“Turn On The News arrived in my life as one of those ‘you must hear this’ items. 1984 sometime, the dark middle point of Ronald Reagan’s reign. It’s a radio night, Bostock shouting everyone else down, elbowing his way to the turntable, demanding we pay attention to the first track on Side Four of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, punk rock’s first truly epic album. Which, of course, meant Zen Arcade wasn’t really punk rock. It was too big, too beyond, and no question, Turn On The News was its most essential four and a half minutes. A song of pain, a song of despair, and yet hope as well, because it’s a song of consciousness, of not turning away from the noise and pain of the world. And it forced a turn of phrase, in my life anyway. Some friend’s boring you to death with his girlfriend issues, or the details of the mortgage on his new condo. You finally just shake your head and say, ‘Turn on the news, man. There’s people out there with real f***ing problems’.” (Philip Random)
“Final Solution equates unrequited lust and thermonuclear holocaust, then binds them with a title that can’t help but force reflection on the worst damned thing human beings have ever done. How punk is that? And all this from Cleveland, Ohio, 1976 before punk rock had even officially arrived in the Americas. The Pere Ubu crowd in full mad annihilation mode, simultaneously demolishing and inventing the future we all had coming, ready or not. Also, it’s basically a cover of Summertime Blues, one of rock and roll’s seminal protest songs, except these weirdos have exploded it into something far bigger and hungrier, ravenous even. In my idea of a perfect world, it would replace Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl at all weddings. And hell, play it at funerals too. Because who ever dies with all their problems solved?” (Philip Random)
“In case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a sucker for an epic, and Marquee Moon (the song) is definitely that. Title track of Television’s first and best album, and doubly lovable for how it righteously pulled the rug out from certain Stalinist tendencies of the punk scene at the time — way too many hard and fast rules getting laid down as to what drugs could be taken, the colour of your leather jacket, the length and style of your hair, how long a song could be. Which is all dumb, all opposite to the anarchic fervour that ignited punk in the first place. No rules, no boundaries, no nothing – just don’t be f***ing boring. And Marquee Moon (song and album) nail that. So yeah, maybe Television weren’t punk, but they certainly came from punk. So if a riff said, ride me to f***ing eternity, they were going to ride it, taking their orders from the music, not some tiresome Machiavellian assholes who, in another era, would be deciding what words could be used in a poem, what symbols … and who should be disappeared come the revolution.” (Philip Random)
“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)
“1977 is not the best Talking Heads album, not even close, but in Psycho Killer, it probably has their best song. Which gets us to the argument I had recently with my lawyer, she claiming to have heard it before, and thus a dubious selection for this list. Hell, it’s in the movie, the very first song, David Byrne stepping out solo on stage, just acoustic guitar and beatbox, and his uniquely wound intensity. But these are records I’m listing here, not songs, and the essential recording of Psycho Killer is the original 1977 album version — funky, tough and psychotic, which clearly not enough folks have heard yet, or it would’ve shown up as the theme song for some eighth rate cop show. Which is a good thing. I’m not complaining. But I was at a friend’s big deal fortieth birthday recently where it brought the house down, which was weird and also kind of beautiful, all these former punks and new-wavers and whatever else hitting the middle of their lives, showing scar tissue, but still moving, liable to explode at any instant, taking everything with them. But in a good way.” (Philip Random)
“Mongoloid rates high indeed because it’s the first punk tune that ever truly grabbed me, even if some have argued (and no doubt continue to) that Devo weren’t Punk, they were New Wave, to which I just fire back a big WHATEVER. It would’ve been 1978 because Tormato, the latest Yes magnum opus, had been released, except it was neither magnum or opus. But I loved it anyway being a fan. But not my friend Carl, who made a point of removing Tormato from the turntable mid-song (the one about a UFO as I recall) and slapping down Devo’s first album in its place … which proceeded to make an impression. Particularly Mongoloid. Just the whole nasty punk idea of it – a wound up anthem about some guy who was a mongoloid. How perverse was that! And yet fun. Because it was. Unlike the Yes. But Yes weren’t aiming for fun, I tried to argue, they were fixed on something more complex, important. Carl just smiled and played Mongoloid again. By the third time through, I was air-guitaring.” (Philip Random)
“Frankie Teardrop is probably the one track on this list that I’ve listened to the least, because who f***ing needs it on repeat? Yet we do need such stuff sometimes. Because violence is in our nature and it’s seldom been so viscerally expressed as it is here. No great surprise that it came out of 1977, the year Punk properly broke. Not that Suicide were punk. They were their own genre altogether. And political as hell if only for the full on howl of Frankie Teardrop, young man with a family, just trying to survive, but he’s not gonna make it, he can’t make the payments … and don’t fool yourself, we all know Frankies, perhaps as near as the closest mirror.” (Philip Random)
The Clash‘s take on Willie Williams’ Armagideon Time wasn’t included on Sandinista. In fact, it was released the previous year on the Black Market Clash 10-inch (a loose and cool collection of various b-sides and whatnot), but it came to my ears at almost exactly the same time as Sandinista care of a mixtape a friend made which was all Clash, all to some degree not punk or even rock, more the groovy, strange, dub-induced stuff which comprised so much of Sandinista‘s six sides, pissing off so many of the old school punks (but f*** those reactionary idiots anyway), and very much sucking me in, affirming me in my growing impression that whatever was going on out there culturally speaking, the world had changed profoundly in the last year or two.
My world anyway. Something to do with apocalypse, end times, armagideon – not coming, already upon us, and not really that bad, not if you had the right kind of eyes (and ears). I can even remember the precise moment it all came clear. I was tripping on some middle-grade LSD, out wandering the suburban sprawl with a house fire in the near distance, a calamity of sirens, smoke, people coming and going in the encroaching dusk, a whole block like a war zone. But I was somehow okay with it. Maybe because I had that mixtape playing on my walkman, Armagideon Time, the stretched out dub version guiding me through all the smoke and confusion like it was all just a movie, but not one I was watching, one I was in. Like, here it is, pilgrim, the Apocalyptic Now. Get used to it, because it ain’t goin’ away. It’s not pretty but it may be beautiful.” (Philip Random)
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.