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At home with Paul Noonan..
It’s all back to the BellX1 frontman’s place for a root through his back pages.
John Walshe, 10 Feb 2004
Like most normal twenty-somethings, BellX1 frontman Paul Noonan watches movies, reads books and listens to music. But what is in his record collection? What movies does he watch over and over again? And what books does he treasure?
Paul is delving into his old vinyl collection, which is quite extensive, and includes everything from The Muppet Show Original Soundtrack to Roy Orbison (“I’ve always been amazed by the quality of the recording on these and old Motown records.”)
“I’ve loads of Talking Heads on vinyl,” he continues. “I was always into them. Even as a kid, I remember watching David Byrne in videos like ‘Road To Nowhere’, and he just had this incredibly alluring persona, in conjunction with the music.”
The Unforgettable Fire was the first U2 record he bought: “I remember robbing a turntable from my dad’s school and playing that record in my room all the time.”
His collection also includes a couple of Planxty records (“punk trad”), Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Johnny Cash’s Live At Folsom Prison, a lot of PJ Harvey albums (Paul is a massive fan), The Sundays’ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (“I’ve always really loved her voice”), Ride EPs (“Bryan MacMahon from Future Kings of Spain was a big fan and he introduced them to me when we were young-fellas.”), a sizeable chunk of Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue and Supertramp’s Famous Last Words (“The first song I ever learned to play was ‘It’s Raining Again’ by Supertramp. I suppose I’ve always been attracted to the ‘moany hole’ and melancholy”).
His personal favourite, however, is the soundtrack to Oliver: “As a rule, I generally can’t stand musicals but I think my da took myself and my sister to see a production of it in the Olympia when we were really young. My sister was scared shitless of Fagin and she started crying every time he came on stage, so she had to be taken outside and I was left there on my own, watching Fagin and the boys. I’ve always loved the songs, stuff like ‘Where Is Love?’ and ‘Who Will Buy?’: I’d love to do a cover of that at some stage.”
When it comes to movies, his collection includes Midnight Cowboy, It’s A Wonderful Life, Raging Bull, Donnie Darko, The Usual Suspects, Quiz Show and Withnail And I. “At the time we first saw Withnail, Juniper were living in this house in the country and it was often damp and miserable. I think we related to the middle class, struggling artists,” he laughs.
He describes Paths To Freedom as “the finest thing that RTE ever commissioned. I was a bit disappointed with the film but the series was genius.”
When it comes to books, he admits, “I’m not a serious reader. I’ve tried reading Salman Rushdie and ended up putting it down, the same with Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. I just don’t have the attention for that.”
However, Paul does admit to being a “great thief” from various books, referring to the various literary references in BellX1’s music. One book he admits to “stealing from quite regularly” is Soundings, the Leaving Cert. poetry book that will be familiar to thousands: “My copy is covered in scrawled notes from myself and my three sisters. It’s also the book that contains ‘The Planter’s Daughter’ [the poem where they got the title to their second album, Music In Mouth].
“I loved Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, where the name BellX1 comes from, which is about the post World War II space race, with the Americans and the Soviets developing better and better rockets. For the first few year, they sent monkeys up in these rockets, and the first monkey in space was called Monkey 61 and we’ve just written a song called ‘Monkey 61’, so the theme continues,” he laughs.
“From The Catcher In The Rye, which we did in school, I got into a lot of the American writers, like John Steinback and Jack Kerouac and I’m also a big fan of Douglas Coupland, although he can be a bit harsh at times.”
One curious addition to his bookshelves is Illustrated Bible Stories For Children:
“When I was growing up, our next door neighbour was a Methodist minister and his wife, and they gave me a present of that book, which I’ve always loved. However seriously people take them, I think they’re great stories.” Sure enough, inside the cover is an inscription, “Presented to Paul with love from Kenneth and Patricia – 23rd May, 1981”.
His recent reads include a lot of non-fiction, like Michael Moore’s books, Naomi Klein’s No Logo and Neil Postman’s Technopoly.
He also reads a lot of Irish authors, including Miles Na gCopaleen and Flann O’Brien, and more recently, John McGahern’s That They May Face The Rising Sun: “He just paints these incredibly beautiful pictures of life in rural Ireland. It is the perfect antidote to all this emotional porn that is flying around on the telly, like these press conferences on Sky News where people are crying and they do these close-ups on the mother as she breaks down.”
His bookshelves also unearth a couple of music autobiographies, namely Keith Moon and Jarvis Cocker: “The Keith Moon one is beautiful – Uaneen gave that to me. He’s a fascinating character. Bob Geldof’s Is That It? is probably my favourite, though: he’s got a fire about him that is inspirational and always has been to me.”
[Photos: Liam Sweeney]