Despite the extremely creepy cover the songs within are not. Sinatra had a great run of albums in the 50’s, albums such as ‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers’ and others, there are three in the original 1001 albums book, but not this one, and I happen to own this one, so here it is.
This was Sinatra’s most successful album, spending two and a half years on the Billboard charts. Stereo Review wrote in 1959 that “Sinatra swaggers his way with effortless verve through an appealing collection of bouncy standards, aptly described in the album notes as ‘vocals that dance’“
Come Dance With Me Something’s Gotta Give Just In Time Dancing In The Dark
Too Close For Comfort I Could Have Danced All Night Saturday Night (Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week) Day In, Day Out Cheek To Cheek Baubles, Bangles And Beads The Song Is You The Last Dance
Quite often I will listen to a song and remind myself when it was released by looking it up, I will then have a look to see what was released that same year and somehow end up making a list which results in a top xx of that year, this time it’s 82 tracks but if you would like to make it a round 100, give me another 18 songs! For reference, I was 11/12 in ’78. The vast majority of these songs were UK singles but I’ve thrown a couple of others in just because I can. So here goes (There is a spotify playlist at the bottom):
82 – Again and Again – Status Quo I had the album this was taken from, ‘If you can’t Stand The Heat’, and this was pretty much the only decent song on it. Well, that’s not entirely fair, but this was the lead single and opening track and was the highlight of the album.
81 – Please Don’t Touch – Steve Hackett I wasn’t that big on purely instrumental tracks back in 1978 but with Hackett being ex Genesis I gave this one a listen and liked it.
80 – Never Say Die – Black Sabbath This was a very different Black Sabbath which reminds me more of the later Ozzy solo work than the Sabbath that had preceeded it, this initial incarnation of the band was probably on its last legs by now, which might explain it.
79 – Rush – Circumstances I’m not sure this was ever a single but I’m pretty sure The Trees, taken from the same Hemispheres album, was and in my opinion this song is much better. I still find myself occasionally singing it in my head.
All the same We take our chances Laughed at by time Tricked by circumstances Plus ca change Plus c’est la meme chose The more that things change The more they stay the same.
A odd lyric really as the two lines of French are translated into English in the following two lines.
78 – Don’t Kill The Whale – Yes This is not my favourite Yes song taken from not my favourite Yes album, however, I still kinda like it. As a kid I would go to the local market and there was a record stall there which had this 7″ single and I would often pick it up, think about buying it and then not bother.
77 – Lucky Number – Lena Lovich This period was a time of transition for me, moving into new musical areas such as indie and punk having previously been firmly in, what we now call, the Classic Rock camp. Singles were much more important as I was now buying them and could rarely afford to buy an album based on one song. This song was originally a B-side (of a cover of ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’, the same one covered by Tiffany) and was later released as an A-side. I had assumed it was also a cover, but it wasn’t.
76 – Oh What A Circus – David Essex This might seem like a odd choice from me but it was huge at the time and was on the radio all the time so it buried into my flesh somewhat. It’s a song from the Evita soundtrack and appeared on his album ‘Imperial Wizard’, which is actually pretty good.
75 – Forever Autumn – Jeff Wayne I loved War of The Worlds and this song, with the Richard Burton narrationn is great, sung as it is by the Moody Blues Justin Hayward. It was a hit single at the time and I can’t remember if we bought the album as a result of the song or already had it. I still listen to it fairly regularly all these years later.
74 – Every Day I Die – Tubeway Army Taken from the first Tubeway Army album which was to be a standard guitar bass and drums affair but somebody left one of those new fangled synths in the studio and it changed the course of Gary Numans career and life.
73 – Because the Night – Patti Smith I later played this song in a band I was in. It’s an odd one to me as it is a sort of straight ahead rock song and not what I thought Patti Smith was about at all.
72 – Angels with dirty faces – Sham 69 I used to love Sham 69 to the point that listening to a bootleg tape of a live gig that could have been almost anybody if it wasn’t for the occasional muffled ‘Hurry ‘up Harry’. The strange thing to me is that a lot of these punk songs that are supposed to be anti-everything, sound like really good pop songs now.
71 – Run for home – Lindisfarne I’ve mentioned recently that, for a number of reasons, I rather like Lindisfarne and this track is probably one of their most accessible.
70 – 5-7-0-5 – City Boy I used to hear this song on the radio a lot but never knew who it was. A few years ago I was at the Shakespeares Birth place visitors centre ad this song was being played in the gift shop on the radio, which is when I found out who it was, it’s a great pop song.
69 – Killing an Arab – The Cure I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear this song until 1982, which made me late to The Cure I guess, but that’s OK. I had the 1980 compilation ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ at some point, which I just listened to again. It’s very good.
68 – Being Boiled – Human League A friend of mine had this in his box of singles and, at the time, it sounded really very odd, but I liked it. Listening to it more recently I can see that it was a pretty groundbreaking sound, which they weren’t alone in creating but were in amongst the first.
67 – September – Earth, Wind & Fire It’s a great song, ’nuff said.
66 – Rock Lobster – B-52’s I discovered this long after the fact, probably in 1984, or around that time at least and bought their first album on cassette as a result. Although they are somewhat normalized now, that first album was some crazy shit, but great crazy shit.
65 – Dreadlock Holiday – 10cc This was a huge hit of course and it is very catchy. Obviously there’s cultural appropriation and all that going on here, but in music this is how it works. Most modern music is a mish mash of multiple cultures, so that’s ok.
64 – Whole Wide World – Wreckless Eric I don’t know where I first heard this and had forgotton about it completly until a couple of years ago when I was watching the ‘Stiff Tour’ film on youtube and Eric got up on stage and sang this song, which I somehow knew really well, it bugs me still that I don’t know why. Regardless, cracking song.
63 – Mr Blue Sky – ELO Everybody knows this one don’t they? It would probabaly be higher up but I’ve heard it so many times that its attraction has paled for me somewhat. I still find myself singing along if it comes on the radio though.
62 – Right Down The Line – Gerry Rafferty I remember waiting for the record shop to open (it was one of those shops that sold record players, hoovers and other electrical equipment and had a small record section) to buy a Gerry Rafferty 7″ single, can’t remember which one it was though, it may have been this. Is he underated? probably as most of his work is overshadowed by Baker Street, but this is a great single in and of itself.
Having thought about it, I think I queued for ‘Get it right next time’ from the Night Owl album.
61 – Rat Trap – Boomtown Rats There was a period where I thought the Boomtown Rats were amazing and I fully expected them to have a career on the scale of U2, that is until they stopped being good, which didn’t take long. After this they released ‘I don’t like Mondays’, their 6th single and the last thing that was ever worth listeing to. Shame really.
60 – Substitute – Clout I don’t know why I like this as it feels like a song that one might put on a Guilty Pleasures compilation, but I like, so that’s that, I can’t help it.
59 – Ca Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand I’m pretty sure I had this 7″ and loved it. It’s in French and I have never bothered looking for a translation as it’s the energy of it I like I think, it doesn’t matter at all what he is singing about.
58 – Denis – Blondie I didn’t kow that this was a cover version but it wouldn’t have mattered to me then or now, in 1978 Blondie could do no wrong. The original was by Randy and the Rainbows, just in case you were interested and it was, well, a bit different.
57 – Stayin Alive – Bee Gees The Bee Gees were huge in 77/78 of course, with Saturday Night Fever being such a massive success. I listened to the whole soundtrack many times but, for me, this is the best song on it and the only one I give any time to now.
56 – James & The Cold Gun – Kate Bush Probably my favourite song from the Kick Inside album, which is one of the greatest debut albums ever by the way. I think I like it so much now because of the songs it sits amongst and because I paid it less attention at the time.
55 – Le Freak – Chic Well how could one not, especially with the resurgence of the Nile Rodgers guitar sound with artists such as Daft Punk bringing it back to public attention.
54 – Tommy Gun – The Clash I played this on 7″ a lot, even though I didn’t own the record. I would go to other peoples houses and play their copy repeatedly. I may have been quite annoying, I’m not sure, I didn’t really notice.
53 – Kentucky Avenue – Tom Waits I really like Waits, and this song from this album in particular (Blue Valentine) but I do appreciate he is not to everybodys taste, that’s ok though, they are allowed to be wrong.
52 – Take Me Im Yours – Squeeze While I heard the Squeeze singles as they were released it took me a long time to appreciate quite how good they were and I think that’s because I heard, and liked, ‘Cool for Cats’ first and expected everythig else to be just like that.
51 – Milk & Alcohol – Dr Feelgood I still find myself humming this now and again. It’s the only track of theirs I’ve ever listened to as far as I can recall. I think that, despite beig described as Pub Rock, this particular track bled into the punk/post punk/new wave scene rather by accident. Wiclo Johnson on guitar of course.
50 – D.I.Y – Peter Gabriel Taken from Gabriel’s second solo album after splitting with Genesis, this single didn’t trouble the charts at all, except in France where it reached number 55. The rest of the world ignored it. Which is a shame.
49 – Davy’s on the road again – Manfred Mann I feel as though this was on the radio all the time back in ’78 and as a result it has burrowed into my subconcious, just through repetition. Listening to it again now it isn’t actually as good as it was in my memory.
48 – Germ free adolescents – X-Ray Spex I saw this for the first time on Top of the Pops and it was part of a spirit of change that seemed to be infiltrating music. I loved it. It had that D.I.Y feel about it but was still a catchy tune.
47 – I love the sound of breaking glass – Nick Lowe Another radio friendly song that I heard a lot but with the added kudos of Lowe’s involvemet with Stiff records.
46/45 – One Way Or Another / Hanging on the Telephone – Blondie This was a hell of a year for Blondie, especially in my world. It seemed as though they were a hit single factory and I was enraptured by pretty much anything they released. One way or another wasn’t released as a single until ’79 but it was on Parallel Lines so I’d already heard it a lot. I also had no idea until many years later that Hanging on the Telephone was a cover of a song by The Nerves.
44 – Radio Radio – Elvis Costello Believe it or ot this was origially written in 1974 by Costello and titled Radio Soul, inspired in some way by Bruce Springsteen. Costello dusted it off and re wrote it around the time of the album ‘This Years Model’ but it was released as a stand alone single, although it was added to later releases of the album.
43 – Shot by both sides – Magazine The name of the song came from a political argument between Devoto and his girlfriend, in which his girlfriend said to him, “Oh, you’ll end up shot by both sides”. I was late to this song and didn’t ever hear it until several years after it was released.
42 – Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & the Banshees A fried of mine had this on 7″ so it got a fair amount of play when I was round his house, I really liked their sound. The song was named after the Hong Kong Garden Chinese take-away in Chislehurst High Street. Siouxsie Sioux was quoted as explaining the lyrics with reference to the racist activities of skinheads visiting the take-away:
I’ll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called the Hong Kong Garden. Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say ‘Leave them alone’, you know. It was a kind of tribute.
She also stated:
I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from The Avengers and kick all the skinheads’ heads in, because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill.
41 – Hold The Line – Toto I have no real idea why this appears here at number 41. I’ve been listening to the songs that preceeded it in this list and it probabaly should have been lower, but I can’t be bothered to re-number everything.
40 – Whole Lotta Rosie – AC/DC Classic AC/DC and an opening riff that I could actually play, although I tended to get a bit lost after that.
39 – Miss You – Rolling Stones Some songs are just comforting and for me this one of them as I remember hearing it in the car on the radio a lot when I was with my Dad.
38 – Leaving Louisianna in Broad Daylight – Emmylou Harris It is much, much later in life that I have come to appreciate Emmylou and honestly wouldn’t have given this a moments listen back in 1978, but now I would, which is why it is here.
37 – Klu Klux Klan – Steel Pulse I have conviced myself that I heard this somewhere back in the day, or heard about it, but I can’t quite pinpoint where or how. Maybe it is a false memory, I’ve no idea but I did see Steele Pulse at Reading Festival for 2 minutes before they were bottled off so maybe I’ve just got things mixed up.
36 – FM – Steely Dan Taken from the soundtrack of the film FM and not on any of the Dan albums, except a best of, I really rate this song highly, though, in fairness, I rate most of them highly as they were magnificently crafted.
35 – Statue of Liberty – XTC Amazingly, this was banned by the BBC for the lyrics “In my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt”, how bloody ridiculous.
34 – Nice ‘N’ Sleazy – The Stranglers I liked The Stranglers from the first album (which is brilliant by the way, if you haven’t you should give it a go) and this track sort of felt as though it was coming from the same place as the tracks from their debut. The same album it is taken from contains their cover of ‘Walk On’ By so I’ve no idea what that was all about though.
33 – Is She Really Going Out With Him? – Joe Jackson I associate this song, and may others in this list, with when I started in comprehensive school, as I was 11 for the second half of the year and I started to meet new people and, as a result, new music. Somebody, I don’t remember who, had the 7″ of this and we played it when I was around his house.
32 – Uptown Top Ranking – Anthea & Donna I’ve mentioned somewhere before that I thought of this as a novelty song at the time but I was so wrog, it is fabulous, and the album it was taken from is well worth a listen as well. Some great tracks on it.
31 – The Man with the child in his eyes – Kate Bush She was so very different from everything else that was out there at the time, and I do think I was probably caught up in the music being a joke along with lots of other people at the time, thinking the Not the Nine O’Clock News parody hilarious (I’ve recently re-watched it and it isn’t). She is a unique genius.
30 – Beast Of Burden – Rolling Stones Another song I didn’t really appreciate at the time and I still blow hot and cold with the Stones, but this has become one of my favourite songs of theirs over the years.
29 – Do or Die – Grace Jones Take from her second album ‘Fame’, which is classified as disco, and included on the Island Life compilation, this track just shows how marvelous she is. I know there are many people over the years who have not taken her seriously as a musician but I’d just like to confirm, if there were any doubt, they were wrong.
Interestingly, Eartha Kitt covered this song in 1989.
28 – Turn To Stone – ELO The opening track of the album ‘Out of the Blue’ which was like a greatest hits without it originally being one. There are a ridiculous number of hit singles on that. Sadly, I don’t believe I had it at the time, though I taped the hits off the radio chart show.
27 – I Am The Fly – Wire Another song I missed at the time, but, fortunatly I found it later and as a result it sounds fairly modern to me still and not over 40 years old.
26 – I don’t want to go to Chelsea – Elvis Costello I think this may be my favourite song of his from this period, it certainly seems to be the one I listened to most, although, again, I didn’t have my own copy. At this point I probably had about 30 singles and a couple of cassettes, the first album I bought on vinyl was still a year away.
25 – I Wanna Be Sedated – Ramones It is easy for some to dismiss The Ramones, which I understand, but they are just pure pop wrapped up in a leatherclad image. Their songs are simple, short and catchy, and I like them.
24 – Who Are You – The Who I have issues with The Who, namely that they have a great greatest hits but there is a lot of mediocraty to trawl through to get to those hits. This album is, to me, a perfect example, Who Are You, the title track, is the only really good song on it.
23 – Deacon Blues – Steely Dan From the album Aja, which doesn’t have a bad track on it and any of them could sit here, but this one was actually released as a single. It could also be much higher but I’ve gone and applied some rules around ‘how I felt about it at the time’ which I will probabaly break later, if I haven’t already.
22 – Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty Now I know that certain songs get played so much they become irritating or they just become unlistenable through over familiarity, but no matter how many times I hear this song, I continue to like it and part of the reason for that is because I heard it so many times at this point in my life it is almost as though it is waypoint back in time to a world where I had no responsibilities, little pressure and the whole world in front of me.
21 – So Lonely – Police I loved the Police, particularly the first two albums, actually, mostly the first two albums and it was a very stupid day when I moved away when I was 16 and gave away all my 7″ singles, this being one of them.
20 – Follow You, Follow Me – Genesis It was odd to hear Genesis on the Sunday chart rundown as they weren’t really a singles bad until this point. From this album on it was as though they had become a different band, which in may ways they had but it was rather a treat to hear a band you like on the radio.
19 – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding – Elvis Costello I believe that it was around this time that I started wearing a Ban The Bomb badge, it may have been later though, regardless, the song resonated with me.
18 – Down In the Tube Station At Midnight – The Jam I still regard this as one of the best songs The Jam ever did. It has atmosphere, attitude and a relatable story. It still sounds great to me.
17 – Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits I don’t know if this appears an odd choice or not but here it is anyway. I had the album and only ever played this song, jumping straight to it and just it. That was a bit of a mistake as it is an excellent album and is more than just this one song, but it is a great song.
16 – Public Image Ltd – Public Image What I was hoping for when I first listened to this was more in the same vein as The Pistols, which I do think this is, it has a similar sound and attitude. Unlike the rest of the album, which is quite different, and quite brilliant. I was in WH Smiths somewhere with my Dad and wanted to buy a copy of this single but I got a resouding no.
15 – What A Waste – Ian Dury & the Blockheads I could be a driver an articulated lorry which was true as my job prospects turned out to not be all that rosy, and this became a bit of a mantra later in life. Dury didn’t tend to put singles on albums, which I liked actually, why buy it twice?
14 – Sunday Girl – Blondie Parallel Lines, the album from which this song is taken, remains one of the greatest pop albums ever recorded. That is all.
13 – Roxanne – Police My second favourite single from the debut album. There was a time I scoured the back pages of music magazines, where record shops advertised their wares, looking for this single with the original red telephone cover. I saw it a few times but could never afford it. I could now but I can’t be arsed.
12 – White Man In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash I think this may have only been a single and not included on any album and it’s quite interesting as it does, in many ways, echo what the police where doing, albeit with a completly different attitude, by using reggae guitar.
11 – Teenage Kicks – Undertones I saw the Undertones in 1983 and they were tits but this song is undeniably iconic, particularly with the John Peel association.
10 – Ever Fallen In Love? – Buzzcocks Another Iconic track from what many regarded as the thinking mans punks. I’m not sure that is entirely true but it certainly wasn’t the usual fare.
9 – One Nation Under A Groove – Funkadelic I feel like this song has always been in existence and has dipped in and out of my view for 53 years, even though it isn’t as old as that.
8 – Lovely Day – Bill Withers The recent passing of Bill Withers was a sad day, but look at what he gave us while he was here. It is impossible to not love and be uplifted by this song, unless you are dead inside, are you?
7 – Is This Love – Bob Marley & the Wailers Taken from the album ‘Kaya’ and the opening track of the massive selling compilation ‘Legend’. Like so many other people, Marley was my gateway into reggae and this is one of the first songs I would have heard, although I have convinced myself I saw the Old Grey Whistle Test performance in 1973 even though I was 6 and definately didn’t.
6 – Take Me To the River – Talking Heads From the album ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’ I think it is fair to say that in the musical ladscape of 1978 Talking Heads were, comparitivly, a bit weird, and this is exactly what makes this song so good. It isn’t particularly complicated musically but the vocal delivery by David Byrne with vocal ticks and almost whispering at times gives the song it’s special character.
5 – Can’t Stand Losing You – Police
This is my favourite Police song from the first album, which is why it is higher than the others. A song that we correctly believed to be about suicide as 11 year olds, although it wasn’t exactly a hidden message with the cover showing a man hanging himself and the lyrical content being a dead give away.
4 – Heart Of Glass – Blondie
Disco Blondie! and why not? I like a bit of Giergio Moroder, Vangelis and Blondie and this sort of mashes those together into a track that Blondie early adopters complained about at the time with the whole ‘Sell Out’ accusations, which I get, but c’mon, it’s a classic.
3 – Das Model – Kraftwerk
There are some songs that never seem to age, that one doesn’t grow tired of, and this is one of them. Futuristic at the time and it still is in many ways, at least to me. When originally released in ’78 it didn’t impact the charts at all and it was its ’82 re-release, against the bands wishes, that took it to number 1 in the UK.
2 – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & the Blockheads
I must have listened to this song a thousand times or more and I still love it. I remember pop magazines like Smash Hits repeatedly running pieces on what exactly was a ‘Rhythm Stick’ and probably published the lyrics at some point. It did reach number 1 in the UK singles charts but was initially kept from the top spot for two weeks by Village People’s Y.M.C.A, Donald Trumps favourite song it would seem after recent rallies. B-Side ‘There ain’t half been some clever bastards’ is pretty good too.
