Ivan Julian Interview: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Ivan Julian Interview

Feature Photo Image of Ivan Julian courtesy of Howlin Wuelf PR

As a teenage six-stringer, Ivan Julian toured the U.K. and Europe as a member of The Foundations, a group known for its hit singles, “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Baby Now That I Found You,” setting the tone for a diverse career to come.

As a founding member of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, guitarist Ivan Julian aided in shaping a generation of young punk rockers. His nothing-short-of-memorable licks were paramount to the sound of the Voidoids seminal 1977 record Blank Generation, an album that blew the lid off the NYC art rock and punk scenes.

If Julian’s contribution to the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist ended there, no one would take him for granted. But as the ’80s dawned, the six-stringer played rover, playing with The Clash, The Bongos, Shriekback, Richard Barone, and the Isley Brothers, before settling in with Matthew Sweet in the ’90s, touring on the backside of Sweet’s classic 1991 record, Girlfriend.

In the years since, Julian has continued his varied career, allowing his Hendrix meets Chopin style to amalgamate across many outstanding solo releases. Julian’s latest, the soon-to-be-released Swing Your Lanterns, continues the veteran guitarist’s habit of allowing all of his influences to encompass his music.

Below are 10 albums that changed the perpetually genre-curious guitarist’s lift.

# 10 – Albert Ayler, My Name is Albert Ayler

Recorded in 1963 by Copenhagen radio, this is a rare gem. People talk about Bird and Coltrane, and of course, they are great, but in Ayler’s version of “Summertime,” he captures all the angst of noise, punk rock, and avant-jazz with a single saxophone. Hearing him play is a cleansing experience. If you are lucky enough to find it, prepare to be routed. His short life and bio are very interesting, as well.

# 9 – The Four Tops, Four Tops Greatest Hits (vinyl version)

It seems whenever Berry Gordy had songs of despair, he gave them to Levi Stubbs. “You Keep Running Away,” “7 Rooms of Gloom,” “Standing in the Shadows,” etc. On this double LP, they roll off one after the other. However, what makes this record special is the filler songs, especially their version of “Mac Arthur Park.” Imagine ‘Screamin’ Jay Hawkins playing Macbeth. I have never found this on CD.

Editors note:(we found it, click on the cd picture)

# 8 – Howard Shelly, Howard Shelly plays Chopin preludes 1-24 Op.28 Sonata 28 Op. 35

To me, Chopin at the piano was the Jimi Hendrix of his time. To hear what I mean, listen to this record. I’ve heard of other performances by so-called “masters” Pollini and Horowitz, but Shelly GETS IT. The piano is flung behind his back; it’s licked, stroked, writhes on his arms, cries, burns, holds you in the trembling embrace of moist ecstasy, and struts down the streets of a gas-lit Paris. Get this one. Shelly does it better.

# 7 – The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers

I Love Keith. Mainly because when I was learning to play, he taught me (and everyone) the importance of rhythm guitar. On Sticky Fingers, it all comes together for him and the band. From the opening chord chop to the end of “Moonlight Mile,” it’s sheer rock n’ roll perfection. Masterfully mixed and produced by Jimmy Miller.

# 6  – Marvin Gaye, M.P.G.

In the days following 9/11 in New York, there was one song that you heard everywhere; it was “What’s Going On.” It summed it all up. Brilliant record, but M.P.G. is a little-known masterpiece of chugging guitars fused with raw pumping drums mixed in-your-face with James Jamerson holding the gun on bass. After the formality of “This Magic Moment,” it ROCKS.

# 5 – Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde

Someone told me that when a musician starts to go insane, they listen to nothing but Dylan… once, while on tour, I listened to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” for three days straight. The chord progression is a mesmerizing weave behind a story that reads like Ovid.

# 4 – Sly & The Family Stone, Fresh (Edsel records version)

Every song is groundbreaking. The groove may change but never stops; it keeps comin’ at ‘cha. Sly holds you in the moment for the entire record. Superbly produced. Beware of the re-mixed reissue on CBS. Whoever is responsible for this audacious travesty should be decapitated. If you get the Edsel Records CD, you are sure to get the right mixes.

# 3 – P. J. Harvey, To Bring You My Love

I always approve of this type of marriage: P.J. and Flood, Emmylou Harris and Lanois (Wrecking Ball), Lucinda Williams, and Charlie Sexton (Essence). This record came first and broke so many of the established rules of producing. Her voice is the pure magic living in a forest of sonic adventure and possibilities. I love a woman who takes chances, and she takes even more chances on “Desire.”

# 2 – Howlin’ Wolf, Anything ever recorded by Howlin’ Wolf [Laughs]

Can I say this here? Well, I did, and I mean it. It doesn’t matter which Howlin’ Wolf record I have because they are all stellar, the blues as it should be. Anyone who can title a song “I Asked for Water, But You Gave Me Gasoline” has my complete attention. And when he sings the word “terriblest,” you realize that it should be in the dictionary.

# 1 – Love, Love Masters

I bought this on cassette years ago in London. Released on Elektra, I don’t think it exists on CD in the States. If you want to know why Arthur Lee is important, this is the perfect record because it contains choice songs from all his albums. I saw him perform recently, and when he broke into “Alone Again Or “… it was beyond a religious experience.

Ivan Julian Interview: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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