Biker Babe

Biker Babe

By Tony McGuinness

  |  ANJ957D
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Salt is the great lost solo project from Tony McGuinness, the songwriter who would become the chief “male voice” lyricist in Above & Beyond. That is, as he puts it, “pretty much anything that a man is singing for Above & Beyond, I will have written it”.

Now, at last, in 2024, the fans, the followers and the fascinated can hear the DNA of that songwriting mastery. The heart of Salt’s nine tracks were written by McGuinness in a heady six-month burst between 1995 and 1996, the result of classic ’90s whirlwind romance in a London that was popping off with the explosion of club culture in the UK.

“In my life in the mid-’90s there were lots of new things happening,” begins McGuinness. “There was the clubbing and the whole lifestyle that came with that – and there was writing songs about Shelley and me. That was something I’d never done, ever. I’d never thought my life exciting enough to write a song about, but it started to be the norm. And I guess as a songwriter, that would end up standing me in very good stead with the band who became my life.”

Back at his Wimbledon flat one (very) early morning after a night clubbing, coming down as the sun came up, the fag reek and the hormones swirling, Shelley said to Tony what he still describes as “the immortal words, which I will never forget: ‘Go and get your guitar and sing to me.’

“And as a creative person, for whom the spark of creativity is always elusive, to have that excuse to play, and to have that willingness to hear – well, I think that’s what a muse is, isn’t it? So I went and got my guitar.”

After a spangled jangle through the repertoire of covers he could remember – “Crowded House songs and this and that” – Tony remembers watching Shelley exit the kitchen. “She had a Triumph motorcycle T shirt on. And I just went twang on my guitar and sang: ’biker babe, biker babe…’. And that’s how that song came.”

In Biker Babe, a sun-dappled Sixties strum with, let’s just say it, Noel Gallagher-shaped contours, Tony wrote a song where he and Shelley’s story was transposed on to characters in Twin Peaks. “Which is where the mention of The Roadhouse comes from,” he says of a lovelorn confessional which, 28 years later, opens Salt, “and ran with that all the way through to the ending. I knew she was gonna have to go back to America because she had no visa, and she had a flat in America that she didn’t want to lose.”

Over the next few months, as Tony rode the rocket of their romance, the songs poured out of him. Buying a sampler, eight-track tape-machine and mixing desk from the post-trip hop outfit Olive, he began recording the songs at home, helped and encouraged by Bob Bradley, a longtime friend and collaborator.

"He just started constructing these sound canvases," remembers Tony of Bradley's groundbreaking early productions of his songs. "I'd never seen anybody do anything like Bob was doing. Making the drums up in the sampler. Different kit for every song. Different vibe for every song, [while retaining an overall, coherent feel]. It blew my mind. He loved trip-hop, and we were both really into Angelo Badalamenti and Twin Peaks – and James Bond music, The Beach Boys and Steely Dan."

The result: a collection of alt-folk songs with glitter on their fingers and sweat – or, even, salt – on their skin. When, eventually, Shelley left, never to return, that tang of songwriterly salt was all Tony had to remember her by.

Tony McGuinness ‘Biker Babe’ is out now on Anjunabeats.


1Biker Babe - Tony McGuinness04:01
2Babydoll White - Tony McGuinness05:39

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