Jewish Telegraph, October 2022
PERHAPS I should have introduced myself properly to Ian Broudie instead of launching into the fact that I had a photograph of him from the 1960s in Liverpool’s Greenbank Synagogue choir.
Shocked by the stalker-type man interviewing him on Zoom, the Lightning Seeds singer was put at ease when I explained I was from the Jewish Telegraph.
“Context,” he laughed.
The 64-year-old told me that he couldn’t remember his time in the shul choir, but his memories of the now-derelict synagogue are linked to The Beatles.
Ian, who was raised in the Menlove Gardens area of Liverpool, said: “The Beatles played there in the basement. They used to have events there and they played there twice.
“I think Brian Epstein used to go there, didn’t he? As he managed them, he probably got them a couple of gigs there.”
Ian, the son of Dennis and Renee Broudie, is talking to me to plug the new Lightning Seeds album, See You In The Stars, released by BMG today.
It’s the group’s first album since Four Winds in 2009 — but Ian dismisses that release.
“I shouldn’t have made the album I made,” he said. “The last Lightning Seeds album for me was Tilt (1999), which flopped because I kind of was trying to get some new technology into it. And I kind of, in a sense, see why I lost myself.
“It’s important to be doing the right thing at the right time, not ahead of time or behind time. And I think we just mismatched the timing a bit.
“But it taught me you can’t worry about that s***; you’ve just got to do what you do.”
He said it has taken so long for the new album because he felt he wasn’t “emotionally capable” of writing what he considers to be a Lightning Seed song.
“I always want Lightning Seeds to be incredibly positive,” the former Liverpool King David High School student said.
“And the hardest thing to do is write a really positive song without it being vacuous, or trying to be chirpy or any of those horrible things really.
“It’s quite easy to write a dark song and be enigmatic.
“But with Lightning Seeds, even though the subject matter might be a bit dark and the words might be sad, I always want the overall feeling to be positive. And I felt emotionally incapable of doing that.”
See You In The Stars does sound like classic Lightning Seeds — which is music to Ian’s ears when I tell him this.
“I think all music is familiarity,” he replied. “And although you want different, you have to be different in a familiar way. Nothing simple, you know, nothing.
“It’s weird when people say, ‘oh, everything’s been done, so you can’t do anything new because there’s only so many notes’, but does that mean no one else can write a book because there’s only 26 letters.
“The songs on this album sound like the Lightning Seeds and hopefully familiar, but I think they’re a bit more personal and a bit more direct.
“I can sometimes get a bit anxious and nervous and cover it up with some Lightning Seedisms and stuff.
“But I’ve tried to stay a bit open-eyed and talk to people, and I feel like the album is a bit more direct emotionally.”
While he was waiting to be in the right mind to write new Lightning Seeds music, he has enjoyed being a “troubadour”.
He explained: “I’ve really grown into the role. I’ve loved playing the live gigs we’ve done over the last eight or nine years.
“To a degree, I’d lost focus. And we’ve had to fight our way back up to the Premier League from the lower part of the Championship.
“I wanted to be fighting fit, and gradually we’ve got great people in the band (including son Riley); it’s become a real unit over the last three or four years. And I think we’re really good now.
“So it would be a shame not to do an album. And then I seemed to be able to write some songs as well that were like Lightning Seed songs . . . it all came together really well.
“I’m so looking forward to the tour because we’re in a really good moment.”
The tour, with support from Bolton’s Badly Drawn Boy, starts at the end of the month and includes Leeds Stylus (November 5), Glasgow Old Fruitmarket (November 6), Liverpool Olympia (November 12), Manchester Albert Hall (November 19) and Sheffield Leadmill (November 26).
“I’ve got a bit of a cold and my throat has gone,” Ian told me. “I’m panicking because we’ve got start rehearsals in about a week. So I hope I get better soon.”
