7. Anarchy in the UK

“It’s been how long now since 1976, and some perfectly decent people still haven’t heard Anarchy in the UK, the greatest eruption of pop rage and negation ever pressed to whatever the hell it is vinyl records are actually made  of!?! Plastics, like the man said at the beginning of The Graduate, like that’s all a young man needed to know about the game called life and how to play it. And he was right by which I mean, he was so wrong all he could be was right, like Jo Stalin and Adolph Hitler chasing their ideological extremes so far and hard they were bound to meet in Stalingrad. Which is to say Hell. On earth. Yadda-yadda-yadda. By which I mean, where do you go with such evil in the air? Evil that came from humans, not even driven by organized religion anymore by the time WW2 hit its malevolent peak. What the f*** am I even talking about? Which is the wrong question, because I’m not talking, I’m ranting, and rule #1 of rants is you don’t have to explain. The noise is enough, its own justification.

By which I mean, Anarchy in the UK is sheer zeitgeist – 1976 alive and bleeding, more than three decades after WW2 (still the worst f***ing thing we humans have ever done collectively) finally wrapped up. Meanwhile, it’s 2001 where I’m currently sitting, a further twenty-five years down the line from the Sex Pistols first and best and most glorious eruption – so fierce, it’s like I said already, way too many people still haven’t been allowed to hear it. Which is true. The Man remains terrified of Anarchy in the UK and what it suggests — that the answer to that earlier question (Where Do You Go?) is simple. The answer is nowhere. You make your stand now, you make your stand here – wherever you happen to be on planet earth. Main Street, back alley, bank lobby, some faraway beach – it’s as much yours as anybody else’s, f*** all kings and generals and presidents and bosses. But you do have to make that stand, state your grievance, make your noise, save your soul, save the universe, save the world, save yourself, anihilate the passerby (figuratively, of course) Because if we don’t, THEY will, and it won’t be figurative.” (Philip Random)

(UNITED ARCHIVES GMBH / ALAMY)

20. helpless

“Because we’ve all been there – that small town in Ontario of the heart and soul, all solitude and yearning. And learning. Which hurts at the time, but in the fullness of time, we come to realize it’s about as good as life gets. And nobody’s ever put it better than Mr. Neil Young in the song known as Helpless, and he never sang it better than he did one evening toward the end of 1976, the concert known as The Last Waltz, the band known as The Band bidding a proud and fond (though not exactly permanent) farewell. Even Joni Mitchell showed up in the background making for perhaps the most righteously Canadian thing that ever happened in a San Francisco ballroom (of course, it was called Winterland). It was even snowing (backstage anyway). Way better than hockey.” (Philip Random)

(Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

30. marquee moon

“In case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a sucker for an epic, and Marquee Moon (the song) is definitely that. Title track of Television’s first and best album, and doubly lovable for how it righteously pulled the rug out from certain Stalinist tendencies of the punk scene at the time — way too many hard and fast rules getting laid down as to what drugs could be taken, the colour of your leather jacket, the length and style of your hair, how long a song could be. Which is all dumb, all opposite to the anarchic fervour that ignited punk in the first place. No rules, no boundaries, no nothing – just don’t be f***ing boring. And Marquee Moon (song and album) nail that. So yeah, maybe Television weren’t punk, but they certainly came from punk. So if a riff said, ride me to f***ing eternity, they were going to ride it, taking their orders from the music, not some tiresome Machiavellian assholes who, in another era, would be deciding what words could be used in a poem, what symbols … and who should be disappeared come the revolution.” (Philip Random)  

33. police + thieves

“More Clash because one track never really suffices with this outfit, as this overall list makes clear. More Clash tracks than from any other artist. With Police and Thieves their highest placing because it cuts to the truth of it: you’re not looking at the world with clear eyes as long as you think it’s cops versus robbers, police versus thieves. It’s the two of them together, fascists and mobsters, working flip sides of the same venal coin. The trick is to stay the hell out their crossfire. I would’ve been at least twenty-two before I finally had this even remotely figured out. With the Clash and their overall worldview a huge part of my education, Police and Thieves being a cover of an old Junior Murvin reggae tune, which is cool itself. But The Clash’s take, found on their first album, kicks things into full-on anthem status, all the while keeping both the reggae and the punk. Which reminds me of young Ryan and his oft-heard claim that the Clash were the world’s best white reggae band. Amen to that. And to the Clash in general. Maybe not ever the only band that mattered, but it sure felt like it at times.” (Philip Random)

59. psycho killer

1977 is not the best Talking Heads album, not even close, but in Psycho Killer, it probably has their best song. Which gets us to the argument I had recently with my lawyer, she claiming to have heard it before, and thus a dubious selection for this list. Hell, it’s in the movie, the very first song, David Byrne stepping out solo on stage, just acoustic guitar and beatbox, and his uniquely wound intensity. But these are records I’m listing here, not songs, and the essential recording of Psycho Killer is the original 1977 album version — funky, tough and psychotic, which clearly not enough folks have heard yet, or it would’ve shown up as the theme song for some eighth rate cop show. Which is a good thing. I’m not complaining. But I was at a friend’s big deal fortieth birthday recently where it brought the house down, which was weird and also kind of beautiful, all these former punks and new-wavers and whatever else hitting the middle of their lives, showing scar tissue, but still moving, liable to explode at any instant, taking everything with them. But in a good way.” (Philip Random)

75. Frankie Teardrop

Frankie Teardrop is probably the one track on this list that I’ve listened to the least, because who f***ing needs it on repeat? Yet we do need such stuff sometimes. Because violence is in our nature and it’s seldom been so viscerally expressed as it is here. No great surprise that it came out of 1977, the year Punk properly broke. Not that Suicide were punk. They were their own genre altogether. And political as hell if only for the full on howl of Frankie Teardrop, young man with a family, just trying to survive, but he’s not gonna make it, he can’t make the payments … and don’t fool yourself, we all know Frankies, perhaps as near as the closest mirror.” (Philip Random)

104. pretty vacant

Because it’s the f***ing Sex Pistols, arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time, at their most pop, such as it is. Pretty Vacant being the one you could find on a mixtape with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Who, The Doors, The Cars even, without offending anyone.  Certainly no one you didn’t want to be offending. Based on an Abba song apparently.

(image source)

212. the night they drove old Dixie down

Joan Baez had a big AM radio hit with this back in around 1972. Meanwhile, the cool FM DJs were playing the Band’s original version, which my teenybop ears didn’t really get. Too gritty, too raw. But jump ahead a few years to The Last Waltz (the movie of the Band’s big deal farewell concert) and yeah, I got it! The vast tragedy of the American South, what it is to lose a war and thus your culture, see it all burned before your eyes by the forces of Northern Aggression. Yeah, they owned slaves or certainly fought for those who did, but … I can’t think of a but for this. Slavery’s about as f***ed up as humanity gets. But there you go – where there’s humanity, there’s also soul, and thus complexity. Which is why we need songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” (Philip Random)

Band-1977-LastWaltz

224. don’t worry about the government

“It continues to amaze me that this hit in 1977, the year Punk truly erupted, tore the firmament asunder, tossed multi-dimensional hand grenades up and down the corridors of power and complacency. And Talking Heads were very much part of all that, playing all the relevant clubs, going to all the relevant parties. Except Don’t Worry About the Government isn’t really raucous at all, just a spry ditty about clouds and pine trees and peaches and civil servants and friends, and loved ones. Nothing at all to worry about.” (Philip Random)

TalkingHeads-1977-live

(photo source)