News & Insights 19 January 2009

The Lightyears’ Family Tree

Today, to mark the release of our new album London, England, I thought I’d attempt the impossible – to figure out where the heck it is that The Lightyears come from. 

People always ask musicians “Who are your influences?”, and musicians tend to answer with long, protracted diatribes about rare Frank Zappa B-sides and unreleased Captain Beefheart LPs that leave normal people reeling.

From now on then, when people ask me that question, I can simply refer them to this article.

Essentially I’m talking about a musical family tree. Who are our musical forefathers, our rock ancestors, our guitar-strumming, key-bashing, stick-wielding predecessors? 

To answer this question, we must begin at the beginning… 

It is 1994. Everybody’s dressed in inexplicably baggy t-shirts and careering round the playground bellowing Harry Enfield catchphrases at each other. I am still struggling to crack the mysterious phenomenon of the Magic Eye picture (“No, I can’t see a bloody dolphin in there! What do you mean look through it?”) and Les Dennis is still considered entertaining. Most importantly, soft-rock overlords Bon Jovi have taken George and I by the scruff of our tiny, grubby necks and, charmingly, have inspired us to start our own band.

George and I bonded over a mutual love of Bon Jovi. Mainly I think George encouraged this to distract me from Pantera and I, in turn, did so to distract him from Chris De Burgh. In hindsight, I think we can probably both agree that this was a very smart move.

Elsewhere, in Reigate, Surrey, Tony is diligently studying old Cream LPs and dreaming of one day smoking a cigar with Ginger Baker. Stoically anti-fashion, he spurns the bands everyone else is into and in doing so paves the way for a lifetime of shameless contrariness.

When the two worlds collide and The Lightyears (née Satellite) are formed, cheesey-nice-boy hair-rock goes head-to-head with pretentious prog-rock in a terrible battle for supremacy.

The resulting war of musical prejudices plays out something like this:

(Disclaimer 1: Rock Genealogy is not an exact science. I may have taken a few liberties here.) 

(Disclaimer 2: our biggest single collective inspiration is probably The Beatles but I haven’t included them in the tree on account of the fact that bands citing the Fab Four as an influence is a bit like a chef saying he’s influenced by salt and pepper.)

Bugger. Just realised I missed out Blur. And The Small Faces.

Well, it’ll have to do for now. To avoid unnecessary debate, this diagram is not designed to be chronologically accurate – it simply traces the course of our tastes in music. If you’re particularly anal you may enjoy some of the logical segues – take Ben Folds Five into Jerry Lee Lewis, for example, or Counting Crows into Death Cab For Cutie – and I hope that, by the same token, you will ignore some of the absurd non-sequiturs (nobody goes direct from Funkadelic to Dodgy, I mean that’s just silly. Problem is, drawing all those little lines took ages and, well, it’s not like I don’t have other important stuff to do).

Speaking of which, my tax return is staring at me from across the room like a dreadful paper Sauron. “I seeeeeee you…”, it’s saying. Yeah whatever. You’re not the boss of me, Tax Return. 

Later kids!

Chris Lightyear

 

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