1 – Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush
There are a number of reasons why I have this at number 1. First and foremost is that I really like it, but I also have great admiration for her single mindedness in releasing it at all (James And The Cold Gun was the record companies choice as first single from the album), also the impact it made which was massive. Here was a weird woman with a weird voice harping on about Heathcliffe, and yet, despite ridicule from many quarters, it wet to number one in the UK charts and was the begining of a career in music that inspired so very many other artists.
And there we have it. Do you have any tracks to add that I may have missed? If so, let me know in the comments.
If I have missed anything obvious please make it known. In 1984 I was 17/18 and had been working for a year, so I had a little money, not a load, but enough to buy a few albums, but many of these I would have listened to after their actual year of release.
62 – The Specials – In The Studio
I listened to this for the first time today. I’d been aware of it but just never got around to actually listening to it other than the two tracks ‘Nelson Mandella’, ‘What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend’ and I’m pretty sure I have heard ‘Racist Friend’ before. Having now finally given it some time I think it will almost certainly grow on me and move up this list at some point in the future.
61 – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – History, Mystery and Prophecies
Perry can do little wrong for me, even at his most ridiculous he still manages to produce something I really like. I don’t know this release very well but, as expected, I really like it.
60 – Marillion – Fugazi
Not my favourite Marillion album, I think that will always be their debut, and I haven’t really listened to anything since Fish left. I remember well the opening two tracks, ‘Assassing’ and ‘Punch & Judy’ and had seen them live at the Reading Festival the year before and they played ‘Assassing’ but nothing else from the album I don’t think.
59 – Dead Can Dance – Dead Can Dance
Love Dead Can Dance and was very much into 4AD artists back in 84, although I didn’t have this one and heard it much later. There is something timeless about the music that they create and Lisa Gerrard’s voice is wonderful. This album is much more indie in style than the later albums.
58 – Everything But The Girl – Eden
I’m not sure that any of the tracks from this, their debut album, are very well known, but the laid back, jazzy, almost easy listening sound of the album makes it a very sound start to the success they would later achieve.
57 – Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Goodbye Cruel World
A great songwriter and an album of well crafted songs. No big stand out hits but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it allows the album to be approached with no pre-conceptions.
56 – John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Milk & Honey
I’ve always thought Lennon’s solo releases were a bit patchy and this, released 4 years after his death, is probably made up of tracks recorded for Double Fantasy and presumably rejected. Still, it is Lennon so it is worth a listen.
55 – Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking
I remember seeing this in Our Price and very nearly buying it, I can’t remember what I bought instead. Stand out track is probably 5:01AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking Pt 10) which references Yoko Ono who is the previous entry. So that’s a nice coincidence.
54 – Madness – Keep Moving
I think Madness were on the decline somewhat at this point, although their last few recent releases have been excellent and albums such as ‘The Liberty Of Norton Felgate’ are highly recommended. This album contains ‘Michael Caine and ‘Wings of a Dove’, both of which bothered the singles charts.
53 – Gary Numan – Berserker
Numan’s career took a downward path similar to that of Madness and, also similarly, he has released some excellent albums recently. This album was on the downward curve but he hadn’t bottomed out as yet so there are plenty of listenable tracks here.
52 – Eurythmics – 1984
I’ve always been able to appreciate the music of the Eurythnmics, but I can’ say I’ve ever really been a fan. I do like what they did with this George Orwell interpretation, which was tied in with the film I think. The hit from this one was ‘Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)’ but I think, for me, the extended mix of ‘Julia’ is the stand out track.
51 – Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward
Depeche Mode mostly passed me by at this point and it is more recently that I’ve really bothered giving them a good listen. The singles are the stand out tracks on this I think, ‘People Are People’ and ‘Master And Servant’.
50 – Howard Jones – Human’s Lib
I know this album well as this guy I know, who is called Daniel or Dave, something like that, had a copy and I’m pretty sure I now have it, well I know I have the album but I think it’s his copy. I think this was a commercial high watermark for Jones with the hits ‘What is love?’ and ‘New Song coming from this album.
49 – Thomas Dolby – The Flat Earth
I’m pretty sure Daniel or whatever his name is, had this one as well, it doesn’t appear to have ended up in my collection though. When listening to it today having not done so for decades it surprised me how good it was, though the single, ‘Hyperactive’ does seem to have been tacked on at the end as it doesn’t fit very well with the other tracks.
48 – Black Uhuru – Anthem
I like Black Uhuru (Uhuru is Freedom in Swahili) and have a couple of their earlier albums, but not this one yet. It won a Grammy for best reggae album and with Sly and Robbie as the rhythm section, you know the standard will be high.
47 – Thompson Twins – Into The Gap
I read an interview recently with Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, he released a single under a pseudonym and it was doing really well until people found out he was involved and it stopped selling. There seems to have been quite a lot of dislike directed at the band but this album contains hit after hit and somebody must have been buying them back in ’84. I saw them live supporting Peter Gabriel and they were pretty good to be honest, even though the crowd wasn’t theirs. This has the tracks ‘Doctor! Doctor!’, ‘You Take Me Up’, ‘Hold Me Now’, and that’s the opening 3 songs, all hits. I think ‘Sister of Mercy’ was a hit as well. Music snobbery is stupid, this is a fine album.
46 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Red Hot Chili Peppers
I liked what they were doing at this point in their career, the music had an underground and experimental feel about it as well as that rap/rock/inde/funk crossover melting pot that they seemed to dip into. Later releases lost that I think.
45 – Big Country – Steeltown
I’d seen the band live the year before and that is where I think they really excelled, on the stage, so here is one of the stand out tracks, ‘East of Eden’ as performed on The Tube.
44 – Billy Bragg – Brewing Up with Billy Bragg
Bragg’s delivery may not be to everybody’s taste, and sometimes the subject matter, but he knows how to write a good song. I align with quite a lot of his political views so I’m good with it all.
“When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory, just remember there are two sides to every story”
43 – Mike Oldfield – Discovery
For fans of Oldfield’s earlier instrumental works this album doesn’t sit well alongside them, lots of songs, short ones, with singing no less. There is a 12 minute track called ‘The Lake’ which harks back to the old days. A couple of singles were taken from the album, ‘To France’ and ‘Trick of the Light’.
42 – The Alan Parsons Project – Ammonia Avenue
I have never paid any attention to The Alan Parsons Project, I wasn’t even very sure what it was but I saw a couple of albums in a used bargain bin some time back and picked them up, just out of curiosity, this was one of them. I think that had I heard them back in 1984 I would like them, and this, a lot more than I do but it’s still pretty good.
41 – Harold Budd & Brian Eno – The Pearl
I suspect I am doing this album a disservice by not placing it higher. I picked up a copy at a record fair in Rugby for £5 but haven’t listened to it since that day and right now so I know I like it, I know it’s good, but I haven’t lived with it enough yet.
40 – The Psychedelic Furs – Mirror Moves
I like their earlier albums more but there is still a lot to like on this album, I think the single ‘Heaven’ did ok and, apparently, ‘Heartbeat’ was a dance hit, who knew? The cover design was dedicated to Barney Bubbles, who had died the year before.
39 – Prefab Sprout – Swoon
Paddy McAloon writes really interesting songs, certainly more cerebral than much of the fare we were treated to in ’84. This was the bands debut album and less immediate and accessible than their later albums, but excellent still.
38 – Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
I have nothing against this album, but at the time I reached saturation point with it and even now I am like a full sponge that needs ringing out. Songs from it played everywhere, I couldn’t get away from them and wouldn’t choose to listen to them again, not yet anyway, even all these years later. Undoubtedly a really good album, hugely popular, well crafted and all that so it has to be included, though I know on many lists it would be top 3.
37 – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – From Her to Eternity
It’s extraordinary to me what came after this album, some of my favourite songs were to follow. This was the debut solo album of Cave after The Birthday Party disbanded and it is a visceral affair, but there is more subtlety which makes it a more effective set of songs.
36 – The Cult – Dreamtime
Dreamtime was released on 10 September 1984, their debut album, originally with a nine-song live album titled Dreamtime Live at the Lyceum, recorded at the Lyceum Theatre in London on 20 May 1984, and also released in the UK with different artwork, this is the one I have. I’ve heard all the criticisms aimed at The Cult, but I like them, so there you go.
35 – Lou Reed – New Sensations
This is his 13th solo album and it is not his worst, nor is it is best, it is a solid Lou Reed release with stand out tracks being ‘I Love You, Suzanne’ and probably ‘My Red Joystick’.
34 – David Bowie – Tonight
The 16th studio album from Bowie, which has one of my favourite album covers, received pretty crappy reviews at the time of release but they were, for the most part, undeserved I think. Opening track ‘Loving the Alien’ is good as is ‘Blue Jean’ and who wouldn’t want a cover of the Beach Boys ‘God Only Knows’ by Bowie?
33 – KUKL – The Eye
Before The Sugarcubes and before Bjork there was KUKL. I only heard this for the first time last year and I love it. So much so that I’m going to put a video with this one. The album received excellent reviews and had I known about it at the time I would have raved about it. I am now on the lookout for a copy of my own.
32 – The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl
I had this one at the time and I do feel like it was a high watermark for the band with tracks like ‘Middle of the Road’, ‘Back on the Chain Gang’, ‘Thin Line Between Love and Hate’ and ‘2000 Miles’.
31 – Leonard Cohen – Various Positions
Well it has ‘Hallelujah’ on it, which has been covered so many times now that, for me, it has completely lost its soul. This is not Cohen’s fault of course, and there are other good songs on it, ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ for example.
30 – Sade – Diamond Life
This is a great album that suffers somewhat from appropriation by restaurants and other businesses who would play it as muzak to demonstrate that they, like Sade, had a bit of class. I used to find it annoying.
29 – Holger Czukay – Der Orten Is Rot
Czukay, in case you didn’t know, was a founding member of Can. This album is rather odd at times but I like it a lot.
28 – Carmel – The Drum Is Everything
When this album was released I honestly believed that Carmel were going to be huge, they weren’t, but had moderate success. I think they were just too early, people weren’t ready for it I guess but had they emerged around the time of Amy Winehouse and that whole jazz revival, they would, I’m quite sure, have been at the forefront.
27 – Madonna – Like A Virgin
Do I need to say anything about this one? Probably not.
26 – Van Halen – 1984
Not my favourite Van Halen album to be honest, this being the one where keyboards became prevalent, as evidenced by the hit ‘Jump’, again, not my favourite track from them but overall the album is pretty good and I bought a copy at the time, which I still have, so there we are.
25 – Simple Minds – Sparkle In The Rain
I wasn’t very keen on Simple Minds at the time but listening to them again over the last few years, I came to realise that some kind of music elitism was in play, in my head, they have some great songs, many on this album and I wish I’d given them the attention they deserved at the time.
24 – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes
‘Perfect Skin’ was the first thing I heard by Lloyd Cole, as a single, but it also opens this album. It is worth not stopping with track 1, there’s some really good songs on this album.
23 – The Fall – The Wonderful & Frightening World of the Fall
I have the 2016 re-issue of this and for that reason it is where I start looking into more detail at the next choices in this list, it isn’t a good reason, I have lots of the albums already mentioned, nonetheless it is a reason, much like when parents answer a question with ‘Because I said so’.
22 – Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak
This is Anderson’s second album and it contains the track ‘Excellent Birds’, which was produced by Peter Gabriel and a version appeared as a bonus track on his album ‘So’. I thnk the version here is better.
21 – Xmal Deutschland – Tocsin
I was a big fan of the Cocteau Twins so went looking to see who else was on the same record label, 4AD, on the assumption it would be similar music, it was and it wasn’t but I liked it regardless, in fact I still have my copy of this that I bought in 1984, and another of theirs. Most of it is in German, but I don’t care.
20 – Rush – Grace Under Pressure
At the time I bought this album I had just moved to a new town and, essentially, lived in a bedroom with my collection of about 40 records. I didn’t like it very much initially, but as it was played a lot due to limited choices it grew on me and even now when I play it I am reminded of how wrong I was on those initial albums, it was a gradual departure in style for them from the earlier prog-rock days but I still like the songs.
19 – Julian Cope – Fried
I was absolutely mad about Cope for a long time, until 1996 with ‘Interpreter’ being the last album I was really interested in, after that I wasn’t so keen on what he was releasing, but this I liked. It was his first release following the end of ‘The Teardrop Explodes’ and it was very different, although there were some upbeat tracks such as ‘Sunspots’ and ‘Holy Love’ that, with the addition of a horn section, could have passed for Teardrops.
18 – Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth
Hot on the heels of ‘Fried’ came this album, which doesn’t contain the hit single of the album title, that was actually on the next album ‘St.Julian’. What it does contain is a series of excellent songs exept one, this being ‘Greatness & Perfection’, which seems to be a Teardrops song that was never used as it could sit on either of their first two albums without seeming out of place. Tracks such as ‘Elegant Chaos’ and ‘Strasbourg’ contain mature writing and there is a darkness that weaves through the majority of tracks.
17 – Siouxsie & the Banshees – Hyaena
I bought this when it was released, and still have it, and it was at least a year before I noticed that Robert Smith of The Cure played on it. It is an incredibly consistent album, good all theway through, with some highlights being ‘Swimming Horses’, Dazzle’ and ‘Bring me the head of the preacher man’.
16 – King Crimson – Three Of A Perfect Pair
This album was the conclusion of a trilogy, begining with ‘Discipline’, followed by ‘Beat’ and concluding with this album. Now that may not be thhe official view, but it is how it has always felt to me. This is the most up to date release from them I have, nothing after 1984. Not sure if that says something about me or the band, but on this, and the two prior releases I really like the guitar work and sound.
15 – Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome
In 1984 this was everywhere and spawned hits such as ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’, ‘Power of Love’ as well as T-shirts. While it’s true they courted controversy and wrung every ounce out of every possible piece of publicity they could get, the album itself is masterfully produced by Trevor Horn and if you haven’t listened to it lately, or ever, give it a spin, you may be surprised.
14 – REM – Reckoning
The first time I became aware of R.E.M was 3 years after this album was released with the album ‘Document’ and the two better known songs from it ‘The One I Love’ and ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it’ (apt at the time of writing) so skipping back to ’84 I listened to this for the first time this year. It’s sometimes difficult to listen to songs produced over 35 years ago and not judge them on todays production techniques and whatever the current zeitgeist in music is, but these stand up incredibly well and it was a pleasure getting to know this album.
13 – The Cure – The Top
I bought this album the week it was released, and still have it. For me, at the time, it was a mixed bag and I seem to recall that the reviews when it was released were not particularly favourable. Nowadays I have a different view, it is a wonderful album with a consistent mood and songs that are both quirky and dark, it is classic cure and yet not quite alinged with what had come before.
Doesn’t Bob look young!
12 – XTC – The Big Express
This is not generally considered as their best album, which it isn’t, however it does still contain some excellent songs, including the single ‘All You Pretty Girls’. Of course the problem with being XTC is being judged against XTC, who created, in ‘Senses Working Overtime’, one of the best pop songs ever written.
11 – Echo And The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
Due to there being a feud between Julian Cope (Teardrop Explodes) and Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen I didn’t really listen to them all that much as I fell firmly on Cope’s side, even though I had absolutely no clue as to what had gone on. As it turns out this was fortuitous as I then was able to hear all these songs for the first time much later and they were new to me, bonus.
10 – Public Image Ltd – This is what you want…this is what you get
I have a great deal of difficulty with the third P.I.L album onwards as the first two were so close to perfect that anything less will always contain some measure of dissapointment for me. There are three brillinat songs on this album, ‘Bad Life’, ‘This is not a love song’ and ‘The order of death’. The other tracks are all fine but those three are the stand outs I think.
The song “The Order of Death” appears in the 1990 science fiction-horror film Hardware and on the soundtrack to the 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project. It was also featured in the Miami Vice episode “Little Miss Dangerous” and the Mr. Robot episode “eps2.7_init_5.fve”.
9 – This Mortal Coil – It’ll End In Tears
It’ll End in Tears is the first album released by 4AD collective This Mortal Coil, an umbrella title for a loose grouping of guest musicians and vocalists brought together by label boss Ivo Watts-Russell. It features many of the artists on the 4AD roster at the time, including Cocteau Twins, Colourbox, and Dead Can Dance; as well as Howard Devoto.
I had it on cassette, ad may well still have it somewhere but I have sice bought the vinyl version so I’m in no particular hurry to find it. Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ with vocals by Elizabeth Frasier is a stunning track.
8 – Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
I don’t usually include live albums but this one is so good that I couldn’t leave it out. There was a film that accompanied the album and you can see the whole thing on youtube. It opens with Psycho Killer which was the first song I think I ever heard of theirs, on the Old Grey Whistle Test. I thought it was weird, but cool.
7 – U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
This period was the pinacle of U2’s musical output, along with the Joshua Tree, well according to me it was and their later work I have found to be a little dissapointing. I remember when this was released and how its sound seemed fuller and more crafted that earlier releases which made it more accessible to a wider audience. This was a new production team of Eno and Lanois which was incredibly successful for U2.
6 – Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain
Technically this is a soundtrack of course, but I’ve always had the feeling that the songs came first and the film was built around them, a film which is terrible by the way. I liked it at the time, mostly because of the songs, but it doesn’t stand the test of time. Ignoring the movie, it is a fantastic collection of songs opeing with Let’s Go Crazy, closing with Purple Rain with each track inbetween being good.
5 – David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees
If this best of was decided by the number of copies of a record that I own then this would be number 1 as I have the original release, a re-issue from a couple of years ago and a CD for the car. I liked Japan as well so it was quite natural for me to move on to his solo work, although I’ve had conversations with a few folk who never really liked it, despite being huge Japan fans, I fail to understand why.
4 – Talk Talk – It’s My Life
I feel like the title track, being so good and popular upon it’s release, overshadowed the rerst of the album somewhat, so if you happen to have never listened to it all the way through, jump mon spotify or your streaming service of choice and give it a go. Mark Hollis was a fantastic writer and, to quote track 2, it is such a shame he is no longer with us.
3 – The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops
I’ve been regularly listening to this album since it was first released and am yet to grow bored of it. It is at times quiet and contemplative, at times more upbeat and at all times just full of great songs. Paul Buchanan has such a wonderful voice, so emotive and I have no idea who the bass player is but I love his playing. If you have not taken the time to investigate the Blue Nile catalogue then start with this album and move straight on to ‘Hats’, together they are amazing.
2 – The Cocteau Twins – Treasure
There aren’t many records that, to me, are magical, but this is one of them. Bass player Simon Raymonde alluded to the album being rushed and unfinished, while guitarist Robin Guthrie referred to it as “an abortion” and to the period in which it was made as “arty-farty pre-Raphaelite”. They would know best of course but once an album is released into the world it no longer belongs to the group and the world will make of it what they will. In this case it is may people’s favourite album of theirs. It is ethereal and wonderful and I am questioning myself as to why I haven’t put it at number 1.
1 – The Smiths – The Smiths
And here we are at my number 1 album of 1984, is it controversial? I don’t think so, what else could it possibly be? Now I know that many folk won’t even listen to the Smiths, considering them miserable bastards, a pre-conception that is a shame as there is so much joy in the songs despite the sometimes grumpy Morrisey lyrics. This album, their debut, contains 11 tracks and every single one of them is brilliant, without exception.
Quite why I start these almost impossible lists is something I probably need to speak quite earnestly to a therapist about, however, here I am, doing it again. As always it is just my opinion and sometimes I forget the odd track or two, so feel free to demand that anything I’ve excluded is included. I’m not going to write about all of them, but I will about some, just because I will have thought about something to say.
I fully appreciate the pointlessness of such lists having just listened to pretty much the entire back catalogue and again realising that I could probably choose any of 200 songs in any order and it would be just as valid, and I know the moment I finished this I got it wrong, but no matter, it is how I feel today, right now, in ten minutes or an hour it will change, but that’s OK.
40 – The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms) (Chalk Mark In a Rain Storm)
39 – Night of the Iguana (Shine)
38 – The Magdalene Laundries (Turbulent Indigo)
37 – The Last Time I Saw Richard (Travelogue version)
36 – Chelsea Morning (Clouds)
In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mitchell explained: “I wrote that in Philadelphia after some girls who worked in this club where I was playing found all this colored slag glass in an alley. We collected a lot of it and built these glass mobiles with copper wire and coat hangers. I took mine back to New York and put them in my window on West 16th Street in the Chelsea District. The sun would hit the mobile and send these moving colors all around the room. As a young girl, I found that to be a thing of beauty. There’s even a reference to the mobile in the song. It was a very young and lovely time… before I had a record deal. I think it’s a very sweet song, but I don’t think of it as part of my best work. To me, most of those early songs seem like the work of an ingenue.”
