I make repetitive music♬ original sound – Verian Thomas
Apparently locating where the pictures for album covers were taken is a thing. I was having a browse through some that a discogs group had put together and there was Twin Peaks, which reminded me that I’d been there. Not Twin Peaks, it isn’t a real place, but where it was filmed, namely Snoqualmie in Washington State which I visited in 1998 (Twin Peaks first aired 90-91).
It then occured to my that I have the album in which, or on which, the picture in question appears, namely this one:
According to the sleuths who track these things down this picture was taken at this location https://goo.gl/maps/NMMMTEDEWWp but to save you clicking here is what you will see:
And from there you can do street view and see for yourself, or just have a general look around if you feel like it. We went to the falls, which were pretty cool, and had a general drive around the town, some parts of which I recognised, particularly a Petrol Station where a scene from The Vanishing (Kiefer Sutherland/Jeff Bridges) was filmed, although I only recognised it after it was pointed out to me. I think they also filmed at the falls and in and around Seattle for that film.
It then occured to me that this is not the only copy I have, I also have the more recent remastered re-release in ‘Damn Fine Coffee’ coloured vinyl. This is it:
It has director approved artwork, is on 180 gram damn fine coffee colour vinyl, with 425 gram gatefold sleeve housed inside a bespoke white die-cut outer jacket with white spot varnish finish, complete with obi strip. It is still exactly the same music but it sounds a bit better.
This, other than perhaps the main theme, is probably the most recognisible track from the soundtrack:
It would be fairly odd if I had a third copy of this soundtrack. I do have a third copy of this soundtrack. It is a little different though as it is an interpretation by the band Xiu Xiu who are an American experimental band, formed in 2002 by singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart in San Jose, California. Currently, the line-up consists of Stewart (the only constant member since formation) and Angela Seo.
The album is titled Xiu Xiu – Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks ad it was released exclusively as a Record Store Day release on April 16, 2016 by Polyvinyl in the United States and Bella Union in Europe. It was produced by former Xiu Xiu member Jherek Bischoff and mixed by Deerhoof member Greg Saunier.
The covers were originally commissioned by Queensland Gallery of Modern Art for a 2015 exhibition, “David Lynch: Between Two Worlds”. Following the live performances at the exhibition, the band decided to record the covers in the studio. As a comparison here is the same track, ‘Falling’ as performed by Xiu Xiu:
It is quite different but I like it, as I do the whole album as it does put a different spin on the music, difficult at times, but good.
It may seem that I am a Twin Peaks nerd by owning three copies of this, but I’m not, really, I’m not. Things just worked out this way. I may have a look to see if I have any other albums where the cover location is known, now that is where I clearly am a nerd.
I’m very late in posting this but I was just looking at some of my youtube uploads and re-found a video from 2016 of The Beat from the summer of 2016 where the band, fronted by Rankin Roger and his son (in the suit), put on a fantastic show as the support for P.I.L.
I was suprised and saddened in March 2019 to hear that he had passed away having undergone surgery for two brain tumours that January, and was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. His energy, for a guy 3 years older than me (he was 53 when I saw him) was amazing and I enjoyed their support slot more than P.I.L that night. If I had run and jumped about the stage like that I would have needed a month to recover. The post I made back then is here.
This is his Wiki page if you wanted to find out more about him.
And here is a faviourite of mine which could be re-released today as Stand Down Boris:
I said I see no joy
I see only sorry
I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow
So stand down Margaret
Stand down please
Stand down down down down down
Down down down down down
You tell me how can it work
In this all white law
What a short sharp lesson,
What a third world war
I sometimes wonder
If I’ll ever get the chance
Just to sit with my children
In a holiday jam
Our lives seem petty in your cold grey hands
Would you give a second thought
Would you ever give a damn, I doubt it
Stand down Margaret
Everybody shout it
Stand down Margaret! Work, white law
Stand down please
Due to the global pandemic RSD 2020 was put on hold and re-designed so that instead of a single day there will be three ‘Drops’ over a period of three months begining in August. From a budgeting perspective this is actually rather advantageous and probabaly good for the stores as well, however, the majority of items will be on the first drop with the next two being mini drops really.
A full list of what is being released is available HERE but I am just going to talk about the records I’m interested in picking up. So, starting with August:
The Amorphous Androgynous – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
This is a project involving The Future Sound of London, who seem to always have something out for RSD recenty, and appear futher down. Not 100% on this one, it depends very much on the price.
Asha Puthli – Asha Puthli
I’ve been listening to this on Spotify and I really liked it so if I see a copy I will give serious consideration to picking it up.
The Cure – Bloodflowers
One to add to my very slowly expanding Cure collection. I think Disintergration was around where I stopped listening to new cure releases as much so anything after that is sort of new to me, which is nice.
Future Sound Of London – Cascade 2020
I already have the original 1993 release but this is a 2020 update, much as they previously did with Yage and My Kingdom.
Gary Numan with The Skaparis Orchestra – When the Sky Came Down (Live at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester)
I like GN and this seemed interesting, again, price will be the decider.
Gorillaz – D-Sides & G-Sides
So this is 2 albums and I’m on the fence, I suspect they will be £50 for the two, which is probabaly more than I want to pay.
Holger Czukay, Jaki Liebezeit, Jah Wobble – A Full Circle
If I see it and I have money left to spend then I’ll get it.
Ennio Morricone – Peur Sur La Ville OST
RSD Morricone releases have been very overpriced in my view, single albums being in the £38 range ( and then often discounted months later into the mid twenties, where thwy should have been in the first place).
1967 was probabaly the greatest year ever, mainly because it was the year I came into this world. As a result of being 0 years old I don’t remember any of these at the time but so many of them have endured over the years that it doesn’t matter that much. As with all my lists they are my opinion and there are no doubt records missing that you may think should be included, if so please do say so, I may have just forgotten them. Let’s go.
30 – A Fistful of Dollars – Ennio Morricone
Well, I love the films, I love the music, iconic as it is and I love the composer so this was a must for me. Growing up in the 70’s these spaghetti westerns were the big Saturday night films that were on TV and were an event. We would have a bag of sweets and some pop and settle in for the film. Of course, back then I had no clue about Morricone but that’s probabaly for the best. I loved everything about the movies.
29 – Disraeli Gears – Cream
I know that many people would excpect this to be listed much higher up but it was a record I never quite managed to conect with. Other than the first two tracks I don’t have that much interest in it, and ‘Sunshine of your Love’ I know mostly from Hendrix playing it. Truth is I’m not the biggest Clapton fan and often wonder what all the fuss was/is about, not that I can’t appreciate what he has done I just don’t see it as earth shattering stuff.
28 – Straight, No Chaser – Thelonius Monk
Well I do love a bit of Jazz and I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of this for a while, perhaps now I actualy will. The album was recorded in New York City on November 14/15, 1966 & January 10, 1967 with Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass) & Ben Riley(drums). I don’t think it is a particularly well known release from Monk, but it is well worth a listen.
