Music to die for archive

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APRIL 2008

Here’s my choices, I hope that you find them interesting. As usual, just one song per artist, and each song title is a link to a youtube video. For those of you expecting to find certain songs that I’ve included in other lists on this site, I’ve decided to self-impose another rule : no song can appear twice in different lists.

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This is meant to be a list of what music excites me – and what I really want to listen to – now. It’s not about paying homage to the musical greats. Some artists whom I greatly respect and admire aren’t represented because they’re just not on my radar at the moment. Around 30% of the songs are from the last 10 years, and I think that’s about the right balance; if anything it should be higher. All time charts which largely ignore musical developments of the last 10 years tend to be conservative and dull. Conversely, a chart which had say 70% of songs from the last 10 years wouldn’t have much credibility as an all time chart.

Please leave your comments at the foot of the page

100 Stiff Little Fingers – Nobody’s hero 1980 Belfast’s own punk rockers

99 ani difranco – 32 flavors 1995 Intelligent creative folk rock

98 Cat Stevens – On The Road To Find Out 1970 Used in the soundtrack of the cult film Harold and Maude – and fittingly so, as both song and film capture a certain 60s ethos

97 Natacha Atlas – When I Close My Eyes 2003 Fusion of Arabic song and electronic music

96 Lost Witness – Happiness Happening 1999 I’m not generally interested in trance music, but I’m fond of this track

95 XTC – Making Plans for Nigel 1979 Unique and memorable indie rock hit by the lads from Swindon

94 Inspiral Carpets – She Comes In The Fall 1990 Clint Boon’s swirling organ music and the soaring harmonies give the Inspirals their trademark sound

93 Ike and Tina Turner – Nutbush city limits 1973 Tina rocking it

92 Burning Spear – African Teacher 1980 Rastafarian reggae

91 Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues 1937 Delta blues : Johnson makes the guitar sing

90 Living Legends – Never Fallin’ 2005 Socially conscious hip hop

89 Michelle Shocked – Anchorage 1988 Folk rock : though I think of it as a feminist song, I guess it’s also about big themes such as marriage and chosing one’s path in life

88 Konflict – Messiah 2000 Drum & bass

87 Little Willie John – Fever 1956 It’s been covered countless times, but Little Willie John’s original recording is hard to beat

86 Blackstreet – No Diggity 1996 R&B group getting together here with rapper and producer Dr Dre to create a pulsating sexually charged megahit

85 Notorious B.I.G. – Mo Money Mo Problems 1997 The sample from the feelgood Diana Ross song I’m coming out helps to give this track its uplifting feel

84 Woody Guthrie – So long, it’s been good to know you 1942 Telling the story of how the people of the Midwest were uprooted from their homes during the depression of the 1930s in a down to earth style that is never boring or didactic

83 Joan Armatrading – Love And Affection 1976 Singer songwriter who with this song “strolled into the top 10 in 1976 with an afro that was about five years out of date, a seriously uncool acoustic guitar and an air of unruffled confidence”

82 The Cranberries – Zombie 1994 Emotionally powerful (though not notably politically insightful) comment on the troubles in Northern Ireland

81 Siouxsie and the Banshees – Christine 1980 Wikipedia informs me that “the song was inspired by the story of Christine Costner-Sizemore, whose battle with dissociative identity disorder was dramatized in the film The Three Faces of Eve”

80 Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the bridge 1991 Sad poignant lyrics and big guitar chords

79 Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe 1966 On May 1st 2006, 1572 guitarists played Hey Joe simultaneously in the town square of Wroclaw, Poland to create a new world record – which lasted until May 1st 2007, when 1,881 guitarists played the same song in the same place !

78 Blondie – One Way or Another 1978 There’s a rough edge that I like to Debbie Harry’s voice on this track from Parallel Lines

77 Leonard Cohen – The Stranger Song 1968 The poet with his guitar. A folk classic.

76 Camera Obscura – Books written for girls 2004 Slow ballad from this Glasgow indie band who’ve been likened to Belle and Sebastian

75 manu chao – El clandestino 1998 Song about illegal immigration

74 Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy Jr 2005 Here’s a curiosity for you : a couple of songs about serial killers. Sufjan Stevens gives his take on the story of Gacy, who was executed in 1994 for the rape and murder of 33 boys …

73 The Smiths – Suffer little children 1984 … and this is Morrissey’s elegiac song about the Moors murders

72 Tom Browne – Funkin’ for Jamaica 1980 Jamaica funk – that’s what it is. Let it get into you

71 Nick Drake – River Man 1969 Moody melodic folk. Drake’s reputation has grown since his death in 1974 aged 26, and this song was remastered and released as a single in 2004.

