Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Beatles capsules: compilations 1966-1986

Once again I've broken all my promises about taking care of this blog -- you'll just have to believe me that I've continued to work diligently behind the scenes. Here is a post I wrote some time ago; if you're sick of Beatles minutiae, I do apologize and I am going to try my best to sail fervently through the rest of the work I'm doing for this project. At any rate, what you're seeing here is in some ways the ugliest detritus of the Beatles' recorded legacy: the LPs and tapes that littered the marketplace without the band's approval up through the uniform worldwide standardization of their catalog (mostly lining up with the original British releases) and their label Apple's reassertion of artistic control over the group's releases in the late 1980s. If bitching about bad greatest-hits sets isn't the sort of thing that intrigues you, you can skip this post; but if you're like me and get weirdly absorbed in this sort of thing, read onward.

The Beatles: A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Parlophone 1963-66/1966) [r]
Boasting kitschy "Swinging London" packaging with a touch of classed-up retro, this was the first album-length "greatest hits" package released under the Beatles' name, though it only appeared in shops in the UK where it was meant by EMI to stave off complaints about the long lapse of new Beatles material since Revolver. (This was the period when band breakup rumors were particularly fervent, thanks to both the hiatus and the discontinuation of touring.) For British fans who undoubtedly had all of the singles and albums already, it did offer a couple of important features: the first domestic release of the formerly U.S-only Larry Williams cover "Bad Boy" (originally released on Capitol's Beatles VI on the other side of the pond), which is good but incongruous when put up against a bunch of million-selling original singles; and first-time stereo mixes (prepped by George Martin) of a number of songs that had only been audible on 7" EPs and singles and were therefore strictly mono up to now. It's of course been superseded a hundred times over now, but as a semi-canon original Parlophone release (though the Beatles weren't directly involved with it), it's somewhat interesting, especially as a fairly lengthy taking-stock of the catalog at approximately the halfway point. Boasting all of the A-sides through "Eleanor Rigby"/"Yellow Submarine" save the first two (both from Please Please Me and apparently seen as such relics of a bygone time that they didn't merit inclusion) plus the (in England) LP-only Paul serenades "Michelle" and "Yesterday," the compilation hung in for a couple of decades before finally getting deleted and is obviously musically flawless.

The Beatles: Rock 'n' Roll Music (Parlophone/Capitol 1962-70/1976)
When Apple Records (temporarily) ceased as an entity in the mid-1970s and three out of four Beatles left EMI altogether, the label immediately set about pilfering the goods from the catalog sans band approval, and the four of them were all quite displeased with the kitschy cover art and track selection on this very silly double-album, which nevertheless became a huge seller and spawned a belated hit single in the form of formerly buried Revolver cut "Got to Get You into My Life." The emphasis is on fast-and-furious material, though the harder rock of the band's later years is only scantily touched on. The Capitol version is significant for featuring several George Martin remixes of early Beatles cuts, because he was displeased with the use of old twintrack stereo mixes. As he was working in the States, the tapes he used were Capitol's masters so they're not from the original tapes and thus aren't really canon mixes, but for curious listeners, they are "Twist and Shout," "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Boys" and "Roll Over Beethoven"; all have channels switched and some slight rebalancing plus the usual extra Capitol reverb. The British version uses the original EMI tapes, not remixed; it's significant as the first stereo appearance in the UK of the entire Long Tall Sally EP. Content-wise, it's hard to object to loud fast Beatles, but it's an oddly uneven experience given the supposed consistency of tone, and it comes close enough to avoiding overlap with the Red and Blue albums that it's kind of annoying when it does repeat selections from those LPs. But it's not a bad listen, just a wildly unnecessary one.

The Beatles: Love Songs (Parlophone/Capitol 1962-70/1977)
The intimate double-album slow-dance variant on Rock 'n' Roll Music, this pretentiously packaged -- with a gatefold that resizes a Richard Avedon Beatles portrait in proportion with their supposed importance! -- compilation starts to take the notion of "themed" Beatles discs to an extreme. And many of the songs don't exactly fit; how exactly are "For No One" and "She's Leaving Home" love songs? There's also considerable overlap with the Red and Blue albums. But as a fairly pedestrian Beatles playlist it's perfectly enjoyable; it's not mysterious how it managed to sell three million copies in America. But today, it is wholly frivolous. (It stayed in print on cassette until well into the '90s; for whatever purpose you might imagine it holding in your personal life, I propose Let's Get It On instead.) Weird mix notes: there's a new bass-heavy, vocal-centered version of "Girl" that's never appeared anywhere else, and a mysterious "Norwegian Wood" that may just be heavily processed mono. "Yes It Is" and "This Boy" appear in fake stereo, with the extant stereo mixes still elusive at this stage; and "P.S. I Love You" is fake stereo by (in EMI's definition) necessity. Again, it's a superfluous release, but no one's going to be angry if you take it out and play it even now.

The Beatles: Rarities [UK] (Parlophone 1963-69/1978)
I've wasted a lot of mental energy trying to figure this one out, and now you can share my burden. This is an (evidently) band-approved compilation that ostensibly packages together all of the Beatles' b-sides and other non-album slash non-hit ephemera; since it was originally a supplement with the huge Beatles Collection LP boxed set, you'd think it would serve the purpose of incorporating everything not on the eleven canon albums plus Yellow Submarine, but in fact it excludes every song that made its way onto the Red and Blue albums and Capitol's American expansion of Magical Mystery Tour. This last part is always where I get stuck. I suppose it's a reasonable assumption that a fan who cared enough to get the enormous box would already have the greatest hits collections, but it still feels weird that they bothered at all with a catch-all if it was going to be as limited in scope as this is, and if MMT was going to be retroactively considered as part of the British discography, why was it left out of the set? So under the theory that you have the box and Red and Blue albums but not Tour, you're missing all the film songs plus "Baby You're a Rich Man." (You're also missing the original 7" version of "Love Me Do" with Ringo on drums, but it's unclear if that was a deliberate oversight or a question of availability since the master was lost.) Moreover, it's weird that one of the Beatles' EPs of exclusively original material (Long Tall Sally) is acknowledged and the other isn't. It's just an erratic way of handling this issue, and the sequencing ("This Boy" into "The Inner Light" into "I'll Get You") isn't very good. The quality of material is almost uniformly high ("their b-sides are better than most bands' A-sides" is a cliché and it's 100% true), though, and it's a fair bet that many British fans had never heard the charity version of "Across the Universe" or the two German songs.

The other big problem with this release is that most of the songs are mono mixes whereas the Collection box is stereo, so if you're trying to put together an complete all-analog collection of the Beatles' catalog, this record will not help you.

