Made In Britain / A Trip Around The Rusty Pier
‘I don’t hate Englishness in any way. All aspects of England, whether it be underclass, or extreme affluence, I find very interesting and entertaining. And it’s still I feel, cliché as it may seem, the sanest country in the world.’
Morrissey. March 1988.
‘I fall in love with Britain everyday, with bridges, buses, blue skies…but it’s a brutal world man.’
Pete Doherty. August 2006.
These 42 tracks were assembled taking 1967 as Year Zero. Only one track per artist was allowed (although both Morrissey and Pete Doherty appear twice in differing guises). Each track was picked for its decidedly British lyrical or musical flavour. Revel in your heritage!
This list was compiled and sleeve notes written between March and July 2007.
1967 - 1979
1 THE BEATLES Penny Lane (A Side February 1967)
The Beatles did it all in 1967: Sgt Pepper, ‘All You Need Is Love’, Magical Mystery Tour. Lennon and McCartney even vied with The Kinks Ray Davies on the Anglicana observational front, ‘Penny Lane’ depicting the poster colour sounds and crystal snapshot images of a Liverpool Street alive with stories in progress.
2 KEITH WEST Excerpt From A Teenage Opera (A Side June 1967)
Keith West, from cult hipsters Tomorrow sang Mark Wirtz’s epic paean to loss, innocence and tragedy, echoing the childlike search for wonder central to British psychedelia. The pathos laden “Grocer jack, Grocer Jack” refrain was everywhere that 1967 summer, pop dressed up as freakery.
3 PINK FLOYD Bike (Piper At The Gates Of Dawn August 1967)
Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, was named after a chapter title from one of Syd Barrett’s favourite books Wind In The Willows. Split between his surreal nursery rhymes and improvisation, it remains a naïve immortalisation of childhood. Only the closing ‘Bike’, a peculiarly English tale of a cloak, a mouse called Gerald and a clan of gingerbread men hinted at the deeper psychosis within the madcap’s mind.
4 KALEIDOSCOPE Mr Small The Watch Repairer Man (Tangerine Dream November 1967)
Kaleidoscopes debut LP was an Anglo psych classic blushing with full, gorgeous melodies, not least this oboe led timepiece. At once Technicolor and Dickensian, their English obsessiveness is betrayed by references to dust, minutiae, Sundays and loneliness.
5 SMALL FACES Lazy Sunday (Ogdens Nut Gone Flake June 1968)
Steve Marriott’s bright and breezy music hall sing song was written as a joke as he was permanently being thrown out of rented accommodation by neighbours complaining about the noise. It was released against his wishes but successfully captured the knees up atmosphere pervading London at the time. Years later it provided suitable inspiration for Blur’s ‘Parklife’.
6 FAIRPORT CONVENTION Who Knows Where The Times Goes? (Unhalfbrickling July 1969)
Exemplifying the genteel sensibilities of British folk rock ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ was first recorded by singer Sandy Denny in The Strawbs. A pastoral beauty, gossamer fragile and filled with the grey sadness of goodbye, when she sang it seemed she could foretell the future brevity of her days.
7 THE KINKS Shangri-la (Single A Side September 1969)
Ray Davies was always out of step with ‘60s optimism. Almost any Kinks song would have sufficed but taken from Arthur, one of his many concepts, ‘Shangri-la’s acute lyrics chronicled English everyman’s decline from Empire to suburbia, captured in stark black and white against the vivid palette of the day.
8 VASHTI BUNYAN Diamond Day (Diamond Day June 1970)
Impossibly naïve, perfectly close to nature; when she wrote this song Vashti was apologising to broccoli whenever she picked it. This could seem fey and contrived yet is from deep within the soil, with Tam Lin and all the sylvan spirits of Albion just around the corner.
9 NICK DRAKE At The Chime Of The City Clock (Bryter Layter November 1970)
A bucolic upbringing in Tanworth-in-Arden coloured Drake’s music with dark shades of Donovan and Vaughan Williams. A move to London left the singer “feeling like a remnant of something that’s past”. His bright lights, big city melancholy was warmly put to use here as he gazed at St Paul’s from his Hampstead bedsit.
