SONGS TO REMEMBER: Joy Division – “She’s Lost Control”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Joy Division – “She’s Lost Control”

“PRODUCED BY MARTIN HANNETT/

WRITTEN BY IAN CURTIS, PETER HOOK,

BERNARD SUMNER AND STEPHEN MORRIS

FACTORY/SEPTEMBER 1980

DID NOT CHART

‘She’s Lost Control’ is Joy Division at their most punishing and surgical. Over brutal industrial beats, Hook’s definitive melodic and skidding bassline, and Sumner’s mix of ornate synth-strings and ugly, tuneless guitar, Curtis taps into his experience as a hospital worker and an epileptic, as he watches a young girl have a fit. He is alternately tender and panicked, but too fascinated to turn away. The song is written and sung in such a way that it could be someone watching their lover suffer a mental breakdown. The subject feels like a butterfly on a pin, as she screams and kicks and the music cries and crashes.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: The Specials – “International Jet Set”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: The Specials – “International Jet Set”

“PRODUCED BY DAVE JORDAN AND JERRY DAMMERS/

WRITTEN BY JERRY DAMMERS

2-TONE/CHRYSALIS/SEPTEMBER 1980

“The bizarre ‘International Jet Set’ takes the airport muzak joke as the starting point for a languorous, disturbing discourse on the dislocation of air travel and life on the road. Hall, again, is superb. 

“Will the muzak never end?” he asks as the softly hallucinogenic sound eventually drowns him. At this point, The Specials were the funniest,most deadly serious pop band in the world.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: Pet Shop Boys – “Go West”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Pet Shop Boys – “Go West”

“PRODUCED BY PET SHOP BOY SAND BROTHERS IN

RHYTHM/WRITTEN BY JACQUES MORALI, 

HENRI BELOLO, V.WILLIS, NEIL TENNANT AND

CHRIS LOWE

PARLOPHONE/SEPTEMBER 1993

UK CHART:2

Who would have thought that an obscure Village People song covered by the Pet Shop Boys would become the song of football? It’s fantastic. I think it’s our greatest achievement.’ Neil Tennant, from the sleeve notes of the reissued (in 2001) “Very” album.

And, apart from observing that a camp and innocent ’70s eulogy to San Francisco as Gay Paradise could be turned into the mournful and hope-dashing sequel to ‘Being Boring’ only by Neil Tennant’s wistful whine and a male voice choir, I’ll leave it at that.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: Happy Mondays – W. F. L. (Vince Clarke Remix)

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Happy Mondays – W. F. L. (Vince Clarke Remix)

“PRODUCED BY MARTIN HANNETT (REMIX BY

VINCE CLARKE)/

WRITTEN BY HAPPY MONDAYS

FACTORY/SEPTEMBER 1989

UK CHART:68

Call the cops! There’s a madman around!

The only Brit band who’ve come close to living up to ‘the new Sex Pistols’ hype that murders every remotely interesting rock band had already made two albums before their leap into infamy. The most recent one, Bummed, had been a unique and surreal master-piece made of bits of staggering (Rolling)stoned blues mixed with A Certain Ratio’s mutant funk, Martin Hannett’s clanging, fizzing murk production, and the surreal sleaze testimonies of one Shaun Ryder, a litany of junkie babble, sick jokes, snatches of drug movie dialogue, cutting insults, weird scenes and comedown defiance. 

It was the first realistic Brit response to hardcore hip-hop, not because there was any-rapping or big beats, but because Ryder represented his treacherous Manchester sink estate ‘hood in all its bad faith, street aggro and narcotic collapse. When Bummed began to get the praise it deserved, and the music press and Factory’s Tony Wilson began to talk up a Manchester scene based around The Mondays, a straighter rock band called The Stone Roses, acid house, ecstasy and Factory’s own Hacienda club, Ryder and co. decided that they needed to take this whole thing a step on. They called in an unlikely saviour to buff up their previous flop single ‘Wrote for Luck’,a symbol of everything un-rock ‘n’ roll, fey and tiddly-bonk about the 1980s – Basildon’s Vince Clarke.

The sometime Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure synth-pop maestro took the cluttered rock chunk-funk of ‘Wrote for Luck’ and stripped it bare. As the beat clumped and the bass synth rumbled and the dominating guitar was reined in, you could actually hear Ryder’s ‘singing’ voice – a bizarre but instantly lovable mix of Mank E Smith, Liverpudlian rock shouter Pete Wylie and Grandpa Simpson – for the first time. It’s opening gambit – “I wrote for luck – they sent me you!/I sent for juice – you give me poison!’- was magnificent, and prefaced a slew of cleverly contradictory slag-offs chat made the subject of his contempt into every thieving two-faced drug fuck you’d ever met, while slyly letting you know that Ryder was no better.

