Yeah, afraid not lads
The debate has been raging for months and years and will go on literally until the end of time, but I’ve finally cracked it – I’ve compiled a list of the Top 20 Great British Bands of all time… according to me. It was a painful, emotional and often unnerving experience, as I watched groups that I adore trundle along the imaginary conveyor belt in my mind, only to clumsily fall off like overfilled cardboard boxes right at the very end. Amongst them The Rah Band who could boogie with the best of them at one point, Dexys Midnight Runners who were consistently excellent, Massive Attack who provided anthems for 1990s dope smokers, The Jam, The Smiths, New Order. Loose Ends. The Shadows. Average White Band. I secretly like Duran Duran and The Pasedenas. Even Wham! One of my guilty pleasures is Young Guns by Wham! I fucking love that track. But in the end I got there. You won’t find Coldplay, Keane, Radiohead, Blur or Oasis in this list. Basically because I don’t like those groups. Neither will you find Queen on account of me not standing them, which is unusual…
1. Small Faces
The greatest band of them all for so many reasons. They dressed in fine outfits made from continental thread, they weren’t alarmingly tall which is neither here nor there, but most importantly they made great tunes, made even better on account of Steve Marriott having the howliest British rock roar of all time. When Marriott eventually flounced off, they famously dropped the Small and employed a guy with a dreadful cough called Rod Stewart.
2. The Beatles
Everyone likes The Beatles. Everyone. Even people who go on about how much they hate The Beatles secretly get home every night and dance naked in front of a mirror to Twist and Shout or Hey Jude. They’re just really bloody excellent, even Ringo who had a foghorn voice and was hilariously considered the twelfth best drummer in the band. Both Revolver and Rubber Soul would make my all-time top 100 albums list. The below track, however, features on neither of those records.
3. The Specials
For those who don’t remember 2-Tone, it involved wearing clothes that were a touch too tight and running on the spot to reggae played a touch too fast. So in short, it was fucking amazing, and of the swathes of bands that bum rushed the charts this one was the best. Their presence here means there’s no room for Madness, The Selecter, or Bad Manners. Although there never would have been room for Bad Manners anyway. No offense.
4. The Kinks
The quintessential English band, that’s what everyone says about The Kinks. They’d sing about things like sipping a cup of tea and bonking the vicar’s wife, or about a buxom man-women they met in a seedy Soho coffee shop. All with a wry smile, a cheeky wink, and a fist punched into the crease in their forearm accompanied by a big chorus of “phwoooar look at the arse on that!”. Without them we wouldn’t have bands like Blur, which may or may not be a good thing. It would mean no almighty cheese prick Alex James. Yeah, perhaps we hate The Kinks. Actually no, we love them. Sorry.
5. Black Sabbath
Before he married a frumpy lady in a floor length Laura Ashley frock who was the opposite of his usual crumpet called Sharon Arden, Ozzy Osbourne was in a band called Black Sabbath, and they were really really fucking loud. So loud your ears would actually grow skin over them during the course of an album. So loud that voices in your head would start to exist just to tell them to stop. So loud that you wouldn’t hear an explosion unless it was actually in your face. So loud that they keep other heavy rock bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden and the Zep out of the top 20. Which is ridiculous when you think about it, because the Zep were AMAZING and should definitely be on this list. And yet they’re not.
6. The Rolling Stones
Old Rubber-Face and the girls have been around so long and now look so old and decrepit like a collection of line drawings wearing suits that it’s hard to remember that when they were younger they were great looking like hot European chicks and innovative like serious German scientists. They were dangerous innovators and over the years they have produced some outstanding music moments.
7. The Jesus and Mary Chain
Don’t be fooled by the strange pissing noises and the fact these guys look precisely like glue sniffers, they’re the real deal. They’re artistes, which is French for artists. They’re also Scotiche, which is French for Scottish. The below clip comes with an introduction from the original Pixie Geldof – Paula Yates.
As funk bands go, the US had it nailed, but Cymande could go toe to toe with any one of them in the 1970s. Formed in London in 1971, they’re still going, and if you listen to this stuff for long enough your trousers morph into flared jeans and some wicked sideburns just appear from nowhere.
9. The Who
If it’s a loud 1960s mod band with buckets of attitude you’re after, try The Who. If you’re looking for solid 1970s rock featuring a man who was separated at birth from Kevin Keegs, try The Who. In the mood for a rock opera?…. you’re probably starting to get the gist of this. Like it when songs start all teasingly slow and then suddenly feature aggressive guitar licks and mad drum skills? I’m doing it again aren’t I?
