John Dawkins works as a senior label manager for Various Artist Management based in LA and London. John was awarded an ambassadorship by his home city of Coventry for services to the city, after the success platinum selling number 1 Enemy Album ‘ We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’. The Enemy sold over 1.5 million records, and have three top 10 albums. He’s currently working with his new protege Tom Grennan, and hotly tipped indie band April amongst many others. We caught up with John to ask what songs have shaped his career and life so far.
I’ve been asked what are the five best songs of all time….. that’s just IMPOSSIBLE as it constantly changes! However, here are five songs that I love dearly and that have shaped me and my journey.
Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
Everything about this song is just incredible! the opening gambit and that 55-second wait until a vocal hits, the swagger, it’s just drenched in cool. The message of the song is powerful, a snapshot in time/protest song. At the time, there was the war in Vietnam, race riots, and Charles Manson terrorising a nation. Mick Jagger sings of needing shelter from this “Storm – lyrically it’s very powerful with one of the best Vocals from Merry Clayton singing – “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away.”, then one of my favourite reference points on any record is when Clayton sings the word ‘MURDER’ which she delivers an octave higher, her voice cracking on “murder.” This can be heard at about the 3:04 mark, and you can hear an impressed Mick Jagger in the background saying “Whoo!”. For me it underlines the importance of soul, and what I call “magic mistakes” – a lot of this stuff is ironed out of records these days and with that the soul dies.
Oasis – ‘Shakermaker’
The song that changed everything for me, and I don’t say that lightly despite the fact it’s not their best song. I had always loved music, all kinds as a youngster from pop, Motown, 60’s, northern soul all being drummed into me from a young age…… I was going through a jungle stage at the time but also getting into blur, working out who I was as a youngster who loved football and music yet didn’t really understand where he fitted in the grand scheme of things. I remember this like it was yesterday, my sister walked down the stairs in a skirt with a t-shirt tucked in that was slightly oversized and said the word OASIS in a swirling Union Jack “Here, listen to this tune I think you might like it’ she said as she handed over a tape. I went to my bedroom and put ‘Shakermaker’ on and I was blown sideways by the power of it, the simplicity and brilliance and the total swagger of it, it made me feel invincible – a few days later these mystery men appeared on top of the pops and I was just blown away, they looked like GODS amongst mere mortals….. I was SOLD, my love affair with Oasis started!!!! a few months later Oasis released their debut album and the rest you can say is history – they were my Beatles, I followed there every move for a decade and they shaped me in so many ways, there influence on me is monumental.
808 State – Pacific State
It was 1989 and my mum took my sister, me and two family friends to the Theatre One cinema in Coventry to see BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 – I remember two things very well from that day, a man behind us saying to his child ‘Keep your feet up as there are rats that run around under the seats’ The second thing was as we left we came down the steps and I heard music blasting out of a big grey boxed building over the road that seemed to tower above us, the music engulfed me, made me feel warm, I wanted to move!!!!! It was 808 STATE ‘PACIFIC STATE’. Before I could embrace it further my sister said “Mum what’s that place” ……. “Oh, that’s where all the naughty people go at the weekend”!!!!! It turned out that the place was one of the most influential clubs in the country alongside the Hacienda – THE ECLIPSE – Often overlooked in the history of UK HOUSE but it provided home to Carl Cox / Fabio & Grooverider as residents and was at the forefront of house hand in hand with the celebrated Hacienda. As soon as that immortal sentence finished dripping out of my mums mouth I was not only in love with the song but also obsessed with the idea of knowing what it was like in there, what happened in there, and was there more music like this………23 years later I opened my own club just a stone’s throw away from the long since defunct ECLIPSE and we called it REHAB Warehouse. We won several awards including “Guardian club of the month” and through some unbelievable parties over an 18month period with some of my best mates. Since closing Rehab everyone has said it was the one club that came close to rivalling the eclipse and bringing Coventry back to the forefront of house music and gave the city an identity again, it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. If you get 5mins you should YouTube “Hit man and her Coventry eclipse” an insight in to the club at its peak covered by the famous 80s/90s nightlife ITV show.
The La’s – There She Goes
The perfect pop song? For me it has never got tired, constantly gives you something, a feeling, a stirring, happiness! Pop can be seen as a dirty word, but pop songs are the l king and it’s just about how you sonically deliver them that’s the difference and this is a great example of that, a pop song disguised in brilliant technicolour and sonic all delivered by the most mysterious man in rock n roll LEE MAVER’S. Maver’s for me embodies the magic of Liverpool and its mystery, there is truly something in the air up there! The tragedy is that I genuinely feel he picked up the baton that the Beatles had left sitting around after conquering the world, the problem is somewhere around the track Maver’s dropped it very early and we never got to see the La’s dominate the world, a true tragedy!!!
The Streets – Weak Become Heroes
For me the best track off a remarkable album, one that definite a genre and has never been beaten and in my top ten of all time. ‘Weak Become Heroes’ is Mike Skinner’s beautiful, bittersweet testament to dance culture. It’s an incredible flashback at mid-90s dance culture, detail is so on point, tales of drug-taking for first timers, bully boy bouncers, those people you always said hello to in the club but never knew, great days long lost….. Also, a nod to those hanging on to a party long gone. It’s genius and resonates with me as Skinner used to go the same clubs in Brum as I did all those years ago, Wobble, Bakers, Q Club etc. Many have tried to copy him, none have come anywhere cross. A seminal record that still sounds vital!