Wishbone Ash's Andy Powell: the soundtrack of my life

Andy Powell studio portrait
(Image credit: Joseph Branston/Guitarist Magazine)

Andy Powell is the last remaining co-founding member of the current line-up of Wishbone Ash, whose fiery yet inherently melodic signature twinguitar sound (forged originally with Ted Turner) left an indelible stamp bands such as Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and even the Eagles

Londoner Powell, now a long-term resident of the United States, has a diverse musical taste. Here he talks about being “a child of the fifties” and what makes him tick.


The first music I remember hearing

Because my family didn’t have a record player it would have been on a radio show called Uncle Mac’s Children’s Favourites. It played a really eclectic mix. That’s where I would have heard [US folk artist] Woody Guthrie for the first time. 

The first song I performed live

I’m almost certain it was Apache by The Shadows, probably with my band The Dekoys. I had picked up a beaten old acoustic guitar at eleven, and at the time The Shadows reigned supreme on the radio. As a child of the fifties it was the perfect time to learn the instrument. 

The greatest album of all time

That’s such an impossible question. I’m picking Rubber Soul by The Beatles, because I’ve got the sleeve framed in my house. Even though it was released in 1965 the production values still shine through, as does its overall vibe. I still love it. They were tapping into so many feelings and emotions.

The guitar hero

I’m known for being a big Peter Green fan, but I’m going to go with Clapton. I was at Cream’s first gig, at the National Jazz & Blues Festival in Windsor in 1966. Eric had the guitar sound that all players wanted. He was everybody’s mentor because he opened up a whole new world. Eric led the way in music and fashion, everything, really.

The singer

Although Roger Daltrey was the epitome of the rockgod singer, I’m going to go with Arthur Brown. Like Eric, Arthur was at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival, and it was the first time I heard that more operatic style of singing. It was a major moment in my life. 

The songwriter

I’m a massive fan of the writers from the Brill Building in New York during the mid-sixties, but narrowing it down to one choice it’s got to be Joni Mitchell. She had such insight into life from a woman’s perspective. Joni blew everyone else away – men or women. 

The best record I made

I used to steer away from saying that Argus [1972] was Wishbone’s watershed moment, but in my dotage I don’t mind admitting that. Argus was our third album, and we pulled the style of the band together with that record. It’s a classic.

The worst record I made

In a fifty-year-plus career there has to be a worst, and it’s our sixth album, Locked In. We had moved to Atlantic Records, who teamed us up with the late, great producer Tom Dowd. Let’s just say it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven. The whole experience felt miserable. We lost our big rock sound.

My guilty pleasure

Some of my friends might not expect that I would love Rammstein, but I do. A fantastic band. We had the best time watching them.

The most underrated band ever

For me it’s King’s X. They had all of the accolades and great reviews, but they never quite made the mainstream. We played with them at the e Sweden Rock Festival, and watching them they just blew me away. What an incredible band.

The best live album

Live At Leeds. I first opened for The Who when I was around fourteen, and our first American tour was opening for them. That band and their energy has been such an influence on me for so many years. Townshend’s attitude has always been seminal. Any band that can tap into that will do well in rock’n’roll.

The cult hero

It has to be Lowell George. I love Lowell’s voice and his playing. It was Robert Palmer that turned me on to Little Feat, and from there I got into the whole New Orleans vibe. 

My 'in the mood for love' song

The Look Of Love, preferably sung by Dusty Springfield. Dusty is my all-time favourite female singer.

The song that makes me cry

Back to Joni Mitchell again. I’m going with River from her album Blue [1971]. I love its wistfulness. She’s Canadian, and that song sums up the feeling of being all alone in the world. It takes the listener to those vast Canadian landscapes. 

My Saturday night party song

This could get me into trouble. Without doubt it’s Love The One You’re With by Steven Stills. Not because it’s about free love, but it’s a great rock song, and the best Hammond organ solo of all time crops up right in the middle. It’s ebullient and joyful… party time!

The song I want played at my funeral

We have one of the best funeral songs ever: Throw Down The Sword [from Argus]. However, I’m going to go with Dying To Live by Edgar Winter. The music is so poignant, and the lyrics simple and spiritual.  

The 50th-anniversary, multi-format boxed edition of Argus is available now via Madfish. Wishbone Ash tour the UK in September and the US the following month.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.