Love Letter To A Record: Winston Surfshirt On Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’

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.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Winston, Winston Surfshirt: Amy Winehouse – ‘Back To Black’

Back to Black,

I remember when we first met. I was 16, you were nearly 1.

We both know that age doesn’t equal maturity, though. Even then you taught me a lot of what I know.

This is sixteen years ago now. A time that will seem like yesterday for you in centuries to come. Or at least that’s what I imagine it’s like to be timeless. I was living in Australia when it all happened; you’d just gone worldwide in an era of singles. I remember sitting on my sofa at home carelessly watching Channel V when your video for ‘Rehab’ premiered. It took me. You were my mother’s love of Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Shirley Bassey metamorphosed on the TV, in real time. A musical language ingrained in me since childhood alive again. How could you sound like that… in 2006? This song was pure honesty laden with cheek.

Instantly my entire family had a copy of you, plus three communal spares for good measure. We were hooked. And ‘Rehab’ was the perfect song to catch us with, to catch the world with. But it was you in your entirety that was the true masterpiece. The hands that touched you, moulded you, couldn’t have been more perfect. You undoubtedly owe Ronson and Salaam, and they undoubtedly owe you. They brought you to life; you made sure you’re never going to die.

“You go back to her and I go back to black.” That was one of the most powerful lyrics I’d ever heard. Still is. In fact ‘Back to Black’ could well be one of my favourite songs, period. I used to play it once a day for about 3 years. I still play it once a day in my head. I could dissect every song and lyric. The hurt in, “Its okay in the day, I’m staying busy” from ‘Wake Up Alone’, to the hip-hop undercurrent sample use and unclichéd backing vocals in ‘He Can Only Hold Her’, to how you could drop the smoothest lines over the most nostalgic sounds with ease. “What kind of fuckery is this? You made me miss the Slick Rick gig”. It was all brand new.

The 8 track remix EP of Winston Surfshirt‘s debut album ‘Sponge Cake’, ‘Sponge Cake Rebaked’ is out now. The band will kick off their debut UK and Eurpoean tour this month. 

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