The Beatles: Rarities [U.S.] (Capitol 1962-70/1980)
Of all the weird things Capitol and EMI did with the Beatles' catalog in the decade after their breakup, this particular creation stands up as the weirdest and, in retrospect, most incomprehensible -- but also oddly fascinating. Inspired by the UK release of the same title (above) but geared toward American fans for whom the catalog was quite different-looking, with its standardization still seven years in the future, the record gathers all of the Beatles' masters that weren't included on any of the band's Capitol LPs. However, this actually only constitutes seven tracks if you consider the regular American studio albums from Meet the Beatles! through Hey Jude and Let It Be plus the Red and Blue albums: the single version of "Love Me Do" (heard for the first time ever in America), "The Inner Light" (in mono here, uncollected b-side), "Sie Liebt Dich" (stereo, only available prior to this on a somewhat rare Swan single), the charity version of "Across the Universe" (stereo, also previously unissued altogether in the U.S.), "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" (uncollected b-side), "Misery" and "There's a Place." Those last two will seem like especially bizarre inclusions to a modern fan raised on the canon albums, and even most American fans would've known them well from the brisk-selling non-Capitol album Introducing the Beatles as well as a quickly withdrawn budget-line single from Capitol a few years later, but because the label left them off the semi-Introducing repackage The Early Beatles, this is their only appearance on a Capitol LP. It's very surreal to think of a masterpiece like "There's a Place" relegated to obscurity status, but contemporary reviews of the record took note of the two Please Please Me chestnuts as the best reason to buy it.

So how did Capitol fill out the rest of the record? With a woefully incomplete selection of mixing oddities, none of them very well-chosen; given that genuinely interesting divergences like the Matrix I version of "Tomorrow Never Knows, "All My Loving" with the hi-hat intro and "I'll Cry Instead" with a whole extra verse (the mono LPs were out of print by this stage) existed, it's peculiar that something as pointless as "And I Love Her" with an artificially extended guitar outro or a variation on "I Am the Walrus" (incorporating the extra instrumental passage before the "yellow matter custard" verse as on the American single but also extending the intro to match the canonical stereo mix) that the compilers made themselves for this release make the cut. It's also rather weird to feature certain masters just because they're mono, though admittedly this made more sense before the catalog was universally righted, as Americans really wouldn't have heard these versions of "I'm Only Sleeping," "Help!" (with John's variant lead vocal) or the three White Album songs before (because, respectively, Capitol used a different mix entirely, Capitol used a fold-down of the stereo mix, and Capitol did not issue a mono White Album), but if you're opening the can of worms to incorporate stereo-mono variations, it's strange to just go with a few random selections like this. One inclusion that is quite helpful is the promo version of "Penny Lane," here in stereo, with the extended trumpet ending, which I've always treasured ever since first hearing it on this album; and there's something enjoyably perverse about closing us out with the Inner Groove from Sgt. Pepper (not included on original American issues of that album)... but repeated just once, a two-second bite of random noise that's over as soon as it begins. The whole release is a strange, redundant listen now, but I've got a soft spot for it as one of my first windows into true Beatles minutiae (very weird that it was promoted and sold as a mainstream release when its whole parlance is very slight variants on familiar material), plus it's quite handsomely packaged and even includes a full-sized reproduction of the Butcher photo.

[Additional note: Capitol prepped slightly rebalanced remixes of the two Please Please Me tracks for this compilation, somewhat in the vein of the minor tweaking that was done on The Early Beatles for the other twintrack recordings. Neither is significant enough to seek out but if you're a completist it does sweeten the album's appeal a bit.]

The Beatles: The Beatles Ballads (Parlophone 1963-70/1980) [c]
Twenty tracks, many in their third or fourth appearance on these '70s-'80s Beatles compilations, and a particularly large overlap with Love Songs. I've never heard a copy but would assume it sounds terrible, with a running time of 59 minutes on one 12" record. Only significant insofar as it uses John Byrne's proposed cover art for the White Album when it was traveling under the speculative title A Doll's House. And on a grim note, this was the last Beatles album released during John Lennon's lifetime. It was not released at all in the U.S. and was oddly ubiquitous for some time in Australia.

The Beatles: Reel Music (Parlophone/Capitol 1964-70/1982) [c]
Probably the most cynical Beatles repackage of all, this 42-minute slapdash collection of the most famous songs from the band's five film soundtracks was designed to promote a theatrical reissue of A Hard Day's Night and resembles the sort of indignity to which Elvis Presley's music had long been subjected. All but one of the songs were previously collected on the Red and Blue albums so even the most casual fan would've had them already (the sole exception being "I Should Have Known Better," which is still far from obscure), and things like "All You Need Is Love" and "Get Back" were appearing on their fourth Beatles LPs. While the music's mostly great, the selections are deeply uninspired and obvious, and the sequencing that follows "Ticket to Ride" with "Magical Mystery Tour" at the end of Side One and such underlines just how arbitrary the endeavor is. (Perhaps noteworthy that the two songs chosen to represent Yellow Submarine are the two on that soundtrack LP that were recycled from earlier in the band's career; none of the four original contributions were good enough for Reel Music!) The only saving graces here are for hardcore collectors: there's a nice color booklet illustrated by lots of stills and lobby cards that competently runs down the Beatles' cinematic history. (Includes a large photo of Ringo, pants fallen, tied to Foot's machine in Help! that undoubtedly created a few scattered fetishists of some sort out in the world.) And the American version of the record uses a rare, otherwise unavailable remix of "I Should Have Known Better" that artificially repairs the harmonica gaffe in the song's canonical stereo mix; but really, when it comes down to it, who cares? Luckily, this was the last of the "themed" compilations.

The Beatles: 20 Greatest Hits (Parlophone/Capitol 1962-70/1982) [r]
The first single-disc Beatles best-of to span their entire career, this is a pleasant collection of their juggernaut singles, though it illustrates the problem of using charts to determine a track listing, and it's been totally forgotten and superseded in the wake of 2000's Beatles 1 CD... though I would argue it's actually a better-looking package than the later release. The British version features all their official UK number-one hits plus "Love Me Do," while the American version starts off with a bang with "She Loves You" and boasts a little more sonic variety thanks to ballads like "Yesterday" and the masterpiece "Penny Lane," which only got to #2 in England. 1 would effectively combine the two versions of the release and obviously gives a more complete picture, plus it isn't forced to use a cut-down five-minute "Hey Jude" like the American vinyl release of this. At any rate, being a non-Beatle-approved creation, it's only especially noteworthy as the answer to some trivia question about why those promo ads for 1 got it wrong when they said there'd never been a one-disc Beatles greatest hits collection before!

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Beatles: 1962-1966 / 1967-1970

(Apple 1973)


No sooner had Allen Klein gained his enviable position as the Beatles' business manager than the band began to disintegrate, in large part because of Paul McCartney's disapproval of his involvement. Upon their official breakup in 1970, Klein was left in control of a dizzying asset -- maybe the most valuable catalog in rock music -- but little opportunity to exploit it, with the former Beatles and Apple's inclination being to concentrate on their respective solo careers. At some point in late 1972, a bootleg compilation of Beatles music called Alpha Omega miraculously managed to take up advertising real estate on TV and radio; it was propagated in flagrant violation of copyright law by the dubiously named label "Audiotape Inc." and was comprised of four records of seemingly randomly selected Beatles and related songs, ranging from "Act Naturally" to "Penny Lane" to "Maybe I'm Amazed," all in something akin to alphabetical order. After filing the obvious lawsuit, Apple evidently saw that the wild success of the $14 package indicated a market already in place for a career-spanning Beatles compilation.

