The M M & M 1000 – part 64

Here’s the final batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles.

CANDI STATON – Young Hearts Run Free / I Know (Warner 1976)
Looking back at their careers, I would hazard a guess that most of the great soul singers would probably look at their disco period and cringe a bit. You can count on the fingers of one hand how many of the best disco singles were made by established soul stars. Young Hearts Run Free is a glorious exception to that rule, a tale of ‘don’t do what I did’ that sounds euphoric rather than full of regret. Soulful and cheese-free.

BOB & MARCIA – Young, Gifted and Black / version (Harry J 1970)
It was common practice in the late sixties and early seventies in Jamaica to take the latest hot new soul and R&B tunes and cover them in a reggae style. Very occasionally, the cover struck a chord more neatly than the original. That was the case with Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths’ Harry Johnson produced version of the Nina Simone anthem, certainly in the UK. Possibly because it sounds purely celebratory and untinged with the weight of history, or perhaps because it just fits with the island rhythms.

CLOVERS – Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash / I’ve Got My Eyes On You (Atlantic 1954)
A funny song about the come-uppance of a blameless fellow who thinks he’s going to enjoy his new roll. Wrong. Even the mugger sees him as pitiful. It sounds like classic Lieber & Stoller, but in fact was written by Atlantic veteran, the multi-talented Jesse Stone. The Clovers saw themselves primarily as a ballad group, but with one or two exceptions, it’s their uptempo and humorous numbers that still resonate more than half a century later.

KRISTIN HERSH – Your Ghost / The Key / Uncle June And Aunt Kiyoti / When The Levee Breaks (4AD 1994)
I think Hips and Makers is a neglected masterpiece, every bit as good as any Throwing Muses album (bar the first). With Michael Stipe aboard (and remember, REM were just about the biggest band on the planet in 1994), this was definitely a calculated push towards the mainstream. It didn’t quite happen. Stellar guest aside, it’s simply a great song.

LOVE – Your Mind and We Belong Together / Laughing Stock (Elektra 1968)
Forever Changes bombed in the US when it came out. It didn’t in Blighty, but even so, it’s one of those weird quirks of history that a record so venerated down the years was a commercial failure on its release. The band were falling apart, and by the time Four Sail came out in 1969, Arthur Lee had gotten rid of the lot of them. This 45 was a last hurrah by the classic line-up, and although it’s probably owned by hundreds of thousands of people in the form of bonus cuts on their CD copies of Forever Changes, it’s still obscure. But they’re great songs – a little ragged, perhaps, but certainly deserving more than postscript status.

THIRTEENTH FLOOR ELEVATORS – You’re Gonna Miss Me / Tried To Hide (International Artists 1966)
That weird burbling noise is the electric jug, a sound pretty much unique to history’s greatest acid-drenched garage band. Lysergic punk of the highest order.

ESG – You’re No Good / UFO / Moody (Factory 1981)
These three songs originally comprised the first side of ESG’s debut mini LP for 99 Records. Factory took them, and put them out as a seven inch in the UK. Sparse and airy, and dominated by Leroy Glover’s walking bass line, the Scroggins sisters sounded like nothing else around before or since. Absolutely hypnotic music. I saw them nearly a quarter of a century on at ATP, and live they were just incredible.

JAMES CARR – You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up / That’s What I Want To Know (Goldwax 1966)
An apt title for a singer who struggled with severe depression all his life. When it comes to the southern soul ballad, nobody can touch Carr – not even Otis. He should have been a huge star, but it never really happened for him, partly because of his mental health problems.

RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ / There’s a Woman (Philles 1964)
I’m not a huge fan of Spector’s Wall of Sound productions. Granted they were tailored for AM radio, but too often they sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a well. This one works, though. Serious melodrama on an epic scale. The birth of the power ballad?

MIRACLES – You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me / Happy Landing (Tamla 1962)
Nearly ten per cent of this list is accounted for by the Motown group of labels, so it’s fitting to end with one of the songs that really put them on the map.

And that, my friends, is that. This list started in October 2008, and the whys, whats and wherefores were all dealt with here. I hope that I’ve inspired a few people to dig out old tunes they’d forgotten, or to seek out stuff they’d not heard.

My disclaimer at the beginning of each part that it’s a purely subjective list is important. Nobody’s trying to be definitive here. And if I did it again, I’m sure there’d be plenty of changes. No Beatles – well that probably seems absurd to most people. I’m not being deliberately iconoclastic. I just don’t like any of their singles as much as I like these ones. If Tomorrow Never Knows, Within You Without You, Helter Skelter or A Day in the Life had been 45s, they’d have been in – no question.

A few stats. My favourite year appears to be 1966 with 55 entries. By decade, they break down as follows:

1900s – 0
1910s – 1
1920s – 25
1930s – 12
1940s – 23
1950s – 81
1960s – 274
1970s – 222
1980s – 218
1990s – 144

Top act is the Temptations with 11.

Finally, the honoury 1001st 45 goes to Limmie & the Family Cooking’s You Can Do Magic (Avco 1973). A breezy pop soul tune, and the first single I ever bought.


