Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley: The 10 songs that changed my life

Baroness vocalist and guitarist John Dyer Baizley delves deep into his past to chart the soundtrack to a lifetime of triumph and tribulation.

Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley: The 10 songs that changed my life
Sam Law
Paul Harries
Originally published:

Baroness’ fearless leader John Dyer Baizley delves into his record collection and pulls out some jams…

The first song that I remember hearing...Huey Lewis And The News – The Heart Of Rock & Roll (1983)

“My mother was a big fan of musicals, and there was a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber in our household, but Huey Lewis’ [1983 album] Sports was a pretty constant companion, and The Heart Of Rock & Roll was a big hit when I was a kid. Did Huey influence the artist I’ve become? I don’t think so. Recently, though, I’ve come to realise that all the musical theatre had a profound effect. Apparently, I write ‘dramatic’ music…”

The song that reminds me of being a teenager...Nirvana – Breed (1991)

“I learned how to play every Nirvana song when I was a teenager. This wasn’t our parents’ music; it wasn’t square; it wasn’t lame; but it was kind of poppy. And this song is fantastically written. The chord progression, the phrasing, the lyrics, the sound, the vibe, the energy – it’s incredible and it’s still one of my favourites. Any of Baroness’s tendencies towards melody and catchy, sing-able lyrics come from that era of my life.”

The song that made me want to be in a band...Sonic Youth – Sugar Kane (1992)

“The first concert that I ever saw was Sonic Youth, Superchunk and The Boredoms [on October 11, 1992 at Brown’s Island] in Richmond, VA. I was fortunate that was my first. I remember Sonic Youth had, like, 100 guitars at each side of the stage because they changed tuning so often. They played this during the set and it was so cool, so different, so powerful and so immense. I knew then that I had to be part of that, no matter what.”

The first song that I learned to play...Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

“I briefly took guitar lessons as a kid, and the guy out in the country I took those lessons from was one of the most phenomenal, gentle, kind-hearted, and talented musicians I’ve ever seen. I think he saw in me that I was going to be one of these punk kids, so he showed me a riff that I could play by a band with an element of danger to them. I’m eternally grateful for that. Learning how to play power chords was a big deal for me. When you realise you can play power chords, you know you can play music.”

The song that makes me feel romantic...Gillian Welch – I Dream A Highway (2001)

“I’m a fan of sad music, so the songs that feel the most romantic to me are the ones that are the most heart-wrenching. When I’m on tour and I need to hear a song that connects me with that feeling of isolation, where everything that feels familiar in your normal life is gone, this is it. I can’t hear it without breaking down.”

The song I can nail at karaoke...Heart – Alone (1987)

“Gina [Gleason, guitarist] and I really enjoyed singing this at my birthday party this year. It’s a pretty melodramatic track. She and I both have what I guess would be considered ‘big’ voices. This song is nothing but the big voice. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and overwrought, but just try to match even 25 per cent of the Wilson sisters’ power!”

The hardest Baroness song to write...Baroness – Throw Me An Anchor (2019)

“It doesn’t sound that hard when you listen to it, but it was technically difficult getting it to come together. Getting it to a point where we felt it had gone from a good song to great enough to go on the record was hands-down the most work that I’ve ever put in.”

The song that picks me up when I’m down...Portishead – The Rip (2008)

“I do like metal and hardcore, but those genres don’t fit every occasion. When I need a creative boost, or a reminder of how much more there is to learn, I’ll listen to Portishead, Radiohead or Massive Attack. The Rip is a fantastic song. It forces me to stop whatever I’m doing and try to write. It’s not particularly upbeat, but sometimes disparate choices like this are best.”

The song I’m proudest to have written...Baroness – Cold-Blooded Angels (2019)

“This wasn’t an easy song to write, but my pride comes down to how important the lyrics and delivery were in its composition. That really felt like an achievement. There’s a special guest vocalist on there, too: my nine-year-old daughter. She puts the same level of emotional weight into it that Gina and I had. And she didn’t even realise she was doing it.”

The song that I’d like played at my funeral...Radiohead – 4 Minute Warning (2007)

“I hear the full range of human experience in this song. It’s beautiful, touching and dark, but there are uplifting moments, too. It’s one of those songs where I identify with everything in it.”

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