1976 punk, eighties independent label maverick and author of Criminal Damage and Other Brilliant Misadventures Chris Green picks forty songs that have shaped his life, from Tappa Zukie to Young Fathers via the Manic Street Preachers and Dizzee Rascal.
(Last minute playlist for a local Arts Centre website compiled in two hours straight.)
01. TAPPA ZUKIE ‘MPLA (Version)’ (1976)
In 1976 the apocalyptic catalyst of Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club transformed my sixteen year old life, my relationship with music going from simply liking stuff to complete obsession. Roots and dub singles were an essential part of all that, especially early on when there were no authentic English punk records to be had.
02. WIRE ‘Mr Suit’ (1977)
Wilfully intellectual and arty, Wire didn’t fit into the stereotypical punk scheme of things, selling next to nothing. And yet they proved hugely influential, a catalyst for the in the know few who formed their own groups and moulded Pink Flag’s deceptively simple template into new and increasingly adventurous, post punk shapes.
03. CABARET VOLTAIRE ‘Do The Mussolini/Headkick’ (1978)
Forget old hippies Throbbing Gristle and shameless self-promoter Genesis P Orridge, it was Cabaret Voltaire who finally convinced my generation of sonic terrorists they didn’t need to learn any chords at all to create their own music.
04. FATAL MICROBES ‘Violence Grows’ (1979)
A song indelibly linked to its time that’s not so much angry as resigned to a smalltown, seventies existence of footie violence, razor gangs, council estate no go zones, NF skins, the SUS laws, three channels of shit, lowest common denominator TV, cheap smack, glue sniffing etc etc.
05. THE LINES ‘Nerve Pylon’ (1980)
The Lines may not have been the most visible of groups but to me, a nineteen year old innocent desperately trying to gain a foothold in the independent underground, they were the first musicians I befriended to actively encourage my naïve and somewhat annoying enthusiasm.
06. SCRITTI POLTTI ‘The Sweetest Girl’ (1981)
Once DIY to the point of death, Green Gartside was the first post punk protagonist to actively pursue a sugared pill policy and revel in sonic luxury for the sheer pop thrill of it at a time when that kind of talk was considered heresy.
07. MARK STEWART & THE MAFIA ‘Jerusalem’ (1982)
This dubbed to fuck remake of Blake’s unofficial national anthem never made it onto Last Night of the Proms, the skeletal instrumentation, painfully discordant vocals and ironic samples not exactly conducive to a triumphant, mass, sing-song.
08. THE BIRTHDAY PARTY ‘Mutiny In Heaven’ (1983)
1983’s Bad Seed and Mutiny EP’s bought The Birthday Party into focus like never before, the latter (ironically their final recording) serving up the most accomplished yet terrifying and blood soaked song in their entire catalogue, albeit with a subtle wink of the eye.
09. FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD ‘Two Tribes (Annihilation)’ (1984)
In the midst of Frankie mania, as the second of their trio of tracts on sex, war and religion sold and sold, a seemingly endless stream of remixes underlined the very real feeling of partying hard in the face of impending nuclear Armageddon.
10. HALF PINT ‘Greetings’ (1985)
1985 was bereft of anything much musically, Bob Geldof and the worst excesses of Live Aid killing off the last remaining threads of post punk futurism to create a new elite of careerist charlatans, a man who would be God and clapped out seventies scumbags. Scratching around for anything new and invigorating, reggae crossed my path again for the first time in five years.
11. PET SHOP BOYS ‘Suburbia’ [Video Mix] (1986)
With an innate ability to be part of the pop parade yet somehow separate, in the eighties the Pet Shop Boys filled the charts with wonderful, satirical pop like Neil Tennant’s vision of suburban decay, boredom and violence offset by Chris Lowe’s glorious piano led chorus.