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70 Public Enemy – Rebel Without a Pause 1988 The continuous siren sound on the song soundtrack is genius, leading us into Chuck D’s razor sharp commentary

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69 Jinx Lennon – The Flesh Taxi 2006 Irish punk poet on the Septic Tiger record label

68 Gabrielle – Rise 2000 Sampling memorably from Bob Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Reportedly Dylan liked the song so much he let her use the sample for free

67 Suede – Beautiful ones 1996 Great sounding UK indie rock record

66 Natalie Cole – This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) 1975 She has tremendous vocal range : a vibrant, emotional performance

65 Pixies – Debaser 1989 The lyrics are based on the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou – but the words hardly matter. This is just a riotous explosion of noise and energy

64 Rose Royce – Wishing on a star 1977 Beautiful ballad from the disco era

63 Joni Mitchell – My old man 1971 Sparkling lovesong from her highly acclaimed album Blue

62 Pete Seeger – Which side are you on 1941 Union ballad written by Florence Reece

61 Happy Mondays – Step on 1990 A fresh and exciting sound which was to influence other UK rock groups to look for inspiration to the emerging dance culture

60 Placebo – Every you, every me 1998 As in all their best songs, the lyrics are dark and edgy

59 Gloria Gaynor – I will survive 1978 Appropriated as an anthem by so many people, it still remains a great song, though the disco backing track doesn’t quite do it justice

58 Gnarls Barkley – Crazy 2006 This, the best selling UK single of 2006, is the fruit of an unlikely collaboration between Atlanta rapper Cee-Lo, and flamboyant New York producer Danger Mouse

57 Baaba Maal – Halpulaar (?) West African music using those two wonderful instruments : the kora, and Baaba Maal’s voice

56 John Lennon – Instant Karma 1970 Imagine a band who sound like Oasis but who have interesting and meaningful things to sing about …

55 Lush – Ladykillers 1996 Scathing putdown of a certain kind of man

54 Pogues – Sally Maclennane 1985 This fast folk punk ditty is a staple of their live performances of which I have been to quite a few

53 Sinead O’Connor & the Chieftains – The Foggy Dew 1995 Interpretation of one of the greatest Irish republican ballads, about the 1916 Easter Rising

52 2pac feat Elton John – Ghetto gospel 2004 One of many posthumous hits for 2pac, this was produced by Eminem, who added the Elton John sample, removed two of the original verses, and it’s also claimed, edited 2pac’s voice

51 Otis Redding – Dock of the bay 1968 A conscious departure from his usual style, this reflective song is deservedly recognised as one of the greatest pop songs of all time

50 Ben E King – Stand By Me 1961 Pop perfection

49 Hole – Doll Parts 1994 Courtney Love wrote this in 1991 after meeting her future husband Kurt Cobain, and thinking he wasn’t interested in her. However when the song was released shortly after Cobain’s death at the age of 27, it took on an altogether more tragic meaning

48 Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand 1985 On their debut Psychocandy album, JMC combined strong pop beats with experimental use of noise and feedback to create a rock masterpiece

47 Phil Ochs – When I’m Gone 1966 Sing this one for me when I’m gone

46 M.I.A. – Galang 2004 MIA acted as art director on the video, which features her own graffiti artwork

45 Ministry – Jesus built my hotrod 1991 Magnificent driving rock. If this song has a message, it’s that ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long

44 Doobie Brothers – Long train running 1973 Love the rhythmic guitar sound on this

43 The Zutons – Why won’t you give me your love 2006 They come from Liverpool and they’ve a knack for writing good songs with strong melodies

42 Kings Of Leon – Knocked Up 2007 Leon was a preacher who fathered three of the band. Religion is still an important part of their lives, and they seem to get asked about it in every interview.

41 R.E.M. – Nightswimming 1992 REM abandon their guitars for this number : Michael Stipe is accompanied just by piano and strings

40 Tom Waits – Martha 1973 Such a mature, reflective song, it’s hard to believe that he was just a young man when he wrote it

39 Aaliyah – Try Again 2000 Love the production on this – the heavy beat, the use of distortion

38 Nitin Sawhney & Reena Bhardwaj – Nadia 1999 Lose yourself in these vocals …

37 Erykah Badu – Next Lifetime 1997 Her distinctive voice, soft style of delivery and strong songwriting skills make her songs immediately recognisable

36 Stereophonics – Dakota 2005 The big guitar riffs and intensity of the chorus makes the song bigger than its rather innocuous lyrics

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35 Richard Thompson – Vincent Black Lightning 1952 1991 The best guitar song ever !

