“Because there had to be at least one goddamned Smiths song on this list. Because as much as I’ve generally found whatz-iz-name‘s histrionics annoying as only a perpetual seventeen year old’s whining can be annoying (and f***ing wrong), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think he was one of the all-time heavyweights on those occasions when he did get it right … even with all that criminally vulgar shyness.
And the band’s not half-bad either as How Soon Is Now aptly proves from initial gush of flanged Johnny Marr guitar onward. Trust that it sounded like nothing else in 1984, like a lost acid fragment from 1967 had finally completed its tour of the universe and somehow returned to ground in the grim and baleful north of Maggie Thatcher’s Britain, like a gem of ancient beauty and power. And for those who may already have heard How Soon Is Now, cool, I say. There’s still not enough of us.” (Philip Random)
“Because I couldn’t really justify forcing the Beatles Revolution onto this list, and anyway this latter day Revolution (care of The Spacemen 3) pays it fierce and eviscerating and ultimately beautiful homage, all flesh eating distortion and simple message. Just five seconds. That’s all it would take for all the fucked up children of this world to rise up and tear everything down. The weird part is, I was in Britain when this was new. I even saw the t-shirts. But I didn’t get around to hearing any of it for at least a year, by which point grunge was breaking (or about to anyway), which is really what was going on here. Grunge before they had the marketing figured out. A punk rock that wasn’t in a hurry. And I mean that in the best possible way. Because once marketing got involved, it was game over for everybody but the unit-shifters.” (Philip Random)
“The The being (at the time anyway) the last of the The bands, and they weren’t really a band anyway, being mostly the vision, the passion, the soul of Matt Johnson. And man, did he get it right in and around and on 1983’s Soul Mining, one of those albums where every song works, every moment feels inevitable. And yet, there didn’t seem to be room for Perfect, not on the original vinyl anyway, certainly not the longer, cooler, better remix version. Which is the first The The track I ever heard. One of those psychedelically enhanced long day’s journey into night and then back again into day situations. And yeah, I’d be paying for it in the long run, but in that sublime dawn moment, my friend Simon’s freshest mixtape playing from yonder blaster, the first rays of sun touching my face, it was a grand thing, like feeling the gods invent the world anew … grasping all of my considerable problems as their work, essential to the great scheme, whatever it was. Because in the end, everything’s perfect somehow, thus justified, even as a wild wind kicks up, sends loose trash swirling … or is it shrapnel from some distant warzone? You probably had to be there. I still am apparently.” (Philip Random)
“There are many versions of Primal Scream‘s Come Together floating around out there, but I’m going with Andy Weatherall‘s mega remix because of what the Reverend Jesse Jackson says in the sample which more or less carries it – that there are no genres, Rhythm and Blues and Jazz are just labels, to which I’d add Disco and Funk and Punk and Hip and Hop and Country and Western and Techno and Dub and Heavy and Metal and Glam and Goth and Rock and Roll and so on. There really are only two kinds of music. Good and Bad. I like to think I’ve invested some of the best parts of my life in digging for the good stuff, which in this case, got me to Britain, 1991, ecstasy rampant, all the toughest thugs having fallen in love with all humanity, everybody coming together in exquisite simultaneity. A little messy perhaps (and chemically dependent) but brilliant nonetheless, transcendent even. One for the ages. Actually, they’re all for the ages now. One thousand down on this list, one hundred eleven to go … ” (Philip Random)
“The Normal must have released more music than just 1978’s Warm Leatherette (and its b-side) but I’ve never heard any of it. Which makes them pretty much the perfect bit player in this ongoing pop apocalypse, working a one hundred percent batting average, because Warm Leatherette (a catchy hit of machine driven coolness about the car crash set, sado-masochism, the work of JG Ballard, other hip transgressions) remains entirely on the money and way ahead of its time.” (Philip Random)
“If you’re British, you’ve likely heard plenty of T-Rex in your time, maybe way too much. But over here in the Americas a track like Ride A White Swan never cracked pop radio back in the day, so it still retains the kind of freshness that turns heads, gets people nodding along, smiling, wondering, ‘Who is this?’ Like it was recorded last week, not better part of half a century ago. Still makes me smile pretty much every time I hear it, Marc Bolan’s oddly spry little ditty about skyways, sunbeams, druids and tatooed gowns. Some say it invented Glam. I ain’t arguing.” (Philip Random)
“Lazarus eventually showed up in truncated form on the Boo Radleys‘ third album Giant Steps, arguably the greatest album ever that hardly anyone’s ever heard (except a bunch of Brits in 1993 or thereabouts), but the version you need to hear is the original 12-inch single mix with the extended and ultimately profound lead-in. Over a minute before there’s a discernible beat, almost three before the trumpets of heaven properly unleash like the Lord’s own light shining through, turning confusion to epiphany, sorrow to joy, undeath to everlasting life (there is a difference). I may not believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour, but I do believe this a helluva record.” (Philip Random)
Wherein the Human League pound home the point (with big beat and propulsive groove) that the times are always hard. It just depends where you’re sitting, or in this case, dancing. A track that never got released on an album but all the club DJs found it anyway. Do You Want Me Baby? may have been the big deal hit at the time, but it took Hard Times to burn down the house (and perhaps the Empire).
It’s Britain, 1977, and if you’re not punk, you’re not worth knowing. Unless you’re the Stranglers, who were like punk’s mean older brother, more sophisticated, and tougher in a street fighting sort of way. Also, they had a sort of existential edge as a song like Get A Grip On Yourself makes clear. Yeah, society’s f***ed, the world’s going up in apocalyptic flames. No reason to lose your cool, man.