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.
“Because it’s The Stranglers taking on Burt Bacharch’s Walk On By and proving my old buddy Carl right. He used to say there were no bad songs, only bad performances. Not that I really considered Walk On By a bad song, just sort of guilty by association, buried as it was in the EZ-listening-muzak background of my growing up (whatever that godawful Toronto radio station was that my parents had on all the time, 1,001 strings in full asphyxiating flower). But jump ahead a decade and things are different. The song may still be saying the same thing, but the music isn’t. The music snarls, this heartbreak is dangerous, and come the instrumental jam of the full length version, the Stranglers are soaring. Even the punks are running scared.” (Philip Random)
“Public Image was the first single from Public Image Ltd, the concern that Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) threw together amid the wreckage of the recently crashed and burned Sex Pistols. And it was damned good. Hell, even I liked it on first listen from my then mostly anti-punk perspective. A serious call to … seriousness, I guess, Mr. Rotten making the point that he was more than just a cartoon character, a gimmick, a punk, that he knew a thing or two about music, how to sing a song, make a record, take steady aim, hit them all where it hurts. And damn, what a bass line!” (Philip Random)
“I’m pretty sure the first time I heard what came to be known as rap music was 1982, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. To my ears, it was just another pop-gimmick, albeit a pretty cool one. Big funky groove with some hip rhyming on top. But jump ahead a few months and no less than Malcolm McLaren (who’d previously helped invent the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, if you believe his bio) seemed to be singing (for lack of a better word) this new form’s praises. But it wasn’t just about the rhyming and grooving now, it was also the sampling (not that we’d heard that word yet), grabbing beats and pieces from wherever you could find them (some local NYC radio DJs, an old funk 45, a square dance album, some high school girls having a blast, the backstreets of Soweto), and just sort of jamming everything together, smacking it all around, somehow squeezing out what might be called a song, the weird and wonderful part being that it worked. In fact, I’ll always remember the party where I first heard Buffalo Gals, a friend’s place, everyone trying to get excited about Elvis Costello or whoever and suddenly this other tape got put on. So weird and fun that all you could do was dance to it. And then the album Duck Rock showed up to drive home the point that whatever was going on, it wasn’t just some one-off. Having ex-Buggle and Yes man (and future Art Of Noise instigator) Trevor Horn in the producer’s chair may well have been a factor.” (Philip Random)
In which the amazing Peggy Lee takes on a Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller ode to disillusionment (based on a Thomas Mann short story) and doesn’t just own it, she immortalizes it. Because, yes as a matter of fact, there is nobody more punk than a little girl who’s seen it all, from burning buildings to broken hearts to dancing bears, and been at best bemused. But that’s no reason not to break out the booze, have a party, death being the greatest disappointment of all, you might as well do some proper living first.
“I believe that the sex beat the Gun Club are on about here is what the kids call rock and roll. Which is why all the preachers and the like wanted it banned back in the day which, of course, is the best thing that could ever have happened to rock and roll. And it continued to happen over the years. Tried to anyway – the cleaning up of that filthy sex beat. Which whenever even remotely successful, only forced it underground, the filthiest place of all. And thus it ran into the likes of Gun Club in the late 70s, early 80s, drinking and drugging their way around the grungiest dives of LA, dysfunctional as f*** and thus one of the greatest bands most decent folk have still never heard of, and thus still capable of shaking a few foundations. All hail the self righteous. They know not what they do, and they do it so well.” (Philip Random)
“Because there must be at least one B-52’s track on this list, and it must be from the first side of their first album, and Dance This Mess Around seems to be not only comparatively underheard, but also the best damned thing on it. Yeah, Rock Lobster gets the frat-boys going and Planet Claire‘s kind of indispensable at Halloween parties and Sci-Fi conventions, but only Dance This Mess Around has the sort of relentless and hypnotic groove that locks you into ALL sixteen dances, including the infamous Dirty Dog. In other words, I’ve gone on a lot about all the necessary bile and intensity of punk and so-called New Wave and all the profound and necessary insurrection it unleashed upon the culture through the late 1970s … but none that would have happened if it wasn’t a mad lot of fun.” (Philip Random)
“The sorta punk thrash psychedelic power pop blast of Husker Du’s Celebrated Summer was exactly what my Universe needed in the mid-80s. One night in particular comes to mind. And it wasn’t even Husker Du playing, but an all all-girl band from California (wish I remembered their name) at the Arts Club on Seymour (best live venue this town ever had). 1986 I’m pretty sure, and summertime, which meant Expo was squatting in the near distance sucking all the light and love from things. And I’d just seen Skinny Puppy up at UBC, which was a terrorizing experience, because man, the acid was particularly FUN that night. So yeah, it all came around to the song not so much saving my soul (my soul was fairly intact in those days) as reigniting it with hope, fervour, blinding white light, which is to say, celebrated and wild, erupting with summer. And as soon as we got back to the car, New Day Rising got jammed into the cassette player. Once more unto eternity.” (Philip Random)
“In which John Lydon (aka Rotten) conducts a mid-1980s re-imagining of the concern known as Public Image Ltd, engages with the likes of Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Stevie Vai etc, and blows more than a few minds. The album is called Album (of course), with Rise the big (almost) hit single. It’s about Apartheid apparently, but to my ears, it’s concerned more with anger itself, and its inherent elemental energy. Like wind or electricity or the stuff of split atoms, the question quickly becomes not, should we have it (fact is, we do and it ain’t going away), but what should we do with it? Get drunk and wail on some guy down at the pub, or maybe get it focused, turn it into a laser beam that destroys an empire, frees slaves, saves children from lives of boredom and futility? Not bad for a punk.” (Philip Random)