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 57

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 Ts.

MIRACLES – Tracks of My Tears / Fork in the Road (Tamla 1965)
SPINNERS – Truly Yours / Where Is That Girl (Motown 1966)

Two classic Motown break-up ballads by two of the finest soul vocal groups of all time. But where everybody must know Tracks of My Tears, Truly Yours is unfairly obscure. Both have glorious angst-ridden choruses. It goes to show that sometimes the difference between being a well-loved classic and a relatively unknown tune is often simply down to luck. Ivy Hunter and Micky Stevenson’s song concerns the receipt of a ‘dear John’ letter, with Bobby Smith bitterly noting that “there’s one thing that I don’t understand / how you had the nerve to take a pen in your hand / and sign the letter ‘truly yours’ when you know that you were never truly mine“. Ouch.

KRAFTWERK – Trans Europe Express / Franz Schubert (Capitol 1977)
There were loads of different versions of this issued at the time. Most had Franz Schubert as the B side, although the UK issue had Europe Endless. On the album, TEE / Metal on Metal / Franz Schubert are a long, uninterrupted suite and a sub four minute edit does rob the track of a lot of its impact. Still, it’s here because it’s brilliant.

JOY DIVISION – Transmission / Novelty (Factory 1979)
On the face of it “Dance, dance, dance to the radio” isn’t Ian Curtis’s most profound lyric, but there’s an agitation to this record that suggests more epileptic fit than homely waltz. It was written before Curtis’s epilepsy was diagnosed, of course. Hooky’s bass intro is one of the greatest you’ll ever hear.

TINDERSTICKS – Travelling Light / Waiting ‘Round You / I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (This Way Up 1995)
While Stuart Staples protests he’s OK and free of any emotional baggage, Carla Torgerson (the Walkabouts) plays the voice of reason, pointing out his self-delusion. Their voices gel perfectly on this country-tinged weepie. Staples’ reading of Otis’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long is an attractively morose one – all English introspection as opposed to the original’s obvious emotional pain.

OMNI TRIO – Trippin’ On Broken Beats / Soul of Darkness (Moving Shadow 1996)
CAPONE – Tudor Rose / Submerge (Hard Leaders 1999)

Two all time classic drum and bass cuts, but of a very different tone. Rob Haigh’s Trippin’ has a lightness of touch about it that makes the beats seem as airy as the water kiss of a skimming stone. A sample of Richard Burton from the film Anne of a Thousand Days leads off Tudor Rose, an intense stew of fat beats and thumping bass. Dark stuff.

NEW ORDER – True Faith / 1963 (Factory 1987)
The video was one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen – it still looks brilliant. I love the trio of fat-suited dancers, but my favourite bit is exactly three minutes in. Laugh out loud funny.

JOHN LEE HOOKER – Tupelo / Dusty Road (Vee-Jay 1960)
The inspiration for Nick Cave’s song of the same name, Hooker’s Tupelo is a dark rumination of a 1930s flood that inundated the Mississippi town. It’s part reportage and part a haunting and creepy walk among the ghosts of the past.

BYRDS – Turn, Turn, Turn / She Don’t Care About Time (Columbia 1965)
Here’s one for the pub quiz. Which US number one single has the oldest lyrics? Answer – this one (of course), with all the words taken verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes (traditionally attributed to King Solomon) except the last six (“I swear it’s not too late”) which were added by Pete Seeger when he adapted the passage to song form.

LITTLE RICHARD – Tutti Frutti / I’m Just a Lonely Guy (Speciality 1955)
Supposedly the finished article was a cleaned up version of a song that was a humorous ode to anal sex. What’s left is lyrical nonsense, but whatever it’s about sounds like a blast. And it gave the world the phrase “A-wop bop-a loo-bop, a-wop bam-boom!”.

THE NORMAL – TVOD / Warm Leatherette (Mute 1978)
The 45 that launched Mute Records consists of two punk-primitive slabs of dystopian electronica recorded by label head honcho Daniel Miller. Warm Leatherette in particular has a disturbing, dispassionate fetishization of car smashes inspired by JG Ballard’s Crash.