The M M & M 1000 – part 63

Here’s the penultimate batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles.

COASTERS – Yakety Yak / Zing Went the Strings of My Heart (Atco 1958)
Teenage rebellion and the generation gap were big themes in the fifties. Sure, the young had always rebelled – the jazz age flappers, the bright young things, the zoot suiters and the like. But this was the first generation where there was a clear divide between the young and their parents across the whole class and race spectrum. Lieber and Stoller, as usual, took a humorous look at the issue with the put upon teen getting the usual grief that anyone who’s been fifteen can identify with. King Curtis’s saxophone work is a sublime mix of comedy and jazz-chops.

MARVIN GAYE – You / Change What You Can (Tamla 1968)
STEVIE WONDER – You Are The Sunshine of My Life / Tuesday Heartbreak (Tamla 1973)
MARY WELLS – You Beat Me to the Punch / Old Love (Motown 1962)
SUPREMES – You Keep Me Hanging On / Remove This Doubt (Motown 1966)

A quartet of classic Motown. You sees Marvin Gaye in rare uptempo mode with a pleading vocal performance that has echoes of Levi Stubbs. Back in the early seventies when Stevie Wonder was at his creative zenith, he could pitch warm, celebratory love songs without coming over all sentimental and cloying. Mary Wells, Motown’s first superstar, is seemingly only remembered in the mainstream for My Guy, but there was so much more to her than that. You Beat Me to the Punch is one of those lyrically clever Smokey Robinson compositions that you just know was built from title downwards. My favourite of the four, You Keep Me Hanging On has a brilliant morse code single chord that almost physically holds the song up before the rush to the chorus, adding real drama to the piece. I could have opted for Vanilla Fudge’s sublime cover, too. It’s a sludge tempoed prog beast that builds the song up to some kind of sub-apocalyptic epic.

ARTHUR ALEXANDER – You Better Move On / A Shot of Rhythm & Blues (Dot 1962)
WILLIAM BELL – You Don’t Miss Your Water / Formula of Love (Stax 1962)

It could be argued (too mealy mouthed? – OK, I would argue) that 1962 was a pivotal year for soul music, when it fully emerged from its rhythm and blues roots as a new and completely separate genre. These two songs have become soul staples over the years. Arthur Alexander is a neglected figure these days, best known for two songs, Anna (covered by the Beatles) and this one (covered by the Stones), that epitomised the way that the new generation of British groups were drawing not just from the blues, but from a new generation of African American music. William Bell’s You Don’t Miss Your Water is the foundation stone of country soul, with Booker T Jones’ churchy organ underpinning a ballad full of regret.

THE SOURCE FEATURING CANDI STATON – You Got the Love / mixes (Truelove 1991)
You can judge the impact of a dance track by the number of times it’s been reissued and remixed. This has been out in various forms any number of times in the last twenty years. The recipe is simplicity itself. Take an acapella version of an eighties Gospel tune sung by the inimitable Candi Staton. Take an instrumental mix of a Jamie Principle / Frankie Knuckles house tune (Your Love). Mix thoroughly and allow to settle. The result is a timeless upbeat anthem that has survived countless remixes and remakes (Joss Stone anyone? Thought not).

MY BLOODY VALENTINE – You Made Me Realise / Slow (Creation 1988)
More infamous now for the mid section full on noise burst (known as the holocaust in MBV circles) than for the song itself which has become merely a vehicle for the centrepiece. Without it, though, it would still stand up as a rare uptempo tune by the band that still has the melody and muffled mystery intact.

NANCY SINATRA – You Only Live Twice / Jackson (Reprise 1967)
If Robbie Williams deserves our hatred for just one thing, it’s his lifting of the classic string intro of You Only Live Twice and basing his own pisspoor song around it, leaving it the only memorable bit. Nancy S had a decent song to go with it, and a great, dramatic one too.

KINKS – You Really Got Me / It’s Alright (Pye 1964)
Punk rock year zero? Maybe. Heavy metal year zero? Maybe? One of the most exciting and influential tunes of the twentieth century? Without a doubt. Everything about is perfect. The riff, Dave Davies’s ripped speaker cone fuzztone, brother Ray’s snotty vocal delivery and the boldly basic tune.

SAM COOKE – You Send Me / Summertime (Keen 1957)
Cooke’s first hit, post Soul Stirrers, and a song that effortlessly fused rock, doowop and R&B styles into something smooth and new. Listen to this and then listen to the Miracles and the Impressions to see how influential it was.

JESUS & MARY CHAIN – You Trip Me Up / Just Out of Reach (Blanco Y Negro 1985)
OK, here’s something to ponder. Who in rock music history has produced the best treble of opening singles?. Elvis? That’s Alright and Mystery Train are a given but the third one – I couldn’t say what it was without looking it up. Chuck Berry? Again, brilliant first two (Maybellene and Thirty Days) but a relatively anonymous third. The Pistols? Definitely up there, as are the Clash (but only if you discount CBS’s bizarre and disowned decision to release Remote Control as a 45). The Smiths and Frankie Goes to Hollywood – definite contenders. For me, though, Upside Down, Never Understand and You Trip Me Up are the unbeatable trio. Raw energy, screeching feedback and underplayed but memorable melodies are the cornerstones of all three. As a unit – immense.

