For my 100th Nostalgia Interview, it was a massive pleasure to meet Pete Paphides, a music journalist who has written for Melody Maker, Q and Time Out and has been the chief music critic for The Times. Pete’s memoir Broken Greek, with the wonderful sub-title A Story of Chip Shops and Pop Songs, was Radio 4’s Book of the Week.
Pete also went to Lampeter, where he studied Philosophy from 1989-92, and Pete begins the interview by talking about his fond memories of rainy mornings in Lampeter and the culture shift he experienced from having left the city of Birmingham for one of the smallest campuses in the country. Pete relays his experiences of hearing the sound of sheep at night and we talk about the notion of ‘infinite choice’.
Pete tells us about his more recent, very felicitous visit to a shoe shop in Aberaeron and we learn that Pete wrote Broken Greek in coffee shops – and how Lampeter kickstarted the idea of the café as office. Pete talks about his reasons for writing what he calls a ‘confusion memoir’ and how he wanted to put the reader in his head space.
We talk about his very early memory of sitting in his parents’ car and hearing Leo Sayer’s ‘When I Need You’, how from the ages of 4-7 he had selective mutism, and we learn that for Pete music was a proxy means by which he understood his life.
We talk about childhood diaries, how music was an imperfect mirror of what was going on in the world around him, how we tend to look back on childhood decisions and tastes and how it is wrong to apply to them adult categories. Pete dissects the concept of Guilty Pleasures, which is applied to Abba, and we learn why Hag’s Record shop is the reason why he decided to stay in Lampeter.
We learn why Pete made a point of keeping in the book the real name of one of the ‘characters’ from his past, and we learn his thoughts on Paul McCartney and ‘Mull of Kintyre’, and what happened on Christmas Day 1977 involving a racist neighbour and an unexpected act of kindness.
Then, towards the end of the interview we learn why writing Broken Greek was an escape of sorts. We learn how Pete came to write it and how he never thought he’d make a living out of writing (as a music journalist). Pete tells us why his 10 year old self was in some ways smarter than his 25 year old self, and at the very end we discover why Pete looks forward practically but looks back sentimentally.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Pete Paphides and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.