Thus was born the so-called "Red" and "Blue" albums, sold separately with two LPs each, a greatest hits collection of sorts that attempts to weave the complex narrative of the Beatles' seven-plus years in the international spotlight via their singles and other key tracks, assembled in chronological order within a pair of handsome, color-coded packages, complete with lyrics on the inner sleeves. The Beatles' own contributions were limited; George Harrison is said to have had some hand in choosing songs, which is surprising, and John offered up the notion of harnessing the unused Get Back cover photo to provide young Beatles-slightly less young Beatles contrast on the front and back covers. Apart from the ludicrous font on the band's name and album titles, it's all aged very well aesthetically.

As a compilation, the sets certainly serve their purpose; they're a wonderful introduction to the group, and there's no sense equivocating that, and they remain reasonably fun to listen to even for seasoned fans, though both have rather considerable (and annoyingly avoidable) problems that will be apparent to anyone who's a serious follower of the group, as they probably were to everyone who lived through the Beatles' era and had stayed awake through all of it. But hand this much to Klein: this is a notoriously difficult band to "compile," despite the fact that nearly all of their singles were massively successful and the exclusion of many of their hits from LPs would seem to make for a really ideal starting point for an exquisite best-of. Heard today, the subsequent attempts at giving the Beatles the single-disc summary treatment -- 20 Greatest Hits (1982) and Beatles 1 (2000) -- both seem facile, the band's eccentricities sanded down into convenience. It takes a set nearly three times as long to come anywhere close to delivering the goods, and even then you're left contemplating all that's missing.

Adding signature album tracks and a few b-sides to the rundown of the Beatles' singles is, all that said, a noble enough idea. Beatles songs that were buried on LPs in the '60s are as famous as other bands' biggest hits, plus the freewheeling style of the compilation gets around the U.S.-UK divide by incorporating many of the songs that Capitol released as singles sans band approval, like "Nowhere Man," "Eight Days a Week," "Yesterday" and "The Long and Winding Road." It's a solid narrative, and it's also significant as the only time that Apple has succeeded in putting all 26 of the Beatles' official A-sides in one place, which is something that needed to happen in a more concise manner for decades (in mono, which this isn't) and now probably never will, 7" boxed sets aside.

I can certainly attest myself to how formative these two albums can be; I have fond memories of my brother's copy of the Red album that otherwise predate my interest in the Beatles. When I got the pair for Christmas roundabout first grade, it felt like an absolute bounty; I loved studying the songwriting credits and the lyrics, and of course hearing all of these great songs, many of them familiar to me and some of them not; my favorite part was the third and fourth sides of the Red album, unsurprising since Rubber Soul would eventually be one of my favorite albums of all time.

But this brings us to what makes the set rather unbalanced and odd, and I don't know that there exists a satisfactory explanation for what happened here. Just to start with the Red album and its most obvious problem, Rubber Soul is almost comically overrepresented; nearly half of the British version of the LP is included, and while all of the selections are infallible (yeah, even "Michelle," I'm fully grown up now), it marks the first point at which the collection feels vaguely indulgent. I have no objections to screeching the parade of hits to a halt so we can hear John Lennon's psychodramas from his peak year as a composer play out in some of the most sophisticated songs he ever wrote ("In My Life," "Girl," "Norwegian Wood"), but you're left wondering why the rest of the Beatles' albums are almost fully ignored. If you disregard songs that were hits outside the UK, the "deep cuts" included on the Red album are "All My Loving" (a standard, thus an obvious choice) from With the Beatles, "And I Love Her" (ditto, and a ballad to smartly change the pace) from A Hard Day's Night, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (iconic, makes sense) from Help!, and nothing (hits aside) from Please Please Me, Beatles for Sale, or -- and here's where it gets a little egregious -- Revolver. The only two songs from Revolver we get are both sides of the attendant single, "Eleanor Rigby" c/w "Yellow Submarine," which is, given the logical precedent set just beforehand, appalling.

John is my favorite Beatle and this portion of this compilation may have had a hand in that, but it's not difficult to make out that there's some sort of grudge-holding in place here when, apart from "Eleanor Rigby," none of Paul's signature, startling accomplishments from Revolver -- an album as culturally vital, if not as good, as Rubber Soul -- make their way onto this record, which they would certainly improve. And there's definitely time. (The Red album's other great flaw is that it's very, very short; the total runtime is just over an hour, so long enough to require two LPs but short enough to easily fit on CD, but the tracklist and double-disc division was left intact when the album moved to that format. There was talk of preserving the integrity of the original release, which seems daft for a cash-in greatest hits set.)

Things get a little hairier on the Blue album, which makes a better case that the last few years of the '60s found the band in decline than Greil Marcus ever could; comparing the two releases, there's no question which one has stronger material, and it really seems that this impression could be avoided with a few better choices here and there. It starts with the biggest bang possible, the band's absolute peak: "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane," as infallible a moment of impassioned high art as the body of pop music contains. George Martin used to grumble about regretting that those two songs were excluded from Sgt. Pepper, but like their positioning on Capitol's Magical Mystery Tour LP, their inclusion here immediately followed by four selections from Pepper really emphasizes how comparatievly facile that material is, not that it isn't fun or -- in the proper context -- engaging. "A Day in the Life" obviously comes closest but even it is clearly a step down from the single in terms of profundity and beauty, plus it sounds very strange when couched between "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and the inevitable "All You Need Is Love."

Mystery Tour itself is overrepresented; neither the gimmicky title track nor the perfectly fine "The Fool on the Hill" really belong on a best-of, though the compilers are correct to feature "I Am the Walrus." That's one of a rather surprising number of b-sides that make the cut here, although this one, "Revolution" and especially "Don't Let Me Down" are difficult to dispute, all serving to emphasize how frequently Lennon's songs were relegated to the flip in these years. "Old Brown Shoe" feels a little more dubious; to be perfectly honest, it had been so long since I played this record that I was genuinely surprised when it and "The Fool on the Hill" cued up -- they really really feel like oddball choices. (Note also that Klein renders his own American compilation Hey Jude, a mere three years old at this point, almost completely superfluous; only "Rain" and "I Should Have Known Better" fail to appear on either Red or Blue.)

