The Damned, Problem Child
Before Captain Sensible enjoyed his moment in the sunshine with one of the most ridiculous hit singles of all time, Happy Talk, he was plying his wares as a member of The Damned – one of the greatest punk bands ever. Above, they’re singing about a child with, erm, problems. Hence the name.
These guys didn’t quite make it…
Regardless of the whole thing being umbrella’d under Punk Rock, there was a marked difference between the disgruntled 1970s sounds of America compared to those of over here in Blighty. For one thing, there was a slightly nerdish, art school edge to a lot of American Punk, and in cases of bands like Television, Talking Heads and the Patti Smith Group, it was a million miles away from maniacs on speed hammering through songs at an astonishing pace. That side did exist as well, of course, and after much thought, a bit of gobbing, and a few dabs of the good/bad stuff, we decided that our favourite songs from the American Punk Songbook would be these ones…
1. Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Blank Generation
Richard Hell was a fantastic punk rocker, one of the best, and he came up with arguably the greatest track of the era (below, played on a strangers record player). He originally wrote it when he was in Television, before leaving and claiming it for his Voidoids. It was the inspiration behind Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols, so they say.
2. Suicide, Keep Your Dreams
A rather spooky, but brilliant song from a 1970s synthpunk duo who look a little bit like a sinister version of Erasure. Listen to it more than twice, and it’ll be stuck in your mind. A great track.
3. New York Dolls, Trash
It was a close call for the New York Dolls, with both The Stooges and MC5 almost knocking them out of the running as the godfathers of US Punk, but the Dolls just nabbed it for their fine blend of heavy rock and lipstick.
4. The Modern Lovers, Roadrunner
It was a real scrap for the fourth spot, with Talking Heads, The Ramones and Television all just falling at the final hurdle. Great bands though they were, they couldn’t quite oust the awkward brilliance of The Modern Lovers doing Roadrunner – a classic track whatever the genre.
Siouxsie and The Banshees, Hong Kong Garden
For a short window in the late 1970s, it was fashionable to go to gigs and get spat on. In most cases that would be a bad thing, but less so when it was Siouxsie Sioux hacking up and letting fly. Above is her finest work with The Banshees.
Some excellent rock and rollers just missed out…
Unlike disgruntled old men who refuse to board buses driven by women because they might crash, we completely embrace equality. We even celebrate it. In fact, we barely even consider equality to be an issue, because we simply presume it. Not just in the bedroom, but in the workplace, in the kitchen sink, and on stage with hard rocking bands. It’s a shame that, Beth Ditto aside, there seems to be a dearth of exciting rock and roll front women at the time of writing. But, even so, coming up with the four greatest was an emotional and tricky process, with Grace Slick, Bjork, Chaka Khan, Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux all just missing the cut…
1. Janis Joplin
Without a doubt, the queen of all front women. She lead Big Brother and The Holding Company, then Kozmic Blues Band, then Full Tilt Boogie Band. And then she died of a heroin overdose. It was a total shame, because she was probably the greatest white soul singer of all time, and could challenge Jagger and Prince as the greatest front PERSON ever to take the stage. A genius.
2. Patti Smith
You can probably thank heroin and cocaine for Patti Smith’s rather sinister looks – back in the 1970s, it was still considered at the height of sophistication to shoot a load up down an alleyway, or on a bench. Yet, drugs aside, she made for an amazing front women for the inventively named Patti Smith Group, which rode the crest of a creative wave from 1974-1979. If Keith Richards were a singer and a woman, he’d be Patti Smith.
3. Debbie Harry
A former Playboy bunny, Debbie Harry was the sexy face of punk rock. Her band was Blondie, and they were at their peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And it’s a testament to how good she was that nowadays pretty much every angular young oik giving music a bash is fashioned on Harry in her prime. A very beautiful woman.
4. Stevie Nicks
A tiny little thing at just a fraction over five foot, Nicks put a magnificent stamp on Fleetwood Mac from 1975 until the early 1980s. She was strange and alluring, with her mystical jewelry, nasal voice, and whispers that she appreciated her cocaine in a rather unconventional manner. Rumours also went around that she might be a witch.
The Undertones, Teenage Kicks
These young men from Derry will forever be remembered for recording John Peel’s favourite ever song, which is a bit unfair really, as it’s probably lots of other people’s favourite song too. They also spawned Feargal Sharkey.
