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Political Spin: Richard Leonard

Delivering a speech or channelling Sonny Bono? | Alamy Stock Photo

Political Spin: Richard Leonard

What was the first record you ever bought?
The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love, which I bought from the local record shop in Malton. It was green on the front and it was an advert for a hairdryer, I don’t know whether it was real or mock, but that’s how it came. And Baby, You’re a Rich Man, I think, was the B-side.

What record will always get you on the dance floor?
Probably The Specials’ Nelson Mandela – irresistible. How could you not dance to that?

Does much get you on the dance floor? Are you a big dancer? 
Oh, well, these days it’s just me and my wife who dance at home on a Saturday night occasionally, in the back room with the music playing. But no, it’s a long time since I’ve been to a nightclub, I have to say. I can’t remember the last time I was in a situation where I was expected to dance on a dance floor. I’ve been to see bands playing live, but I haven’t been to a discotheque or a nightclub for an awful long time.

What is your go-to karaoke song?
I’m not much of a singer. And I’m not much of a karaoke singer! The only spot I ever really found was, see, I like Mott the Hoople, which is an old group which began their life by recording a song by Sonny Bono and he was in the partnership with Cher, he was married to Cher at one time, and I thought this was quite an easy register to meet on a karaoke. To cut a long story short – or to keep it quite long – I Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher is the only thing I’ve ever done on karaoke that I felt justified my existence as a singer.

What song was the first dance at your wedding?
There’s a song by Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross together… It’s called... It’s very slow and I could play it for you. And it’s a cover actually, it’s not something written by Marvin Gaye… Pledging My Love!

Was that your pick or your wife’s?
It was very much a joint pick. We sat and listened to different songs and boiled it down to a possible three. And that’s where we ended up because it’s good for a slow dance. And yeah, it was an attempt to capture the spirit of the moment, which I hope persists.

Aww… Bit of a U-turn here, but what song do you want played at your funeral?
When I was growing up, I used to think about this quite a lot. I used to listen to all these doomy songs by people like The Yardbirds, Turn Into Earth and all that, thinking that would be a great song to have at my funeral. Now I’m not so sure I would go down that route.

I’ve always thought of doing something based on the seasons. There’s a great song by The Rolling Stones called Winter, which is on their 1973 album Goat’s Head Soup, and there’s also a great song by Small Faces called Autumn Stone. And there’s a great song by Ronnie Lane, who used to be in Small Faces, called Burnin’ Summer. I’m really just missing spring.

So you’re hoping you don’t go sometime in spring?
Yes, absolutely, if I go in spring I’ve had it!

What song is guaranteed to make you cry?
That song Winter by The Rolling Stones. I just think it’s really moving.

Do you remember when you first heard that one?
Yeah. I bought it in Scarborough. I think I’d been working, where I was brought up was quite agricultural, so it would have been the potato picking season and I would have got cash in hand. I remember going through to Scarborough, my older sister Ruth had just learned to drive and we drove through to Scarborough and I went to this record shop and I bought two Rolling Stones albums, Goats Head Soup and Between the Buttons.

The thing I remember most, you know how people say about different senses, the sense of smell – I remember it most because she bought a stick of French bread and I could smell the French bread in the car so I always associate that album and that song with the smell of French baguette, freshly baked in Scarborough.

Do you have quite a big record collection even now?
Yeah, it’s under the stairs! My music centre thing broke down recently and I was looking around for replacement and I discovered all these options didn’t include the facility for plugging in a turntable. I had to hunt high and low, but I eventually found the perfect replacement so I could plug my turntable in and off we went again. Some things I’ve only got on record and they haven’t been released on CD, some more obscure things.

What record do you absolutely hate that gets stuck in your head?
Oh, wow. That’s difficult. I’m not sure I hate any record. You’ve got me there, I’m stumped. I mean, what kind of music don’t I like? Things that are incredibly pop-y probably, but nothing springs to mind.

And what about a record that you embarrassed to own?
I did an exchange with somebody because I had a Status Quo album and they said, ‘I’ll swap you your Status Quo album for my K-Tel Greatest Hits,’ whatever it was. I thought, anything to get rid of a Status Quo LP.

What was the last band you went to see and who with?
It would be with my wife Karen. And it would probably be The Dandy Warhols in Glasgow a couple of years ago. And we went to the Barrowlands to see the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But I haven’t been to see me see anybody for a while, of course, as none of us have.

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