100 Great Punk/Post Punk/Electronic/Other Songs* 1976-86
*Perhaps just 100 Great Songs would suffice

Feel free to contribute......

1. XTC - Earn Enough For Us (from Skylarking, 1986)

Skylarking is my favourite XTC album. Produced by Todd Rundgren and spawning any number of potential great singles, Earn Enough for Us is a simple, but beautiful pop song about youthful love, marriage and relative poverty. It's completely at odds with The Specials' 'Stupid Marriage' and resolutely idealistic and upbeat, but just great nevertheless. (Feb 9 2014, SV)

 



 

2. Pauline Murray and the Invisible Girls: Dream Sequences Part 2 - (Virgin single, 1980)

I first heard this in Brady's whilst waiting for the Blondie-lite British band The Photos to come on stage. A fabulous single full of yearning and with a million hooks to hang a million long overcoats on - if you'll excuse the dangling participle. Never a chance of it being a hit - Tony Blackburn and co were probably playing Bonnie Tyler's 'The World is Full of Married Men' and The Dooleys' 'Wanted' instead of giving this tremendous song an airing. A life-affirming single. (Feb 9 2014, SV)

3.  Weekend  - The End of the Affair (from the 1982 Rough Trade album La Varieté)

The Young Marble Giants were a classic example of early eighties ephemera. One fabulous album and single and then they were gone. Singer Alison Statton went on to front Weekend, an almost unclassifiable band which stayed around for an equally short time. Taking its name from a Graham Greene novel, The End of the Affair is an wistful examination of melancholia and loss, but strangely stirring as it quickly reaches its long and final instrumental break. A lovely song from an often great album. (Feb 10 2014, SV)


 

4.  Magazine  - I Want to Burn Again (from the 1980 Virgin album The Correct Use of Soap)

Magazine's greatest album. A dissection of the human soul - at turns heart-breaking, uplifting or filled with despair. This isn't even the best song on the album, but it has its greatest lyric:

I saw your lover yesterday
Wearing some things I left at your place
Singing a song that means a lot to me
I've known a certain grace

Just wonderful. Buy it/download it - if you don't already own it. (Feb 11 2014, SV)




 

5.  Siouxsie and the Banshees  - Icon (from the 1979 Polydor album Join Hands)

A disappointing album in many ways, but there are one or two highlights. John McKay and Kenny Morris had left the Banshees following Siouxsie's appalling behaviour, but they left their mark on the excellent and scary single 'Playground Twist' and the even better track chosen here. Their Liverpool Empire appearance on the Join Hands tour was one of my first and favourite gigs. Siouxsie was supported by Spizz Energi and The Cure. Robert Smith doubled on guitar for his own band and the Banshees for that tour. There was lots of fighting at the gig and I remember the colours and sights and sounds of that evening so vividly. A brilliant night out in late seventies September.

"Those words hang like vicious spittle
dribbling from that tongue..."


(Feb 13 2014, SV)

6.  Ultravox  - Quiet Men (single from the 1978 Island album Systems of Romance)

The last single from the John Foxx-fronted Ultravox. It should be the song the band is remembered for as it's a million times better than the frankly awful 'Vienna'. I remember Quiet Men well from the scally/electro hang-out The Harrington where it was a Saturday favourite. Expect 'Hiroshima Mon Amour' and 'Maximum Acceleration' to make an appearance as the list progresses. (SV Feb 15th 2014)

 

7.  Josef K - Sorry for Laughing (Postcard single, 1981)

The least lauded of the big three Postcard bands, Josef K produced a number of excellent, cerebral pop songs including this fine single about disability. The song was covered respectably by Nouvelle Vague and brilliantly by Propaganda, but this is the best version of all. (SV Feb 15th 2014)

 

8.  The Passions - I'm in Love With a German Film Star (Fiction single, 1981)

It looks like wistful and yearning will be the key words for this early section of the list. Barbara Gogan's troubled-sounding vocals perfectly complement Clive Timperley's wonderful echoplex guitar in this astonishing four minutes of beauty . The single's parent album 30000 Feet Over China is also a delight. (SV Feb 22nd 2014)

 

 

9.  The ComSat Angels - Will You Stay Tonight? (Jive single, 1983)

Sheffield's should-have-been-contenders The ComSat Angels ploughed a lonely path through the post-punk years. Loved by many, but not enough to make them a major league band. This single is admittedly a bit John Hughes film, but if you ignore the terrible eighties threads in the video you can enjoy a great slice of slightly electronic power pop. Independence Day might be most people's representative choice for TCA, but Will You Stay Tonight? is just great, nevertheless. (SV Feb 22nd 2014)

 

10.  The Ruts - West One (Shine on Me) - Virgin single, 1980

One of the most ferocious bands I ever saw on Eric's, The Ruts made a number of first-rate singles and a decent enough debut album  - 'The Crack'.  Singer Malcolm Owen's death was followed by the issue of this sad and confessional single which captures the existential destructiveness of loneliness far better than many other much more celebrated songs covering the same theme. Owen died around the same time as Ian Curtis, but unlike Curtis's brilliant final words and music, the tremendous 'West One' failed to hit the charts. More than a pity....  (SV Feb 24th 2014)

Lights are burning red and white -
Lost on an island in the night;
Rescue me or here I'll stay,
A traffic island castaway.