CULTURE – Two Sevens Clash / Version (Joe Gibbs 1977)
According to some Rastafarians, 1977 was the year of the coming apocalypse, with 7/7/77 (when the four sevens clash) the most feared date of all. Well, 1978 rolled around without much fuss, but the year did leave the world with one of the finest roots reggae albums of all time, and this majestic single, the LP’s title track.

And talking of apocalypses, seven years later (another 7 – spooky) the UK was gripped by Frankie-mania as the second of the group’s trio of tracts on sex, war and religion dropped, and sold and sold and sold. With its sampled passages from the government’s notoriously silly Protect and Survive pamphlet, this was partying in the face of nuclear armageddon. It also ushered in a new era of marketing, with a seemingly endless stream of remixes, and Paul Morley’s Katharine Hamnett inspired T shirts with slogans such as “Frankie Say Arm the Unemployed” and the like present on every high street during that summer. It was a very Thatcherite type of protest – tied in with commerce, music and fashion and saying more about the individual rather than actually attempting any concrete political change.

SLITS – Typical Girls / I Heard it Through the Grapevine (Island 1979)
The Slits were not your typical girls at all when it came to the post-77 crowd. Posh, public school educated and female in a scene dominated by white working class boys, they were also more interested in reggae and soul music than any 1-2-3-4 buzz-rock. That they couldn’t really play gave their tunes a ramshackle feel that contrasted with the usual tight rhythms of the dub they loved. Their covers (like Grapevine) were saved from being bad karaoke by a questing spirit and sense of mischief that made them great in a way that’s almost impossible to define.

More soon

The M M & M 1000 – part 54

Here’s the latest batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles. On to T now.

BUFFALO TOM – Tail Lights Fade / Birdbrain (Situation 2 1992)
This was the song that rid the band of the Dinosaur Jr junior tag and marked them out as a band to be reckoned with in their own right. Call it a grunge ballad if you will, but “Tail Lights Fade” is a passionate and moving song with more than a hint of desperation about it. “Broken face and broken hands – I’m a broken man” has the ring of a man reaching the bottom rather than a self-pitying whinge.

DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET – Take Five / Blue Rondo a la Turk (Columbia 1961)
DUKE ELLINGTON ORCHESTRA – Take the A Train / The Sidewalks of New York (Victor 1941)

Post-war, jazz has always been an album oriented medium, with singles little more than promo tools. A genuine popular hit is something that happens so little as to be almost freakish in its occurrence. Let alone one that uses the distinctly un-pop 5/4 time signature. Twenty years earlier, when swing was still king, the Ellington Orchestra were arguably at their very peak. Billy Strayhorn’s elegy to the Manhattan-Harlem-Brooklyn subway line became the band’s signature tune, and still is a fantastic evocation of forties America.

WAILERS – Tool Call One / Road Runner (Golden Crest 1959)
By 1959, rock ‘n’ roll had largely given way to simpering teen pop. Only the denizens of the American north-west must have missed the memo, because they were still churning out blistering, primal rock. The Wailers were the forerunners of a scene that birthed the incomparable Sonics, and provided one of the few links between the fifties rock revolution and the sixties garage band phenomenon, proving that the charge that the Yanks had forgotten how to rock before the Limeys arrived to remind them to be a false one.

BOB DYLAN – Tangled Up In Blue / If You See Her Say Hello (Columbia 1975)
Blood on the Tracks is like a religious icon to the Rolling Stone generation of rock hacks. Which kinda makes you want to hate it! I’m solidly with the consensus on this album, though, and “Tangled Up in Blue” is one of several masterpieces that weave fiction and rare soul-bearing by the usually reticent Dylan – a spokesman for himself, not a generation.

CHAMELEONS – Tears / Paradiso (Geffen 1986)
Strange Times was supposed to be the album that made the Chameleons global stars. Instead they acrimoniously split after recording four songs for a follow up. In retrospect, it’s probably been at least as influential as that other Manc classic that came out the same year, The Queen Is Dead, only it’s rarely cited as such. “Tears”, the album’s token ballad, is completely different on the single release – more in tune with the grandiose wall-of-guitar sound of the band.

MIRACLES – Tears of a Clown / Promise Me (Tamla 1970)
One of the very rare instances when Motown missed something right in front of their noses. “Tears of a Clown” was only issued as a single following its UK success some three years after its initial appearance as an album track. The result, a number one and one of Smokey’s most famous songs.

