“I had heard of Joy Division before the big deal suicide – I just hadn’t heard any of the music (sound traveling much slower before the internet). And meanwhile, I was dealing with a close personal suicide of my own, ex-friend James. So I was abundantly clear on one thing: suicide wasn’t cool, wasn’t romantic, wasn’t meaningful, wasn’t anything but a dire, miserable fact. So when word came down that the lead singer of this cool new band had offed himself, I just wasn’t interested, particularly as a sort of cult grew around him. ‘Badfinger had two suicides, so they’re twice as cool,’ I was guilty of saying. And guilt’s the word, because I was wrong. Not about the romanticizing of suicide, but about shrugging off the fierce grace of Joy Division‘s music. Nothing could negate that. Ever.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from the Swans, 1988 being the year that they gave us not one but two covers of everybody’s favourite suicidal love song, both actually quite good. Jarboe‘s version gets the nod here, because she’s got the nicer voice, and it’s more gentle. And we definitely needed some gentle niceness by the time 1988 landed, Winter of Hate in full effect. Not that Love Will Tear Us Apart could ever be mistaken for a song bereft of cataclysm.
“The first thing I heard about Joy Division was that they were a cool new band out of Britain who were doing a sort of new wave meets The Doors thing. Which sounded cool. The next thing was that their lead singer had killed himself. But good luck getting to hear any of the actual music. Local rock radio wasn’t playing any of it and whatever few dozen of their records that may have made it to town as imports were quickly scooped up by people far cooler than me. So it was all just mystery for a long time until I finally heard Decades on a mixtape in some guy’s care – as suitable an epitaph as anyone ever wrote for themselves. And strangely, it’s almost exactly what I expected. Dark and strange and heavy with mood just like Jimbo the Lizard King and his crowd, except the edges were harder, the lines cut sharper. Like nothing I’d ever heard before really, except perhaps my dreams. I guess I liked it. I’ve never really stopped listening to it.” (Philip Random)
“I never much bought into all the death cult stuff, the young artists who were just too pure for the world, or whatever. I guess I feel it’s the living we should focus on, the ones still dealing with it (whatever it even is) rolling with it, not ending it, intentionally or otherwise. Or as a stoned friend once put it of Jimi Hendrix, I prefer the stuff he did before he died. Which gets us to the only Nick Drake selection on this list, the only one I heard before I had any idea of why he was so damned important. True he was already long dead when I first stumbled upon Northern Sky via the Great Antilles Sampler (the 1980s sometime), but I didn’t know that. I just liked the song and it how it served the album’s overall eclectic flow – from folk to pop to free jazz to full-on experimental avant-everything. Music worth living for, goddamit.” (Philip Random)
“I discovered Barclay James Harvest during my mostly lame teenage years when I was doing everything I could to avoid punk rock (for mostly lame, late teenage reasons). This tendency led me down a lot of dubiousroads, but as is always the case with music – there was gold to be found. In the case of Suicide? (found on 1976’s Octoberon), that would be not just the song itself (epic and sorrowful), but also the extended coda wherein binaural recording techniques are employed to give a visceral feel for what it’s like to hurl yourself off the edge of a building, achieve terminal velocity then SMACK … unto whatever happens (or doesn’t) next.” (Philip Random)
“Badfinger were supposed to be the next Beatles. Hell, some people thought they were the Beatles, signed as they were to Apple Records and showing a penchant for strong melodies and harmonies, and no fear of rocking out if required. In which case, Name of the Game would have been one of Paul McCartney’s songs, sad, beautiful, perhaps even meaningful. Maybe too meaningful in Badfinger’s case, as Pete Ham, the guy who wrote it, killed himself four years after its release (age twenty-seven) due, it seems, to deep despondence at the trajectory of the band’s career. Eight years later, fellow band member Tom Evans would do the same.” (Philip Random)