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)

28. baby’s on fire

Baby’s On Fire doesn’t play by any of the rules, yet it absolutely slays as pop song, rock song, whatever you want to call it — the Brian Eno genius in full wild eruption, that beautiful baby getting tossed out with the bathwater, or whatever the hell’s going on. What’s going on is Mr. Eno’s delightfully skewed approach to wordplay. Throw a bunch of loose phrases into a box, pull them out in random order. Proceed from there. And then there’s Robert Fripp‘s incendiary guitar solo erupting through the middle of things like a demon from future antiquity (or was it Paul Rudolph?). By which I mean, holy sh**, Baby’s On Fire was at least five years old when I first heard it, and still too hot to touch. And it still hasn’t cooled off. Yet it is still cool.” (Philip Random)

86. Je t’aime … moi non plus

“Apparently Je T’aime … moi non plus (the Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg version) was a big deal international hit way back when. Just not here in the Americas. Because the first time I was even aware of it was at least twenty years after the fact, and that would’ve been in the background somewhere, cool radio, maybe somebody’s mixtape at a backyard barbecue, people playing croquet in the foreground. But it did eventually hit me. It did stick. The kind of easy cool melody and pop fresh production that destroys time, transcends decades, and then there’s the subject matter and its rather unabashed eroticism. Or as my friend Angela once put it, ‘The French may have gotten a lot wrong when it came to rock and roll, but they sure knew how to do dirty without it coming across as unclean.’ What it was (and still is) is pretty much pop perfect to my ears and (special thanks to North America’s rampant Puritanism) still not overexposed hereabouts, thus allergy free. And for the record, Ms. Birkin would’ve been twenty-one when she recorded her vocal, so it’s all entirely legal.” (Philip Random)

93. to love somebody

“In which Nina Simone proves the experts wrong. The Bee Gees peaked long before all that disco foo-furrah of the later mid-70s, probably in 1967 with To Love Somebody which may just be the greatest song of unrequited love ever written, the proof being in the covers, everybody from the Flying Burrito Brothers to Michael Bolton to the Chambers Brothers to Billy Corgan, Roberta Flack, Michael Buble, Janis Joplin, Eric Burdon taking a swing at it … but nobody ever owned it like Ms. Simone, whose pumped up 1969 take removes all adornments, just tells it like it is-was-will-always-be. I lost somebody. I’m broken. I don’t think I’ll ever be fixed. At least I still believe in my soul.” (Philip Random)

95. just like honey

“If you want to know what the mid-1980s really sounded like, slap on The Jesus And Mary Chain‘ s Psycho Candy and it’s all there in the (sort of) Phil Spector melodies channeled through not a wall of sound, but a god damned holocaust of it. And yet there’s a sweetness you can’t ignore, perhaps more obvious in Just Like Honey than most of the rest of the album. But be careful, it’s a dangerous sweetness, because this is an outfit that call themselves The Jesus and Mary Chain, more than just suggesting a pure and fierce and superlative purpose that will destroy the unrighteous. And many were destroyed in 1985, the battle lines being drawn in what would come to be known as the Winter of Hate (by a few of us anyway). And you could even sing along.” (Philip Random)

104. pretty vacant

Because it’s the f***ing Sex Pistols, arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time, at their most pop, such as it is. Pretty Vacant being the one you could find on a mixtape with the likes of Elvis Costello, The Who, The Doors, The Cars even, without offending anyone.  Certainly no one you didn’t want to be offending. Based on an Abba song apparently.

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105. ballrooms of Mars

“It’s easy to file T-Rex away as a glammed up (and out) pop monster whose singles absolutely nailed the zeitgeist for a year or three in the early 1970s, and they certainly did all that (in Britain anyway). But main man Marc Bolan could also just lay down a brilliant song – poetic, psychedelic, vaguely surreal, rather like the times, but also timeless, with Ballroom Of Mars (found on 1972’s Slider) exhibit A in this regard. Because that’s how I found it, at least a decade after the fact, wasting a day, drinking red wine so cheap the only way to make it palatable was to pour it over ice, maybe add a touch of something sweet. But the sun was shining and the company was good and … holy shit, who is this? It’s T-Rex, of course, gripped in the arms of the changeless madman. It means something.” (Philip Random)

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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.

140. the four horsemen

Aphrodite’s Child being a Greek psyche-prog outfit who didn’t seem to recognize a boundary between sweetest syrup and the hottest fires of hell, musically speaking. It was all just part of the same grand feast. At least, that’s how it feels on 666, their third and biggest and most extreme album, and their most evil, some might argue – the four-sided concept being no less than a musical adaptation of the final chapter of the Holy Bible, the Book of Revelation. With the Four Horsemen being the closest any single track comes to pulling everything together into a single, cohesive (almost) radio friendly unit shifter, the Lamb having opened the first seal, the visions thus unleashed.

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