10 or 15 gigs, and I think that's why what I'm doing now is so valid. It's not like I've been there, done that. The rest of the guys in The Lightning Seeds have played literally thousands of gigs, but when I get up on stage I still feel like a novice."

Ironically, it was Broudie's lengthy production career, beginning in the Eighties with Echo and the Bunnymen, that temporarily arrested his development as a singer-songwriter and live performer. "I got side-tracked," he says bluntly. "I wish I'd made Lightning Seeds records when I was 21, but I couldn't. It took me a long time to feel like a singer, to feel like I wasn't trying to kid people, almost. I don't have any regrets, but now I find it strange to think that I just stopped writing songs and produced instead, because I think writing's probably what I'm best at."

Despite this admission, Broudie is still very much in demand as a producer, and he does speak fondly of this aspect of his career. "I particularly enjoyed working with Dodgy, because I loved them as blokes from the word go," he offers. "I first met them in a pub in London. Matthew, the drummer, had his pork-pie hat on, and they had this big boxer dog with saliva dripping from its jowls. It was up on its hind legs and straining on the leash. I thought they were going to set it on me if I said the wrong thing! In the studio, though, they were quite naive initially, and the complete opposite of The Bunnymen," he continues. "The Bunnymen were a great band, but they never seemed to learn from their mistakes. You always had to struggle to draw the ideas out of them, whereas with Dodgy, you just pointed them in the right direction and they were off and running."

Given that Broudie's affinity with the football terraces has been cemented by both "Three Lions" and "The Life of Riley" (at one point, the latter was the signature tune for Match of the Day's Goal of the Month), it seems fitting that The Lightning Seeds will headline tomorrow's Hillsborough Justice Concert at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool. It's clearly something that means a lot to Broudie. "When I think about the Hillsborough disaster I feel very confused because nobody's ever accepted responsibility. I don't feel qualified to speak authoritatively on the subject, but my gut feeling is that something isn't right there, and that the powers that be have closed ranks. Jimmy McGovern's documentary brought it all back to me," he adds. "I realised again that there's some unfinished business there and, for me, the gig's a way of showing some solidarity."

As the conversation moves on from Hillsborough to the plight of the Liverpool dockers, there's further evidence that Broudie's affection for his home city and its people hasn't diminished since moving away. Walking back from the pub post-interview however, one can't help making a mental contrast between the riverside affluence of this leafy part of Twickenham and the seamier parts of Merseyside. Like all northerners who move south, Broudie has, he says, taken some stick, but then at this stage in his career, living near London is a simple practicality. Besides, as he delights in telling me, there are other connections: "I love the fact that the road where we just met was where the Beatles filmed parts of Help! and they recorded Let it Be just over the road there, you know. It's a real home from home" n

The Lightning Seeds headline the Hillsborough Justice Concert at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium tomorrow

Comments