12. RENEGADE SOUNDWAVE ‘Kray Twins’ (1987)
The one that got away as far as my own Criminal Damage records were concerned, we were set to release ‘Kray Twins’ until Mute stepped in at the last minute with a bagful of cash. At a time when independent groups and labels were floundering around in the past, to say Renegade Soundwave were ahead of the pack is an understatement. Now virtually forgotten, they’re a reminder of how the future once sounded.
13. SMITH & MIGHTY ‘Anyone’ (1988)
Another record that was unclassifiable and at least five years ahead of its time, Rob Smith and Ray Mighty, together with their friends Massive Attack and Nellee Hooper of The Wild Bunch, ruled a multi-cultural soundsystem scene based in the St Paul’s area of Bristol. Revolving surreally around the Bacharach and David classic ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, in just under five minutes they invented just about every British dance record that has tried to meld dub, ambient and hip hop beats together.
14. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS ‘Higher Ground’ (1989)
I’ve never been what you could call a fan, but there’s no denying that when they started out the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the tightest, white boy, funk machine around. OK, so they would soon descend into tiresome twattery, but not before a discarded cassette of What Hits!? and workouts like ‘Higher Ground’ bewitched my eleven year old son enough to send him off on his own voyage of musical discovery.
15. MASSIVE ATTACK ‘Daydreaming’ (1990)
It’s impossible to imagine the last couple of decades of worthwhile black, British music without Massive Attacks singular vision.
16. CHAPTERHOUSE ‘Pearl’ (1991)
In the early nineties my hometown found itself at the epicentre of the burgeoning shoegazing scene, groups like Chapterhouse and Slowdive representing the slightly sad, southern, middle class response to the northern, working class euphoria of Madchester. Being slightly sad, southern and middle class myself, I thought they were great. What’s more they were literally on my doorstep.
17. THE DISPOSABLE HEROES OF HIPHOPRISY ‘Language Of Violence’ (1992)
As the country reveled in E induced love and optimism, the stupidly happy mask of the smiley obscuring a black hole of paranoia and depression, no-one was listening to political hip hop or Michael Franti’s extraordinary ‘Language Of Violence’, a track so insightful it reputedly caused ‘original gangsta’ Ice T to rethink his attitude to homophobia.
18. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST ‘Oh My God’ (1993)
With their socially conscious lyrics, infectious boom bap rhythms and laid back jazzy loops, the greatest hip hop group of all time gave us music not for dancing or punching our fists to, but for sitting happily stoned at home with, pondering the whys, wherefores and whereabouts of the new multi-racial bohemia.
19. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS ‘Red Right Hand’ (1994)
I’ve been banging on about the greatness of Nicholas Edward Cave for decades now, yet he exists so far beyond modern pop culture that to explain is fairly pointless. Just take a listen to ‘Red Right Hand’, currently enjoying a new lease of life as the Peaky Blinders title song and the perfect introduction to his vast body of work.
20. TRICKY ‘Ponderosa’ (1995)
Tricky’s been to some bad places, met some bad people and done some terrible things, but somehow it’s always been possible to find the beauty within his tripped out, art of darkness.
21. MANIC STREET PREACHERS ‘A Design For Life’ (1996)
Less a reminder of the Manics intelligence, impeccable influences and immense popularity as my soundtrack to alcoholic obliteration.
22. CORNERSHOP ‘Brimful Of Asha’ (1997)
Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow!
23. BOARDS OF CANADA ‘Aquarius’ (1998)
Hearing Boards Of Canada’s sonic approximation of their childhood triggered my own boyhood memories of alienation, loneliness and confusion and an urgent need to resolve that past before it destroyed my future.
24. BJORK ‘All Is Full Of Love’ [Video Version] (1999)
As the clock counted down to the new millennium, I reflected on the final years of the 20th century and how my life had been transformed by the new, all-consuming, unconditional love of the greatest woman I’ve ever known. On millennium eve, as I peered through the drizzle at the fireworks, clinging onto our three month old daughter with her by my side, all really was full of love.
25. DEAD PREZ ‘Animal In Man’ (2000)
Kicking off with a soundbite from Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and driven by an infectious G-Funk bass, ‘Animal In Man’ is a retelling of Orwell’s Animal Farm without the party politics that is so simple, a decade later I used it to try and explain the concepts of power and betrayal to my ten year old daughter. Naturally I failed miserably, but she loves the song to this day.
26. AESOP ROCK ‘No Regrets’ (2001)
Another poignant, hip hop fairytale with a subtle ‘live your dream’ message we should all take heed of.
27. EMINEM ‘Without Me’ (2002)
From the sublime to the hilarious.
28. DIZZEE RASCAL ‘I Luv U’ (2003)
It’s impossible now to reconcile the novelty pop act Dizzee Rascal has become with the cutting edge, eighteen year old who emerged with ‘I Luv U’. Said by many to be the grime equivalent of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ its impact was phenomenal, hordes of British kids so inspired they set up their own crews, the first time anything like that had happened since punk.
29. THE STREETS ‘Dry Your Eyes’ (2004)
Heard so often in our house that I took it for granted, I will always associate Mike Skinner’s unapologetically male paean to breaking up with the heartache of sons unceremoniously dumped by their first (or second or third) loves.
30. BABYSHAMBLES ‘Albion’ (2005)
The sound of a likely lad embracing his promise, ‘Albion’ is a brilliantly moving tome to dear old Blighty that reaches for the heights and plants a union jack firmly on the summit.
31. PETER, BJORN & JOHN ‘Young Folks’ (2006)
Featured on countless TV and film soundtracks including Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, my daughters favourite homage to the travails of being a teenage girl, ‘Young Folks’ is quite possibly the finest, happy go lucky, whistling song of all time.
32. PANDA BEAR ‘Comfy In Nautica’ (2007)
21st century DIY digitally constructed out of other folk’s bits and pieces, handclaps and Noah Lennox’s billowing vocal roundelay.
33. FLEET FOXES ‘Ragged Wood’ (2008)
As much as I didn’t want to like this bunch of beardy, backwoodsy, American, hipster types, I just couldn’t resist a song as spine tingling as ‘Ragged Wood’.
34. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE ‘My Girls’ (2009)
Panda Bear again, this time in his group role with Animal Collective singing an insanely catchy tune in praise of family, a bond previously alien to me but one I would gradually become more and more accustomed to and appreciative of.
35. THESE NEW PURITANS ‘We Want War’ (2010)
I remember listening to this with my soldier son two weeks before he was killed on his third combat tour of Afghanistan. He thought it unfathomable rubbish, but I kind of liked the pretentious enigmas hidden within its seven plus minutes.
36. PJ HARVEY ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ (2011)
These New Puritans may or may not have been anti-war but Polly Harvey left us in no doubt as to where her ideals lay, the brilliant Let England Shake referencing the disastrous Gallipoli campaign and carnage of the First World War in scenarios my son would undoubtedly have recognised.
37. FRANK OCEAN ‘Forrest Gump’ (2012)
As I dragged myself through some seriously grief stricken times to escape the gravitational pull of my life’s new and devastating year zero, Frank Ocean came to my rescue with a record of rare purity and modesty. Radiating compassion and warmth despite the bleak themes and broken people of his songs, he was exactly what I needed at exactly the right moment.
38. JOHN GRANT ‘GMF’ (2013)
To all intents and purposes a sweet and tender ballad before the acronym of its title reveals it as a manifesto for the disaffected swinging between self-aggrandisement and self-loathing.
39. KENDRICK LAMAR ‘i’ (2014)
For the final half of the noughties, hip hop was a desperately unmemorable procession of production line robots with lyrics trudging a hedonistic treadmill of bling and booty. Kendrick Lamar changed all that, re-energising the genre to such an extent that it even roused a comatose, middle aged, Brit bloke to sit up and take notice.
40. YOUNG FATHERS ‘Old Rock’n’Roll’ (2015)
In the end I guess it’s all old rock’n’roll or rhythm and blues or pop or jazz or something!