Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Freya Josephine Hollick – ‘No Other’ by Gene Clark (1974)
I first came across Gene Clark’s seminal classic No Other as a kid. My dad always said it was one of the best records of all time. For a long time, I didn’t really get it. I sort of thought yeah it’s cool, but I don’t get why he loves it so much. Then one day a couple of years ago I was driving through the countryside and stopped to take a photo of a bird of prey that looked to be almost all white and about the size of an eagle when I got a message on my phone from someone that simply said, “no other”. It was just a response to a message, nothing to do with music, but this set me on an obsession with Gene Clark’s record that I still am unable to shake.
I think it’s the first track on the record, ‘Life’s Greatest Fool‘, that acted as the initial barrier stopping me from delving deeper into what is a sonic smorgasbord of an album. For me this is the only track that seemed not to fit, it’s a straight-up country number that doesn’t bleed too far outside any lines. Although, it has grown on me over time. A kind of Porter Wagoner sung by Neil Young thing, which is a badass vibe, no doubt. But it’s what happens when the synth of ‘Silver Raven’ strikes on track two that you can hear the unmistakable genius of this record start to sing. And how they flip the drums onto a backbeat so it becomes a kind of cocaine funk banger. So far ahead of its time, yet somehow completely timeless.
The record was produced by native American producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye, which allowed the mysticism and poetry of Clark’s words to really take centre stage. An endless list of session musicians, including the Allman Brothers band and members of the Section pushed the record to encapsulate elements of country, rock, folk, gospel and soul, the record itself being one of the pioneering albums of the true cosmic American music.
I take so much from the title track ‘No Other’, its message changes for me as time changes, and as I change. But in an era where government and capitalism are hell-bent on dividing nations, neighbourhoods and humans in general, I take its message to mean we need to stop pushing our weakest members of society to the periphery. That othering is harmful, and if we truly want to work towards equality, we need to treat all humans with the same amount of respect as we wish to be afforded. Not to mention how insanely layered this track is in its meanings, it is also layered in its production, huge backing vocals, fat bassline, synths and out of control percussion including what I consider to be a great victory of modern recording in the incessant woodblock during the instrumental breaks.
Other favourites on this record include Strength of Strings and Some Misunderstanding but I encourage you to listen to it as a whole, as the songs sit together almost flawlessly. In 1974, when it came out, the album was met with critical acclaim, and revered by musicians, but failed commercially, and was cut short due to blowing the budget. Nevertheless, it has left a gigantic mark on me, and heavily influenced the album I recently made in California. I await the reissue of No Other as a box set this November with bated breath.
Freya Josephine Hollick’s new single ‘Nobody’s No Better Than No One’ is out now. Watch the video here. Her forthcoming album ‘The Real World’ is set for release through Blind Date Records in 2020