SANDY NELSON – Teen Beat / Big Jump (Original Sound 1959)
Drummer makes instrumental record – like that’s going to be popular! Well it was, and the brilliant combination of gonzoid guitar riffs and tubthumping pretty much kick started the surf sound.

UNDERTONES – Teenage Kicks EP (Good Vibrations 1978)
You all know how this one goes.

HOLE – Teenage Whore / Drown Soda (City Slang 1991)
Mrs Cobain – everybody’s cartoon villainess. Still, you can’t knock records as exciting as this, even if early Hole owed more than a little to Babes in Toyland, with Courtney even screaming like her erstwhile bandmate Kat Bjelland.

DISPOSABLE HEROES OF HIPHOPRISY – Television / Winter of the Long Hot Summer (4th and Broadway 1992)
Michael Franti and Rono Tse were both former members of San Francisco’s punk Last Poets the Beatnigs, and “Television” was a song they’d already done on the band’s only album. And yes, it does owe a great deal to Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, but it’s still a classic of politicized, industrial-tinged hip hop.

TORNADOS – Telstar / Jungle Fever (Decca 1962)
As viewers of Mad Men will know, the early sixties seems light years away from even the end of the decade, let alone 2010. And yet it was a very forward looking time, with the space race leading other technological advances. Futurology painted a world where every conceivable problem would be overcome by progress, and we’d all have more whilst working far less. Looking back now, it was a naive period, hopelessly blinkered to all the social and environmental problems that were happening. “Telstar” struck a chord. It’s the archetypal piece of retro-futurism – a gleaming piece of cutting edge technology that now sounds resolutely of its time rather than ahead of it. It may have sounded like the future in 1962, but it doesn’t belong in any future that really occurred. That’s not to knock it, or Joe Meek’s fantastic production work. It’s a marvelous record, but one that screams 1962 as much as pill-box hats, Stingray and black and white dramas set in Salford.

NEW ORDER – Temptation / Hurt (Factory 1982)
“Everything’s Gone Green” was the first New Order track to really integrate electronics into the band’s sound, but “Temptation” was the track where they really hit their stride. It’s also the single where Barney emerged from the shadows of Ian Curtis as an instantly identifiable lead singer, albeit an idiosyncratic one, with his trademark whoops.

SWEET EXORCIST – Testone / Testtwo / Testthree (Warp 1990)
If everything’s ready here on the dark side of the moon, play the five tones“. And thus, children, bleep techno was born.

ISLEY BROTHERS – That Lady / part 2 (T-Neck 1973)
“That Lady” was actually an old Isleys tune that they’d recorded a decade before for United Artists, but this version was a reimagining rather than a re-recording, with Ernie’s guitar acrobatics absolutely the centrepiece of the record.

ELVIS PRESLEY – That’s All Right Mama / Blue Moon of Kentucky (Sun 1954)
His first record, a cover of a tune by bluesman Arthur Crudup. What makes the Sun singles sound so fantastic is the space and echo around what is a pretty basic instrumental line-up. It also gives Presley’s voice an alien-like quality, like he’s just emerged from the Mississippi swamps. RCA captured it on “Heartbreak Hotel”, but never managed to repeat that feat.

JAM – That’s Entertainment / Down in the Tube Station at Midnight (Polydor 1981)
At school, the Jam fans tended to be the squares into skinny tie pop, while I hung with the kids who were into the more idiosyncratic indie stuff on Factory, Rough Trade and bands like the Fall, the Birthday Party, Pop Group, the Bunnymen and Joy Division. So I was never a big fan, although I still knew a great tune when I heard one – and “That’s Entertainment” is undoubtedly that. It’s quite a bleak, humdrum thing. Famously, Weller didn’t want it released as a 45, but his fans went out and bought the German import instead in enough numbers that it was still a sizeable hit. The public gets what the public wants, Paul.

More soon

The M M & M 1000 – part 48

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

FLAMING LIPS – She Don’t Use Jelly / Turn It On (Warner Brothers 18131 1994)
Simple and surreal, “She Don’t Use Jelly” was Coyne and cos first singalong song which, unlike many, never seems to pall with repeated listenings. It’s just gleefully absurd, simple fun.