Why, hello ladies…
Ever since that moment in the Crying Game where the Irish guy is innocently snogging that beautiful woman, when suddenly a gentleman’s penis falls gracelessly from her undercarriage, we have just about learnt how to correctly deal with sudden gender shocks. The key is to say nothing until everything is revealed, and your wife/partner is fully naked in front of you. Then use your intuition, or, if you must, pat her down. It’s like an ongoing game of poker, this damn life. But a totally necessary one. Just ask the swathes of popular pub goers who lost all of their macho friends in 1973, thanks to their lusty feelings towards some stunning prostitutes on the cover of their New York Dolls records. Not to mention the lonely old men who bought it thinking it might be the wonderful Nolan Sisters. On closer inspection, they weren’t sexy women of the night at all, they were fully blown men! Men sitting on a marvelous sofa, with testicles, pubes, and everything – although they did look like they might have accepted money for intercourse anyway. So, yeah, it’s not all bad. Confusion aside, it’s an absolutely brilliant record. Here’s one of the cuts from it…
Not including food products…
Copycatting – or, as some people call it, copydogging – is rife. If you write down a list of all of your favourite things – from foods, to films, to drinks, to songs, to clothes, to anything at all – they’re probably all total rip offs from something else. Pasta is one Italian man’s version of Chinese rice, whilst a gentleman’s shirt was originally modelled on the womanly blouses worn by buxom whores attracting incoming sailors. Even Scarface, yes Scarface, was a remake of another film called Scarface from 1932. Both great movies, by the way. And let’s not forget that Heinz Baked Beans have been ripped off and outbrillianted by Branston ones. Everything is a cover version. Everything. So, with that in mind, we peered at music, and deduced the four most impressive copydogs, as decided by us…
1. Joe Cocker, With a Little Help From My Friends
Once in a while, The Beatles would throw Ringo a bone, and he’d get the chance to sing on an album. It was a move akin to Monet asking a hysterical four year old to finish off his lilies for him. It just never worked out. What Goes On (Rubber Soul), Yellow Submarine (Revolver), and then this on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – all the low points on great records. And yet, when Joe Cocker got his teeth into the song, it transformed into a gritty, rock-soul workout. Plus it reminds us of the brilliant Wonder Years. Here’s Ringo’s wrongo attempt…
2. The Clash, I Fought The Law
The Clash painted a snarling picture of spitting teens trying to put one over on the police, while the original – by The Crickets minus Buddy Holly, deceased – sounded more like a cheerful inmate regaling his jail buddies with something he’s just written in his cell. This, of course, making him a serious target for The Marys. Here’s that version…
3. Louie Louie, The Kingsmen
No doubt about it, The Kingsmen‘s version of Louie Louie is one of the greatest pop records ever made. The 1957 original, by Richard Berry, isn’t too bad either. It’s a doo-wap song about a Jamaican man explaining his love life to a bartender called Louie. It’s a far more docile affair…
4. Hey Joe, Jimi Hendrix
Fourth spot was a close call as ever, with some magnificent songs falling at the last minute – James Brown’s version of Think by The 5 Royales, Johnny Cash’s excellent cover of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, Labelle doing Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones – but in the end, Hendrix just nicked it for Hey Joe. It was a hit for the garage rock band The Leaves just a year before Hendrix made it iconic in 1966. It was an extra close call, because The Leaves‘ version is almost just as excellent…
Talking Heads, Psycho Killer
He’s an awkward looking man David Byrne, and something about his demeanour suggests that he probably hates birthdays. Chances are you won’t find him hosting a fancy dress party in a local pub this evening to celebrate turning 56. More likely, he’ll be sketching chalk drawings of skulls whilst listening to a robot reading Samuel Beckett. Even so, we thought we’d splash out and get him a lovely gift. We lit some perfumed oils and spoke long into the night, before deciding that what David Byrne would really adore would be either a bright orange basket full of actual oranges, or an old clip of his band, Talking Heads. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Davey!
The Clash, White Riot
Everyone appears to be going mental on the streets of London, so how fitting that today is the turn of the mighty Clash to enter our hall of fame. Above is one of the most potent under-two-minute performances you will ever see. Astonishing.
Lock up your daughters!
