4. redemption song

“It’s true. There are still people out there who haven’t heard Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, not even a cover version. And that’s a problem. Because we all need redemption, because we’ve all got slavery in us one way or another. Unless you’re one of those grey alien types who’ve been lording it over ALL humanity since the days of Atlantis. In which case, F*** You. To everybody else though, if you haven’t heard Redemption Song, why not? Because it’s Bob Marley’s last song, and it’s his best (assuming this list is accurate).

(Photo: Mike Prior Redferns/Getty Images)

If you have heard Redemption Song, then I suspect it requires no justification. Because even if you’re sick of all the white rastas out there, all their tofu stir fries and b.o. (because if you don’t eat meat, man, you don’t stink). Even if (and a million other ifs, because let’s face it, the Bob Marley legacy is hardly a secret anymore, anywhere – bigger than the Beatles once you get outside the Euro-western empires). Even F***ing If – well, you know that Redemption Song transcends all that. Because we all need redemption. We’ve all got slavery in us one way or another. Am I allowed to say that? I just did. Twice.” (Philip Random)

34. clampdown

Clampdown‘s the second song I heard from London Calling, the album that ignited the possibility that yeah, maybe the Clash were the only band that mattered. I heard the title track first, and I immediately loved it – all that rage and insurrection down by the river. But for whatever reason (probably because I was pretty broke at the time), I didn’t dive in and buy the album until fellow cab driver Dennis pulled me aside and forced Clampdown on me. It was simply that important, that urgent.

Because as Dennis put it, ‘You’re a young man and a young man’s gotta watch himself when it comes to simple explanations as to how the world really works — fascist bullshit being so easy to fall into, so easy to end up with the bully boys wearing blue and brown. Say goodbye to your living soul.’  Dennis (who was about five years older and recently arrived from England) being the kind of guy who always had a spliff rolled, ready to go. We’d book off for a few minutes, crank the tunes in his cab, always something British, punk or new wave, which past a certain point in summer 1980 meant pretty much non-stop London Calling — the Sgt. Pepper’s of the 1980s, he called it, ‘But better than that hippie shit.’ Punks moving beyond punk, trying to embrace everything goddamned thing, succeeding for the most part. Thanks, Dennis, wherever you are.” (Philip Random)

87. if music could talk

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s absurdly abundant 1979-80 phase which culminated in the six sided monster known as Sandinista – If Music Could Talk being (for me anyway) probably that album’s key track. Not for any grand power or standalone attainment, but simply for its inclusion — that a band as righteously raw and committed as The Only Band That Mattered™ could deliver such an oddly sweet and beatific ode to not rebellion-revolution-insurrection, but music itself. Which gets us back to that suburban house fire, 1981 sometime, the mixtape I had playing on the walkman care of my good friend Simon Lamb. If Armagideon Time was more fuel for the fire that was our whole broken and corrupt Cold War western culture, then If Music Could Talk, which came after, was some kind of next chapter, an odd little path leading wherever it is that only music can go, not even poetry can keep up with it, though there is a pile of poetry in If Music Could Talk, the words spilling like rain down both channels of the stereo mix, not making sense so much as easing beyond it, because we already knew it way back then even if we couldn’t quite find the words: the revolution, or evolution, or whatever it was going to take to somehow NOT annihilate ourselves in some kind of forever war – it could not be rational.” (Philip Random)

110. Enola Gay

Before they were OMD, they were Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and better – cool young masters of dance floor ready girlfriend-left-me earworm pop of highest attainment. Except the Enola Gay in question here is not just some wayward girl who didn’t stay home, she’s the US air force bomber that dropped the BOMB on Hiroshima — history’s exclamation point, all of mankind’s progress and/or regress manifesting in a pivotal instant that (combined with what happened a few days later in Nagasaki) FORCED change, triggered apocalypse, immenatized the eschaton (and so on). It’s 8:15 in the AM, Japan time, August 6, 1945. Always has been, always will be. This is where we are. Nothing will ever be the same.

