Glenn Hughes: the soundtrack of my life

Glenn Hughes
(Image credit: Joby Sessions / Bass Guitar Magazine)

A giant among journeymen, Glenn Hughes has never settled into a steady line-up. Instead, at 68, the singer/bassist has spent a half-century ricocheting between projects, loaning his shriek and rumble, before moving on. 

From first forays in Trapeze, through peak Deep Purple albums like Burn, and recent shifts with supergroups Black Country Communion and The Dead Daisies, it’s left Hughes with a hectic CV – and a head full of cherished music.

The first music I remember hearing

I lived with my mum and dad in the Midlands, and the music in the house was Glenn Miller – who I was named after. So I started playing trombone in the school orchestra. But a bit after that The Beatles came into my life. 

In 1962, I came back from school, turned on the TV, and the four mop-tops were on [playing Love Me Do]. Looking at the trombone with one eye, and them on the TV playing guitars, I asked my mother the burning question: “Is it possible to trade instruments?” It was a smart move.

The first song I performed live

It would have been Route 66, in my first band, The Hooker-Lees – named after John Lee Hooker. I wasn’t writing at the age of fourteen. Back then, in the mid-sixties, it was all cover songs: Route 66, Louie Louie, Johnny B. Goode… Those songs were played by every bar band across the UK. I think we nailed it.

The song that reminds me of adolescence

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. I had no idea of what kids did beyond their mum and dad’s houses. I was a good student, only missed one or two days at school ever. But Satisfaction, looking back, it was a very sex-induced song. People say to me: “Beatles or Stones?” For me, I’m a Beatles nut. But that song turned it around for me. Three notes. But it was so sassy.

The song I wish I'd written

Nutbush City Limits by Ike and Tina Turner. In fact if you listen to a song I wrote for California Breed called Sweet Tea, you’ll notice I may have swung over to Nutbush City Limits, and taken the groove and guitar aspect. Again, it’s got a lot of swagger, and I’ve always been one to bring the swagger.

The song I'd put on a pub jukebox

I think when people go to the pub they want to dance, don’t they? So it has to be something from Dance To The Music by Sly And The Family Stone.

The bassist

My dear friend Andy Fraser. Trapeze opened for Free in sixty-nine or seventy, at Wolves Polytechnic. I didn’t know who they were – they didn’t have All Right Now out yet. I’d only been playing bass a couple of years, and watching Andy Fraser filling his groove was absolutely life-changing.

The singer

I’m in awe of Stevie Wonder. We met him while making Stormbringer with Deep Purple, and we’re friends to this day. He’s repaid the compliment, told magazines that he likes my singing. I was blown away that he would say that.

The cult hero

I’m going to turn you on to someone you might never have heard of – the band is called DAG. Anybody that knows me, and my music, knows that I come from a very rock-soul-groove aspect. DAG were a white band, but they sounded like they could have been from Detroit. They folded, but they were monumental for me. 

The song I've been playing during lockdown

I have to choose something by Crosby, Stills And Nash, because their music is very soothing to me. Wooden Ships is all about peace, unity and freedom. It takes me back to a place of calm, before any of this weird stuff happened. I always loved bands that sang harmonies.

The record I don't really remember making

There’s a band from Australia called Heaven. One night, back in 1983, I was out at the Rainbow in LA, and in the morning I came out of a blinding-drunk session and found myself in Sound City [studios]. I’d basically sung four or five background vocals for these chaps, on their album Where Angels Fear To Tread. It was like: “What have I done here?!”

The song that makes me cry

There’s so many, because I’m a weeper, y’know? But I really do like Money Don’t Matter 2 Night by Prince. It’s saying that material things don’t make any difference, and nothing matters more than being right here, in this moment. There’s many songs that do me in, but at the moment that’s the one.

My favourite live album

I’m going with someone that I love dearly: Donny Hathaway’s Live, recorded at The Troubadour and The Bitter End in 1971. That album is the greatest live performance by any singer I’ve ever heard. He sings Jealous Guy, What’s Goin’ On, it’s just monumental.

My 'in the mood for love' song

Something, by The Beatles. Such a beautiful, simple piece of music. That song speaks to me. The powers that be in The Beatles would have been John and Paul, because ninety-five per cent of the hits were written by them, but George had two or three that were spellbinding.

The song I want played at my funeral

If I hadn’t met my missus, all those years ago, I wouldn’t still be here. She’s the gal that has kept me grounded. Everything that’s been good in my life, she’s at the centre. So I’m planning to leave it up to her what music is played at my funeral. I don’t want to leave people crying, I want them to be joyful.

The video for The Dead Daisies' new single Bustle And Flow is out now

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.