The M M & M 1000 – part 62

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. The last of the Ws

TRIFFIDS – Wide Open Road / Time of Weakness (Hot 1986)
Being the most geographically isolated city in the world, there are a lot of wide open roads heading out of Perth in Western Australia, hometown of the Triffids. The nearest major city, Adelaide is 2100km away. That’s not far short of the distance between London and Athens (or New York and Houston). Driving such a distance gives you a hell of a long time for reflection, and this song captures that perfectly.

JOE VENUTI & EDDIE LANG – Wild Cat / Sunshine (Okeh 1927)
Before Grappelli and Reinhardt there was Venuti and Lang, two Italian-Americans who made the violin and guitar jazz instruments. Their best work together was as a duo. In the pre-amplification days, both instruments struggled to make themselves heard over horns and drums, so they work best without those distractions. Wild Cat is dynamite – frightening fast exremely hard to play. It sits somewhere between an old time country hoedown, hot jazz and show-off virtuosity of the Paganini kind.

TROGGS – Wild Thing / From Home (Fontana 1966)
The song’s ridiculous. The riff is mega. Hendrix concentrated on the latter, the Goodies on the former on covers that were both true to the original in their own way. British garage rock at its finest.

CARTER FAMILY – Wildwood Flower / Forsaken Love (Victor 1928)
One of the best loved Carter Family songs, and with good reason. I think its Sara who sings lead with a heavily accented but beautiful tone, but it’s Maybelle’s guitar that steals the show. It was credited as an AP song, but it’s really an arrangement of something much older. More than 80 years on, it sounds absolutely fresh.

SHIRELLES – Will You Love Me Tomorrow? / Boys (Scepter 1960)
Teen girl songs of fifty years ago tended to disguise the pubescent hormonal rush in something sickly sweet. Think Born Too Late or 16 Candles. Carole King took the formula and gave it some much needed grit, although she was obviously bound by the strict censorship and conventions of the day. On the surface, Will You Love Me Tomorrow? is a classic teen weepie that sticks to the template. But the underlying message of teenage sex (gasp) and the real fears of a girl worrying whether she lost her virginity in a one night stand or if the boy was serious about her is much more realistic, caged as it had to be by a heavy disguise.

SABRES OF PARADISE – Wilmot / mixes (Warp 1994)
A looped horn sample paired with a stuttering dub beat, this Sabres’ tune has a slightly nightmarish quality about it, like some hallucinogenic voodoo.

JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – The Wind Cries Mary / Highway Chile (Track 1967)
A kind of psychedelic blues ballad that’s slightly disorientating. A world away from the heavy blues of Hey Joe or the trip-rock of Purple Haze. But just as great.

APHEX TWIN – Windowlicker / Formula / Nannou (Warp 1999)
The video was so outrageous and unforgettable, that the actual track was almost relegated to its soundtrack. A cheeky demolition of the clichéd hip hop video with the bootylicious babes turning into scary RJD-a-likes. The tune also warps convention, twisting Timbaland type beats and plastic R&B keyboards into something monstrous. A total mind-fuck on every level.

BOMB THE BASS – Winter In July / mixes (Rhythm King 1991)
Unfairly derided as the poor man’s Coldcut, whizzkid Tim Simenon made some startlingly good tracks. Winter In July is a ballad that would sit quite comfortably on Blue Lines and predated the trip hop clone army of the likes of Morcheeba, Sneaker Pimps, Mono (not the Japanese band) by some time. Singer Loretta Heywood is still active, but has never really made it beyond being guest vocalist on other folk’s records. It’s a shame, because she has a great voice.

SAM COOKE – Wonderful World / Along the Navajo Trail (Keen 1960)
Pop-soul at its finest

WHO – Won’t Get Fooled Again / I Don’t Even Know Myself (Track 1971)
WAR – The World Is a Ghetto / Four Cornered Room (United Artists 1972)

Neither of these songs are best represented by their single edits, especially Won’t Get Fooled Again which was cruelly butchered to sit on the side of a 45. The World Is a Ghetto, too, works much better when its full ten minutes are allowed to slowly unfurl.

KATE BUSH – Wow / Fullhouse (EMI 1979)
Wow is like a stage musical about the life of an ageing, failing actor crammed into three minutes. Magnificently dramatic.

Two to go!

The M M & M 1000 – part 61

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. When, Where, Who & Why?

