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

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The M M & M 1000 – part 38

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

LAURIE ANDERSON – O Superman / Walk the Dog (Warner Brothers 17870 1981)
Every now and then a piece of music from leftfield – be it jazz, experimental rock, electronica or the classical avant-garde – breaks into the mainstream without hype, but simply because people like it. “O Superman” is definitely one of those. Eight minutes of looped voice, half-sung, half-spoken commentary and a few dashes of synth for colour. Anderson soon disappeared back into the world of installations, galleries and new music recitals, but I like to think she took a few open minded people with her.

COLOURBOX – The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme / Philip Glass (4AD 605 1986)
Of course it wasn’t official. But I doubt if anybody remembers the tune that was (if, indeed, there was one). It’s got a synthetic brassy bounce to it that still sounds good. The flip was a pastiche of Glassy serialism.

CHICANE – Offshore / mix (Xtravaganza 91000 1996)
“Offshore” has probably soundtracked a million TV shows where the producer wants some chill-out ambience for a tracking shot of summer beaches. Despite this, and the endless remixes and reissues, it still retains its blissed out charm. Too much of this kind of stuff is like aural morphine, but there is a lightness of touch at work here.

CRICKETS – Oh Boy / Not Fade Away (Brunswick 55035 1957)
Due to complicated contractual wrangles dating back to 1956, Buddy Holly had two concurrent record labels during the last two years of his short life. Brunswick had the Crickets, and Coral the stuff recorded under his own name. I’m sure most people who know the songs very well wouldn’t be able to say which were which. I’m damn sure I couldn’t.

CHI-LITES – Oh Girl / Being in Love (Brunswick 55471 1972)
I’ve waxed lyrical about seriously under-rated Chicago vocal group the Chi-lites quite often in this series. They were the kings of seventies sweet soul, but had a political dimension too. That’s not present on “Oh Girl”, a beautiful, plaintive ballad on which Eugene Record worries himself needlessly about what would happen if his woman left him. His friends think he’s too dependent, but he’s in too deep.

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG – Ohio / Find the Cost of Freedom (Atlantic 2740 1970)
Neil Young’s response to the brutal killing of Kent State University students by the Ohio National Guard has become one of the great protest songs. Written, recorded and released within a month of the murders (for that’s what they undoubtedly were, despite the official whitewash), it was a fitting monument to the victims, and has ensured that those particular killings have not been forgotten.

PALACE BROTHERS – Ohio River Boat Song / Drinking Woman (Drag City 25 1992)
Will Oldham’s first single is still one of the finest songs he’s written. It sounds like a woozy, rural drinking song, but with a wistful melancholy to it.

DRIFTERS – On Broadway / Let the Music Play (Atlantic 2182 1963)
Here’s what I wrote about this in my (unpublished) Atlantic book:

The momentum gained from “Up On The Roof” was not lost, and “On Broadway” was a second successive top ten hit for the Drifters. Although Leiber and Stoller were given writing credits for some small melodic and lyrical changes that they made before the group recorded the song, “On Broadway’s” main authors were Barry Mann (born February 9th 1939 in Brooklyn) and Cynthia Weil (born October 18th 1940 in New York), two Brill Building stalwarts who must have seen many a hopeful singer arrive in New York with dreams of fame and fortune only to have them cruelly dashed. Their song captures the essence of that situation perfectly. The first two lines “They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway / They say there’s always magic in the air” contrast starkly with the reality that Rudy Lewis’ young hopeful finds on the ground: “But when you’re walking down the street / And you ain’t had enough to eat / The glitter rubs right off and you’re nowhere.” And again: “But how’re you gonna make some time / When all you got is one thin dime / And one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes”. The third verse, though, shows that his determination and his faith remain undimmed despite the setbacks and the doubts of others. “But no they’re wrong, I know they are / ’Cause I can play this here guitar / And I won’t quit till I’m a star on Broadway”. In the coda this determination seems to change into a kind of desperate self-delusion as the character’s claims become more and more fanciful “I’ll be a big, big, big man / I’ll have my name in lights / Everybody, everybody’s gonna know me, yeah” as if he doesn’t really believe it himself any more, but has to keep saying it to ward off the harsh reality of his situation. A great record is made even better by Phil Spector’s inspired surf-like guitar break. Spector was only at the session by chance – he was spotted by producers Leiber and Stoller and persuaded to join in.

