If there’s one band whose influence seems to massively outweigh their own commercial success, it’s Gang of Four. Year-in, year-out, we hear new acts influenced by their funk and dub influenced post-punk rock. This song encapsulates everything I loved about them. It’s angry. political, energetic, and yet it grooves.
Another sample-heavy song, this time taking vocals from an a cappella mix of Loleatta Holloway’s 1980 single Love Senstation. Along with an Italian House backing track, the result was a pop dance hit, which still sounds great to me, thirty years on.
Featured on the 1987 4AD Compilation “Lonely Is An Eyesore”, this track showed the sampling skills of brothers Martyn and Steven Young, recording as Colourbox. Soon after, under the M|A|R|R|S guise, they would have a UK number one hit single with a tune based largely on samples from other records - but Hot Doggie samples from TV and film.
A cover of a slower, quieter, version of The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane, the song’s writer Lou Reed has apparently gone on record as saying that this take, by Canadian “alternative country” band Cowboy Junkies, was his favourite.
This song was co-written by Jane Wiedlin, rhythm guitarist of The Go-Go’s, and Terry Hall - who was in the process of breaking up from The Specials - and forming Fun Boy Three.
Possibly one of the more accessible early-ish songs by The Fall, I originally intended to include this in the “two drummers” theme, but it seems that this actually just preceded the two-drummer period of the band’s ever-fluid line-up, but it’s a great song so it’s time to talk about it anyway.
This EP came out soon after the untitled Throwing Muses début album, and by that time I’m already thinking that they could be, for me, The Best Band In The World. Ever.
They retain that status to this day.
Written by Dave Sudbury in the 80s about a homing pigeon, and recorded in 1988 by June Tabor, this live version by folk group The Unthanks (backed by the famous Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band) is a thing of rare magnificence. As, apparently, was the eponymous pigeon :)
As the début single from Icelandic band Sugarcubes (originally Sykurmolarnir in their native language), this was the first chance most of us got to hear the inestimable talent of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Obviously it was released in English too, but the original Icelandic version just sounds perfect to me.
This is the first of a few great songs which add or skip beats in one of their distinctive hooks. In this case, a song in waltz time introduces an occasional bar of common time in the distinctive intro riff.
Whatever the genre, a great melody and great singer are a special combination. Night Nurse is such a song, and Gregory Isaacs is such a singer. This completes a trilogy of reggae songs. There are likely to be more some time later.
After a disco period, Jamaican model and singer Grace Jones brought out a dub-heavy reggae album of covers in 1980, and had a hit single with her version of The Pretenders song Private Life. Arguably even more astonishing is her take on Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control, which formed the B-side of the single.
Just three years after John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) walked out on the Sex Pistols, he was releasing his third PiL album. Moving on from the dub/disco/krautrock influences of Metal Box, The Flowers of Romance was even more experimental. Largely led by huge drum sounds and percussion loops, the sound influenced artists well beyond the punk and post-punk scenes.
This is the point at which I introduce you to my all-time favourite band. Some of their finest stuff isn’t that easily accessible - but this is the song I’d use to introduce a new listener. It’s distinctively different to anything else you’ve heard, yet it’s not weird enough to scare people off.
Although The Cure had been well established in the UK, this was the song that broke them to a bigger US audience. This song has also stood up to a wide variety of treatments in cover versions.
This is the song that gave this blog its title, so it seems right to open with it. Although it’s a cover, this is the most famous version and, I’d claim, the definitive version.
Recorded by Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie of 4AD act Cocteau Twins, this was released on the B-side of a 12” release, then the A-side of a 7”, before appearing on the first This Mortal Coil album It’ll End in Tears