27 – Scott – Scott Walker
I have always found the music of Scott Walker to be old fashioned, a throwback even, but I’ve recently been viewing that more as a positive than a negative and this album has grown on me with repeated listens. The music is beautifully produced and delivered. It makes me think that this is where Divine Comedy came from.
26 – Sings the Blues – Nina Simone
A brilliant album, of course it is, it’s Nina Simone, but in the context of 1967 there are many others that best represent the year and she had performed and released a number of these tracks before.
25 – Wave – Antonio Carlos Joabim
By the time this album was released, Antonio Carlos Jobim was already an international superstar. Having recently won a Grammy (1965) for “The Girl From Ipanema”, by 1967 all the big name stars from up north were breaking down his door to work with the new “Gershwin of Brazil.” In fact, Jobim had just finished working on an album with Frank Sinatra when he went into the studio to record this album. Recorded in 1967, Wave is actually one of the lesser known masterpieces of Brazilian music, and undoubtedly one of Jobim’s greatest. Here Jobim and the great Claus Ogerman lead a top-flight cast on hidden classics like Batidinha, Triste and Wave.
24 – Big Brother & The Holding Company – Big Brother & the Holding Company
Recorded in three days in mid-December of 1966 on a shoestring budget in Los Angeles at United Studios, Big Brother & The Holding Company has a sincere garage band simplicity that pervades the entire album and gives it a certain do-it-yourself sincerity not found on breakthrough release Cheap Thrills. Later releases added “Featuring Janis Joplin” but at this point they were a band and she was yet to be the superstar she was to become.
23 – Their Satanic Majesties Request – The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards probabaly said it best, ““none of us wanted to make [Satanic Majesties], but it was time for another Stones album, and Sgt. Pepper’s was coming out, so we thought basically we were doing a put-on”
22 – Goodbye And Hello -Tim Buckley
I’m sure many people discovered Tim Buckley via Jeff, I didn’t, I discovered him through This Mortal Coil who covered ‘Song to the SIren’ with Elizabeth Fraser on vocals back in 1984. The Buckley album that was taken from was ‘Starsailor’ released in 1970. This album, his second, is less folkey I suppose but contains some great tracks such as ‘Pleasant Street’, which you can hear beow.
21 – Days Of Future Passed – The Moody Blues
Yes, it’s the one with ‘Nights in White Satin’ on it, ‘Days of Future’ Passed is their second album and first concept album it is a fusion of orchestral and rock elements and has been cited as one of the first examples of progressive rock. I’d never listened to it all the way through before, it’s pretty good.
20 – Easter Everywhere – 13th Floor Elevators
Hailing from Austin, Texas, the members of 13th Floor Elevators were quite possibly the first artists to describe their music as psychedelic. Their lyrics and sleeve notes openly and religiously endorsed the use of drugs (particularly LSD) to alter human consciousness for the better. I first came acccross them via the B-Side of ‘World Shut Your Mouth’ by Julian Cope, where he does a cover of the song ‘I’ve Got Levitation’.
19 – Smiley Smile – The Beach Boys
Following Pet Sounds, group songwriter and producer Brian Wilson attempted a more light-hearted approach for Smile, an album that was to be released in 1967, but instead would sit on the shelf for over 40 years, to eventually become The Beach Boys’ first Grammy-winning project as a box set. The grandiose productions of both Pet Sounds and Smile began to seem extraneous to Brian Wilson at the time, and despite the lead single, ‘Good Vibrations’, being the biggest hit in the band’s oeuvre, Wilson left its production ethic behind and moved toward minimalism in order to finish what would become Smiley Smile.
18 – Songs Of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen
Having just re-listened to this album I feel that I probabaly should have put it a little higher, songs like ‘Sisters Of Mercy’, ‘Suzanne’ and ‘So long, Marianne” really stand out, ahh well, maybe ill change it later when nobody is looking.
17 – Soul Men – Sam & Dave
I would expect almost everybody to know the track ‘Soul Man’ but there is more here than just the one song. With the help of Isaac Hayes and Booker T and the M.G.s here is an absolute scorcher of a record.
16 – Bee Gees – 1st Bee Gees
Long before the disco hits of Saturday Night Fever the Bee Gees were no strangers to the charts, although to be honest, before 1977 I’d never heard of them. Apparently, when played on US radio they were repeatedly mistaken for The Beatles, which is understandable I guess. I really enjoyed the songs on this album.
15 – John Wesley Harding – Bob Dylan
Tricky one this as on some days it would most likely be higher up, it does have I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, All Along The Watchtower and The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, I’m slightly regretting my decision.
14 – Miles Smiles – Miles Davis
At this point in his career, Davis had been through his number of hardships, from overcoming a destructive heroin addiction, to encountering the brutal effects of racism on the American music industry, to undergoing larynx surgery that left him with his characteristic raspy voice. Miles’ “prince of darkness” persona—his quick temper, his quiet intensity, his perceived existential aloofness—was perhaps a psychological defence mechanism to combat the plethora of troubles in his life.
The quintet embraced the liberating principles of post-bop, a subgenre that featured the virtuosity of bebop, the independence of free jazz and the unwavering commitment to rhythmic and melodic development that runs throughout the many tributaries of the music. It is quite an uplifting album.
13 – Strange Days – The Doors
The second studio album from The Doors that spawned two hit singles, ‘People Are Strange’ and ‘Love Me Two Times’. The album received high praise from the rock press but the listening public was not quite as convinced, particularly in the UK where the album was largely ignored. It is a consistently good set of songs, except ‘Horse Latitudes’ which is shit.
12 – Buffalo Springfield Again – Buffalo Springfield
This, their 2nd release, took notably longer to record than their debut, not least because Neil Young had quit and rejoined the group on several occasions, notably absent for the band’s appearance at the famed Monterey Pop Festival where David Crosby substituted in his place at the request of guitarist Stephen Stills. If you’ve never heard the albums opening track ‘Mr. Soul’ give it a listen and tell me if it reminds you of any other song (that was released the following year).
11 – Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – Pink Floyd
There was a period in time when I couldn’t reconcile early Pink Floyd with later Pink Floyd and I do still tens to think of them as two different groups, although their earlier incarnation was necessary to inform what came later. Nowadays I really rather like all the experimental weirdness they were putting out, it is of its time, but that’s a good thing.
10 – Forever Changes – Love
when I first heard ‘Alone Again, Or’ I didn’t realise I’d heard it before or where I’d heard it, but I most certainly had. maybe it was on the radio as we drove through the valleys and across the mountains of Wales, but somewhere in my head it has sat waiting for me to find it again. Nowadays the album is lauded as one of the most perfect and influential albums of all-time, however, on its release it was a flop. Part of the reason for this may be that it is at times a little odd and it doesn’t really fit in with the other music that was being created in 60’s California.
