I am one of those who decry the decline of the old weekly singles charts. In my youth, Sunday evening sat by the radio listening to the new chart being counted down on BBC Radio 1 was one of the highlights of the week. Okay, like a lot of mainstream commercial stuff, much of it was unfathomable dross. But there were some real gems there, even if I did not realise it at the time. Though the way we listen to music has changed, the end of the weekly TV show, Top of the Pops in July 2006 was, for me at least, the end of an era. For forty two years it has been the staple of British pop music. One of those things families gathered round the TV to watch, like the FA Cup Final, The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race or the Grand National. And then, sadly, it was gone. Music would never be the same again.
Onwards with the next twenty.
Charles Martel’s 240-221
240. Sad Lovers and Giants – “On Another Day” (Epic Garden Music)
Sad Lovers and Giants were a British post punk band who emerged in the early-eighties. They were unusual in having a saxophonist, but they made some great songs of which this slow number was the best.
239. The Rolling Stones – “Angie” (Goat’s Head Soup)
Allegedly written for Angie Bowie, this is the best love song that the Rolling Stones ever did. A gentle acoustic number with a wonderful lyric it is all about a break up that happens despite the affection that remains between the two parties.
238. Catherine Wheel – “The Nude” (Chrome)
Catherine Wheel write the love song to a woman whose nude portrait hangs in a gallery, allegedly the so-called Rokeby Nude. Despite the obvious idea, this is not a common theme in music and this marks one the band’s finest tracks on “Chrome”.
237. Rush – “The Necromancer” (Caress of Steel)
Rush’s third album frequently gets overlooked, but this Tolkien-influenced tale of the Necromancer contains some really quite amazing pieces of music. Most notable are the guitar solo at the end of the first part, “Into Darkness” and the liberating feel the layered guitars convey during the whole of the third part, “The Return of the Prince.”
236. The Chameleons – “Second Skin” (Script of the Bridge)
This song deals with two forms of immortality at the same time. The first is the immortality of film stars captured on celluloid (hence its working title of “Dreams in Celluloid”). It then morphs into a song about near death experiences.
235. The Vapours – “Turning Japanese” (New Clear Days)
Although the band have repeatedly denied it, this is the premier song about masturbation ever written. The Vapours’ punk classic is forever associated with the solitary vice but is a great song even for those who do not practice the said vice.
234. The Hold Steady – “Chill out Tent” (Boys and Girls in America)
The mixed up lives of these American kids is nowhere better brought into the light on this track featuring guest vocalists Dave Pirner and Elizabeth Elmore. It describes how a boy and a girl OD at a festival and get it together while receiving treatment in the chillout tent.
233. Kraftwerk – “The Model” (The Man Machine)
Kraftwerk take the theme of the ice cool, beautiful model and turn her into an almost attainable ideal in this song. The whole album is full of songs of which both German and English versions were released.
232. The Railway Children – “In the Meantime” (Recurrence)
The Railway Children were one of the more thoughtful of all British jangle pop acts of the late eighties. This song features some wonderfully restrained guitar work and a mournful lyric dealing with the protagonist’s partner struggling to come to terms with loss.
231. The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony” (Urban Hymns)
Probably the Verve’s best known track it is now widely remembered as much for the musical arrangement as for the video which saw Richard Ashcroft walking down the street bumping into anybody and everybody who got in his way.
230. Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime” (Remain in Light)
A staple of the early MTV, this song is one of Talking Heads’ most recognisable numbers. It was co-written by Brian Eno who produced it with a duplicate time sequence which gives the song its strange sound.
229. Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin IV)
Named after a mysterious sooty canine which hung around the studio at the time the song was being recorded, the stop-start structure is one of Led Zeppelin’s most memorable. The actual song has more to do with uncontrolled lust than anything else.
228. Fischer-Z – “So Long” (Going Deaf for a Living)
John Watts struggles to find out what has happened to his love who has disappeared. People tell him lies or encourage him to give up looking but he wants her to know the effect her desertion has had on him. The best track off Fischer-Z’s second album.
227. Beethoven, Ludwig van – “Moonlight Sonata” (Piano Sonatas)
One of Beethoven’s most popular and evocative pieces for piano, it is ironic that this cannot be performed today in the way Beethoven intended it. Beethoven originally had the entire first movement played with a depressed pedal but the longer sustain of modern pianos would make such a practice discordant and unlistenable.
226. Dixon, Willie – “You Shook Me” (7” Single)
Famously covered by Led Zeppelin, this is a traditional twelve bar blues number utilising that famous structure found in “Mannish Boy” amongst others. Willie Dixon is usually credited with it, though it bears such similarity to Muddy Waters’s style that it is often credited to him.
225. Osborne, Joan – “One of Us” (Relish)
I hate this song. I disagree with the sentiments; I deride the idea that a deity would sit watching football on TV with curry spilled on his shirt; and I dismiss the notion of deity among us stuck on a bus in traffic. But oh, Lord, forgive me for I adore that guitar.
224. Big Country – “Steeltown” (Steeltown)
Big Country decry the destruction of British industry, and with it the lives, jobs and communities which existed by its side, as Thatcher’s ruinous policies desecrated this country. This is a bleak song about broken promises and shattered lives.
223. Page & Plant – “Thank You” (No Quarter)
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant revisit this number which closed out Led Zeppelin’s second album. This time they run through it slightly faster and with a couple of Page’s guitar solos and manage to improve upon the original.
222. Band of Horses – “The Funeral” (Everything All the Time)
After Carissa’s Weird split, Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke formed Band of Horses. This song is a mournful tale which has many interpretations but is probably not about mourning for a dead dog (as the video might suggest) but failing to cope with depression and crashing a car while drunk.
221. REM – “Cuyahoga” (Life’s Rich Pageant)
Named after the river which runs through Cleveland, Ohio, and which famously caught fire due to the heavy pollution it contained, spurring the environmental movement. R.E.M.’s song has a surprisingly uplifting feel to the chorus given its theme.