ROY HARPER – When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease / Hallucinating Light (Harvest 1975)
One of the drawbacks of living in Scotland is the natives’ inability to grasp the joys of cricket. Mind you, considering the average Scottish summer, it’s no wonder it never really caught on here. For fans, though, there is something terribly poignant about the end of the season. Unlike football, where there’s a summer to look forward to, with perhaps a World Cup to add a bit of spice to it, the end of the cricket season is the portent for months of cold, gloom and darkness. There’s a poignancy about it – the last glimpses of old pros as they shuffle off into retirement, and in the rooms full of ancient members, the knowledge that some won’t be back in the spring. This mixture of nostalgia, the passing of time and the bleak reminder of mortality is captured nowhere better than on this doleful classic by Roy Harper, with the brass band sounding much like a funeral anthem for an old England.

PREFAB SPROUT – When Love Breaks Down / Diana (Kitchenware 1984)
If it’s not a hit, keep on re-releasing it until the cloth-eared public succumb. That seemed to be Kitchenware’s philosophy with this single, and the public did indeed succumb. Most of Prefab Sprout’s tunes are cloaked with that horrible glossy eighties production, but the songs shine through. And if the sound seems dated to contemporary ears, it does reinforce the sense of nostalgia that McAloon’s good at anyway.

SAM & DAVE – When Something Is Wrong With My Baby / Small Portion of Your Love (Stax 1967)
The antithesis of the plasticity of eighties production is the rough and ready sound of Stax, where the frayed edges just add to the authenticity of the performances. The records always sound like first takes – even that they just spontaneously happened as they went along. It’s the difference between the hand crafted and machine made. Sam Moore and Dave Prater are at the top of their game on this fierce ballad. Even the slow weepies at Stax had an electric energy about them.

THREE DEGREES – When Will I See You Again? / Year of Decision (Philadelphia International 1974)
Both of these songs were hits in their own right in Britain where the Three Degrees were far more popular than they were at home. Perhaps they were just a bit too pop for black radio, I’ve no idea. The Philly sound was the dominant commercial force in soul in the UK in the pre-disco days in a way that it never was in the States. And this is a fine example of its glorious sweet sound.

POP GROUP – Where There’s a Will There’s a Way / SLITS – In the Beginning There Was Rhythm (Y / Rough Trade 1979)
Where There’s a Will sees the mighty Pop Group at both their most anarchic and their most funky. The single was a double A side with the Slits whose offering is a dubby, rhythmic clatter in seacrh of a tune. Which, I guess, was the point.

SPIZZENERGI – Where’s Captain Kirk / Amnesia (Rough Trade 1979)
OK, it’s dumb but it’s fun.

THIN LIZZY – Whiskey In the Jar / Black Boys In the Corner (Decca 1972)
It’s odd to consider that for a few years Thin Lizzy looked destined to be one hit wonders. It was only with the 1976 Jailbreak record that they really established themselves. Whiskey In the Jar is folk-rock with the accent on rock, even though the song is a classic “trad: arr.”. Eric Bell’s brilliant guitar riff must be one of the best-loved and most recognisable in rock.

GRANDMASTER & MELLE MEL – White Lines (Don’t Do It) / mixes (Sugar Hill 1983)
Everybody calls it a Grandmaster Flash record, but he wasn’t actually on it. But it’s an understandable confusion since records featuring any, some or all of the Furious Five, Melvin Glover and Joseph Saddler were released under a bewildering variety of name variations. Many found the record a bit preachy, even though the sentiment was difficult to argue with. The thing that makes the tune, though, is the bass riff. And that was sampled from The Cavern by punk-funkers Liquid Liquid.

CLASH – White Man In Hammersmith Palais / The Prisoner (CBS 1978)
One of the first records I ever bought, and one of the most played. And probably still my favourite Clash 45. The Prisoner was good enough to be a classic A side in its own right.

MO-DETTES – White Mice / Masochistic Opposite (Mode 1980)
It was re-recorded in 1981 for a major and given a bit of a polish, but the Mo-Dettes’ original recording of White Mice is a much better indication of where the group was coming from – a kind of pop-friendly Raincoats. (note to self: whatever happened to them after they split in ’81?)

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – White Rabbit / Plastic Fantastic Lover (RCA 1967)
Two and a half minutes long and the perfect acid song. Makes you wonder why no one questioned what Lewis Caroll was taking at the time! Brilliant lyrical imagery and a structure that takes you from the first tweaks of unreality to the full head trip in an unwavering crescendo.

CREAM – White Room / Those Were the Days (Polydor 1969)
I like Cream when they do the concise, moody songs. The endless blues jams bore the pants off me. Yes, you’re good musicians – we get it, no need to drone on for fifteen bloody minutes. White Room is heavy as fuck, but with a pop touch that keeps it in check.

BO DIDDLEY – Who Do You Love? / I’m Bad (Checker 1956)
To contradict the above comments on Cream entirely, I have to admit that I love Quicksilver Messenger Service’s twenty-odd minute take on Bo Diddley’s song. But, of course, Bo’s is best. Mean and lean.

TIMMY THOMAS – Why Can’t We Live Together / Funky Me (Glades 1972)
For years, I was under the impression that Timmy Thomas was Jamaican. He isn’t. But there’s definitely a reggae vibe to this song. The rhythm is unusual, a kind of salsa setting straight off a Bontempi organ. But it works perfectly alongside the slightly shrill organ licks and Thomas’s soulful vocal. I have to confess I’ve never heard anything else by him, something I really need to address.

