Okay, so after far too much deliberation over this (I have over 400 CD’s to condense it down from) here are the ten songs that “blew my mind”. Now this list is not necessarily my favourite ten songs of all time, there are in fact many “standards” that have missed the list because they’ve always been around for me. Songs by The Beatles, The Jam, The Kinks, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello etc that all get smashed up to 11 when they come on, but due to their all encompassing fame, I can’t remember first hearing them. No, these are 10 songs that are essentially heroin, hearing them again is simply “chasing the dragon” and often or not, the pursuit of new music is to attain the feeling that songs such as these bring about. As requested, I’ve put them in the order of when I first heard them. If it’s slightly out of sync, brain damage from heavy drinking is the explanation.
Hope you like them, and if not, who cares we are all probably dead in a horrific nuclear firestorm as the fallout from Syria begins soon.
1. Oasis, The Masterplan
The music of Noel Gallagher has been in my life for almost 20 years now, and as with many artists here, I could have slung a full list of ten in. I know Oasis have a poor reputation, but really when was the last time a band ruled the country so much that people knew the names of every member like they did in the nineties? This song stands out the most as it is the one where I really became obsessed and started just buying everything the band ever produced. The idea that a song of such a majestic scale could be tucked away as track fucking four of a single is amazing. It encapsulates everything both great and frustrating about Noel Gallagher as a songwriter. If he had held it back for album three, imagine how much it would have sold and yet if he had just shoved shit on the b-sides would anyone have cared as half as much about them as they do? This song just has it all- strings, an arms-round-your mate chorus, backwards guitar and it set my mind whirling to dig out music by the next band.
2. The Beatles, A Day In The Life
It’s naturally hard to escape the music of The Beatles, but it is only when you begin to get turned onto them as a band that you really start to appreciate what it must have been like to hear and experience their work for the first time. No-one had told me about this song. I had read about Sgt Pepper being such a huge milestone, but when this came on? Fuck me. It is pretty much the song that marks the end of Lennon-McCartney honeymoon- for The White Album after they essentially recorded apart but what a way to go out. Lennon’s LSD-ridden mind pontificating on “the news today, oh boy” as end-of-the-world strings swirl around the song. McCartney gives the song focus with his middle section followed by Lennon’s “aaaaahs”, giving way to the strings and brass that drop us back to Earth, probably my favourite moment in music. As a 16 year old, it brought me to my knees and I immediately bought everything they produced.
3. David Bowie, Life On Mars
Quite appropriately, I first got into Bowie off the back of Top Of The Pops. Okay, it was Top Of The Pops 2, but by then I was obsessed with the 60’s and 70’s and so Whigfield was a “no” for me on the parent show. My Dad had an extensive Bowie collection that I had been planning to raid on vinyl, as I had done with The Beatles. This song came on and I just stopped there and then and watched transfixed. It wasn’t so much the video (although Bowie does look a fucking geezer in it) but the songcraft coming out of my tiny TV’s speakers. The piano, my obsession with strings from The Beatles and Oasis and the crescendo to one of, if not the best. of Bowie choruses. If you watch the video, Bowie pretty much experiences the music like us- swinging his arms to the drums, playing air guitar and piano. It’s pop music at its finest and he leaves such a void by not recording an album every few years. I ran downstairs, pulled out Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, and recorded them onto tape. It’s the reason I own CD’s and refuse to use Spotify etc, so that anyone can just dip in when they like. Cheers Dad. Oh, and Dave.
4. Spiritualized, Broken Heart
I’m not gonna lie, if you ain’t into strings you won’t be interested in the first stages of my musical forays. Anyway, on one of my regular jaunts to record stores to pick up bootlegs or rarities, I came across The Spiritualized album Ladies And Gentleman, We Are Floating In Space- which I had wanted since seeing them perform “Come Together” at Glastonbury on TV. When this track came on, it did what it does with every play- it just stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s a musical gut-punch that you can play when you have lost someone you care for in your life. Whether it be a death, or a parting of ways. It doesn’t go down the Adele-esque, “I will survive without you” route, it offers genuine solace. Then you hear it again at a normal time, and you feel the lump form in your throat. Quite how Jason Pierce wrote anything so sprawling and well-conceived given the wheelbarrows of drugs he consumes is beyond me, but his exhausted “..and I’m wasted all the time” can be identified by anyone that has ever had to drown said broken heart, only to have it all wash back when you’re sober again. Why anyone would chose “Angels” at a funeral rather than it, is beyond me. It has nine dislikes on YouTube, probably from Talk To Frank call workers.
5. The Who, Love Reign O’er Me
After catching Quadrophenia on ITV late one night, I ventured once more to the record shop to buy this album. As though Phil Daniels shouting “fuck off all you Mr Postmen” wasn’t majestic enough, the music intersecting between the scenes had to fit into my now vastly expanding collection. This song was the one I really wanted though, from the moment I heard it, and the way it is dick-teased on the album with its piano intro, before you finally get to hear it, just makes it even better. It has everything that makes me love The Who as a band, but especially the album. There isn’t a band ,in my opinion, that had it all like The Who, when it came to pure musicianship and the drumming from Moon throughout this song is just untouchable. It greatly distresses me that some people only know them as the “CSI theme song” band, when this exists on record.
