Ginger Wildheart’s 10 Favourite Live Albums

Ginger Wildheart
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

Good news, Wildhearts fans: Ginger Wildheart is currently writing songs for the follow-up to Renaissance Men, Classic Rock’s Best Album Of 2019

If that’s something to whet the appetite for 2021, then the brilliant forthcoming double live album from the band, 30 Year Itch, is a fabulous kiss-off to 2020, an electrifying 17-song set to make you forget every shitty moment of this most insanely challenging year.

“I’m just delighted to have a really powerful, proper live recording of this line-up of the band,” says Ginger. “Not least because, with the lifestyle choices that we used to make, there have been instances where one of the four of us should have died.”

“Our producer Dave Draper has a real skill for making bands sound like they do live. It’s actually a hard thing to do, which is why so many bands have released inauthentic live albums. 

"With The Wildhearts, if the guitars are loud and the crowd is loud, everything else takes care of itself. It’s two rhythm guitars, a bass that sounds like a chainsaw, the powerhouse that is Ritch Battersby on drums, and four voices… it’s hard to fuck that up!”

“With the bands that I love, the music tends to transfer well to a live setting, and here’s ten of the best examples."

The Wildhearts' 30 Year Itch is out now


Ramones - It’s Alive (1979)

“If ever someone asks me, ‘Where do I start with the Ramones?’ I say, Get It’s Alive, it’s all there. Ramones made the transition from being a great studio band to being a great live band, and It’s Alive, which was recorded at the Rainbow in London on New Year’s Ever 1977, is just amazing. 

"When it comes to live albums, I don’t like a lot of confusion, and the Ramones were the least confusing band in the world. It’s Alive is a great sounding album, and it’s all the hits played even faster. Brilliantly, their ‘1-2-3-4!’ count-in always seems to be a different tempo from the song that follows. 

"I heard that the Ramones used to soundcheck, then rehearse their whole show in the dressing room before going out on stage, so they didn’t accidentally become a great live band, it was Johnny Ramone whipping them into shape every night.”

Motörhead - No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981)

“This was the album that made Motörhead. I was a huge fan of Motörhead from the moment I first heard the Motörhead single on the Chiswick label in 1977, but I didn’t get to see them until the Bomber tour. I’m a fan of No Sleep ’til Hammersmith just because it sounds exactly like Motörhead sound. 

"There’s a big part of my DNA which comes from Motörhead – there’s been more than a few times with The Wildhearts where we’ve asked ourselves, ‘What would Lemmy do?’ – and I still think it’s fucking weird that Lemmy went from being someone who was on my wall as a kid, to someone I could go for drinks with as an adult, and someone whose dressing room I could hang out in. Anyone who knows me knows how much that band, and that man, mean to me."

Cheap Trick - At Budokan (1978)

“This is another band that got to know me, purely because of me pestering them every time I got to see them! They played Shepherd’s Bush Empire once and I asked Kerrang! if I could review it, and I was sitting there loving it. 

"Then (guitarist) Rick Nielsen looked up at the balcony and went, ‘Hey, Ginger Wildheart is in tonight’ and so the 5/5 review turned into a 10/5 review! I love the story behind this album, the fact that they’d released a few albums which hadn’t yet pulled anyone’s trousers down and stuck a finger up their arse, and then they recorded this for Japan as a contractual obligation, and suddenly sky-rocketed from there. 

"But I have it on good authority that this album wasn’t recorded at Budokan, but was actually recorded in Osaka on the night before the Tokyo gig, when they were testing out the mics and mobile recording studio. I won’t tell you who told me that, but it was from the horse’s mouth."

Kiss - Alive II (1977)

“Obviously a lot of Kiss fans will consider Alive! the best Kiss live album, but I was 12 when Alive II came out, and when I saw it in a record shop, and opened up the gatefold sleeve and saw that photo of them live with the fire and smoke I was like, “Oh man, this is my favourite album ever!” I couldn’t possibly have disliked this album when I actually got it home and played it, they were already my new favourite band based on the photo alone. 

"One thing I love about Alive II is that there’s three live sides, and then one side of them in the studio… who does that? I was too young for Alive! when it came out, but Alive II was everything I needed at that point between The Sweet and the Pistols.”

Stiff Little Fingers - Hanx! (1980)

“A lot of people don’t rate Hanx! and I don’t understand why. It was the first Stiff Little Fingers album that I bought on the day of release, and it’s a brilliant album. When The Wildhearts started I wanted to find a singer that sounded like a cross between Paul Westerberg (The Replacements) and Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers) and because I couldn’t find someone who sounded more like Jake Burns than me, I had to do it myself. 

"I named my first kid after Jake Burns, so it’s pretty clear how much SLF mean to me. I still love this album, when it’s on top of things, it just sounds like a juggernaut. In The Wildhearts everyone liked the Ramones, and everyone liked Stiff Little Fingers. In fact in South Shields when I was growing up, Stiff Little Fingers were the punk band, there were no Clash fans, everyone loved SLF.”

AC/DC - If You Want Blood You’ve Got It (1978)

“What a great, great band they were with Bon Scott. For any kid learning guitar, AC/DC are the perfect band, because you can play along to all their songs. Again, AC/DC are another band who everyone in The Wildhearts loves, and CJ and I still play Riff Raff all the time during soundchecks. 

"I saw DC live with Bon Scott in 1979 and then later, in the mid ’90s, we toured with AC/DC and Brian Johnson would come and hang out in our dressing room, which was kinda mind-blowing to us. He’s a lovely fella, and that’s a killer live album."

Aerosmith - Official Bootleg (1978)

“When I was at school, everyone’s older brother was into Aerosmith. I always thought there was something really aggressive sounding about Aerosmith, and then when I learned to play guitar, I realised that it was because they were always out of tune! There’s just so much attitude to this album, and again, I know it’s not that highly rated among a lot of Aerosmith fans, but it’s really raw and exciting.”

Good Rats - Live At Last (1980)

“This was a band who were really big on the New York bar circuit around the time that Twisted Sister would have been playing the same venues. I went to New York once specially to see them, and they cancelled! I was gutted. 

"But I finally saw them when they reformed and they played twice at BB Kings Club and they were just everything I hoped they would be, bringing everything from the studio to the stage, those sweet four-part harmonies and doubled guitars and really, really catchy tunes. I love this album, and every time I recommend this album to someone, they fall in love with them too."

The Mothers - Just Another Band From L.A. (1972)

“This has some of the very best Frank Zappa music, and it really captures all the lunacy around Zappa at that time. With this line-up, Zappa took the guys from The Turtles, a LA pop band, and dropped them in among his own weirdo musicians, and the results are really unique. 

"The Mothers famously did that gig in Montreux where the casino went on fire, the incident that inspired Smoke On The Water, and then they went home and this line-up never played another show."

Ginger Wildheart - Ginger Wildheart’s Birthday Bash 2018, At The Garage, London (2020)

“I’m going to go with one of my own albums here, because why not? This is was one of my birthday bash shows, obviously, and we had some many great guests – Mike Monroe, Frank Turner, Charlie Harper – people flying in from all over to join us. 

"If anyone wants to listen to what I do outside of my marriage to The Wildhearts – my affairs, if you like – this is the best album to get, because it has so many different songs and everyone plays great. It was a great night, and it’s a nice summary of what I’ve been doing with my life."

The Wildhearts' 30 Year Itch is out now.

The Wildhearts: 30 Year Itch

(Image credit: Rounder Records)
Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.