10. The Style Council
The debate will rage until the planet finally explodes itself on account of global warming, but who is better, The Jam or The Style Council? Both Paul Weller groups, they divide people. One were all jackets and haircuts, the other soft synths, a bit of sax, and men looking like they’d oiled up and recreated Brideshead Revisited. In my case, I like to take The Jam from October to March, then from April to September I prefer The Style Council. At the moment, I’m in an April kind of mood what with it actually being April, so you do the math(s).
11. The Coral
Merseyside has a great tradition in churning out fantastic pop groups, and these cheeky chappies follow in a great tradition that follows The Beatles, The Farm, The Boo Radley’s and Cast. Yes, most of the bands just mentioned are utter shit. That was the joke. These guys aren’t though, hence why they keep The Zutons, The Las and all manner of other floppy haircuts in tight jeans out of this line up.
12. Gang of Four
Time was when you could go for a job interview in a stuffy office working for THE MAN during the afternoon, then head off to perform your political socialist mantras on The Old Grey Whistle Test in the evening without bothering to change outfits. Above are post-punkers Gang of Four. A band that keeps Orange Juice, The Pop Group and Magazine out of the running for reasons of being ever so slightly better.
13. Soul II Soul
Jazzie B is the only human being who has ever dared to pick up a keyboard/guitar without looking like the world’s most stupid prick. Hence Soul II Soul keeps Young Disciples, Freeez, and Loose Ends out of the running. Just.
14. The Clash
Probably three of the greatest front men of all time stuck into a single band, Jones, Simonon and Strummer were like three Springsteens, only not quite so palatable in a good way. The Clash were also the pick of the 1970s British punk bands, so they keep The Damned and the Sex Pistols off the list.
15. Arctic Monkeys
Definitely the most current band on the list, Arctic Monkeys are continuing the trend of nifty bands coming out of the Northern city of Sheffield, which is famous for making steel and generally being an incredibly depressing place for everyone involved – ABC, Pulp, Heaven 17, The Human League. Of that lot, these guys are possibly the best. They can’t quite beat local legend Joe Cocker though. Not yet.
As a band, Aswad were far better than their international saccharine smash Don’t Turn Around would have you believe. An excellent, excellent reggae group, with an occasional singing drummer thrown in to boost them up to Warp Factor A Million on the Wicked-o-Metre. They keep UB40 out of the Top 20.
17. The Slits
Long before The Spice Girls, Girls Aloud, The Saturdays, The Sundays, The Mondays, Little Mix and One Direction girl groups were already going super strong in the UK. Look at The Slits – below in 1979. Their lead singer Ari Up invented a revolutionary one-legged dance, which she’d occasionally practice in one of London’s many parks.
18. The Stone Roses
For a strange period in the 1990s, everyone thought it was cool to talk in a Manchester accent and walk around like a really arrogant version of Charlie Chaplin with their feet pointing in opposite directions. That was entirely thanks to the Madchester explosion that started when these guys detonated a pop-funk-dance-rock bomb and ended when the shaved gorillas in Oasis started throwing their weight around because they’d just that minute taken a bunch of coke. Oasis didn’t make the list.
19. Echo and the Bunnymen
Although as a child the bitter disappointment of not seeing a rabbit on guitar or a big brown hare on drums would have me shouting and throwing bricks at the TV whenever these guys were on Top of the Pops, you just can’t fault them as a band. They’ve got all the ingredients: a guy on guitar, someone singing, a bloke playing bass, a wild feral animal smashing around on the drums. They keep The Smiths and The Cure out of the running.
20. Public Image Ltd
Johhny Rotten’s second most famous band, but my favourite of the two – they had a slightly less shouty thing happening, and proved once and for all that Rotten really can’t sing. Not that it matters.
Tears for Fears, Mad World
Not the most cheerful band, Tears for Fears. In fact, most of their early output focussed on repressed childhood trauma and Primal Therapy. Hence, probably not the ideal pop group to go for a night out with – unless you’re the kind who likes to end the evening with everyone silently looking down at a table, not wanting to be the first to leave. That said, at times they could be excellent. Such as above…
Yeah man, that’s a BEARD
Of course, before this crippling financial downturn, we could all throw our money around willy-nilly. Hence why typical street-side dustbins were overflowing with untainted McDonalds meals, discarded by drunk businessmen who only nipped in for a cheeseburger and a McPiss, but thought they’d pay with a card, so ended up with nine Big Macs that they didn’t really want. Tramps were fatter, people were happier, and if you wanted to splurge a few quid on a record you wouldn’t normally buy, you’d just sandwich it between a few hipper items, like The Smiths, or one of those Stand Up and Be Counted funk compilations. Unfortunately, now that the pinch of the financial winter has grabbed us all by the underpants, musical purchases need to be well-thought-out, or downloaded on the sly. It’s a weird time for the song singing industry. Really weird. Which is why we feel a warm buzz of euphoria whenever we catch wind of a wonderful bargain. Just yesterday, friend of the site Dan-Dan stumbled across a rather acquired taste in his local Let’s Cure Diseases – or some such. “I’ve always secretly enjoyed the work of Michael McDonald,” he whispered from behind a pillar, “but never enough to fork out proper money for his work, so when I saw it going for second hand prices, I snapped it up – snapped it up real good.” Like Dan-Dan, we also could confess to having a secret thing for the grey haired, bearded, white soul singer. Even if his voice does sound a little bit like a muffled fog horn being sounded from over a nearby hill. So come on Dan-Dan, how much for this humiliating record? “20p”
Here’s a cut from the album…
Now, after a week of carrot-dangling, we’re finally at the summit – celebrating the greatest UK Number One singles of all time. Each one is brilliant for a reason. The Kinks make the list for introducing the world to an early incarnation of rock music with “You Really Got Me“. Sinead O’Connor’s heartfelt rendition of a song written by Prince remains one of the most angry and emotional love songs of all time. The Rolling Stones had many decent smash hits, but “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” kicks all of them right in the underpants. “Billie Jean” makes the cut for not only being one of Jackson’s finest, but also because it’s one of his WEIRDEST – that people still dance enthusiastically to a song about an insane delusional fan is completely brilliant. The Beach Boys managed two UK Number One’s, the first of which, “Good Vibrations”, is a masterpiece of musical arrangement, and possibly the electro-theremin‘s finest hour. Paul Hardcastle managed to mix the dialogue from a documentary about post-traumatic stress disorder,“Vietnam Requiem”, with serious synthesizers to make a dance record with an ideology. “Ghost Town” by The Specials also veered into the pop charts waving a political flag, this time spookily condemning Thatcher’s Britain, and creating a truly eerie pop/reggae fusion. The Jam kept “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers off the top spot with Weller’s ode to Woking, which is also a great rock record to dance to – just watch “Billy Elliot” if you don’t believe us. Althea and Donna were a shock one week/one hit wonder back in 1978, thanks to some sterling work by the late, great John Peel – if there is such thing as a cult number one, then this is it. And The Beatles were always going to be sitting somewhere near the top, and, as it is, they snatched the crown with probably the greatest A/B side combination of them all – “Paperback Writer” and (the EVEN BETTER) “Rain”. Only two other A/B combos came into contention throughout the 40 – “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields”, until we realised that it didn’t make it to the top of the charts, it peaked at Number 2. And “Start”/”Liza Radley” by The Jam. But, in the end, this one prevailed, whilst the other two didn’t. Hence, this is our best Top Ten ever. Enjoy…
1A. The Beatles, Paperback Writer (1966)
1B. The Beatles, Rain (1966)
2. Althea and Donna, Uptown Top Ranking (1978)
3. The Jam, A Town Called Malice (1982)
4. The Specials, Ghost Town (1981)
5. Paul Hardcastle, 19 (1985)
6. The Beach Boys, Good Vibrations (1966)
7. Michael Jackson, Billie Jean (1983)
8. The Rolling Stones, Satisfaction (1965)
9. Sinead O’Connor, Nothing Compares 2 U (1990)
10. The Kinks, You Really Got Me (1964)
We’ve reveled in Part One and Part Two of our hit parade countdown, so rather unsurprisingly today finds us enjoying Part Three, which features ten fine Number One hits that didn’t quite make it into the Top 10. But they needn’t be ashamed, as they are still great big giants amongst men. Amongst them are the Arctic Monkeys – a relatively new band – the finest Bowie single of them all, Madonna’s greatest moment, and the funkiest song about beating people up that’s ever been carved into vinyl. Plus, of course, there’s the inevitable Rod Stewart number. Hence, 11-20 reads a little something like this…
11. Joe Cocker, With a Little Help From My Friends (1968)
12. Gary Numan, Cars (1979)
13. Beyonce, Crazy In Love (2003)
14. Rod Stewart, Maggie May (1971)
15. Madonna, Into The Groove (1985)
16. The Human League, Don’t You Want Me (1981)
17. Carl Douglas, Kung Fu Fighting (1974)
18. David Bowie, Ashes to Ashes (1980)
19. Procul Harum, A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
20. Arctic Monkeys, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (2005)
And so to the second installment of our chart countdown, which features only top selling singles. The ones that smashed through the roof of the hit parade. You won’t find Pixie Lott here, sadly, because we have no idea what she/he sounds like. You will, however, be thrown into the past with some classic Beatles action. Plus Musical Youth (pictured), some melancholic folk music from Don McLean, the second greatest David Bowie single of all time, and Mark Morrison – that’s right, Mark Morrison. Often the victim of cruel jokes about being a great big lummox, let’s not forget that for a small window in 1996, he released one of the finest gangster R&B love songs ever written. Seriously, we genuinely love this record. Hence numbers 21-30 read like this…
21. The Beatles, She Loves You (1963)
22. Soft Cell, Tainted Love (1981)
23. David Bowie, Let’s Dance (1983)
24. The Jam, Going Underground (1980)
25. Gnarls Barkley, Crazy (2006)
26. Beats International, Dub Be Good To Me (1990)
27. Musical Youth, Pass The Dutchie (1982)
28. Don McLean, Vincent (1971)
29. Mark Morrison, Return of The Mack (1996)
30. Pet Shop Boys, West End Girls (1986)
We miss Top of The Pops. Really miss it. Frankly it was the only way that we ever kept up with pop music, so now we hear all about these strange new electronic women in the charts, but have no idea who the hell they are. It’s a real shame. Hence to highlight just how wonderful the pop charts have been over the last fifty years, we thought we’d spend the week doing our own Top 40 – only this time, an all-time Top 40 featuring only singles that made it to the top of the hit parade. In today’s installment, there’s sexy soul from Timberlake, Williams and Summer. Stomping pop/rock from T-Rex and Alice Cooper. A bit of rock and roll, the original Band Aid, and a Dexys Midnight Runners track that really splits the consensus. Here’s 31-40…
31. Soul II Soul, Back to Life (1989)
32. Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (1979)
33. Dexys Midnight Runners, Come On Eileen (1982)
34. Band Aid, Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984)
35. T-Rex, Get It On (1971)
36. Donna Summer, I Feel Love (1977)
37. Bill Haley and His Comets, Rock Around The Clock (1955)
38. Deniece Williams, Free (1977)
39. Justin Timberlake, SexyBack (2006)
40. Alice Cooper, School’s Out (1972)
Talk Talk, Life’s What You Make It
If you’re after a slightly darker version of Duran Duran, then can we recommend Talk Talk? They’re another band who chose to use the same word twice in their band name, as if to really hammer the point home, and they were big in the 1980s amongst kids with fringes. Above is one of their finest moments.
Absolutely including this lot…
The big news is that John Lydon is reforming his old group Public Image Ltd to go on some kind of tour. And that got us to thinking. PiL was Lydon’s second successful stab at the big time with a band, but what other artists have been lucky enough to enjoy two days or more in the sunshine? We decided to come up with ten of the best, with the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets, The Raconteurs, Gorillaz and The Foo Fighters all falling at the final hurdle…
1. The Style Council
The Jam split up in 1982 and Weller formed The Style Council in 1983. Much to a lot of Jam fan’s disgust. Where were the spikey guitar riffs? Fuck me, is that a PIANO? The Style Council were much silkier and soulful. They wore lovely cardigans. It was picnic-pop, but totally brilliant. Weller’s finest hour?
2. The JB’s
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, James Brown ploughed through backing band line ups – mainly because he was a massive soul bastard, and paid everyone in either punches or peanuts. The JB’s provided the sound for his golden period in the early 1970s, succeeding The Famous Flames, The James Brown Band, and The James Brown Orchestra. Bootsy Collins on bass, “Jabo” Starks on drums, Fred Wesley at the back tromboning. So to speak.
3. Public Image Ltd
Formed in 1978, almost directly after the Sex Pistols had imploded, PiL featured John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten), Keith Levene – once of The Clash – and Jah Wobble. Or, at least, the first line up did. Over the years, almost twenty thousand people could claim to have once been a member of PiL. You were probably in the band without realising it. Lydon’s best band.
4. Humble Pie
Small Faces were bloody excellent, Humble Pie weren’t too bad either – much rockier, intent on wooing audiences in America. They initially got together after Steve Marriott had failed to convince his Small Faces bandmates to allow Peter Frampton to join the group, so he flounced off and made Humble Pie instead. For the first half of the 1970s, they were a fantastic band, then Marriott went a little bit loco.
5. New Order
After Ian Curtis decided to dance weirdly into the eternal night in 1980, the Joy Division morphed into New Order – a far more oily band, replacing their office temp outfits for short shorts, and highlights in their hair. All three surviving members– Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris – stayed on board, with the addition of Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboard guitar. As anyone who reads massive textbooks about war well knows, the Joy Division was a reference to the prostitution wing of concentration camps during the Second World War, New Order was incorrectly seen to be taken from a quote in Mein Kampf. The band are not fascists.
Wings, though rather unfashionable to like, were actually a pretty decent band. Not, obviously, as good as The Beatles, but tracks like Maybe I’m Amazed and Live and Let Die would have been great additions to any Beatles back catalogue. In fact, the latter was produced by George Martin. They were also the only permanent band formed by any of The Beatles after the split, with McCartney leading the merry troupe for around ten years. He might even have been a Wing for longer than he was a Beatle. They enjoyed much chart success with Linda on backing vocals.
7. Crosby, Stills and Nash
Crosby was once of The Byrds, Stills was once of Buffalo Springfield, and Nash was once of The Hollies. All very successful, sometimes brilliant, pop groups. Hence, this was seen as something of a supergroup project when the three formed in 1968. And yet, they’re still going. Or, at least, on and off. They were so-named to prevent any of the bandmates stealing the name of the group should any of them decided to leave – a result of bitter experience in the cases of Crosby and Nash – and Neil Young would occasionally join in, making it Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Rather cleverly.
8. Lucy Pearl
Like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lucy Pearl was made up of three big names from successful R&B and hip hop groups. There was Raphael Saadiq from Tony! Toni! Tone!, Dawn Robinson from En Vogue, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest. Originally D’Angelo was supposed to join in too, but some kind of commitment clash meant that he couldn’t. In the original formation, they only managed to squeeze out one album – in 2000 – but the good news is that it was a corker.
9. Big Audio Dynamite
After getting royally booted out of The Clash, Mick Jones shuffled around for a bit, then eventually formed Big Audio Dynamite with reggae/punk legend Don Letts in 1984. With Jones on lead vocals for once, they became known for mixing punk rock with reggae, hip hop, and whatever kind of genre they fancied with an impressive degree of success and innovation. Their biggest hit came with E=MC2 in 1986. Which isn’t featured below.
10. Gnarls Barkley
Both members of Gnarls Barkley have enjoyed musical success with other groups. Danger Mouse with the Damon Albarn cartoon vanity project Gorillaz, and Cee-Lo Green with the popular US rap group Goodie Mob – who were particularly popular in the 1990s thanks to their affiliation with Outkast, and the rise in popularity of raps from the Deep South. As Gnarls Barkley, everyone knows them for that great song about going bananas.
Yeah man, stop crying your heart out…
Whether we have been victims of some kind of taste bypass, we’re not sure, but here in the magnificent Interestment offices, Oasis have never quite dunked our onions. They’re all just a bit whiney and dull for our tastes, the music equivalent of being stuck down a well with a nervous statistician. And yet, we are fully aware that much of the country has a massive man-crush on these shaved gorillas with their nonsense music, that’s why whenever they play at Knebworth or Wembley, entire towns in middle England drain for the day, and tickets exchange hands for crazy prices. So, to help everyone through the inevitable grieving process, we thought we’d make a small list of reasons to be really happy…
1. We won’t have to endure any more songs in which the word “shine” is mispronounced “sheee-yine”.
2. As the spotlight fades, we will be spared the horrendous pap shots of Liam Gallagher striding around Waitrose, yet still attempting to look edgy.
3. Their album names have always resembled the results of a sixth-form students think tank – Definitely, Maybe, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, Dig Out Your Soul, the abominable Heathen Chemistry. It was only a matter of time before they named an LP Vibegeist. No one needs that.
4. These men were getting old, threatening to morph into the next Rolling Stones, and frankly, there’s only room on the circuit for one decrepit mob of ex-druggies gingerly strumming their old hits.
5. A generation of youngsters will be spared the temptation to waddle around school like Charlie Chaplin with a nasal Manchester accent, going “our kid” this and “mad for it” that as an homage.
6. Noel can now go away and for a supergroup with Bono, Chris Martin, and The Edge. We can then ignore them until they get the message.
Terence Trent D’Arby, If You Let Me Stay
And lo, another Thursday rolled around, and the people they did rub butter from the lord’s goats and cows into one another’s wanting bosoms and gentlemanly swords crafted of finest human silk. The flower petals watered, the sounds of the prophet Terence Trent D’Arby echoed about the land, his words begging a gentlewoman to hold him in her heart, not discard him like a lowly bread baker.
Buffalo Springfield, For what it’s worth
Fans of Police Academy and Short Circuit will be going absolutely bonkers today, as Steve Guttenberg turns 51. No doubt the evening will be spent with Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and their 23-year-old daughter Mary, who they all brought up together in a massive New York apartment. It’s going to be quite some night, so to celebrate we thought we’d buy Steve a gift, hence we dressed up as clowns and sat weeping hysterically in a park and discussing ideas, until it boiled down to a toss up between a big box of pens, or a clip of some hippies singing a song. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Guttenberg!
