Skunk Anansie’s Skin: The 10 songs that changed my life

Skunk Anansie’s fearless leader Skin dissects the records that made her who she is today, from Rage Against The Machine to ABBA.

Skunk Anansie’s Skin: The 10 songs that changed my life
Ian Winwood
Tom Barnes

Skunk Anansie vocalist Skin gets naughty, nostalgic and traces the musical soundtrack that has paved her path in life thus far…

The first song that I remember hearing...Prince Buster – Al Capone (1964)

“My granddad had a basement nightclub, and I remember being really young, with my brother listening to the music and watching people dancing. It was an amazing sight and it made a big impression on me.”

The song that reminds me of where I grew up...Stevie Wonder – Pastime Paradise (1976)

“This was a song that my parents played a lot, and I actually have my mother’s tattered original copy. She became a born-again Christian, so she didn’t play any music that wasn’t of the Lord. You could of course say that Stevie’s music is quite spiritual, but not to my mum. If it doesn’t say, ‘Praise the Lord’ in every verse then you’re fucked. But she played it again and again when she was a young woman.”

The first song I ever sang in public...Talking Heads – Blind (1988)

“At university, I used to walk around with my Walkman, singing out loud all the time. This guy kept saying to me, ‘Come sing in my band,’ but I kept telling him that I couldn’t sing. After a year of nagging I did join the band. So I learned Blind in rehearsal and when we went to play it at the student union I forgot every word. That’s how nervous I was. But that, really, was the start of all this.”

My favourite song about about feminism...Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan (1979)

“It’s about a woman who reaches the age of 37 and realises that she can do whatever she wants to do. It’s not a preachy song that tells you how you should think, it’s just a coming-of-age song that tells you how the narrator thinks. And it’s good to hear this from Marianne Faithfull, because when people first knew her she was perceived as a groupie, but then she became an artist in her own right. I think she’s really talented.”

The first Skunk Anansie song I heard on the radio...Skunk Anansie – Little Baby Swastika (1995)

“[BBC Radio 1 DJs] Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley played this one on their Evening Session show. They had this regular feature where they ran a competition where they’d play three records and then judge the listeners’ reaction, and then they’d press copies of the most popular record to give away. And we won that competition with Little Baby Swastika. Months later, Steve told me that the demand for the song was so high that they actually pressed up and gave away 1,000 copies! Normally they’d only give away 200 copies. We never actually released it as a single, but that moment where we heard the song playing on the radio for the first time was amazing. It felt really special.”

The song I put on to get the party started...Underworld – Born Slippy (Nuxx) (1996)

“It’s this one, every time, without fail. If you put this song on everybody immediately becomes happy. It’s about 140 beats per minute and everyone goes for it. It’s a slam-dunk banger that appeals to everyone, regardless of their taste in music. It can’t fail to get the party started, and if it does then the audience is just too dry. It’s perfect.”

The song I wish that I had written...Jeff Buckley – Lover, You Should’ve Come Over (1994)

“It starts with an accordion, and it amazes me every time I hear it. It’s one of the few songs on Earth that can do that to me. The way that it builds and builds and his voice gets bigger and bigger is great. I’m getting goosebumps even talking about it. The complexity of the song is amazing.”

The best political song I’ve ever heard...Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name (1991)

“I know it’s an obvious choice, but it’s so fucking good. I remember [Skunk Anansie guitarist] Ace playing it to me, because I used to sidle up to him at the Splash Club in London where he used to DJ. When he put it on I thought, ‘What the fuck is this?!’ It was amazing and it was one of the records that made me want to write political music and to express myself that way.”

The song I never tire of singing live...Skunk Anansie – My Ugly Boy (2010)

“This song is about a naughty time of my life when I was doing things with people that I shouldn’t. Let’s leave it at that, because it’s too rude to talk about, but I was having loads of fun. Anyway, I wrote a song about those times, about someone who was beautiful but ugly inside.”

The song I’d like played at my funeral...ABBA – Dancing Queen (1976)

“I want to go out with a smile, so I’d pick this. It’s a toss-up between that and Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt. But Dancing Queen kind of sums me up. I like the idea of playing something that makes people happy.”

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