TEENAGERS – Why Do Fools Fall In Love? / Please Be Mine (Gee 1956)
The original issue was credited to the Teenagers featuring Frankie Lymon rather than Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. A pedantic point. Terrific song, of course, and what a performance by 13 year old Lymon. His life went into a downward spiral thereafter. He left the group for a solo career that never worked out, was in rehab at 19 and dead of a heroin overdose at 25, already a washed-up has-been.

MOBY – Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? / mixes (Mute 1999)
Play is a really good album. But by 2000, all the tracks seemed to be everywhere – in adverts, in movies, as incidental music in TV documentaries, in shops. People just got sick of it. I got my copy a couple of months before it came out in Vinyl Exchange in Manchester. Animal Rights had flopped, and even a couple of months before Play was officially out, the shop was struggling to give them away. Think I got it for £2.99 or something. I loved it though, as all 18 tracks were completely new to me. Doubt I’ve played it for ten years now. This song still gets played quite a lot on the radio, and it still sounds good. And I’ve always loved the cartoon video with the Little Idiot and his goofy dog.

Three to go!

The M M & M 1000 – part 60

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. What?

PUBLIC ENEMY – Welcome to the Terrordrome / version (Def Jam 1990)
Not just an intense rush of sonic warfare, but a masterclass in rapping from Chuck D. The rhythms and rhymes in the verses are incredible, and the lyrics themselves are both an astute political scattergun attack on modern society and also a joyful barrage of wordplay almost for the hell of it.

McCARTHY – Well of Loneliness / Antimamericancretin / Unfortunately (September 1987)
Jangly agitpropers McCarthy also had a gifted lyricist in Malcolm Eden. Well of Loneliness has nothing much to do with the Radclyffe Hall novel of the same name. Instead it’s a world-weary piece of defeatist cynicism. Nothing’ll change, so what’s the point? A view, I might add, that Eden the optimist is satirising.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG & HIS HOT FIVE – West End Blues / Fireworks (Okeh 1928)
PET SHOP BOYS – West End Girls / A Man Could Get Arrested (Parlophone 1985)

One of the very best tunes from a three year period during which Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens rolled out classic after classic, West End Blues is a mournful piece, swaying almost drunkenly. Perhaps the tune that fits the prohibition era more than any other in its air of melancholy and moonshine. Sixty years on, there is an air of sadness to West End Girls, too, that also reflects the age of rampant greed and an ever-widening gap between the haves and the have nots. The east end boys are the Flash ‘Arry brokers of the Loadsamoney generation, and the west end girls the ‘class’ that they aspire to. Consume, consume, consume – but as Tennant says in the second verse – “How much do you need?

RUTS – West One (Shine On Me) / The Crack (Virgin 1980)
Malcolm Owen’s final statement before his death from a heroin overdose is another song that fits the vague theme of the last few of being cut adrift and lost in a society that never turns back to pick up stragglers. A lot of punk bands did reggae, usually badly, but the Ruts were the only ones who managed to fit driving rock and dub together like they were natural bedfellows. West One’s final two minutes is essentially ‘versioned’ from the first three, and just adds to the feeling of disconnection.

PFM – The Western / Hypnotising (Good Looking 1995)
Not the Italian proggers of the same name, PFM were originally junglists Mike Bolton and Jamie Saker. The Western is possibly the finest example of the ambient/electronica side of drum & bass pioneered by LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records. Some muppet labelled the sound ‘Intelligent Drum & Bass’, a patronising epiphet that fortunately didn’t stick. The track is an eight minute gallop through the grandeur of Monument Valley – John Ford does jungle.

JIMMY RUFFIN – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted / Baby I’ve Got It (Soul 1966)
JR. WALKER – What Does It Take? / Brainwasher (Soul 1969)

Two belting Motown tunes that everybody is probably familiar with. Walker’s was the more surprising, as he’d never done much in the way of conventional pop-soul before – the All Stars forté was groove-based, brass-led and tight as a gnat’s anus.

SMITHS – What Difference Does It Make? / Back to the Old House (Rough Trade 1984)
For those who weren’t around at the time, it’s hard to stress enough what difference they actually did make. At the time, the NME (then pretty much the official arbiter of what was cool and what wasn’t) had virtually sidelined guitar rock in favour of white-boy funk, Latin disco, jazz-lite and (more understandably) hip hop, electro and go-go. Guitar rock was there to be sneered at, in the main. The Smiths gave the genre a new lease of life (as, in a different way, did the likes of the Minutemen, Husker Du, the Replacements and their ilk across the pond). Unfortunately, 25 years on, their legacy seems more a curse than a blessing.

BUZZCOCKS – What Do I Get? / Oh Shit (United Artists 1978)
The grandfathers of emo? Discuss.