I don't quite know what the right way is to quickly summarize an album as deftly paced and cacophonous with ideas as the White Album, but what I do know is that the three-song token gesture of "Back in the U.S.S.R."-"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"-"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is probably the worst conceivable way to go. Side Four basically constructs itself with the last couple of singles, the last U.S.-only hit ("The Long and Winding Road"), a wisely measured "Here Comes the Sun" and the somewhat bewildering "Octopus's Garden" and "Across the Universe" continuing the broad strangeness of these two sets right up to the end. But these criticisms are, of course, based on a level of knowledge that the target audience of Beatle novices won't have, and even the most offbeat selection here is possessed of a rather innate appeal that has survived the years well, the genuinely touching "Octopus's Garden" included. As a sort of four-disc Tower of Song, this whole enterprise says a great deal about the Beatles' achievement; with no covers whatsoever, it can be heard as a sort of celebration of the band's purity of songcraft. Except for "From Me to You," "Hello, Goodbye" and "All You Need Is Love," no song on either set is less than very good, and there was no getting around those. The records' utility is more dubious for longtime fans, but many will likely retain a certain nostalgia for them, and they remain a good way to run through all of the popular hits with a few enjoyable sidelines. It's the best "greatest hits" compilation of the Beatles we've got, and the best we're ever likely to get. But... you know... I'm sure you don't need to be told this, but get the fucking albums for chrissake.


Mix variations across the Beatles' catalog in the '60s are a wildly confusing topic that it took decades for fans to really get a handle on, and for many, it's all rather arcane and pointless, but in case you do care: American and British versions of these albums were constructed from each country's own extant masters. Then, when the albums were remastered for their 1993 CD release, the mixes were normalized with a few (allegedly) new mixes and edits made. Alterations were made again in 2014 for a further CD remaster (these are the versions on the streaming sites), and finally for an analog vinyl reissue in 2015. The following is a rundown of each of these major releases of these two titles. Don't ask me about cassettes and stuff, I have no idea.

U.S. 1973 vinyl Red Album: Uses the Capitol album mixes of everything, which means that "Love Me Do" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" are duophonic or "fake stereo"; "Please Please Me" and "All My Loving" are Dave Dexter-enhanced stereo mixes from The Early Beatles and Meet the Beatles! respectively; "We Can Work It Out" and "Day Tripper" are the dedicated mixes George Martin made for the U.S. Yesterday and Today album; and "Paperback Writer" is the slightly different stereo mix used on Hey Jude. (This last one is disputed in some quarters.) "Help!" is the canonical stereo mix but someone neglected to lop off the pseudo-James Bond intro from the LP. This was the first U.S. LP release of "From Me to You" besides an obscure Vee Jay album so it uses the UK mix, only with channels inexplicably reversed. Finally, "I Feel Fine" appears in its reverb-drenched American mono single mix, with the stereo one being so muddy even Capitol didn't want to dredge it back up. Canon mixes otherwise.

U.S. 1973 vinyl Blue Album: All canon mixes except "I Am the Walrus" is the odd Capitol-only version with the shorter intro and "Strawberry Fields Forever" is the U.S.-exclusive alternate stereo mix. A new fake stereo mix of "Penny Lane" was made for this compilation, for some reason; and "A Day in the Life" cuts in sharply since it's a segue on Pepper, although the edit comes at a different spot than on the UK release.

UK 1973 vinyl Red Album: All the canon mixes are used except the fake stereo Please Please Me version of "Love Me Do," the fake stereo A Collection of Beatles Oldies version of "She Loves You," a unique version of "I Feel Fine" with whispering sounds at the beginning, and the U.S. stereo mix of "Day Tripper."

UK 1973 vinyl Blue Album: All canon mixes except the U.S. stereo "Strawberry Fields Forever" and a smash cut to the opening of "A Day in the Life" since it segues on the original album.

1993 CD of Red Album: When A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale were first issued as compact discs in 1987, they were both available exclusively in mono; this evidently was partially based on the misapprehension that they were twintrack recordings, although George Martin is on record as wishing to release the entire catalog only in mono. As a result, the songs from those albums that were included on the Red album were issued on CD in stereo for the first time on this compilation, but they were newly remixed (or at least rebalanced). The affected songs are "All My Loving," "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard Day's Night," "And I Love Her," "Eight Days a Week." Some sound identical; some have the vocals centered and employ other minor tweaks. They are not widely considered major mix variations, but they do not appear anywhere else in the band's discography, so some completists may want to hold onto this disc. As is routine for all of Apple's reissues of the catalog, the songs from Help! and Rubber Soul appear in George Martin's 1987 remixed versions; you can read about those on our remixes page.

1993 CD of Blue Album: Finally something simple -- all canon mixes except an upgrade: "A Day in the Life" with its beautiful clean acoustic guitar intro, freed from the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)" fadeout and applause. This was first presented on the Imagine: John Lennon soundtrack in 1988.

2014 CD of Red Album: Reverts to the standard stereo versions of the songs except the Help! and Rubber Soul tracks which, as on the '93 disc, are George Martin's 1987 remixes; also, the first four tracks are all in mono, with "Love Me Do" presented in its LP rather than single version. (No version of the Red Album uses the correct 7" recording with Ringo on drums.)

2014 CD of Blue Album: Identical (in mix, not mastering terms) to the 1993 disc.

2015 remastered vinyl of Red Album: Sean Magee put together all-analog versions of these two albums for rerelase after the acclaim for his work on the stunning boxed set of the mono LPs. This uses the original British album master but makes two key tweaks on the first side, switching in the mono LP version of "Love Me Do" and the mono single of "She Loves You" in lieu of their fake stereo variants.

2015 remastered vinyl of Blue Album: Same as the original UK vinyl, using the same master.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

10th annual List of Lists

I'm alive! And I'm back eight months late with the feature that used to take me a week or two. However, regular posts should be somewhat less sporadic starting now, although still not on the regular timetable with which this blog established its sterling reputation. I have painstakingly crafted new song lists and playlists for two further archival years, 1959 and 1979; have restructured my 2010s decade lists to incorporate material from 2019; and have rebelled against the facts of quarantine life with quick thoughts on the best live shows I have seen.

Obviously I'm missing live shows a lot right now. Where available I linked my attendant blog post; otherwise I said a few words.

1. Yo La Tengo: I've seen them a total of eleven times, counting their experimental soundtrack to a documentary about Buckminster Fuller late last year. It's almost always a transcendent, mind-melting experience, but especially in smaller venues, and particularly my first time seeing them at the Orange Peel in Asheville in 2003, and on a triad of two-night stands at Cat's Cradle (where a large proportion of my favorite live experiences have taken place) in 2007, 2011 and 2018. I love the two-night gigs because you can really feel them settling in, and committing to giving off a different experience at each of the gigs. I can't describe how rewarding it's always been to go back and see them again and I will miss it terribly whenever it (permanently) stops being feasible. But maybe that'll never happen. As long as they're playing I will keep seeing them. I still hold out hope for seeing Condo Fucks and/or a Freewheelin' Yo La Tengo show or maybe even Hanukkah when the pandemic's over and the world is new again.