Oh, the snot has caked against my pants
It has turned into crystal
There’s a bluebird sitting on a branch
I guess I’ll take my pistol
I’ve got it in my hand
Because he’s on my land
(From ‘Live and Let Live)
9 – Absolutely Free – The Mothers of Invention
More weirdness and an acquired taste. Usually, when Frank Zappa was involved the resulting music was at the very least left of centre and sometimes so far left it was right. The music is often complex but still rooted in R&B and the subject matter political and humorous at times. It’s good to be different.
8 – Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane
This album is so evocative of the time period that it had to be here, but not only becasue of that, but because it has really great songs from the well known ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ to the instrumental ‘Embryonic Jorney’, which has some really lovely guitar playing. and the blues of ‘In The Morning’. With different vocalists and styles it is a bit all over the place, but better for it.
7 – London Conversation – John Martyn
The first release from one of my faviourite artists ever and becasue it led to so many, many good later releases I have it here becasue I can, although it is still a good album. Folkier than later releases and with a cleaner vocal that pre-dates the more slurred later performances, it shows where he came from, but not really where he was going.
6 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
This may well be a contentious placing for some people, however, while I appreciate the importance of the album, I don’t like all of it. ‘When I’m Sixty Four and ‘Lovely Rita’ I can do without and I’m not that keen on ‘Getting Better’ or ‘Fixing a hole’ and don’t like their version of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ (I like Joe Cockers version better). I did put it at number 1 initially, because everybody does but then I got to thinking about which albums I would actually sit down and listen to, all they way through, and moved this down a few places becasue I never listen to it all the way through.
5 – Axis: Bold As Love – Jimi Hendrix Experience
The second album from Hendrix, and the second in the same year. He had a little more time to craft his own songs for this album but still much of the soloing was all first take. Songs like ‘Little Wing’ are beautifully crafted, ‘Castles Made of Sand’, ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ and ‘If 6 were 9’ are fablous tracks and the consistency of the entire album is good from staert to finish.
4 – Velvet Underground And Nico – The Velvet Underground
When I listen to this album it almost always comes as a suprise that there are so many tracks on it that are so very good. While I had heard many of the songs here and there it was in 1993 for what I remember as a Pireli advert, but that was actually Dunlop, where I first heard ‘Venus in Furs’ and just loved both the advert and the music, it was the weirdest advert on TV at the time and possibly ever.
Add to this the other tracks such as ‘Sunday Morning’, ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’, ‘Al Tommorrows Parties’ and more and you have a truly brillian set of songs.
3 – The Doors – The Doors
Here we are at the top 3 of 1967 and the Doors again. It used to be quite te norm to release a coupke of albums a year wheras today the money is not in pysical product so much but in playing live, at least until the current pandemic hit. Of the two album releases in ’67 it is this, the second, where I think they really it their stride with ‘Break on Through’ and ‘Light My Fire’ but add to that ‘The Crystal Ship’, ‘The End’ and the rest and you have an album that helped define the era.
2 – The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Continuing the controversty, possibly, you may agree with me, but given a choice of sitting down and listening to Sgt. Peppers or Maical Mystery Tour I would choose the latter every time. There are less tracks that I would drop from the running order:
Magical Mystery Tour
The Fool On The Hill
Blue Jay Way
Your Mother Should Know
I Am The Walrus
Strawberry Fields Forever
Baby You’re A Rich Man
All You Need Is Love
Is it technically a soundtrack? I’m not sure but it has some of my favourite Beatles songs on it.
1 – Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix Experience
Now it may be fair to say that if you aren’t a fan of Hendirx then this choice as the best album released in 1967 may not sit well with you, but I am a fan and this is a fantastic debut album, opening with ‘Foxy Lady’ and ending with the title track, everything inbetween is just brilliant, ‘Red House’, ‘Fire’, it is just, for me, the encapsulation of the music of the late 60’s.
I loved playing what I could of ‘Foxy Lady’ on the guitar, it is a joy to play and sounds great. As a guitarist who could only achieve average proficiancy there is so very much to admire in playing of Hendrix, but with the addition of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, what a three piece! An absolute powerhouse.
Here is a playlist that has a track from each of the albums above in descending order:
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.
Songs are like tattoos
You know I’ve been to sea before
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
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!
For a brief period in the 1980’s one band exploded onto the scene like a comet hitting the planet, only to disappear as quickly as they appeared. That band was The Tinned Pilchards, since written out of the history of popular culture and a mystery to most, their untold story is one of corporate big business destroying what they can’t control through fear that the ancient monolith that was their business model was under direct attack.
There is very little media still in existence, having been deleted or destroyed as a result of multiple injunctions and court cases, but we have managed to obtain rare recordings and footage as well as tracking down one of the members who was willing to talk, well, he didn’t know he was being recorded and we transcribed the recording, which is almost the same thing.
It all began with what they thought was their big break, after weeks of toiling on the local bedroom scene their first official release, ‘Fast’, was picked up by national radio DJ Bob Harris who played the track once, really late at night when very few people were listening. Such was his interest in the song he insisted that it opened the next edition of The Old Grey Whistle Test, however, the band weren’t available to perform so in good old OGWT fashion an old animation was played with the track. No official copies of this broadcast still exist, however, these were the days of video recorders and we have obtained a private tape that you can view now, for the first time since that original broadcast:
An instant classic, I’m sure everyone would agree, but this is where the problems began. Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagan saw the show and was incensed, insisting that the chords used where clearly Steely Dan chords and that whoever was playing them was butchering them by not playing ‘Square’ enough. This was the first lawsuit, there were more to come.
The single itself had been independently released as a 7″ and 12″ with the flip side an almost unlistenable experimental track by keyboardist Peter Bushnell titled ‘Ooh Yes Very Good’. Although all the vinyl copies of the single were destroyed (although it is rumoured that one copy still exists which, if found, could be worth tens of pounds ) some rare footage of a live performance has recently emerged, which we can share with you now, although we recommend not bothering.
Renowned journalist and Media entrepreneur Ella Bushnell (not a relation) tracked down the bands multi-instrumentalist Verian Thomas and had a chat, secretly recording the conversation using one of those new-fangled digital recorders, this is what’s said:
When you played with
Dad Pete and Dave in The Tinned Pilchards, what were your inspirations when forming/making music with the band?
I’d been in bands since school, playing guitar or bass, but moved away in 1983, when I was 16, and lost touch with most of the people from those days so the Pilchards were, to some degree, a way of staying in touch and a social thing. I don’t recall us ever discussing playing in front of an audience other than one of us suggesting a tour of people’s living rooms once, which I probably would have done if any of us actually had the organisational skills to set it up.