POP GROUP – She Is Beyond Good and Evil / 3.38 (Radar 29 1979)
Perhaps the Pop Group’s most accessible song, this is still evil sounding Faustian funk that lies somewhere between Chic and free jazz. They were a band whose tension between deep dub-funk and stellar jazz was stretched to breaking point, and topped with the borderline madness of Mark Stewart’s paranoid vocals, created a distopian soundtrack to societal, political and personal breakdown. The tension that drove them inevitably destroyed them as the group was pulled in too many conflicting directions, but their small ouevre is a truly great legacy.

PJ HARVEY – Sheela-na-gig / Joe / Hair (Too Pure 8 1992)
Part Pixies part riot girl, Polly Harvey stripped out the fat and fancy from her music, but still sounded a world away from the basic rock template. She infuriated and thrilled people in equal measure for her steadfast refusal to be labelled, or dragged into ‘scenes’, and still does. Her secret is a paradoxical combination of self-doubt and self-confidence that leaves her restless and continually inventive, but at the same time, never capriciously flitting from style to style.

RAMONES – Sheena Is a Punk Rocker / Commando / I Don’t Care (Sire 746 1977)
They sounded dumb but were never stupid. The first three albums fire off crackers like this every couple of minutes without ever sounding weary. That they ultimately became a cliché was inevitable. They either progressed and lost the raw simplicity, or stayed the same and became a self-parody.

HALL & OATES – She’s Gone / I’m Just a Kid (Atlantic 3332 1974)
In the eighties they became pop giants, but their music became plastic and soulless. In the seventies they couldn’t get arrested, but came out with some amazing Philly soul-drenched pop. “She’s Gone” is a powerhouse of impassioned vocal interplay.

YELLO – She’s Got a Gun / The Evening’s Young (Do It 18 1982)
While a lot of Yello’s early music was fairly brash, electro-influenced synth pop, my favourite side to the duo was always the atmospheric noir-ish stories relayed in tracks like “Lost Again” and this one. Dieter Meyer’s image fits the world of darkened railway stations, femmes fatales with guns and the fading decadence of a Europe living under the burden of its own catastrophic history.

HOUSE OF LOVE – Shine On / Love / Flow (Creation 43 1987)
About as good as indie guitar music gets. The House of Love’s first single was emotional, exciting, crisp and concise. It sold diddly squat, despite being on a fashionable label. Some things are just unfathomable. Over the last two decades, they’re a band I’ve introduced to people more than any other I think, and the reaction is always glowing. And I’ve met other people who rate the band’s short tenure at Creation as highly as I do.

ROBERT WYATT – Shipbuilding / Memories of You (Rough Trade 115 1982)
Elvis Costello’s brilliant response to the Falklands War isn’t a angry polemic, but a confused reflection of a character whose livelihood has been secured by it, and feels guilty about that fact. I have no problem with Costello as a singer, but he has a rather sarcastic tone that really can’t carry off the emotional conflicts of the song. Robert Wyatt, however, has the right mixture of pathos, vulnerability and deep unease to convey it perfectly. A masterpiece.

BOYS NEXT DOOR – Shivers / Dive Position (Mushroom 7492 1979)
Before they discovered their true mettle as the Birthday Party, the band’s previous incarnation peddled a kind of jerky, spiky pop. This Rowland Howard song sounded nothing like either. It’s a brooding ballad that oddly has far more in common with some of Nick Cave’s later work even though it wasn’t his song. It’s appearance in the film Dogs in Space is a perfect cinematic moment.

MIRACLES – Shop Around / Who’s Loving You (Tamla 54030 1960)
Along with Barrett Strong’s “Money”, “Shop Around” is one of the two major hits of Motown’s first year that has one foot in doo wop and rock ‘n’ roll, and the other in the future, world-dominating Motown sound.

MAGAZINE – Shot By Both Sides / My Mind Ain’t So Open (Virgin 200 1978)
With a riff so good that former Buzzcocks partners Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley both used it (see “Lipstick” by the Buzzcocks), “Shot By Both Sides” introduced Magazine with a bang. It was a winning combination punk’s excitement and sharpness and the more expansive, almost prog, sound of bands like Roxy Music.