130. here comes the flood

“It was the night John Lennon was murdered. My friend Simon dropped by with some LSD and, given the extremes of the moment, our fates were sealed. It was our profound duty to now trip the vast lysergic, play a pile of Beatles records and see where the mystical magical vibrations might take us. They took us to dawn, sitting in my car now, high up a hilltop, taking in the first grey light of a cold and misty day. We had Simon’s little brother asleep in the backseat with a dog named Alice (it’s a long story) … but the Beatles weren’t on the playlist anymore. We’d sort of lost track of them as things started to peak, the gods having other plans for us apparently. Now it was a mixtape Simon had made of more recent stuff, moody and cool and mostly instrumental. Except here was Peter Gabriel suddenly, singing Here Comes The Flood, but not the version from his debut album, this was sparer, sharper, far better. I later discovered it was from Robert Fripp’s Exposure album — everything peeled back to just voice, piano and some ghostly Frippertronics. A song of apocalypse, no question, of saying goodbye to flesh and blood. Yet not forecasting doom in the end, but rather a sort of dreamlike survival. And then the rain really started to deluge on that hilltop. And it still hasn’t stopped, not really, the 1970s being known as the last decade that the sun ever really shone.” (Philip Random)

172. crosseyed + painless

Remain In Light was the Talking Heads’ fourth album, and the one that finally forced me to admit they were probably the best band in America, possibly the world. Because here was the future, not coming, already here, and cool and strange in ways I just wasn’t prepared for. Rhythms and poly-rhythms and drones and eruptions taking songs in all kinds of unprecedented directions, like they’d somehow heard all the music in the world and figured a way to get it into a 40 minute album of so-called pop music, or in the case of Crosseyed and Painless (concerned with urban paranoia apparently) one less than five minute song. Brian Eno helped, of course.” (Philip Random)

TalkingHEads-1980-live

173. one more time

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s last truly great, truly world beating album, the six-sided monster known as Sandinista. In the case of One More Time (and it’s dub), that means the ideal soundtrack for an ironic walk through an upscale suburban enclave on a warm spring evening (‘must I get a witness for all this misery?’), particularly if there’s a house fire in the vicinity, sirens a-howling, black smoke rising, and you’re a little high on LSD. This actually happened to me, 1981 sometime. I ended up watching it all from maybe a block away, and thinking (not for the first time) that the Apocalypse wasn’t something that was coming, it was already here, and I was in the middle of it – and so was everybody else. Armagideon times indeed.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Hulton archive)

174. Broadway

“Have I raved enough yet about Sandinista, the vast and multifaceted Clash album that doesn’t generally end up on Best Of All  Time Lists? London Calling being the one that tends to get all the glory. Which it deserves, of course, but I would submit that sometimes more really is MORE when it comes to art, beauty, meaning, rebellion everything. Which, in Sandinista‘s case means thirty-six tracks spread across six sides of vinyl, enough to drown in if necessary. And maybe it is. Necessary. Because Sandinista is the greatest band in the world (at the time) firing all of their guns at once and hitting way more often than they miss. Broadway shows up at the end of Side Four. A slice of Beat-like poetry that may start out weary and down for the count. But never count this band out. Ever. Not in 1980-81 anyway.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1980-rooftopNYC

(image source)

 

194. song from under the floorboards

It’s all there in the opening lineI am angry, I am ill, and I’m as ugly as sin. Welcome to Magazine, a band that is definitely not working the same boring teenage fantasies as your Van Halens, Bostons, Foreigners or any of the other popular outfits of the day. Nah, this was a Dostoyevskian truth, bitter and perversely beautiful. And what a hot band! All the bile and eviscerating energy of punk, but not afraid to be a little sophisticated. Hell, you could even dance to it, annoy the people downstairs, under the floorboards.

(image source)