Neil Young recorded a version of the song on his Freedom album (Reprise 25899 1989) which was much darker in tone, with the squalor emphasised and the dreams of the young hopeful virtually ridiculed. As an aside, when Genesis recorded their 1974 concept album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Charisma 101), Ben E King was drafted in to sing the final two words of the title track in the style of the Drifters hit, despite the fact that he didn’t sing it originally! (to be fair, the singer that did, Rudy Lewis, had been dead ten years by then).

“On Broadway” was cut at Tommy Evans’ final Drifters session as a member of the band, although he would occasionally provide some uncredited vocal overdubs (as did Dock Green) as a favour to manager George Treadwell. The new look quartet was now completed by a former member of the Links, Johnny Terry (two other members of the Links, James ‘Toy’ Walton and Roosevelt ‘Tippie’ Hubbard went on to join a post-Atlantic incarnation of the Clovers).

ADVERTS – One Chord Wonders / Quickstep (Stiff 13 1977)
In 1977, there were those groups who could play, and those who couldn’t. Some of the latter (like the Slits) used this to their advantage, others simply bashed out endless facsimile punk thrashes. The Adverts were barely competent as musicians, but they had a gifted songwriter in TV Smith, and he fashioned some classic tunes, while restrained by the band’s ability to actually perform them. “One Chord Wonders” is pretty much their manifesto, and it still sounds fantastic.

CLOVERS – One Mint Julep / Middle of the Night (Atlantic 963 1952)
These cocktails can be deceptive. One glass and you find yourself with a wife and a bunch of greetin bairns. Classic proto-doowop from Atlantic.

COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA – One O’Clock Jump / John’s Idea (Decca 1363 1937)
The late thirties was the age of swing, with the Dorsey brothers, Harry James, Glenn Miller and countless others ruling the roost. You’ll find them all in the jazz section at your local HMV, but it’s hard to see how they were jazz. It’s an art form that prizes improvisation on a theme, and there was no room for improvisation in these tightly marshalled, huge orchestras. This isn’t a criticism. When you have that many players, discipline has to be key. But things get to sound a bit stiff. The Basie Orchestra arrived on the scene from Kansas City like a breath of fresh air. Rhythmically tight, the musicians were jazz players through and through and weren’t afraid to cut loose. The result is something that sounds much freer and organic and, well, jazzy I guess. “One O’Clock Jump” was both the band’s calling card and signature tune.

ANOTHER PRETTY FACE – Only Heroes Live Forever / Heaven Gets Closer Every Day (Chicken Jazz 1 1980)
Another Pretty Face were Mike Scott’s band before the Waterboys. By the time they released this, their third single, they’d moved away from the power-pop that characterised their previous efforts into something approaching the ‘big music’ that he became famous for, although in a much more rough-hewn form. “Heaven Gets Closer” is the better of the two songs, a gruelling tale of pre-invasion fears and post-invasion reality as observed from a place of rural idyll far from the capital.

ROY ORBISON – Only the Lonely / Here Comes That Song Again (Monument 421 1960)
Loneliness, misery and continually failing relationships – he could be Morrissey’s godfather. But Roy had a voice of wonder, and you could easily forgive his constant gloom when it sounded this good.

PLATTERS – Only You / Bark, Battle and Ball (Mercury 70633 1955)
They only got a deal because their manager Buck Ram, who also managed the Penguins, stuck to his guns and told Mercury “if you want one of my bands, you have to take them both”. The Penguins never had another hit after “Earth Angel”, but the Platters went on to be the biggest vocal group of the fifties. They were masters (and mistress) of the slow, atmospheric ballad in the tradition of forebears such as the Ink Spots and the Orioles. “Only You” is a masterpiece of still, quiet melancholy.

DUSTY FLETCHER – Open the Door Richard / part 2 (National 4012 1947)
Probably the only record on this list that’s actually a vaudeville comedy turn. Fletcher had been doing his routine for years on stage – the bewildered drunk arriving home without a key and trying to raise his flatmate to let him in. In fact, he’d pretty much retired by 1947. Others had co-opted it (Louis Jordan, Jack McVea and Count Basie had all done versions), so National persuaded him to show them how it was done. Punctuated by the chorus coming in every now and then, Fletcher’s version was far funnier than any of the others, and was spread out over both sides of the record to allow him time to fully work his routine. Some people complain that it painted a negative portrayal of African-Americans, but as others have rightly pointed out, that’s like saying Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges were negative stereotypes of white people.

