55. rock’n’roll n*****

“A friend (I won’t say their name) thinks I should somehow apologize for listing Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger. But holy shit, how do you apologize for something like this? Yeah, Patti Smith’s not black, but she is one hell of a poet, so if she says she’s a nigger of the rock ‘n’ roll variety, I guess I have to take her word for it. Even as I’m sure that some will take issue, and they’ll probably be at least as right as Ms. Smith. Just call it all confusion, I guess. Fierce and true.

Speaking of which (and maybe the best damned argument for the word, the song, the song that contains the word) is the album it showed up on. 1978’s Easter, which is otherwise a mostly restrained affair, maybe even a little a dull. Though it does contain the biggest hit she ever had, Because The Night, the one Bruce Springsteen wrote for her. Which is hilarious really — all those Boss fans buying it, then getting spat on toward the end of side one. Such were the punk rock wars of the late seventies. Confusion everywhere … and it was good.” (Philip Random)

57. teenage kicks

“It’s all in the title. Teenage Kicks kicks like a f***ing teenager. In the best possible way. Or as The Who put it way back when, the kids are alright. They always are, they must be, such is the life force itself, all those eternal teenage hormones, hardons, heartbreaks, total havoc. The Kicks Must Continue or else seriously, why bother? And the thing is, you don’t have to be a teenager to get it. I wasn’t. I was twenty the first time I heard Teenage Kicks. And if my math is straight, so was Feargal Sharkey when he sang it, and John O’Neill when he wrote it. Power pop for the f***ing ages, I say. The Undertones were NOT a punk band. Yet in true stupid music biz fashion, I doubt it got played even once on commercial radio here in the Americas. And people wonder why I so deeply detest the f***ing Knack.” (Philip Random)

72. mongoloid

Mongoloid rates high indeed because it’s the first punk tune that ever truly grabbed me, even if some have argued (and no doubt continue to) that Devo weren’t Punk, they were New Wave, to which I just fire back a big WHATEVER. It would’ve been 1978 because Tormato, the latest Yes magnum opus, had been released, except it was neither magnum or opus. But I loved it anyway being a fan. But not my friend Carl, who made a point of removing Tormato from the turntable mid-song (the one about a UFO as I recall) and slapping down Devo’s first album in its place … which proceeded to make an impression. Particularly Mongoloid. Just the whole nasty punk idea of it – a wound up anthem about some guy who was a mongoloid. How perverse was that! And yet fun. Because it was. Unlike the Yes. But Yes weren’t aiming for fun, I tried to argue, they were fixed on something more complex, important. Carl just smiled and played Mongoloid again. By the third time through, I was air-guitaring.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

89. one nation under a groove

“Because it made John the drug dealer cry. Tough guy, carried a gun sometimes (or claimed to anyway), you did not f*** with him. It was 86 Street nightclub, 1988, maybe three hours into the 19-piece P-Funk All Stars extravaganza, George Clinton and company riding a groove that had been building all evening, just wave after wave of funk infused fabulousness, everything building, building … and finally shifting slightly, evolving into a recognizable song, the one about there only being one nation, the one which entices us to all move in groovy unity. That’s when John nudged me, pointed to a tear on his cheek. If that musical moment had somehow been pressed to vinyl in all its power and glory, it would probably be number one on this list. But I guess we’ll just have to go with the album version from a decade previous, which like so much of the Parliament-Funkadelic stuff, works fine even as it falls magnitudes short of the live item. Oh well. Maybe you had to be there. I was.” (Philip Random)

109. walk on by

“Because it’s The Stranglers taking on Burt Bacharch’s Walk On By and proving my old buddy Carl right. He used to say there were no bad songs, only bad performances. Not that I really considered Walk On By a bad song, just sort of guilty by association, buried as it was in the EZ-listening-muzak background of my growing up (whatever that godawful Toronto radio station was that my parents had on all the time, 1,001 strings in full asphyxiating flower). But jump ahead a decade and things are different. The song may still be saying the same thing, but the music isn’t. The music snarls, this heartbreak is dangerous, and come the instrumental jam of the full length version, the Stranglers are soaring. Even the punks are running scared.” (Philip Random)

115. public image

Public Image was the first single from Public Image Ltd, the concern that Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) threw together amid the wreckage of the recently crashed and burned Sex Pistols. And it was damned good. Hell, even I liked it on first listen from my then mostly anti-punk perspective. A serious call to … seriousness, I guess, Mr. Rotten making the point that he was more than just a cartoon character, a gimmick, a punk, that he knew a thing or two about music, how to sing a song, make a record, take steady aim, hit them all where it hurts. And damn, what a bass line!” (Philip Random)

141. soul fire

“In which Lee Scratch Perry (aka Rainford Hugh Perry), the maddest mix-doctor of them all, nails us with a powerful ember of soul fire ††that manages to be equal parts easy and strange. Because it’s roots reggae (always an easy groove) and it concerns the human soul (always strange). Doesn’t matter if you’re in feverishly hot Trenchtown, Jamaica, or just some pointless suburb at the north-western edge of the crumbling civilization known as Babylon. It’s all humanity if you drill deep enough.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

149. downpayment blues

“When AC/DC first hit my particular suburb, I was in my late teens and fully committed to the sinking ship that was known as Prog Rock, after which I grabbed some wreckage that washed me ashore on the island known as punk, new wave etc. Because hard rock, heavy metal, riff rock – that was for little kids as far as I was concerned. I was wrong, of course. Because jump ahead a decade, I’m almost thirty now and in no way measuring up to any of the adult expectations that anybody ever had for me (my parents, my teachers, myself even) and among many other unexpected diversions, I’m finally ready for the genius that is-was-will-always-be AC/DC. Honest, direct, maybe a little evil, always piledrivingly on the nose whether deliberately hellbound or, in the case of Downpayment Blues (from Powerage, the second last studio album of the Bon Scott era), just slacking off, drinking cheap swill, doing nothing with a vengeance. Or as somebody put it in Slacker† (the movie) a few years later, ‘… withdrawing in disgust should never be confused with apathy.’ Words to live by.” (Philip Random)

198. Satisfaction

“1978 sometime. I’m home alone watching Saturday Night Live, and BAM! Devo hits the stage with their take on the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction and … well, call it a Ballad of a Thin Man moments (ie: that Bob Dylan song where he sneers at straight old normal Mr. Jones and says, ‘Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you?’) Except I wasn’t even twenty years old yet, how the hell could I be as uncool as Mr. Jones? And anyway, I had heard Devo already and didn’t hate them, but I didn’t exactly get them either. What I was, of course, was confused, which I’d eventually realize was the whole point. Devo existed to confuse. The trick was to trust this confusion, maybe even love it, embrace it as the true and weird future for all of mankind. Or something like that. I guess I’m still confused, but man, I do love that first Devo album.” (Philip Random)

(image source)