I bought a job lot of 5 Joni Mitchell albums from Ebay, one of which was Clouds and this song, track 2, was the one that grabbed me and drew me in to the album. Even songs she doesn’t think are all that good are, compared to a lot of other writers, quite wonderful.
Interesting fact, Bill and Hillary Clinton named their daughter Chelsea after this song. They got the idea for the name when they were walking through the Chelsea area of London and heard the Judy Collins version of the song. According to Hillary Clinton (stated in her book Living History), Bill said to her, “If we ever have a daughter, we should name her Chelsea.”
35 – The Boho Dance (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
Full disclosure, this is the first Joni Mitchell album I ever owned, bought when I was 16 I think, so 8 years after it was released, and I played it to death. Other than bits and pieces I heard here and there it was my proper introduction to her music and it has probably framed everything I have have listened to since. The album did not receive much acclaim upon its release (The online Rolling Stone review is particularly scathing, some reviewers did rate it highly though) but I’m happy to report that they critics who panned it are all wrong. The problem, I think, was that they wanted folky Mitchell, and this most certainly isn’t that. She was experimenting with a jazzier feel and new forms, which I happen to think she pulled off magnificently.
34 – In France they kiss on main street (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
33 – Amelia (Hejira)
Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): “I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it… the sweet loneliness of solitary travel. In this song, I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another, sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do.”
A ghost of aviation She was swallowed by the sky Or by the sea like me she had a dream to fly Like Icarus ascending On beautiful foolish arms
32 – Man From Mars (Taming the Tiger)
This is a later album, 1998, and I don’t know it very well. All my Joni Mitchell albums are on vinyl and this was never released other than on CD and Cassette so it doesn’t get much play time but this particularly stood out for me.
I fall apart Everytime I think of you Swallowed by the dark There is no center to my life now No grace in my heart Man from Mars This time you went too far
31 – Come in from the Cold (Night Ride Home)
Another album I’m not that familiar with, from 1991, and one which I really must get a copy of. I’ve given it a good listen over the past few weeks and it was both the hook and the opening lyrics that really caught me on this track.
Back in 1957 We had to dance a foot apart And they hawk-eyed us from the sidelines Holding their rulers without a heart And so with just a touch of our fingers I could make our circuitry explode All we ever wanted Was just to come in from the cold
30 – My Secret Place (Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm)
Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm is the 13th studio album, released in 1988. The album features various duets with guest artists such as Peter Gabriel on “My Secret Place”, Willie Nelson on “Cool Water”, Don Henley on “Snakes and Ladders”, Billy Idol and Tom Petty on the track “Dancin’ Clown”. Henley also performs backing vocals on “Lakota”, and Wendy and Lisa perform backing vocals on “The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)”. Obviously, I would pick the Gabriel track.
29 – Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody (Wild Things Run Fast)
There is an honesty that Mitchell sometimes conveys that, quite frankly, is painful, and it happens in this song where slipping into Unchained Melody seems the only way to end it.
Christmas is sparkling Out on Carol’s lawn This girl of my childhood games With kids nearly grown and gone Grown so fast Like the turn of a page We look like our mothers did now When we were those kids’ age Nothing lasts for long
28 – Talk to Me (Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter)
So there are two reasons I love this song, one is the bass of Jaco Pastorius, the guy was quite brilliant. The second is the way that Mitchell’s opening lyrics paint such a vivid word picture, one that is, perhaps, rather unexpected.
There was a moon and a street lamp I didn’t know I drank such a lot ‘Till I pissed a tequila-anaconda The full length of the parking lot!
27- Song For Sharon (Hejira)
26 – Hejira (Hejira)
25 – Coyote (Hejira)
This song was written about the actor/writer/playwright Sam Shepard during Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Sam Shepard wrote The Rolling Thunder Logbook, which is an account of the tour.
The “woman at home” in this song is Patti Smith, who declined the invitation to join the musicians on the Rolling Thunder Revue.
I’ve included two videos as I like them both.
24 – Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
“Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow” is an acoustic guitar–based song with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, focused on women standing up to male dominance and proclaiming their own existence as individuals.
23 – The Jungle Line (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
22 – Big Yellow Taxi (Ladies of the Canyon)
Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): “I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.”
The line, “Took all the trees, put ’em in a tree museum, charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em” refers to Foster Gardens, a place in Waikiki which is basically a tree museum. It’s a huge garden full of trees so tall you feel like Alice in Wonderland.
The line, “Put away that DDT now, give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees” refers to the insecticide DDT, which was used on crops. The deleterious effects of the chemical were in the news, as Americans learned that their food was being contaminated by its use – those spotless apples looked great but held hidden dangers. Also, birds were eating the insects and fish poisoned by DDT, which caused them to lay brittle eggs and put many species in danger, including the bald eagle. In 1972, DDT was banned for most uses.
The song holds a particularly poignant memory for me as it is one of three 45’s that I had as a child, left behind by my mother I think, and I would play it repeatedly. I think it was an original 1970 release with Woodstock on the B-Side.
21 – Free Man In Paris (Court & Spark)
The “Free Man” of the song is David Geffen, who was in charge of Mitchell’s record label. The song is about the pressures the music industry puts on their artists.
Mitchell and Geffen rose up the ranks together. In the late ’60s, he was establishing himself as an agent (an important early client was another mighty female songwriter: Laura Nyro) and she was making a name for herself with her music. They became good friends, and when Geffen started Asylum Records, Mitchell recorded for the label – her 1972 album For The Roses was her first on Asylum. The two confided in each other, and Geffen would often talk about the extraordinary pressures he faced as a high-powered music mogul. Mitchell wrote “Free Man in Paris” based on what he told her: Where Geffen felt most alive and unencumbered was in Paris, where nobody could call him up and ask for favours.
José Feliciano played guitar on this track. He was working on another project at the studios (A&M in Los Angeles) when he heard the song coming from Mitchell’s studio and offered to play.
20 – Same Situation (Court & Spark)
Mitchell (from a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times): “I don’t want to name names or kiss and tell, but basically it is a portrait of a Hollywood bachelor and the parade of women through his life, how he toys with yet another one. So many women have been in this position, being vulnerable at a time when you need affection or are searching for love, and you fall into the company of a Don Juan.”
19 – Help Me (Court & Spark)
In this song, Mitchell sings about a guy she’s falling in love with while at the same time knowing the relationship is doomed, as he is “a rambler and a gambler” who loves his freedom. Mitchell never revealed the identity of this person (if any – she says that not all her songs are autobiographical), but the two prime candidates would be Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, both of whom she dated in the early ’70s.
Interesting fact, Prince gave this song a shout out on his Sign O’ The Times track The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, where he sings about a tryst with a waitress who tells him it’s her favourite song.
18 – For The Roses (For the Roses)
The whole album is new to me having picked up a copy only last year, which is great for me as it is like having new material even though it is nearly 40 years old.
17 – Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire (For the Roses)
16 – Edith and the Kingpin (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
This is the song that prompted me to buy the album having heard it on The Friday Rock Show.
“Edith” in this song was inspired by the famous French singer Edith Piaf. In an interview with Mojo magazine February 2008, Joni Mitchell was discussing her songwriting: “Sometimes you write about the exact thing you saw, but other times you take something that happened over here and put it with something over there. In ‘Edith And The Kingpin,’ part of it is from a Vancouver pimp I met and part of it is Edith Piaf. It’s a hybrid, but all together it makes a whole truth.”
15 – Cactus Tree (Song to the Seagull)
“Cactus Tree” is the final song on Joni Mitchell’s debut album, Song To A Seagull. It’s about several men who are in love with a woman, with each story tied together by the common theme of the unnamed woman’s need for freedom and resistance to romantic commitment. In every case, the woman “thinks she loves them all” but ultimately is always “too busy being free.”
The song is written in the third person, but Mitchell is an autobiographical songwriter and the female subject in the song is herself. The feeling is that Mitchell is torn over her simultaneous need for love and her need for freedom, with freedom always ultimately winning out. Every verse tells the story of a lover, or an overview of several lovers, identified with archetypal personas like “a jouster and a jester and a man who owns a store.”
Mitchell has called herself a “serial monogamist.” She carried the inner tension presented in this song throughout her life.
14 – Urge for Going (B-side of the “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” )
What I find great about this clip is how the guys either side of her look blown away by Mitchells performance as though they know she has something they never will.
13 – A Case of You (Blue)
The version found on Blue features Mitchell playing Appalachian dulcimer, accompanied by James Taylor on acoustic guitar and Russ Kunkel on drums. Kunkel is widely regarded as one of the top session drummers of the 1970s.
Joni Mitchell told Robert Hilburn in a 1994 interview regarding this song: “I think men write very dishonestly about breakups. I wanted to be capable of being responsible for my own errors. If there was friction between me and another person, I wanted to be able to see my participation in it so I could see what could be changed and what could not. That is part of the pursuit of happiness. You have to pull the weeds in your soul when you are young, when they are sprouting, otherwise they will choke you.”
12 – River (Blue)
At the start of 1970, Joni Mitchell’s relationship with her boyfriend Graham Nash was crumbling. On top of this, she was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the mass adulation her recordings were receiving. The songstress needed to get away, so she took off on a trip to Europe, metaphorically skating away on a river to escape the crazy scene. While Mitchell was in Crete, she sent Nash a telegram to tell him their romance was over. On “River,” the Canadian singer gives her perspective on the doomed relationship as she yearns to escape the emotional bonds. She admits to being “hard to handle” and blames herself for losing “the best baby I ever had.”
11- Court & Spark (Court & Spark)
The title track from what I think was her most commercially succesful release.
10 – California (Blue)
In this song, Mitchell sings of going home to her beloved California. She sings as though she’s been on a long journey – and indeed, she has. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash, Mitchell hoofed her way across Europe. It was during that journey when Mitchell penned many of the songs on her Blue album.
This song, and many of the songs on this album, were inspired by the jazz style of the great Miles Davis.
9 – Blue (Blue)
The title track on Joni Mitchell’s masterpiece 1971 album, the song touches on depression, general sadness and the ways people use to escape from them told over a beautiful piano melody.
Blue Songs are like tattoos You know I’ve been to sea before Crown and anchor me Or let me sail away
Hey, blue There is a song for you Ink on a pin Underneath the skin An empty space to fill in
8 – Carey (Blue)
Carey was a real person Joni met in Matala. He had flaming red hair and often wore a turban. They met, says Mitchell, when Carey “blew out of a restaurant in Greece, literally. Kaboom! I heard, facing the sunset. I turned around and this guy is blowing out the door of this restaurant. He was a cook; he lit a gas stove and it exploded. Burned all the red hair off himself right through hiswhite Indian turban. I went, ‘That was an interesting entrance-I’ll takenote of that.'”
The following transcript of the introduction to this song that Mitchell gave during a performance at the Troubadour is on this site devoted to Crete:
“I went to Greece a couple years ago and over there I met a very unforgettable character. I have a hard time remembering people’s names, like, so I have to remember things by association, even unforgettable characters I have to remember by association, so his name was ‘Carrot’ Raditz, Carey Raditz, and oh, he’s a great character. He’s got sort of a flaming red personality, and flaming red hair and a flaming red appetite for red wine and he fancied himself to be a gourmet cook, you know, if he could be a gourmet cook in a cave in Matala. And he announced to my girlfriend and I the day that we met him that he was the best cook in the area and he actually was working at the time I met him – he was working at this place called the Delphini restaurant – until it exploded, singed half of the hair off of his beard and his legs, and scorched his turban, melted down his golden earrings.
“Anyway, one day he decided he was going to cook up a feast, you know, so we had to go to market because, like, in the village of Matala there was one woman who kind of had a monopoly – well actually there were three grocery stores, but she really had a monopoly, and because of her success and her affluence, she had the only cold storage in the village, too. So she had all the fresh vegetables and all the cold soft drinks and she could make the yogurt last a lot longer than anyone else, and we didn’t feel like giving her any business that day. Rather than giving her our business we decided to walk ten miles to the nearest market.
“So I had ruined the pair of boots that I’d brought with me from the city, because they were really ‘citified,’ kind of slick city boots that were meant to walk on flat surfaces. The first night there we drank some Raki and I tried to climb the mountain and that was the end of those shoes. So he lent me these boots of his which were like Li’l Abner boots – like those big lace-up walking boots – and a pair of Afghani socks, which made my feet all purple at the end of the day. And I laced them up around my ankles and I couldn’t touch any – the only place my foot touched was on the bottom, you know, there was nothing rubbing in the back or the sides – they were huge – and he wasn’t very tall, either, come to think of it, was kind of strange – I guess he had sort of webbed feet or something. But we started off on this long trek to the village, I forget the name of it now, between Matala and Iraklion – and started off in the cool of the morning. And by the time we got halfway there we were just sweltering, me in these thick Afghani socks and heavy woolens and everything. So we went into the ruins of King Phestos’ palace to sit down and have a little bit of a rest, and while we were there these two tourist buses pulled up and everybody got off the buses in kind of an unusual symmetry, you know, they all sort of walked alike and talked alike and they all kind of looked alike. And they all filed over to a series of rubble-y rocks- a wall that was beginning to crumble – lined themselves up in a row and took out their viewing glasses, overgrown opera glasses, and they started looking at the sky. And suddenly this little speck appeared on the horizon that came closer and closer, this little black speck.
“Carey was standing behind all of this leaning on his cane, and as it came into view he suddenly broke the silence of this big crowd and he yells out, ‘it’s ah MAAGPIE’ in his best North Carolina drawl. And suddenly all the glasses went down in symmetry and everybody’s heads turned around to reveal that they were all very birdlike looking people. They had long skinny noses – really – they had been watching birds so long that they looked like them, you know – and this one woman turned around and she says to him (in British accent) “it’s NOT a magpie – it’s a crooked crow.” Then she very slowly and distinctly turned her head back, picked up her glasses, and so did everybody else, and we kept on walking. Bought two kilos of fish which would have rotted in the cave hadn’t it been for the cats.
“When we got back from that walk, Stelios, who was the guy who ran the Mermaid Cafe, had decided to put an addition on his kitchen, which turned out to be really illegal and it was so illegal, as a matter of fact, that the Junta dragged him off to jail. And torture was legal over there – they burnt his hands and his feet with cigarette butts mainly because they hated, you know, all of the Canadians and Americans and wandering Germans living in the caves, but they couldn’t get them out of there because it was controlled by the same archaeologist that controlled the ruins of King Phestos’ palace, and he didn’t mind you living there as long as you didn’t Day-Glo all of the caves. And everyone was, like, putting all of their psychedelia over all this ancient writing. So they carted him off to jail.”
7 – The Circle Game (Ladies of the Canyon)
In this song, Mitchell tells the story of a child’s journey to adulthood, using a carousel as a metaphor for the years that go by, pointing out how we can look back, but we can’t return to our past.
The song opens with the young boy enjoying the wonder of youth, but looking forward to getting older. In the second verse, he is 16 and driving. The final verse finds him at 20, with his dreams tempered a bit, but still with high hopes for his future.
6 – Woodstock (Ladies of the Canyon)
Mitchell most likely could have, and would have, performed at Woodstock but her manager, David Geffen, made the decision that she would not join her peers on stage in Bethel, N.Y., where the officially titled Woodstock Music and Arts Fair was being held. Mitchell was booked to appear on The Dick Cavett Show the day after the festival, and Geffen took the calculated risk that it was more important for the singer-songwriter to get the exposure the popular national TV program would bring her than to sing for the hippies upstate, who might not even pay attention. Getting stuck in a traffic jam would not do her any good either, Geffen reasoned.
Geffen and Mitchell instead holed up in a hotel room in New York, watching news reports on the festival as friends like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (also Geffen clients) played to hundreds of thousands of rock fans.
After the festival, Graham Nash, involved in a romantic relationship with Mitchell at the time, excitedly regaled her with the details of the event: how it truly felt like a turning point, a sea change, how the crowd was “half a million strong and everywhere there was a song and a celebration.” Mitchell grabbed a pen and paper and started to write.
5 – My Old Man (Blue)
My old man, he’s a singer in the park He’s a walker in the rain He’s a dancer in the dark We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall Keeping us tied and true no, my old man Keeping away my blues
4 – Willy (Ladies of the Canyon)
Graham Nash, whose nickname was Willy, left his crumbling marriage, moved in with Mitchell and they lived together in her house for two years. She eventually split from him with a telegram from Greece stating, ‘If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.’
3 – Little Green (Blue)
A song to the daughter she gave up. If you do not know the story it is worth looking up and reading, it is a tragic tale that initially seemed to have a happy ending, but things started to go wrong a few years after mother and daughter were reunited.
2 – Morning Morgantown (Ladies of the Canyon)
I would very much like to give a solid and reasoned account of why this song has ended up at number 2, but I can’t. It just says something to me that I really connect with and I’m not even sure what that is, more of a feeling than anything. It may have something to do with growing up in a village and the feeling of belonging which, through circumstance, had to be left behind and was never really found again.
1 – Both Sides, Now (Clouds)
This was the first hit song written by Joni Mitchell, whose version appeared on her 1969 album Clouds. Mitchell recalled: “I was reading Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King on a plane and early in the book Henderson the Rain King is also up in a plane. He’s on his way to Africa and he looks down and sees these clouds. I put down the book, looked out the window and saw clouds too, and I immediately started writing the song. I had no idea that the song would become as popular as it did.”
Mitchell had been through a very difficult time when she wrote the lyrics. In 1965, she gave birth to a baby girl, but struggled as a single mom (the father was an old boyfriend who left soon after Mitchell got pregnant). She married a musician named Chuck Mitchell that year, but soon after the marriage, gave up the child for adoption. Soon, her marriage was on the rocks, and in 1967 they split up.
Judy Collins was the first to record the song and it provided her first hit, and also brought exposure to Mitchell. With this song Collins won the 1968 Grammy for Best Folk Performance.
This is Joni Mitchell’s most-covered song; with over 1000 versions recorded, it could be considered a standard. Some of the luminaries to record it include Frank Sinatra (on his 1968 album Cycles), Bing Crosby, and Ronan bloody Keating, a version I haven’t and won’t listen to. .
And that is my imperfect list, which I already want to change havng not included anything from Dog Eat Dog or Mingus, ah well, maybe another day I will make it top 45!
I made another list. It has been a difficult list to make for almost every position, except 68 & 69 as both songs have long been in my head as the worst The Police had ever done. They really shouldn’t have allowed Andy Summers anywhere near solo song writing duties. So it’s a Police list of pretty much every song they ever did and like all lists, the order would probabaly change hour by hour but having put them in order I had to stop moving them about at some point and the list below is where they ended up.
I was thinking that 2002 wasn’t that long ago, but of course it’s 17 years, and looking at the albums from that year I’m quite surprised that they were released that long ago. It really seems so much closer. Anyway, I’ve left a lot out and gone for a top 54, a stupid number but 54 it is. As always with these sort of lists it is all my opinion and I’m quite comfortable with being considered wrong, because that’s the thing about opinions, mine is right.
54 – Cornershop – Handcream For A Generation
Cornershop have always been rather underrated in some quarters, but not by me, this is a really great album, and anybody who releases a single with the repeated line ” The overgrown super shit”, is ok with me.
53 – Moloko – Statues
I think I may use the word Underrated more than would initially appear necessary, but I’m not convinced Moloko received the acclaim they deserved. They produced great Dance/Pop songs and Róisín Murphy’s voice is fabulously distinctive. I like them.
52 – Moby – 18
This, of course, is the album that isn’t ‘Play’ and it was never going to repeat its success, but it has some really good tracks on it, not least ‘We are All Made of Stars’ which I find better than many of the ‘Play’ tracks.
51 – Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World
I never took any notice of Super Furry Animals, despite them being very Welsh, and then I heard the track below on a compilation and really liked it. It’s not indicative of everything they do though.
50 – Xiu Xiu – Knife Play
I have one album by Xiu Xiu and this isn’t it, in fact I’ve never heard his album until now. It is sort of experimental but it has something about it that I really like, it’s also nothing like the album I do have, which is their re-working of the Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack to Twin Peaks. I fully appreciate this won’t be to everybody’s taste.
