Exclusive: The Darkness Pick The Greatest Live Albums Ever

Complete with playlist and explanatory Justin Hawkins track by track…

Exclusive: The Darkness Pick The Greatest Live Albums Ever

On Friday, The Darkness released their brand new live album, Live At Hammersmith. Recorded, funnily enough, live at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on December 10, 2017, the record captures the band in fine form on their Tour De Prance world tour. It’s a career-spanning set that includes songs from last year’s Pinewood Smile as well as all the classics from their 2003 debut, Permission To Land.

In celebration of the record’s release, the biggest rock band to ever hail from Lowestoft kindly put together a Spotify playlist of their favourite live tracks. Naturally, the band included a few of their own in there. We caught up with the band’s frontman, Justin Hawkins – appropriately enough just after they’d played a gig in Switzerland – to talk through their choices.

Here are those choices. Hit play will you scroll down and learn all about each selection.

MC5, Kick Out The Jams (Kick Out The Jams, 1969)
I put this on the list because I remember listening to it and thinking that there wasn’t anything that sounded as vital. There’s a see-saw of performance and song and this was all performance and you can feel the excitement on this recording. It’s an unusually good live number. Also Wayne Kramer from the band follows me on the Twitter machine, so in internet terms he’s my friend.

AC/DC, Whole Lotta Rosie (If You Want Blood You’ve Got It, 1978)
There are two versions of this that I’m aware of – if you don’t include Atlantic sessions and stuff like that. There’s the version on Let There Be Rock and the version that’s on this live album. And the one on If You Want Blood You’ve Got It is the definitive, mega version, because of the audience. Part of the beauty of the recording is the audience’s contribution to it. It’s hard to tell how much of it is a sound effect of a crowd added afterwards, but when they’re going ‘Angus! Angus!’ it’s hard to not suspend disbelief and really enjoy it for what it is – a great rock moment.

The Darkness, I Believe In A Thing Called Love (Live At Hammersmith, 2018)
I’m familiar with this band’s work. They just came offstage. This song has been in the set for hundreds of years and is always a highlight. Any version of it will do me, but I’ve chosen the live one because we’ve got a live album coming out and everyone should buy it. When we’re on fire, there’s no better thrill than playing a song like this that everybody knows and loves. You long for songs like that in a set like ours.

Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song (The Complete BBC Sessions, 1997)
Robert Plant has a horrible attempt at a wail at the beginning. He doesn’t get anywhere near it, but it’s still awesome. In a way, live stuff is about the mistakes. You don’t want a note-perfect recital of a song, you want a fucked up, exciting, bum notes everywhere, people falling off their stools version of it. And I think Led Zeppelin are brilliant at that kind of stuff. Everything on this is completely real and it sounds like they’re really trying and not quite getting there – and that’s the thrill. That’s what it’s all about. The white knuckle ride. We didn’t sign up for the teacup ride. It’s real life – there’s a human element to it, and you really get that on Led Zeppelin recordings.

The Rolling Stones, Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Havana Moon, 2016)
I love this song. Anything by The Stones is just amazing. If it’s got Mick [Jagger] on it, especially live, then it’s brilliant, isn’t it? It’s that simple. One of the best live bands ever.

Bryan Adams, I’m Ready (Unplugged, 1997)
It’s a really amazing orchestral arrangement, which I think is actually an improvement on the original recording. It’s a total reimagining and it’s got a really beautiful clarinet part in it and takes what is a simple rock’n’roll song and turns it into something really special. It sounds like it’s from the soundtrack to The Wind In The Willows or something, just really forest-y and dreamy.

Led Zeppelin, Rain Song (The Song Remains The Same, 1976)
This is the DVD where they splice the performance with them driving their cars around and stuff. There’s really cool vignettes and some people in bands doing acting when they really shouldn’t be acting, which is great to watch. It makes it even better, because we all enjoy watching people who can’t act.

Queen, Hammer To Fall (Live At Wembley ’86, 1992)
Dan [Hawkins, guitars] chose this one. He put it in because he really likes the bit at the end where he says ‘Give it to me one more time!’ Me and my brother got a copy of the album from our auntie and it was definitely a pivotal moment in our musical development. In fact, not to name drop too much, but Roger Taylor was here tonight to watch us perform! 

The Darkness, Solid Gold (Live At Hammersmith, 2018)
This is on here because we’ve got a live album coming out and we want people to hear it. Sold Gold is from our last album and we just want people to hear it and appreciate it in its beauty, so we took the opportunity to put it on this playlist.

Thin Lizzy, Rosalie (Cowgirl’s Song) (Live And Dangerous, 1978)
This is another one of Dan’s choices. I don’t really know much about this song, but I reckon it’s probably got some harmonizing guitars in it. Or maybe Frankie [Poullain, bass] chose this one, because he loves a bit of Phil Lynott – his posture and his voice and the hardships that he suffered in his development. I think we can all be inspired by that and Live And Dangerous is an excellent distillation of the attitude of that musical artiste. And every song on it is a hit. There is a rumour they re-recorded everything apart from the crowd sound, but that’s only a rumour. It’s an album. We should just enjoy it for what it is.

AC/DC, Riff Raff (If You Want Blood You’ve Got It, 1978)
You could just do the whole of If You Want Blood…. It’s a great album. Riff Raff was originally on Powerage and that’s my favourite AC/DC album, so hearing that song in a live environment is really exciting to me.

Led Zeppelin, Black Dog (How The West Was Won, 2003) / Led Zeppelin, Heartbreaker (How The West Was Won, 2003)
This album was mixed by Kevin Shirley and I think he did an awesome job because you can hear John Bonham doing more than he did on recordings. I think that’s probably because of the way the songs were written, because after being on the road they’d developed the songs a bit and a lot of the things you listen out for, like the subtleties on the record, they exaggerate them and that goes from the drums right up to the singing. This is just one of those recordings where you can hear them exaggerating the things that people love about these songs and how they grew on the night into some kind of monster and the material went with it.

The Who, Young Man Blues (Live At Leeds, 1970) / The Who, My Generation (Live At Leeds, 1970)
These were chosen by Ru [Taylor, drums]. He loves Keith Moon. It’s another drummer’s thing – when you hear a drummer on fire in the prime of his life, there’s nothing more exciting. I think drummers will always choose Led Zeppelin and The Who, won’t they? But everyone has a drummer inside them. If you look deep in your heart, you’ll find a drummer there. And you can’t fail to love these songs.  

Words: Mischa Pearlman
Photo: Simon Emmett

The Darkness Live At Hammersmith is out now on Canary Dwarf Limited under exclusive licence to Cooking Vinyl Limited. Check it out below.

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