10 MOTT THE HOOPLE All The Young Dudes (Single A Side July 1972)
Flagging underground heroes Mott were on the verge of splitting when their mate David Bowie – himself still a one hit wonder – suggested they record one of his songs. A rousing glam anthem celebrating London’s lurid lowlifes and outsiders, ‘Dudes’ was infused with an undertow of melancholy that perfectly captured the grubbiness that lay behind Britain’s early ‘70s glitter.
11 CLIFFORD T WARD Home Thoughts From Abroad (Home Thoughts July 1973)
This walks the romantic tightrope with references to Wordsworth and Worcestershire, but, eventually, is a triumphant ode to Ward’s homeland, with a string arrangement as gentle and expansive as the Malverns. Stourport born Clifford, a school teacher, also wrote songs titled Birmingham, Wherewithal and Scullery, the man was as English as tuppence ha’penny.
12 GENESIS I Know What I Like (Selling England By The Pound October 1973)
To rural England, circa The Past, where a junior gardener dreams he’s a lawnmower. Flutes and chimes add to the hazy summer’s day feel, Peter Gabriel’s odd lyric adding a wonky surrealism which couldn’t be more British. Of all the songs here, this is the one whose world is most thoroughly lost.
13 THE WHO 5.15 (Quadrophenia November 1973)
Quadrophenia perfectly captured the extremes suffered in the search for adolescent sense through the travails of parka clad zero Jimmy the Mod. Eager to relive the high of a Bank Holiday Brighton scooter run Jimmy quits his job and pilled up takes the ‘5.15’ train where, surrounded by bowler hatted commuters and schoolgirls, the gulf between l’etranger and the mainstream leads to excitement…and paranoid fear.
14 BRIAN PROTHEROE Pinball (Single A Side September 1974)
A much neglected classic from actor Brian Protheroe. Exploring loss, identity and detachment his songs were always framed by a particular melancholy. “Got fleas in my bedroom, got flies in my bathroom”. Quite literally a mellow madness.
15 IAN HUNTER Letter To Britannia From The Union Jack (All American Alien Boy May 1976)
In 1975, Ian Hunter upped sticks and moved lock, stock and smoking barrel to America. All American Alien Boy was built thematically around that move, ‘Letter To Britannia’ Hunter’s address to his homeland. Sounding a discordant note of national pride, his wistful, rueful words were both critical and sorrowful at the state of the nation. “Poor Britannia, drowning in your waves”.
16 SEX PISTOLS God Save The Queen (Single A Side May 1977)
Released during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, punks anti National anthem revelled in it’s treasonous intent but it’s real power lay in Rotten’s poetry. “No future in England’s dreaming” had echoes of the revolutionary romantic’s, “we’re the flowers in the dustbin” was simply genius.
17 POET AND THE ROOTS All Wi Doin Is Defendin (Dread Beat An’ Blood June 1977)
Under the banner of Poet And The Roots, Linton Kwesi Johnson was the first to give a poetic voice to the frustration of second generation black Britons. ‘All Wi Doin Is Defendin’ accurately predicted the race riots of 1981, while its wider themes of police brutality, victimisation and alienation spoke to punks too.
18 KATE BUSH Oh England My Lionheart (Lionheart November 1978)
Kate Bush is as uniquely English as they come. Her songs have always conjured pictures of upper, middle class normality and the dark, disturbing secrets that lie beneath. Typically, ‘Oh England’ conjures beautiful tones and imagery until the listener realises it is about a spitfire pilot, whose plane has been shot down, contemplating his homeland as he hurtles to his death.
19 TELEVISION PERSONALITIES Part Time Punks (Wheres Bill Grundy Now EP November 1978)
Ground zero for UK Indie. ‘Part Time Punks’ was a sniggering nursery rhyme satire aimed squarely at provincial kids on the Kings Road who “ come from silly places, come down for the day”, gleaned all their information from The Sun and didn’t have a clue what punk was all about.
20 THE MEMBERS Sound Of The Suburbs (Single A Side January 1979)
While the chic punk glitterati hoovered up the sulphate in their tatty London garrets, the endless suburbs of provincial towns was where the real revolution took place. The Members, ‘burb oiks from Camberley, summed up the land of roast dinners, washing cars, Heathrow jets, tedium, regret and broken dreams rather nicely on this chart hit, albeit a couple of years after the fact.
