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)

24. full metal jackoff

“One of my more dangerous friends used to say Full Metal Jackoff was the ultimate surf tune – the music he wanted playing when that monster wave he was riding finally rose into a tsunami the size of a continent and effectively removed all evidence that humankind had ever existed. What it is actually, is a hardcore supernova — Jello Biafra and DOA together (for one short 1990 album), and no question, Full Metal Jackoff is its primary reason to exist. Because it uses its fourteen piledriving minutes to put it all together for us: the monstrous evil of Ronald Reagan’s America in all of its streamlined complexity, conspiracy and cynical malevolence.

Because it really would be a little obvious to fence off all the slums, hand machine guns to the poor and just let them kill each other off. No you need to be more subtle than that, you need a plan that involves illegal cash from Iran, cocaine from Colombia, the ‘freedom fighting’ Contras of Nicaragua and CIA guns … until at some point there’s a black van with no windows cruising the various mean streets of the great US of A, sealing the deal, maybe disappearing a few of your neighbours on the side. But nobody even hears their screams. Or if they do, they’re too terrified to do anything about it. Welcome to America at the end of the 1980s. Not fascist so much as stampeding in that particular direction. Though it’s not as if serious f***ing noise isn’t getting made about it.” (Philip Random)

(Winston Smith)

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)

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)

116. station to station

“Speaking of David Bowie albums I’d probably die trying to save from a house fire, Station to Station‘s the one where he refers to himself as the Thin White Duke, title track, first song, first words. Not that it meant much to me at the time, 1976, half-way through Grade Eleven. It was just another disappointment on the level that it wasn’t somehow a return to Ziggy Stardust and/or the year of the Diamond Dogs – a perspective I’d soon outgrow, because I couldn’t help but get sucked in by Station to Station. Particularly the song, its long slow build from noise to creepy mutant groove, to sudden switch at half-distance into full-on cocaine party rocker. Later that year, I’d read the infamous Playboy interview where Mr. Bowie spoke not unfavourably of Adolph Hitler, how what the Britain of 1976 needed was a solid fascist government. What an asshole! Years later, the story would come out that Station to Station was an album he had no memory of recording due to a confusion of cocaine, black magic, milk, full-on paranoid psychosis and appearances on the Dinah Shore Show. Which is just one more reason why I wouldn’t a trade a teenage in the 1970s for any other decade. Exactly as strange and provocative as this growing boy needed.” (Philip Random)

(photos: Andrew Kent)

256. wild is the wind

“Pay your dues long before you pay the rent, finally catch a few breaks, rise to mega-supernova status, then crash and burn into an oblivion of ego, drugs, madness. Hardly an original scenario. But it takes a special talent indeed to pull off the crash and burn part without messing up creatively. Which is what David Bowie managed in 1976 with Station to Station, his Thin White Duke album, the one he’d later claim he had no memory of making. So yeah, here’s to madness and oblivion, particularly if it includes a cover as epic as Wild is the Wind, which I was certain was a Nina Simone original, but then my lawyer pointed out, it’s from a 1950s Anthony Quinn movie. Either way, it gets to feeling like life itself once that wind really starts a-blowing.” (Philip Random)

davidbowie-1976-thinwhiteduke

1079. I wanna rule the world

In 10cc‘s hands, pop was alive and rather brilliantly insane in 1976. Or whatever you call the kind of music they were messing around with on the album How Dare You? in general, the song I Wanna Rule The World in particular – spending big money on studio time and album art. “Art for art’s sake, money for god’s sake,” as one of the other songs on the album put it.