Beloved comic and official UK national treasure, Bill Bailey is one of comedy's most musically cultured icons. A lifelong lover of heavy metal, rock 'n' roll and prog, the Bath native has spent decades incorporating music into his live shows, from skits on Slayer to turning the BBC theme into an apocalyptic rave and turning Enter Sandman into a horn-powered honk-a-thon at Sonisphere Festival. In 2020, Bailey utilised the Metallica classic again via a star turn on BBC dancing show Strictly Come Dancing, and he's even made multiple appearances at the Metal Hammer Golden God Awards and interviewed pagan folk heroes Wardruna for Hammer's cover feature last year.
In 2013, Metal Hammer interviewed Bailey at his office in London to quiz him on the albums that have defined his life and career. This is what he had to say.
What was the first album you bought?
"Rattus Norvegicus by The Stranglers. “I remember that had a brilliant picture on it; the cover was terrifying. I remember I had a Talking Heads album, Remain In Light, and that was another cover I remember vividly.”
What's your favourite album artwork?
“When I was a kid, I remember looking at the Yes albums and thinking, ‘What the hell is this? This is mental!’ Then there were the Maiden covers, and I think the Motörhead insignia is an all-time classic. Oh, and The Clash! London Calling has an amazing shot of Joe Strummer smashing a guitar. That seemed to sum up what punk was all about – ‘Fuck everything!’”
What album makes you want to break the speed limit when driving?
“Do you know what, I probably did break the speed limit to the Queens Of The Stone Age album Songs For The Deaf. It builds and builds and builds! You find that you’re driving along, and your knuckles are getting whiter and whiter holding the wheel, ha ha ha!”
Is there an album you wish that you had made yourself?
“There’s a couple, but the Bowie albums were what I thought were masterpieces when I was growing up. Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, I knew every track, all the way through. When I was in a covers band we’d play Suffragette City and segue into You Really Got Me by The Kinks.”
What album shouldn't exist?
“I’m a fan of Metallica, but I did think the film [Some Kind Of Monster] and the subsequent album [St. Anger] was a bit of a disappointment. It was all a bit Spinal Tap. The film was very brave of them to do, but, I mean… There are those times where they don’t show themselves in the best light. Did they watch it in the edit and go, ‘Yeah, let’s keep that bit’? I always feel sorry for Kirk. It’s like he’s the kid in the marriage.”
If a kid came up to you and asked what metal was, what album would you give them?
“It’d have to be something with a skull on the cover or something. It’d be Iron Maiden, The Number Of The Beast. It’s Satan, zombies and power chords. There you go!’”
What album is in your collection that would really surprise people?
“I suppose electronic stuff. I like a lot of electronic stuff as well. A lot of people would probably say, ‘I wouldn’t expect you to be a Boards Of Canada fan!’ That’s on rotation on tour. Boards Of Canada into Opeth. Keeping them on their toes!”
What album reminds you of school?
“It would probably be around ’77, so Heroes. I remember listening to a lot of that. That late-’70s era, there was a lot of punk, but Bowie just transcended all of that. He didn’t really fit into any genre.”
What was the first album you ever had sex to?
“Oh, hello! I think it would probably have been a Bowie album. I think it was either Aladdin Sane or Ziggy Stardust. I think it was Ziggy Stardust. I still get a big, silly grin on my face when it gets to Moonage Daydream, so yes, it must have been that!”
What album do you want played at your funeral?
“I’d say The Clash, Combat Rock, because then they can play Should I Stay Or Should I Go, or Mastodon, Crack The Skye! I’d like that to be filmed, but then I couldn’t see it…”