Back when I was a kid watching someone on Top of the Pops, an oft-heard refrain from one or other parent was “he’s on drugs” or “do you call that music?” Now that I am older than my parents were when they uttered those phrases, do we end up sounding like our parents? The short answer is yes and no. Sometimes I listen to something on the radio and comment “that’s rubbish”, but then I would have said the same thing about its precursor as mainstream pop forty years ago. Has modern music deteriorated from its counterparts when I was a kid? Probably not. There is probably an equal proportion of utter crap that is put out. The difference is that there seem to be fewer opportunities to hearing alternatives to utter crap these days without actively hunting it down. And that can be put down to those whom I regard as the greatest enemies of popular music.
And now we pass into the 500’s.
Charles Martel’s 600-581
600. Dr Feelgood – “Roxette” (Stupidity)
The band which defined pub rock, Dr Feelgood hailed from suitably mundane Canvey Island in Essex. The live album from which this track is taken is far superior to any of their studio albums, as if to demonstrate that this was music designed and intended to be played live.
599. The Pixies – “Debaser” (Doolittle)
Loosely based on a surrealist film by Salvador Dali, the song takes the theme of the debasement of art and morality and personalises it.
598. Jimmy Eat World – “Clarity” (Clarity)
This track is absolutely made by that distinctive chopping guitar sound. To be honest, I care little for the rest of the output of this band.
597. Led Zeppelin – “Gallows Pole” (Led Zeppelin III)
Led Zeppelin took Leadbelly’s delta blues song and revamped it to appear as if it were an English folk song. One of the many highlights off this often startling album.
596. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “I Heard It through the Grapevine” (Cosmo’s Factory)
John Fogerty does the almost impossible and takes on this song which Marvin Gaye had made his own. Turning it into an extended jam session was perhaps the only way this could be achieved, so that is what happened.
595. The Lucy Show – “Ephemeral (This Is No Heaven)” (Undone)
British post-punk band who, despite having this album go to number one in the CMJ charts in the US, found that their record label, A&M, whose executives were all the agents of Satan on Earth, had inexplicably dropped them. This was the opening track to the album and is a fine, atmospheric piece.
594. Squeeze – “Cool for Cats” (Cool for Cats)
The title is a reference to the first ever British TV programme from the fifties regularly to feature rock and roll music. Sung in a mock cockney accent, it features several examples of rhyming and other current slang, often sexually explicit (give a dog a bone!) which was never picked up by the radio and TV stations who played the whole song uncut.
593. The Chameleons – “Soul in Isolation” (Strange Times)
The Chameleons are at their darkest and most powerful on this track, which was the longest cut off “Strange Times”. It was later released as a single in full on 12” vinyl.
592. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Enola Gay” (Organisation)
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark take synth pop to the B-29 which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Some half-witted idiot in the BBC initially banned the song because of a belief that it ambiguously referred to homosexuality and would be a corrupting influence on children – presumably slaughtering thousands of people and condemning thousands more to lingering pain and a slow death is considered more socially acceptable.
591. Ultravox – “Vienna” (Vienna)
The song which holds the unwelcome distinction of being the best song in the history of the UK singles charts which never made it to number one. It stuck at number two for weeks behind some faux-Italian comedian who called himself Joe Dolci with a single which no one will ever admit actually to buying.
590. The Pale Saints – “The Sight of You” (The Comforts of Madness)
Shoegaze-light from this British three-piece. Featuring vocals which have the feel of a choir, in contrast to the dark and often sombre themes of the music, this remains their best work.
589. The Cult – “She Sells Sanctuary” (Love)
Sometimes the Cult took themselves so seriously that they could almost be regarded as a parody of themselves. However, “She Sells Sanctuary” is perhaps the one song of their extensive repertoire where they justified their own hype.
588. For Against – “They Said” (December)
Despite being an American band, For Against have a decidedly British sound, reminiscent of bands like the Chameleons and the Sound. This is the best song off an album which brought the band considerable critical acclaim which they never were able to capitalise on because of line-up changes.
587. Kale – “Blind” (7” Single)
Virtually the only release from this little-known obscure British jangle pop outfit, it has a unique style which makes it stand out from the crowd.
586. The Clash – “Safe European Home” (Give ‘Em Enough Rope)
The Clash take a swipe at those holidaymakers who go to foreign countries and then criticise everything because it is not like it is back home. Easily the best track on this album which was ruined by being horribly over-produced.
585. Beethoven, Ludwig van – “Fur Elise” (Bagatelles and Dances)
Allegedly written for the woman Beethoven wanted to marry – until her father stepped in and squashed the idea – this is one of Beethoven’s most distinctive piano melodies.
584. Starflyer 59 – “She’s the Queen” (Silver)
Christian rock is not usually my thing, but credit where credit is due, this is a great number. That understated guitar lead is probably the highlight. Undoubtedly the best song from these American shoegazers. The album was not actually called “Silver” but got the name because that was the colour of its cover and the need to distinguish it from a similarly untitled album with a gold cover (usually called “Gold”)
583. The Field Mice – “Letting Go” (Snowball)
The Field Mice take a stripped down jangle pop sound and then, in this particular track, combine it with a guitar sound which can only be described as proto-shoegaze. The result is an exceptionally compelling track.
582. Wonder, Stevie – “Up Tight” (Up Tight)
Stevie Wonder’s best song, about a poor man and a rich girl who sees through his poverty to his true worth, it is as upbeat as the description suggests.
581. Blondie – “I Know but I Don’t Know” (Parallel Lines)
A song which has a more rock feel to it than most of Blondie’s output, certainly on this album. Notable for its chugging guitar riff.