Unfortunately I only wrote a tiny bit about the first time I saw YLT in 2003, though it's one paragprah that captures my memory of the experience quite well: "The entire thing was made for me by the second song, 'My Heart’s Reflection.' I'd fallen in love with it just a month or so before the show, and then when they played 'Blue Line Swinger' my cool cool facade almost broke entirely. A wonderful set and we will surely see them again." I was nineteen then, which I find unspeakably alarming. But here are my longer posts about seeing them in 2007 (note me obliviously complaining about Mac McCaughan's "hangers-on"), 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018 and (briefly) 2019.

2. The Tallest Man on Earth: Still maybe the most breathtaking single show I've seen, back in 2010 at tiny Gerrard Hall on the UNC campus in 2010, days after he got the then-important "Best New Music" boost from Pitchfork; we'd only paid $5 each for our tickets. Not feeling very verbal at the time of the show (and still suffering from chronic, uncontrolled migraines, including that night), I only said a few words at the time; Amber said a lot more -- with photos that, PhotoBucket bug notwithstanding, give you a good idea of how intimate the show was, at this link.

3. Tune-Yards: At Merrill Garbus' peak in the early part of the last decade it really felt like she was stretching the boundaries of what rock music could be like no one else in recent memory, and I am glad I got to witness this twice with my own eyes; I wrote extensively about her Cat's Cradle gigs that I saw in 2011 (a couple of days after my dad died, so I was very much in need of a life-affirming experience) and again three years later.

4. Joanna Newsom: Durham, NC on March 25th, 2010. One of my favorite people in the world, as you know if you're a regular reader. My records indicate I posted about this somewhere at this blog but I can't figure out where; anyway it was wonderful, she was talkative and it was gorgeous and she played "Baby Birch." An Unforgettable Night.

5. The Walkmen: An actual headlining show by what may have been my favorite active guitar band at the time, at the Cradle in January 2011; I feel lucky to have seen everything listed here (and many things that aren't, like R.E.M. in October 2003 on a night when they were rejoined in the encore by Bill Berry) but this in particular, as they so rarely came our way without opening for some lesser band or another, and I lost an opportunity to see them quite early in their career in '04. Wrote about it here

6. The Mountain Goats: Amber's seen the Goats, her favorites, six times, five with me in tow. I famously heard "No Children" in 2007 and found it absolutely befuddling, and within five years was belting it out joyously in various rooms full of misfits. I wrote about my first time, at Cat's Cradle in 2011, here; my second show of theirs was on an almost unbearably emotional night in an acoustic duo arrangement at the Soapbox in Wilmington, as recounted here. And then we managed three consecutive Decembers: Carolina Theatre 2017, Haw River Ballroom 2018, Haw River Ballroom 2019 (just briefly noted here).

7. Ezra Furman: At Durham's wonderful Pinhook in 2016, we saw balls-out rock & roll from one of its key modern progenitors; it was one of the most sparsely attended shows I've ever seen, but we were given no less ecstatic a performance from Furman and his magnificent band the Boyfriends. Marks the only time we've ever snagged a setlist. More here (this shares an entry with the Charleston YLT show).

8. Cut Copy: A long-running bucket list band ever since I saw some of their live performances online around 2011 or so. The show happened at one of our favorite venues, a converted railway station called the Music Farm in Charleston. Wrote about it here (overlap with one of the Mountain Goats shows).

9. The Soul Brothers/Who's Bad?: From the days when I hung out a lot at a local venue where I later worked as a DJ. Who's Bad was a very competent Michael Jackson tribute band, but the Soul Brothers were an incredible soul revival band who were genuinely terrific live. Here's a ridiculously long post about this night; as you will quickly glean, this occurred at... a very, very different juncture in my life than most of these others.

10. The New Pornographers: 2010, with the full Bejar/Case-inclusive lineup in tow and an absolute dream setlist. Addressed briefly here; I didn't write much about this and I had a horrible headache the entire night but I remember it with great fondness.

11. Sheer Mag: Back to my old ways of having trouble waxing at length about things that aren't movies -- everything feels too singular, too private, too personal these days, even gigs -- I still talked a little about the show here and it's one of the best rock shows I've seen.

12. Kate Tempest: Farthest we've ever driven for a show (and oddly, one of only two I've been to outside the Carolinas, the other being Interpol in Brisbane, Australia in 2008!) because we figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tempest actually came to NC when touring for Everybody Down but we missed it because we were in the middle of relocating. It was a wackadoodle thing to do and one of my favorite things that's happened in the last few years. More about it here.

Eternal gratitude and love to my girlfriend, wife and lifelong concert buddy Amber (who also took this post's header photo).

The second of what will eventually be three passes at this, this one using the list I posted here last summer and adding my favorite records of 2019. The songs list, below, is structured in much the same way.

1. D'Angelo & the Vanguard: Black Messiah (RCA 2014)
2. Joanna Newsom: Have One on Me (Drag City 2010)
3. Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Interscope 2012)
4. Saint Etienne: Words and Music by Saint Etienne (Heavenly 2012)
5. Tune-Yards: w h o k i l l (4AD 2011)
6. Joanna Newsom: Divers (Drag City 2015)
7. Kanye West: Yeezus (Def Jam 2013)
8. SOPHIE: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (Future Classic 2018)
9. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam 2010)
10. Love Is All: Two Thousand and Ten Injuries (Polyvinyl 2010)
11. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City (XL 2013)
12. The Wave Pictures: City Forgiveness (Moshi Moshi 2013)
13. Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy 2010)
14. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic 2012)
15. Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada 2014)
16. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (Columbia 2012)
17. Nicolas Jaar: Sirens (Other People 2016)
18. Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition (Warp 2016)
19. The Walkmen: Lisbon (Fat Possum 2010)
20. Das Racist: Relax (Greedhead 2011)
21. The National: High Violet (4AD 2010)
22. Titus Andronicus: The Monitor (XL 2010)
23. The Wave Pictures: Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon (Moshi Moshi 2015)
24. Ezra Furman: Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union 2015)
25. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop 2015)
26. Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos (Fiction 2016)
27. Anthony Joseph: Caribbean Roots (Heavenly Sweetness 2016)
28. David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia 2016)
29. Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (Sub Pop 2011)
30. Hot Chip: One Life Stand (astralwerks 2010)
31. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (Bad Boy 2018)
32. The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers (Matador 2014)
33. Atlas Sound: Parallax (4AD 2011)
34. Cut Copy: Zonoscope (Modular 2011)
35. Lady Lamb: After (Mom + Pop 2015)
36. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (Barsuk 2019)
37. Twin Shadow: Confess (4AD 2012)
38. Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady (Bad Boy 2013)
39. Yoko Ono: Take Me to the Land of Hell (Chimera 2013)
40. Beyoncé (Columbia 2013)
41. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko (Out Here 2013)
42. Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (4AD 2019)
43. David Bowie: The Next Day (Columbia 2013)
44. Tune-Yards: Nikki Nack (4AD 2014)
45. The Tallest Man on Earth: The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans 2010)
46. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (Merge 2010)
47. Beach House: Bloom (Sub Pop 2012)
48. Pet Shop Boys: Electric (x2 2013)
49. Vampire Weekend: Contra (XL 2010)
50. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (4AD 2010)

I only reconfigured the top portion of this, to preserve some semblance of my sanity; you can probably extraopolate the rest with the ample tools I have given you!!