The Chiffons, He’s So Fine
You’ll recognise the more avid members of the Interestment family, as they’ll be the ones at work who smell slightly of baby oil, and appear to have sprinted to the office this morning without showering. That’s because they know how sexual Thursdays are, so they will have set the alarm for around 2am, and squeezed in six or seven hours of tantric sex before work. Just you watch them leg it the minute the clock strikes 5pm. It’s a very sexy day which we always celebrate with a song. Today, it’s the turn of The Chiffons and their marvelous ode to a boy they really really fancy.
Wham!, Wham! Rap
Some people seem to think that you can’t be glitzy and glam in this cruel financial winter, but as Wham! here prove, even being on the dole/game can be cool and sexy. That’s right, put your most shiny underpants on, it’s Super Disco Wednesday!
Spandau Ballet, To Cut a Long Story Short
What a different place the world would be if Spandau Ballet had hit the charts under their original band name, The Makers. A name that they only changed because someone spotted “Spandau Ballet” scrawled on the wall in some German nightclub toilets and thought it sounded really cool. The rest is history, and above is their best song.
Think before you start singing…
With the absence of Top of the Pops, and a confusing amount of radio stations to choose from, it’s hard to know where to listen to music these days. We tried jogging with synchronised Discmans, but the things kept falling out of our pockets and smashing to smithereens in front of other joggers – all of whom could clearly afford futuristic iPods and shorts that weren’t just an old pair of jeans chopped at the knee. Damn posers, with their cappuccinos. Anyway, we decided to try out The Box on cable television, so we all sat down together – extended family and neighbours – and first up it was Take That with their hit song Back For Good. This should be good, we thought – none of us had heard it before. Three minutes later, the cousins were crying hysterically holding pillows over their faces to protect their eyes from the nasty singing men, Grandpa was simply shouting “what is this?” over and over again like he was having a war flashback, and the neighbours quietly left the room, muttering something about how they weren’t coming “back for good”. It was a terrifying experience for everyone involved. We were disgusted, and here’s what your children would learn from these so-called gentlemen of pop…
1. It’s fine to be a stalker or a slob
First up, it’s raining in the video, and only Mark and Jason have sensible waterproof jackets on. Williams, for heaven’s sake, is wearing a fur. Ridiculous. But we let that go, because it’s the actual singing that really stings. “Got your lipstick mark still on your coffee cup,” croons Gary Barlow, bold as brass. This means one of two things: 1. He saw you drinking a coffee somewhere, he stole the cup – hence the “your” in “coffee cup”, on the assumption that shared bits of crockery are not specific to any one member of a household. Otherwise it would be “your lipstick mark still on OUR (or THE) coffee cup.” Or it could mean, 2. The man has broken up with his woman and become a complete slob. He hasn’t washed up for weeks, old lipstick marks are all over the place, he probably smells. Chances are he just prowls around the once-shared flat in revolting tracksuit bottoms and a vest, occasionally logging on to Facebook to change his status update to explain that he’s totally fine now, having a really cool time actually.
2. Just say sorry, even if you have no idea what you’re apologising for
“Whatever I said, whatever I did,” continues Barlow, now into the throws of the song, “I didn’t mean it.” That’s right,“WHATEVER I said” – he can’t even remember what he said, he doesn’t know what what was said, he just knows that he probably said something. “WHATEVER I did” – oh, he’s covering as many bases as possible now. He’s realised that if it wasn’t something he said, it must be something he did. “Did” being so non-specific that it could really apply to anything. “I didn’t mean it.” He didn’t mean to do whatever it was that he supposedly said or did, neither of which he is remotely aware of. Instead he’s making a weak blanket apology, simply asking you to assess what he might have done wrong, and accept an overall sorry for it. In short, it shows a massive lack of both empathy and personal awareness.
3. If you want to win someone back, do anything they demand
“Just tell me the song and I’ll sing it,” pleads Barlow – basically the only singer on this one, the others occasionally mime something in the background. With such a soft, flannel-like sentiment, he might as well simply tear out his spine and hand it to you on a silver platter, like a bony eel, flapping around. Here’s an idea – tell him to jump off a cliff.
