Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. This is the first part of eight that deal with the S’s.
REM – So. Central Rain / King of the Road (IRS 9927 1984)
“So. Central Rain” is one of the best songs of REM’s peak IRS era, a yearning, flowing and hypnotic piece. The B side is a cover of Roger Miller’s ‘classic’, a song I loathe. Back when I was at University in Hull there was a jukebox in the Union Bar, and Miller’s song was a favourite of the bar staff, so you could guarantee that you’d hear it two or three times a night. It drove me up the wall! On reflection, maybe if I’d spent less time in the bar and more in the library, both my sanity and my degree would have been better.
LOVE SCULPTURE – Sabre Dance / Think of Love (Parlophone 5744 1968)
Aram Khachaturian transcribed to guitar by Dave Edmunds and friends. It works and it rocks. Definitely not to be confused with ELP’s later pretentious, overblown and ridiculous classical ‘interpretations’.
MASSIVE ATTACK – Safe From Harm / mixes (Wild Bunch 3 1991)
With its rolling bass line taken from Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” and unforgettably sinister video, this is one of the very best tracks that the band have done. It’s eerie and atmospheric and menacing with Shara Nelson sounding both fearful and defiant as 3D turns up the creepiness up to 11 with his tongue twisting asides.
STONE ROSES – Sally Cinnamon / Here It Comes (Revolver 36 1987)
Innocent and untainted by ego and hubris, “Sally Cinnamon” is a pure and simple jangly pop tune that owes as much to Sarah Records as it does to the Smiths.
FLYING SAUCER ATTACK – Sally Free and Easy / Three Seas (Domino 48 1996)
More about this here.
POGUES – Sally McLennane / Wild Rover (Stiff 224 1985)
A song about farewells, friendship and pub culture that has both the rousing camaraderie and beer-fueled sentimentality of drunken comrades saluting one of their own.
DIZZY GILLESPIE QUINTET – Salt Peanuts / Hot House (Guild 1003 1945)
“Salt Peanuts” is one of the defining tunes of the bop era. Written by Gillespie and drummer Kenny Clarke in 1942, it mirrors the cry of a street vendor whilst racing dizzily around the central theme.
ROLLING STONES – Satisfaction / The Spider and the Fly (Decca 12220 1965)
Some songs are so over-familiar that they become jaded. I certainly wouldn’t sit down and decide that I need to listen to “Satisfaction”. Why would I? I’ve heard it a zillion times. Every note is imprinted in my brain. Writing this now, it’s churning away in my head. That’s no fault of the song, though, and to exclude it on grounds of over-familiarity would be churlish.
LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANI FIVE – Saturday Night Fish Fry / part 2 (Decca 24725 1949)
This two part comic song about a raid on a dance and grub joint is done without anger or bitterness, but simply told as a humorous story. The thing is, it didn’t need to be angry or bitter. Seeing the funny side of a situation that would be all too familiar to Jordan’s audience was a coping mechanism. Listeners knew too well the kind of brutal raids that happened by violent and racist police forces and didn’t need a lecture about it. Just the recognition that it was happening, and pushing the fact into the mainstream was enough. By dressing anger in humour, things can be said that would otherwise be suppressed. It’s the strength of satire.
UNCLE TUPELO – Sauget Wind / Looking For a Way Out / Take My Word (Rockville 6089 1992)
A vinyl only single release that didn’t appear on CD until the release of the Anthology album ten years later, “Sauget Wind” is in some ways the archetypal Uncle Tupelo song. It takes the form of the Depression era working class ballad and updates it for the modern era, both musically and topically. The Sauget Wind is the late twentieth century equivalent of the thirties dustbowl. Instead of soil erosion and barren land, the wind brings pollution, poison and sickness. Chemicals pumped into the air by industries whose first and only concern is profit, aided by authorities ideologically allergic to any kind of regulation.
DRIFTERS – Save the Last Dance For Me / Nobody But Me (Atlantic 2071 1960)
After accidentally inventing the ‘wall of sound’ with their first hit with the new look Drifters, Leiber and Stoller reined things in a bit production wise for this Pomus and Shuman penned song. It was lighter, less dense, but still profusely orchestrated and a pop-soul benchmark.
JAMES BROWN – Say It Loud – I’m Black & I’m Proud / part 2 (King 6187 1968)
Does was it says on the tin. One of the records that defined the political and social upheavals of 1968.
GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE – Scorpio / It’s a Shame (Sugar Hill 790 1982)
“Scorpio” is one of a number of tracks that Flash himself didn’t appear on. With its vocoder vocals, it’s much more in tune with the burgeoning electro scene and the likes of Hashim and Cybotron than it is to hip hop. It rocks, though.