49 – Out Hud – S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.
One of the great benefits of doing lists like this one is that I get to listen to things that otherwise I probably wouldn’t. In the 17 years since this album was released I have never tripped over it, I literally know nothing about it. I listened to it, I love it.
48 – Jóhann Jóhannsson – Englabörn
There are certain things that I can confirm as being true, one is that I like modern classical, another is that I like film soundtracks, which leaves me rather vulnerable to this. Although, I do have 2016 release Orphée so I’m not a complete stranger to Jóhann.
47 – El-P – Fantastic Damage
There are things about Hip-Hop, Rap etc. that I don’t understand but the young ‘uns seem to be all over it, talking about flow and sick beats amongst other things, frankly, most of the time I can’t even make out the words, I’m old, I can’t help it, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t like or appreciate something from within the constraints of my own understanding. I appreciate this, it’s, erm, dope.
46 – Ms Dynamite – A Little Deeper
She was the next big thing, but turned out not to be. This was partly by choice I think as she took time off for her child and her return was marred by a badly promoted second album and then being dropped by the record label. Putting that aside, this is a really good debut and, personally, I think it’s a shame she didn’t take off. I saw her DJ-ing a few years ago, I like her.
45 – Beck – Sea Change
I’ve listened to this album several times over the years and even though I know it is very highly regarded, the track ‘The Golden Age’ is the only one I can ever remember because I once put it on a mixtape. I must try it again and see if I’ve missed something.
44 – Dalek – From Filthy Tomgue of Gods and Griots
I don’t know why I like this, I just do.
43 – Aimee Mann – Lost In Space
I bought this when it was released and it is only today when I went looking for it that I realised I don’t have it now. Mann is a really good songwriter and I thought back in 2002 that she would be a bigger thing than she turned out to be, though this is not necessarily a criticism. There are a lot of good songs on this album, you should give it a listen.
42 – Craig Armstrong – As If To Nothing
This is classified as Modern Classical, Downtempo, Experimental, Ambient. Well that’s me sold on it then, how could I resist? Don’t know him? Craig Armstrong, OBE (born 29 April 1959 in Glasgow, United Kingdom), is a Scottish composer of modern orchestral music, electronica and film scores. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1981, and has since written music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta. He also has several film scores under his belt. I’m a fan.
42 – Groove Armada – Lovebox
Francis Rossi of Status Quo played on the track Purple Haze, the opening track to the album and in the video below, the guitar riff is from an early Quo track called April, Spring Summer And Wednesdays. The album is packed with cool, really listenable tracks, recommended.
41 – Nightmares on Wax – Mind Elevation
When I started buying vinyl again this was among the first that I bought, well, first 20 or so, I can’t remember exactly. I’d been streaming it before that and saw it in the shop, seemed an obvious choice to me at the time.
40 – Ladytron – Light and Music
‘Seventeen’ by Ladytron is one of my favourite tracks of this year. I had it on my Ipod, or whatever I was using then (Might have been Creative Labs as it had the biggest storage back then), in a playlist and it was played a lot. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever listened to the whole album, just odd tracks, but now I have, it’s great.
39 – Morcheeba – Charango
Another album I actually bought when it was released, a double CD, one of which was instrumental versions, I only played that once. I still think their debut album is brilliant and this one doesn’t disappoint either, containing a duet with Kurt Wagner of Lambchop on the track ‘What New York Couples Fight About’, seek it out, it’s brilliant.
38 – Supergrass – Life on Other Planets
The fourth album from Supergrass, the standout tracks being ‘Grace’, and ‘La Song’ and ‘Never Done Nothing Like That Before’ on an album that could have been a classic but doesn’t quite make it. Still worth having though. I also like ‘Seen The Light’ which is so very T-Rex.
36 – Max Richter – Memoryhouse
I love the work of Max Richter and this is no exception, although it is one I don’t own yet I have listened to it several times. Memoryhouse is considered a “landmark work of contemporary classical music”. It’s an experimental album of “documentary music” recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which explores real and imaginary stories and histories. Several of the tracks, such as “Sarajevo”, “November”, “Arbenita”, and “Last Days”, deal with the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict, while others are of childhood memories e.g. “Laika’s Journey”. The music combines ambient sounds, voices (including that of John Cage), and poetry readings from the work of Marina Tsvetaeva.
35 – Jurassic 5 – Power In Numbers
I picked up a copy of this only a couple of months ago from a charity shop and have played it a lot in the car. Apparently the album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
34 – The Chemical Brothers – Come With Us
There are some really good tracks on this album, although I don’t think there were any massive ‘Hits’, I could be wrong about that though. This is their 4th album and ‘Star Guitar’ probably is the best well known track on it but despite some negative reviews I rather like it.
33 – Lemon Jelly – Lost Horizons
Lemon Jelly albums are generally their own special version of ‘feel good’. They are almost a brand rather than band with the their graphically designed images adorning the pages of countless magazines and the expensive collectors editions of their records. This is happy music made for cosy afternoons tucked up on the sofa and if you’re looking for something that’ll give you a bit of a spring in your step, then you really couldn’t do much better.
32- The Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day
Here we have a mélange of jazz, orchestral and digital samples which is primarily operating in a territory first mapped out by Bristol’s Massive Attack, if at a somewhat more rarefied and abstract level. The modern jazz and 20th century classical sensibilities are distinctive and well performed and, as Roots Manuva performs on one track, I am pre-disposed to liking it.
31 – The Roots – Phrenology
The Roots brand of hip-hop had a distinctly group-oriented musical sound and Phrenology builds from that, with the band filling their sound out and pushing it in a variety of directions for Phrenology. If you like things categorised, the band sound is a sort of tight soul/funk augmented with soul vocalists, including Musiq, Jill Scott, and, at the time, promising newcomer Cody ChesnuTT.
30 – The Coral – The Coral
Underrated is an entirely personal concept and I do say it far too often. More often or not the music is underrated by my and was in fact very popular which is usually as a result of my completely ignoring bands until many years later and then wondering why I paid no attention at the time. I picked up the CD of this in a charity shop a couple of months ago and it is really very good, and I’m only 17 years late in listening to it. There’s also something both amusing and endearing about a singer who pulls faces that make them look as though they are attempting a particularly troublesome shit.
29 – Tom Waits – Blood Money
Tom Waits is a genius, a total outsider who seems to do whatever the hell he wants and sod what people think. I rather like what’s happened to his voice, which is pretty much the sound of a man gargling a gallon of gravel, but with brilliant songwriting. He released two albums in 2002 and the other one is here too, it’s a close call between them.
28 – Tori Amos – Scarlet’s Walk
I’ve always had a soft spot for Tori Amos, another brilliant songwriter, but initially lumbered with the idea that she was the new ‘Kate Bush’, which she wasn’t. This album is 18 songs long and, perhaps, there are a couple too many, however, what to leave out? It’s an 18-track concept album that details the cross-country travels of Scarlet, a character loosely based on Amos, as well as the concept of America post-September 11, 2001. Perhaps the story wouldn’t make sense without all the songs.
27 – Tom Waits – Alice
Like the simultaneously released Blood Money, this album is previously unrecorded music from an opera production by Waits, his wife Kathleen Brennan, and longtime collaborator (“The Black RIder”) avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson, which explored the obsessive relationship between Lewis Carroll and the little girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell. I’d never heard of this opera, the songs are fantastic and I do wonder now about the show itself.
26 – Eminem – The Eminem Show
I am not a huge Eminem fan, but I can very much appreciate the impact he has and the crossover popularity. A careful listen to this album strongly suggests that the overriding emotion is the loneliness created by fame, money, and failed relationships, which is sad, but not a unique situation and it’s much easier to be sad if you’ve got money. What it does undeniably have is bloody catchy songs from a man who was the biggest pop star on the planet at the time.
25 – Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
Here is another band that I completely missed, they weren’t even on my radar. It wasn’t until I recently went to see Steven Wilson on tour last year that I started listening to the back catalogue and I was quite confused. My understanding was that it was Prog, which is part of it but it feels like there’s a lot of Pop in there, with hooks galore and more catchy choruses than you can shake a stick at.
24 – Gomez – In Our Gun
I actually though Gomez had broken up years ago, but they haven’t, they’re most recent album having been released in 2011, which I’ll check out along with a couple of others I’ve never heard. On the sessions for In Our Gun, the band also set aside some of their Americana influences in favour of tinkering with newer technology. All five members became fascinated by samples and loops and other electronic touches that could bring some new sounds to Gomez. At the same time, the band members worked to integrate the approach into songs that had an R&B or a folk-rock feel, allowing the effects to wash over tried-and-true traditions. Give ‘Even Song’ a listen, you might like it, if you don’t you’re wrong.
23 – Röyksopp – Melody AM
Melody A.M seemed to be playing everywhere back in 2002, at a time before MTV became unwatchable drivel it seemed like every 30 minutes they had a track playing. It’s a strange album in many ways, being a sort of after-club easy listening electronica which has an unsettling familiarity about it, and somewhere in there, a sense of chirpy sorrow, which is an odd feeling to evoke. It is super catchy and, for its genre, almost perfectly proportioned.
22 – Beth Orton – Daybreaker
I’ve seen Beth Orton a couple of times now and both times reminded me of not only the high quality of her songwriting but also of how much I like her voice, it’s almost lazy, and yet precise, which I have trouble making sense of. The first time I saw her was a seated concert with about 600 people in the audience, she was heavily pregnant and sat alone on the stage with just her acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The sound was stunning.
21 – Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around
I don’t think I really need to say much about this. If you don’t know it, where the hell have you been!?
20 – The Streets – Original Pirate Material
I have difficulties with this album, as I remember liking it on first and second listen but it had no staying power for me. It felt like listening to an audiobook repeatedly, however, going back and listening again I think I appreciate it more particularly in the context of what else was happening in music at the time. The references were instantly recognisable, mundane everyday issues of public transport, cheap drugs, fast food, and hangovers. There was no self aggrandizing, just brilliant phonetical descriptions of street life and culture.
19- Damien Rice – O
This album felt all conquering back in 2002, particularly when tracks from it were used in the film ‘Closer’. Today it is just as good as it was then, however, it does suffer from overplaying as many very popular releases often do. The songs are still incredibly good but that familiarity, over familiarity even, can, for me at least, have a detrimental effect. I do still give it a listen every now and again though.
18 – The Libertines – Up The Bracket
The Libertines were pretty casual and rough around the edges with a sound that could have come from the 66 or 76 rather than the beginning of the 00’s. The songs were brash and bold, funny at times and spoke of perfectly ordinary, mostly English things, with Sid James quotes adding to that particular Britishness. Ignore what happened afterwards, this album, a debut, was like a breath of fresh air at the time.
17 – The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
It’s quite the trick to make one feel small and insignificant but happy about it at the same time, which is what the Flaming Lips pull off with this album, which may or may not have an overall concept, it’s difficult to tell. There is a diverse array of subject matter covered, mostly melancholy ponderings about love, mortality, artificial emotion, pacifism, and deception, not the most heartwarming of subjects, but who can deny the beauty of ‘Do You Realize??’
16 – Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
An album loved by the critics and liked by me. It has been said that the album is complex and dangerously catchy, lyrically sophisticated and provocative, noisy and somehow serene. It has been called a masterpiece and was top 3 on lots of year end lists. I’m yet to figure out why, it’s good, but a masterpiece? I’m not so sure.
15 – William Basinski – The Disintergration Loops 1
Speaking of masterpieces, here’s one. Not from everybody point of view for sure, but from mine it is. The music was recorded from a series of tape loops that gradually deteriorated each time they passed the tape head, an unexpected consequence of Basinski’s attempt to transfer a collection of his old recordings from magnetic tape to digital format. The completion of the recording coincided with the 9/11 attacks, which Basinski witnessed from his rooftop in Brooklyn and the artwork features Basinski’s footage of the New York City skyline in the aftermath of the World Trade Center’s collapse. He would subsequently dedicate the music to the victims of the attacks. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to it, in its entirety and it has some kind of emotional effect on me that I find difficult to explain. It is not related to the twin towers attack, it just makes me introspective and thoughtful, and, of course, I have admitted many times to my love of repetition.
14 – Pearl Jam – Riot Act
I had a CD player in the kitchen, on top of the refrigerator, and this CD was in it for several months, just playing while I did other things, sometimes for just a song and other times the whole album repeatedly. It grew on me, mostly due to my being too bloody lazy to change the CD but also because those are the sort of songs on the album, they aren’t necessarily going to hit you right between the eyes, but there’s a good chance they will get to you in the end.
13 – Iron and Wine – The Creek Drank The Cradle
Simplicity is a wonderful thing. The sparse lo-fi sound of the album is attributed to Beam recording the tracks at home on a four-track recorder initially as demos. His intention was to pass these on to Joey Burns and John Convertino of the band Calexico who would provide a rhythm section on the finished piece. However the demos were released instead. I don’t know who made that decision, but it was inspired, these fragile, beautiful songs are a joy.
12 – Mum – Finally We Are No One
Here I go again, UNDERRATED! there, I said it. Múm (Icelandic pronunciation: [muːm]) are an Icelandic experimental musical group whose music is characterised by soft vocals, electronic glitch beats and effects, and a variety of traditional and unconventional instruments. The last sentence doesn’t do them justice, they are magical.
11 – Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
I know Coldplay are extremely popular, but personally I think they did 2 1/2 good albums, this is the second one, the next one is the 1/2. This topped a lot of year end polls, which is fair enough I guess but it was the popular choice, which is not how I judge things, after all, the best selling album of 2002 was Escapology by Robbie Williams, and it’s shit. That having been said, there are good songs on this and, for me, it’s in the correct place in this list.
Well, one must ask, ‘Do you own all the White Stripes records?’ and one must answer, ‘Yes I do, and am completely and utterly biased’. This was an album that showed progression, which continued through the next album, Elephant’ and on until they finally split. Despite the Guitar, Vocal, Drums format seemingly being limiting, it just isn’t noticeable, good songs are good songs and White Blood Cells is jam packed full of them.
8 – Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man – Out Of Season
Absolute beauty. I was already sold on Portishead and so was a tad worried what was going to happen with a solo album (sort of), I needn’t have been, tracks such as the delicately acoustic ‘Mysteries’ (below) are not Portishead, but they are Beth Gibbons and they are wonderful, like a photo album you forgot you had, opening it years later and feeling the mixed emotions of melancholy and joy and somehow being grateful for the moments you captured on film.
7 – Sonic Youth – Murray Street
This is one of my faviourite Sonic Youth albums which forced its way into my psyche by having tracks in various playlists that I listened to a lot back then. If you’ve never listened to the album I highly recommend it, great songs, and much catchier than one might expect.
6 – Godspeed you! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O
It is fair to say that GSYBE are not everybody’s cup of tea, and I’m good with that as they are very much mine. I saw them a few years ago at Warwick Arts Centre, on my own, and it was quite an intense listening experience. I do love the way the tracks build, often from almost nothing into lovely repetitiveness, layer after layer, into an almost classical crescendo.
5 – Lambchop – Is A Woman
Another band I saw at Warwick Arts Centre, again on my own, anti-social bastard that I am. I like things that are a little different, in this case Kurt Wagners phrasing, it feels almost desperately sad at times, and his use of words, the songs often feel to me like poems set to words, the Bukowski sort. A gem of an album.
4 – Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
I was given a mix CD that had no track listing and the track PDA from this was on it, although I had no idea what it was. When I finally figured it out I sought out the album and, having found it, played the damn thing to death. Interpol were compared to Joy Division a lot, and there is some of that influence there for sure, but also Echo & the Bunnymen amongst others, but they aren’t these bands, they are their own thing. Check out ‘NYC’, ‘Stella was a diver and she was always down’ and ‘PDA’ down below of course, but don’t limit yourself to those, just listen to the album.
3 – Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
A classic, which I wrote about HERE so I won’t again (because I’m lazy).
2 – David Bowie – Heathen
This is one of my favourite Bowie albums and to me it feels complete, unlike many of his earlier releases. It has none of the persona’s present that Bowie had previously used to such good effect, it seems more to be that he had found himself to be David Robert Jones, all grown up. The choice of cover versions are perfect, the Pixies’ “Cactus,” Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting for You” and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” all fit beautifully with the self-penned tracks. This album is a gem.
1 – Sigur Ros – ()
An album of 8 untitled tracks (though they were later named) with vocals in a made up language that nobody really understands is an unlikely resident of the number one spot, and yet here it is. () is an album of spacey, drifting ambience and brooding textural melodrama with songs that sometimes demand patient, observant listening. For me, music is more than a catchy hook or riff, it is about mood and emotion, texture and sometimes headspace, that place where you can go to get away from all your troubles, transported there on an analogue wave. An unexpected lifting of the spirits, a mild euphoria, a period of melancholy, it is all included. I love his album.
There are a lot of albums that were released in 2002 that could well have been in the 54 above, but they aren’t.
Below are the UK’s top selling albums of 2002 as promised, 2 made it into my list.
1 Escapology Robbie Williams 2 Missundaztood Pink 3 Escape Enrique Iglesias 4 A Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay 5 One Love Blue 6 By the Way Red Hot Chili Peppers 7 The Eminem Show Eminem 8 Unbreakable: The Greatest Hits Volume 1 Westlife 9 ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits Elvis Presley 10 Heathen Chemistry Oasis 11 Come Away with Me Norah Jones 3 12 Silver Side Up Nickelback 13 A New Day at Midnight David Gray 14 Greatest Hits I, II & III (The Platinum Collection) Queen 15 Fever Kylie Minogue 16 Let Go Avril Lavigne 17 Greatest Hits 1970–2002 Elton John 18 From Now On Will Young 19 Forty Licks The Rolling Stones 20 Feels So Good Atomic Kitten
Why not reply with your own top 10 of 2002? It’s harder than you might think!
I have been popping into the Charity Shops every now and again over the last several weeks and have, since the last time I posted about them, picked up 158 CD’s at an average of £0.33 each, so costing £52.14 in total. If I see something even remotely interesting then I get it, taste doesn’t really enter into the decision making process. So here is a list, don’t judge me, well do, but know I don’t care.
The Essential Tony Bennett (A Retrospective)
More Music To Watch Girls By
The Fat Of The Land
Bat For Lashes
Fur And Gold
Magical Mystery Tour
The Guide (Wommat)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
The Best Of (The Star And The Wiseman)
Stepping Out – The Very Best Of Joe Jackson
Paper Scissors Stone
Back On Top
Playing The Angel
The Marshall Mathers LP
Standing In The Way Of Control
Afro Celt Sound System
Volume 2 : Release
The Very Best Of
Yours Truly, Angry Mob
The Look Of Love
All Mod Cons
West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
The Divine Comedy
A Secret History: The Best Of The Divine Comedy
The Best Of Prefab Sprout: A Life Of Surprises
Boy Kill Boy
Panic! At The Disco
A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
Dirty Pretty Things
Waterloo To Anywhere
Days Are Gone
Los Grandes Ã‰xitos En EspaÃ±ol
Crazy Itch Radio
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Take Them On, On Your Own
Queens Of The Stone Age
Songs For The Deaf
Open Heart Zoo
Beauty Behind The Madness
Cieli Di Toscana
Magnolia – Music From The Motion Picture
Year Of The Gentleman
Welcome To Jamrock
I’m Breathless (Music From And Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy)
I watched a brilliant live broadcast by the BBC from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival celebrating the now defunct TV show Jazz 625 called Jazz 625 Live: For One Night Only. It was broadcast in black and white and, though the show was originally broadcast in the 1960’s it inspired me to randomly take a look at 1959.
My number 1 album from this year is pretty obvious when you get to it but there are some really interesting albums along the way, and there are literally hundreds more that could have made it in quite easily, but what I found interesting, looking back on this year from 60 years in the future, is the albums that were dominating the charts when held up against what is now considered the best of that year. Below are the top 10 albums from the middle of this year, and it’s reflective of the whole year:
South Pacific dominated the album charts (these are for the UK) for the whole year and there are so many soundtracks, well, without giving anything much away, none of these appear in my top 30. Speaking of which, I have actually done some research and listened to all of these and more to end up with the chart below, I know I’ve missed some great albums out but this is my considered best guess! Oh, and finally, some are marked with an *, which means I have a copy already, more on this at the end.