21 MADNESS Bed And Breakfast Man (One Step Beyond October 1979)
Like the great British sitcoms they often recalled, Madness’ gift was always their pathos. Particularly on their later work, the nuttiness often disguised highly personal, highly crafted songs yet always exquisitely crafted pop. ‘Bed And Breakfast Man’ is their single that never was.
22 THE JAM Little Boy Soldiers (Setting Sons November 1979)
Setting Sons was supposed to be a concept album, the story of three friends, a businessman, a revolutionary and a left-winger similar to Weller himself. The grand conceptual scheme eventually dissipated through lack of time but ‘Little Boy Soldiers’, an ambitious, self explanatory, anti war epic, still relevant in the 21st century, adhered to the original idea.
1980 - 2006
1 THE CLASH Something About England (Sandinista! December 1980)
London Calling was the rallying call but on this epic Sandinista! track, Strummer assumed the character of a rheumy eyed old tramp to tell the story of England’s working classes from the Great war to the late ‘70s. ‘Something About England’ evoked dowdy pubs, broken dreams and generations of hardship, complete with a stirring rendition of ‘It’s A Long Way To Tipperary’.
2 THE SPECIALS Friday Night, Saturday Morning (Single B Side June 1981)
By the summer of 1981 The Specials had moved a long way from their clattering debut. The sophisticated ’Ghost Town’ perfectly echoed the feelings of Britain at the time, reaching No 1 as inner city riots raked the country. Sadly the A side, like so many other classics, has become a staple of Radio Two and it’s the B side, a straightforward tale of a night out, that resonates most with anyone under 20 these days.
3 THE SMITHS Still Ill (The Smiths February 1984)
“I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving, England is mine and it owes me a living”. Raging against their synth playing contemporaries, The Smiths put Indie rock, and British life, back on the agenda. Morrissey’s bedroom confessionals and lovelorn words of alienation were catnip to Britain’s disenfranchised youth. ‘Still Ill’ was saying what everyone was thinking in the midst of Thatcher’s reign.
4 BILLY BRAGG Between The Wars (Between The Wars EP March 1985)
Renowned for his political songwriting, Billy Bragg’s music was always angry, ironic and stripped down, an almost visceral reaction to the debris of the Thatcher years. Curiously ‘Between The Wars’ has once again reacquired an urgency it lacked during a ‘90s devoid of stark, ideological boundaries, when it sounded like a quaint period piece.
5 THE POGUES A Rainy Night In Soho (Poguetry In Motion EP February 1986)
With Shane MacGowan already ensconced as the Laureate of the drinking classes, the Poguetry In Motion EP showcased different sides of his writing. A disarming, wistful but uplifting song of romance, remembrance and renewal sketched out across a Soho that owed more to Colin McInnes than Martin Amis, it proved there was more to MacGowan than songs of whiskey and death.
6 PET SHOP BOYS Suburbia (Please March 1986)
‘Anglo disco’ is a poorly explored sub genre. Infact only the Pet Shop boys kept at it with continuing success, marrying self deprecating, vaguely sad Britishness to upbeat but minor keyed music. This paean to hanging around and breaking windows “lost in the high street” revels in keenly felt Newtown ennui you can dance to.
7 THE FALL Hit The North (Single A Side October 1987)
As unrelenting as the Bury New Road, the ‘80s Fall could pack as many great one liners into three minutes as they now manage over a whole album. Finding the soul of the nation in lost mill towns, Mark E Smith has a pop at the police, MP’s and estate agents with a wit, humour and delicate balance between brutalism and intellect.
8 MORRISSEY Everyday Is Like Sunday (Viva Hate March 1988)
In the quintessential Morrissey song, our hero visits a decaying seaside resort to hymn the memories and decry the desolation. Here is the resigned response of the devastated land Thatcher left behind, Moz’s chanting down of Armageddon an overt echo of Betjeman’s jovially embittered Slough.
9 RUTHLESS RAP ASSASSINS And It Wasn’t A Dream (Killer Album June 1990)
‘And It Wasn’t A Dream’ is one of the most multi layered pieces conceivable about the black British experience. While the raps told the stories of the welcome their parents received arriving in the UK in the 1950s, the track samples Cymande, a group formed in Brixton by expatriate West Indians.
10 SAINT ETIENNE London Belongs To Me (Foxbase Alpha October 1991)
Always uncovering romance and splendour in the overlooked and mundane, Saint Etienne sounded like they were living in an alternate pop history, a ‘60s and ‘70s that never was. ’London Belongs To Me’ name checked Camden Town, soon to become Britpop central, and World Of Twist, an early influence on Noel Gallagher.
11 BLUR For Tomorrow (Modern Life Is Rubbish May 1993)
Taking a brave stand against the American grunge onslaught, the dizzying ‘For Tomorrow’ found sanctuary and strength in a bygone Britain with lyrics steeped in rose tinted romanticism that, with atmospheric references to the Westway and Primrose Hill, would not sound out of place on a vintage Kinks record.
12 SUEDE The Wild Ones (Dog Man Star October 1994)
The Britpop contender’s seventh single was a masterwork of languorous, frustrated yearning. With the songs narrator harping on about bad weather, living in the suburbs and being in debt – time honoured British complaints – he ruminates on his loved one’s departure on a jet plane with an ache not unlike Withnail’s Hamlet soliloquy at the end of Withnail And I.
13 PULP Mile End (Single B Side March 1996)
Since Sheffield’s eternally struggling, witty middle class Pulp were catapulted into the spotlight Jarvis Cocker has been a an essential chronicler of life in Britain. ‘Mile End’ details his first London flat in the seedy underbelly of an imagined London while musically its a clever cross between beer and skittles pub piano and regular Pulp.
14 ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION Real Great Britain (Community Music March 2000)
Emerging post Britpop, in the midst of a spree of anti Asian violence, Asian Dub Foundation wasted no time in establishing their confrontational agenda. ‘Real Great Britain’ set out their formidable futurist manifesto, telling it like it is from all sides of the racial divide, reacting against Blair, new Britannia cool, middle England and ‘60s obsessed bands.
15 THE LIBERTINES Time For Heroes (Time For Heroes EP January 2003)
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat shambled out of their Holloway Road bedsit with impeccable melancholic English references – Joe Orton, Tony Hancock, Withnail, and the notion of a semi mythical “Albion” – which reached their apotheosis in this chart hit. Rueing the proliferation of Asbo chic, a saturnine Doherty claims, “there are fewer more distressing sights than that of an Englishman in a baseball hat”. The start of a new English renaissance.
16 THE STREETS Dry Your Eyes (A Grand Don’t Come For Free May 2004)
Mike Skinner freed the UK garage scene of its US shackles, replacing raps trademark vaunting with a lyrical self-effacement and wry social insight. On ‘Dry Your Eyes’ his painful vulnerability is met by his mate’s quintessentially British stiff upper lip. “There’s plenty more fish in the sea” he offers wisely.
17 ESTELLE 1980 (1980 EP July 2004)
The uniquely British autobiography of a modern London upbringing delivered in four sparkling minutes. Estelle’s skill is all in the detail gruesomely dark stories of dead neighbours, kung fu films, Connect Four, the Cosby Show and Mel and Kim. Intelligent, heartfelt and compelling.
18 SKINNYMAN Council Estate Of Mind (Council Estate Of Mind August 2004)
A legendary figure in UK hip hop, Skinnyman takes the struggle and anguish behind a high rise front door and includes every siren, every bang on the door, every disappointment and every lost chance. Loosely autobiographical, his intelligent, thought provoking observations can be understood by anyone living in Britain. 100% real.
19 BABYSHAMBLES Albion (Down In Albion November 2005)
Pete Doherty is portrayed as the classic, misunderstood, romantic fop, clinging helplessly to a bottle, syringe or guitar while the crowd egg him on. But in a peculiar way, he has come to symbolise the helpless frustrations of an alienated British youth that finds life in the 51st state of America a sad farce. ‘Albion’, a brilliant acoustic sit down, reaches for the heights and plants a union jack firmly on the summit. A moving tome for dear ‘ol blighty, this is the sound of a likely lad embracing his promise.
20 ARCTIC MONKEYS A Certain Romance (Whatever People Say I Am January 2006)
Three years after receiving guitars for Christmas, the monkeys have mobilised the MP3 generation like no British act before them. ‘A Certain Romance’, however, challenges the lack of idealism among their own generation, containing the immortal line “There’s only music so that there’s new ringtones.”