Nothing quite illustrates the gaping gulf between US punks and UK punks like the cover of Marquee Moon. While bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash looked like gangs of vicious street maniacs armed with guitars, bike lock necklaces, and phlegm, Television resembled PHD students politely queueing to get into a science lecture. Their clothes weren’t torn and hacked, rather they looked like Christmas presents bought by a kindly aunt, and their haircuts were standard regulation – apart from Kevin Keegan at the back, that is. The bloody hippy. As a statement of intent, the album cover told us to get ready for some pretty intense Pythagorean theorem, and yet it masks one of the greatest punk records ever made. This one often tops the most pretentious bong smoking music lists, and is a favourite with exactly the kind of bearded women who claim to adore punk rock music. Here’s the main song…
Humble Pie, Black Coffee
Steve Marriott is one of only a handful of rock and pop stars to feature in two excellent bands – others include Mick Jones (The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite), Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yazoo), Ronnie Wood (Faces, The Rolling Stones) and Paul Weller (The Jam, The Style Council). Steve’s first was, of course, Small Faces, then he pulled together these guys. They were terrific too.
Generation X, Your Generation
Presumably performing a punk rock response to The Who, this is Billy Idol’s first band. It was brilliant, even though one of the members – Tony James – went on to form the futuristic atrocity Sigue Sigue Sputnik, who were decidedly less good, and wore fishnet stockings on their faces.
The Slits, Typical Girls
Long before The Spice Girls, Girls Aloud, and now The Saturdays, girl groups were already going strong in the UK. Like The Slits, for example – here they are in 1979. Look out for lead singer Ari Up‘s revolutionary one-legged dancing in this cheerful video, filmed in one of London’s many parks. Fantastic.
The Jam, Liza Radley
Before he popped on his espadrilles and slicked back his barnet, Paul Weller was in The Jam, and they were fantastic. As, of course were The Style Council, and some of his solo stuff hasn’t been too bad either. The above track was the B-side to their Start! single, and one of our favourite Weller moments.
Androgynous woman scares old people
For the most part, until the late 1970s it was easy to distinguish one gender from the other. In the 20th Century, men had always had short hair, women long – but for a small window in the 1960s when they swapped hairstyles completely. Pot was to blame for that one. And you could say, heroin for this. A wiry, spiky looking woman, this album cover finds Patti Smith veering as far from looking feminine as possible, and yet she still has a traditional head of womanly hair – albeit a little bit messy, like a female punk version of Alex Zane. She is staring at the camera, moodily like modern kids like to, wearing clothes that would probably sit more comfortably on a gentleman working in an office. It’s a bold, daring, angry cover, that throws a metaphorical glass of Lambrini in the face of glamourous ladylike convention. What a gal/guy. The album, by the way, is brilliant.
Enjoy the opening track after the jump…
Big wedding cock up
It’s impossible to shop for Suggs, he basically wants everything. It became a toss up between some home made toffees or a video of a hilarious wedding mistake. In the end, we got him both. Happy 48th Suggs, you maniac!
Someone won’t be smiling when they see the list…
Once upon a time, mainly before you were born, cookery shows featured haunted women weeping to camera about how best to scramble eggs to stop the babies from crying. These broadcasts were often interrupted by air raid sirens, or sudden cuts to Artie Shaw playing his magnificent clarinet to distract everyone from the sounds of gunfire and Nazi war accents. Terrible, terrible days. But then along came Jamie Oliver, and everyone started smiling again! Even so, poor Jamie didn’t make the cut, and our top four cookery shows read like this…
1. A Cook’s Tour
Literally, there isn’t a chef on the planet as cool as Anthony Bourdain from New Yoik. He spends the entire programme strutting around former war zones in a Ramones t-shirt, never without a cigarette, demanding that the locals surprise him with their food. And they do. Amongst the treats is a beating cobra’s heart, and some very penis-looking objects. By all accounts, he’s a pretty decent chef as well.
It’s official, we’re going to have to start sewing
Ever since the nation threw itself into financial free fall, we’ve been fretting about the state of our wardrobe. What’s going to happen to it? Can we still afford to pay foreign kids to stitch our jeans? How long before M&S goes under, and we can’t find another decent vest shop? Well, the answers came flooding in yesterday via a very wise fashion brain, sensually known as Oliver. The whisper on the underground is that we’re all going to go a bit punk rock and start making our own clothes again, most probably from bits of old bike chain, bin liners, and patches of cashmere. We’ve made a start by piercing one another’s noses with a fork.