The music that we made was restricted by the capabilities of the individual band members such as Dave (who insisted on being called Dwayne Mustard) stealing most of his lyrics from other people’s songs and Pete playing Steely Dan inspired keyboard chords whenever possible. Despite this we did manage to put together an OK body of work over a period of several years but were limited to some degree by the technology we had available to us to record the songs. We used my Fostex 4 Track, which used cassette tapes, and if we needed more than 4 tracks then it was necessary to merge two tracks together thereby leaving a spare track. Every time we did this the degradation in sound quality was pretty evident. I think our aim was to get together for a day, write and record an entire song and then we all felt it to have been a pretty productive and worthwhile day. It was rare that we didn’t manage that.
There was a very broad range of musical inspirations that each person brought to the band and we ended up sounding nothing like any of them, which is probably a good thing. At the time I was in a 4AD phase, which continues to this day to a degree, and was listening to The Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance, that sort of thing, as well as The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure and Xmal Deutschland, a closet Goth if truth be told, but still listening to and influenced by the music that I grew up with, which was in the Prog Rock musical spectrum, such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes, or Rock from Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the like. At the same time Dave and Pete would talk about the bands they were listening to and I would investigate those as well, bands like The Blue Nile, China Crisis, Prefab Sprout, but I think the initial desire to write and record was born a few years earlier, in 1983, with the release of Soul Mining by The The. At the time I was told that it was one guy, Matt Johnson, who basically recorded the whole thing in his bedroom on rudimentary equipment, sent off demos and got a deal. There was a point where I thought I could also do that. The story about The The turned out to not be true, but that didn’t really matter.
After your song was played on the Old Grey Whistle Test, how did you feel about everything that happened afterwards?
What do you mean by everything?
Well, the court cases, accusations of plagiarism, your vilification in the music press, that sort of thing.
I was fine about it, if you want to know more about that stuff speak to Dave, or bloody Dwayne or whatever he’s calling himself nowadays. Probably Stong or Peter Gobriel.
At this point he left without saying goodbye
The previously mentioned lawsuits came thick and fast as it became increasingly clear that several elements of other peoples songs had been ‘borrowed’. While the appropriation of Steely Dan chords case didn’t get anywhere it lasted long enough for the initial buzz about the band to dissipate. Even if they could have bounced back from that they faced more hurdles over the lyrics to the songs they had recorded for a proposed album release.
During the plagiarism trials, The Old Bailey judge found in favour of the 63 plaintiffs in all cases stating “That this trial only took 12 minutes is indicative of how bloody obviously the lyrics have been stolen from other songs”. Lyricist and Singer David Bushnell has always maintained his innocence, which is ridiculous as he really did quite obviously steal from Sting, Steely Dan and other sources.
After this the band collapsed, they made no money from that initial release and any future earnings they may make were already sequestered by the court, their only hope was a completely original song, so there was no chance of a comeback although they did return to the studio one more time but none of the recordings ever surfaced.
While researching this article we were approached by a man who called himself only Lionel and claimed to have been the recording engineer at those lost sessions, we didn’t believe him of course, he seemed rather shady, but having heard the tape it was undeniably The Pilchards, for the price of his bus fare home he provided us with the unmixed demo tape of the one song that survived from the session. We feel we overpaid, however, here is that never before heard song.
And so, The Tinned Pilchards, a band that had, momentarily at least, the whole world at their feet faded into complete obscurity and having written this I now feel, perhaps, that they should have stayed there.
Here we are again with one of those best of lists that I do, they take ages, very few people read them and still I don’t care, it has become an obsession to try and complete every year I can. Why? No idea. I started this one months ago so it’s probabaly wrong by now.
50 – Interpol – Interpol
I haven’t listened to this album until now so it may move up over time as I did really like their debut ‘Turn On the Bright Lights’ which I discovered via a mix CD that I was sent, it had the track PDA on it. The band took a break for several years but returned recently with anew album so I’ll have to give that a listen as well.
49 – Anaïs Mitchell – Hadestown
I know literally nothing about this artist or album so I had to go and have a look and a listen as it appears in several best of lists for 2010. Hadestown is the fourth album by Vermont-based Anaïs Mitchell. The concept album follows a variation on the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus must embark on a quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld, so that’s me sold on it as I love that sort of thing. Several of the songs feature singers other than Mitchell, including Justin Vernon (better known as lead vocalist and guitarist of Wisconsin-based band Bon Iver), Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, and Tanya, Petra and Rachel Haden (referred to in the track listing as ‘The Haden Triplets’).
48 – Yeasayer – Odd Blood
This is another album that appeared in a lot of end of year lists and I do remember giving it a listen at the time, I liked it well enough, but I still don’t understand what about it made it be top 10 for some people.
47 – Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
This was not on my radar at all in 2010 so another first listen for me. I’m a fan of desire trails as a thing, so it’s nice to see a song with that as a title. In June 2010, Deerhunter took a short break from touring to record Halcyon Digest. Initial news of the album became public when music industry firm, Milk Money, posted a message on their Twitter account that the band had been mixing the new record with Ben Allen (who also worked on Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Fall Be Kind EP.)
46 – Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM
Full disclosure, I love Charlotte Gainsbroug, so I am somewhat incapapble of not saying nice things, although this album doesn’t deserve bad words being said about it so I feel safe in saying that this is a very good album. she is, of course, the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg but having appeared in 40 or 50 movies and released several albums I think she is well out from under the shadow of her parents now.
45 – Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
I know the earlier releases pretty well but didn’t pick up on this when it was released, which is ok as I get to listen to it now and maybe, being a little older, appreciate it more than I would have even only 9 years ago. That I now feel the need to pick up a copy for myself is testament to how good the album is. I was touched by opener ‘On Coming From a Broken Home (pt 1)’ and suprised by ‘Me And The Devil’, and on it went until I reached the end of the album without realising where the time had gone.
44 – Forest Swords – Dagger Paths
Technically an E.P. but I like Forest Swords, and I make the rules, so here it is, alos it was re-released with extra tracks and became an album later, sort of. I first stumbled upon this when making a spotify playlist, just listening to random tracks and adding them if I liked them. I then bought the last album, ‘Compassion’, which you will find in Albums Of The Year 2017 at number 5.
43 – Beach House – Teen Dream
Something that very rarely happes is my good lady wife reccomending a band to me, which she did about 6 weeks ago, and it was Beach House. I’d never heard of them and this irks me somewhat that she had the gall to recommend something to me I didn’t know. Hmph! It was a live performance and despite trying hard, on a point of priciple, not to like it, I did like it, damn.
42 – Midlake – The Courage of Others
I have not given this album the chance it deserves, the reason for this is that I really liked their debut ‘Banman & Silvercork’ so that this isn’t that sort of dissapointed me, which is, of course, ridiculous, but I bought the record, played it once and I don’t think I have played it again. Until today. It’s much better than I remembered.
41 – Gorillaz – The Fall
I got my copy of this on Record Store Day as it had only ever been a limited release. The entire album was recorded on Damon Albarn’s iPad over the course of 32 days during the North American leg of the Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour in October 2010 and mixed in England by Stephen Sedgwick.
40 – Envy – Recitation
There is something particular about the music of Envy that I would not normally listen to, because I don’t understand it, and that is hardcore shouting which are what I imagine having your vocal chords ripped out by a rabid dog sounds like. In this one instance I don’t mind it at all though. Envy are a Japanese screamo band formed in Tokyo, in 1992 apparently, who would have thought I’d be listening to Screamo, it’s a strange world.
39 – Prins Thomas – Prins Thomas
I don’t know much about Prins Thomas, other than that I bought a triple album of his really cheaply and liked it, so that’s why he is here. I gave this a listen, I also like this, so there we are.
38 – The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter
I found a copy of this in a used record store and, typically of The Fall, it’s all rather inconsistent, but in a good way. It is their 27th studio album, of which I only have 4, and was considered by many critics to be one of the best albums of the year, although who really cares what critics think?
37 – Yann Tiersen – Dust Lane
Tiersen is known principally as the multi-instrumentalist composer of the charming soundtracks to the movies Amélie, The Dreamlife of Angels, Good Bye Lenin! et al, though he has released a quintet of solo albums which have gone somewhat under the radar (his last outing, 2005’s Les Retrouvailles, featured vocal cameos from Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser and Jane Birkin, among others).
36 – The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Not my faviourite Jack White project to be honest but there is still plenty here to enjoy. Interestingly, to me at least, The album was streamed on the band’s website, via continuous vinyl playback, for a period of 24 hours from April 30 to May 1.
35 – Hammock – Chasing After Shadows… Living with the Ghosts
Hammock are an American two-member ambient/post-rock band from Nashville, Tennessee who create atmospheric music by combining orchestral arrangements with electronic beats, piano and droning guitar. I bought an album of theirs, Oblivion Hymns, back in 2013 and loved it. I don’t have a copy of this one but having listened to it again I feel it should be in my wantlist.
34 – Ólöf Arnalds – Innundir Skinni
Innundir skinni is Icelandic musician Ólöf Arnalds second album. The album was produced by Sigur Rós band member Kjartan Sveinsson, who also worked with Arnalds on her debut album. Skúli Sverrisson, Davið Þór Jónsson, Björk and Shahzad Ismaily all contributed to the album.
33 – Stereolab – Not Music
This is the tenth studio album by Stereolab, released on 16 November 2010 by Duophonic Records. It is a collection of unreleased material recorded at the same time as their previous album Chemical Chords (2008). I’ve only ever heard Stereolab track here and there, on compilations or occasionally the radio, but I’ve always liked what I’ve heard and keep meaning to explore them further.
32 – Suuns – Zeroes QC
As a fan of Suuns I’m disappointed I don’t have this album as yet, but it is on the WANT list. The band are Canadian, from Montreal to be specific and have an interesting sound, it is sort of indie rock informed by Krautrock and shoegaze with a pinch of oddness added in for flavour.
31 – Bonobo – Black Sands
When I first started buying vinyl records again after a long hiatus, this was one of the first 10 or so I bought. This is the fourth studio album, released on 29 March 2010. The cover features a photograph taken of Derwentwater, in northern England. The tower in the background is located in Castlerigg (Fun Fact: Coordinates: 54°35′29.95″N 3°7′3.43″W). As of January 20th 2017 it has sold 72,756 copies in UK, to be honest I thought it would be more.
30 – Ólafur Arnalds – …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness
You may know Ólafur Arnalds as the guy who did the music for the TV series Broadchurch, and some other TV and film scores, but he also releases music that isn’t tied in to anything else, most recently the excellent Re:member, a copy of which I bought on RSD. He was touring with Sigur Ros around this time which might be where I made the connection.
29 – Efterklang – Magic Chairs
I saw a documentary on Efterklang several years ago where they were collecting field recordings for their next album and it was fascinating, I’ve been listening to them ever since. Efterklang are Danish and have 5 or 6 albums behind them now, all of which are worth a listen.
28 – Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
I’ve honestly not been able to understand what all the fuss is around Tame Impala so I have given them a better listen, this album I like, but I know there were plenty of year end charts where this figured much higher.
27 – Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love
I love a bit of Belle & Sebastian but have to admit that this particular album completely passed me by, so I’m not very familiar with it having listened to it for the first time in the last few weeks. This will probably move up eventually as I get to know it better.
26 – Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Kollaps Tradixionales
Ten years prior, Thee Silver Mt. Zion appeared as one of many satellite projects orbiting around Godspeed You! Black Emperor, alongside fellow offshoot acts like Fly Pan Am and 1-Speed Bike. By 2010 they had become Constellation Records’ flagship act. I think it is fair to say that they are often not an easy listen, the first track of this album is over 16 minutes long for example, which is a lot to ask if it is your first listen, and they can be quite different album to album, but I like them.
25 – Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
It is only recently that I’ve really started listening to Erykah Badu, having tried before but not really connected with the music. I’m not sure why but I put Baduizm, her debut, in the car CD player a few weeks ago and really liked it, since then I’ve listened to several others and am left wondering why I didn’t listen to any of it before. I think her music may be an acquired taste, one which I guess I have now acquired.
24 – Grimes – Geidi Primes
The first time I heard Grimes was the track ‘Genesis’ from her third album, which I really liked, this is her 2nd album and I like it too. Claire Elise Boucher (born March 17th, 1988), better known by her stage persona and character Grimes, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, musician, producer, artist and music video director.
23 – Massive Attack – Heligoland
I am very conflicted about this album, some days I love it and some days I find parts of it disappointing, so it is probably down to my mood on the day, although I think it better than 100th Window most days. It may be that I judge their output based on Mezzanine, which is an almost perfect album.
22 – Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
I first stumbled across Swans in 2014 when I saw what I thought was a cool triple album titled ‘To Be Kind’ which I bought unheard and was really pleased with it, so I picked this up 6 years or so after it was released and it was a little different to what I’d already heard, but it was very interesting, not least because Devandra Banhart makes an appearance, you can hear that track below.
21 – The Black Keys – Brother
This one is pretty well known I should think and I did once have a CD copy but it disappeared somewhere a few years ago. They are an American rock band formed in Akron, Ohio, in 2001. The group consists of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). It’s a good album.
20 Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
I’ve been listening to Joanna Newsome since The Milk-Eyed Mender was released in 2004. There aren’t many harpists out there who are part of the ‘Indie’ scene, perhaps no others actually. I seem to recall that I was listening to Sufjan Stevens, Devendra Banhart and lots of fragile folk music at the time and Newsom was a good fit.
19 – Eluvium – Similes
Eluvium is actually just one guy, Matthew Cooper. You never know wjhat you are going to get from one album to the next as sometimes the music is absolutely bare bones and others is very complex and orchestral, perhaps this is one of the reasons I like it so much.
18 – Tricky – Mixed Race
As a long time fan of Tricky I could not possibly leave this release out but even if I wasn’t this album has plenty of tracks that are well worth multiple listens. I’ve been listening to his music since he appeared on the first Massive Attack album and there have been some ups and downs but this one is on the upward curve.
17 – Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Rightly or wrongly, I always get the sense that Laura Marling is somewhat under appreciated. She is a wonderful songwriter, composer and performer and this album should have, in my opinion, been huge. It did get to #4 in the UK album charts but is only certified silver, which is for sales of sixty thousand or more. Look into her albums, she’s great.
16 – John Grant – Queen of Denmark
This wouldn’t have been in the list at all if I hadn’t seen him live last summer at the Blue Dot festival, he was really very good and when I got home I caught up on all his releases. He’s a funny guy.
15 – Max Richter – Infra
I’m also a big fan of Max Richter and have several of his albums in my collection which range from electronic to full on classical. This one sits in the electronic section for the most part and as I do delight in ambient sounds it fits the bill perfectly for me.
14 – Jónsi – Go
The first solo outing from Sigur Ros singer Jonsi and it’s exactly what one might have hopd for from it, a slightly more pop orientated version of the band with his distinct vocal style and obscure language very much still intact.
13 – Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Another band where I was late to the party. I picked this album up on CD from a charity shop for 50 pence and it spent several long journeys spinning on repeat in the car as I drove back and forth to work.
12 – Everything Everything – Man Alive
Another charity shop CD, although the band had been recommended to me previously so it was quite a nice surprise to find it for 50p. It has a sort of 70’s Prog feel about it that I like and I went on to get a few more of theirs after this, which are all good.
11 – 65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway
I am a fan so it is little surprise that this appears here. It’s post rock sort of, maybe math rock at times, so if you like instrumental music then they are well worth giving a listen. It gets pretty heavy at times but there’s a lot of light and shade.
10 – Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
I do love the sound of Gorillaz and yes, this is their second appearance. This is definitely the better of the two albums overall. Damon Albarn went down a path that I would never have expected having seen him fronting Blur right from the start and I like where he’s gone.
9 – Four Tet – There Is Love in You
This is the 5th album from Four Tet, which is one guy, Kieran Hebdan, who produces electronic music and does a lot of remixes for people. I have several albums of his having first become aware of his music from the album ‘Rounds’. Apparently he was in a banfd called Fridge but I don’t think i’ve listened to them.
8 – Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid
Another 50 pence charity shop pick up, what an incredibly talented individual she is. A singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. This is a beast of an album.
7 – Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
After the albums Michigan and Illinois, both of which are magnificent, I and most other people were expecting another U.S state themed album, and this wasn’t it. As a result I ignored it for a little while but eventually picked up and am glad I did.
6 – LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Another album I pretty much ignored when it was released and another charity shop CD. The earlier ‘The Sound Of Silver’ is probabaly a better album but this one isn’t far off.
5 – The National – High Violet
I think the BBC summed up this album very well: ‘Its charms are subtle, its grip soft and easily shrugged by those who choose to pay it only passing attention. Live with it a while, though, and High Violet rewards patience with songs that colour one’s waking existence, becoming vivid night-time narratives when curtains are drawn.‘ It took me several listens but it was worth it.
4 – Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
It’s on Warp records, which is usually a good sign, and it has Thom Yorke on it, always a good sign. It is a sort of Electronica album that’s touched with a sense of jazz and it really is a triumph.
3 – Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The guy is not the most likeable charecter for most, but his musical output is pretty much undeniable, he is very good at what he does.
2 – Robyn – Body Talk
Rated very highly by most critics and completely ignored by me for 10 years, which in some ways is a good thing and I got to it eventually. I would say that under normal circumstances this is not my sort of thing at all, but it is so well writted, produced and generally crafted that it is pop perfection. I can’t help liking it.
1 – M.I.A. – /\/\/\Y/\
In my view M.I.A is a genius, completly unique in what she does in the same way Bjork is. Now I do appreciate that the music might be polarising as it is not catering in a generic way to as wide an audience as possible, but that’s one of the many reasons I like it. Interstingly it received only moderate ratings from critics, averaging out at 68%, some even calling the album a rambling mess, they were all wrong, and that’s that.
I saw this album on CD in a charity shop and picked it up as part of a 3 for £1 deal. I was intrigued by the complete lack of information, I wasn’t sure if 2:54 was the band name or the album name, turns out it was both.
they are an alternative rock band from London comprising sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow. In mid-2010 they formed 2:54. The bands name stands for two minutes fifty-four seconds into their favorite Melvins track, “A History of Bad Men”. This makes no sense to me at all but names have to come from somewhere I guess.
They first came to public attention in 2010 after putting one of their demos online. Their debut single, “On a Wire”, was released in 2011. The sisters were joined for live shows in 2011 by bassist Joel Porter and drummer Alex Robins. Their self-titled debut album was released in May 2012.
The line up following are: Collette Thurlow on guitar and vocals, Hanna Thurlow on guitar, Alex Porter on bass and Alex Robins on drums.
On the way back from town I popped the CD in the car stereo and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. It has a lot of the elements that I like in Indie rock and was far more accomplished than I’d been expecting. I was reminded of bands like Ride, Curve, Lush and others from that musical arena. It was the song above, ‘Scarlet’ that I probably liked most on first listen, so if you haven’t already, press play and try it for yourself.
The track ‘You’re Early’ has strong hints of Garbage I think, mostly in the vocal delivery at times:
They must have had a reasonable promotional budget behind them back in 2012 when the album was released as there are several videos accompanying the album, well, at least 4:
For me, the album is great value at 33 British pennies and a copy can be aquired for about £3 on Discogs Marketplace
At the same time I bought this incredibly cheaply: Wild – Streets Of Laredo, I also picked up Milano by Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts cheaply. It was on sale for £8 and I took a chance on it at that price. I did try and have a quick listen on Spotify but there was no data reception so I just got it anyway.
Line Of Best Fit – Review
Luppi draws his inspiration from another city that’s played an important part in his life; the achingly cool buzz of high-fashion 80s Milan. MILANO combines the yin and yang of slacker punks Parquet Courts and brash energy of Karen O. It seems an incompatible pairing, however Parquet’s slurring discordance and O’s frenetic purr make for an intriguing proposition.
O only appears on half of the album, and in her absence the Parquet-only tracks are wired with all the nervy DIY hallmarks that have made their own albums so thrilling. “Mount Napoleon” is off-kilter and downtuned with a laxity and jittery undertone that recalls Silver Jews or Pavement, while on opener “Soul and Cigarette”, Luppi intersperses keys that twinkle through the ramshackle, buzzsaw guitars like lights in glitzy department store windows.
The album really shines though when O steps up to the mic and accordingly, Parquet Courts spike up their guitars to complement her kittenish exuberance. Jagged riffs thrust, needle and stab on “Talisa” and “Flush”, while O’s vocals strut, prowl and drip with unapologetic sexuality. “Touch yourself!” she orders brattishly on “The Golden Ones”, later breathlessly asking “do you like it when I dance for you like this?” on “Pretty Prizes” amid ragged Magazine-esque riffs.
On paper MILANO should be a mess, but it’s a resounding triumph. Luppi has crafted a fast-paced and fashionable record which taps into the lifeblood of his beloved Milan; seductive, hedonistic and super stylish.
So in the spirit of supreme lazyness I agree with all of the above, certainly about Karen O who fits in really well on the tracks which she guests on.
I’ve listened to the album several times now and it’s a grower for certain, mostly because I’ve become used to Daniele Luppi and his voice now.
I’ve been away for a little while in Hong Kong. I went looking for a couple of record shops but they dont exist anymore so I gave up and just enjoyed the place. I arrived back yesterday after about 26 hours of travelling and today I’m at the Blueddot festival at Jodrell Bank. It’s absolutely pissing down.
There are bands playing right now but it’s so wet out that I’m just having a lay down in my tent hoping the rain will ease off. It won’t, so I may live off the Mars bar I bought on the way here and see nothing.
I was tootling around on the internet and found a song I recorded years ago on a site I’d forgotten about. I used to write and record a lot of music, enough that I was approaching almost competent at times, though not that often. I actually sing on this one, although one’s definition of singing may be stretched to the limit here. Checking the metadata on the file it tells me I recorded in 2005, which sounds about right. That picture over there is me around then. Anyway, I thought I’d share it:
There’s a lot going on in it, much of which is very low in the mix, like me going absolutely mental on guitar on occasions. For anybody who wants to know about the recording it would all have been done on Cubase, the drums would be a programme called BFD. All instruments played by me. The guitar is probably a US Stratocaster (in Sunburst in case you wondered) with bass being an Ibanez Fretless (I still have both of these guitars). For anybody who doesn’t want to know, sorry you had to read that.
I may post some more of this stuff as I find it, but not too much, I know there’s a linit to what people can take!
This was one of my albums of 2018, though I’d never mentioned it before then. There’s actually a lot of albums that it takes me while to get around to mentioning, some going back several years, I’ll get to them eventually. So, in the best of 2018 I wrote this: I like modern flamenco, who knew? Not me for sure, until I was told what genre this actually fell into. Apparently the album is based on a Occitan novel from the 13th or 14th century and documents a toxic relationship where the mans jealousy drives him to imprison a woman. This was part of her degree thesis I believe and the whole album was under her complete control, delivered to the record company for distribution only. It is a triumph.
And here, through the magic of the interwebs is a wonderful performance of the lead single on Later with Jools Holland:
Flamenco is often seen nowadays as something cheesy put on for the tourists amusement and is discounted as a result, but Rosalía Vila Tobella has ripped up whatever rule book there was and created her own, new version of the traditional genre that could be listened to without the knowledge that there was any link at all. It is seeped in modernism, deploying production techniques that are more akin to the chart toppers of today than the castanet wielding dancer of yesteryear.
My only complaint would be its brevity, clocking in at around 30 minutes, I have 12″ singles that play for longer, however, that is because I want more of the good stuff and I would rather it be short than padded out with fluff. It does come in a nice gatefold sleeve with a good 12×12 booklet so that does help justify the price a little.
There are a couple of earlier releases for me to investigate, and I do hope that the success that Rosalia is currently enjoying is used as a springboard to greater things, although this album will be a difficult one to top.
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”.
The Beat – Hands Off She’s Mine/Twist and Crawl
Go-Feet Records FEET 1
The first time I heard The Beat was at a fun fair in Didcot, on the site of where the football club used to be. I was standing by the Dodgems thinking what great fun it looked, but unable to have a go as I didn’t have money, as was so often the case. I would have been 13 years old. Blasting out of the dodgems sound system came this and it sounded amazing.
The whole ska revival was really vibrant following hot on the heels of punk as it did and reaching back into a musical past that your typical white boy living in middle England would have no idea about. 40 years later I’m listening to and buying some of those songs that were covered and given new life and a new audience.
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:
|1||Save Your Kisses for Me||Brotherhood of Man|
|2||Don’t Go Breaking My Heart||Elton John and Kiki Dee|
|5||A Little Bit More||Dr Hook|
|6||If You Leave Me Now||Chicago|
|8||I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)||Tina Charles|
|9||The Roussos Phenomenon EP||Demis Roussos|
|10||December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)||The Four Seasons|
|11||Under the Moon of Love||Showaddywaddy|
|12||You to Me Are Everything||The Real Thing|
|13||Forever and Ever||Slik|
|15||Young Hearts Run Free||Candi Staton|
|16||The Combine Harvester (Brand New Key)||The Wurzels|
|17||When Forever Has Gone||Demis Roussos|
|18||Jungle Rock||Hank Mizell|
|19||Can’t Get By Without You||The Real Thing|
|20||You Make Me Feel Like Dancing||Leo Sayer|
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.
|50||Terry Reid||Seed of Memory|
|48||Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers||Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers|
|46||Lou Reed||Rock and Roll Heart|
|45||UFO||No Heavy Petting|
|43||Max Romeo||War In Babylon|
|41||Bunny Wailer||Blackheart Man|
|39||Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers||Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers|
|38||King Tubby & Yabby You||King Tubby’s Prophesy of Dub|
|37||Peter Tosh||Legalize It|
|36||Patti Smith Group||Radio Ethiopia|
|35||La Düsseldorf||La Düsseldorf|
|34||Parliament||The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein|
|33||Fela Kuti & Africa 70||Zombie|
|32||Burning Spear||Man In The Hills|
|30||Black Sabbath||Technical Ecstasy|
|29||Lynyrd Skynyrd||Gimme Back My Bullets|
|27||Stanley Clarke||School Days|
|26||Fela & Africa 70||Kalakuta Show|
|25||Miles Davis||Water Babies|
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.
Tattooed across my forehead is the word ‘Sucker‘. Or at least it should be for I most certainty am one. I had absolutely no intention of buying any of the 4 albums I bought at the weekend, I was actually looking for one album by Steven Wilson, which they didn’t have, when I saw, on the wall, 4 David Sylvian Albums, re-released, all lined up and looking quite lovely.
I made the snap decision to get all 4 and, very quickly, I was walking back to the car with my purchases in a carrier bag at my side. It was at this point I remembered I already had a copy of ‘Brilliant Trees‘ and, technically, I also have a copy of ‘Secrets of the Beehive‘ although it is on cassette, I don’t know where it is, and even if I did I have nothing to play it on, but still, I do have a copy already. These releases are all remastered and have different covers, so the question is, do I regret my snap decision to buy all 4? The answer is, no, not really. Well, perhaps I did a little at first but I’ve made peace with it now having played them all several times.
Somebody made a video on these 4 releases already, which really appeals to my laziness, so here it is:
So, Brilliant Trees, released in 1984 shortly after the demise of Japan, brought together some top musicians to collaborate on what can be seen as Sylvian announcing that he’s just fine without the rest of Japan thank you very much.
Line-up / Musicians
– David Sylvian / vocals, guitar, synthesizer, treated piano, percussion, tapes, co-producer
– Holger Czukay / guitar, French horn, voice
– Ronny Drayton / guitar (1,4)
– Phil Palmer / guitar (2,4)
– Richard Barbieri / synthesizer (1,5)
– Steve Nye / synthesizer & piano (3,4), co-producer & mixing
– Ryuichi Sakamoto / synthesizer & piano (4,5,7)
– Kenny Wheeler / flugelhorn (2,3)
– Mark Isham / trumpet (4)
– Jon Hassell / trumpet (5,7)
– Wayne Brathwaite / bass (1,4)
– Danny Thompson / double bass (2)
– Steve Jansen / percussion, drums, synthesizer
As the next thing to be released after Japan’s ‘Tin Drum’ (excluding the live album ‘Oil on Canvas’) it seems a natural progression and not far removed from what one may have expected as a next release. There is the obvious connection with Sylvian’s vocal of course but it still has the sonic feel, at least to a noticeable degree, of the album that had gone before. What it does do is add some new sonic elements and continue Sylvian’s forward momentum.
I’ve read a number of times, from people who liked Japan, that they couldn’t get on with this album or most of his solo work, well I urge them to try again, particularly in regards to ‘Brilliant Trees’ as it is a wonderful set of songs.
Alchemy An Index of Possibilities
Well this is an entirely different kettle of fish. I’d never heard it, or even of it before but had some expectations of what I was about to listen to. None of those expectations were fulfilled. It is pretty experimental and contains no obvious Sylvian vocals. I like ambient, Krautrock, experimental music and there is much here that I can get into, but I find that it isn’t cohesive at times.
Line-up / Musicians
– David Sylvian / guitar, keyboards, digital percussion (5), synth & programming (7), tapes, co-producer
– Robert Fripp / guitar (5)
– Masami Tsuchiya / guitar (5)
– Ryuichi Sakamoto / piano & strings (5)
– John Taylor / piano (7)
– Stuart Bruce / programming (7)
– Jon Hassell / trumpet (1-4)
– Kenny Wheeler / flugelhorn (5)
– Percy Jones / fretless bass (1-4)
– Steve Jansen / drums & keyboards (1-4), percussion
– Holger Czukay / radio (1-4), dictaphone (5)
That last chap there, Holger Czukay, was a founding member of Can, in case you were wondering, and Sylvian went on to work with him again.
Preparations For A Journey, above, is a short documentary that accompanied the short film “Steel Cathedrals” on the Japanese only laser disc. The documentary follows David’s brief work with Polaroid montages, which lead to his book “Perspectives” and an exhibition at Hamiltons gallery in London.
I don’t dislike the album at all, I just feel, when listening to it, that it can be a little disjointed and it needs a Can like bass groove or something similar in places. In fairness this is not a proper second solo release but a collection of tracks from various projects.
Gone To Earth
For his third (second really) solo album, David Sylvian assembled a fine collection of musicians, including his former Japan band-mates plus Robert Fripp, Bill Nelson, B.J. Cole and producer Steve Nye. The result is very much an album of two halves. The first two sides of this double contain some of Sylvians best work while the second two are somewhere in the ambient genre.
I was listening to ‘River Man’ just now, not the Nick Drake song, and was suddenly struck by the resemblance between its opening bars and those of ‘Don’t Give Up’ by Peter Gabriel from the SO album. Interestingly, both were released in 1986, though I’m not suggesting plagiarism on either part.
There are some rather long tracks on the first disc, such as ‘Wave’ which clocks in at over 9 minutes, as is “Before the Bullfight‘ but they don’t drag as Sylvian builds a mood so well that, if you let yourself fall into it, it can carry you away.
I do rather like the ambient album though I tend to ignore the track names and just listen to it as 1 track on each side as they can be somewhat indistinguishable from each other. It is less experimentally disjointed than the previous release and, while not challenging, is very listenable if you are in the mood for it.
Line-up / Musicians
– David Sylvian / vocals, keyboards, guitar, electronics (1), Fx (2), co-producer
– Robert Fripp / guitar (1,4-7,13,17-20), electronics (4-7)
– Bill Nelson / electric (3,5,7,8,16) & acoustic (3,9) guitars
– Phil Palmer / acoustic guitar (1)
– B.J. Cole / pedal steel guitar (7,12)
– John Taylor / piano (2)
– Steve Nye / piano (10), co-producer, mixing
– Kenny Wheeler / flugelhorn (2,3)
– Harry Beckett / flugelhorn (5)
– Mel Collins / soprano saxophone (6,7,18)
– Ian Maidman / bass
– Steve Jansen / percussion, drums, sampled bass (6,18)
– Richard Barbieri / Fx (3,5)
Secrets Of The Beehive
This is one of my favourite albums, not just by Sylvian but generally. I played the cassette a lot and find the tracks really very accessible. For reasons that I am quite unable to grasp, possibly because I’m actually a psychopath and don’t know it, I love the lyrics to “The Boy With The Gun”
He knows well his wicked ways
A course of bitterness
A grudge held from his childhood days
As if life had loved him less
Reading down his list of names
He ticks them one by one
He points the barrel at the sky
Firing shots off at the sun
“I am the law and I am the King
I am the wisdom, listen to me sing”
He carves out the victim’s names
In the wooden butt of the gun
He leans well back against the tree
He knows his Kingdom’s come
He’ll breath a sigh self satisfied
The work is in good hands
He shoots the coins into the air
And follows where the money lands
“I am the law and I am the King
I am the wisdom, listen to me sing”
He pauses at the city’s edge
Of hellfire and of stone
He summons up the devil there
To give him courage of his own
He’ll free the sinners of deceit
They’ll hear his name and run
His justice is his own reward
Measured out beneath the sun
“I am the law and I am the King
I am the wisdom, listen to me sing”
And my name’s on the gun
I’m not entirely sure why but I find the experience of listening to these songs as Autumnal, they just have that feel about them, they speak to me of endings perhaps. I found one official video, for the song ‘Orpheus’, although ‘Let the Happiness In’ was also a single, there either wasn’t an official video or I have just failed miserably in finding it.
So that’s the 4 albums. I guess I ask myself if I feel enriched by owning these and listening to them and I have to say I do. It has also re-connected me with the earlier Japan albums, which have had a spin this week and reminds me that there wasn’t much like them at the time, or since.
Brilliant Trees 9/10
Gone To Earth 8/10
Secrets of the Beehive 9.2/10
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.
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.
There is a Top 50 Gary Numan that I did, the best track from this was in at 47.
31 Abacab – Genesis
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.
The whole back catalogue is discussed and rated here: Genesis – Not with a bang but with a whimper
30 Dare – The Human League
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.
25 La Folie – The Stranglers
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.
10 Japan – Tin Drum
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.