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34 The Verve – Lucky Man 1997 Richard Ashcroft is more noted for his great, gloomy songs, but this one I find very uplifting

33 Karan Casey – A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn O (Sweet Comeraghs) 2002 Traditional Irish song

32 Dizzee Rascal – Flex 2007 Fast dance music with a unique blend of musical influences and a rifle-quick vocal delivery

31 Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel – Make me smile 1975 “It was written about the first Cockney Rebel, who walked out on me. It’s a finger poking song. ‘Come up and see me’, come back – I’ll be laughing. I didn’t think it would sell. The lyric was quite nasty ! The inspiration was ferocious anger at them leaving and pretending I’d sacked them and for not being grateful for what I’d given them.”

30 Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up 1986 Beautiful song that speaks about despair and hope

29 Dawn Penn – You don’t love me (no, no, no) 1967/1994 After she rerecorded the song 25 years after its original release, it became a worldwide hit for the Jamaican singer

28 Moby – Natural blues 1999 The haunting vocals are sampled from the song Troubled So Hard by American folk singer Vera Hall

27 Talking Heads – Slippery people 1983 You can’t fully appreciate their originality and distinctive style without seeing them perform … so watch this clip

26 Led Zeppelin – Black Dog 1971 Rock n roll music

25 KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See 2004 A song about finding inspiration

24 Eminem – Stan 2000 A song that tells a story, bringing the characters in it to life, while at the same time making references to Eminem’s developing relationships with his critics and his fans

23 Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) 2001 This slow, beautifully arranged folk song is a real grower

22 The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog 1969 A brilliant punk record … recorded years before punk rock was invented

21 Nirvana – All apologies 1993 The MTV unplugged version of Kurt Cobain’s introspective song

20 Antony And The Johnsons – Hope Theres Someone 2005 Incredibly moving song from the Mercury music prize winning album

19 The Prodigy – Poison 1994 Dance music for punk heads. Awesome.

18 Dead Prez – Animal In Man 2000 Vivid and witty retelling of George Orwell’s Animal Farm

17 Portishead – Glory box 1994 Silky, sophisticated, classy rock

16 Arctic Monkeys – When the sun goes down 2005 Suddenly the Arctics came along and UK indie music became exciting again. Here they sing about prostitution in Sheffield.

15 Carole King – It’s too late 1971 Song about relationship breakup : the lyrics seem poignant because you can imagine exactly the same words being said over and over, and how hard it is every time to utter them

14 James Brown – Papa’s got a brand new bag 1965 The first ever funk record ?

13 Radiohead – Paranoid android 1997 This started out, according to Thom Yorke, as three separate songs. It ended up as a brilliant six minute composition and one of the greatest rock records of all time

12 Bob Marley and the Wailers – Natural Mystic 1977 Evocative roots reggae from the original natural mystic himself

11 Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground 1973 Stevie Wonder wrote and sang the song, an inspiring expression of religious faith, and played all the instruments on the recorded version

10 The Clash – London calling 1979 Apocalyptic punk classic

9 Josh Wink – Higher State of Consciousness 1995 Great dance track that rips it up every time

8 The Only Ones – Another Girl another planet 1978 Outrageously this wonderful song from the punk era was recently used in a Vodafone commercial

7 Curtis Mayfield – Freddie’s dead 1972 Socially conscious soul

6 Velvet Underground – Venus in furs 1967 Powerful and haunting exploration of the underground world of sadomasochism

5 Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good 2006 Instant classic from the Grammy award winning album Back to Black

4 Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright 1963 Brilliantly captures the cynical insouciance of the young narrator

3 Lauryn Hill – The Passion 2004 From a collection of songs inspired by The Passion of the Christ – a film that I’ve got no interest in seeing – yet I can’t listen to this song enough times !

2 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – The Mercy Seat 1988 From Wikipedia : “The song tells the story of a man about to be executed by the electric chair. The “Mercy Seat” refers both to the throne of God in the heavens, which the man feels he will soon visit, and to the electric chair. The song is laden with allusions to Christianity; in the Old Testament, the mercy seat is the symbol of the throne of God over the Ark of the Covenant. The sentenced man claims that he is not afraid to die, and that he is innocent, that he told the truth, then wonders whether he told a lie.”

1 Bjork – Bachelorette 1997 Stand-out track from her Homogenic album. “In Iceland, everything revolves around nature, 24 hours a day. Earthquakes, snowstorms, rain, ice, volcanic eruptions, geysers … Very elementary and uncontrollable. But at the other hand, Iceland is incredibly modern; everything is hi-tech. The number of people owning a computer is as high as nowhere else in the world. That contradiction is also on Homogenic. The electronic beats are the rhythm, the heartbeat. The violins create the old-fashioned atmosphere, the colouring. Homogenic is Iceland, my native country, my home.”

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