List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Human Fly – The Cramps
With a traditionally country chord progression in the background (I know, I was surprised at myself for noticing that too) played on more distorted instruments with a punk feel to it – ‘Human Fly’ is not quite the genre mash-up I was expecting today. It’s called psychobilly and like nothing I have heard on this list so far.
What’s interesting about taking something so quintessentially country (or rockabilly) and making it punk is how it makes the whole thing just that bit more unsettling than if it was a straight punk song. Very niche though, so can see how it never really took off.
Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) – The Jacksons
It’s amazing how you get these songs how you primarily know for the chorus. From the title and the first verse, I had absolutely no clue which song this was. I’m assuming I’ve heard a sample of it in a film or this has been remixed at some point down the line.
Like with all disco, I am glad that Spotify has a radio version – as at nearly 4 minutes it was already getting overly repetitive. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great chorus, but it needs more than that.
(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
I know that I have listened to this for the albums list. Over four years ago, and I haven’t listened to the albums since. I wonder if my taste has already mutated enough since then to give them more of a go, because this is already sounding a lot better than I remembered. I also finally twigged that the Stefy song ‘Chelsea’ took inspiration from this, so basically I’m only properly listening to this now.
I really enjoy the new wave aspect to this track, which is what I said I liked about the parent album This Year’s Model, and I really need to follow up on this in the new year before I get bogged under by 2020 albums.
One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic
Inadvertently ended up with the album version of this song rather than the shortened 7-inch single version. This didn’t mean the slow death that I had expected, sure it’s still too long at over 7 minutes, but there’s enough variation to actually keep it going.
This is one of the major funk songs of the era and one that actually borrows a lot from rock music rather than feeding from the disco well. I might prefer the shorter version, but this pretty good.
Das Model – Kraftwerk
Six months ago I was listening to The Man-Machine as I had a big coding breakthrough at work and was celebrating that in tandem with my being able to stay in the job that I love. Listening to this song now, in the context of other songs at the time, ‘Das Model’ is such an anomaly and an incredible triumph.
So much of what I listen to now only exists because of bands like Kraftwerk giving birth to electronic music like this. As a kid I knew this and didn’t think much of this song, but now I absolutely love it.
Shot by Both Sides – Magazine
Somehow I managed to recognise a Buzzcocks riff in this song (which makes sense as Magazine was founded by a member of that band) which makes three so far in this batch, so I guess my ears have been properly screwed on today.
This is another example of, although the first in this batch, of post-punk. It’s also a song by someone who left a punk band because he wanted to make prog rock. So I guess this is where prog rock and post-punk meet? Maybe something like that. Still though, we are early days for post-punk and this is one of those songs that I can see influencing those yet to come.
Public Image – Public Image Ltd
I can hear The Cure in this. There is something in this song that immediately made me thing of Robert Smith, which I guess is the specific line of post-punk that ‘Public Image’ helped to progress.
It’s difficult to listen to this song and look at the album cover without thinking of an older Jon Lydon making stupid adverts for butter and being a dick on I’m A Celebrity…. If anything, hearing him do this rather then The Sex Pistols is actually helping me to understand why he is such an interesting figure in this area of music. I have to listen to Public Image’s second album for the album list, and this is making that look like an attractive one to listen to soon.
Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers
So many punk (or punk-leaning) acts that I have listened to for this list were rebelling against something for the sake of it. Then you come across a track like ‘Alternative Ulster’ where there’s actually some substance to the subject matter – specifically here the ‘Troubles’ period of Northern Irish history. There’s a rallying cry here against an actual oppressive an unfair system for a specific period in history, which makes ‘Alternative Ulster’ a proper musical time capsule.
(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash
The year after this, The Clash would go on to release London Calling – one of most acclaimed albums of all time. Before this, they released another self-named hugely acclaimed album. Both were punk or post-punk – so this song with some punk vocals infused with reggae is a bit out of left-field, and I kinda wish it had stayed there. I know that this is a very popular track, but it didn’t work for me.