30 – Marty Robbins – Ballads And Trail Songs by Marty Robbins
To be absolutely honest I find the voice of Marty Robbins a little too polished for these songs, but they are good songs of their type and opening track Big Iron has been covered by Johnny Cash, and it sounds better to me when Cash sings it. Interesting fact is that the song was used in the console game Fallout: New Vegas and is known by a lot of the younger generation as a result.
29 – Shirley Bassey – The Bewitching Miss Bassey
I have an incredible amount of respect for Shirley Bassey having watched a documentary on Tiger Bay, the area of Cardiff where she grew up. To survive that and do everything she went on to do really is quite remarkable. This is an album of standards which includes what, to my ears, is a quite bizarre version of the Banana Boat song!
28 – Peggy Lee with George Shearing – Beauty & the Beat! *
I picked up a copy of this album for £0.50p from a charity shop I think. As far as I can see this is about the correct price, which is extraordinary for such a fine album.
27 – Leonard Bernstein / Columbia Symphony Orchestra / New York Philharmonic – Rhapsody In Blue / An American In Paris
Rightly or wrongly I’m just going to assume that everybody knows this.
26 – Blossom Deary – My Gentleman Friend
Until very recently I had absolutely no idea who this woman was, and I probabaly would never have known if I hadn’t stumbled accross her absolutely stunning version of Someone to Watch Over Me.
25 – Chet Baker – Chet
Baker specialised in ballads, mostly straight-ahead renditions of evergreen tunes by the likes of Tin Pan Alley writers Rodgers/Hart and Cole Porter. His renditions were somewhat linear, without any improvisational flourish but he was, of course a very capable trumpet player, on this set accompanied by Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, Herbie Mann on flute and Bill Evans on piano.
Baker was a heavy drugs user and by this point his voice couldn’t be trusted to deliver and so the album doesn’t feature his singing at all.
24 – Jimmy Smith – The Sermon *
The Hammond organ, is, in my view a shitty instrument that makes a shitty sound and they should all be collected in a big pile and burned. One notable exception is the one played by Jimmy Smith who somehow makes it sound so damn cool.
23 – Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me
Despite the extremely creepy cover the songs within are not.
22 – Gene Vincent – Sounds Like Gene Vincent
The mighty Gene Vincent with an album I never listened to until now, and it is incredibly good. As far as Rock and Roll is concerned it’s grittier, perhaps darker than many of the other albums in the same genre, at least to my ears.
21 – Miles Davis – Porgy and Bess
In case you didn’t know, Porgy and Bess is an opera by the American composer George Gershwin, with a libretto written by author DuBose Heyward and lyricist Ira Gershwin. It was adapted from Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward’s play Porgy, itself an adaptation of DuBose Heyward’s 1925 novel of the same name. There are loads of versions of it on record and this one by Miles Davis has no words of course but it is a wonderful album and has been on my wanted list for some time, I’ll get it eventually.
20 – Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book
More Gershwin, they were quite the thing back then, this time with Ella Fitzgerald singing some of their best known numbers. I’m somewhat confused by which album is the right one as there seem to be lots of versions with different covers, so as long as it is with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, then it is the right one.
19 – João Gilberto – Chega de saudade
This really was a groundbreaking 12 track bossa-nova album, half of which was originally released on three 10″ 78rpm shellac discs. It is just a lovely sound, cool, laid back and it makes me want a tall gin and tonic over ice in the sunshine, which is always a good thing.
18 – Billie Holiday – Billie Holiday with Ray Ellis and His Orchestra *
I bought a copy of this at a record fair a few years ago, it was £5, quite possibly the best £5 I’ve spent on a record. The songs are great, the performance is great and the sound quality is wonderful. It is probably my favourite album of hers even though it doesn’t really contain any of the songs she is most well known for. If I remember correctly, these are the last songs she ever recorded.
17 – Odetta – My Eyes Have Seen
I listened to this for the first time this week, although I have heard the odd track here and there over the years. It’s brilliant. I’ve started looking for a copy to buy but it is proving quite difficult as it may well have not been released over here in the UK with most of the available copies being in the US.
16 – Bill Evans Trio – Everybody Digs Bill Evans
There was some old footage of Bill Evans on the BBC from Cheltenham show, man can he play piano. The backing band, well it’s drums and bass, are amazing as well.
15 – Julie London – London By Night
Let’s never forget Julie, she doesn’t seem to get enough mentions in music documentaries and books etc. but Julie London had a beautiful, smokey, voice, and really knew how to present a song. Discount here later TV appearances and concentrate on the 50’s albums and they are full of quality.
14 – Duke Ellington – Anatomy of a Murder *
I bought a re-issue of this several years ago. This was one of the first films to extensively feature jazz in the musical score with the entire musical soundtrack composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and played by Ellington’s orchestra. Ellington and members of the orchestra pop up here and there in the film.
13 – Thelonius Monk Quintet – 5 by Monk 5
This album was recorded over three sessions in June 1959. In addition to Monk on piano, the musicians were Thad Jones (cornet), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Sam Jones (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). The title of the album comes from the quintet playing five of Monk’s compositions. These included the new “Jackie-Ing”, which Monk hummed to the others to help them learn it.
12 – Ray Charles – What’d I Say *
I’ve had this album since I started buying vinyl again a few years ago and I love the title track, which was essentially a studio jam, more and more every time I play it.
11 – Nina Simone – The Amazing Nina Simone
In just a couple of entries I make a startling confession! Until then, it’s Nina Simone, she was utterly brilliant and I still find myself listening to this today.
10 – Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come
Coleman’s 1959 Atlantic recording, The Shape Of Jazz To Come, brought his unique vision into focus for a wide audience. Most of them hated it at first. He ignored so much of what had gone before and forged his own path across different keys and chord progressions, but his vision from childhood, as he expressed it to Jez Nelson on Jazz on 3, was that “music was just something human beings done naturally, like eating”.
His influence is still felt as he was the template for so much of what was to come.
9 – Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue *
Well I can honestly state that I had never heard of Nina Simone until 2003, when she died and My Baby Just Cares for Me was released as a single and made the charts, resulting in hearing it on the radio. Quite how somebody so brilliant had failed to shine their light in my direction is a mystery to me, and entirely my own doing, but I’ve tried to make up for that gap in the intervening years starting with this album, a work of genius for which, if my understanding is correct, she never received a penny for.
8 – John Lee Hooker – House of the Blues
This album sounds as though it really was recorded in the building on the cover, it has atmosphere and authenticity by the lorry load and the vocal has that worn, knowing tone that tells you that this guy has lived. It has, for me, everything many people claim Clapton has, but really doesn’t, there’s no comparison.
7 – Howlin Woolf – Moanin’ in the Moonlight
Moanin’ in the Moonlight was the debut album by Howlin’ Wolf. The album was a compilation of previously issued singles by Chess Records and it is a stone cold classic. Smokestack Lightin’ is just about as close to a perfect blues song that it is possible to get.
6 – Chuck Berry – Chuck Berry is on Top
This is the third studio album from Chuck Berry and the appalling cover is not a fair indication of what’s included inside. There are so many great tracks included that it’s difficult now to understand the impact this would have had upon its release. They are so well known now but back in 1959 they were all new and influenced so many musicians that there are too many to list.
5 – Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles
Ray again, and the album title says it all. Again, it is hard to see now, all these years later, but this was a groundbreaking release at the time and caused a stir, particularly in the English music press with one reviewer writing “the mixture of gospel-style vocal phrasing with banal blues lyrics is most unsatisfactory, if not positively objectionable.” What a fool.
4 – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers *
If you press play on any video here, go for this one every time, not just for the great quote of “We sincerely hope you buy our record. God knows we need the money” but for the performance, the sheer joy of it written all over Art Blakey’s face (he’ the drummer in case you weren’t aware). They made an amazing record, one of the most loved Jazz albums ever pressed to vinyl.
3 – The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out *
I feel like everybody knows this one, I seem to have seen it popping up all over the place for a large part of my life, usually the track ‘Take Five”. The album was an experiment in unusual time signatures, particulalry those not usually heard in western music at the time, such as 9/8, heard by Brubeck on a trip to Turkey. The album received negative reviews upon its release, and the reviewers where all wrong.
2 – Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
I’ve only ever had this on CD, which is a situation I really must rectify. Mingus’s musical forebears figure largely throughout this album, “Better Git It In Your Soul” is inspired by gospel singing and preaching of his childhood, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is a reference (by way of his favoured headgear) to saxophonist Lester Young (who had died shortly before the album was recorded). “Open Letter to Duke” is a tribute to Duke Ellington, and draws on three of Mingus’s earlier pieces (“Nouroog”, “Duke’s Choice”, and “Slippers”). “Jelly Roll” is a reference to jazz pioneer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton and features a quote of Sonny Rollins’ “Sonnymoon for Two” during Horace Parlan’s piano solo. “Fables of Faubus” is named after Orval E. Faubus (1910–1994), the Governor of Arkansas infamous for his 1957 stand against integration of Little Rock, Arkansas schools in defiance of U.S. Supreme Court rulings (forcing President Eisenhower to send in the National Guard).
1 – Miles Davis – Kind of Blue *
Kind of Blue has been regarded by many critics as the greatest jazz record, Davis’s masterpiece, and one of the best albums of all time. Its influence on music, including jazz, rock, and classical genres, has led writers to also deem it one of the most influential albums ever recorded. Those writers got it right for once, and it could be nowhere else but number 1.
So you may have noticed that I have 9 of these 30 albums already, which is coincidence, I just happened to have them and didn’t check when they were released when I decided on 1959, however, having listened to all 30 of these and more to compile this list I now feel like I’d like to collect them all, which won’t be easy but I think it’s a nice little project.
I was 16 in 1983 and, to be honest, it wasn’t a great year in music for me. Choosing 30 albums for this list was difficult, not because of what to include, but actually finding albums to include. There are several albums that, had I been writing this list in 1983 I would have included, in fact, it would be a very different list indeed. Holy Diver by Dio, Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden, Thunder & Lightening by Thin Lizzy and suchlike would have been in the list, but those albums turned out to have no longevity for me and I haven’t listened to them for 30 years or more. So there is definitely an element of hindsight in the selections I made, a good example being the album at 25, I would never have listened to it at the time.
I’ve re-numbered these so many times that I have to stop and just post it. The moment I do I’ll want to change it again so let’s look at it as a guide only.
I may have missed something obvious, if I have do let me know, I’m happy to revise if necessary. So here we go again.
30 – Robert Plant – The Principle of Moments
I still have a copy of this. It was Plants second solo album and one could, at times, still sort of relate it to Zeppelins final studio album, In Through The Out Door. The two stand out tracks were In The Mood and Big Log.
29 – The Cure – Japanese Whispers
Technically a compilation but still, it had some great tracks on it. Again, I still have my copy and have played it recently and, as I’m writing this Im starting to think I should have put it higher. Maybe tomorrow I will.
28 – Siouxsie & the Banshees – Nocturne
Another I listened to only the other day, a double live album notable to me because it was the first time I heard Israel, which is a song I really love. Robert Smith of the Cure pops up again immediately as he plays guitar on it.
27 – Level 42 – Standing In The Light
I never wanted to see Level 42 but was dragged along by Dave, I’m not going to explain who Dave is, and I enjoyed it more than I expected. It has always surprised me quite how popular they were at the time as they didn’t seem to fit well with everything else that was going on in music. The were really good musicians though and had good songs, from this I think I like Micro-Kid best.
26 – The Waterboys – The Waterboys
I’ve always liked this album, and ‘This is the Sea’, both of which I bought when they were released, from Our Price in Leamington Spa. ‘A Girl Called Johnny’ should have been a massive hit single, it wasn’t. If you haven’t ever listened to this album you should give it a spin, it’s really very good.
26 – Tears For Fears – The Hurting
I’ve never bee a fan of Tears for Fears and have never really paid them much attention. There’s no denying that Mad World is a really good piece of songwriting though, even if it took the Gary Jules version to make that obvious.
24 – Genesis – Genesis
This is what I previously wrote about this album: One of the problems I have with this album is that I think that the track ‘Illegal Alien’ is a steaming pile of shit, I really do. I enjoy side 1 but as soon as I turn the album over I am confronted by said steaming pile of shit. There are decent songs on the album though and it spawned 4 singles, ‘Mama’, ‘That’s All’, ‘Home by the Sea’ and ‘Steaming Pile of shit’ (I won’t mention it again!)
I remember liking ‘Mama’ at the time and I’m pretty sure I have the 12″ single of it somewhere, although I’m not as keen on it now, I think it was of its time but ‘Home by the sea’ and a few others hold up still.
Theres a post about all the Genesis albums here. It has a graph.
23 – Mike Oldfield – Crisis
Moonlight Shadow really isn’t my favourite Oldfield track. At this point he seemed to be chasing hits, but there’s plenty more on the album which is worth a listen. I actually prefer every album he did before this one.
22 – The Jam – SNAP!
It’s a compilation, that’s true, but what a compilation! Pretty much everything you could want with the exception of Pretty Green, that woud have made it perfect, ot as close as one might get.
21 – Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
Eno’s most learned followers proclaim Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks as the best of his ambient productions. Thye must skip Silver Morning, composed by Lanois alone, which doesn’t fit with the rest of the album at all. Neither does Deep Blue Day but everything else is ambient brilliance.
20 – Peter Gabriel – Plays Live
There are number of reasons for including this live album, the first is because I had a copy at a time when I didn’t have many records, the second is because I saw Gabriel at Crystal Palace football ground in 1983 and the third is because it really is very good.
19 – Xmal Deutschland – Fetisch
I loved Xmal Deutschand back in 83.84. Take Joy Division, Siouxse & the Banshees and make them form a band, then make them only sing in German, brilliant.
18 – Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again
I never gave Depeche Mode much thought back then, it was probably not until 1990 and Violator that I really noticed them, but there are several albums, this being one, that were worth going back to listen to. I particularly like the keyboard break n Love, In Itself (below) which sounds like it is either from a completely different song or that the keyboard is just broken.
17 – The Rolling Stones – Undercover
This is, for me, the last good Rolling Stones album, nothing since has had any interest for me, and I have listened to most of them. This one was a bit of an event at the time, certainly in the circles I moved in, because it was good and because it had some really good tracks on it.
16 – Billy Bragg – Lifes a Riot
Billy Bragg writes really good songs and perhaps more people, if they are looking for songs to cover, should look at his back catalogue. The only one of note is Kirsty McColl’s version of New England. At 17 minutes long this album is brief, but brilliant.
15 – U2 – War
This is an album I bought on release. Opinions on U2 can be coloured by their releases after this album, with the huge concerts, some poor albums and more than a whiff of pretentiousness at times, but at release this was a cracking album.
14 . R.E.M – Murmer
This debut album from R.E.M was released 8 years prior to they’re worldwide explosion with Out Of Time but, partly due to Stipe’s vocal, they are instantly recognisable. No, this is not the career defining album but it’s a fine debut.
13 – Bob Dylan – Infidels
I’ve always felt this was an under rated album, Jokerman is pretty damn good and the penultimate track, I and I, is a favourite of mine. Give Adele the closing track from this album, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight, and she will have another massive Dylan penned hit.
12 – P.I.L – Live In Tokyo
A live album that draws on the brilliant early output from P.I.L. The front cover shot alone is worth a pace in this list, love it, but importantly I think is the how tight the band are and how much better they were than people may have expected.
11 – Big Country – The Crossing
Another debut album, and a corker. I had a copy and liked it but didn’t really connect with them fully until I saw them live at Reading Festival in this year. They put on a great show, and over the years I have looked back on it more fondly than I did at the time, I was 16, thought I knew everything but knew nothing.
10 – The Police – Synchronicity
I had, for the most part, lost any real interest in the Police after their 2nd album, probably due to songs such as De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, which I thought was absolutely crap. Despite this, Synchronicity was pretty much unavoidable, spawning such massive radio friendly hits as it did. I have been able to go back and listen again to all their albums with a more positive view I’m glad to say.
9 – Echo & The Bunnymen – Porcupine
‘Porcupine’ saw Echo & The Bunnymen at the height of their commercial powers, with their biggest hit ‘The Cutter’ opening the album. Despite this it is not a particularity commercial release with much of it being rather dark and experimental. Perhaps this is what makes it so good.
8 – Marillion – Script For A Jesters Tear
I was on a school trip to Birmingham for some reason, I can’t for the life of me remember why, all I can remember is driving past sex shops in the bus and seeing these really cool posters for Marillion, which would have been before their first album, this one, was released. When I did eventually hear them it seemed very much to me that they had been handed the baton by the Gabriel era Genesis, and that was fine with me. I saw them in 1984 at Reading Festival, or possibly 83, I forget, but it was a great set.
7 – Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues
Talking Heads were always off somewhere left of centre, never quite following the paths that others before had worn down before. Exemplified by Buning Down The House, it sounds like Talking Heads but not really anybody else, it is certainly instantly recognisable. To quote Rolling Stone:
The real art here is the incorporation of disparate elements from pop, punk and R&B into a coherent, celebratory dance ethic that dissolves notions of color and genre in smiles and sweat
6 – Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones
Well, Frank settled down in the Valley And he hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife’s forehead He sold used office furniture out there on San Fernando Road And assumed a thirty thousand dollar loan at fifteen and a quarter percent And put a down payment on a little two bedroom place His wife was a spent piece of used jet trash Made good bloody Marys, kept her mouth shut most of the time Had a little Chihuahua named Carlos That had some kind of skin disease and was totally blind They had a thoroughly modern kitchen, self-cleaning oven, the whole bit Frank drove a little sedan, they were so happy One night Frank was on his way home from work, stopped at the liquor store Picked up a couple of Mickey’s Big Mouths Drank ’em in the car on his way to the Shell station Got a gallon of gas in a can Drove home, doused everything in the house, torched it Parked across the street laughing, watching it burn All Halloween-orange and chimney-red Then Frank put on a top forty station Got on the Hollywood Freeway, headed north Never could stand that dog
5 – David Bowie – Let’s Dance
This was an album where Bowie wanted hits, and he got them through his collaboration with Nile Rogers and, on my favourite track on the album, with Giorgio Moroder. It was a massive success and I think it was probably his most complete release for several years, although there were high points in everything that followed.
4 – New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies
As I actually bought a copy of this album at the time and played it to absolute bloody death I feel it quite right that it should be high on this list. The moment the first track starts playing (Age of Consent) it takes me back back 36 years and I just think, bloody brilliant.
3 – Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels
The Cocteau Twins were a revelation to me, I loved everything about them and this music taught me that I didn’t have to understand the words and that there was so much more to music than I had previously been hearing. This eventually led me to listen to music in other languages, and long instrumentals, which I’d previously been rather bored by, because it didn’t have words.
2 – XTC – Mummer
I bought this album for one track, Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, which I adore, and everything else on it is a bonus, and what a bonus. I don’t see that much talk about Mummer compared to many of the other albums and I really do think it deserves to be up there with the rest. More great song writing, more great melodies, cutting lyrics, superb arrangements, well engineered/produced and bears up to repeated listening. There were three singles released, Great Fire, Wonderlandand Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, the last being the only one to touch the charts at number 50.
1 – The The – Soul Mining
I had this on cassette when it was first released and played it to death. It caused quite a stir with folks round our way when it was released, which was quite surprising as these were Prog and Rock fans, Zeppelin, Floyd, AC/DC, Sabbath and so on. ‘Soul Mining’ wasn’t a good fit but it seemed to slowly spread until everybody knew about it. I seem to remember that there was an accompanying story that it was just one guy, Matt Johnson, who made the whole thing in his bedroom, which would have resonated with a lot of people as they were trying to do exactly the same thing, except it wasn’t true. It was studio recorded and they had a record deal, it wasn’t ever a DIY affair, how could it have been with a Jools Holland piano solo on it?
As an album it is a strange listen as your own mood can discern exactly how it makes you feel, it can be an uplifting listen, or it can be rather heart wrenching, full of self-doubt, but it is always a good listen regardless of which mode you are in as there are enough pop elements in there to make it listenable. It talks about destruction but in a good way, a positive way, “you can’t destroy your problems by destroying yourself” but has many moments that search for answers, “How can anyone know me, when I don’t even know myself”.
Here we are, back in 1976, a year in which I celebrated my 9th Birthday and also the year that Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the CN tower in Toronto, Canada is completed and is the tallest free standing structure in the world. The first commercial Concorde flights take off during January of 1976 as a regular passenger service began. “Rocky”, “Taxi Driver” and “All the Presidents Men” are in the cinema and on TV we have new episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “Kojak” and “M*A*S*H” from the U.S and home grown shows such as “The Old Grey Whistle Test”, “Are You Being Served?”, “Superstars”,“The Tomorrow People”, “Tiswas”, “Jim’ll Fix It”, “Space: 1999” and “The Sweeney”. I never liked Jim’ll Fix It, even from an early age Jimmy Saville creeped me out, but Superstars, won every year by Kevin Keegan, was great.
It was an interesting year in music for me as, being only 9, I would mostly only hear what was on the radio and, for the most part, that would be 45’s, which were somewhat at odds with the albums from this year that I have in my top 50. The top selling 45’s of 1976 were:
Save Your Kisses for Me
Brotherhood of Man
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Elton John and Kiki Dee
A Little Bit More
If You Leave Me Now
I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)
The Roussos Phenomenon EP
December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)
The Four Seasons
Under the Moon of Love
You to Me Are Everything
The Real Thing
Forever and Ever
Young Hearts Run Free
The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)
When Forever Has Gone
Can’t Get By Without You
The Real Thing
You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
The number 1 selling 45 by Brotherhood of Man was this years Eurovision Song Contest winner and was truly horrible. As it’s listed I Think it wise to take this opportunity to include a video of The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key) by The Wurzels as it is one of the greatest songs ever put to vinyl:
Now let’s begin the actual top 50 albums of 1976 according to me.
Seed of Memory
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Rock and Roll Heart
No Heavy Petting
War In Babylon
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
King Tubby & Yabby You
King Tubby’s Prophesy of Dub
Patti Smith Group
The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein
Fela Kuti & Africa 70
Man In The Hills
Gimme Back My Bullets
Fela & Africa 70
24. Abba – Arrival. Now I know there will be people out there amongst my vast readership of up to 3 people who will be suprised by this at number 25, however, despite what one might think of ABBA there is no denying that they were massive and this is the source album for Dancing Queen, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Money, Money, Money, which I can’t deny enjoying as a 9 year old listening to the radio.
23. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – The Roaring Silence. We had this at home and I was always intrigued by the cover. I didn’t know at the time that there was a Springsteen cover on it, because I had no clue as to who Springsteen was, but Blinded by the Light is the best track on the album by far.
22. Emmylou Harris – Elite Hotel. This would never have been anywhere near a top 10,000 had I not picked it up for £1 or so at a used record store this year. It won a Grammy or something like that I think, but I’d never paid any attention to her really. Here version of The Beatles Here, There and Everywhere is quite lovely.
21. Blondie – Blondie. It’s not Parallel Lines, but the pre-cursor to it and contains tracks that are much rougher but are a clear indicator, in hindsight, as to what was to come.
20. Rush – 2112. This album has probably slowly slipped out of favour with me over the years, from top 3 all the way down to where it is now at 20. There are a number of reasons for this, such as familiarity, age, the fact that it’s all bollocks really. I do still love it but just don’t feel about it now the way I did when I was a kid.
19. The Upsetters – Super Ape. It’s only recently that I’ve really started listening to Dub & Reggae and its an adventure with there being so much to discover. This album is relatively new to me but I absolutely love it, it’s Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry of course so no surprise there, the guy is a genius of the genre.
18/17 AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/ High Voltage. Two classic AC/DC albums from the Bon Scott era. Not much to choose between them really but I did anyway.
16. Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading. This is a fantastic album and it’s easy to forget the impact and importance she had in British music, in 1976, Robin Denselow wrote in The Guardian that the album “showed that we now have a black artist in Britain with the same sort of vocal range, originality (in fact even greater originality in terms of musical influences) and lyrical sensitivity” as Joni Mitchell.
15. Genesis – Wind and Wuthering. There were 2 albums released in 1976, both post Peter Gabriel and while I like them both this one falls slightly short of the other, although, it is, in many ways much fuller musically. So on another day I may well switch them around depending on my mood.
14. Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record. Jeff Lynne is a great song writer and it is on this album that I think he really found his feet. Songs like Telephone Line and Livin’ Thing still stand up to scrutiny all these years later.
13. Wings – At The Speed Of Sound. My favourite Wings album and one of two that I owned as a kid, the other being the live album ‘Over America’ which we had on two cassettes, one was mine and the other was my brothers. I think this album was a high point in McCartneys post-Beatles career.
12. Ted Nugent – Free For All. Another album that I had as a kid and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be like Cat Scratch Fever but it isn’t at all, which turned out to be a good thing as it is much, much better.
11. Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail. The second appearance by Genesis and, in my opinion, the better of the two albums released in 1976.
10. Bob Marley – Rastaman Vibration. The eighth studio album by the Bob Marley and the Wailers, the album was a great success in the US, becoming the first Bob Marley release to reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart (peaking at number 8). Marley is only credited as writer on one of the songs having named family and friends as the writers to avoid contractual disputes with his publishing company.
9. The Eagles – Hotel California. It was, of course, a huge album and that can’t be ignored, but I may be guilty of including it so highly just because it was. Overall, as a complete album, I don’t think it works that well but it does have several really good tracks.
8. Led Zeppelin – Presence. Though not considered to be their greatest work I’ve always been really fond of it and find it quite an achievement considering it was recorded in 18 days and Robert Plant had to sing from a wheelchair as he was recovering from a car accident.
7. Queen – A Day At The Races. This was the period that I thought Queen were at their most relevant, from the self titled debut to 1978’s Jazz, they had a run of 7 albums that showed development and growth and then, well, they became a pop act and I lost almost all interest in them.
6. Joni Mitchell – Hejira. An album of great writing that asks many questions but provides few answers, concentrating instead on the search, the journey for answers rather than any conclusions. Mitchell rarely disappoints and despite much criticism of her move to a more jazzy sound, backed by the fretless bass of Jaco Pastorius, time has taught us that her musical direction decisions are superior to those of reviewers.
5. Stevie Wonder –Songs In The Key Of Life. At this point in his career Wonder was overflowing with creativity and this can be seen in the e.p that was included with the double LP just to get all his songs in. Considered by many to be the greatest album ever, including Elton John and George Michael, it isn’t perfect, but it’s approaching it.
4. Steely Dan – The Royal Scam. The fifth studio album by Steely Dan, featuring more prominent guitar work than the previous album, Katy Lied, which had been the first without founding guitarist Jeff Baxter. Steely Dan never made a bad album, just different degrees of excellence.
3. The Ramones – The Ramones. Historical significance does play rather a large part in the Ramones being up here at number 3 as it influenced so very much that I like that came after it. Clocking in at less than 30 minutes it isn’t long, but it’s impact is still felt.
2. David Bowie – Station To Station. Blending funk and krautrock, romantic balladry and occultism, this album has been described as “simultaneously one of Bowie’s most accessible albums and his most impenetrable”. It was the pre-cursor to the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ and already pointed towards those three albums.
1 Bob Dylan – Desire. I used to have 2 Bob Dylan albums, the other one was (Live) ‘At Budokan’, so ‘Desire’ was played a lot, well, when you consider I probably had 60 or 70 albums at the time the choices were somewhat limited, certainly compared to today. The repeated listening count is off the scale so the songs on this album are carved into my bones and, even though I know it is not the best Dylan album, it’s the best Dylan album.
Written February 22nd 2015 – Sometime in the 80’s (I think it was 1987) I saw Bob Dylan at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a little odd as the support act, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, did a long set that lasted about an hour and a half and then Dylan came on with the Heartbreakers as his backing band and did about an hour. At the time I was a bit disappointed, but I have subsequently managed to get a bootleg recording of the gig and it is a much better gig than I remember it being. I think that one of the reasons is that I was listening to ‘Desire’ a lot at the time and they didn’t play a single track from it, so it was my own expectations that were at fault more than anything.
And that is my top albums of 1976, feel free to disagree with me, because I disagree with myself most of the time.
Christmas is fast approaching and I’m sure everybody is as excited about what the Christmas Number 1 will be as I am, which is actually not at all, I couldn’t care less, however, there was a time when it held a much greater importance. The Beatles have the most Christmas Number 1s with four in total. The first three, I Want To Hold Your Hand, I Feel Fine and Day Tripper/We CanWork It Out topped the Official Singles Chart consecutively from 1963–1965. Hello, Goodbye was the fourth in 1967. Spice Girls also had three consecutive Christmas Number 1s: 2 Become 1, Too Much and Goodbye from 1996 to 1998.
Versions of charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas? have topped the charts at Christmas three times, Band Aid in 1984, Band Aid II in 1989, and finally for Band Aid 20 in 2004. The first version of Do They Know It’s Christmas? is the biggest selling Christmas Number 1 of all time, with over 3.8 million copies sold.
The only song to get the Christmas Number 1 twice by the same artist is Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. It first topped the Christmas charts in 1975 and then again 16 years later, following the death of Freddie Mercury.
All fascinating facts but by far the most interesting Christmas Number one story for me is from 2009. The X Factor winner had, for the previous four years, been pretty much guaranteed the Christmas Number 1, and they were all pretty crap. To refresh your memory, in 2005 the Christmas Number 1 was That’s My Goal by Shane Ward:
Apologies for the overload of bland, it really is awful but winning the X Factor was, at this time, an absolute guarantee of sales and the show itself was almost offering the winner the Christmas Number 1 as part of the prize for winning. 2006 saw Leona Lewis win the show and her single was A Moment Like This. Now there is no doubt that she has a great voice and she does seem to be a lovely person who has managed a decent career as a result of the show. I don’t like the song very much either but the girl can sing:
Still hungry for more? Of course you are, how could you not be? On to 2007 and Leon Jackson with When You Believe, drivel, absolute drivel. Jackson has been dropped by his record label and has done nothing much of any note since his one and only album. Here it is, enjoy:
Still with me? You are? I’m surprised. On to 2008 and Leona Lewis light, or rather Alexandra Burke, who is very much like Lewis, just not as good or as likeable. There is a also terrible ridicule due for taking on Hallelujah and ruining it, Alexandra, do you have any clue whatsoever what you are singing about?:
In 2008 something was happening, a push back against the contrived crap being vomited into our faces by the X Faxtor had begun. A husband and wife team, Jon and Tracey Morter, started a Facebook campaign to get Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up to number one as a nod to the popular internet meme of Rickrolling. While the campaign did gain some traction, managing to get the song back into the charts 21 years after its initial release, eventually peaking at number 73, it ultimately failed and the number one spot, unsurprisingly, went to Alexander Burke, it’s up there if you can bear to listen again.
The couple had another go, this time trying to get Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 hit Killing in the Name to the Christmas Number one spot. It’s a pretty fine choice, an anti-establishment mantra with the theme of not doing what you’re told. It was also pretty sweary, so that would be funny.
Over a million people ended up liking the Facebook page resulting in the story being widely covered by the media. Lead guitarist of RATM, Tom Morello, was supportive of the campaign from the beginning and the band pledged to donate all the proceeds they made from the sale of the song that Christmas to the homeless charity, Shelter. The band also thanked fans for their support in 2010 by playing a free gig in London.
The song’s lyrics, which contain the word “f*ck” about seventeen times, depending on the version you’re listening to, were deemed unsuitable for radio. This came to a head when the band was invited to play a live version of the song on BBC Radio 5live and they were specifically requested to not say the line “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” Lead singer, Zack de la Rocha, screamed the offending line four times during the song before being pulled off air.
The Band were signed with a label owned by Sony BMI, which also owned the label X Factor winners signed with, so the same company that was the source of the initial outrage just made more money than they normally would have thanks to the promotion and competition driving up sales. Although that was not really the point of it.
RATM did find themselves, rather surprisingly and probably inappropriately, with the Christmas Number 1. This is what it beat to the Number 1 spot that Christmas, Joe McElderry’s The Climb:
I’d rather listen to a dog throwing up to be honest.
So, just in case I haven’t made it obvious enough, Rage Against The Machine gets my vote for the best ever Christmas Number 1. I do hope it starts to appear on compilations such as ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas’:
Here is the full list of all the Christmas Number 1’s since the charts began:
Having just listened to this I may now be regretting putting it at 14, the track Ghosts alone is forcing me to rethink, and that’s without even considering Visions of China. Yes, I got it wrong, I’m moving it.
As you can see, it is now in the top 10.
I remember seeing Japan on the news and there was no interest in the music, it was all about whether David Sylvian was a man or a woman, absolutely ridiculous looking back on it now.
This was to be their last proper release, and it was a high point to go out on.
9 Heaven Up Here – Echo & the Bunnymen
This is the second album from The Bunnymen and an album album, by which I mean it isn’t singles album. It had a couple but they aren’t particularly well known. It is a collection of really very good songs, but is perhaps the least accesible of their catalogue.
All Of My Colours is a particular favourite of mine but it is a solid collection and well worth digging out if you’ve not given it a listen before.
8 Wilder – The Teardrop Explodes
There was a time, not that long ago, where this album would have been higher up in a chart of 1981 but it definitely would always have been higher than the album that proceeds it at number 9. There was a rivalry between the two bands and I always sided with the Teardrops. Time changes things though and, while I still love it, I can see with a wider lens nowadays and appreciate this album while understanding that those albums that follow it in this chart, by small margins, deserve to be where they are.
7 Ghost in the Machine – The Police
This was at number 12 but I just listened to it again after not having done so from start to finish for quite some time, I’d forgotten just how good it is. So now it is here.
Critically it has been well regarded over the years, In 2000 Q magazine placed Ghost in the Machine at number 76 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2012 the album was ranked number 323 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the band’s highest-ranking work on the list. Pitchfork Media ranked it at number 86 in their list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s. It will appear again further up this list, well part of it will.
6 Red – Black Uhuru
This is quite a recent discovery for me. I’d heard of them but it was not until I bought a job lot of random 7″ singles that I listened to them. Then I bought this only a couple of weeks ago and like it so much that it appears all the way up here at number 6.
Black Uhuru were formed in 1974 in Kingston, Jamaica. They are one of the most popular reggae acts ever and were the first to win a Grammy. Founded by Derrick “Duckie” Simpson, Don Carlos and Rudolph “Garth” Dennis they rose to international fame in the ’80s, when they were joined by the rhythm section of Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare and aldo Michael Rose as leadsinger. Since I bought this it has hardly been off the turntable.
5 The Flowers of Romance – Public Image Ltd.
This is nasty, menacing, head-spinning music built mostly around the drum patterns and it is really very different to anything else that was around at the time. It had little bass, possibly as Jah Wobble had departed at this point and what bass duties there were had to be taken up by guitarist Keith Levine.
It’s a challenging record, but if all music was easy then it would be boring as hell. I have to say that I need to be in the right mood to listen to this, usually a fairly dark one
4 Faith – The Cure
A dark record, which is one would think the opposite mood in relation to the album title, if you have it, it would be joyous surely, so we can conclude that here there is a search or a loss or a complete absence.
There was a desire from Robert Smith for the songs to sound funereal and several studios were tried before Morgan Studios provided the required atmosphere. The front cover, designed by former and future member Porl Thompson, is a picture of Bolton Priory in the village of Bolton Abbey in the fog,just ic case you had ever wondered. There was only one single taken from the album, ‘Primary’, have a listen, it’s brilliant.
3 Moving Pictures – Rush
There are many reasons why this particular album appears so high up the chart, one of which is that I saw the band at Wembley during this period and it was one hell of a gig, also it contains one of my favourite rock instrumentals, YYZ, named after the international code for Toronto airport. Also, opening track, Tom Sawyer, is still a firm favourite of mine. I did a top 50 Rush songs and it did rather well in that.
The musicianship, writing and performance is spot on and the resulting album is still regarded as one of their best.
2 Computer World – Kraftwerk
Anything by Kraftwerk is going to figure pretty highly in any chart I put together and this is no exception. Pocket Calculator is still one of my favourite tracks, possibly because it is actually rather simple and humorous, to me, which is not something people generally expect from them.
I’m the operator of my pocket calculator. They were amazing things at the time, computers you could carry in your pocket, amazing, and everybody spelt 80085 on it as well of course, which was its main purpose.
You know those old films where jetpacks and flying cars are supposedly the future? With this album Kraftwerk had a narrower focus and give us their vision of what was going to happen to music and to the world, it really is rather prophetic.
1 Nightclubbing – Grace Jones
For some this may be quite a surprise, but Grace Jones has been vastly underrated over the years and, at times, even mocked. There’s a video on youtube where she is introduced by Paverotti on stage to sing a duet and the crowd actually laughed, and then she sang. I’ll pop it down below, judge for yourself.
In 1980, Jones headed to Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas to work with producers Alex Sadkin and Island Records’ president Chris Blackwell, along with top session musicians and the renowned reggae duo of Sly & Robbie. The album they created has a clear influential link to Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Grimes, FKA twigs, and more. It can alos be felt in the work of Massive Attack, Todd Terje, Gorillaz, Hot Chip, and LCD Soundsystem, they all owe a debt to the template set down by Jones on this album.
5 of the tracks were cover versions ( Not included on the original album is a brilliant version of Tubeway Army’s “Me! I Disconnect From You”) and Jones owns them all, inhabiting the songs as though they never belonged to anybody else. There’s Walking in the Rain by Flash in the Pan, Demolition Man by The Police, Use Me by Bill Withers, Nightclubbing by Iggy Pop and I’ve seen that face before, a reworking of Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango”. In such company it would seem an almost impossible proposition to write an original that could stand shoulder to shoulder with them, but we have Pull Up To The Bumper which, it could be argued, outshines them all.
This is a a brilliant and influential album that, in my opinion, could sit nowhere else but at the top spot.
Yes, it’s the one with Golden Brown on it, which is a fabulous track in itself but you get all the other tracks as well, a bonus!
I’ve just had a look and I have seven Stranglers albums, without doubt the first two are my favourites, with their debut being top of this list, and by the time this came out I had cooled on them somewhat but despite not necessarily fitting in with anything that proceeded it, Golden Brown is so good it drew me back in.
24 Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club
This may appear to be a rather controversial choice at first, but it is husband-and-wife team Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, who are both also known for being members of Talking Heads, and, to be quite frank, this is a great album of its time.
Wordy Rappinghood, Genius of Love, a cover of Under The Boardewalk, what the hell more could you possibly want? Listen to it, love it!
Ram sam sam, a ram sam sam
Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam
Haykayay yipi yaykayé
Ahou ahou a nikichi
23 Controversy – Prince
The fourth album from Prince, and the one prior to real breakout 1999, or it was from my perspective as this album didn’t touch the UK charts.
While not eschewing the overtly sexual lyrics of earlier releases, it adds different subject matter such as religion, work, nuclear war and Abscam (this was an FBI sting operation).
There were four singles drawn from the album, the title track, Sexuality, Let’s Work and Do Me, Baby. Again, the UK charts were not particularly trouble by these but it is still one of the better albums in the Prince catalogue.
22 Discipline – King Crimson
I know this is not everybody’s favourite King Crimson period but I’m really rather fond of the trilogy of this, Three of a Perfect Pair and Beat. The musicianship is masterful, the song construction complicatedly wonderful and I find it highly listenable.
It certainly isn’t for everyone, I can see that, but having bought this on its release I’ve been listening to it for nearly 40 years (which seems ridiculous to me) and I am yet to grow tired of it.
21 Shot of Love – Bob Dylan
Dylan albums are often patchy, usually from a production or performance perspective, rarely from a songwriting perspective and this album is no exception. It has good songs throughout and it ends with, I believe, one of Dylan’s very best in Every Grain Of Sand, but not this version. The version from Bootlegs Volume 1 -3 is far superior but the song is the song and it’s on here and it is quite brilliant.
I couldn’t find a studio version so below is a later live version but I recommend visiting your favourite streaming service and giving it a proper listen.
20 No Sleep ’til Hammersmith – Motörhead
This is an album that, back in the day, I really wanted. A friend had it and we played it LOUD! But only at his house when everybody was out.
While Motorhead had a long career and put out a lot of albums, for me it is everything leading up to this live album that is the best they ever did. Everything after this doesn’t really hold much interest for me at all. Here we have Ace Of Spades, Bomber, Motorhead, all live all brilliant on one of the best live rock albums ever pressed to vinyl.