DJ SHADOW – What Does Your Soul Look Like? parts 1-4 (Mo Wax 1995)
OK, stretching my own definition of what is a single here. You could argue it’s not even an EP, but a short album. Whatever. This is Shadow at his best, something, sadly, that he hasn’t begun to approach in recent years. Four pieces of sample based instrumental hip hop that are chilled and expansive. Near as dammit perfect.

PET SHOP BOYS – What Have I Done to Deserve This? / A New Life (Parlophone 1987)
Tennant and Lowe again, this time helping to give Dusty Springfield’s career a deserved Indian Summer. One of the finest singers these islands have ever produced, she was always unfairly put in the box marked ‘middle of the road entertainers’ with the likes of the vastly inferior Cilla and Lulu. Even her (now recognised) masterpiece Dusty In Memphis bombed when it was first issued. She only sings the chorus on this song, but can’t help stealing the show.

GANG OF FOUR – What We All Want / History’s Bunk (EMI 1981)
They never recaptured the glory of their first album, and Solid Gold was (unfairly) seen as a massive disappointment when it came out. The real dross came later. What We All Want is an anti-consumerist anthem built on a crushing bass and drums rhythm.

RAY CHARLES – What’d I Say / part 2 (Atlantic 1959)
Pretty much Ray’s parting shot for Atlantic before he joined ABC and achieved full crossover stardom with the, frankly, ghastly Modern Sounds in Country and Western albums. This is his true legacy. Furious call and response Gospel-soul.

MARVIN GAYE – What’s Going On? / God Is Love (Tamla 1971)
Not a lot I can say about this that hasn’t been said by others. A canonical song from a canonical album.

INVITATIONS – What’s Wrong With Me Baby? / Why Did My Baby Turn Bad (Dynovoice 1965)
Even though I always head this series with a disclaimer that it is totally subjective, one of the major problems of attempting something like this is that there is just so much music that I’ve never heard and never will. Obviously, you get to hear major hits as you go through life and then you get a feel for the artists you like and it all snowballs from there. A lot of songs you hear totally by accident. I hadn’t a clue who the Invitations were, but this song appeared on a Northern Soul comp I bought. It just stood out for me. To be honest, it could be by anybody. The band don’t have anything that marks them out from a thousand other soul vocal groups, and the sound is strictly copycat Motown. But the song’s just great. There’s probably thousands of things out there this good which could have made it on this list if not for pure chance.

More soon

The M M & M 1000 – part 59

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles.

FLAMING LIPS – Waiting For a Superman / mixes (Warner 1999)
Is this a metaphor for global warming? About how no one wants to act in the hope that someone else will sort the problem out for them. Some things are just too big for even the proverbial superman.

EVERLY BROTHERS – Wake Up Little Susie / Maybe Tomorrow (Cadence 1958)
And is this a veiled reference to teenage sex? – not something you could explicitly deal with in a pop song in 1958.

FOUR TOPS – Walk Away Renee / Your Love Is Wonderful (Motown 1967)
Of course it’s a song by psyche-popsters the Left Banke, but good as the original is, they didn’t have the mighty Levi Stubbs. And a song this full of hurt was just made for him.

CANNON’S JUG STOMPERS – Walk Right In / Whoa Mule! Get Up the Alley (Victor 1929)
Gus Cannon’s group and Will Shade’s Memphis Jug Band were probably the two biggest jug bands of the late twenties / early thirties. By 1962 when the Rooftop Singers covered Walk Right In and took the song to the top of the Billboard chart, Cannon was a largely forgotten figure. In fact, so forgotten, that the story goes that everybody assumed he was dead and never thought to check. It was only when he heard it on the radio that he had any idea that the song had been remade. It ended well for him, and although in his late seventies, he enjoyed an Indian summer of recording and acclaim.

EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL – Walking Wounded / mixes (Virgin 1996)
Many people sneered when Everything But the Girl ‘went drum & bass’, but they absolutely nailed the fusion of late night melancholy pop and quicksilver beats. In retrospect it’s not so surprising that it worked. Omni Trio (who provided a remix) and others had always had a sad, downbeat air to their tunes, and Tracey Thorn had proved with Massive Attack that she had the perfect voice for that late twentieth century urban loneliness.

HOWLIN’ WOLF – Wang Dang Doodle / Back Door Man (Chess 1960)
Two great slices of bad boy blues from the big man. What more can you add?

EDWIN STARR – War / He Who Picks a Rose (Gordy 1970)
It’s kind of ironic that Berry Gordy, one of the most reticent label bosses when it came to allowing real life and real issues to infect his feel-good pop factory, eventually issued a string of songs that were some of the most profoundly political pop of the era. Edwin Starr’s War is just one example – an angry blast that no Iraq or Afghanistan demo would feel complete without.

KILLING JOKE – Wardance / Pssyche (Malicious Damage 1980)
For me, Killing Joke never really delivered on the promise of their debut album’s furious, dense industrial punk. Wardance is a vicious, tribal yell, but it’s Pssyche that gets the blood flowing. Youth’s bass is like a battering ram and Jaz lets rip with some real fury, although the targets of his ire seem almost random. And there’s something uncomfortably Nietzschan about the line Dodge the bullets or carry the gun, the choice is yours.

