HIDDEN tracks

Music was Pete Paphides' first love. And at this rate, it will be his last.


Amadou & Mariam

There are some things I remember more than others. Such as what? Well, the stars.”

A few trade secrets for stalkers. Visiting R&B stars invariably favour the Landmark in Marylebone (with the exception of Mariah, who stays at the Sanderson). Since the 80s, indie bands have favoured the Columbia Hotel in…


Jamie T

Nothing bad could happen in the London described by John Betjeman.”

Jamie T’s girlfriend Lola is in the hotel room, nursing a day-long hangover. “She hasn’t eaten anything today,” he says tenderly, “so I just sent her up a green Thai curry.” While she convalesces upstairs, the 20 year-old…


Roddy Frame

I was arrogant enough to think that my stuff was too good to be buried.”

It isn’t hard to see what Roddy Frame’s maths teacher meant, 35 years ago, when he accused him of “parading around my class like a recalcitrant navvy.” As the sometime Aztec Camera frontman walks towards the National Por…


Arnold Schwarzenegger
They are trying to kill him! He has to fight this rich guy with killer squads!

The door to Schwarzenegger's suite at the Dorchester is ajar, but I can't see his face. All I can see from here is the back of his armchair and two shoulders so big you could park a Renault Espace on each of them. That's…


Joan Rivers

You want your nose pretty? Get your nose pretty. What's the big deal?”

I’m talking to a clown. No matter what she says, the expression stays the same. Eyes permanently surprised, skin pulled tightly back over the cheekbones to create the same expression. The temptation is to lift her hair up…



The first thing I see is a drunk Willem Dafoe careering down the pavement with a big grin on his face.”

“YOUR FORTUNE is mine for the telling and yours for the hearing.” Outside the East Village’s Gem Spa – favoured corner store of Allen Ginsberg, immortalised on the back cover of the New York Dolls’ 1973 debut and, briefly…


The first thing I see is a drunk Willem Dafoe careering down the pavement with a big grin on his face.

The first thing I see is a drunk Willem Dafoe careering down the pavement with a big grin on his face.”

“YOUR FORTUNE is mine for the telling and yours for the hearing.” Outside the East Village’s Gem Spa – favoured corner store of Allen Ginsberg, immortalised on the back cover of the New York Dolls’ 1973 debut and, briefly…


Victoria Wood

I used to watch other comedians and wonder why they had a series”

As dressing rooms go, the one at the Oxford Apollo speaks of a life lived virtuously. A dozen bottles of Evian and a huge wooden bowl, filled with apples, oranges, bananas and precisely two figs. There's a book about Maria…


Bee Gees

What’s Jarvis Cockup got to do with The Bee Gees?”

You can tell by the way he wears his walk, Barry Gibb’s joints aren’t what they used to be. These days, the Bee Gee whose beardy smile beamed beatifically over John Travolta on the sleeve of Saturday Night Fever, is struck…


The Black Keys
The Black Keys play their favourite records

In 2011 and 2012, with producer Ben Walker, I made two radio series for BBC 6 Music called Vinyl Revival. The idea of the show was pretty simple. Well-known vinyl fans brought some of their favourite records into the studio…


Paul Weller

If I had to send letters to everyone I’d ever offended, I’d die with a fucking biro in my hand.”

Just as a Union Jack flapping at full mast outside Buckingham Palace will tell you that Her Majesty is in residence, a black Mini hatchback outside Black Barn studio, Surrey, will tell you the same thing about its propri…


Ray Davies

A tormented beat-boom Eeyore.”

A biblical downpour is making its way through Highgate Village, but Ray Davies’s beetroot barnet is safe beneath the awning of his local Cafe Rouge. Your correspondent hasn’t been quite so lucky. Despite agreeing to his…




Where is Rumer? There must be eight or nine people in the dressing room of Manchester’s Band On The Wall – but, even with the benefit of YouTube footage, record sleeves and photographs, it takes a few seconds to identify…


Laura Marling

I’m competitive when it comes to Scrabble and charades, and perhaps that translates into every area.”

The buzz on the intercom unlocks the door. From thereon in, it’s just a matter of following the noise at the top of the building and, indeed, your nose. With glass of white wine in one hand and a hand-blender in the other…


Randy Newman

I’m under no illusions. The first two lines of the obituary will mention the Oscars and the Grammys.”

Only half an hour separates the exclusive Pacific Palisades locale from the bustle of West Hollywood. But on a typically sunny Friday morning, it seems like another world. Traffic noise has been replaced by the faint hiss…


Scritti Politti

"There was definitely a point at which, for me, Shalamar usurped Pere Ubu."”

“Oh God. Do I want to see this?” In an empty North London pub, Green Gartside looks on in trepidation as he registers the item I’m pulling out of my bag. On Page 27 of the 1985 Smash Hits sticker album, his younger self…



Come on, really, that’s a little harsh. I wouldn’t compare my 31 year career with my best friends to dialysis.”

Outside the swish Connaught Hotel, London is bathed in sunshine, but very little of it finds its way into the conference room where Michael Stipe is thoroughly examining the small box of mints that sits beside every place…



It rose up and dispersed like a vapor that enveloped the world outside: the Chrysler factory in the rain; the sulphur light of the subways beneath the Bull Ring.”

Growing up in Birmingham at the age of ten, I knew what reggae was. Reggae was the music I heard booming out of upstairs windows on when my dad drove through Balsall Heath. Reggae was the sound of the occasional chart hit…



We never thought in our wildest dreams that we would be gay icons.”

A reunion? Don’t talk to Abba about a reunion. Except, of course, when it comes to a group as well loved as Abba – whose original members are all still alive and well, it’s hard not to. To their credit, Benny Andersson and…



I’d love to live out in a place where we’re borrowing sugar from one another and we’re really close.”

Midlake’s Tim Smith is hunched over the small sink beside his Bristol dressing room. Possibly because an overnight trip from Belgium has left him bereft of sleep, the task at hand is causing him more consternation than it…


The life and death of Ofra Haza

We didn’t know she was dreadfully ill until right at the very end.”

Incredibly, it was the second time that news of Ofra Haza’s death had plunged Israel into a state of mourning. Thirteen years previously, in February 1987, a Cessna aircraft carrying the most celebrated Israeli pop star of…


Clint Mansell

They were throwing shoes, umbrellas, anything they didn’t want to take home with them.”

Back when Clint Mansell was a rock star of sorts, he looked like, well… a sort of rock star. At the time of our last encounter, he had red dreads piled on top of his head and several piercings in his nose and ears. In 2009…


Chas & Dave

I remember Paul McCartney staring at me all the way through Yellow Submarine, trying to see what I thought.”

Only two days have elapsed since Chas & Dave announced they would no longer be working together, but the news appears to have prompted an outpouring of affection that – in the dying London rush hour – extends to staff at…



The thing I found difficult was the lack of warmth. I wanted to feel more likeable”

Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet don’t strike you as the sort of people who play mind games with each other. But if they were, Clarke would be winning right now. Twenty minutes after Clarke was due to turn up at this Covent…



Was I expecting the composer of Hot Child, Bondage and, of course, Butter-Bust Jerky to say anything quite as wise as this? Probably not.”

Only one thing could intensify the burnt reds and oranges dotted about the autumnal panorama of St James Park, and Anvil’s permanently skull-capped drummer Robb Reiner is holding it between his forefinger and middle finger…


Marianne Faithfull

My feminine integrity was gone. And that’s a big power for a woman to lose. Perhaps the only power.”

Not for the first time in her life, Marianne Faithfull leans back in her chair and sadly exclaims, “So you see, I’ve almost entirely run out of drugs.” On this occasion, however, she’s addressing the matter in a more gen…



I looked uncomfortable? That’s how I usually feel.”

On the steps of the Mandarin Hotel in Knightsbridge, Beyoncé Knowles is stepping out to meet the gathered paparazzi. From the hotel foyer, looking out into the filthy London rain, she’s a silhouette in a strobe of flashb…


The B-52s

Was it like The Monkees? It was more like The Shining. I don’t think a band should ever live together.”

One of the pitfalls of playing a show at a 414 year-old German fortress is that, back in Renaissance times, no-one could have foreseen what this building would eventually go on to be used for. As a result, there are no…


Incredible String Band

I returned with a brightly-painted bag, which was made out of a goat – and in it were all sorts of flutes and drums and a gimbri.”