JUNIOR WALKER & THE ALL STARS – Shotgun / Hot Cha (Soul 35008 1965)
Motown anomalies in that they owed as much to Booker T & the MGs and James Brown as they did to the sound of the Motor City, Walker’s All Stars were a funky rhythm and blues outfit who were as much about the groove as they were about the song. “Shotgun” is a blast (sorry).

THE CARDINALS – Shouldn’t I Know / Please Don’t Leave Me (Atlantic 938 1951)
The Cardinals were one of the great proto-doo wop ballad groups, but one who seem to have fallen through the cracks of history. The only available compilation is a stingy 10 song collection that appeared on the Collectables label in 2006 and is only available on import from the US for a silly price.

STEELY DAN – Showbiz Kids / Razor Boy (ABC 11382 1973)
“Showbiz Kids” is another one of those great Steely Dan tunes that subverts the kind of smooth, self-regarding, nouveau riche types who probably listed the band as one of their favourites. Only this time they did it with a brazenness that only an idiot could fail to see: “They got the house on the corner, with the rug inside / They got the booze they need, all that money can buy / They got the shapely bodies, they got the Steely Dan T-shirts…” and as a final coup de grace: “Show bus’ness kids makin’ movies of themselves / You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else

More soon

The M M & M 1000 – part 24

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

TEMPTATIONS – I Know I’m Losing You / I Couldn’t Cry If I Wanted To (Gordy 7057 1966)
TEMPTATIONS – I Wish It Would Rain / I Truly Truly Believe (Gordy 7068 1967)

These are two of the greatest Temptations’ songs of the David Ruffin era before he left in 1968 to pursue a solo career. “I Know I’m Losing You” is a desperate plea of a song. A relationship is crashing and Ruffin knows that it’s too late to save it, even though on the surface all appears deceptively normal. “I Wish It Would Rain” from the following year could be seen as the aftermath – the girl little more than a memory now. After his departure from the group, Dennis Edwards was drafted in. The group dynamic changed radically. Before it was essentially Ruffin plus chorus, but in the future the Temptations would be much more of an ensemble with each adding a distinctive voice to the mix.

TELEVISION PERSONALITIES – I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives / Arthur the Gardener (Rough Trade 63 1981)
Syd had been out of the public eye for a decade, living with his mother somewhere in Cambridge. The TVP’s fabulous little song is a fantasy about going round his house for Sunday tea of sausages and beans, all done in a wistful, childlike style that echoed Barrett’s own. The bucolic mood is enhanced by the twittering birdsong, but the reverie is brutally ended by Dan Treacy’s shout of “OH SHUT UP!” at the end. It’s funny, but also a jarring return to the grim reality of mental illness – something which Treacy has had problems with himself.

ERIC B & RAKIM – I Know You Got Soul / dub version (4th & Broadway 7438 1987)
It could be argued that Paid in Full was the first modern rap album. It marked a shift away from up tempo party music to more reflective beats, ultimately paving the way for bands like Massive Attack and the whole Ninja Tune / Mo Wax scene. Rakim’s style was more conversational than his forebears, and he’s still regarded as one of the finest exponents of his art. “I Know You Got Soul” was just one of a slew of seminal tracks on the record, and the one that kicked in the fashion of using James Brown samples – something done to death over the next few years by lesser acts.

ARETHA FRANKLIN – I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) / Do Right Woman – Do Right Man (Atlantic 2386 1967)
ARETHA FRANKLIN – I Say a Little Prayer / The House That Jack Built (Atlantic 2518 1968)

“I Never Loved a Man” is possibly the finest double A side in soul music. Franklin had been around for years, signed to a record label (Columbia) that didn’t really know what to do with her. Jerry Wexler knew, and when she signed to Atlantic, the marriage of Franklin’s Detroit upbringing and the Memphis musicians who backed her created something that brought together Gospel, country-soul and an urban sophistication. The recording of the songs was far from being a smooth process. Sessions in Memphis were fractious and produced little salvageable. The record ended up being finished in New York. When it eventually appeared, it was an immediate sensation, and for the next few years Franklin had an almost vice-like grip on the top of the Billboard R&B chart. Strangely, though, “I Say a Little Prayer” was one of her less successful singles in the US, even though it’s one of her best loved songs. This was mainly due to the fact that Dionne Warwick had just had a big hit with it. Warwick’s version was done in the smooth, urbane style that was expected of Burt Bacharach and Hal David numbers. Franklin stripped away the gloss, and poured her heart into it.