19 Evangeline – Emmylou Harris
This isn’t a very good album. So why is it up here at number 19 then? Well, Mr. Sandman and a reworking of Robbie Robertson’s haunting “Evangeline” with outstanding harmonies from Dolly Parton raise it up as does “Spanish Johnny,” sung with Waylon Jennings, and a dazzling version of the standard “How High the Moon”
The rest is not good at all but those 4 tracks are wonderful.
18 Stray Cats – Stray Cats
I liked the Stray Cats at the time but wouldn’t admit it to anybody and I’ve gone back and listened to a lot of their tracks in the last few years. This, their debut, was released following two hit singles “Runaway Boys” and “Rock This Town,” both energy filled rockabilly songs that hearkened back to the 1950s era of pure rock & roll. It was a high watermark for them in terms of chart success but it was a very good period for them with “Stray Cat Strut” being released as the third single and doing well. It’s rockabilly, but has elements of The Clash in places and even the odd bit of 2 Tone. Don’t dismiss it, give it a listen, it’s really good.
17 Go for It – Stiff Little Fingers
I think everybody knows by now that Green Day are basically a Stiff Little Fingers tribute band, don’t they?
This album was a bit of a progression for them and I think it’s fair to say that the previous albums contain their better known songs, but this is a solid pop-punk release that pre-dates what is essentially a revival in the 90’s by a decade. There is that scene in the film High Fidelity that references SLF, and it’s there because it’s right. Enough of that though, really good album, really good band.
16 For Those About to Rock We Salute You – AC/DC
After Back In Black, the return with a new frontman, Brian Johnson, following the death of Bon Scott, I had low-ish expectations of this. Back in Black is an almost perfect rock album, so how could they possibly even come close to doing it again? Well they did, FTATR is about 0.001% off being as good as Back In Black, the width of a fag paper.
After this, I completely lost interest, there is a possibility that they reached the heights of these two albums again but I somehow doubt it.
16 Talk Talk Talk – The Psychedelic Furs
I initially discovered the album Forever Now in 1982 and worked my way backwards through the two prior releases and loved all three of them. While this album does contain probably their best known track in Pretty In Pink, it has much better songs on it and there was a period where one of the first three albums took up the majority of turntable time and any mix tape I made had a track from one of the albums on it.
Things dropped off a bit quality wise in future years but those first three albums are just wonderful.
15 Movement – New Order
“Movement exists almost exactly in between Joy Division’s post-punk sound and the synth-pop style that would come to define New Order ” – Slant Magazine.
It’s true, it does, probably because it was the first release of the band after the demise of Joy Division and contains tracks they worked on from that earlier period. It’s also quite difficult to just suddenly become something else and it wasn’t until the next album that the more Synth laden sound really emerged. On a few of the tracks one could imagine Ian Curtis taking the lead vocal and it fitting in seamlessly with the Joy Division catalogue, and on some, well, no.
14 Juju – Siouxsie & the Banshees
The very first track I heard by Siouxsie & the Banshees was, I think, The Staircase (Mystery) which would have been 1979 and then heard debut single Hong Kong Garden after that. I loved it from the beginning and was still buying albums in 1991. This one, their 4th, contains a couple of absolute stunners in Spellbound and Arabian Nights, which were the singles taken from it. The other tracks are no slouches and it is a good album from start to finish
It is, for me, one of those albums where the singles draw you in and there is plenty more to discover once you step over the threshold.
13 Almost Blue – Elvis Costello and the Attractions
The first album released in this year, the second being Trust, which I remember causing a bit of fuss at the time as it just wasn’t what people were expecting. It is basically a country album. I remember watching TOTP and thinking, ‘WTF is this?’ as they performed A Good Year For The Roses, and it was only later that I came to appreciate just how good a song it was, and still is.
The songwriting is strong throughout with Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down and Success being a couple of highlights for me.
12 Face Value – Phil Collins
This is an album of songs built around the emotions felt when separating or going through a divorce. It is honest, and sometimes it feels like an open wound, but it launched a ridiculously successful solo career for Collins when, originally, he had never intended to release the songs as a solo album at all.
It is very much in the Duke camp, sonically, ratyer than aligning with Abacab that was released by Genesis in ’81, incuding as it does, Behind the Lines, which also appears on the former.
Solo albums can often be rather disappointing affairs but Collins really hits the mark, and keeps hitting in throughout every song on this album.
11 My Life in the Bush of Ghosts – Brian Eno & David Byrne
The first time I ever listened to this was last year whenI saw a copy at a record fair, bought it, took it home and played it right away.
It is a load of samples of snippets of radio broadcasts and Middle Eastern music set against percussive, repetitive mind-funk and is an undeniably incredible feat of tape editing and rhythmic ingenuity. It’s an album for listening to, the sort of thing you give your attention to, and, to me, listening to it so many years after its release, well, it still sounds new.
35 The Electric Spanking of War Babies – Funkadelic
I don’t know that much about Funkadelic really but I like this, even though it is not, from what I know and have read, the peak of their output it still has a really good feel about it. It was the last album from them that included George Clinton.
As one would hope it is as funky as hell and although the title of the album sounds like gibberish it is, apparently a reference to the vietnam war. Warner Bros. didn’t want to release this Funkadelic record as a double album, so George Clinton whittled it down to a single disc. It also wouldn’t approve the Pedro Bell cover art of a naked woman inside a phallic spaceship: Bell covered most of it up with a big splash of green and the message “OH LOOK! The cover that “THEY” were TOO SCARED to print!”
34 Tattoo You – The Rolling Stones
There are people who like anything the Stones release, I’m not one of them, generally I find most of their albums to be patchy, certainly those after the 70’s. This album was culled from about 10 years of outtakes so that they had an album out to coincide with their 1981 American tour. It opens with Start Me UP, which I seem to remember was the first of their songs to be used in an advert, for Windows 98. The album closes with Waiting on a friend, which sounds better without the visuals in the video below I think! Everything in-between is perfectly acceptable but doesn’t shine like the aforementioned tracks.
33 Raise! – Earth, Wind & Fire
How could anybody resist album opener Let’s Groove, it is a classic by almost anybody’s standards and the soulful grooves and pop hooks carry on throughout the album.
They have been described as one of the most innovative and commercially successful bands of all time with Rolling Stone calling them “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing” and declared that the band “changed the sound of black pop”. All this is probably true.
32 Dance – Gary Numan
This was not, in my opinion, one of Numans best releases. While it had the hallmarks of his previous work it always sounds to me as though he was drawing too heavily on the sound of Japan, the band not the country. This is perhaps not that surprising as Japan Bassist, Mick Karn, plays on much of the album, and plays well, but it doesn’t all fit together that well as a whole for me.
If you look at the previous three albums, Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, then this doesn’t stand up well against them, not that it is a bad album as such, more that it suffers from the legacy of these other albums. This was a time when you could measure the success of an album by how many singles were released from it, this had one.
I feel a bit mean sticking this at number 31 but console myself with the knowledge that it is here at all. I really liked predecessor Duke, but for me this marks the decline of the groups musical output, and to some extent the end of my association with them. After this album, which I will very occasionally listen to, the others that follow are pretty much dead to me.
The album was released with four different embossed covers simultaneously across the country, all depicting the same collage but with the paper shapes in different colors. The four different cover variants are usually identified by the colour of the largest upper shape adjacent to the title lettering; this shape being coloured navy blue, red, peach, and yellow.
The album sold a lot, there were several singles taken from it and many people love it. I don’t, I find it listenable.
Possibly the most unavoidable song of 1981 was taken from this album, Don’t You Want Me? which, if memory serves me correctly, was at Number 1 in the singles charts for 103 weeks that year. Five of the ten tracks were released as singles and all were hits to different degrees.
I think that this was right place, right time, right sound as it seamlessly aligned with the zeitgeist of 1981. The only thing I’d really heard of theirs before this was Being Boiled, which is a completely different proposition to this more pop oriented chart friendly feast.
29 Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret – Soft Cell
I had pretty much discounted this album but a couple of months ago I went to see Jools Holland at Warwick Arts Centre and Marc Almond came on and did a few songs, he was much better than I expected and I picked up a cheap copy of this from the used record store as a result. I don’t like all of it to be honest, but it is a solid release, including Bedsitter, included below, which I’d completely forgotten about. Obviously the two big singles were the Gloria Jones Cover ‘Tainted Love’ ans ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ but there’s plenty more here to like. Extra kudos as the album was created on a very low budget; it was supposedly recorded almost entirely with a ReVox tape recorder, a borrowed Roland drum machine belonging to Kit Hain, a small, preset Roland bass synthesizer, and an NED Synclavier, belonging to producer Mike Thorne.
28 Trust – Elvis Costello
Costello’s original intent with Trust was to cross the melody of Armed Forces with the rhythm of Get Happy!! The songs on the album dealt with a general sense of disenchantment he felt during the time, with the recent election of the Conservative government as well as tensions within his first marriage, which gave them an overall cynical tone. As a result, the general lyrical content of the songs describe a world that is essentially the opposite of what the album title implies. Earlier working titles were “Cats and Dogs” and “More Songs About Fucking and Fighting”
The singles released from this album weren’t hits, the highest chart position being #60 but this is not an indication of quality in this instance, the writing and performances are of the highest order.
27 Wha’ppen? – The Beat
NME named this the 4th best album of 1981, they were wrong, however, despite it’s lack of hit singles it is still a jolly fine album, with a mellower sound and, arguably, better song writing than its predecessor. I’d argue against that to be honest though.
I saw The Beat supporting P.I.L at Oxford O2 a little while back and they were really good, although missing Dave Wakelin. Rankin Roger did a wonderful job, with his son, of fronting the band. I don’t remember them playing any tracks from this album though.
26 Still – Joy Division
Still is a 2 LP compilation album consisting of previously released and unreleased studio material and a live recording of Joy Division’s last ever concert, performed at Birmingham University. It was released on 8 October 1981 by Factory Records, and was intended to both combat the trade in bootlegs and give fans access to recordings that were not widely available at the time.
It’s Joy Division, so of course it’s good. My main complaint is that the cover is a sort of cardboard material and seems designed to become increasingly crap over time, well my copy has at least. Oh, and no, Love Will Tear Us Apart isn’t on it.
1981 was a strange year in music for me. I had was coming out of a rock only phase and embracing some of the music I liked but wouldn’t admit that I liked. Below is a list of my top albums for 1981, some from the time they were released and some in retrospect, that I discovered later. It is all, as always, just my opinion and if you think there is glaring omission then tell me.
45 Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks – Hanoi Rocks
This may not be viewed as an auspicious start but in 1981 I was 14 and this sort of thing still appealed to me. I actually saw them a couple of years later and they weren’t all that good to be honest, but about 5 albums later they did a great Creedence Clearwater Revival cover so they are sort of here on the strength of that.
I had always thought they were from Sweden, but I just looked it up and it turns out they are from Finland, I wasn’t far off. So below is the track ‘Tragedy’ taken from this album and I’m not recommending it, I don’t think it’s very good. This is a terrible way to start a best of year, sorry.
44 Future Shock – Gillan
I really should have listened to this again before including it, one of the lyrics is a contender for worst ever, it’s in the video below, see if you can spot it, it’s early on.
So I did really like Gillan before this album, and there were parts of this I liked as well, at the time, but I can pinpoint this release as the point where I completely lost interest in him, being annoyed when he fronted Black Sabbath at Reading Festival a few years later, where once I may have been intrigued.
I do realise that I’ve just said that the first two albums on this best of list aren’t very good. Let’s just accept that they are here mostly due to nostalgia and move on
43 Mob Rules – Black Sabbath
Changing your singer can be a difficult thing to pull off, but Sabbath managed it by becoming a different band to some extent. The predecessor to Mob Rules, Heaven And Hell, was a triumph, this album ever so slightly less so but still containing some great rock tracks and, in ‘Sign Of The Southern Cross’ an epic. It’s down below, you can listen to it if you like.
From opener Turn Up The Night to the closing track, Over and Over, you know what you are in for and the two albums fronted by Ronnie James Dio may not be as venerated as those by Ozzy Osbourne but they are part of the Sabbath catalogue and shouldn’t be ignored.
42 Lord Upminster – Ian Dury
This is a long way from being the best album Dury released. I wrote about it Here and gave it a rating of 6.4, which is low for me. The album recording was a shambles with Dury writing the songs on the flight to Jamaica to record with Sly and Robbie. It’s not the method to get his best work but it did result in ‘Spsticus Sutisticus’ which is still one of my faviouroite Dury tracks. The Body Song is pretty good as well.
If you were looking for an introduction to the work of Dury then start elsewhere would be my advice.
41 Marauder – Blackfoot
I loved Blackfoot and this was and still is what I consider to be their best album. If you haven’t heard them then to find them you would be looking in the category ‘Southern Rock’ alongside the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd (who lead singer Ricky Medlocke later joined).
I went to see them at the Hammersmith Odeon and it was a great show with tracks taken from this and their previous two albums, Strikes and Tomcattin’. They plyed what the fans wanted to hear and, from my position in the balcony, I enjoyed every minute of it.
40 Intensities in 10 Cities – Ted Nugent
I don’t necessarily agree with his politics, but I knew about none of that when I was buying his albums from the late 70’s and early 80’s. This was a live album, ten songs s suggested by the title, that weren’t on any of the studio albums.
I no longer have a copy but I my pick one up if I see it cheap as I loved it at the time, and pretty much everything that preceded it, well, I was probably the target demographic at the time.
39 Fair Warning – Van Halen
The first Van Halen album is one of the best debuts in the genre and the two subsequent albums hd their highlights, but it was this, their fourth, where they managed to again put together a consistently good album that drew on everything they had done before but moved them forward. Unfortunately, after this, they were done. The next album, Diver Down, was dreadful and 1984, while it no doubt made them a lot of money, didn’t sit well with me as it just had too many keyboard driven tracks. This, for me, was the pinnacle of their development as a band and everything after was pale by comparison.
38 Diary of a Madman – Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy made two great albums, this and its predecessor, Blizzard of Ozz. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the albums that followed but after the death of guitarist Randy Rhodes the songs just never seemed s good to me.
Opening with Over the Mountain it starts strong and maintains that all the way through to the final track. The image is bollocks of course and I tend to ignore all that in favour of the music itself, which most who like this sort of music would agree is right up there with the best.
37 Walk Under Ladders – Joan Armatrading
And now for a change of pace. I have said many times that the work of Jon Armatrading is under-appreciated, because it is. The re-sale value of her many early albums is between £1 and £2 generally, which demonstrates that there is no real demand for it.
The opener, I’m Lucky, was the single from the album, and is possibly it’s best known track, but there are others here worth exploring, such as The Weakness In Me, a beautiful song.
36 Signals, Calls, and Marches – Mission of Burma
An album that I discovered later based on hearing the brilliant opening track That’s When I Reach For My Revolver that I my well have first heard as a cover version by Graham Coxon of Blur.
It my well be considered an E.P in certain catalogues but I’m including it as an album, because I can, and it is more than worthy of inclusion.
This is a difficult year to put into a best of order, there’s so much and, like a lot of music, what is a favourite today might be less so tomorrow. At the time of writing this is what I think but am always open to suggestions about where things appear and any omissions. So here we go, a subjective changeable top 30 of 1974’s album releases (And yes, the year of release is debatable at times but don’t worry about it).
Oh, and at the end there are the albums considered and not included, feel free to demand that they go in, but you have to also demand that an album is removed. So let us begin with the top album, just for a change:
1 Kraftwerk – Autobahn Not just the best album of 1974 but quite possibly the best album of the decade. You can trace genres back to this album, such as Eurotrance, dance, techno, hip-hop and house, even Disco owes a debt to the drum machine beat of Kraftwerk, their influence can be seen in much more than the aforementioned though.
Autobahn is really listenable and futuristic sounding even now, 44 years later, and I have repeatedly stated my love of repetition, which is apt, and this fits the bill very nicely thank you, with the title track clocking in at just under 23 minutes of travel, wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn. If you’ve heard the 7″ single then forget it, it doesn’t do the full length version justice, from the first slamming of car doors and the starting of the car Kraftwerk are taking the listener on journey, one that is too long for 45.
“Kometenmelodie 1” (“Comet Melody 1”)
“Kometenmelodie 2” (“Comet Melody 2”)
“Morgenspaziergang” (“Morning Walk”)
2 Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic Well, let’s be honest, these guys have never made a bad album and this, like all the others, is jam packed with great songwriting and composition performed by an incredibly tight and precise band. Opening with Ricky Don’t Lose That Number and including Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Barrytown and With A Gun, it’s a wonderful listen from start to finish.
I’m not one to look behind I know that times must change But over there in Barrytown they do things very strange And though you’re not my enemy I like things like they used to be And though you’d like some company I’m standing by myself Go play with someone else I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown Don’t believe I’m taken in by stories I have heard I just read the Daily News and swear by every word And don’t think that I’m out of line For speaking out for what is mine I’d like to see you do just fine But look at what you wear And the way you cut your hair I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown In the beginning we recall that the word was hurled Barrytown people got to be from another world Leave me or I’ll be just like the others you will meet They won’t act as kindly if they see you on the street And don’t you scream or make a shout It’s nothing you can do about It was there where you came out It’s a special lack of grace I can see it in your face I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown
3 Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway I listened to this again at the weekend and if you take it track by individual track I don’t think it deserves to be at number 3 in this list, but if you take it as a whole, complete with the accompanying story and factor into that how bloody much I loved it as a kid, then I have no choice but to bung it in the top 3. It is one of rock’s more elaborate, beguiling and strangely rewarding concept albums, it has Peter Gabriel as Rael, a Puerto Rican street punk who descends into the New York underground to experience a series of surreal adventures, including, if I’ve read it right, having his bollocks cut off and stolen and put in a tune, which is stolen by a Raven. Just another day at the office then.
4 Joni Mitchell – Court And Spark The sixth album from Joni Mitchell which was an immediate commercial and critical success, and is still her most successful album. it infuses her folk rock style with jazz inflections that would dominate her next release, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. It’s one of my favourite Mitchell albums, with great tracks like Help Me and Free Man in Paris being surrounded by more of Mitchells great compositions and performances.
5 David Bowie – Diamond Dogs This ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, this is genocide Still in the Glam Rock period but post Ziggy Stardust this was a UK number one fuelled by the upbeat hit Rebel Rebel, but it’s actually a bloody depressing album at its heart. Tracks like We are the dead, 1984 & Big Brother are not exactly fun subjects but, even so, it makes foran interesting song collection, and it is Bowie after all. It’s also the album with the controversial album cover, the one where Bowies bottom half is a dog showing his bollocks, which was later changed.
6 Tom Waits – The Heart Of Saturday Night Recorded with jazz trio (drums, bass and tenor sax) and an orchestra here and there, this album is really solid for a second release from a relatively new artist at the time. The title track is in itself quite brilliant, and it contains some of my favourite lyrics:
Is this the crack of the pool balls, neon buzzin’?/Telephone’s ringin’, it’s your second cousin/And the barmaid is smilin’ from the corner of her eye/Magic of the melancholy tear in your eye
Added to this are Diamonds on my Windshield and a load of other great tracks and you have a great album.
7 Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom In 1974, ‘Rock Bottom’ won the French Grand Prix Charles Cros Record of the Year Award, I’ve no idea if that is important or not but it is a fact now shared. It also has Mike Oldfield on it, for one track, which some suggest was an effort to boost sales by association, but I suggest that this is bollocks.
8 Bob Marley – Natty Dread Here is an album that could be considered a failure have barely touched the charts upon its release, but for me it is still one of their best, although I could say his best as this was the first album where it wasn’t just the Wailers but became Bob Marley & the Wailers. The opening 3 tracks are worth buying it for alone, Lively Up Yourself, No Woman, No Cry and Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) and the rest of the tracks are brilliant as well.
9 Yes – Relayer Considered by some to be the best thing they ever did, me, I’m not so sure, but it is a fine album. It has three tracks, with side 1 being taken up by the 20 minute long ‘Gates of Delirium’ and side 2 has ‘Sound Chaser’ and ‘To Be Over’. The cover is certainly one I remember well even though I was only 7 when it the album was released, the Roger Dean covers were quite the thing for a good while with kids in art classes at school ripping them off left right and centre.
10 Stevie Wonder – Fulfilingness’ First Finale well it’s Stevie and this one is considered to be from his ‘Classic’ period. The brilliant No. 1 hit “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” launched a pointed criticism of the Nixon administration bolstered by clavinet, drum machine, and a Jackson 5 cameo. The album also won 3 Grammy’s, which is nice.
