After his ‘Three Lions’ single went one better than England and got to No.1 for a third time in 22 years, MALCOLM WYATT tracked down Lightning Seeds frontman and revered producer Ian Broudie, trying to avoid talking too much about that song
It’s been a busy summer for Ian Broudie, back in the limelight with ‘Three Lions’, topping the charts for a third time on the back of a successful England World Cup campaign.
While football didn’t quite make it home, England’s campaign certainly boosted sales of David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and Ian Broudie’s 1996 hit, the Southgate spirit truly evoked. Nice to get the recognition?
“It was surprising. It’s great
really, linked to how well England play maybe, but the song feels good and it’s great when people sing it. It was ages ago now, wasn’t it … 22 years, y’know.”
I briefly mentioned past anthems like 1970’s ‘Back Home’ and 1982’s ironically-titled ‘This Time’, but Ian’s not for elaborating, adding, ‘I can’t say I ever play those songs. A little nostalgia, maybe, but …’
I was set to mention New Order’s 1990 hit ‘World in Motion’, too, but he’s all talked out on the subject,
national media doing it to death these past few weeks. So I changed tack.
For all the successful material he’s been associated with as a writer, performer and producer, I get the
impression he’s happier in the shadows, letting others take the credit.
“Well, I used to be Cliff Richard … Do you mean using the name Lightning Seeds? I suppose so. At the time I felt I wanted it to be a group. If I give it my name, it can never have that
“The things I liked were groups – people around me like the Bunnymen, the Teardrop Explodes, The Fall, New Order … Initially I was looking for a singer, until I got to a point where I sang the songs myself.”
He’s worked with an array of big artists. But right now he’s concentrating on a new Lightning Seeds LP.
“Its been about 15 years since I really full-on tried to write for the Lightning Seeds. I did my solo album, then a collection of songs came out that were really more solo songs.”
He did record 2004’s splendid Tales Told as Ian Broudie.
“There was Four Winds, too, (2009’s Lightning Seeds album), but yeah, Tales Told was definitely a solo album. It was pared down, heartfelt songs really, just how I felt then. I felt it was over at that point.”
I chanced upon that album at Leyland Library and was quickly won over.
“Thanks. I’m very proud of that
album. I was going to do another fairly quickly, but various things stopped me. And it’s a long time since I’ve properly thought about a Lightning Seeds album.
“I’ll probably end up co-writing this time, but I’m trying to get the core of it as just me.”
Ian reaches the grand age of 60 within a fortnight, but insists it’s ‘just a number’, and despite admitting ‘it’s a kind of landmark’, adds, ‘I think everyone imagines inside their head they’re 18 or 19. I certainly still feel like that.”
Ian’s band has included his son, who inspired 1992 hit ‘The Life of
Riley’, for some time now.
“For ages really. The reason I started playing again was because we were always playing acoustic guitars, then ended up opening for friends. We did a couple of songs, that was fun, and sort of led me back into playing with the Lightning Seeds.”
It’s 30 years next year since debut LP, Cloudcuckooland. Was it initially about finally receiving recognition?
“I don’t know … I just felt like I was a songwriter. I was in a couple of bands before, and they just weren’t the right bands. Big in Japan was just when I was a kid really, although that’s lived on in the memory.
“I then drifted into producing, thinking when I did the Lightning Seeds, ‘You’re a songwriter, so you better write some songs while you can’. But those being signed from Liverpool then were real bands, like the Beautiful People and The La’s, whereas I recorded everything in the house on a four-track for that first album, then continued to.”
It would take until 1994, the year of the hit Jollification LP, for Ian to get a touring band together.
“I was kind of prised out of the studio. Prised out of the house, actually. I was very nervous about that stuff and hadn’t really sung in public. Our very first gigs and tour were in front of a thousand people.”
Last time I saw him live was in December 2009, him and a guitar at Lancaster Library, sharing a bill with Starsailor’s James Walsh among the bookshelves.
“Yeah, that was part of my rehabilitation!”
Do you tend to enjoy the small, intimate gigs as much as the festival appearances, like your forthcoming Cotton Clouds headline appearance on Friday, August 17?
“Well, I wouldn’t want to play a festival with just my guitar. But there’s something really nice about them. When you play a library, it’s a songwriter doing his songs. It’s different when it’s a band playing.”
These days Ian tends to float between his native Liverpool and London. Where’s home?
“Nowhere! I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer. I had a studio in Liverpool until recently, but just work in the house again now – like when I started. I’m taking it right back to when I started.”
If you could go back in time and talk to your teenage self with Big in Japan alongside the likes of future luminaries Holly Johnson and Bill Drummond, what advice would you offer?
“Erm .... relax, in the words of Holly.”
Cotton Clouds Festival takes place on Friday August 17 and Saturday August 18 at Saddleworth Cricket Club, Greenfield, Oldham, with the Lightning Seeds, the Pigeon Detectives and Badly Drawn Boy topping the bill on Friday, and Sister Sledge, Starsailor and Toploader leading Saturday’s bill. For more details try the http://www.cottoncloudsfestival.com/ website and keep in touch via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cottoncloudsfestival/, Twitter at https://twitter.com/cottoncfest, and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cottoncloudsfestival/.