Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. Everything starts with an E.
PENGUINS – Earth Angel / Hey Senorita (Dootone 348 1954)
The Penguins story had everything: schoolfriends who form a group, have a massive hit, make no money from it, get involved with dodgy managers, bad record deals, fatal car accidents, lawsuits, but carry on regardless with a revolving cast list, never managing to repeat that initial success. It would make a great movie. Until that’s made, we still have “Earth Angel” – one of the very greatest doowop ballads.
DUKE ELLINGTON & HIS ORCHESTRA – East St Louis Toodle-oo / Birmingham Breakdown (Vocalion 1064 1926)
I’ve always loved this tune since I was a kid. I first knew it as the theme tune for Annie Nightingale’s Radio One Request Show, although that was the cover by Steely Dan. It wasn’t until many years later that I heard the Ellington original. There’s a great sense of fun about the piece, it never fails to make me grin – not in a novelty, wacky way, but just because of its high spirited exuberance.
EDDIE HOLMAN – Eddie’s My name / Don’t Stop Now (Parkway 981 1965)
More about this here
BYRDS – Eight Miles High / Why (Columbia 43578 1966)
Much was made about whether this was about drugs or aeroplanes. It was the latter, but who cares? What makes this so awesome is the Coltrane-inspired guitar licks. They may have been the first group to smuggle avant-garde music on to the top of the hit parade, by surrounding it with a first class pop song. The Husker Du version nearly made it to this list too.
ALICE COOPER – Elected / Luney Tune (Warner Brothers 7631 1972)
Subtle it’s not, but as a cartoon protest song about the main motivation of far too many politicians, it’s as relevant today as it always was. Sadly, it’ll probably be just as germane in 100 years from now.
WALKER BROTHERS – The Electrician / Den Haag (GTO 230 1978)
Their record company was in trouble, and they knew that this was going to be their last record, so the Walkers just did their own thing on the Nite Flights album. John and Gary’s contributions are pretty awful, but Scott’s four are incredible. “The Electrician” sounded like nothing on earth. It was dark, it was literate and elaborate, it was scarcely pop by any definition, and yet it was absolutely compelling. We’re used to that from Scott now, but back then he was still perceived as a jaded pop star. Fair play to GTO for releasing it as a single, although you have to wonder why they did. Not exactly Top of the Pops material is it.
CHEMICAL BROTHERS – Elektrobank / Not Another Drugstore (Freestyle Dust 6 1997)
Still my favourite Chemical Brothers track – dark and dirty, with an awesome rumbling bass section in the final third. The video was good too – Rocky transposed to the world of women’s gymnastics.
HUMAN LEAGUE – Empire State Human / Introducing (Virgin 294 1979)
Before they turned into a global pop phenomenon, the Human League were more experimental, darker and sci-fi obsessed. “Empire State Human” is like a fifties B movie shocker.
BRUCE GILBERT & GRAHAM LEWIS – Ends With the Sea / Hung Out To Dry… (4AD 106 1981)
After the first Wire split in 1980, Colin Newman continued making Wire-ish records for Beggars Banquet, whilst Gilbert and Lewis went on to invent what was to become post-rock. “Ends With the Sea” sounds absolutely contemporary, using drone and noise topped with a weary vocal. They continued in this vein over the four Dome albums before Wire entered its second phase.
BELTRAM – Energy Flash / Psycho Bass (Transmat 16 1990)
A seminal techno track, “Energy Flash” marked the point where the Detroit sound gave way to the harder, more aggressive Berlin sound. Few tunes in the genre have come even close to equalling its raw excitement, and it sounds just as good nearly two decades on.
BARRY McGUIRE – Eve of Destruction / What’s Exactly the Matter With You? (Dunhill 4009 1965)
McGuire was no political radical, but a former member of the New Christy Minstrels. And he didn’t write “Eve of Destruction”, jobbing writer PF Sloan did. But he did have the perfect voice for this litany of the failings of the world of the mid sixties – segregation, Viet Nam etc etc. Anyhow, it hit a nerve, and topped the US chart (and provoked a red-baiting response in “Dawn of Correction” by the Spokesmen which was also a hit).
BUZZCOCKS – Ever Fallen in Love With Someone / Just Lust (United Artists 36455 1978)
The Buzzcocks’ punk-pop concerned itself with the somewhat unfashionable world of relationships when most other bands were pretending to be bored teenagers. On the downside, it could be argued that they were the Godfathers of emo. On the upside, tunes like this are timeless.
MORRISSEY – Every Day Is Like Sunday / Disappointed (HMV 1619 1988)
One thing I love to do is visit old fashioned seaside resorts out of season (it’s also one of the joys of ATP that I get to mix this interest with a ton of good music). Clacton, Rhyl, Prestatyn, Bridlington, Great Yarmouth, Helensburgh – all have a brilliantly gloomy, ghostly atmosphere on a wind and sleet battered day in late January. There’s the cavernous, but empty fish and chip cafes, the run-down arcades, and the cold, grey sea front. Everything needs a lick of paint, or more, before the season starts. Then there are also the gaggles of bored teens smoking in bus shelters. This is their song.
BRENDA HOLLOWAY – Every Little Bit Hurts / Land of a Thousand Boys (Tamla 54094 1964)
Brenda Holloway isn’t one of Motown’s better known singers, but this is a mighty and heart-searing ballad. It actually sounds more like a British blue-eyed soul record by the likes of Dusty Springfield than a Motown tune.
FRED NEIL – Everybody’s Talkin’ / That’s The Bag I’m In (Capitol 2256 1968)
Everybody knows Harry Nilsson’s version of this song from Midnight Cowboy, but I like Fred’s original better.
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE – Everyday People / Sing a Simple Song (Epic 10407 1968)
Before Sly and co fell into a mire of drugs and paranoia, there was an air of can-do optimism about the band. They were more like a secular rock-gospel act, than the downbeat funk group they would become. “Everyday People” is a celebration of diversity and harmony from a year when the social fabric was being shredded along racial, political and generational lines.
YARDBIRDS – Evil Hearted You / Still I’m Sad (EMI Columbia 7706 1965)
“Evil Hearted You” was a dark, atmospheric piece of paranoid garage rock. A long way away from the Yardbirds’ blues roots. It was written by Graham Gouldman, later of 10CC, who was never a member of the band, but had a profound influence on their direction. Jeff Beck was the guitarist on this record. The Clapton-era gets more attention, but the group were at their peak after he’d been replaced by Beck.
BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS – Exodus / dub (Island 6390 1977)
Exodus was the last consistently great Wailers LP before the grooves and rhythms were relegated to play second fiddle to radio-friendly pop. The title track is an unhurried, loose-limbed epic that has as much in common with P-Funk as it does with roots reggae.
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD – Expecting to Fly / Everydays (Atco 6545 1967)
Lush and melancholy, “Expecting to Fly” was more a Neil Young / Bob Ezrin collaboration than a Springfield song.. It’s beautiful and wistful, but not the most obvious choice for a single.
DE LA SOUL – Eye Know / The Mack Daddy On The Left (Big Life 13 1989)
Back in the good old days you could sample chunks of records to make your own, and nobody thought to sue or demand equal songwriting credits. Neither De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising and the Beastie’s Paul’s Boutique could be made today without half the law firms in America getting involved. “Eye Know” uses a large bit of Steely Dan’s “Peg” and a small bit of Otis’s “Dock of the Bay” to fashion a lovely, lazy summer’s day of a record.