1. Joanna Newsom "Good Intentions Paving Company" [Have One on Me, 2010]
2. Titus Andronicus "The Battle of Hampton Roads" [The Monitor, 2010]
3. Miguel "Adorn" [Kaleidoscope Dream, 2012]
4. Joanna Newsom "Baby Birch" [Have One on Me, 2010]
5. The Tallest Man on Earth "Love Is All" [The Wild Hunt, 2010]
6. Leonard Cohen "Going Home" [Old Ideas, 2012] / Marianne Faithfull "Going Home" [Give My Love to London, 2014]
7. The Wave Pictures "Slick Black River from the Rain" [A Season in Hull, 2016]
8. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever "Tender Is the Neck" [Talk Tight, 2017]
9. Love Is All "A Side in a Bed" [Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, 2010]
10. Allo Darlin' "History Lessons" [We Come from the Same Place, 2014]
11. The Walkmen "Juveniles" [Lisbon, 2010]
12. Courtney Barnett "Depreston" [Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, 2015]
13. Big Thief "Cattails" [U.F.O.F., 2019]
14. Nicolas Jaar "The Governor" [Sirens, 2016]
15. Robyn "Dancing on My Own" [Body Talk, 2010]
16. Spiritualized "Hey Jane" [Sweet Heart Sweet Light, 2012]
17. Kanye West ft. Rihanna "All of the Lights" [My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010]
18. The Wave Pictures "We Fell Asleep in the Blue Tent" [Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon, 2015]
19. Anthony Joseph "Neckbone" [Caribbean Roots, 2016]
20. Perfume Genius "Hood" [Put Your Back In 2 It, 2012]
21. Twin Shadow "Run My Heart" [Confess, 2012]
22. Tune-Yards "Wait for a Minute" [Nikki Nack, 2014]
23. Frank Ocean "Lost" [Channel Orange, 2012]
24. Suckers "Bricks to the Bones" [Candy Salad, 2012]
25. The National "This Is the Last Time" [Trouble Will Find Me, 2013]
26. Owen Pallett "The Great Elsewhere" [Heartland, 2010]
27. Tune-Yards "Powa" [whokill, 2011]
28. Saint Etienne "Tonight" [Words and Music by Saint Etienne, 2012]
29. Leonard Cohen "Amen" [Old Ideas, 2012]
30. Big Thief "Orange" [U.F.O.F., 2019]
31. The National "Bloodbuzz, Ohio" [High Violet, 2010]
32. D'Angelo "Really Love" [Black Messiah, 2014]
33. N.E.R.D. ft. Rihanna "Lemon" [No One Ever Really Dies, 2017]
34. TV on the Radio "You" [Nine Types of Light, 2011]
35. Kelis "Breakfast" [Food, 2014]
36. Janelle Monae & the Wondaland Arts Society "Hell You Talmbout" [single, 2015] / David Byrne "Hell You Talmbout" [live, 2018]
37. Tune-Yards "Doorstep" [whokill, 2011]
38. Fiona Apple "Anything We Want" [The Idler Wheel..., 2012]
39. Superchunk "This Summer" [single, 2012]
40. Twerps "I Don't Mind" [Range Anxiety, 2015]
41. Susanne Sundfor "Fade Away" [Ten Love Songs, 2015]
42. The New Pornographers "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk" [Together, 2010]
43. Rihanna "Love on the Brain" [ANTI, 2016]
44. Hot Chip "Alley Cats" [One Life Stand, 2010]
45. Ibibio Sound Machine "I Know That You're Thinking About Me" [Doko Mien, 2019]
46. Joanna Newsom "The Things I Say" [Divers, 2015]
47. (Sandy) Alex G "Bobby" [Rocket, 2017]
48. Janelle Monae "Make Me Feel" [Dirty Computer, 2018]
49. Arcade Fire "Sprawl #2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" [The Suburbs, 2010]
50. Chromatics "Kill for Love" [Kill for Love, 2012]
51. Surfer Blood "Anchorage" [Astro Coast, 2010]
52. The Chemical Brothers ft. Beck "Wide Open" [Born in the Echoes, 2015]
53. Charli XCX ft. MØ "Porsche" [Pop 2, 2018]
54. Courtney Barnett "Sunday Roast" [Tell Me How You Really Feel, 2018]
55. Das Racist "Michael Jackson" [Relax, 2011]
56. Girls "Oh So Protective One" [Broken Dreams Club, 2010]
57. Joanna Newsom "Divers" [Divers, 2015]
58. Hot Chip "Take It In" [One Life Stand / We Have Remixes, 2010]
59. Saint Etienne "Over the Border" [Words and Music by Saint Etienne, 2012]
60. Beach House "Norway" [Teen Dream, 2010]
61. Ray BLK "Run Run" [Empress, 2019]
62. Vampire Weekend "Unbelievers" [Modern Vampires of the City, 2013]
63. Kendrick Lamar "untitled 08" [untitled unmastered., 2016]
64. Leonard Cohen "Show Me the Place" [Old Ideas, 2012]
65. Cut Copy "Take Me Over" [Zonoscope, 2011]
66. Black Marble "A Great Design" [A Different Arrangement, 2012]
67. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down "Millionaire" [A Man Alive, 2016]
68. The Mountain Goats "Damn These Vampires" [All Eternals Deck, 2011]
69. Camp Cope "I've Got You" [How to Socialise & Make Friends, 2018]
70. Yoko Ono "7th Floor" [Take Me to the Land of Hell, 2013]
71. Passion Pit "Take a Walk" [Gossamer, 2012]
72. A Tribe Called Quest "We the People" [We Got It from Here, Thank You 4 Your Service, 2016]
