Do great songs always come from great albums? Not always, would have to be my reply. Obviously great albums tend to have great songs, though some so called great albums would not get my vote as such. But there are number of tracks on this list which come from albums which I despise (though others may think they are great); and some from albums which it would be hard to define as great by anybody’s standards. It would appear that some artists, in an otherwise routine and unremarkable career, have that one moment of inspiration which results in something truly great and, no matter how hard they try, they are going to find it hard to repeat. Such songs can still be called ‘great’
Closer to the apotheosis we come with the next twenty.
Charles Martel’s 160-141
160. The Artisans – “One Look” (7” Single)
A bright and cheery jangle pop number from this largely unknown Australian outfit, this song is surely enough to brighten anyone’s otherwise miserable day. Sadly I could not find a video for this and the single is long deleted.
159. Alcest – “Autre Temps” (Les Voyages de l’Âme)
The highlight of Alcest’s third album, this beautiful song sets the tone for the further development of blackgaze as a distinct musical style. Almost symphonic in its composition, this is one of Alcest’s truly original and great songs.
158. Galaxie 500 – “Decomposing Trees” (On Fire)
Galaxie 500 effectively wrote the songbook of easy to strum along to songs for aspiring amateur guitarists. Full of guitar reverb and Dean Wareham’s unique vocal style, the song plays out with a great sax solo roaring across the guitars.
157. Reed, Lou – “Heroin” (Live in Italy)
Recorded in the old Roman amphitheatre at Verona, this extended jam session version of the Velvet Underground original is alternately sad and uplifting and conveys the real dichotomy of the experiences of a heroin addict. The expressive guitar work of Robert Quine is particularly outstanding and makes this version superior to the original.
156. Adorable – “Road Movie” (Fake)
If I ever did a music video, this would be the song. I would be driving a 1930’s Jaguar SS100 along the cornice between Nice and Monte Carlo with Scarlett Johansson sitting in the passenger seat doing an Isadora Duncan impression – without the scarf!
155. The Del Fuegos – “Don’t Run Wild” (Boston, Mass.)
Grinding, gritty number with a clever bit of syncopation in the middle to throw you off balance, this number was one of the highlights off the band’s superb second album which seemingly sank without trace.
154. Big Country – “Just a Shadow (12” Remix)” (12” Single)
Remixed from the closing track on Big Country’s second album, “Steeltown”, this has a superb outro as the guitars jostle and duel for position. This track was another in a succession of great Big Country numbers which were given a makeover and released on extended 12” singles after the original albums had been released.
153. Gallagher, Rory – “Bullfrog Blues” (Live in Europe)
Rory Gallagher reworks Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” into a superb blues rock number set in the bayous of Louisiana. Gallagher was always better when he played live and all his best albums are live recordings. In this one, you get a drum solo and a bass solo thrown in for good measure as well.
152. Ride – “In a Different Place” (Nowhere)
Slowly building as layers of guitars are added, this is epic shoegaze from a band who always lived, unjustly in my view, in the shadow of My Bloody Valentine. This is the best track off one of the finest shoegaze albums ever released.
151. Blondie – “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear” (Plastic Letters)
Blondie’s finest pop song was all about staying in touch with a psychic lover. But the way the whole hangs together is what marks this one out for greatness and is a testament to how a band can flourish without egos desiring to take centre stage.
150. Fleetwood Mac – “Albatross” (7” Single)
Peter Green shows off what an expressive and talented guitarist he was with this fine instrumental, a track which expressively conveys the effortless soaring of the albatros(s) across the vast ocean waves.
149. The Redskins – “Lean on Me” (Neither Washington nor Moscow)
The Redskins were unashamedly Marxist in their politics and this crossed into their music. This is a fine northern soul number which is marred only by some Marxist demagogue speaking towards the end “this side of the socialist revolution the revolutionaries are in the minority.” Unlikely, but now is not the place.
148. Tubeway Army – “Are Friends Electric?” (Replicas)
The track which kicked off the synth pop phenomenon in the UK and which nearly bankrupted EMI for the second time when they misjudged the public mood. This song was number one in the UK for nine weeks.
147. Lowlife – “Wild Swan” (Permanent Sleep)
This song is the point at which post-punk met jangle pop met dream pop. Lowlife are all but forgotten now but their style provided a template for hundreds of bands who wanted to move away from sounding like clones of the Smiths.
146. Oasis – “Some Might Say” (What’s the Story Morning Glory?)
This song is probably Oasis’s best number, despite some silly lyrics (“itchin’ in the kitchen”). The guitar rolls and the vocal line grumbles across it. From hereon in it was all downhill for Oasis as far as I was concerned.
145. Cochran, Eddie – “Somethin’ Else” (The Eddie Cochran Memorial Album)
Eddie Cochran did not sing of girls in pony tails and flouncy pleated skirts. On listening to the lyric of this it is quite clear what Cochran has on his mind and it’s not sharing a milk shake and a twinky. Really influential for its time.
144. The Clash – “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” (7” Single)
The Clash’s plea for racial tolerance, this was unusual for the time in that it first brought reggae into the white mainstream of the UK. Like a lot of early Clash singles, this was never released on an album and surfaces only on later compilations.
143. Hendrix, Jimi – “Johnny B Goode” (Isle of Wight)
I asked earlier if anyone knew which song had three entries – the original and two covers – in this list. Now you know. Hendrix’s improvised guitar jamming is a highlight on this live version recorded at the Isle of Wight Festival.
142. The Cure – “Primary” (Faith)
Perhaps the epitome of the Cure’s guitar sound, this song has a chopping intro leading into a cascading jangly guitar over a rumbling bass line which underpins a classic Robert Smith vocal performance.
141. The Stranglers – “Walk on By” (7” Single)
The Stranglers take the Burt Bacharach song, made famous by Dionne Warwick, and turn it into a gritty new wave number, complete with two solos – one on guitar and one on keyboards. Oddly this was never released on any but compilation albums.