Saturday, 27 December 2008

61. Richard Hawley, Valentine (2007)

Totally unseasonal, but I introduced my younger beardy brother to the Hawley a few years ago, and I was pleased to find out tonight, while being entertained down his and his wife's new dog-filled abode, that Rogers Junior and Richard are still in love. It's fine, my brother's wife knows, as she was being serenaded by the velvety Northerner too. It's quite the menage.

Friday, 26 December 2008

60. Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Girl From The North Country (1969)

I have a horrible, horrible cold, and have been up most of the night hot, bothered and hallucinating, so I am now mainlining the hot orange and trawling YouTube for comforters. I'd already listened to a ton of Richard Hawley and Johnny Cash, when the latter brought me to this version of the song Bob Dylan first put to tape in 1962. I've now listened to this Nashville Skyline classic three times in a row, making me think that Dylan should become my new love for the new year.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

59. Slade, Merry Christmas Everybody (1973)

Because it has to be, really, doesn't it? Merry Christmas from me, Noddy and Dave Hill's fringe.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

58. Aztec Camera, Walk Out To Winter (1983)

This just popped up on my iTunes shuffle while I wrapped the last of my presents. How festive.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

57. East 17, Stay Another Day (1994)

I've heard this not once, not twice, but three times today, the first time on local radio in the car, the second burbling away on a pub jukebox on TV, and the third on Magic FM while catching up with old friends from comprehensive over pizza and plonk. I'm still not bored of it either.

Monday, 22 December 2008

56. The Dunvant Rugby Club, In The Bleak Midwinter (2008)

Sadly I can't post you a clip of us in the Dunvant Rugby Club tonight, swimming with mince pies and Old Speckled Hen as we sang to the gods at the bar, but I can post you a clip of my favourite traditional Christmas song. Imagine the choirboys that much older, drunker and Welsh-er, and you'll get the general idea.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

55. Bruce Springsteen, No Surrender (1984)

God, am I fed up of Christmas songs today. If you are too, and are spending the day packing presents or cleaning the house like an idiot, as I am, here's my tip: put Born On The USA on at full volume. No Surrender, in particular, makes the floor sweeping that much more interesting.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

54. Dizzee Rascal feat. Calvin Harris, Dance Wiv Me (2008)

Last night, aided by the devil drink, my friend Lucy and I stayed up until the early hours, watching music videos, and deciding which pop star we wanted to be best mates with. Cheryl Cole came close, but Dizzee took the top trump.

Friday, 19 December 2008

53. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave (1963)

Last night, I went to the BBC, to the recording of something that doesn't actually happen on New Years' Eve. I wonder what that is. Anyway, ahem, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were there, and they played this. It has, for the last ten years or so, been in a constant battle with Glenn Campbell's version of Witchita Lineman to be rubber-stamped as my favourite song of all time. At the moment, thinking of what that glorious, best-bassline-of-all-time does to my brain and my knees every single time I hear it, it's winning.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

52. Francoise Hardy, Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles (1962)

I went to France yesterday for the day on a cheese, rillette and Cremant cruise with my friends Alex and Helen. We blasted this out of Helen's little car speakers as we drove out of the Sea France ferry. Pure class, non?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

51. Tindersticks, Buried Bones (1997)

Saw a triumphant Tindersticks last night, playing under glorious stained glass and a starlit Christmas tree at Islington's Union Chapel. My favourite moments were their performance of the wonderfully passionate Her and The Not Knowing, but in the absence of these songs on YouTube, try this song, from 1997's wonderful Curtains, which they played in their encore. Still, although it was lovely to hear it, Stuart insists on singing the female vocals himself these days, which I think deprives the song of some of its magic. If you need me to help with them, dear, just give me a shout up in the balcony.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

50. Shirley Collins and Davy Graham, Love Is Pleasin' (1964)

Rest in peace, Davy Graham. Obviously I should've put Anji up here, which is, without doubt, one of the most wonderful things ever put to record. But YouTube's full of young hairy men trying to fingerpick their way through it, so I thought I'd give you this instead. Listen to Shirley Collins' voice, too, and feel your heart melt. Having interviewed her earlier this year, and thought the world of her, I'm thinking of her today.

Monday, 15 December 2008

49. Fleet Foxes, White Winter Hymnal (2008)

I heard this gorgeous song playing over the speakers in Oddbins over the weekend. It made me feel so Christmassy that I spent £25 in there. I think I'm still drunk. Damn them all to hell.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

48. Alexandra Burke, Hallelujah (2008)

Oh shush yourselves, indie boys. I love Leonard Cohen's sleazy original from the bottom of my heart, but there's no denying that Hallelujah is also, at its core, a truly fabulous love song, and I'm delighted that more people will get to know it now. Alexandra's not got a bad set of pipes either – and her last verse is truly lovely.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

47. Abba, Knowing Me Knowing You (1977)

Here's a scene from a recently single woman's life that sounds like it came straight out of a terrible rom-com: a girl in a minicab, full of beans after a night with friends and lashings of drink, beaming as this, the perfect pop song about break-ups, suddenly comes on the radio. Abba are geniuses and let's leave it at that.

Friday, 12 December 2008

46. Joni Mitchell, River (1971)

Best Christmas song ever. Apart from the one by Slade, obviously.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

45. Morrissey, Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning (1994)

I saw Morrissey introduce his new album at the Pigalle Club today – read all about what I thought of the record over at my other blog. This is still one of my favourite Morrissey songs, though, and I long for him to do something as affecting, and wonderfully strange, as it again.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

44. Blur, Sing (1991)

I've written about the Blur reunion for The Guardian today, and I was reminded by a friend, and then a blog poster, about this fantastic track of theirs. There's something about its bassline, and those seductive, building guitars, that just won't let me go.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

43. The Hives and Cyndi Lauper, A Christmas Duel (2008)

The first Christmas song on here this year, folks. Not surprising, really, as I have done bugger all about present-shopping apart from a brief five-minute scoot around Borders in Islington, and feel about as festive as an over-boiled sprout. Still, this song might change things. It is genuinely, genuinely fantastic – Fairytale Of New York filtered through ten shades of mental.

Monday, 8 December 2008

42. Feist, So Sorry (2007)

This came up on my iTunes shuffle today. I still remember the first time I heard it – a bright spring morning when I first put Feist's second album, The Reminder, on the CD player, and stopped, gobsmacked, as this gorgeous opening track unwound itself from the speakers. And to these well-worn ears, Feist's vocal here is still utterly extraordinary.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

41. School Of Seven Bells, iamundernodisguise (2008)

I listened to this album today on a long, cold, sunny walk into Islington. I loved it when I first heard it three months ago and still love it now. And if you are a bit partial for Au Revoir Simone, enjoy the more electronic side of shoegaze or dream-pop, or simply like the sound of two lovely female voices lacing themselves together, then you should like this too.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

40. Jackie Lee, White Horses (1968)

This just popped up on Sounds Of The Sixties. Few songs say so much about lovely, whimsical nostalgia as this one.

Friday, 5 December 2008

39. Bob Dylan, I Threw It All Away (1969)

Oh my God. I've just been listening to Michael Eavis on Desert Island Discs. This was one of his choices. And I know this sounds ridiculous, but here goes anyway.

After years of almost getting there but not quite, I think I've just had my first real Bob Dylan moment. Tell me where to go from here.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

38. The Small Faces, Rollin' Over (1968)

I've just come back from a lovely couple of drinks with a friend of mine who takes photographs for the marvellous The Word. As well as plying me with wine, he also introduced me to a side of The Small Faces that I'd never heard before. I thought they just debated, in an irritating fashion, whether it would be nice to get on with your neighbours or stroll round Itchycoo Park. I was wrong.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

37. Odetta, House Of The Rising Sun (2008)

Today, I am writing about the wonderful American singer and civil rights activist Odetta, who died yesterday at the age of 77, six cruel weeks before she was due to fulfil her last dream and play at Obama's inauguration ceremony. In the piece, I write about this incredible clip of her, last summer, singing House Of The Rising Sun at a free concert in Governors' Island, building in verses from the folk songs St James' Hospital and When I Was A Young Girl. Her voice still conveys so very, very much.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

36. Mary Margaret O'Hara, Body's In Trouble (1988)

I finally interviewed Mary Margaret this afternoon. She was absolutely wonderful, telling me about how her nephew's wife gave birth to their latest baby after "bringing up", how her sister Catherine – her from the Christopher Guest films – is a huge inspiration, and how Morrissey was a "real cute kid". She also talked a lot about the unconventional nature of her music. There's something about it that always brings me back, the sense of an unique, vivid personality that reminds me of artists like Laurie Anderson and Bjork. This is from Mary Margaret's debut album, her only full album, Miss America.

Monday, 1 December 2008

35. Morrissey, November Spawned A Monster (1989)

Sorry that this is the second incidence of La Moz in three days (although GOD, what a video - I can still sense the stirrings of teenage me). Anyway – this song is here because I tried to interview Mary Margaret O'Hara today, the Canadian singer and sister of Christopher-Guest-film-aficionado Catherine, and wanted to ask her if she actually did backing vocals on this song, as the myth says she does. I can't hear them. Can you?

Sunday, 30 November 2008

34. Herbie Hancock, Rockit (1983)

I went clubbing last night. In Shoreditch, London's perenially fashionable hotspot. I am 30 years old. Yes, I was terrified. I had a great time, though, first in 93 Feet East, then the brilliant Horse and Groom pub, before going to East Village where the music was bloody awful and the crowd incredibly dull. But the rest of the night up to that had been bloody marvellous, especially at the point in 93 Feet East where this, erm, "dropped". Great video, too.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

33. The Smiths, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (1984)

This cropped up on Football Focus this morning as I was channel-hopping, still hungover after the excitement of last night. It accompanied some footage of a footballer who obviously has a story to tell. God bless all those lovely music continuity people, and God bless The Smiths for saying everything always.

Friday, 28 November 2008

32. The Killers, Human (2008)

I'm on Newsnight Review in about six hours. We will be talking about the new Killers album, among other things. I am pacing round the house like a fool. Arrggrghh.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

31. Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, Further Into The Future (2004)

I am writing a piece for The Graun about the revival of cosmic and italo disco, fantastic music from the early '80s that is bloody everywhere at the moment. I know, get me and my fancy pants. I interviewed Lindstrom about it this afternoon, an utterly lovely Norwegian chap who is incredibly bright, makes fantastic records, is an amazing remixer, and is also very, very handsome. I think I'm love.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

30. Sad Kermit, Hallelujah (2008)

Today, I've been writing my Guardian column about modern standards, making particular reference to Sandy Denny's Who Knows Where The Time Goes? and Laughing Len's Hallelujah. While looking for, and listening to, the numerous cover versions of the latter on YouTube, I found this. The most original version yet, I reckon. Eat that, Rufus.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

29. The Passions, I'm In Love With A German Film Star (1981)

The reissue of The Passions' debut album has been in the kitchen hi-fi for about a week now. Those opening chords – I love 'em – get me every time.