 

11.  The Slits - Instant Hit (from the Island album 'Cut', 1979)

The first track from a wonderful album, 'Instant Hit' is one of those songs that suggests 'you either get it, or you don't' to Joe listening Public. If you put together strange, choppy, reggaefied rhythms, and seemingly atonal polemicised lyrics - which are initially half-chanted rather than sung - you're going to lose a lot of listeners very quickly, but those who persevered were rewarded with a work of originality and beauty. My old punk mate still detests The Slits because they were posh, but after 35 years, I think it's time to move on! A great song from one of my favourite LPs. (I shouldn't really be saying 'albums' on a post-punk song site, should I?) (SV March 16th 2014)

 

12.  The Teardrop Explodes - Treason (It's Just a Story) - (Zoo single 1980, Mercury hit single 1981)

Two albums, four years in existence and a handful of great singles, but The Teardrop Explodes' legacy is far greater than their fairly meagre outpourings, existing in the minds and imaginations of all who heard or saw them. When I Dream could have been here but it just goes on that bit too long, whereas the wonderful Treason is simply the stuff of life itself. Julian Cope's line about checking his reflection in car mirrors invented a new verb for the English language:

"Mirror-hopping days are a coarse reaction
Always very hard to find;
I tried to find a plan of action
But I couldn't get things right....."

The French version is great as well.

(SV April 10th 2014)

13.  The Chords - Maybe Tomorrow  - (Polydor single 1980)

The Chords were part of the Mod revival of 1979. Totally in thrall to The Jam they brought out this Jam-copyist single to little acclaim in the spring of 1980. Maybe Tomorrow goes so far as to copy In the City's power-chord slash/thrash half-way through the song (almost as a devotional homage), but it's still a great single with angry Weller-esque lyrics and lovely, chopping Rickenbacker guitars throughout. "Talent borrows, genius steals," as Oscar Wilde once famously stated. Maybe Tomorrow is a prime example that minor talent also steals.

(SV April August 2014)

14.  The Pretenders - The Talk of the Town  - (Real single 1980)

Not much to say about this - lovely chiming guitars, one of the most brilliant voices in popular music and ambiguous, intriguing lyrics hinting at love and loss and the transience of human relationships. When Chrissie Hynde sings: "I made a wish; I said it out loud - aloud in the crowd; everybody heard - it was The Talk of the Town" it propels the song to the front of The Pretenders impressive catalogue of songs.

A joyous single.

(SV April August 2014)

click on pics for songs

15.  B Movie - Nowhere Girl  (Deram single 1982)

 

Remembrance Day is their best-remembered song, but Mansfield's finest also produced this urgent, catchy synthpop near-classic. It's featured in the almost forgotten film 200 Cigarettes and reminds me of exciting nights in poor quality 'alternative' clubs in Liverpool. B Movie never made the breakthrough enjoyed by less-talented peers, but this is a great song and fondly remembered by a tiny few. (SV June 2015)

 

16.  Delta 5 - You  (Rough Trade single 1980)

A double A side with Anticipation. Pop goes gender political. A fine single about the realities of love and dating from the Leeds-based John Peel favourites, You exemplifies the true spirit of punk - DIY sounding and rough at the edges, but a song (and band) looking at female empowerment and questioning the orthodoxy of maleness and the rubbishy aspirational nature of typical pop and rock music. My favourite line "Who took me to the Wimpy for a big night out? You! You! You!" reminds of my saddo laddish mate who turned up at an arty girl's house for a first date in a 'Starsky' cardie and then proceeded to take the unfortunate young woman to a Wimpy for 'a big night out'. 'You' reminds me of listening to late night Peel and buying 'indie' singles and Oxfam jackets and feeling superior about my musical choices because most of my contemporaries "just wouldn't understand". Lovely stuff. (SV June 2015)

