“When Elvis (aka The King) died in 1977, John Lennon was smugly heard to observe that he’d already been been dead for almost twenty years — ever since he joined the army back in 1958. But I give him another ten years, to 1968 and the big deal comeback TV special on NBC. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had just been shot, the Vietnam war had officially gone to hell, the Beatles hadn’t played live for years. But Elvis wasn’t worried. He had a secret weapon for the show’s finale, a brand new song written by a guy named Earl Brown called If I Can Dream. ‘I’m never going to sing another song I don’t believe in,’ said Elvis when he first heard it, ‘I’m never going to make another movie I don’t believe in.’ And yeah, Elvis did deliver on NBC, a performance that reached deep through the strange vacuum of the cathode ray tube and touched the hopeful soul of all humanity, maybe even saved the world. But then he proceeded to eat doughnuts, sing awful songs, make worse movies, and finally died nine years later, alone, sitting on a toilet. Poor guy. The King of Need, the Residents called him.” (Philip Random)
Here it is in two Mixcloud streams, each about an hour …
The podcast of the whole program is available for download here.
This marks the climax of our programming since June. So, if we got it absolutely right, it’s probably one of the greatest radio programs ever across all bands and frequencies. If not, we apologize. Because you certainly can’t blame the music, the twenty most singular records of all time, presented here in descending order.
20. Prince – let’s go crazy (1984)
It’s the mid-80s and it somehow makes perfect sense that the single most kickass dancefloor killer of the raging moment is an exhortation toward the love of God and going crazy. Made it to the #1 in the USA, #2 in Canada, #7 in the UK, #10 in Australia.
No video available. Thanks, Prince.
19. My Bloody Valentine – When You Sleep (1991)
It’s arguably a sin to even listen to this in recorded form as it could never do sonic justice to the live experience. And yet, such is the My Bloody Magnificence of the thing — it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. There is only everything.
18. Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane (1970)
Of course it didn’t chart. It tells the truth. About everything. Children are not the only ones who blush. Villains don’t always blink their eyes. The best music scares the hell out of the powerful.
17. Alice Cooper – Schools Out (1972
Catches the mad punk delirium of the last day of school, reminds us that all the most important lessons happen outside the prison walls. And funny at that. Made it to #7 in the USA, #5 in Germany, # 2 in Ireland, #1 in the UK.
16. Jimi Hendrix – all along the watchtower (1968)
The Dylan cover so good it forever changed how Dylan himself performed the song. As to what it’s actually about. That’s pretty obvious. It’s about businessmen drinking the man’s wine, with riders approaching and the wind about to howl. Made it to #20 in the USA, #5 in the UK.
15. Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968)
Jimmy Webb wrote the song but Mr. Campbell nailed its sad and true centre. Yeah, he went on to perpetrate a mostly mediocre career, but these three minutes could redeem Richard Nixon. Made it to #3 in the USA, #1 in Canada, #7 in the UK.
14. Undertones – teenage kicks (1978)
Punk spins into pop, conjures a confection that manages to be both fierce and fun. Given Teenage Kicks overall lack of chart supremacy, you gotta figure it all happened just a little too soon for the world. Our gain. We’re not sick of it. Made it to #31 in the UK.
13. Clash – I fought the law (1979)
Is it wrong that a band that wrote so many masterpieces of their own should have a cover register as their highest selection on this list? No. Because the Clash just weren’t that pure. That was the attraction. They were a raging guerrilla battle all the way, all the time. Name a tactic. They used it. Did the Law win in the end? Who said it was over? Made it to #24 in Ireland.
12. Johnny Cash – ring of fire (1963)
About as happy a song about going to hell as we know. Or maybe it’s about falling in love. Or something else. What it is, is the Man In Black whooping it up with mariachi horns, having a blast. Works at parties, weddings, anywhere really. Made it to #1 on the USA-Country chart, #17 on the pop chart, #12 in Australia.
11. David Bowie – life on Mars? (1973)
A 1973 single release from a 1971 album which didn’t get heard in the Americas until at least 1972. In other words, Mr. Bowie (aka Mr. Jones) is messing with the fabric of reality yet again, and winning. A full-on Hollyweird epic in less than four minutes. Romance, regret, yearning, aliens. Made it to #3 in the UK, #39 in Germany, #4 in Ireland.
10. Nina Simone – I wish I knew how it would feel to be free (1967)
It didn’t seem to chart anywhere. It changed the world anyway. |How do we know this? Because everyone that hears it agrees with it … or they’re one of the jailers.
9. Stevie Wonder – superstition (1972)
Because of what happens whenever this shows up in a party situation. The funk destroys all fascists. Goodness triumphs. That it’s also a rip-roaring condemnation of all the insane stuff people believe, well, welcome to inside of the Top Ten. Made it to #1 in the USA, #11 in the UK.
8. Pere Ubu – final solution (1976)
Wherein the atom heart of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues getst split and full-on apocalypse unleashes. Deliberately kept off the charts by shady men dressed in black lest it immanetize the eschaton ahead of schedule. Such was the murky truth of 1976.
7. KLF – doctorin’ the Tardis (1988)
The Dr. Who theme and Rock And Roll Part 2 joined at the trans-dimensional hip. More fun than all the Star Wars and all the Star Treks (and their spinoffs) combined. And magnitudes smarter. Made it #1 in the UK, #2 in Australia, #4 in Ireland, #16 on the US dance charts.
6. Rolling Stones – paint it black (1966)
It’s not even the Summer of Love yet but the Stones are unleashing the sitars and balalaikas, knocking the whole world on its side, even as they dump a tanker load of black paint over all those pretty psychedelic colours. Made it #1 in the US, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands, #2 in Finland. What the hell, Finland?
5. Stooges – I wanna be your dog (1969)
Released in June of 1969, it didn’t chart anywhere, didn’t get them invited to Woodstock or Ed Sullivan. Yet it’s still at least the fifth greatest and/or most singular record of all time because entire universes have formed from the mad chaos of its wake.
4. Sex Pistols – pretty vacant (1977)
The most Abba like of the Sex Pistols singles, probably because the main riff was more or less stolen from them. Yet such atrocities were unleashed upon it that nobody seemed to notice. This was going to be Anarchy in the UK except Motron started making allergy noises. Made it to #6 in the UK.
3. Beatles – revolution (1968)
Motron remembers Grade Four. “Mrs. Hackett would let us play records on Friday afternoons. And it always ended with The Beatles’ Hey Jude/Revolution. Hey Jude always got played first because it was the A-side and ladies first, the girls preferred it. Revolution always got played louder because after all that, the boys needed to tear shit up.” Made it to #1 absolutely everywhere.
2. Beatles – I am the walrus (1967)
Beatle John drops acid for maybe the thousandth day in a row, ends up watching TV and taking notes of great terror and epiphany while sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun to shine. Jack Kerouac once said that all he had to offer was his confusion. John Lennon took it even further. He was the walrus. Goo-goo-ga-joob. B-side to Hello Goodbye which made it #2 everywhere that it wasn’t #1.
1. Elvis Presley – if I can dream (1968)
The kid from Tupelo singing like he truly believes that a single song can not just redeem his own soul but everyone else’s as well, the world over, in 1968 on a TV special with the hard rain of assassinations and war and insurrection falling here there and everywhere. Seriously, what’s a King to do? Made it to #12 in the US, #6 in Canada.