FLAMINGOS – I Only Have Eyes For You / At the Prom (End 1046 1959)
There’s something magical about 1950s doowop ballads that’s hard to pin down. It’s something about the space in the records coupled with the mono recording that makes them both intimate and yet somehow distant. It’s a weird paradox that I can’t really describe. Many old songs reflect the era that they emerged from, but doowop seems to do more than that – it preserves it like a fly in amber. “I Only Have Eyes For You” has a beautiful stillness about it. Nate Nelson’s lead is satin-smooth, and the harmonies are almost angelic. The Flamingos hailed from Baltimore and had been around for the best part of a decade before they recorded this, their defining moment.

MIRACLES – I Second That Emotion / You Must Be Love (Tamla 54159 1967)
The Miracles provided the bridge between doowop and the sophisticated sweet soul of the likes of the Delfonics and the Chi-lites. Smokey Robinson had an unparalleled gift for the use of metaphor and puns which seldom crossed the thin line between being witty and being cheesy. It’s funny how songs like this one don’t even register as puns any more, such have they become an established part of the culture.

BOB DYLAN – I Threw It All Away / Drifter’s Escape (Columbia 44826 1969)
After dipping his toe in the water with John Wesley Harding, Dylan dived head first into country music with Nashville Skyline, a brief collection of short, direct songs sung in a baritone croon very different to the snotty whine of a few years before. “I Threw it All Away” is 143 seconds of regret. Despite its concise simplicity, it stands up alongside his very best work.

JOHNNY CASH – I Walk The Line / Get Rhythm (Sun 241 1956)
With Cash’s rich baritone, and the walking bass, “I Walk the Line” is the very essence of outlaw country. This is Jack Palance not Alan Ladd.

STOOGES – I Wanna Be Your Dog / 1969 (Elektra 45664 1969)
Simplicity itself. A grinding, three note riff and an almost monotone vocal. It’s dirty, it’s mean and it is full of punk attitude in its purest, most nihilistic form. The Stooges took rock and roll to the gutter, a place where, for all their brilliance, you felt the Velvets only ever visited as tourists. Countless bands have followed in their footsteps in the forty years since, but none have bettered that dirty purity.

CAN – I Want More / And More (Virgin 153 1976)
CHIC – I Want Your Love / Funny Bone (Atlantic 3557 1979)

On the face of it, “I Want More” is a bit of a novelty record. Avant-garde art-rock band go disco? It’s a long way from Tago Mago. But then, Can always had a sense of fun about them. “I Want More” could be seen as an extension of their Ethnological Forgery Series, where they recorded lovingly rendered pastiches of everything from hot jazz to various world musics. And ultimately, it’s simply a great record with a shimmering keyboard motif and a lazy, shuffling four square rhythm. Can’s take on disco is a little scruffy compared to the gleaming uptown sounds of Chic.

RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight / When I Get to the Border (Island 6186 1974)
Richard Thompson is many things, but a singles artist is not one of them. He’s released a few over the years, of course, including this – the title track to his first album with his then wife Linda. It’s the classic working class tale of living for the weekend. Going out, having fun, dancing, drinking, just forgetting the daily grind. Unusually for Thommo, it’s direct and simple with no dark psychological undercurrents, and Linda captures the spirit of a working girl out for a night of fun perfectly.

JACKSON FIVE – I Want You Back / Who’s Loving You (Motown 1157 1969)
STEVIE WONDER – I Was Made to Love Her / Hold Me (Tamla 54151 1967)

Motown’s two great child stars at differing periods in their careers. The Jacksons, led by Michael, were overnight sensations in 1969 when their debut single was released. It still sounds fresh and vibrant. They can be forgiven for paving the way for the Osmonds. Just. Stevie Wonder was 17 and his voice had broken. With five years experience already behind him, he sounded older. “I Was Made to Love Her” is a classic, upbeat Motown dancer.

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