The mix of catchy electro-disco and glam moonstomp was perfect for all those indie kids who were fed up with sitting in their bedrooms listening to whinge-rock while everyone else was raving it up, but weren’t sure they could keep up with all that funk and disco (‘You were never fleet of foot – bippy’).

Lo and behold, Madchester (after the city), or baggy (after the trousers), or indie-dance (long after New Order) was born.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: Radiohead – “Creep”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Radiohead – “Creep”

“PRODUCED BY SEAN SLADE AND PAUL Q. KOLDERIE/ WRITTEN BY RADIOHEAD (LYRICS BY THOM YORKE)

PARLOPHONE/SEPTEMBER 1992

DID NOT CHART

(REISSUED SEPTEMBER 1993:REACHED NO.7)

How the mind plays tricks. Did this definitive hymn to adolescent self-loathing really first come out bang in the midst of grunge… not just long before Britpop, but even before its funnier, funkier twin, Beck’s “Loser”, was released in America? It took another year and a reissue, of course, before it hit over here, as Yorke’s Oxford Dons of Despair famously got a surprise hit in the States without the Britpop press mafia’s permission, and poor old Thorn was introduced to the horrors of being successful and admired by total strangers. Yeuch.

‘Creep’ may be a gauche thing compared to the likes of ‘Kid A’, but it’s still a great song. A dead ringer for The Hollies’ ancient power ballad, ‘The Air That I Breathe’, the first time that Yorke sneers, ‘You’re so fucking special,’ and future guitar hero Jonny Greenwood responds with a series of epileptic machine-gun shots-like a pitbull straining at a leash – before slamming into the chorus is pure twitch-rock nirvana (with a small ‘n’). The graceful, familiar melody and Greenwood’s six-string vandalism give Yorke’s choirboy self-pity genuine substance and drama when the lyric alone adds up to little more than a commercial for Clearasil.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

40 YEARS AGO: The Clash – “Straight To Hell”

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40 YEARS AGO: The Clash – “Straight To Hell”

“September 24, 1982

THE CLASH follow up “Rock The Casbah” with another single featuring a pair of songs from their “Combat Rock” album. The two that made the cut this time are “Straight To Hell” on the ‘a’ side and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” on the flip. They’ve got a special deal going where early purchasers will get a free sticker with the single and a free stencil with every 12″ disc. 

Although historical hindsight will prove that the public thought different, NME’s Adrian Thrill wrote that the song, ““Straight To Hell” is the finest thing that the Clash have recorded since the ‘Magnificent Seven’ two years ago… Though it could well be the other side – the rambling Stonesy ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go,’ that will pick up most of the airplay.” Looking back he referred to the Clash’s last hit “Rock The Casbah” as “abysmal.”

For the US market, the single is flipped with the non-LP track “Cool Confusion,” and is packaged in a unique sleeve. The song does reasonably well in England, going up the charts to #17. It only made it up to #45 on the American charts, even though it’s remembered as one of the band’s biggest hits this side of the Atlantic. Strangely enough, the song would be re-released in 1991 in England and go all the way to #1 the second time around.”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: PULP – “My Legendary Girlfriend”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: PULP – “My Legendary Girlfriend”

“PRODUCED BY ALAN SMYTH AND PULP/WRITTEN BY PULP

FIRE/SEPTEMBER 1990

DID NOT CHART

Strangely, a bunch of Shefhield indie blokes (and girl) were working along not entirely dissimilar lines – albeit without the hi-tech production and the hip-hop element. Pulp had jangled and yelped anonymously throughout the ’80s, but refused to lose and were about to make their leap into stardom. The first sign of something stirring was this – the sound of a Yorkshire art-school dropout reinventing himself as Barry White over a sound that reclaimed the brittle ’80s arch-pop that everyone else had utterly rejected.

“My Legendary Girlfriend” is a scream – a prophecy of all the sleazy sex, self-deprecating wit and Morrissey-on-E imagery we would come to love in Jarvis Cocker in a few years’ time. Over a two-four Motown-style rhythm, a mighty machine-gun bassline doubled on piano, plastic strings and Isaac Hayes wah-wah stabs, Jarvis just breathes sexual desperation into his legendary girlfriend’s ear until he’s in a sloppy froth of lust. The choruses are all very croony ’80s electro-pop – a sort of toytown Human League – but you just want them to end so we can get back to the molten groove of the verse, a loving parody of boudoir-soul cut with the irony-free frustration of Jarvis’s knowledge that the champagne is Special Brew, the satin sheets smell of damp towels and asthma inhalers, and that he is, in fact, a broke and skinny white boy, and not a big black walrus of lurrrve.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Dinosaur Jr – “Freak Scene”

“PRODUCED AND WRITTEN BY J.MASCIS AND

DINOSAUR JR

BLAST FIRST/SEPTEMBER 1988

DID NOT CHART 

THIS IS UNCOOL

What’s in a name? Although Mascis’s Massachusetts guitarsquallers were initially presented as a punkish proposition, they turned out to be a throwback – long-hair rockists who existed to showcase Mascis’s old-school fret-wankery. J.’s just-got-out-of-bed stage demeanour and can’t-be-arsed interview technique saw them dubbed a “slacker” band, the forerunners of grunge miserablism who were too lazy to reach for the shotgun. Mascis’s partner Lou Barlow quit and formed the more rounded Sebadoh before it all got too like Neil Young on a major bummer, dude. But not before he’d contributed to the band’s great punk-pop moment, the raucous and touching ‘Freak Scene’.

It’s a rock guitar showcase, all short-sharp pop dynamics as the song goes from a Postcard jangle, to Sex Pistols ‘Holidays…’ power chord, to juddering machine-gun shock tactics, to sweet acoustic lightness, to fuzz and shriek punk-metal soloing. Mascis’s wry drawl details some dysfunctional relationship or another, and it all sounds like one of those drunk drama moments at a disintegrating teen party.

The pay-off is so good and so sweet that Mascis finally stops the guitars and tells it straight to his lover/mate: ‘Sometimes I don’t thrill you/Sometimes I think I’ll kill you/Just don’t let me fuck up will you/’Cos when I need a friend it’s still you.’ The guitars crash back in and Mascis shakes his head at the freak scene and sighs, ‘What a mess,’ as the guitars smash up one of the bedrooms.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: Cornershop – “Brimful of Asha”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Cornershop – “Brimful of Asha”

“PRODUCED AND WRITTEN BY TJINDER SINGH

WIIIJA/AUGUST 1997

UK CHART:60

(REMIXED AND REISSUED NOVEMBER 1997: REACHED NO.1)

This record is one of the most magical of unlikely triumphs in British pop history. It all just makes me grin. Firstly, it hit No.1 on a tiny indie when everyone else felt they needed to be swallowed by majors in order to survive. Secondly, it jangled indily when indie was supposed to be dead. Thirdly, it was bought by at least some people who presumably hated British Asians, even when it heavily referenced a British Asian childhood and 

culture. And yeah, I know it would never have got to the top without a Fatboy Slim remix, but the original’s miles better, so yah boo sucks.

And then there are the bases it covers. By highlighting Bollywood songstress Asha Bhosle and various other Indian stars and movies and contemporary political issues, it gave Asian kids a mainstream shout-out for the first time, making ‘Brimful of Asha’ a more useful blow against racism than Cormershop’s early, shouty protest songs. 

By blending Bhosle with Marc Bolan and Trojan reggae it represented a real Britpop – one that reflected the cultural diversity that remains one of the few great things about this nation. And, for a wee bit of irony, while Massive Attack paid Lou Reed for a soundsource no listener could even locate, Tjinder, Ben Ayres and co. just sounded like the Velvets (and their eccentric nephew Jonathan Richman) and claimed that sound as their own. 

And, finally and of course, it’s about the godlike wonder of the old-fashioned seven-inch vinyl single, the lifeblood of everything good about popular music. Indeed, if books had a theme tune then this one’s would sing out ‘Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow – mine’s on the 45.'”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”

SONGS TO REMEMBER: Pretenders – “Back on the Chain Gang”

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SONGS TO REMEMBER: Pretenders – “Back on the Chain Gang”

“PRODUCED BY CHRIS THOMAS/

WRITTEN BY CHRISSIE HYNDE

REAL/SEPTEMBER 1982

UK CHART:17

Country rock doesn’t play much of a part in this book. But who better to turn this most album-oriented of genres into classic single material than the heroic Ms Hynde? 

‘Back on the Chain Gang’ is glowing rootsy car-pop, from the ringing guitars, to the driving rhythm, to the Sam Cooke-quoting chorus (no one used male backing vocals as brilliantly as Chrissie) to the exquisite, almost mythical sense of loss in her words and voice. 

OK, so The Great Pretender, like most of the other products of punk, drifted on into increasingly shallow waters in a desperate quest to hang in there. But, if I’d written ‘Brass in Pocket’, ‘Message of Love’ and this, I’d still expect the world to kiss my feet. Even though the boots are leather, which always seemed a bit off for a radical vegetarian.”

Garry Mulholland in “This Is Uncool – The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco”