Monday, 25 April 2011

101 "favourite" tracks - Numbers 1-10

Recently I have been looking at quite a few music-related lists on the internet - things like the 50 greatest psychedelic tracks of all time, the 1001 albums you must hear before you die, that sort of thing. And I have begun to wonder what my list of all-time favourite tracks might look like.

But on reviewing my ipod and cd collection, etc, I was struck by the fact that I probably had more than 100 favourite bands. So instead of my all-time favourite tracks, I have been composing a list based on favourite bands. In most cases, this gives a maximum of 1 track per band so my list is not really my favourite songs as such - more a list of my favourite track by that favourite band. And one or two bands / artists do get two

I had thought of compiling the list in terms of the order I heard the tracks, or maybe strict chronological, or as an actual favourites list. but in the end I have settled on alphabetical, to emphasize that the list itself is not in order

So here goes

1. Abba, The Name of the Game

I remember Abba winning Eurovision! And then the sequence of hits singles that followed. But gradually there seemed to be a growing seriousness in their music, an underlying existential angst hidden under the near perfect pop sensibility. And this is best seen on The Name of the Game, a track that embodied for me, the bewilderment of growing up.

Abba went out of fashion in the early 1980s and I remember taking rather a lot of stick from acquaintances to whom I would expound my Abba theories. But of course it has all rather swung the other way now, with Abba perhaps more popular that ever.

Us teenage boys in the late 1970s spent much time arguing about who was the most attractive of the Abba girls. I usually prefer brunettes, but in the case of Abba, it was Agnetta who gets my vote.

An I am one of the few people to have seen Abba in concert, seeing a show in 1979 on the "Abba: the album" tour. Magnificent versions of Eagle and I'm a marionette I remember

And as the band broke up in the early 1980s, there is the horrow of The day before you came, one of the most extraordinary pop songs ever. And a bleak video to go with it. I continue to maintain that the pure-pop interpretation of Abba is deficient. They rival Camus and Sartre in my view!

Alternates: Knowing me, Knowing you, The Day before you came

2. Amina, Blaskjar

Iceland has produced some amazing music. Bjork of course, her earlier band, The Sugarcubes, the very odd band mum, and, most recently, Sigur Ros and their close associates, Amina. I'm not ure when I first heard them, but it was probably from an article in Wire magazine. As with much Icelandic music, this really does come from a totally different world. Bizarre percussion effects (bells, wine glasses filed with water, metal pipes, etc) combined with a string quartet. Now that is precisely the sort of thing I go for.

I have seen them once in concert, supporting Sigur Ros at Somerset House in London. While most of the audience chatted away as they played, I was totally transfixed. Amazing sounds. This track is from the Animamina e.p. Their two albums are also great. Now this is how a band sound look it seems to me!

Alternates: Skakka

3. Bardo Pond, Every Man

I feel like I have been listening to Bardo Pond for years without really having them leap into my absolute favourites. I have always had a soft spot for blissed out psychedelia and I tended to view Bardo Pond in this light, contrasting them slightly unfavourably with Spacemen 3, Loop, The Telescopes, and other bands I listened to a lot in the early 1980s.

This has changed quite a lot over the last few years, especially since the CD On the Elipse came out. That cd is where this track comes from, but I could have just as easily picked Jd or Night of Frogs. Or perhaps the extraordinary Montana Sacra II from Ticket Crystals or even Cracker Wrist from the recent CD in late 2010. But the blissed out flute and droning guitars is what gets this track selected.

I have never seen Bardo Pond live - one of the few bands I like that I have never seen

Alternates: JD, Montana Sacra II, Cracker Wrist

4. Bats for Lashes, Glass

Not many very recent bands in my list, but I was totally captivated by their performance at Glastonbury a couple of years ago - one of my most-watched music videos

I am greatly impressed by the drumming on this track (as I was on the video). Hence the picture chosen to accompany this entry.

Alternates: Prescilla, Daniel

5. The B-52s, The Devil's in my car

A firm favourite for 30 years now. What is there not to like about the ludicrousness of this band? One of the few bands for whom I have every cd they have issued.

Recently I was watching a video of them at a recent concert and though they are all in their 50s now, it was still great.

The greatest of this track for me is the switch towards the end from feeling it is bad that the devil is in their car, to feeling it is actually pretty good.

Alternates: Give me back my man, Roam, Hot pants explosion

6. The Bhundu Boys, My foolish heart

Clearly my listening to music has been totally dominated by the John Peel show and this is a prime example of a band that I could never have heard without his show. The interplay of the guitars on this track is quite unbelievable - the longer Peel Session version exaggerating this even further.

I saw them in concert in the mid 1980s (?) One of the most fun concerts I have attended. I have no idea what happened to them later on.

7. Big Black, Bazooka Joe.

My American hardcore phase lasted from around 1986 to 1989, during which I first heard Husker Du, the Minutemen, Sonic Youth, The Butthole surfers, and, of course, Big Black.I still have their early vinyl records, though it is years since we had a record player to play them on. What a racket! And I remain a great fan of Steve Albini, being prepared to listen to almost any record he has produced, plus the one Rapeman cd, and Shellac. I even have some old fanzines from the early 1980s that Albini wrote for (Forced Exposure, etc).

I saw their last concert at the Hammersmith Palais in 1987. Stupendous stuff. I saw Rapeman as support for Sonic Youth at the Astoria in 1988 and have seen Shellac several times, most recently at the Scala in King's Cross.

Alternates: lots

8. The Birthday Party, Junkyard

Soon after I moved to London in 1981, I came across music paper reports of The Birthday Party. I went to see them at the Venue in Victoria and then again at the Electric ballroom. Two amazing live shows. The combination of complex literary lyrics and the sheer noise of the band was totally amazing. I could pick a dozen favourite Birthday Party tracks - always the sign of a great band.

Alternates: King Ink, Loose (a cover of the Stooges song on the Drunk on the Pope's Blood ep)

9. Bjork, Pagan Poetry.

I actually don't really have a favourite Bjork track. It is more the manner in which she has developed her career that continues to really interest me. She asks a great deal of her audience to follow her where she is heading, and it is a great testimony to her that she seems to reatain their support.

Her box set of live shows is one of my favourite live albums, as are the associated videos of the live shows. I saw a recent live show of hers on tv and this programme has been my most played tv show of the last couple of years.

Alternates: Probably at least a couple of dozen others

10. Black Sabbath, Snowblind

Growing up in the 70s, it was hard to avoid heavy metal music, though it was not my favourite. By the time I started to go to concerts, the earliest bands had pretty much finished and there ws the next generation - bands like Judas Priest, the Scorpions, and so on.

But the first four Black Sabbath albums have remained firm favorites over the years. No one was heavier! I saw a post-Ozzy Black Sabbath show once. It was definitely not the same without him.

Alternates: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, NIB

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