Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. Whizzing through to the end of the Bs.
MADONNA – Borderline / Think of Me (Sire 29354 1984)
Eighties dance-pop at its best.
UNDERWORLD – Born Slippy / Born Slippy .NUXX (Junior Boys Own 1995)
Pounding techno-trance with stream of consciousness vocals. It still sounds as euphoric today as it ever did.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Born to Run / Meeting Across the River (Columbia 10209 1975)
Another obvious selection, I suppose. Bruce’s Spectoresque anthem of teen rebellion is a thing of unfettered joy.
GIL SCOTT-HERON – The Bottle / Part 2 (Arista 225 1976)
It’s a sad irony that the vibrant, righteous author of this anti-alcoholism anthem ended up a crackhead.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL – The Boxer / Baby Driver (Columbia 44785 1969)
Another well-thumbed classic tune. Li-le-li, li-le-le-li-li-le-li, li-le-li (boom).
THE SMITHS – The Boy With the Thorn In His Side / Asleep (Rough Trade 191 1985)
The Smiths were always at their best, for me, when Johnny Marr provided sunny, uplifting melodies to contrast with Morrissey’s innate miserablism. Although B side “Asleep” is one of their best exercises in morbidity.
THE CURE – Boys Don’t Cry / Plastic Passion (Fiction 2 1979)
Thirty years old now, the Cure have never made a better pure pop record as far as I’m concerned.
THE POGUES – The Boys From the County Hell / Repeal of the Licensing Laws (Stiff 212 1984)
Booze, rain, taverns, disreputable landlords, and stacks more booze. Perhaps the quintessential Pogues song.
DON HENLEY – The Boys of Summer / A Month of Sundays (Geffen 29141 1984)
In which one of the figureheads of seventies excess satirizes eighties excess, and somehow gets away with it, with the help of some memorable lines and a damn fine tune.
THE DOORS – Break on Through / End of the Night (Elektra 45611 1967)
I’m of the school of opinion that Jim Morrison was a fat, misogynist drunk rather than some mystical, poetical spirit. Even so, the first couple of Doors albums are undeniably good. “Break on Through” whizzes past, borne aloft by a vital bass organ riff.
WEST STREET MOB – Breakdance – Electric Boogie / Let Your Mind Be Free (Sugar Hill 460 1983)
One of the seminal electro tracks to come out of early eighties Brooklyn.
THE GUN CLUB – The Breaking Hands / Crabdance / Nobody’s City (Red Rhino 89 1988)
I was never much of a fan of Robin Guthrie as producer. Too often he seemed to sap all the dynamism out of records. “The Breaking Hands” is one notable exception where his trebly guitar sheen fits amazingly well with Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s southern Gothic crew.
SIMON & GARFUNKEL – Bridge Over Troubled Water / Keep the Customer Satisfied (Columbia 45079 1970)
It may be over-familiar, but the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production combined with Artie’s most soulful vocal ever, never fail to hit the spot.
JIMMY REED – Bright Lights, Big City / I’m Mr Luck (Vee-Jay 398 1961)
There’s a lazy, almost drunken lilt to this tune which is completely missed by the zillions of pub back room blues bands who have covered it over nearly half a century.
THROWING MUSES – Bright Yellow Gun / Like a Dog (4AD 4018 1994)
Post Real Ramona, the Muses moved more and more into fairly straight hard rock, and away from the quirky and original signatures and structures that characterized their early records. They still managed to pull some great tunes out of the bag, though, and “Bright Yellow Gun” is as good as any alt-rock tune of the era.
SAM COOKE – Bring it on Home to Me / Having a Party (RCA 8036 1962)
Sam Cooke could sing the phone book and make it sound soulful. “Bring it on Home to Me” is a love song that sounds like a Gospel tune.
BO DIDDLEY – Bring it to Jerome / Pretty Thing (Checker 827 1955)
Bo Diddley made plenty of great records, although, to be fair, they rarely diverged that much from his basic template. “Bring it to Jerome” has a kind of eastern raga feel to it which makes it stand out a bit from some of his others.
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN – Bring on the Dancing Horses / Over My Shoulder (Korova 43 1985)
Like Simple Minds, there was a precise point when the Bunnymen went from making vibrant and compelling records to over-produced, slick and empty FM rock. This was their “Don’t You Forget About Me” – a good tune, but really the end of the line as far as interesting music went.
PUBLIC ENEMY – Bring the Noise / Sophisticated (Def Jam 440754 1988)
The best single of the eighties? Very possibly.
VAN MORRISON – Brown Eyed Girl / Goodbye Baby (Bang 545 1967)
They were playing this in the supermarket yesterday (which makes a change from bloody Xmas songs). It’s one of those songs that are pretty much ubiquitous, but unlike most, doesn’t make you want to tear your ears off every time you hear it. Still sounds pretty fresh, actually.
MILES DAVIS – Budo / Move (Capitol 15404 1948)
The tunes that Miles recorded with his nonet in 1948/9 were some of the most remarkable and forward thinking jazz tracks of the post-war era. “Budo” and “Move” were tow of the best. All are now readily available on The Birth of the Cool, of course.
INNERZONE ORCHESTRA – Bug in the Bassbin / mixes (Mo Wax 49 1996)
Is it jazz or is it techno? Frankly, who cares. This ten minute bass and percussion dominated piece was a long way from the futuristic techno that Carl Craig recorded under his own name, but remains one of the best and most influential tracks of the mid nineties. It proved that jazz/dance crossover needn’t be spliff-toking noodling.
GIRLS AGAINST BOYS – Bulletproof Cupid / Sharkmeat (Touch & Go 115 1993)
It’s the bass, stupid. A great rumbling, tumbling bass riff that drives the song along like a racing car. I’ve barely ever even noticed the rest.
JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – The Burning of the Midnight Lamp / The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice (Track 604007 1967)
L(aughing) S(am’s) D(ice). Do you see what he did there? If anything, the A side is trippier with a monster, panning riff and space rocket effects. Cool.
EVERLY BROTHERS – Bye Bye Love / I Wonder If I Care as Much (Cadence 1315 1957)
Boy, they could do some schmaltz (check out the hilarious “Ebony Eyes), but there’s no denying that there were few who could do close harmony better than the Everlys, as this early classic of theirs attests.