Growing up, by his own grey-”flecked” admission, “in the days before
rock’n'roll”, the venerable Floyd keyboard man numbers wacky classical,
wayward jazz, anything with a Brian Eno “stamp” and Talk Talk among his
fireside faves, as comfortably young Howard Johnson discovers, flicking
idly through…

Ah, the Georgian town house, favoured residence of the long-established,
“didn’t he do well” rock star. Inconspicuous, elegant and possessed of a
certain “Don’t bother me, I’ve got a solo album to concoct” charm. Which is
all rather appropriate, for 51-year-old Richard Wright has, indeed, coined
it via his Pink Floyd tenure and is currently flourishing his third one-man
work, Broken China. Tucked away in an Earl’s Court side street (the Wright
residence for three years), there’s a green Audi estate in the drive and a
bouncing four-month-old boy named Ben in the long, thin living room.
If babies are good for anything it’s interior destruction, as soon as
they can move unaided, so Richard and wife Millie are enjoying their last
days of decorative equilibrium. Chinese vases stand untouched by superglue,
cream coloured sofas resolutely free of sick stains. In the corner there’s
the old joanna, covered by a dust jacket and looking decidedly unplonked of

“Just back from our other place in the South of France,” chirrups our
host, before leading us through the verdant garden and out of the back gate
to “my office”, where the Wright record collection resides. Laden with some
choice albums, it’s back over the road to the living room, to the gong
announcing induction into the 1996 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the gonk
proclaiming “I Love Atlanta”, to the record player with a broken turntable
and, above all, to a rather entertaining discussion about Richard Wright
out of Pink Floyd’s favourite records.

Music From Big Pink (Capitol, 1968)
The centerpiece of this album, The Weight, is an incredible tune. I
remember seeing The Band at the Albert Hall in the late ’60s and in my head
I can virtually hear them singing The Weight at that gig even now. The way
the song is sung is so emotional I really can hardly describe it. How do
you describe an emotional response to music? I could tell you that a piece
moves from an E flat major to F sharp or whatever, but that’s not the point
at all, is it? The Band were the best thing happening at that time. When I
was first in The Floyd I wasn’t into pop music at all – I was listening to
jazz and when The Beatles released Please Please Me I didn’t like it at
all. In fact, I thought it was utterly puerile. There wasn’t much around at
the time that excited me, but then I saw The Band and they were totally
different, totally exciting. Like all these recordings there’s something
about this album that touches me emotionally. The music is just lovely and
it makes this a particularly sentimental choice. I must also mention Tears
Of Rage – a brilliant song.

Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop With Terry Bozzio And Tony Hymas (Epic, 1989)
As far as rock guitarists go he’s got to be my all-time hero. He started as
a blues guitarist just like Clapton, but he’s investigated the
possibilities of the instrument much more. You probably won’t know this,
but when Syd left Pink Floyd we actually asked Jeff Beck to join, he was
our first choice. He was doing OK at the time so he turned us down. There’s
one track on Guitar Shop called Where Were You? that’s just this beautiful,
melodic guitar sequence. I loved it so much that I took that feel for an
instrumental called Sweet July on my new solo album. I wanted Beck to play
on it but he turned me down. Again.

Appalachian Spring: Bernstein Conducts Copland (CBS, 1962)
Aaron Copland’s an American classical composer and this is his most famous
work. I discovered him back in the late ’60s after hearing something on the
radio. Like all of my favourite music there’s something in his material
that touches me; I think it’s the chordal progression and the melodic lines
just above them that do it for me here – and the fact that it’s very
peaceful. When I listen to a lot of the stuff that I’ve played over the
years I feel I’ve been heavily influenced by Copland, albeit
subconsciously. I haven’t played this in some time, but it’s safely stored
in the memory and pulling the album out will definitely force me to get my
broken turntable fixed.