ATLANTIC OCEAN – Waterfall / Mimosa (Eastern Bloc 1994)
Sometimes a melody can be so simple and yet so effective. This house / proto-trance track sounds like it could’ve been thrown together in five minutes, but still sounds terrific.

TLC – Waterfalls / mixes (LaFace 1995)
I’m not the biggest fan of modern R&B. Too much is just dreary. I always liked TLC, though. They had a bit of grit about them that was lacking in most of their contemporaries and acolytes. They also could harmonise effortlessly and turn in a ballad that actually felt like it came from the heart. Then tastes changed to the sub-Gospel wailing of Destiny’s Child and their ilk, and TLC got bumped to the sidelines as the cult of celebrity became the be all and end all. Pity.

KINKS – Waterloo Sunset / Act Nice and Gentle (Pye 1967)
A love letter to Swinging London that somehow captures its death throes, a year before Grosvenor Square bashed out the chippy innocence for good.

TEMPTATIONS – The Way You Do The Things You Do / Just Let Me Know (Gordy 1964)
One of the best songs from the group’s Smokey era, before they really found their own voice. That happened in the first twenty seconds of Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, two years later.

POP GROUP – We Are All Prostitutes / Amnesty Report (Rough Trade 1979)
A band that burned like a magnesium flare. A band that foretold the future with chilling accuracy, and one that still stands unique thirty years on. There are no Pop Group soundalikes.

We Are All Prostitutes
Everyone has their price
And you too will learn to live the lie
Consumer fascism

Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions

Department stores are our new cathedrals
Our cars are martyrs to the cause

We are all prostitutes

Our children shall rise up against us
Because we are the ones to blame
We are the ones to blame
They will give us a new name
We shall be
Hypocrites hypocrites hypocrites

Now available as a ringtone (true). FFS!

SISTER SLEDGE – We Are Family / Easier to Love (Cotillion 1979)
By 1979, disco’s name was mud. It had become ubiquitous and ridiculous, a bandwagon jumped upon by every chancer from Rod Stewart to Barbra Streisand. And yet it was the year that produced the two greatest albums of the genre – Chic’s Risqué and the Chic produced We Are Family. Both are rhythm led, with songs as seductive as they are simple and as dancefloor friendly as you can possibly get. They are also chock full of optimism of the kind that is hard to do without coming across as twee or just plain gormless. Those two albums alone produced half a dozen great singles of which this is but one.

ANIMALS – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place / I Can’t Believe It (EMI Columbia 1965)
One recurring feature on this list is the classic bassline, and they don’t get much better than this. I admit to being sold on the bassline in some cases, even if the rest of the tune isn’t up to much. Not the case with this one, though. It’s like one of the great British kitchen sink dramas full of angry young men and downtrodden women. Or Our Friends In the North encapsulated in three minutes.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG – We Have All the Time in the World / Pretty Little Missy (United Artists 1969)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was an odd Bond film. Firstly, it had George Lazeby in his only appearance as 007. Secondly, he got married in it (and became a widower). Thirdly, the official theme tune was the instrumental of the same name, with Louis Armstrong’s beautifully rendered ballad demoted to the end credits. My Bloody Valentine’s version is a swoonsome thing that’s well worth hearing too.

THE BAND – The Weight / I Shall Be Released (Capitol 1968)
Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed? / He just grinned and shook my hand, and “No!”, was all he said. That line always makes me laugh out loud. It’s just the mental picture it conjours up.

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The M M & M 1000 – part 58

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. All the Us and Vs.

PHOTEK – UFO / Rings Around Saturn (Photek 1995)
ORIGIN UNKNOWN – Valley of the Shadows / The Touch (RAM 1993)

There was a time around fifteen years ago when I listened to little else but drum & bass, the only time in my life when my listening’s been so focused on a particular genre. The best tunes of the period sounded like a clattering, swirling rush into a nightmarish urban future. And you know what – fifteen years on, they still do. UFO on Photek’s own label had that X-Files thing going on, only the samples were genuine. They were taken from an investigation into mysterious lights that appeared near a US airbase in East Anglia some time in the eighties. Tension rips through the track, as it does in the bass vortex of Origin Unknown’s Valley of the Shadows (aka 31 Seconds). The vocal sample was taken from a BBC program about near death experiences, and the whole track has a feel of being sucked spinning into darkness.

THE THE – Uncertain Smile / Three Orange Kisses From Kazan (Epic 1982)
One of the few moments in music history where the ivory tinkling of the perma-grinning Jools Holland actually enhances a track. Like most of Matt Johnson’s early work, Uncertain Smile seems to concern depression, angst and low self-esteem. And yet there is something almost sunnily optimistic about it.

MASSIVE ATTACK – Unfinished Sympathy / mixes (Wild Bunch 1991)
Very possibly the best record of the century’s final decade. Everything about Unfinished Sympathy is perfect. The beats, the strings, Shara Nelson’s pleading vocals and the unforgettable video featuring a single five minute tracking shot of Nelson walking through an urban mainstreet in the orange glow of dusk (with 3D, G and Mushroom skulking in the background).

