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.
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – Two Tribes / War (ZTT 1984)
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.