Porgy and Bess (Columbia, 1959)
I could quite happily give you ten Miles Davis records as my ten favourite
records of all time. The first music I ever heard was classical, because I
was growing up in the days before rock’n'roll, but then I was exposed to
jazz on radio stations and started listening to the more traditional
players like Humphrey Lyttelton and Kenny Ball. Then I discovered Miles
Davis’ Kind Of Blue album and got very excited. Porgy And Bess is a
brilliant record – the nearest thing to hearing a trumpet being made to
sound like the human voice. I have to put this record on from beginning to
end, becauce it stops you dead in your tracks. People might be surprised to
hear me being so infatuated with jazz, but the influences in The Floyd came
from lots of different areas. Syd was more into Bo Diddley; I had the more
classical approach. If I was forced to pick an all-time favourite record,
this would probably be it.

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (Polydor/EG, 1981)
I’ve often eulogised Eno’s musical abilities, but alongside his talent he’s
also a very nice guy. Sickening, isn’t it? This knocked me sideways when I
first heard it – full of drum loops, samples and soundscapes, stuff that we
really take for granted now, but which was unheard of in all but the most
progressive musical circles at the time. There’s a song called The Jezebel
Spirit where there’s a snippet of a preacher and the way the sounds were
mixed in was so fresh it was amazing. And as if that wasn’t enough there
was also David Byrne’s voice, which in itself is almost worth buying any
album for.

Passion (Virgin, 1989)
I admire just about everything Peter Gabriel’s ever done, from progressive
to world music to pop. He’s a great man with great ideas – oh, and he’s a
great musician. This album features instrumentals from the score that he
wrote for the Scorsese movie The Last Temptation of Christ, plus some
additional bits and pieces. I feel very close to this music. I think in
many ways Peter hears music the way that I hear it, so I’d have to say he’s
a kindred spirit.

The Royal Scam (ABC, 1976)
Another wonderful band. There’s something about the title track that
insists I listen to it immediately. I might not have heard it for six or
seven years, but it’s been implanted in my brain and that’s what I think
makes favourite records, things that you can’t get out of your head. I
really admired Steely Dan and I almost picked Aja for this list, but I
finally went for The Royal Scam because of that one track. What about them
playing together again? I’m very wary of going to see bands that reform -
can you re-kindle the magic?

Remain In Light (Sire, 1980)
Reamain In Light really knocked me out with all the cross-rythms. The bass
never seems to come in where you’d expect it. If you want to hear some
incredible rhythmic things that are really working then the title track’s
the place to be. Of course I didn’t analyse it when I first heard it, but I
just knew that there was something different going on. Eno does it all the
time as well, which is probably why he and David Byrne get on so well. I
couldn’t stop playing Once In A Lifetime when I first got the album,
because it was the perfect example of that fantastic Talking Heads trick
where they combine quirkness with a real melodic ear. That’s not easy to
do, especially if you’re trying to retain some integrity. You could always
tell with this band that they weren’t writing to be commercial – they were
just doing the music that they really felt. There was something incredibly
spontaneous about them. I’ve never seen Talking Heads live although I wish
I had. That’s the problem with being in a band yourself. You never have the
time to see anyone play. When they’re on somewhere you’re invariably on
somewhere else.

Symphony Number 3 (Elektra, 1992)
When I was recording Broken China, my new album, I wanted to put some
percussion and drums on Sweet July but I simply couldn’t get the right feel
for the track. Then someone suggested that we needed something that sounded
like G=F3recki. I’d never heard of him, so I went out and bought this album
and now I really love it. Although G=F3recki’s a classical composer I think
of this music as being in the same space as Gabriel or Eno, peaceful and
ethereal. The voice on it is incredibel too; it’s used just like another
instrument, so the whole feel is almost ambient. I admit the word suggest a
lot of terrible music, but it’s still the best way of describing the floaty
sort of feel to it. If I’m ever tense this is the kind of album I put on.

The Colour Of Spring (EMI, 1986)
The simplicity of the songs and Mark Hollis’s voice make this album just
incredible. The first tune, Happiness Is Easy, says it all – nothing but a
bass, a snare and a weird chord. That’s Talk Talk all over, great songs and
simplicity with a twist. Pink Floyd have never done anything that
straightforward, except maybe Wish You Were Here, because I tend to put a
lot of sound colour into the music. In some ways this type of stuff is much
more brave, because there’s absolutely nothing to hide behind. Why does it
touch me? Hard to say, but it’s got the feelgood factor, which all my
favourite records have. I wouldn’t choose anything that didn’t make me feel

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