“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)
“At first I wasn’t even going to include anything from Ziggy Stardust on this list. It just seemed inconceivable that there was anybody who hadn’t already heard it all perhaps way too many times. But then Five Years popped up on an old mix tape and young Tracy (who isn’t even that young) said, is this John Lennon? Five Years being the 1972 song in which David Bowie accurately predicted the end of the world in 1977. Which I realize is a confusing fact to lay down, particularly to those born since 1977. Just trust me, it’s true. This is not the same world as before. Something very odd happened in 1977 and we’ve all been spinning in weird gravity ever since.” (Philip Random)
“Nobody saw this coming in 1986. Public Image Ltd (ie: original Sex Pistol John Lydon) combining forces with Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Riuchi Sakamoto, Stevie Vai (and more) and the result was something called Album (unless you bought it in cassette or CD format) which absolutely thundered when it wanted to. In the case of Ease, that meant the closest thing to a proper Led Zeppelin planet cruncher that anybody’d heard since at last 1975. I’m still pretty sure it set the atmosphere on fire for a few seconds one night in early spring.” (Philip Random)
In which Malcolm McLaren, best known for his genius level mismanagement of the Sex Pistols (it’s a long story) leaves Punk well in the rear view and embraces … what exactly? “It was Young Tim (friend of a friend) that turned me onto Duck Rock. More to the point, he forced it on me, because I wasn’t biting at first. Even with the Pistols connection. Because the guy clearly could not sing, and there was no evidence of proper punk aggro on it anywhere. Just exotic sort of party grooves and sounds (sampling before we even had a name for it, Trevor Horn take another bow). And, in the case of Double Dutch, high school girls skipping rope with a vengeance. Until one night, a little wasted, there I was dancing to it. It was fun. Cultural boundaries were eroding, great Jericho walls were crumbling, everything seemed possible, I was smiling.” (Philip Random)
Side One Track One of the first (and only really) Sex Pistols album is a solid and enduring f*** you to everyone that’s ever taken a cheap holiday in some broken down so-called Third World locale. Because it was true in 1977, it’s even more true now – the world ain’t equal, your luxurious fun and good times inevitably involves some other guy’s blood, sweat, pain, misery. But don’t let that worry you. Just stick to the big hotels and always drink bottled water, and if you see a new Belsen in the distance, look the other way.
“You don’t truly own the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks unless you’ve stolen it. Such was the logic of a guy who called himself Limey Len, an English ex-pat who I remember for chiefly two things. 1. the marijuana he sold was always underweight. 2: he’d never shut up about how he’d been there, actually seen the Pistols in a small club in London, which was probably a lie, he lied about everything else. So anyway, one night, at the dog end of some shitty New Years party when he was passed out on his kitchen floor, I stole his copy of Never Mind The Bollocks. I’m not even sorry.” (Philip Random)
Mr. Neil Young and his horse friends at the very peak of their shambolic grandeur. We credit and/or blame the Bolivian marching power that was all the rage at the time if you were a certain class of rock star or movie director (or the kind of person that hung with them) way back when in that cultural depression between the death of the Elvis and the Sex Pistols and whatever the hell happened next. Some have argued nothing — the world ended and it’s all been a feedback loop every since.
The final installment (#15) of St. Steven’s POP Apocalypse aired November 22nd on CiTR.FM.101.9.
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.