73. Yo La Tengo "Ohm" [Fade, 2013]
74. Nicolas Jaar "Three Sides of Nazareth" [Sirens, 2016]
75. Beyonce "Love on Top" [4, 2012]
76. Rhye "The Fall" [Woman, 2013]
77. Colette "When the Music's Loud" [When the Music's Loud, 2013]
78. Titus Andronicus "To Old Friends and New" [The Monitor, 2010]
79. Royal Headache "Carolina" [High, 2015]
80. Chastity Belt "Drone" [Time to Go Home, 2015]
81. Shannon and the Clams "The Boy" [Onion, 2018]
82. Allo Darlin' "Half Heart Necklace" [We Come from the Same Place, 2014]
83. Eleanor Friedberger "He Didn't Mention His Mother" [New View, 2016]
84. Slowdive "No Longer Making Time" [Slowdive, 2017]
85. Big Thief "Not" [Two Hands, 2019]
86. The Walkmen "Lisbon" [Lisbon, 2010]
87. Fiona Apple "Hot Knife" [The Idler Wheel..., 2012]
88. Titus Andronicus "Theme from Cheers" [The Monitor, 2010]
89. Kanye West "Black Skinhead" [Yeezus, 2013]
90. Tierra Whack "Cable Guy" [Whack World, 2018]
91. Deerhunter "Desire Lines" [Halcyon Digest, 2010]
92. The Tallest Man on Earth "Graceland" {Paul Simon cover} [b-side, 2010]
93. Charly Bliss "Young Enough" [Young Enough]
94. Sheer Mag "Nobody's Baby" [III, 2016]
95. Lady Lamb "Penny Licks" [After, 2015]
96. Curren$y "Breakfast" [Pilot Talk, 2010]
97. Ezra Furman "Love You So Bad" [Transangelic Exodus, 2018]
98. Underworld "Nylon Strung" [Barbara Barbara We Face a Shining Futyre, 2016]
99. Kaki King "Sloan Shore" [Junior, 2010]
100. Disclosure ft. London Grammar "Help Me Lose My Mind" [Settle, 2013]
101. The Wave Pictures "Before This Day" [City Forgiveness, 2013]
102. Kelela "All the Way Down" [Hallucinogen, 2015]
103. D'Angelo "Another Life" [Black Messiah, 2014]
104. Chromatics "On the Wall" [Closer to Grey, 2019]
105. Rolling Blackouts C.F. "Read My Mind" [non-LP single, 2019]
106. Tierra Whack "Pet Cemetery" [Whack World, 2018]
107. TV on the Radio "Killer Crane" [Nine Types of Light, 2011]
108. The National "I Need My Girl" [Trouble Will Find Me, 2013]
109. The Wave Pictures "Hazey Moon" [Look Inside Your Heart, 2018]
110. Cat Power "Manhattan" [Sun, 2012]
111. Vince Staples "Big Fish" [Big Fish Theory, 2017]
112. Courtney Barnett "Houses" {Elyse Weinberg cover} [single, 2018]
113. Flock of Dimes "Birthplace" [If You See Me, Say Yes, 2016]
114. Rolling Blackouts C.F. "In the Capital" [non-LP single, 2019]
115. Khalid "8TEEN" [American Teen, 2017]
116. Charly Bliss "Blown to Bits" [Young Enough, 2019]
117. Vampire Weekend "Diplomat's Son" [Contra, 2010]
118. The Julie Ruin "Just My Kind" [Run Fast, 2013]
119. Shura "Touch" [Nothing's Real, 2016]
120. Belle & Sebastian "The Ghost of Rockschool" [Write About Love, 2010]
121. Danny Brown "Really Doe" [Atrocity Exhibition, 2016]
122. Loyle Carner "Loose Ends" [Not Waving, But Drowning]
123. Twin Shadow "When the Movie's Over" [Confess, 2012]
124. Beach House "Bluebird" [Depression Cherry, 2015]
125. Kanye West "Bound 2" [Yeezus, 2013]
126. Horse Feathers "Fit Against the Country" [Cynic's New Year, 2012]
127. Nadine Shah "2016" [Holiday Destination, 2017]
128. Yo La Tengo "Butchie's Tune" {Lovin' Spoonful cover} [Stuff Like That There, 2015]
129. The Wave Pictures "Atlanta" [City Forgiveness, 2013]
130. Vince Staples "Yeah Right" [Big Fish Theory, 2017]
131. The Julie Ruin "Run Fast" [Run Fast, 2013]
132. PAPA "Ain't It So" [A Good Woman Is Hard to Find, 2011]
133. Jay Som "The Bus Song" [Everybody Works, 2017]
134. Vampire Weekend "Diane Young" [Modern Vampires of the City, 2013]
135. Beirut "We Never Lived Here" [Gallipoli]
136. Azealia Banks "212" [single, 2011 / Broke with Expensive Taste, 2014]
137. Vampire Weekend "Run" [Contra, 2010]
138. Beyonce "Party" [4, 2012]
139. The Wave Pictures "Remains" [A Season in Hull, 2016]
140. Leonard Cohen "You Want It Darker" [You Want It Darker, 2016]
141. Cut Copy "Need You Now" [Zonoscope, 2011]
142. Tirzah "Holding On" [Devotion, 2018]
143. Arcade Fire "Half Light 2 (No Celebration)" [The Suburbs, 2010]
144. The Walkmen "Blue as Your Blood" [Lisbon, 2010]
145. Kate Tempest "Tunnel Vision" [Let Them Eat Chaos, 2016]
146. Twin Shadow ft. D'Angelo Lacy "Old Love/New Love" [Eclipse, 2015]
147. Tirzah "Devotion" [Devotion, 2018]
148. Love Is All "Early Warnings" [Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, 2010]
149. Titus Andronicus "Crass Tattoo" [A Productive Cough, 2018]
150. LCD Soundsystem "I Can Change" [This Is Happening, 2010] / Ezra Furman "I Can Change" [Songs by Others, 2016]