DARRELL BANKS – Open the Door to Your Heart / Our Love (Is in the Pocket ) (Revilot 201 1966)
Banks, like so many of his contemporaries, nailed one absolute masterpiece and then spent the rest of his career trying to follow it up. “Open the Door to Your Heart” is an urgent, pleading tune that has all the ingredients of a great soul dancer – ie rhythm and soul!

LIQUID LIQUID – Optimo / The Cavern / Scraper / Out (99 Records 11 1983)
But you’re not supposed to be allowing EPs, you cry. It’s my blog! Liquid Liquid never did an album, and never really did a conventional single either. Their entire legacy rests on fewer than a handful of EPs. But they were masters of what became known as punk-funk. The clipped rhythms and loose, deep bass hold most of their tunes together. Any other ingredients are sparingly added. “Optimo” and “Cavern” are probably their best known tracks – the former inspiring a legendary club night, the latter instantly familiar to anyone who’s heard Melle Mel’s “White Lines”.

BUZZCOCKS – Orgasm Addict / Whatever Happened To? (United Artists 36316 1977)
United Artists must have been thrilled when they were presented this as the Buzzcocks’ first major label single. Not that it wasn’t a terrific tune – it was – but it had no hope of being played on daytime radio because of its subject, a sexaholic who’s been “making out with schoolkids, winos and heads of state”.

CHARLIE PARKER – Ornithology / A Night in Tunisia (Dial 1002 1946)
Compared to virtually every other jazz great, Charlie Parker’s discography is a complete mess. Although he lived into the era when the LP had become the medium of choice for jazz, he recorded very little specifically for the longer format. Most of his output was in the form of three minute blasts to be put out on 78s. Dial didn’t help by releasing a confusing, relentless stream of records with the same take often appearing several times. And the fidelity often left a lot to be desired. I’ve only listed one Parker single, and I’ve chosen this one because a) it’s relatively well known, b) the tunes are among the best he did and c) it’s great.

PRODIGY – Out of Space / Ruff In The Jungle Bizness (XL 35 1992)
Prodigy meets Max Romeo in a proto-jungle hardcore stylee. Unquestionably their finest moment.

WIRE – Outdoor Miner / Practice Makes Perfect (Harvest 5172 1979)
A love song to a silverfish? I hate those wriggly, scurrying, triangular little beasts. Found a couple in my bathroom recently. Yuk! “Outdoor Miner” was Wire proving they could play pop, albeit by their rules, at a time when they were considered all angular, dry and arty. The single even has a lovely piano arpeggio added in order to stretch the LP version’s 105 seconds to something a little more acceptably single-length. Lovely.

GANG OF FOUR – Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time / He’d Send In the Army (Zonophone 1 1980)
Well, privatization didn’t exactly help matters, did it.

More soon

The M M & M 1000 – part 21

The Guardian nicked my idea! Well, kinda.

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

LONNIE JOHNSON & BLIND WILLIE DUNN – Handful of Riffs / Bullfrog Moan (Okeh 8695 1929)
This dates back to a time when having a racial mix of artists on the same record was taboo. Thus white jazz guitarist Eddie Lang adopted a ‘blues name’ alias for the music that he recorded with Lonnie Johnson. Both players were adept in a variety of styles – Lang had played jazz with Joe Venuti and even recorded a Rachmaninov prelude for solo guitar while Johnson had played both jazz and blues. “Handful of Riffs” is typical of their guitar duets, both soulful and technically innovative. They influenced a long line of players from John Fahey to Richard Bishop.

JOHNNY BRISTOL – Hang On in There Baby / Take Care of You For Me (MGM 14715 1974)
Johnny Bristol was in his mid thirties by the time his singing career took off. His past decade and a half had been spent as a producer and songwriter at Motown and CBS. “Hang On in There Baby” is a passionate piece of Philly proto-disco.

JIMMY CLIFF – The Harder They Come / Many Rivers To Cross (Island 6139 1972)
24 year old Jimmy Cliff made his acting debut as Ivanhoe Martin, the hero of Perry Henzell’s 1972 film of Jamaican ghetto life, The Harder They Come. His self-penned title track has become one of the most covered reggae tunes over the years, but none matches the intensity of the original.

BOB & EARL – The Harlem Shuffle / I’ll Keep Running Back (Marc 104 1963)
The early sixties saw a plethora of dance crazes, each inspiring hundreds of records. “The Harlem Shuffle” was something altogether more gritty and real than the endless exhortations to do the twist / the monkey / the mashed potato etc etc. Bobby Byrd (aka Bobby Day) and Earl Nelson had both been members of doowop act the Hollywood Flames in the fifties, but by the time this came out, Nelson was working with a different Bob – Bobby Relf.

BUZZCOCKS – Harmony in My Head / Something’s Gone Wrong Again (United Artists 36541 1979)
This isn’t generally considered to be one of the band’s best singles, but it remains one of my favourites. It’s a rare lead vocal outing for Steve Diggle, whose gruff bark is in stark contrast to Pete Shelley’s romantic pleadings. It gives the song a darker, angrier, more urgent feel – but it still has a fantastic singalong chorus.

ISLEY BROTHERS – Harvest for the World / part 2 (T Neck 2261 1976)
In the mid seventies, the Isleys were usually more concerned with sex and dancing than politics, but “Harvest for the World” is a heartfelt plea for a redistribution of wealth and an end to hunger that could have come straight out of the Curtis Mayfield songbook.

CHI-LITES – Have You Seen Her? / Yes I’m Ready (Brunswick 55462 1971)
Bloke mooches around at the movies and the local park, swaps jokes with the neighbourhood kids, but inside he’s a broken man because the girl he loves has flown the coop. It’s the classic seventies soul heartbreak scenario, with talkie intro and outro. A “Tracks of My Tears” for the afro and flares generation – and an absolute beauty of a song.

BODINES – Heard It All / Clear (Creation 30 1986)
Glossop’s finest have long since faded into obscurity, which is a shame. They only made one album, and that’s long out of print, but they did a clutch of great singles. This is indie pop at its purest – urgent, melodic and with an upbeat melancholy. Most of the Creation acts of the time were obsessed with the sixties – the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds – but the Bodines owed more to Postcard records. LTM or somebody should get on the case and do a proper anthology of the band. They don’t deserve to be forgotten.

TOM WAITS – The Heart of Saturday Night / Diamonds On My Windshield (Asylum 45262 1975)
“The Heart of Saturday Night” is typical of Tom Waits’ early days as a romantic barfly. It’s a bruised, but hopeful, song about the joy of the weekend – the anticipation, the pool halls, the waitresses. On the album, whose title it shares, it closes the first side. The second finishes with its companion piece, “The Ghosts of Saturday Night”, a reflective, glazed early morning peek at the aftermath which is even better.

ELVIS PRESLEY – Heartbreak Hotel / I Was the One (RCA 6420 1956)
This is one of those songs that is so familiar to everyone, that few probably really listen to it properly. What makes it so great is the empty space – the ghostly echoes that evoke a world of limbo between the living and the dead. It’s regularly cited as a key rock and roll tune, but it’s more a slice of American Gothic that owes as much to Edgar Allen Poe as it does to rhythm and blues.

MARTHA & THE VANDELLAS – Heat Wave / A Love Like Yours (Gordy 7022 1963)
Just one of the reasons why the Vandellas were always the greatest of Motown’s girl groups – and by extension, the greatest of the whole genre. It encapsulates the sweat and the joy of a carefree summer night.

DEEP BLUE – The Helicopter Tune / mixes (Moving Shadow 41 1993)
Deep Blue was Sean O’Keefe, a member of 2 Bad Mice and, more recently, Black Rain with Rob Haigh of Omni Trio. “The Helicopter Tune” was a landmark record in the history of jungle. It ditched the rude bwoy / ragga stylings of much of the early stuff in favour of a clinical, cyclical rhythm that had very little in the way of adornment. It’s one of the few records of the era that still sounds like it’s been beamed in from the future.

THEM – Here Comes the Night / All For Myself (Decca 12094 1965)
While it doesn’t have the same snotty urgency that “Gloria” has, “Here Comes the Night” still sounds more akin to the likes of the Sonics and the Standells than it does to any of Them’s mainland UK contemporaries.

DAVID BOWIE – Heroes / V2 Schneider (RCA 1121 1977)
Actually, the seven inch edit that mostly gets played on the radio is rubbish. It starts something like two minutes in. It’s like beginning a novel on page 80! The full six minute version is one of Bowie’s finest records – a dense, claustrophobic, almost desperate piece of self-delusion.

MEMPHIS JUG BAND – He’s in the Jailhouse Now / Round and Round (Victor 23256 1930)
“He’s in the Jailhouse Now” is one of those pre-war hillbilly tunes that exist in loads of different versions, credited to loads of different writers (Jimmie Rodgers being one). It probably dates back much further than the 1920s. This has always been my favourite take. I like the loose and rough raucousness of Will Shade’s mob.

More soon

The M M & M 1000 – part 16

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.

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