Spiritualized’s most celebrated album, and Kate Radley’s last as a member, the core line-up added Damon Reece on drums as well as featuring contributions from Dr John, the London Community Gospel Choir, B.J Cole and 19 technical personnel. It took its title from a passage in Joystein Gaarder’s novel, “Sophie’s World”, where a young girl attempts to define the meaning of life by travelling through time and space, meeting the world’s great philosophers. Commenting on the album today Jason Pierce recalls:
“We went out to America ahead of recording this record. John had joined on guitar and I’d recorded the title track and a number of other demos that ended up on the finished record.
But we got to play Cop Shoot Cop and Electricity live and to work them out before we recorded them for the record and then John became integral to the band. He came from a world of Syl Johnson and Al Green, Teenie Hodges and Reggie Young; a different world within the guitar lines. And then there was Kate (Radley)’s hugely influential keyboard that was relentless and loud.
I like Pure Phase the best of these four records, but people still say Ladies and Gentlemen is where everything kind of came together. I’m still astounded by both records, where they don’t let up. There’s no kind of curfew. Or no “you can’t stay on that section for that length of time”. They sit on where they arrive and stay there, and I found that kind of amazing.
The abstract parts were just as beautiful as these kind of pop / simplistic nursery rhyme ideas and they were no less important.
I went all over the place to make it. I went to Memphis to see (country recording legend) Jim Dickinson for two weeks, I think. Parts of his recordings are in there but by the time I finished, I had all these different mixes. There was very little that was one single mix. There were some mixes from the old A&M studio on La Brea in Los Angeles. Part of the reason that I’ve never received any royalties from any of these records is that I was always thinking, ‘Well where should I go now?’ Suddenly, the move from Rugby to London was small-time compared with “well can I do this in L.A, can I do it in Memphis, can I do it again?” And then “Can I fly out to New York and put Dr John on the record?”
With Dr John, I just wrote a letter, sent the track and his response was immediate. He said “absolutely, absolutely, love it”. It was where he wanted to be. I was completely in awe of him and his playing and everything he put to it. I could hardly speak, to be honest. Not that I needed to speak much. It didn’t add anything little or less to the proceedings. It was an amazing session, amazing to do.”
The album is the third in this series of 180g double albums mastered by Alchemy Mastering, presented in a gatefold jacket with reworked artwork by Mark Farrow.