Monday, 24 November 2008

28. Leona Lewis, Run (2008)

I got tired of the original after about five minutes. And Leona should be a dry and soulless X-Factor product. But I think this is really good. And apparently it's not just me. Who'd have thought it?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

27. Gina X Performance, Nice Mover (1979)

Today started much the same as Saturday. Then a lovely friend of mine came round. We drank bitter and played Scrabble in the pub, ate pizza and watched Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert in my living room, and went a bit YouTube crazy in my kitchen where I was introduced to this terrifying little beauty. Eat that, Grace Jones. And thanks a million, Dan C.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Friday, 21 November 2008

25. Janis Joplin, Ball and Chain (1967)

Today, four days after I'd last been there with Leonard, I did a radio interview at the Royal Albert Hall. This time it was empty apart from a few stage-hands and a stage dotted with music stands. I was being interviewed about Janis Joplin, Leonard's girl from the Chelsea Hotel, and her performance there, in 1969, with the Kozmic Blues Band. How strange that this week should bring the two of them together.

But this remains my favourite performance of hers, from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. I love the moments when her voice is soft and low – such a contrast to those wild, ragged wails. Most of all, I love Mama Cass's reaction in the audience. Rapt and open-mouthed, it says everything.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

24. The Beatles, Paperback Writer (1966)

The Chain – the e-mail game I play with my friends which I wrote about last week – has brought us to this little-known gem. Christ, they were alright, weren't they? But if you had to have one of them, at this precise stage of their career, which one would it be? At the moment, I'm veering towards John.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

23. A Guy Called Gerald, Voodoo Ray (1989)

The new Hacienda Classics album has been a boon these last few days. Here is a track I adored as a wide-eyed eleven-year-old and still adore now.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

22. Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat (1971)

Leonard Cohen played this, my favourite song, last night. I would write about it, but I can't find the words, or the guts, to do so right now. Just listen to the lull of its guitar, the sensitivity of his vocal, and the lyrics that cut me to the maw every time.

Monday, 17 November 2008

21. Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Love Will Tear Us Apart (2006)

Before it all, I saw Susanna at Kings Place. Her songs were beautiful, and her razor-sharp, yet soft, Norwegian voice, as always, grabbed my heart and tugged it hard. Given what happened after, it continues to. Here is her version of one of the greatest ever pop songs.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

No track today

Four and a half years finished today, so the doctor didn't stay away.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

20. Young Marble Giants, Final Day (1980)

Last night, I saw Young Marble Giants play in the Reardon Lecture Theatre at the National Museum of Wales. What a heavenly place it was. Every bit of it seemed to breathe out an air of dusty, lovely learning. I wanted to fold myself up into the plush, faded seats and stay there forever.

And then there were the band themselves. I came to Young Marble Giants very late - last year, in fact, when Domino re-issued their only album, 1980's Colossal Youth, and their other recordings. I was instantly fascinated by the album cover, a bleak, black-and-white photograph of two men and one woman, all of them impossibly young. It made me think of the same doomy spirit of Joy Division's album sleeves, transformed into something unbearably human.

And then there was the music, sparse, sublime, sweet and terrifying at the same time. Final Day was the song that affected me the most, a song about the dropping of the nuclear bomb. Last night, it was moving to see Stuart and Philip Moxham, somewhat older now and cheerier, still making that same raw sound from the bare bones of a Roland synthesiser and the rough plucks of a Rickenbacker. More moving still were Alison Statton's vocals, still summoning up the eerie power of the untrained, flat-vowelled 21-year-old she once was.

Friday, 14 November 2008

19. A-Ha, The Sun Always Shines On TV (1985)

Because it's Friday. Because the sun's out. Because I heard it on Radio 2 yesterday afternoon by accident and it made me happy for the rest of the day. Because it reminds me of being a nipper and hearing Morten Harket singing "touch me" and my head falling off with excitement.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

18. Wiley, Wearing My Rolex (2008)

This week, I've gone to two aerobics classes. What's more, I enjoyed them. I know – I'm worried too. But in both, I got to star-jump to this, my favourite no. 1 of the year so far. I think that might have helped.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

17. Robert Wyatt, Sea Song (1974)

Today, I'm writing about the wonderful glut of Robert Wyatt reissues for my Guardian column (in the paper this Friday). This, I think, is my favourite song of his, and what a lovely version of it it is too. If you like it, I'd recommend a listen to the wonderful version by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset as well. Then buy some new hankies.