Post-Pepper, London may have been swinging, but in the suburbs bordering Edinburgh, the evenings were silent. As Mr and Mrs Heron were getting ready for bed, their son Mike removed a tab of acid from an envelope and waited…


Fleet Foxes

"Maybe I’ll just be able to do get part-time work when I return"”

“Have I ever what?” Robin Pecknold, frontman with Seattle four-piece Fleet Foxes, smiles to conceal his embarrassment that I might even think him capable of such a thing. He heard me perfectly the first time, but I nonet…


Il Divo

I feel something inside me turn, and it isn’t my stomach. It’s far worse than that. I think I enjoyed it.” Il Divo, 2008”

If Il Divo look bored, only the harshest observer would judge them. Three hours before the Paul O’Grady show goes live, Simon Cowell’s poperatic phenomenon are poised to run through their version of Charles Aznavour’s She…


Pete Best

Closure? There's nothing to close.”

Before you even see the sign that tells you this is The Cavern, you can hear Please Please Me rattling out from downstairs. Across the road, The Beatles peer down from a wall opposite – seeking to scoop up off-season hol…


Greek Blues

The music that Greeks have come to recognize as their own was created in the hash dens of Piraeus.”

In 2008, I went to Athens with producer Laura Parfitt and made a programme for Radio 4 called Greek Blues – in which I explored the roots of the music that I grew up listening to. Here is the programme, and beneath it is…


The Zombies

I saw far more musicians eating greasy breakfasts at the M1 Blue Boar services that I ever saw popping pills.”

Stare at a crowd of people in their 60s and work out what they might have done for a living – it isn’t easy. Hairstyles, at least on men, tend not to vary greatly. The dress mode uniformly sits somewhere between smart and…



As it happened, the fire engine was going the same way, and they said, ‘Do you want a lift?’”

Two hours before Coldplay are due on stage in Denver, a crack team of Feng Shui masters have been working around the clock to make Coldplay’s on-tour “family area” a haven of zen security. Or, at any rate, that’s how it…


Joanna Newsom

In my mind were the images of the bards, the troubadours, the poets. And the very druid marrow of my bones started shout at me.”

Joanna Newsom looks at her fingers and can’t help but fret about what the forthcoming week has in store. It starts this afternoon, when she leaves her Newcastle hotel for a six hour rehearsal with the Northern Sinfonia.…


Arcade Fire

You could see kids stuck in muddy strollers; people on drugs. People were hitting our car.”

Picking at his frog risotto with the casual air of a man who eats amphibians most evenings, Arcade Fire’s drummer Jeremy Gara floats the idea that the new Rocky movie might make passable tour bus entertainment. “I mean,…


The Doors

I’ve been going through documents that Jim had drawn up to prevent people from doing this very thing.”

When is a Door not a Door? When it’s subject to a lawsuit prohibiting it from calling itself a Door. What would Jim Morrison, now in his 37th year of being dead, have made of the row that has broken out between his three…



Vince Clark was in Depeche Mode?! That’s mad!”

By 9.30am, the tide has receded far from Leigh On Sea, leaving boats moored on sand and a heavy mist over the Essex coastal town. Everything looks grey and washed out – everything, that is, apart from fifty-odd, dressed-up…


Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam

His breakfast of choice is a bowl of Golden Nuggets.”

These days, getting any sort of audience with the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens is a procedure of almost military complexity. Questions have to be submitted for prior examination. Any deemed unsuitable are removed…


Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame

I had a prescient energy… a sadness looming forwards.”

It’s been a decade since the royalties from A Girl Like You filtered through to Edwyn Collins. The song that propelled the former Orange Juice frontman into top tens all around the world earned him enough to move from a one…


Paul McCartney

Things that are happy are also contain the seed of sadness.”

As the man who penned When I’m 64, it probably goes without saying that Sir Paul McCartney felt a twinge of trepidation as June 18, 2006 finally approached. The way McCartney tells it, the plan was to pay little attention…


Roger Waters

I heard one Radiohead album. Was it Oh Computer? I can’t remember it making an impression.”

On the television in Roger Waters’ palatial Knightsbridge suite, Tim Henman cuts a picture of grim determination. As he claws his way back into contention, having lost the first set of his opening Wimbledon match, Waters…


Terry Reid

The trouble with record companies is that there’s always trouble with record companies.”

As befits a man who arrived in the UK just two hours ago, Terry Reid’s dress mode is Californian; the tan, expat orange. Crumpled white shorts, red t-shirt and – because it was the first thing he found in his suitcase – a…


Belle And Sebastian

We turned into characters from Last Of The Summer Wine, reflecting wistfully on our better years.”

