My Jukebox: Tom J Newell

Words: Jack Kidder

The ‘My Jukebox’ feature is a chance to get up close and personal with the record collections (we live in the 21st century, so Spotify discoveries are happily included alongside physical collections) of some well-known Sheffield faces

First up to share his collection is the highly-acclaimed artist Tom J Newell. Tom has produced hugely exciting work for a long roster of illustrious national clients, yet his unique and intricate hand-drawn images are synonymous with local audiences. You will see his work around the the Steel City, and often in collaboration with some of our favourite hangouts such as Bear Tree Records, piña and The Great Gatsby.

He has continued to support the local community through lockdown by participating in the piña ‘Hope is Strong 100’ challenge team, running 100km over 10 days in aid of Sheffield Hospitals Charity and raising nearly £8,000 to support their efforts in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Thankfully, Tom took some time out of a busy schedule to talk us through his extensive vinyl collection. Without any further ado, come and step inside the artist’s personal playlist with us…

What was the first record you bought?
It was ‘Beat Dis’ by Bomb The Bass on 7”, and I bought it with pocket money from Hudson’s record shop in Chesterfield after hearing it on the radio and loving it. The cover art also helped spark my interest in Watchmen and graffiti art.

What records make you happy?
My wife Helen and I love the song ‘Today’ by Jefferson Airplane. When we got married a few years ago, our friend Benjamin Cockayne, who puts out music under the name Communal Vice, recorded a beautiful cover of the song for us. There was a vocal version played at the reception and an instrumental that was played at the service.

Last year I had the tracks lathe cut to 7” record by the Sheffield-based Do It Thissen Records for Helen’s birthday. A run of five copies, with one for Ben and the others for other family and friends, but definitely the most limited and special record that we own.

‘People… Hold On’ by Eddie Kendricks is another record that makes me happy because we play it to our baby son, Eddie. We’ve played it to him since he was born six months ago and he immediately recognises the sound of it when it plays now.

What records remind you of home?
Captain Beefheart and John Martyn records remind me of my parents’ home, and since I’ve inherited many of these records from them, they now remind me of my home too. Most of John Martyn’s albums, but particularly ‘Solid Air’. With Beefheart it’s a couple of songs on the ‘Clear Spot’ album: ‘Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles’ and ‘My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains’.

What records do you work to?
I don’t always listen to records when I’m working. Sometimes it’s podcasts talking about records like ‘Dad Bod Rap Pod’ or ‘Heat Rocks’ but instrumental Madlib albums are a favourite of mine on the studio turntable.

What records get you on the dancefloor?
These two records I’d use to get other people on the floor with, but I’d probably get out from behind the decks to join my friends for ‘I Want To Thank You’ by Alicia Myers and ‘Soul Makossa’ by Manu Dibango.

What records have you been listening to in lockdown?
I’ve been enjoying a couple of new albums that I got delivered from Bear Tree Records – ‘A Western Circular’ by Wilma Archer and ‘Ohms’ by Trees Speak. I ended up chatting to both of them through social media about the records too, which has been great. I’m working on some artwork for ‘Trees Speak’ right now, and that came out of just reaching out to them and saying I dug the record.

Favourite song and a favourite record of all time?
This is impossible to answer as there are favourite songs and albums I have for specific moods and even a top ten would be constantly changing. However, for the sake of the question and for this moment in time, I’ll say ‘The Rip’ by Portishead for the song and ‘Donuts’ by J Dilla for the album.

‘The Rip’ is perfect and has meant a lot to me through different moments in my life, and when the track switches up it’s one of my favourite moments in music ever.

‘Donuts’ is an unrivalled masterpiece, which still reveals something new every time I hear it. I’d recommend this album to anyone, and when you’ve listened to it a few times, I’d recommend reading up on the making of the album. It’s heartbreaking, life-affirming and absolutely awe-inspiring stuff.


Read more musings, reviews and playlists at Jack’s EAR TO THE GROUND blog

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