17.  Dolly Mixture - Everything and More  (Respond single 1982)

Dolly Mixture were just a beautiful group. Although they didn't possess the glamour of some of their contemporaries (see above, for example), the real beauty of their music and lyrics and Debsey Wykes's plaintive vocals shone through a slew of lovely singles and album tracks. Far more gifted than other girl trios of the time, it's unfortunate for the world and the members of the band that they just didn't make it. This song was recorded for Paul Weller's Respond label, but its speeded-up production (and added tubular bells) slightly tarnished a fabulous song. I later saw Debsey singing backing vocals for St Etienne (Bob Stanley is a big fan of DM), and the band famously sung backing vocals for Captain Sensible's 'Happy Talk', but like many bands on this list, their star only really shines in the hearts and minds of their fans.
It's not so terrible a legacy. (SV June 2015)

18.  UK Subs - Tomorrow's Girls  (GEM single 1979)

Charlie Harper is 71 now and still performing. The UK Subs formed a second wave of punk to hit the charts in the summer of 1979. Tomorrow's Girls is a vaguely pro-feminist paean to spirit and liberty and wanting something more from life. There's a real urgent energy to this song which raises it above most of the band's output, and it's a love song of sorts with a killer singalong chorus. I remember looking at its brilliant blue vinyl pressing back in the autumn of '79 and holding it up to the sunlight. It reminds me of the simple pleasures of just being young - and  what a fantastic year that was for singles - both musically and aesthetically.

 Hope they sing it at Thursday's gig in Chester!


Tomorrow’s Girl
Ain’t no factory girl
And she don’t wanna live
In a nine to five world
You’re out there slaving
On your factory floor
But Tomorrow’s Girl
She wants a lot more

(SV November 17th 2015)

19.  Propaganda - Duel  (ZTT 45, 1984)

Just a brilliant, beautiful song. A superb Trevor Horn production, yearning lyrics and vocals, and elegiac electronics make this arguably the best of Propaganda's great triptych of singles (P-Machinery, Doctor Mabuse) taken from the fantastic A Secret Wish album. I think I almost swooned (I was very young) when I saw Suzanne Freytag live at the Royal Court that year, and I just marvelled that four only-slightly-older-than-me Dusseldorfers could create such genius pop music in a different language. Like most of the bands featured in this list, their time together was brief and singer Claudia Brucken left the band not too long afterwards, but this reminds me of driving back to Cambridge one sunny evening in May after Everton had completed their first League Championship in fifteen years. I don't pretend that the achievements of others are in any way my achievements, but it was nice to see my favourite team win that day. I usually find that wallowing in nostalgia destroys my brain cells, but I'm prepared to take an IQ hit for this one. (SV 18.4.16)

Click on the pic to play the song

20.  Pale Fountains - Thank You  (Virgin 45, 1982)

Another band which should have been huge. Produced by legendary easy-listening band leader Geoff Love, Thank You is an astonishing three and a bit minutes of epic strings, heroic brass and plaintive, impassioned vocals. Michael and John Head went on to form the equally wonderful Shack when TPF died the death. Like most bands on here, their greatness exists in the hearts and memories of the faithful few. If you haven't heard this song, click the link; few singles burst off your turntable and fill you with the wonders and joys of life quite like Thank You. I occasionally see John in my local pub from time to time and often get the urge to tell him of my fandom,  but when the urge strikes me I just get another round in and leave the great man in peace.  (SV 24.4.16)

Click on the pic to play the song

21.  The Fall - Fiery Jack  (Step Forward 45, 1980)

God knows how many time I've seen The Fall over the years going right back to 1978. I remember taking a girlfriend to see them at Liverpool pub venue Rigby's back in 1980. She fainted at some stage, either because of the heat or due to Mark E. Smith's rugged male beauty. As a live act, The Fall can be unpredictable, but I've seen them be brilliant on too many occasions to worry too much about a possible terrible performance. I only hope that it all hasn't been one big elaborate joke (as my mate Jimmy often suggests) and that The Fall hasn't been a gigantic exercise in the Emperor's New Clothes. Fiery Jack is great, though: an exercise in urgent, sinister, almost Krautrock*-style rhythms and enigmatic lyrics. I remember Mark E saying the song was about a middle-aged, council estate drinker - prematurely aged by his drinking and inner bitterness. A self-fulfilling prophecy no doubt and a fantastic, genuinely alternative pop single. This reminds me of listening to John Peel, trips to Probe and Brian Kidd playing for Everton. (Starts wallowing in nostalgia. Stops.)

*I've never liked that term.

(SV 2.5.16)

Click on the pic to play the song

22.  Joy Division - Disorder (from 'Unknown Pleasures', Factory 1979)

Saw them at Eric's and on The Buzzcocks tour of 1979. The post-punk band of course and a quite staggering song from a momentous album. The brevity of Joy Division's career is part of their mystique and helps to earn them their place amongst the greats. I love this song dearly, and I loved the way that Curtis fashioned a new form of introspective masculinity at odds with pretty much everything that was around in those slightly more enlightened musical times. Not much more to say about this, but if I close my eyes and think for barely a second, I'm back at the Mountford Hall - watching Ian Curtis's impassioned dervish arm-dancing and listening to that baleful, soulful singing, and not knowing that the demons on display would help to drive him to his sad and lonely death within eight months.

"I've been waiting for a guide to come

 And take me by the hand.

Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures

Of a normal man?"

Superb.

(SV 2.5.16)

Click on the pic to play the song

23.  The Scars - All About You (Pre 45, and also from the album Author! Author!, Pre 1981)

Author! Author! was one of my favourite albums of 1981 and All About You one of my favourite singles. The Scars were a strangely-attired group even for that strangely-attired year, and appeared on their album sleeve in what looked like mediaeval New Romantic garb. The music was something else, though, and with one track excepted (an odd, musical version of Peter Porter's anti-nuclear poem Your Attention, Please), the album could have 'spawned' (as they say) any number of singles. Yet again, The Scars were a very short lived band, but I wore my colourful Author! Author! primitive art skull button badge with pride on one of the skinny lapels of my 81A (69A) sixties-tailored jacket for many months back in 1981. A brilliant pop song about yearning, with clear undertones of menace buried not so deeply between its jangling guitars and lovely harmonies.

(SV 4.5.16)


Click on the pic to play the song

24.  Blondie - Picture This (Chrysalis 45, 1978)

It's pretty much all been said already about Blondie: a band seems to arrive out of nowhere, fully-formed with astonishing pop singles and a staggeringly beautiful lead singer with a great voice and a huge amount of talent. Blondie looked the part as well, dressing up in an early to mid-sixties style, and with a new wave sensibility that most Americans just never seemed to get. (My favourite rubbish 'punk' is Tony Coca-Cola from Abel Ferrara's equally rubbish video nasty Driller Killer.)

Picture This is just wonderful:

Picture this - a day in December
Picture this - freezing cold weather
You got clouds on your lids and you'd be on the skids
If it weren't for your job at the garage
If you could only oh-oh
Picture this - a sky full of thunder
Picture this - my telephone number
One and one is what I'm telling you, oh yeah

The song is made even more remarkable by the fact that it was produced by Mike Chapman, the man partially responsible for some of the most hideous dumbass proletarian sing-along hits of the mid 70s. Punk and New Wave seemed to unleash an eruption of female rock and pop talent (it was always there with soul and disco) and the appearance of Debbie Harry made this young pop customer wonder why he/we had suffered the likes of Tina Charles, Sylvia and Suzi Quatro (another Chapman artist) for so long. 1978 was a brilliant pop year made even better by the true flowering of the New Wave and Bob Latchford's 30 goals for The Toffees. (And that's the last football reference. Well, for a while, anyway.) In '78 Blondie had hits with Denis, Hanging on the Telephone, I'm Always Touched By Your (Presence, Dear) and Picture This. That's four singles better than most groups achieve in their lifetimes. They'd be just as good in 1979.

A fabulous pop record.

(SV 7.5.16)

Click on the pic to play the song

(SV 7.5.16)

25 Simple Minds – Factory (from the Zoom/Arista album Real to Real Cacophony, 1979)

It’s hard to state the brilliance of this band between 1979 and 1982. After their first (fairly decent) pop/rock album, Simple Minds had a startling re-birth and produced the astonishing album Real to Real Cacophony – an incredible amalgam of darker electronic dance beats and the lyrical and verbal urgency of Joy Division. Factory is superb, and its enigmatic lyrics speak of despair and fear and a tiny sense of hope. There are any number of songs I could have plucked from the track list (Changeling and Premonition are equally scary and portentous and beautiful) and if you just think of Simple Minds as being the plodding U3 that they unfortunately morphed into in the mid 80s, I’d urge you to listen to any of their albums up to (and Including) New Gold Dream to discover a pleasant and often thrilling series of musical delights.

SV June 10th 2016

 

26 Lori and the Chameleons – Touch (Zoo 45, 1979)

I knew a few girls who studied at Liverpool Poly’s (very good) art department. They all disliked fellow student Lori Lartey (LOTC’s vocalist). Mostly because THEY WERE JEALOUS. Written and produced by Liverpool scenesters Dave Balfe and Bill Drummond, this is a fabulous pop single – catchy, vaguely mysterious and pleasantly off-kilter. And obviously, it spent precisely one week in the lower reaches of the UK pop charts. I thought of this when I heard of the death of minor British comedy star Burt Kwouk the other week. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll understand why!

SV June 9th 2016