6. Arctic Monkeys, Do Me A Favour
So, finally to some songs that I can talk about when I truly heard them first, as intended on release day. Arctic Monkeys are really the only guitar band of modern times I truly hanker for new material from, apart from Doves (who seem to have retired). I know lots of people lost their minds over “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”, but for me, this song heralds the arrival of Alex Turner as a truly great songwriter. The structure and tightness of the arrangement is years ahead of where he should have been at his age, and it’s arguably his greatest song. Like many bands, the song is elevated to greatness by the drumming and Matt Helders is just un-fucking-believable on here. Yet, there is so much more. The breakdown into an almost acapella middle is followed by the furious guitars and drums that somehow bring relief to the listener, as every argument you’ve ever had with a loved one is dredged back up and the anger is brought back to the surface- “hold onto your heart” indeed. The final line of “perhaps fuck off might be too kind?” is probably one of the best put downs in a song too. If anyone shouts to “play Mardy Bum” at their gigs rather than this, humanely suffocate them with a pillow.
7. Jarvis Cocker, Running The World
I’ve tried to have just one track from one artist, and despite long deliberations, I’ve knocked off “Common People” for this. Released on the same day as the Live Aid 2 concert, it was a bile filled song that, quite rightly, pointed out that standing in a field for one day as Johnny Borrell played a guitar topless was not going to change anything. It mixes that rare trick of being politically nailed on and having a great hook. Coming after a long period of absence from music, for one of my heroes to come back with something so gloriously sarcastic and that could resonate even to this day, just emphasised his qualities as one of our greatest ever songwriters. Every single line in the song rings with truth (unless you’re right wing) as he discusses obsolete working classes, unheard protests and the fact that despite it all, takings were up by a third. It pre-dated the stock market crash, and he had them all figured out whilst we smugly signed petitions to drop the debt as we racked up huge credit card bills. “Bluntly put, in the fewest of words- cunts are still running the world”. Indeed.
8. The Cribs, Be Safe
In many ways, this is the hardest one to pinpoint what I love the most. The Cribs certainly have superior songs, but this has that charm that it’s hard to explain to those who dislike the Jarman’s music. Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth sprouts prose over the band, until the song is stirred into life with the kind of crashing chorus that Alex from Franz Ferdinand had managed to coax out of them when he took over production duties. It sounds shit on paper, it shouldn’t work- but it does, and it’s fucking genius. To be honest, the majority of that is down to Ranaldo and the work he does over the music, but if the band behind him weren’t doing such a tight job it would be in vain. You just have to sit back and admire the words that accompany the sounds and it has probably one of my favourite ever lines in- “your smile so loud it still rings in my ears”. None of us are good enough to touch something like that, you just have to doff your cap at it. Think of it as you miss someone one time, try not to blub….and people actually LIKE music by Taylor Swift. “Mine were alright….but who cares?”…..”That’s the spirit!”
9. Kanye West, Lost In The World/Who Will Survive In America?
I’ve covered the genius of West in a previous article, so if you haven’t read it- tough shit! Anyway, this comes at the end of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. That album pushes just how good he is, I assure you it will grow in stature over the years. The fact that I’ve binned off “Runaway” for this, which I fucking adore, tells you how highly I rate it. I listened to it again the other day and I realised that Kanye actually steps back on this track and lets the music do the talking. Apart from a small rap, it is all about creating soundscapes and his ability as a producer. What that results in is stunning. Like many songs on the album, it starts pretty sparse and then builds into ideas smashing against each other- all tribal drums and electronic sounds. It then flows into an outro as Gil Scott Heron picks apart the American Dream over West’s beats. For anyone who says music should be just guitars and singing, strap them into a chair and play this Clockwork Orange style.
10. And I Will Kiss, Underworld
Released last year as part of the soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony soundtrack, it was again a struggle to put this in rather than “Born Slippy”, but the sheer boldness of what is going on here musically, secures it a place. The biggest compliment I can give it is that it is about 17 minutes long, but it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. I first heard it at the opening ceremony rehearsal and was unaware it was by Underworld or specially commissioned, which I think added to it’s impact. The idea that these dance artists could build a piece of music as outstanding as any classical score, for such a major stage, literally blows my mind. Like every song on this list I can’t imagine how you would write it, and it says a lot that I would put it up there with the likes of The Beatles and Bowie for greatness. Everything works here, from the apocalyptic drums, to the tiny respite that pays respect to the dead of war, onto the growth and growth of the musical spectacle before we are brought full circle to that war dead moment, as choirs and strings top off the piece. That Britain could create something so astounding for the biggest stage on Earth is a testament to it’s musical heritage and it’s a fine place to end.
Paul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff