The third of a series where we invite our favourite writers, thinkers, politicians or cultural figures to share their passions, pet hates and predictions.
What’s your earliest memory?
Falling down the stairs. My sister Louise emptied her purse of bus tickets and library cards, handed them to me (I was about seven years old) and told me that I was a secret agent and they were my documents. I was so engrossed that, squeezing round a laundry basket at the top of the stairs, I lost my footing. Not much of a secret agent, really – I cried a river and required a cuddle.
Who is your hero?
Sean Connery was my hero as a child. My brother and I would watch Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits over and over again. Connery has a cameo as the heroic but kindly King Agamemnon. Add to that the fact that he’s Indiana Jones’s dad and what’s not to love? My hero now is my eldest sister, Gina. She has spent her whole life in public service as a nurse, then a counsellor and, more recently, a nurse again because the NHS “needed some help”.
What was the last book that changed your thinking?
Your Body, Your Baby, Your Birth by Jenny Smith – a terrifying subject for a first-time parent. This woman was sent to us from another world. A life-improver of a book.
What politician do you look up to?
Tony Benn. Everything he did revealed a man who was deeply honoured to be elected. Most politicians are cheap-suit salesmen with an eye on retirement.
Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?
I’d love to go to Woodstock in 1969. The line-up is pretty much a third of my record collection. My wife, Rachael, and I also quite fancy the Fifties, when records sold in their tens of millions.
What TV show could you not live without?
Currently The Wire and I, Claudius. Brian Blessed is such a big character that you forget what an amazing actor he is. And to see Patrick Stewart, Derek Jacobi, Siân Phillips and our beloved John Hurt as nippers is a total joy.
Who would paint your portrait?
David Hockney, our greatest living portrait painter. I reckon he’d be a right laugh.
What’s your theme tune?
“I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by the Ink Spots.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My friend Mano McLaughlin is a little-known but amazing songwriter. He told me 25 years ago, “The song is all.” It started me thinking about songs as characters that I had a responsibility to and, basically, that helped me to be less shit.
What’s currently bugging you?
The amount of airtime the BBC gives Nigel Farage. The media could assist with that little shit’s departure by not paying him any attention. Whenever he opens his mouth, it’s like he’s whipped out a poo in a shoebox and hovered it under my nose.
What single thing would make your life better?
If it was discovered that smoking was good for you and I could go back to my beloved chuffing (sniff).
When were you happiest?
I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
If I gave it serious thought, I’d probably teach. The thing that keeps me writing music is the atmosphere of discovery and wonder in the studio. I reckon you’d find that in a good classroom. It would serve the needing-constant-attention thing, too.
Are we all doomed?
Are we fuck.
Elbow’s album “Little Fictions” is out now
This article appears in the 29 Mar 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition