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)

11. transmission

“Call Transmission the song that finally got me around to loving Joy Division. Because at first, they mostly annoyed me. Not because of the music. Nah, it was the death cult, the ‘Ian died for our sins’ crowd. Which is overstating it, I don’t recall anyone actually saying that. But it sure felt like it at times. ‘You must take this song very, very seriously because the man who wrote and sang it killed himself – how serious is that?’ To which I’d counter, so what you’re saying is Joy Division are half a serious as Badfinger because two of those guys killed themselves. Which I’ll now apologize for. That’s asshole logic. Which isn’t to diminish Badfinger at all. Badfinger were a great f***ing band. But they were no Joy Division. They didn’t change everything forever.

(photo: Martin O’Neill/Redferns)

Joy Division being one of those ground zero outfits, I think, there being a universe that existed before them with its own unique rules and peculiarities, and then they showed up and those rules and peculiarities changed. Forever. And no, it wasn’t the suicide. It got a lot of folks’ attention, for sure, but if there hadn’t been something uniquely sharp and fresh and yeah, deadly serious, in the actual music, well, we’d be talking about some other band. And anyway, despite appearances, I like to think there is at least a little actual joy to be found in the Joy Division discography. Maybe in Transmission, a love song that doesn’t tear anyone apart, because the focus isn’t on some other — just the right song at the right moment on the right radio station, and what it can do for a lonely human soul. It can set that soul to dancing. And when you’re dancing, you are not alone … even if you’re the only one in the room. Of course, I’ve heard the exact opposite argued – that Transmission is a condemnation of radio, of all the crap that people will listen to in order get their minds off all the troubles of the world. Guess we’ll just have to keep arguing, because the guy who wrote it checked out long ago.” (Philip Random)

22. Mountains

“As I once heard it put, if you’re not into Prince, you’re either racist or homophobic. Because if the 1980s had a Beatles, it was him, particularly up to 1988. Seriously, think about that run of albums: 1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in A day, Parade, Sign of the Times, The Black Album, Lovesexy. And then there’s all the b-sides and whatnot. Or in the case of Mountains, an extended version that isn’t so much a remix as a jam, expansive and epiphanous, like the mountains in question, I guess. The first few minutes are cool and expansive pop with a big beat, but then the genius truly takes over, takes groovy flight. Because by 1986, it was all getting proved on the dance floor, and nobody proved as often, with as much versatility, panache, invention, sheer gobsmacking talent and altitude as the skinny little mutherf***er called Prince.” (Philip Random)

(Morrison Hotel Gallery)

27. final solution

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)

58. the man whose head expanded

“I admit it. I never really gave Fall main man Mark E. Smith his proper due back in the day. But I had my reasons, mainly connected with the cult that seemed to spread up around him, which got particularly annoying as the 1980s dragged along (certainly in my narrow version of what passed for reality at the time). But that was then. Now there’s no arguing the guy had something genuinely fresh and cool mixed in with all the bile he was spewing. And to my ears, he never spewed it so well as The Man Whose Head Expanded, an assault rifle of a single that crossed my path in 1983 or thereabouts. Did I actually buy it? Or did Martin Q force it on me after one too many arguments, late night and accelerated, our heads definitely well expanded. Either way, tip of the hat to Martin for forcing the point, and to Mr. Smith just for being who he was-is-shall-always-be, good bad and ugly, because he will never die, I’m pretty sure, not with all those f***ing records kicking around.” (Philip Random)

124. just like heaven

I’ve never been one to buy many singles – something to do with coming of record buying age in the early 1970s, I guess, when albums were the thing. But every now and then, you’ve got to adjust your strategies. Like hearing Dinosaur Jr‘s planet killing version of the Cure’s Just Like Heaven on the radio one sublime summer day and immediately needing to own the record. But all I could find was a 7-inch. Which if I’d been truly cool would’ve triggered a whole new phase for me, 7-inches being all the rage as the 80s turned over into the 90s, particularly if you were into raw sort of proto-grunge indie-rock. But I’ve never really been into just one sound or attitude. It’s always been everything, if possible. Which to my mind (and heart) is what J Mascis and crew accomplish here, the kind of rapturous, all encompassing escape velocity that redefines reality forever … until it suddenly just has to stop.” (Philip Random)

169. Sister Morphine

Marianne Faithfull’s take on Sister Morphine is probably the best Rolling Stones record ever that most people haven’t heard, even if it’s not Mick singing and it’s not technically the Stones. Because Mick is apparently playing some guitar (along with Ry Cooder) and that’s Charlie on drums. Who knows where Keith is?  Probably on the nod. Which drives home the point. Marianne Faithfull gets the credit and she deserves it all the way, but Sister Morphine is very much a 1969 Stone-truth being imparted. It’s not the Summer of Love anymore. The drugs have gotten too heavy. Souls are being crushed. None of this is going to end well.

MarianneFaithfull-1969

(image source)

398. terror couple kill colonel

An early single provides strong evidence that Bauhaus were far more than just a goth outfit (the term didn’t even exist until after they’d split up). What they were was smart, innovative, never remotely boring, with Terror Couple Kill Colonel working all manner of studio exploration to get seductively under the skin, into the blood.

Bauhaus-1980-club

646. King of the Rumbling Spires

Apparently this is the first time Marc Bolan really rocked out on record. The band was still called Tyrannosaurus Rex at the time, and despite the name, a comparatively lightweight outfit – too much flowers and fine herbs, not enough thunder and rumbling. But that had to change. The 1970s were looming, the acid was wearing off, the hippie dream was much further away than it had previously seemed. Maybe it had never been there at all. Just another storybook fantasy.

TyrannosaurusREX-1969