My Word

Issue 70 of The Word is out today, with a charmingly winterish Jarvis Cocker on the front. Inside, I go to town on the new albums by Razorlight and The Killers in a big old review. I also tell you why you should listen to Alela Diane's lovely Headless Heroes album, and enjoy the masterclass in Spinal Tap parody that is the opening 15 minutes of Scorsese's Shine A Light. Subscribe ever so cheaply here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

16. Elastica, Vaseline (1995)

My friend Oliver (hello, son) is obsessed with The Chain, the song-linking segment on Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie's weekday evening show on Radio 2. Its rules are simple. Pluck any song out of the air – let's say, for the sake of argument, the song below, The Jets' Crush On You. Someone might think, oh, the Jets were a gang in West Side Story, a film that starred two actors who went onto act in Twin Peaks. So – let's make the next song in the chain the theme from that series, which was Falling by Julee Cruise.

A confession: Oliver, my boyfriend, two other friends and I now play this game by e-mail. The Jets, yes, was my entry, the Julee Cruise song, my boyfriend's follow-up.

Anyway, today we got to Molly's Lips by The Vaselines, which brought me to my next, rather weak, link in the chain – in terms of how inventive one can be with the links, I mean. But I had to include this song because, goddamit, it is the lost classic of Britpop – a dirty slip of a thing which, like so many of Elastica's songs, is basically about shagging.

This song also has a legend that lives on among people of a certain age. In essence, Vaseline was very, very short, which made it a perfect track for the end of a C90 mix-tape. Oliver told us today that he had once put this song on the end of one side of a tape, nine times, for a laugh. I'm sure Justine Frischmann, and anyone out there born in the late 1970s, would be very happy to hear that.

Monday, 10 November 2008

15. The Jets, Crush On You (1986)

The first pop magazine I bought was No. 1. It didn't have as profound an effect on me as Smash Hits, a magazine that was such a mind-meltingly wonderful revelation that I still remember every detail about the first issue I bought. August 10, 1988. 48p. Brother Beyond on the cover; Tanita Tikaram on the side-strip; songwords to We Call It Acieeed by D-Mob inside. Anyway, the only thing I remember about No. 1 is that it alerted me to the existence of The Jets, who, if memory serves, were the American version of Five Star, who themselves were Romford's take on The Jacksons. Amazing.

The Jets only had one hit, which I remembered it this morning for some peculiar reason. And guess what? It's still really, really good. It IS.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

14. Kym Appleby, Don't Worry (1990)

I turned on Radio 2 today (while trying to scrape some lunch off a pan, as per) to find Dale Winton's Pick Of The Pops show. I never even knew such a thing existed. He was running through the Top 10 countdown from November 10, 1990. God, I nearly burst with excitement. Then he played this, a song that bleeds bright red Stock Aitken Waterman blood. Naturally, I love it.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

13. Threatmantics, Big Man (2008)

I first saw Threatmantics playing in a tipi in a field in Dorset. They were great and utterly mad, like three hairy blokes let out of a loony-bin, given a viola, and told to try and make some tunes. Then they started singing in Welsh. My big Swansea heart couldn't have beaten any louder.


Five words isn't enough to write an aural diary. So you're going to get more of the buggers from now on, you poor devils. Enjoy.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

9. London, The Smiths (1987)

To Euston, she really goes.

Monday, 3 November 2008

8. Elbow, Friend Of Ours (2008)

Heartbreaking, heart-lifting. Love you, mate.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Friday, 31 October 2008

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

3. The Chills, Pink Frost (1984)

New Zealand indie, bringing winter.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

2. Hamilton Bohannon, Disco Stomp (1975)

Southern disco; inspired Johnny Marr.

Monday, 27 October 2008

1. VV Brown, Crying Blood (2008)

Perfect Betty Boo cartoon pop.