Show or substance? There is likely to be little doubt among anyone who has followed this list since its inception, that I am going to be more inclined to favour artists whose appeal lies in the latter. That does not mean that “show” has no place. Particularly with live concerts, one goes to see and hear a performance not just hear it – to soak up the atmosphere which a good artist will impart to performances. There are several albums I have bought on the strength of a live performance I have seen, sometimes only to find that the studio recording does not match up. And I am sure I am not alone in this, but I have been to live performances by bands I really like only to be seriously disappointed by them.
Still, on with the next twenty.
Charles Martel’s 220-201
220. Ure, Midge – “No Regrets” (The Gift)
A cover of a Tom Rush song from a few years before, the single was released in 1982 and not put on Ure’s debut album until three years later. It has a moody feel to it and is dominated by a searing guitar solo. Not sure if the annoying trailer shows up on this video, but if it does, ignore it.
219. Hendrix, Jimi – “Hey Joe” (Are You Experienced?)
A man shoots his unfaithful wife and flees to Mexico. The earliest known recording of this was by the Leaves in 1965 (though it is probably much older). However, there is no doubt that it is the Jimi Hendrix version which, deservedly, is the most well-known.
218. Joy Division – “Atmosphere” (12” Single)
Joy Division’s brooding synthesiser driven song demonstrates that the band were more than just a guitar-led outfit. In many ways this presaged the synth pop of the eighties and provided an inspiration for the future direction of New Order.
217. Madness – “Michael Caine” (Keep Moving)
Actor Michael Caine puts in a cameo appearance on this song. It was during this song that he first said that distinctive line, with the half break in the middle, “My name…is Michael Caine” despite an urban myth that he said this a long time ago on a film.
216. The Rolling Stones – “Get off of My Cloud” (December’s Children)
A truly awesome staccato riff from Keith Richard is what makes this song. Bouncy and infectious, it is a song which can be said to truly represent the sixties sound in so many ways and suited Jagger’s jerky stage movements perfectly.
215. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – “Rich” (Easy Pieces)
Cole adds a horn section for this song, the opening track on the band’s second album, apparently because some clown thought it would appeal to the US market. But this is a real bouncy number about a woman whose life has always been a sham, despite appearances.
214. MacColl, Kirsty – “There’s a Guy Works down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” (Desperate Character)
Kirsty MacColl sings about her feckless but famous lover and the doubts she has about his love for her. All wrapped up in a tongue-in-cheek country music inspired song which was a surprising but deserved hit in the UK.
213. Hum – “Ms Lazarus” (Downward Is Heavenward)
From an innocuous sounding rolling bass and guitar line, the song suddenly springs into life with a great chopping guitar sound. What this actually has to do with Lazarus or his mother, wife or sister is anyone’s guess.
212. Cream – “Tales of Brave Ulysses” (Disraeli Gears)
Clapton had a fascination with ancient cultures and this song conjures up images of Ulysses and his crew stranded in the land of the Lotophagi. It has a marvellously gentle riff which nonetheless shows great power behind it.
211. The Psychedelic Furs – “Blacks/Radio” (The Psychedelic Furs)
A double song with an almost effortless break between them which starts out as a sneer against exploitation of the blacks in industry and ends up with a belting sax line being repeated over a song about the domination of a man’s life by the radio.
210. Johnson, Robert – “Travelling Riverside Blues” (The King of the Delta Blues Singers)
Perhaps Johnson’s greatest and certainly most covered song. This is the song which, more than any other, provides the clues as to where so many of the UK guitar greats like Page, Beck and Clapton got their ideas from
209. The Doors – “L.A. Woman” (L.A. Woman)
I truly fell in love with song when years ago I stood on the hill upon which Osaka Castle stands and looked out across the city during the early evening and could hear, through my old Walkman (remember them?) Jim Morrison singing – “City at Night!”
208. Weidlin, Jane – “Rush Hour” (Fur)
A real guilty pleasure this one, the former Go-Go’s guitarist strikes a pretty pose and the result is one of the most sweetly-sung of all road songs. Don’t know what it has to do with dolphins though but is a fine song nonetheless.
207. Berry, Chuck – “Johnny B. Goode” (Chuck Berry Is on Top)
A seminal and highly influential song, this probably carries the record (behind “Yesterday” by the Beatles) of the most covered song in the history of Rock and Roll. And perhaps one day, deep in outer space, some aliens will find a battered satellite launched long ago from Earth and hear this when they investigate its databanks.
206. The Police – “”Roxanne” (Outlandos d’Amour)
Probably the first time a song so openly about prostitution made it into the UK singles charts. The name Roxanne has now become synonymous with the world’s oldest profession. Covered by many but no one has done it better than the original.
205. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Tuesday’s Gone” (Pronounced Leh-nerd Skeh-nerd)
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s touching song about lost love is more delicate and restrained than most of the band’s output on their debut album. It features some wonderful piano work and a full orchestral arrangement.
204. Blondie – “Denis (Denee)” (Plastic Letters)
Randy and the Rainbows, who released the original in 1963, could never have imagined this. This was Blondie’s breakthrough song. Debbie Harry resisted attempts to change her pidgin French into grammatically correct French and the latter version was only released on the remastered version of the album 16 years later.
203. The Sex Pistols – “God Save the Queen” (Never Mind the Bollocks)
As expected, the Sex Pistols walked straight into a radio ban with this song, mocking the monarchy during the 25th Jubilee of the Queen. And yet, the real target of the song is the lack of hope and feelings of alienation among the youth of Britain during the late seventies. No Future!
202. McLean, Don – “American Pie” (American Pie)
At eight minutes long this is an epic in more ways than one. A lot of speculation has gone into who this was written about, and I have heard more than one amateur use the names Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Kurt Cobain to replace “The Music.” It was actually a reference to Buddy Holly.
201. Strand of Oaks – “Daniel’s Blues” (Pope Kildragon)
Timothy Showalter, the man behind Strand of Oaks, created this emotional song, sung from the perspective of Dan Aykroyd about the death of John Belushi. Full of references to “Saturday Night Live” and “The Blues Brothers” it also namechecks “Ghostbusters”