Digging through the crates

Music from your student years stays with you forever, industry insiders reminisce with Emma Bartley

From the extra-loud electro-pop your next-door neighbour serenades you with at 3am, to the cheesy indie of Saturday night at the union, university is a time when you’ll encounter lots of different music. But how do you sort The Beatles from B*witched and graduate with a first-class music collection? We asked the people who shape the music industry what influenced their sonic tastes, which in turn could give you a few ideas for a potential MP3-player update session…

Chantelle Fiddy Music journalist and editor of ‘Ctrl.Alt.Shift’
Initially homesick as a student in London in 1999, I found solace in Alexander O'Neal's greatest hits, a few spins of “Saturday Love” and “Criticize” doing the job. Another essential album for students is the archetypal ice-breaker. Mine came in the form of Doggystyle by Snoop Doggy Dogg. I stuck to my garage and R&B roots, listening to Craig David’s Born To Do It a lot. But once you start to settle in, you develop a new taste in tunes. My best university find was Sean Paul, whose music inspired me to look back in reggae time.

Michael Eavis Founder and organiser, Glastonbury Festival
The record that stands out from my time at naval college is Pee Wee Hunt’s Twelfth Street Rag; that’s fantastic even by today’s standards. I was mad on Frank Sinatra – he’s the best crooner of all time. I liked Bill Haley, and there was a lot of jazz around. That all led on to Elvis, who was superb when I was 18 or 19. I was awarded my first honorary degree from the University of Bath in 2004; Muse headlined Glastonbury that year and it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life. If I could recommend anything to students now it would be Marc Bolan of T-Rex, who played at our very first festival: that was wonderful music. It’s a great tragedy that he died in a car accident – he would have been huge now.

Sam Seager Music PR, Polydor Records
“The albums that stand out are Dr Octagonecologyst by Dr Octagon, De La Soul Is Dead by De La Soul, Rancid’s...And Out Come The Wolves, Is This It by The Strokes, The Rapture’s Echoes and anything by the Pixies. It’s all from going out, seeing bands and meeting new people. I still listen to all these albums; despite the constant stream of good new music around; you always find time for the records that helped define your tastes.

Fyfe Dangerfield Singer and songwriter, Guillemots
I was planning to study English at university, but instead I moved to Cheltenham – where the drummer from the band I was in at the time lived – to work in a piano bar. My biggest influence from around that time was the whole improvised music scene. In that situation, things that usually you think of as mistakes, like a squeak on a clarinet, are all part of it. I admire that in singers like Bonnie Prince Billy: he hasn’t got a conventionally great voice but he won’t cover up if it cracks. And then there are the natural-born vocalists like Aretha Franklin. Some parts of her vocals sound like she was put on this earth to sing. I used to listen to Björk and Tom Waits all the time; every now and then I still think, “I’ve just got to listen to Rain Dogs”.

Nick Harrison Solo artist
I was a student at the Academy of Contemporary Music. I learned some of The Police’s songs and I also really liked how The Beatles went about writing their songs. I used to go out to Indie Go Go in Guildford, where I first heard Panic at the Disco. The other bands I liked were mainly from watching MTV2 at my mum’s. I saw Maxïmo Park, Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys on that. I love how Alex Turner’s lyrics roll, it’s almost like rapping. ‘Oi Rude Boy’ by Nick Harrison is available to download now.

Greg James Radio 1 DJ
I worked on my student radio station at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and we got sent loads of new music. I also got into going to gigs regularly. One of the best was in my first year in 2004, when Bloc Party, The Futureheads and The Killers headlined the NME gig at UEA. Kaiser Chiefs were bottom of the bill and no one had heard of them! I still revisit artists from that time; Maxïmo Park are probably my favourite band. I was a big fan of Zane Lowe's show at uni too – you really feel like you're up to date when you listen to him. Listen to Greg James on early breakfast, 4am-6.30am every weekday on Radio 1.

Steve Mason Lead singer, Black Affair (formerly of The Beta Band)
The time when I would have been a student was my maniac raving days, so it was house, techno and hip hop. I was listening to the Happy Mondays’ albums, Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), Bummed – their second – and the Stone Roses. In the past two years, I’ve started rediscovering it, digging out old mixtapes and LPs. It still sounds very, very good. Black Affair’s album, Pleasure Pressure Point, is out now.

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