11 Gentle Giant – The Power And The Glory I have a great fondness for this album. I think one of Dave’s brothers had it and we did play it sometimes at Dave’s house. Everything about the music was all a bit odd to my ears, which were probably about 12 years old at the time, so 5 years after the album was released. I’m no Gentle Giant expert but from what I have heard, this was the pinnacle.
12 Rush – Rush It’s Rush, I grew up with them and this is their first album, certainly not their best but it was the first step for a lot of great albums that came later and it is actually very good in its own right. For some reason it does remind me of Led Zeppelin 1 though. This album was recorded before Neil Peart joined the group so who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t as he did become the main songwriter.
13 Tangerine Dream – Phaedra I’ve only been listening to Tangerine Dream for the last couple of years, perhaps because I couldn’t appreciate what they did before, but now am more open to different things. They’ve released a lot of albums over the years and many I’m not that keen on but this is a fabulous album. I used to be in a band and the Dad of the drummer had loads of Tangerine Dream albums, I discounted them out of hand, bad move by me.
14 King Crimson – Starless And Bible Black I’ve had this for years having bought my copy some time in the eighties, several years after its release but even then it was rather odd, both of its time and wildly futuristic. A couple of the tracks were recorded live and then overdubbed in the studio with the crowd noise being filtered out, so they were, essentially live improvisations that made it to a studio album. The musicians involved were so good that this was a perfectly acceptable method for them. The title track itself is like 6 different tracks that are melded together into a whole but possibly don’t belong together at all, yet it works.
15 Funkadelic – Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On This is the sixth studio album by Funkadelic on which the lyrics generally take a backseat to the music and the jamming. It is one of the most popular Funkadelic albums among fans apparently and considered an essential album for fans of lead guitarist Eddie Hazel who co-wrote all of the album’s songs. The title track is a banger and the performance below is odd and brilliant.
16 Bob Dylan – Planet Waves It’s Dylan, so there’s going to be some good tracks on it. I would put opener A Night Like This and Forever Young as a couple of Dylan classics but for an artist who has had a few suspect albums during his career this is a solid set. Many of the songs take on darker overtones, with lyrics suggesting “death (‘Dirge’), suicide (‘Going, Going, Gone,’ a song that doesn’t toy around with the idea), and the brick wall that love collides with when possessiveness curdles into obsession (the overstated contradictions of ‘Wedding Song’).
17 Status Quo – Quo This is not quite as obvious a choice as it might have been a couple of decades ago. There was a time when Quo were less pop and more rock and roll, and the whole three chords thing hadn’t arisen. They were a bloody good band, I even went to see them at the Hammersmith Odeon and it was a great gig. This album doesn’t have recognisable singles on it but it opens with live show regular ‘Backwater’ and continues in a similar vein right through the album.
18 Ann Peebles – I Can’t Stand The Rain I love this album and have love the title track since I was eight years old. It was on the radio a lot then and it became a firm favourite of mine which has not waned at all. The album is more than just that one song though, there’s the brilliant I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down (Covered with chart success by Paul Young and a few others) and it is a really solid set of songs. It’s been on my want list for a while and I will find a copy eventually.
19 Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) I do love the work of Brian Eno, including now his contributions to early Roxy Music. This is an album I’d heard but was not really that familiar with, but listening to it again I think it is very much a grower and it has recently been re-issued so I may very well get my own copy, although the ones I saw a little while back may have been deluxe editions or somesuch as they were pretty expensive.
20 Roxy Music – Country Life I had never really liked Roxy Music until a couple of years ago, on a whim, I bought a job lot of 6 albums based solely on an Old Grey Whistle Test performance that had been repeated on BBC2. I’m glad I did though as I was completely wrong about them. The album that changed my mind was For Your Pleasure, which put me in the right frame of mind for this, their next release. I think I’d first really noticed them in the 80’s which was a bit lounge pop and not at all what they had originally been.
21 Mike Oldfield – Hergest Ridge I grew up with this album which was the difficult second album after the massive success of tubular bells and and album, by his own admission, that Oldfield sort of threw together as he was having difficulty with the success that his debut album had brought him. I listened to it a hell of a lot and loved it, along with Ommadawn which I may have actually worn out it got so many plays. I liked pretty much everything up to and including the live album Exposed released in 1979 but became a little more distant from it all when the tracks became shorter and things were coming out as singles. I’ve picked copies of a few albums up in recent years though and I was probably a bit hard on it originally.
22 Stanley Clarke – Stanley Clarke One of my favourite Stanley Clarke albums, this and School Days I should think are my top two. Clarke is an amzing bass player but alos a composer and the quality of the playing on this album is right up there with the very best. A particular favourite of mine sees out side 2 of the album, the 4 part Life Suite, have a listen, it’s really very good.
23 Average White band – AWB An album that I do actually own, and a bit of a classic really. They are a Scottish funk and R&B band that had a series of soul and disco hits, mainly between 1974 and 1980. They are most likely best known for their million-selling instrumental track “Pick Up the Pieces”, and this album in particular. They have been sampled by various musicians including the Beastie Boys, TLC, The Beatnuts, Too Short, Ice Cube, Eric B. & Rakim, Nas, and A Tribe Called Quest, Christina Milian, as well as Arrested Development– making them the 15th most sampled act in history.
24 Hatfield And The North – Hatfield And The North I’d heard of them and heard a track on Radio 6 several months ago but I only recently listened to this album in full and really rather liked it, it’s prog and they are one of the Canterbury bands along with Soft Machine, Caravan, Gong and a few others, so perhaps it is an acquired taste or maybe it would have been necessary to grow up with this sort of music. In case you were wondering, the band name is taken from a road sign that used to be on the A1 out of London.
26 Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard I’m not a big fan of Clapton, I just don’t get it at all. I appreciate that he’s a good guitarist but a lot of what I’ve listened to over the years sounds somewhat sterile to me, including one of the tracks on this album, the Bob Marley cover, I Shot The Sheriff, play the original and then the cover and I think that explains what I mean. It’s here in this chart because we had it at home when I was a kid, it may have been mine, or maybe I borrowed it but I played it a lot and really liked it at the time and there are some really good tracks on it, just not the Marley cover.
26 Toots & The Maytals – In The Dark Probably best known for tracks such as Pressure Drop and Monkey Man, the latter of which I think I first heard when it was covered by The Specials, but they turned out great track after great track and this album is just wonderful. It includes a cover of John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads and it’s brilliant, as well as 54-46 was my number which is also brilliant. Another album now on my wantlist, which is an ever growing beast!
27 King Crimson – Red There isn’t much that King Crimson have released that I haven’t mostly liked, or at least there’s something on every album for me to like. This is one of the albums I don’t actually own, (I just checked, I have eight) so have never given it a good listen and I wasn’t disappointed. The album opens with the title track, which you can listen to below, and is a driving, hard rock instrumental featuring multiple time signatures including 5/8, 7/8 and 4/4. Its polyrhythmic melodies use octatonic and whole tone scales. That almost makes me sound as though I know what I am talking about (Don’t be fooled, I don’t)
28 Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information Another album that I knew nothing about but damn, it is so good, even on the first listen and another that I just must get a copy of. Inspiration Information gained a huge cult following during the 1990s with the emergence of rare groove and acid jazz. It was lauded by such musicians as Prince and Lenny Kravitz. Due in part to this regained interest, the album was re-released on April 3, 2001, by David Byrne’s independent label Luaka Bop Records.
29 Fela Kuti & Africa 70 – Alagbon Close When putting this top 30 together I listened to loads of albums, and this was one that I’d never heard of before. I was absolutely blown away by what I was listening to and this is definitely an album that I will be looking out for in the future. Fela Kuti was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick. He has been called “superstar, singer, musician, Panafricanist, polygamist, mystic, legend.” During the height of his popularity, he was often hailed as one of Africa’s most “challenging and charismatic music performers.”
30 Kiss – Kiss Therewas a period in the early eighties where I was absolutely fascinated with Kiss. I had Alive II I think, no idea whatsoever what happened to it, and at some point I had Unmasked, it’s whereabouts are also a mystery. I don’t think I ever saw anything of them and only had the album covers to go by although I seem to recall seeing Kiss in an episode of Scooby Doo. I think I would almost certainly buy a copy of Alive II again if I saw it. I may even have a little look on Ebay or something to see if I can pick it up cheap.
And these were the ones that didn’t quite make it in, although any of them could have, on another day:
Neil Young – On The Beach
Supertramp – Crime Of The Century
Queen – Sheer Heart Attack
Queen – Queen II
Big Star – Radio City
Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece
Frank Zappa – Apostrophe
I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight – Richard & Linda Thompson
Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado
Sparks – Kimono My House
Deep Purple – Burn
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping
Lou Reed – Rock N Roll Animal
10CC – Sheet Music
The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll
Leonard Cohen – New Skin For The Old Ceremony
John Lennon – Walls And Bridges
Sparks – Propaganda
Deep Purple – Stormbringer
Miles Davis – Get Up With It
Cluster – Zuckerzeit
Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different
Herbie Hancock – Thrust
New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon
Harmonium – Harmonium
The Beach Boys – Endless Summer
The Meters – Rejuvination
Can – Soon Over Babaluma
Gil Scott-Heron / Brian Jackson – Winter In America
Abba – Waterloo
Slade – Slade In Flame
Eagles – On The Border
Renaissance – Turn Of The Cards
Harmonia – Musik Von Harmonia
J. J. Cale – Okie
Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky
Back in 1981 the now defunct weekly music paper, Sounds, published an All-Time Punk Top 100 which I have recreated for you below using Spotify. If you play song 1 (which is 100 in the list it will play up to 100, which is number 1 on the list. A countdown is always better than a count up I think.
I think its fair to say that whoever compiled this Top 100 was rather fond of The Exploited as they appear 9 times but what it does show is that when the poll is created has a big effect on what appears in that poll. In the case of this one there is a glaring omission, well several, but the biggest must be the absence of The Ramones. That’s the thing with then and now, then there wasn’t access to everything and as we had plenty of home grown punk music to listen to why go further afield? To be fair though, there isn’t any Buzzcocks either, or X-Ray Spex so its difficult to see what criteria was being used but I would suggest that time is a big factor as we look back on that period some songs remain fixed in the memory and others have faded. This is demonstrated by Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, once considered the best album ever made but as each year goes by it slips further and further down those charts and is often overtaken by Revolver, which I agree with, it’s probably my favourite Beatles album.
If I was compiling my own list it would be very different, but I wouldn’t have remembered the Anti-Nowhere League and I should (they did a great ‘Streets Of London, I’ll put it at the end of this post).
I was not really a punk at all at the time, I was too young really, but I did listen to a lot of these tracks and still have some of them. At some point I’ll find a more recent top 100, there’s bound to be one out there, and put it here for comparison.
Actually, here’s So What as well, which comes with a warning, the lyrics are appalling and hilarious in equal measure, move on if easily offended:
This list was for a Radio Show that I never recorded. As it was 40 years since 1977 it seemed a good time to look back and see what was really the best, album wise, from that time. Now that it is 2018, 41 years doesn’t seem quite the same milestone so it is now a list instead, and like all lists of this nature it is entirely subjective, based on my own experiences, likes and dislikes. If I’ve missed something obvious do let me know though, it can always become a top 32, or 33 or 34.
31 Abba – The Album
I don’t think that anybody can really deny that Abba were a hit making machine and, that they were damn fine songwriters and performers. They aren’t for everyone of course and, if I recall correctly, they never really made it massive in the US as they did in Europe. I’m not the biggest fan at all and I find a lot of it a bit too saccharine for my liking, on the other hand, some of it is actually very dark indeed
30 Ennio Moriccone – Excorcist ii
A genuinely terrible fim that mamages a 20% rating at rotten tomatoes, and quite rightly. I think the majority of the budget was spent on Richard Burton and getting Morricone to do the score, which is really excellent, unlike Burton in this role, although, he will always find some redemption with his voice.
29 Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
I can understand why some folk might think that this album should have a higher position but I think it has worn me down over the years. There are several albums to come that I would just rather listen to, in fact, I can’t remember when I last put this on the turntable and gave it a spin. It is undeniably a great album, but maybe too FM Radio friendly for my tastes nowadays, still, I’ll undoubtedly contradict that later.
28 Vangelis – Spiral
Apparently, this album is based on a dancer’s appreciation of the universe and how it spirals into infinity, a concept which came to Vangelis through his own pirouettes. That may be true but what is certain is that this is one of Vangelis’ most accessible recordings, and remains essential listening for fans of electronic music in general, in my opinion.
27 Joan Armatrading – Show Some Emotion
I have repeatedly spoken of the quality of Armatrading’s songwriting and of her vocal delivery, she is underrated I think, or if not that, then somewhat forgotten. Her early output is great and pretty much unwanted with albums in perfect condition selling for a £1. It’s no risk, pick a few up if you see them.
26 10CC – Deceptive Bends
We had this on cassette when it came out and it was played to death. ‘Good Morning Judge’ is a great opener followed by the single, ‘The Things We Do For Love’. There are a couple of iffy tracks on it but I loved it as a kid and, for the most part, still do.
25 Motorhead – Motorhead
I can’t claim to have known much about Motorhead back in 1977, I think my first experience was with ‘Bomber’ in 1979, but that opened the door to the two earlier albums and this, the debut, is rock solid.
24 Junior Mervin – Police & Thieves
I heard the Clash first which led back to this, backed by The Upsetters , produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, it’s a winner. The title track is well known of course but every track on the album is quality, if you haven’t checked it out already give it a go.
23 Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True
This is what you get for £2,000 worth of recording sessions. VH1 named it as the 80th greatest album of all time, and Rolling Stone 168th. I think that represents good value for money. The original release did not include ‘Watching the Detectives’, it was added on subsequent pressings after it became a hit single. I’m not sure if it is better with or without to be honest.
22 Blondie – Plastic Letters
The album before the one that sent them stratospheric, but the one where they first came to my attention with the cover Randy & the Rainbows Denise, re titled Denis. I loved Blondie, I was a teenage boy, so of course I did. It was Parallel Lines where I really got into the music, but this album has some real high points as they move towards the Disco-Pop-Punk that was to come.
21 Queen – News of the world
I had this on cassette and I would tape my portable cassette player to the handlebars of my chopper pushbike playing it as loud as it would go as I cycled up and down the street. The neighbours must have bloody well hated me. I know the album so well and the two opening tracks, perhaps the most obvious to like, are not my favourites from it, if pushed I’d pick Sheer Heart Attack and Spread Your Wings. Best album Queen made I think.
20 ELO – Out Of The Blue
I absolutely coveted this album in ’77. Every track that was released as a single and made the charts I taped off the radio, there were 5 I think. I never owned it back then, although I did get the next release (Discovery) from WH Smith’s in Didcot, I had to take it back twice as it was scratched in the same place both times.
19 Grace Jones – Portfolio
I am of the opinion that Ms Jones is rather undervalued. Some of the albums she has released during her career are quite brilliant but I get the sense that she is better remembered by her antics than the music, although one does inform the other a little. On this album there is a 7 minute 27 second version of the Edith Piaf track La Vie En Rose, and it is an absolute belter.
18 Rush – A Farewell to Kings
I discovered this one a few years after it was released, probably in ’79 but saw them perform several of the tracks on the ‘Exit Stage left Tour’ back in the 80’s. The era of Rush is not my favourite really but, well, it’s still Rush and I do remember how big a deal they were among myself and my peers at the time, including the back panels of denim jackets having Rush artwork painted on them with airfix paint.
17 Talking Heads – 77
I have convinced myself that I watched the Old Grey Whistle Test where Talking Heads performed Psycho Killer. I’ve seen that performance so many times since that the memory is smudged, but it is possible even though I would only have been 11, actually, 12 as it was ’78.
16 Yes – Going for the One
An album we had in the house, it was my brothers but it spent some time on the downstairs turntable so I played it a lot. At the time I was mostly interested in the shorter tracks on this but over time I’ve grown to enjoy the whole thing and do still listen to it on a regular(ish) basis. Wonderous Stories made the charts of course and at that age that was my main source of music.
15 David Bowie – Low
Part of the Berlin trilogy of albums and considered by many to be his best album, though not by me. Probably the reason for that is that I haven’t really given it enough of a chance, which I really should do. I missed it when released and have had just a few occasional listens over the years, it’s extremely good, of course it is, and the cover is a pun, which is funny.
14 John Martyn – One World
A masterpiece, simple as that. The album is notable for parts of it having been recorded outdoors. In particular, “Small Hours” was recorded late at night in the English countryside. The sweeping soundscapes on the album are partly due to the consequential presence of ambient sounds (such as water from a nearby lake) and natural reverb, there’s also a collaboration with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and Steve Winwood was on there as well.
13 Television – Marquee Moon
Another album I totally missed at the time but I’ve played it to death since I stumbled across it. The title track itself at 9:58 is worth buying it for on its own, quite where that came from at that time from this group I don’t know but it is rightly regarded as a classic nowadays.
12 The Damned – The Damned
What can I say? Ilike the damned, that they didn’t seemto take themselves too seriously nd that they are credited with releasing the first UK punk single in New Rose, which is on this album and is great. If you ever want to know what pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll is then play them this album.
11 Peter Gabriel – 1 (Car)
The first four Gabriel solo albums are brilliant, and this is number one of the four, not as commercial, containing experiments that perhaps don’t quite work, but when they do, they are a glorious thing to behold. It is the one with ‘Solsbury Hill‘, that’s on side 1, but I prefer the whole of side 2. ‘Here Comes The Flood‘ is probably my top track from it.
10 Iggy Pop – The Idiot
I’ve grown to like Iggy more since listening to his Radio 6 show fairly regularly, but this album, co-written with David Bowie (except for one track where guitarist Carlos Alomar is also credited) is packed with quality tracks that I find myself repeatedly going back to. I’ve been streaming it asI don’t have a copy but I will be on the look out for one.
9 The Clash – The Clash
The album opens with one of my favourite Clash tracks, Janie Jones and is packed with great tracks, there’s the Junior Mervin cover, Police & Thieves, White Riot, Career Opoortunities, it’s a great album and speaks to what was happening to music at the time as the mainstream was being challenged.
8 The Stranglers – Rattus Norvigicus
I’ve had a copy of this for at least 35 years and love it as much today as I did when I first heard it. It is dark, visceral even at times and seems to have a coating of grime over every track, and that is what makes it great. Anybody whohas never listened to this album all the way through needs to go away and do so right now. I saw them live in 1983, loved it.
7 Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express
Kraftwerk always seemed to be years ahead of everybody else and this still sounds as though it could have been released yesterday, in 2014, the LA Times called it “the most important pop album of the last 40 years.” which is high praise indeed, but it is a claim not without merit. I tried to get tickets to the recent tour but the damn things sold out in seconds.
6 Pink Floyd – Animals
I understood Dark Side of the Moon but it took me a lot longer to figure out Animals, It was a concept album that provides a scathing critique of the social-political conditions of late 1970s Britain, I was 11, I couldn’t really be expected to figure that out for myself really. I read Animal Farm at school in 78 or 79 and then started to make some connections. Now I love it.
5 David Bowie – Heroes
The second Bowie album of 1977 and the one of the two that I’ve connected with more. The album was marketed with the strap line “There’s Old Wave. There’s New Wave. And there’s David Bowie …” which pretty much summed up most of his career.
4 The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks
I had several of the singles back then, but not the album. My friend had it and I got to listen to that when I went round his house. To be honest, it was the perfect album for a somewhat rebellious 12 year old. It is now pretty much the same for a not so rebellious 50 year old. Every track a classic.
3 Steely Dan – Aja
The peak of their album output in my opinion, everything that had gone before had been leading to this. Fagan ands Becker were an incredible writing partnership, absolutely precise in what they were doing and able to sound like nobody else. Brilliant album.
2 Ian Dury & the Blockheads – New Boots and Panties
I’ve written about this album extensively before. It’s an all time great and it is a very thing dividing line between what is at number 1 and this. It could have gone either way.
1 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus
Every home should have one. In 1999, Time magazine declared Bob Marley’s Exodus, released on June 3, 1977, the best album of the 20th Century. I’m not sure about that, but it’s down as my best of ’77 for sure. This album is on the turntable a lot, even after 40 years, it just doesn’t get old.