4. Finish by sending out mixed messages to your ex-lover
To his credit, Barlow acknowledges that his ex is doing pretty well without him, thank you very much – “in the twist of separation you excelled at being free”. But then he goes on to ask – “can’t you find a little room inside for me?” At this point his puppy dog eyes are going tearful at the side. Has he really changed? That’s what his ex-lover is considering. After all, look at him, tail between his legs, asking for another go. He’s softened. AND THEN BARLOW RUINS EVERYTHING. In the final line of the song, after almost four minutes of playing the wounded animal, he has a change of attitude and simply demands another go. “I guess now it’s time, that you came back for good,” he growls, the underlying threatening nature of the lyric barely masked without the backing singers crooning away with him. He’s not asking anymore, he’s telling you what to do. He hasn’t changed one bit, girlfriend!
Here’s the video, should you be able to stomach it…
Love, Forever Changes
Rock bands love their drugs, just love them. Hence why most bands tend to look completely out of their minds when they’re playing festivals – it isn’t the swooping energy of their music that’s dilating their pupils and causing their mouths to gurn like a chimp attempting to get through a toffee, they’ve played these songs so many times that they’re completely bored of them. It’s crazy drugs. Drugs supplied by the management or roadies. Probably some uppers, downers, blues, reds, purples, violets, gingers, smackos, crackaroos, rice crispies, dongos and a little snifter of cokey joe. That’s what the kids like. And these barmy mind-bending drugs can often be represented artistically on the group’s album cover. For example, we’ve already covered Oasis, who were clearly cocaining it to kingdom come when they decided to depict themselves as other-worldly demi-gods on one of their records, and now to the excellent 1960/70s psychedelic outfit, Love – a brilliant brilliant band. Their Forever Changes record features bonkers morphing portraits of the band members, all overlapping like a venn diagram, painted in crazy colours like blue, yellow, green, and purple. As everyone knows, purple is the colour of LSD. There’s a few swirly bits as well, just to hammer home the point that, yes, the guy doing the doodle is seriously aciding. Here’s a brilliant cut from the album…
No room for this gentleman…
In tragic music icon terms, Michael Jackson actually lived a fairly long and prosperous life. He made it to half a century, which isn’t bad at all. Elvis only got as far as 42, John Lennon made it to 40 before taking four bullets in the back, and Michael Hutchence was still a fairly youthful 37. Keith Moon and John Bonham made it fashionable for great drummers to die at 32. Then, of course, you have all of the rock stars who couldn’t make it past 27 – Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison. Gram Parsons was even younger at 26, as was Otis Redding when he died in a plane crash. Tupac was 25, Notorious BIG 24, Ian Curtis 23, and Sid Vicious and Eddie Cochran were barely grown ups at just 21. In fact, the list of tragic early deaths is relatively endless. So with that in mind, we thought it high time to select the four most unfortunate, as decided by us…
1. Jimi Hendrix, 27
It was a very sad day for music in 1970 when Hendrix apparently lay on his back, choking on his own sick, thanks to a few too many red wines. The whole thing still smells a little bit fishy, with rumours floating around that it might not have simply been the innocent death of a drinker. Either way, it robbed the world of a fantastic music man, who managed to mix rock, soul and psychedelic stuff really really well. He keeps the likes of Steve Marriott, Janis Joplin, Marc Bolan and Phil Lynott out of the top four, and, to really put things in perspective, without Hendrix we probably wouldn’t have Prince. What kind of rubbish world would that be?
2. Minnie Riperton, 31
One of the great female soul singers, Riperton died of the damn cancer when she was 31. But what a 31 years. She’ll always be remembered for Lovin’ You, a slightly drippy love song, but we’ll forever love her for the rock/soul numbers she did with Rotary Connection, Les Fleurs, and the rather graphic sex song, Inside My Love. With so many excellent soul singers to choose from, she has achieved the remarkable feat of keeping Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke out of the top four. That’s a very big score for the sisterhood.
3. Keith Moon, 32
There were a few decent dead drummers to choose from, but Keith Moon just beat Dennis Wilson and John Bonham to grab a place in the top four. He edged it for being more of a total maniac. Famous for driving cars into pools, flushing explosives down toilets, and for being a completely brilliant drummer in The Who, he died after taking too many anti-alcohol pills in 1978. He’d just been out for dinner with Paul and Linda McCartney, which presumably had nothing to do with the overdose.
4. Big L, 24
The rap game has seen lots of premature deaths – Easy E, Big Pun, Tupac, Scott La Rock, Jay Dee, Biggie Smalls, Jam Master Jay, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. But the one that really makes us slam our fists and weep up to the heavens screaming “why?” is Big L‘s. We honestly think he could have been the greatest rapper of all time, but instead he took seven bullets to the head and chest one evening in 1999. The murder remains unsolved, which makes it double annoying.
The Cure, Boys Don’t Cry
The Cure looked like a gang of Edward Scissorhands impersonators making records, and that’s just one of the reasons that we think they’re great. Above is their most popular song, which is also a bit of a fib. Some boys cry all the damn time.
No room for the Fresh Prince…
Something about the sunshine and the outdoors can make certain records sound magnificent. Only a few years ago there was that Macarena song – a repetitive number, with a vocal delivery from two grown men who wouldn’t make 10p busking in the middle of Covent Garden on Australia Day. And yet, the combination of heat, cold beers, heavy drugs, and an semi-erotic dance made it the hit of the Summer. Hence, this list is not about summertime hits, but songs about the Summer itself. After much debate, the top four ended up looking like this…
1. MFSB, Summertime
An up-tempo instrumental take on the sultry jazz classic, we love this. MFSB stands for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, which lends this track a wholesome family appeal, and it’s great for dancing around to in a field full of borderline trustafarians. At, say, The Big Chill.
2. Roy Ayers, Everyone Loves The Sunshine
When Roy Ayers was wondering what people might love, he eventually hit the nail on the head. Everyone really does love the sunshine. Except perhaps for Stephen Hawking that time his girlfriend took the batteries from his wheelchair and left him to crackle and burn in the sweltering heat (true story). But robotronic genius aside, this is one magnificent ode to the weather.
3. The Style Council, Long Hot Summer
For a brief period in the 1980s, Paul Weller – the Modfather – became a little bit camp, and this video catches him riding the crest of a slightly pink wave. And it’s no bad thing at all. In fact, we much prefer his Style Council days. Hence Long Hot Summer can be found rotating at around 45 rpm on the Interestment turntable with startling regularity during the sunshine months. Make no mistake about it, this is a classic record.
4. Alice Cooper, School’s Out
It’s hard to find a decent rock record that encapsulates that Summer feeling, probably because most decent heavy rock bands are made up of people who prefer the night time. This, by a strange woman/man called Alice Cooper, is one of the few exceptions. Sadly, grown men in leather get little chance to celebrate the school holidays in these increasingly suspicious times.
The Stone Roses, Fools Gold
For a strange period in the 1990s, everyone thought it was cool to talk in a Manchester accent and walk a bit like Charlie Chaplin. That was mainly thanks to the Madchester explosion that started with these guys and ended with the shaved gorillas in Oasis. Above is a Stone Roses classic.
Apparently this guy died… or something
No doubt the next seven or eight months are going to be taken up with newspapers really trying to figure out a few Jackson mysteries. How did he die? Did he really monkey around with those kids? Did he actually do it with a woman to make babies? All questions that we can’t answer, so we won’t be wasting your time by even remotely trying. When it comes to Jackson, we know two things: 1. Waking up with the man must, even just for a nanosecond, have given you a glimpse into what it’s like to be Ronald McDonald’s wife. And 2. These are the four best cover versions of MJ classics…
1. Billie Jean, Shinehead
A slower version of the classic song about a deranged stalker, this one even features a big doff of the cap to spaghetti westerns. A brilliant reggae track. Just brilliant.
2. Thriller, Ian Brown
Ian Brown has never had the most syrupy voice in the world, but his drawling monotone somehow works when singing Thriller. An unexpected masterpiece.
3. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Derrick Laro and Trinity
Another reggae interpretation of a Jackson classic – this time Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough from Off The Wall. This very nearly, but not quite, improves on the original. Excellent.
4. Human Nature, Miles Davies
A few rock versions almost took fourth spot, but in the end we plumped for this Miles Davis trumpet version of Human Nature. Not because it’s particularly good, but because it’s Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. Yes, Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. That’s Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson. The legendary trumpeter Miles Davis doing Michael Jackson…
Ian Dury and The Blockheads, What a Waste
As modern British songwriters go, they don’t come much better than the late Ian Dury. A brilliant lyricist, backed by a great band – really really great in fact. Above is our favourite of their songs, narrowly pipping Spasticus Autisticus…
James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince
Much is going to be written about Michael Jackson for the coming weeks, after he finally lost out to a bastard heart attack or some such. He was only 50. And what a life. Brilliant Jackson Five records, often overlooked but completely fantastic tracks during the band’s young-adult incarnation as The Jacksons, and then all of the solo magic – particularly Off The Wall. Obviously the whole thing was slightly marred by his weird monkey, the melty-face stuff, and the eyebrow-raising sleepovers. Still, we thought we’d get him a couple of gifts as a thank you for the music, so we drank heavily until we became forgetful, and it soon boiled down to a toss up between a James Brown gig clip in which Michael is invited on stage, shortly followed by a far more overconfident Prince, or a dodgy recording of Rock With You… ahhh, or the James Brown clip! In the end we got him both. RIP Michael Jackson!
Michael Jackson, Rock With You