Enthused by Pitchfork’s documentary about Belle And Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, I’ve gone through my archive and posted a variety of B&S-related pieces. If you read them from earliest date first (and I think…


Ryan Adams

I’d always secretly thought I’d just probably commit suicide before I was thirty.”

Given that it’s now 6pm, the Kensington hotel’s 6.15pm yoga session is looking unlikely for Ryan Adams. With rehearsals for the first night of his UK tour tonight, he also breaks off the interview to call a friend about…


Jarvis Cocker

I’ve always been furtive.”

The sleeve of his debut solo album, reads just “Jarvis” – no surname. If only for the fact that it instantly serves to remind us that we’ve long been on first-name terms with the sometime Pulp frontman, it’s an assured move…



If I would have to take a dump, I would need to take off everything.”

A few weeks ahead of the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, I heard that Finland were to be represented by a “horror rock band” singing a song called Hard Rock Hallelujah. When I saw the video to the song, I decided that I…



His mum went ballistic. She told him he was probably going to start having schizophrenic episodes.”

It’s touch and go whether Tom Chaplin will make it in time for the end of our Wednesday rendez-vous. Currently, Tim Rice-Oxley is checking his emails on the fourth floor of a private members club in Covent Garden. Pinging…


Neil Diamond

After four years of Freudian analysis I realized I had written Solitary Man about myself.”

The American PR briefly surveys the space between the chair and the coffee table, then she shakes her head. “He’ll need to stretch his legs out,” she frets. Then she pulls it back a little. That’s much better. Neil Diamo…



The Kooks? “Byker Grove with leather jackets, mate.”

The photo shoot begins in ten minutes. If Kasabian are to make it back to their boutique hotel in Knightsbridge, they need to hurry. Right now though, just two obstacles stand between them and a punctual arrival – and…


Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

That’s surely a little surprising, isn’t it? That the heavily tattooed ex-Screaming Trees frontman and sometime heroin addict likes… fey Scottish indie-pop?”

It’s the kind of encounter that elicits mild concern in your friends. You’re meeting who? Mark Lanegan? The notoriously taciturn Mark Lanegan? The tar-voiced grunge survivor who, on the rare occasions he consents to talk…


George Martin

Hezbollah want to kidnap me? Why would they want to do that?”

Though looking remarkably spry for an 80 year-old man, Sir George Martin seems momentarily confused. “Hezbollah want to kidnap me? Why would they want to do that?” Sitting opposite him in an office at Abbey Rd studios, his…


The Raconteurs

I think that everyone thinks this is a Jack White side-project.”

What’s in an entrance? Five minutes separate the arrival of Brendan Benson from that of Jack White. In theory, the two frontmen of The Raconteurs should have a lot in common. Both hail from Detroit. Both have amassed bodies…


Kanye West

How can I make songs that black people don't like? I’m black!”

It’s a time-honoured courtesy practiced by record companies welcoming American artists over to these shores. Cleverly-placed billboards line the route from Heathrow to the West End. Their purpose? To massage egos and rea…


Mariah Carey

Do you know they’re orphans?”

Finally, almost two hours after our allotted interview time, the call comes down from the fifth floor of the Sanderson hotel. Mariah Carey is ready. Except that, actually, that’s not strictly true. With a few pictures still…


The Strokes

Why are you wearing your sweater?”

It is, of course, tempting to dwell on the surly supersized adolescent who deliberately mumbles inaudible answers and then affects to have forgotten them when asked to repeat himself. Lest we do Julian Casablancas a diss…


D A Pennebaker

That’s thing about making history. You have no awareness that it’s happening. You’re too busy recording the present.”

What, after all these years, most readily springs to Don “D.A.” Pennebaker’s mind about filming Bob Dylan? The Judas moment? The scores of loaf-haired shop girls tapping on dressing room windows? The seemingly endless stand…


Andy Partridge and XTC

Oh, Jesus. I'd never called my mother a cunt before.”

“I OVERDID CHRISTMAS”, says Andy Partridge by way of explanation. “Hence the bottles”.

The bottles in question are in a cardboard box in the front garden — or, rather, they were, until the box finally succumbed to last…



Yes, that's exactly what it was. And then I went through a period of deep depression.”

STUDIO ONE, BBC TELEVISION CENTRE. Radiohead have been standing on stage for half an hour while technicians work out how best to light them for their appearance on Later. There isn't a huge amount to do, but Thom Yorke has…