Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. Here’s the first half of the Gs.
SPECIALS – Gangsters / The Selecter (Two Tone 1 1979)
SPECIALS – Ghost Town / Why / Friday Night, Saturday Morning (Two Tone 17 1981)
These two songs bookend an extraordinary period for the Specials whose recorded career lasted barely two years. “Gangsters” was the archetypal ska revival record, a reworked version of Prince Buster’s “Al Capone”. “Ghost Town” was something different entirely – a gloomy and depressed tour through the ravages of Thatcherism. That they’ve chosen now as the time to reform is quite fitting.
CRAMPS – Garbageman / Fever (IRS 9014 1980)
The Cramps were an odd amalgamation of the Munsters, Link Wray and garage rock. Their obvious love of both classic Universal horror movies and vintage rock & roll inspired both the rockabilly revivalists and the nascent Goth movement. “Garbageman” rolls along on a dirty bass riff, with Lux Interior’s vocals sounding like a cross between Boris Karloff and Gerry Roslie of the Sonics. They’ll be missed.
ADVERTS – Gary Gilmour’s Eyes / Bored Teenagers (Anchor 1043 1977)
Out of all the first wave UK punk bands (with the exception of the Clash), I’d say that the Adverts had the best lyricist in TV Smith. Musically, they weren’t ahead of the pack, but the words were always worth listening to. Gary Gilmour was executed in Utah by firing squad in January 1977 after being found guilty of committing two murders. He requested beforehand that his eyes be used for transplant purposes, and within hours of his death, two people received his corneas. The Adverts’ protagonist is someone who wakes up from his operation having received said corneas. There’s a degree of poetic license involved, of course, but it’s a great song.
MODERN ENGLISH – Gathering Dust / Tranquility of a Summer Moment (4AD 15 1980)
Before they evolved into US college rock favourites, Modern English were two chord merchants with an obvious debt to Joy Division and Wire. They also used samples of radio, TV and cinema to give their tunes an air of impending apocalypse. “Gathering Dust” hurtles along into a maelstrom of thrashing guitars, machine gun bass, and screeching synth.
CROWS – Gee / I Love You So (Rama 6 1953)
SILHOUETTES – Get A Job / I Am Lonely (Junior 391 1958)
“Gee” was a million seller and the first authentic rock & roll song to chart on the Billboard pop listings in the US. Up until that time, the only black vocal groups to cross into the mainstream were balladeers like the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots and the Orioles. “Gee” was uptempo rhythm and blues. None of the follow up records sold, and the group disbanded in 1954. The Silhouettes were another one-hit wonder doo wop group. “Get a Job” is a humorous song about unemployment that owes a lot to the Coasters.
BANG BANG MACHINE – Geek Love / Flower Horse / Fuck Machine (Jimmie Kidd 1 1991)
Self-released on their own label, the nine minute “Geek Love” went on to become a cult favourite, topping that year’s John Peel Festive Fifty. The song is based on the novel of the same name by Katherine Dunn which was set in a travelling carnival. It liberally uses dialogue from Tod Browning’s classic horror Freaks. In a just world, they would have been feted. Perhaps they will be venerated by the crate diggers of the future.
TOM TOM CLUB – Genius of Love / Lorelei (Sire 49882 1981)
Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth moonlighted from Talking Heads with their side project Tom Tom Club, a kind of post-disco electro-funk act. “Genius of Love” was a massive club hit, and went on to become one of the most sampled tunes ever.
ELECTRIC PRUNES – Get Me to the World On Time / Are You Loving Me More? (But Enjoying It Less) (Reprise 564 1967)
The Prunes’ follow-up hit to the immortal “Too Much To Dream” is a lesser beast, but only just. It follows the same fuzzed up garage formula, but with a speeded up Bo Diddley rhythm.
BOB SEGER – Get Out of Denver / Long Song Comin’ (Reprise 1205 1974)
Not everyone in mid seventies America was doing the laid back harmony thing. “Get Out of Denver” is a breathless bar room rock & roll tune that sounds like Chuck Berry on amphetamines. If he wasn’t a bearded long hair, you could almost call it punk. Eddie & the Hot Rods obviously thought so when they covered it a couple of years later.
LEE DORSEY – Get Out of My Life Woman / So Long (Amy 945 1966)
Ex-boxer was pushing 40 when he signed his first record deal in 1961. “Get Out of My Life Woman” was written by Allen Toussaint, and is a mid tempo funky soul tune. It’s an excellent record in itself, but is remembered more for the opening boom-chak-kerboom-boom-chak drum rhythm which became almost ubiquitous in hip hop, both sampled and copied.
TEMPTATIONS – Get Ready / Fading Away (Gordy 7049 1966)
“Get Ready” marked the end of one era of the Temptations, although not because of one of their frequent line-up changes. It was the last Smokey Robinson penned hit before the group were brought under the wing of Norman Whitfield. Unlike most of the tunes they did with Smokey, “Get Ready” isn’t a ballad. It’s upbeat and dance floor friendly. Rare Earth turned it into a twenty minute showstopper a couple of years later.
FIRE ENGINES – Get Up and Use Me / Everything’s Roses (Codex 1 1980)
“Get Up and Use Me” was the quintessential Fire Engines track – frantic and tinny, with scratchy guitars and curiously clipped rhythms. They were funky, but not in a way you could dance to without having a seizure.
ELECTRONIC – Getting Away With It / Lucky Bag (Factory 257 1989)
In which Barney Sumner and Johnny Marr teamed up with the Pet Shop Boys and ended up sounding like…the Pet Shop Boys. A great feel good pop tune.
SPINNERS – Ghetto Child / We Belong Together (Atlantic 2973 1973)
DONNY HATHAWAY – The Ghetto / part 2 (Atco 6719 1970)
There were a spate of songs in the late sixties and early seventies that aimed to paint a picture of contemporary inner city life. Some were more politically astute than others. To be honest, the Spinners’ smooth soul is a bit too slick to be carry a convincing portrait of want. It’s an excellent song taken on its own merits, but lacks rage. Donny Hathaway’s itchy funk groove is sweatier and grittier, and the chant and crying baby gives the track the feel of a sticky summer in the Projects.
JAPAN – Ghosts / The Art of Parties (Virgin 472 1982)
This must be one of the most avant-garde tunes ever to reach the UK top ten. David Sylvian sings the song almost acapella, the backing being largely sparse, synthetic chimes and almost random notes. Stranger still, it’s probably the group’s best known song.
MEKONS – Ghosts of American Astronauts / Robin Hood (Sin 9 1988)
The old Capricorn One conspiracy theory that informs this song is even more discredited today than it was twenty years ago. Even so, there’s some lovely lyrical imagery (“John Glenn drinks cocktails with God / In a cafe in downtown Saigon”), and the record has a dreamy, otherworldly feel to it.
PIXIES – Gigantic / River Euphrates (4AD 805 1988)
A big big love!