DOORS – The Unknown Soldier / We Could Be So Good Together (Elektra 1968)
I’ve always found Jim Morrison a boor and a bore, whose self-mythologising is hard to stomach. The Doors have also been responsible for some pretty dire records. At their best, though, they had an instinct for (melo)drama that was gripping. The Unknown Soldier is like a mini play about the execution of an army deserter. A bold choice for a single, especially in 1968. It works brilliantly, partly because, for once, Morrison immerses himself in a role rather than trying to be some hedonistic mystic.

DRIFTERS – Up on the Roof / Another Night With the Boys (Atlantic 1962)
At night the stars put on a show for free / And, darling, you can share it all with me“. By the end of the decade (actually just six years later), the Temptations were finding escape from urban pressure through thinly disguised narcotics in Cloud Nine (although they’ve always refuted that interpretation), but in 1962 a tenement roof was all the Drifters needed. Certainly a more romantic notion than just getting out of your box.

JESUS & MARY CHAIN – Upside Down / Vegetable Man (Creation 1984)
Skkkrrreeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! Perfect – like surfing through a sheet metal works; like lathes through steel plate while some Brill Building popsters attempt to do a Beach Boys cover. Yeah, noise records had been done before, but no one had been so impudent as to make pop records the same way before the Mary Chain. And Vegetable Man is madder than a box of Barretts.

STEVIE WONDER – Uptight / Purple Raindrops (Tamla 1965)
By 1965 the former twelve year old genius was now a fifteen year old with a remarkable vocal maturity. This is one of those tunes that the Motown hit factory through the works at, leaving three minutes of stomping, unfettered joy.

MONKEES – Valleri / Tapioca Tundra (Colgems 1968)
At the time it mattered that the Monkees were a ‘manufactured’ pop group. But then so were the Sex Pistols. Who actually cares? In Boyce and Hart they had a couple of grade A songwriters, and the efforts of Nesmith, Tork and even Dolenz weren’t too shabby either. If singles as good as Valleri had been released by a group of pimply teens from Nowheresville Iowa, they would have been the Holy Grail for fans of sixties garage pop.

PIXIES – Velouria / I’ve Been Waiting For You (4AD 1990)
These days the band is just a money-grabbing cabaret act whoreing out their back catalogue. Back then, they were refreshing and exciting. And that’s how I’d like to remember them.

BJÖRK – Venus as a Boy / There’s More to Life Than This (One Little Indian 1993)
There is something both pure and whimsical about Venus as a Boy. I’ve always like Björk’s music best when it exudes a kind of child-like wonder, combined with a magic realism. She’s terrific at conveying intangibles such as beauty and wonder in slightly off-kilter ways. It’s a quality that much of her more recent work lacks.

FATAL MICROBES – Violence Grows / Beautiful Pictures (Small Wonder 1978)
It gets on my fucking nerves, you know, all this ‘Broken Britain’ crap, like we’ve descended into some hellish time compared to the ‘good old days’. What? Like the seventies, you mean? Like football violence, razor gangs, kids getting their heads kicked in because they like the Clash, NF skins, the SUS laws, three channels of shit council telly, cheap skag etc etc. A golden era, to be sure. Violence Grows is one of those records that is indelibly linked to its era. It’s not so much angry at all the daily shit, as resigned to it. Like you could possibly expect any better? Chilling.

ROXY MUSIC – Virginia Plain / The Numberer (Island 1972)
Of course, this is the seventies people prefer to remember (although I was only a small boy at the time). The glamour, the sheen, the space age hardware. Of course, it was all artifice. Roxy, like Bowie, peddled artifice in a knowing way that both celebrated and satirised it at the same time. And they made great tunes to boot (before turning into the epitome of eighties dinner party blandness).

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – Volunteers / We Can Be Together (RCA 1969)
I”m in unstoppable rant mode now, but there’s no better example of how the sixties’ ideals were shredded than the dual personalities of Jefferson Airplane / Starship – counter-culture revolutionaries to paragons of empty AOR bombast. This is where they should have stopped – a two minute call to arms that gave a militancy and urgency to the hippie ideal that had long lost its veneer of innocence. It sounds like its meant, and I’m sure it was, but it was only a fleeting moment. Drugs, money and personal bickering always seemed to have the final say.

JIMI HENDRIX – Voodoo Chile / Hey Joe / All Along the Watchtower (Track 1970)
Better you die before you soil your reputation? Of course not, that’s just romantic rock & roll bullshit. Voodoo Chile was a two year old track rushed out by the record company before the corpse was even cold. And their tawdry efforts were rewarded with a number one single. It’s in this list because it’s an awesome piece of music, and not for any other reason.

A GUY CALLED GERALD – Voodoo Ray / Escape (Rham 1988)
Nothing encapsulates that Hacienda summer better than this. Magnificent. Of its time, of course, but it still has that swirly head-rushiness about it that gets the endorphins going better than any chemical ever could.

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