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.
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.
The Raincoats, Fairytale in the Supermarket
We love an all-girl post punk band, and they don’t come much more all-girl and post punk than The Raincoats. Unless you count The Slits. Both brilliant bands, above is The Raincoats first ever single – all about love and grocery shopping – which was released in 1979 on the now legendary Rough Trade label. Noisy, excellent stuff.
The Jam, When You’re Young
Look at you, sitting there in an office with an ironed shirt/blouse on. What happened to you, man/sister? Here’s Paul Weller and his well dressed friends to remind you what it was like being little. Great times.
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.
Iggy Pop, Sixteen
It’s another one of those weird fantasy dinner party days, as Daniel Radcliffe, Monica Lewinsky, Woody Harrelson, and Raymond Chandler all prepare for an evening of laughter, presents, wine, great canapes, a cake, a misheard comment, shouting, a fight, quick, get the police! An ambulance, blood everywhere, stunned silence, faint sobbing, taxis home, and broken dreams. But we’ve chosen to honour the rock guitarist Slash, who turns a very impressive 44 today, so we all wrapped our grandmother’s head scarves over our long ginger hair, then spent the afternoon screaming ideas at one another like someone was holding a candle to our toes. After about three hours it had boiled down to a toss up between a urinal for his bedroom, or a brilliant clip of Iggy Pop. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Slash!
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.
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.
Very hot right now…
As ever, we’ve been draping ourselves in fashionable coffee shops, pretending to write poems, but secretly listening in to angular conversations to see if we can pick up style tips. With the help of Hannah – friend of the site and big fashion brain – we have learned that fashion can often overlook politics entirely. The whisper in all the most downtrodden pubs where barmen sport vests and look like they have serious genital warts, is that the Union Jack – often synonymous with terrifying racist organisations, and rugby teams – is enjoying something of an upsurge in more trendy circles. “It’s the classic punk aesthetic,” Hannah told us over a brewski with lime in it because it’s the summer, “naff British eccentricity meets rock and roll – fashion is in love with the Union Jack just now.” And with that, we immediately ran away to stock up on Union Jack boxer shorts, t-shirts, shirts, knickers, stockings, boots, hats, scarves, gloves, shoes, and socks. We may have taken things too far.
You heard it here first, non-racist friends.
The rest of you, we’re being ironic okay! It’s fash-un not fash-ist!
The Pop Group, She is Beyond Good and Evil
Anyone who’s had the pleasure of visiting the West Country will already be fully aware that sometimes you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – even though it talks like a farm hand, it appears to be quoting Nietzsche. Above is The Pop Group from Bristol. A fine band.
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!
New Order, Temptation
The Jam or The Style Council? The Beatles or Wings? Small Faces or Humble Pie? These are debates that will rage for centuries to come. As will this one – Joy Division or New Order? Both exactly the same band, only one with a strange jerking lead singer, the other with an additional lady. Our vote goes to the latter.
Some really creepy ones didn’t make it…
It never fails to add an extra coil to the spring in our step whenever we hear from a member of the growing Interestment family. Today excellent contributor Debs – a lady with an eye for the absurd – turned her telescope made from a rolled up magazine onto album covers, particularly frightening ones. She had this to say…
Intently flicking through racks of 12 inches in some grubby second-hand shop with only a gaggle of trainspotters for company – it’s nothing if not meditational. Until, that is, some artist attempting to shift more units via shock-tactic publicity scares the living daylights out of you by placing a grotesquely disturbing image (which, in some Eastern European cases, can simply be their face) on the cover of their latest EP. Who hasn’t had their browsing zen interrupted by the glimpse of something uncalled for and horrifying? The following pop groups should be ashamed…
1. Aphex Twin, Richard D. James
It’s a tough call when it comes to choosing which of the Cornish, bank vault-dweller’s covers is the most mind-bendingly odd. But this demonic self portrait is the winner – narrowly pipping the Aphex Kids on the Come To Daddy EP cover to the horror post.
2. King Crimson, In the Court of King Crimson
This trippy drawing of a screaming maniac has been known to make actual grown up men ask timidly about the whereabouts of their mummy, before erupting in hysterical tears.
3. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
Small naked children, dragging themselves out of holes in the earth, crawling slavishly towards some (undoubtably) twisted and dark power that is emitting light from behind a hill. Shitting heck.
4. Black Flag, Family Man
The comic-style simplicity of the Raymond Pettibon drawing makes it all the more appalling. The teddy. The child with the eye-injury. Mum’s leg. And the date? The day after Kennedy’s assassination. It’s everything that’s wrong in the world. Well, America anyway.
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…
Gang of Four, To Hell With Poverty
Time was when you could go for a job interview in a stuffy office during the afternoon, then head off to perform on The Old Grey Whistle Test in the evening without bothering to change. Above are the completely brilliant post-punkers from Leeds, Gang of Four.
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.
Madness, My Girl
There is no better way to kick off a rainy morning in the middle of winter than with a bit of music from those zany gentlemen in Madness. Above is their greatest song.
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.