Obviously, with it being rock ‘n roll, drugs are on the agenda — but it’s just Benylin and antibiotics.
The 10 track See You In The Stars includes new single Walk Another Mile, as well as Emily Smiles, co-written with Specials singer Terry Hall, with whom Ian wrote big hit Lucky You.
Great To Be Alive and Live To Love You were both written with The Coral’s James Skelly. Ian helped fellow Scousers The Coral on the road to stardom by producing their debut album.
He also produced the debut release, Young for Eternity, for The Subways.
“That period when I was doing The Subways, I was also working with The Coral, both groups were very young,” he recalled.
“Everyone seemed to have their mums and dads with them, making them packed lunches to go in the studio.
“And you’ve got a bit of a responsibility, but at the same time, you’re in a bubble with those people, and it kind of creatively keeps you young by osmosis, and them being right in the moment is quite fun. It’s beautiful to see, it rejuvenates you.”
He added: “It was a funny time for me when I was producing Young for Eternity. They were like 15 or 16.
“It was two brothers. And one of the brother’s girlfriend was the bass player. So with fights or arguments, there was just no reserve whatsoever, they just went mad at each other.
“They were rolling around and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, you know, we’ll just do the bridge in a different spot’.”
Ian’s music career started in the late-1970s playing in post-punk band Big in Japan with Holly Johnson, who found fame a few years later as lead singer with Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
This led to him producing several bands starting with Liverpool legends Echo & The Bunnymen.
He was also a founder member of Original Mirrors, released an album with Bette Bright and the Illuminations, and had a minor hit with Flaming Sword as Care with Paul Simpson.
In 1990, Ian released the debut Lightning Seeds album Cloudcukooland, followed two years later by Sense, which featured the track The Life of Riley, known for many years by football fans as the goal of the month music on Match of the Day.
But it was the release of Jollification in 1994 that saw him reach new levels, with the album closing in on one million sales.
In 1996, Ian joined forces with comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner to release Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home), which has topped the charts a number of times — and is being re-released in time for next month’s World Cup.
The album Dizzy Heights was released in the same year with Tilt coming out in 1999. He also released solo album Tales Told in 2004.
When he was starting all those years ago, did he expect such a long career?
He laughed: “I didn’t think much about that back then. I thought anyone over 23 should just go away.
“When you’re young, you are just all in the moment, aren’t you? Absolutely. That’s one of the things that I really love.
“And I wish I was like that now; you just live in the moment, breathe in the moment, experiencing everything, and not really worried about the consequences or history either.”
Obviously, The Beatles played a part in Ian’s life.
“The era that I grew up in, they were just happening. So when I was six or seven, toddling around Liverpool, or going out to Smithdown Road and whatever, it was when The Beatles were happening. So it did have an effect.
“And I grew up in Menlove Avenue and Quarry Bank, and had all that sort of stuff at school.
“So it was a big deal, but I don’t think it’s had any major effect on me, although I don’t think there’s anyone writing songs who could not be influenced by The Beatles.”
In his formative musical years, Ian said Big in Japan’s manager told him and Holly that if anyone asked, they should say they hate The Beatles because it would be a good headline.
Around that time he was friends with Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and Dead or Alive.
“There were all my mates, Pete Burns and Holly and the Bunnymen, everyone,” he said.
“So there was a kind of friendly rivalry, but Big in Japan were slightly before they were in bands.”
With so many classic songs, but with a new album to plug, Ian has to choose carefully the setlist for the tour.
“Well, I relate to people going to a gig like this,” he said. “And they obviously want to hear the songs.
“So I’ll play all the hits. And now I’ll try and play a few songs off the albums that maybe we don’t always play but the fans would like to hear.
“And then you’ve got to find the right songs out of the new songs that can live alongside the old songs, because it’s quite tough competition.
“I’ve got maybe five, but I won’t play all five on one night in the set, so I’ll sprinkle in two or three new songs in there, which would be great for us, great for the band.”