1959 SONGS
Brand new list that took weeks. Given that this was past the peak of first-wave rock & roll, there are a shocking number of classics here, even if the center kind of collapses in favor of subgenres like swamp and the burgeoning golden era of soul. Close to forty stone masterpieces at the top, in my opinion, including a few that were new to me.

1. Ray Charles "What'd I Say [parts 1 & 2]" (Atlantic)
2. The Isley Brothers "Shout [parts 1 & 2]" (RCA)
3. Miles Davis "All Blues" (Columbia LP: Kind of Blue)
4. Eddie Cochran "Somethin' Else" (Liberty)
5. Ray Charles "Night Time Is the Right Time" (Atlantic)
6. Dion & the Belmonts "A Teenager in Love" (Laurie)
7. Chuck Berry "Memphis, Tennessee" (Chess)
8. Vince Taylor & His Playboys "Brand New Cadillac" (Parlophone)
9. The Coasters "I'm a Hog for You" (Atco)
10. Cookie & the Cupcakes "Mathilda" (Judd)
11. Dave Brubeck "Take Five" (Columbia LP: Time Out)
12. The Coasters "Poison Ivy" (Atco)
13. Ronnie Hawkins "Mary Lou" (Roulette)
14. Sam Cooke "Only Sixteen" (Keen)
15. Howlin' Wolf "No Place to Go" (Chess LP: Moanin' in the Moonlight)
16. Del Royals "A Bomb Bop" (Demo)
17. Brenda Lee "Sweet Nothin's" (Decca)
18. Buddy Holly "Crying Waiting Hoping" (Coral)
19. Little Richard "Shake a Hand" (Specialty)
20. The Coasters "That Is Rock 'n' Roll" (Atco)
21. Chuck Berry "Back in the U.S.A." (Chess)
22. Big Jay McNeely "There Is Something on Your Mind" (Swingin')
23. The Staple Singers "I'm Leaning" (Vee Jay)
24. Connie Francis "Lipstick on Your Collar" (MGM)
25. Fats Domino "I'm Ready" (Imperial)
26. Barrett Strong "Money" (Tamla)
27. Muddy Waters "She's Into Something" (Chess)
28. Little Willie John "Leave My Kitten Alone" (King)
29. Frankie Ford "Sea Cruise" (Ace)
30. The Falcons "You're So Fine" (Unart)
31. Ruth Brown "I Don't Know" (Atlantic)
32. Hank Ballard & the Midnighters "The Twist" (King)
33. Lloyd Price "Stagger Lee" (ABC-Paramount)
34. The Drifters "There Goes My Baby" (Atlantic)
35. The Staple Singers "Going Away" (Vee Jay)
36. Brenda Lee "Let's Jump the Broomstick" (Decca)
37. Santo and Johnny "Sleep Walk" (Canadian American)
38. Bobby 'Blue' Bland "I'll Take Care of You" (Duke)
39. Ray Charles "I Believe to My Soul" (Atlantic)
40. Marty Robbins "El Paso" (Columbia)
41. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles "I Need a Change" (Chess)
42. Nina Simone "I Loves You, Porgy" (Bethlehem)
43. The Coasters "Charlie Brown" (Atco)
44. LaVern Baker "So High, So Low" (Atlantic)
45. George Jones "White Lightning" (Mercury)
46. Chuck Berry "Little Queenie" (Chess)
47. Little Richard "Baby" (Specialty)
48. The Coasters "Three Cool Cats" (Atco)
49. The Flamingos "I Only Have Eyes for You" (End)
50. Bo Diddley "Crackin' Up" (Checker)
51. Muddy Waters "When I Get to Thinking" (Chess)
52. The Coasters "What About Us" (Atco)
53. John Lee Hooker "Maudie" (Vee Jay)
54. The Drifters "Dance with Me" (Atlantic)
55. Jackie Wilson "I'll Be Satisfied" (Brunswick)
56. The Everly Brothers "('Til) I Kissed You" (Cadence)
57. Johnny Cash "Thanks a Lot" (Sun)
58. Hank Ballard & the Midnighters "Kansas City" (King)
59. Bobby Darin "Dream Lover" (Atco)
60. Chuck Berry "Almost Grown" (Chess)
61. Duane Eddy "The Lonely One" (Jamie)
62. The Clovers "Love Potion No. 9" (United Artists)
63. Ray Charles "I'm Movin' On" (Atlantic)
64. John Lee Hooker "(Miss Sadie Mae) Curl My Baby's Hair" (Fortune)
65. Lloyd Price "I'm Gonna Get Married" (ABC-Paramount)
66. Johnny Kidd & the Pirates "Please Don't Touch" (HMV)
67. Johnny Bell "Flip, Flop and Fly" (Brunswick)
68. Fats Domino "Telling Lies" (Imperial)
69. LaVern Baker "I Waited Too Long" (Atlantic)
70. Muddy Waters "Tell Me Baby" (Chess)
71. Ronnie Allen "Juvenile Delinquent" (San)
72. The Isley Brothers "Respectable" (RCA)
73. The Coasters "Along Came Jones" (Atco)
74. The '5' Royales "I Know It's Hard But It's Fair" (King)
75. Roy Hamilton "I Need Your Lovin'" (Epic)
76. Eugene Church "Miami" (Class)
77. The Rock-A-Teens "Woo-Hoo" (Roulette)
78. The Platters "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Mercury)
79. Howlin' Wolf "The Natchez Burning" (Chess)
80. Phil Phillips "Sea of Love" (Khoury's)
81. Sam Cooke "Everybody Likes to Cha Cha Cha" (Keen)
82. Bing Day "I Can't Help It" (Mercury)
83. Sarah Vaughan "Broken-Hearted Melody" (Mercury)
84. John Lee Hooker "Crawlin' King Snake" (Vee Jay)
85. Frankie Ford "Alimony" (Ace)
86. Jody Reynolds "The Storm" (Demon)
87. Ray Charles "Tell Me How Do You Feel" (Atlantic)
88. Lloyd Price "Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)" (ABC-Paramount)
89. Fats Domino "Be My Guest" (Imperial)
90. Bo Diddley "Say Man" (Checker)
91. Chan Romero "The Hippy Hippy Shake" (Specialty)
92. Little Richard "Kansas City" (Specialty)
93. Homer Denison Jr. "Chickie Run" (Brunswick)
94. J.B. Lenoir "Back Door" (Shad)
95. Johnny Cash "Five Feet High and Rising" (Columbia)
96. Dee Clark "Hey Little Girl" (Abner)
97. Dale Hawkins "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" (Checker)
98. Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs "College Girl" (Selwyn)
99. Buddy Knox "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself" (Roulette)
100. Johnny & the Hurricanes "Red River Rock" (Warwick)
101. Bobby 'Blue' Bland "I'm Not Ashamed" (Duke)
102. James Brown & the Famous Flames "Good Good Lovin'" (Federal)
103. The Dubs "Chapel of Dreams" (Gone)
104. The Fiestas "So Fine" (Old Town)
105. The Fendermen "Mule Skinner Blues" (Cuca)
106. Ray Charles "That's Enough" (Atlantic)
107. Muddy Waters "I Feel So Good" (Chess)
108. Wilbert Harrison "Kansas City" (Fury)
109. Jack Scott "I Never Felt Like This" (Carlton)
110. Jackie Wilson "That's Why (I Love You So)" (Brunswick)
111. Dwain Bell "I'm Gonna Ride" (Summit)
112. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles "I Love Your Baby" (Chess)
113. Jody Reynolds "Beulah Lee" (Demon)
114. Elvis Presley "A Big Hunk o' Love" (RCA)
115. Ricky Nelson "It's Late" (Imperial)
116. Bobby Darin "Mack the Knife" (Atco)
117. Buddy Holly "Peggy Sue Got Married" (Coral)
118. Etta James & Harvey Fuqua "I Hope You're Satisfied" (Chess)
119. The Isley Brothers "I'm Gonna Knock on Your Door" (RCA)
120. Lloyd Price "Personality" (ABC-Paramount)
121. Marv Johnson "Come to Me" (United Artists)
122. Johnny Bachelor "Mumbles" (Era)
123. Ronnie Hawkins "Southern Love" (Roulette)
124. Little Richard "All Night Long" (Specialty)
125. Sandy Nelson "Teen Beat" (Original Sound)
126. Freddy Cannon "Tallahassee Lassie" (Swan)
127. Sam Cooke "One Hour Ahead of the Posse" (Keen)
128. Jivin' Gene "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (Mercury)
129. Eugene Church & the Fellows "Pretty Girls Everywhere" (Class)
130. The Bell Notes "I've Had It" (Time)
131. Darrell Rhodes "Lou Lou" (Winston)
132. Fats Domino "I've Been Around" (Imperial)
133. Ronnie Dawson "Congratulations to Me" (Rockin')
134. Paul Gayten "The Hunch" (Anna)
135. Clyde McPhatter "Since You've Been Gone" (Atlantic)
136. The Drifters "Oh My Love" (Atlantic)
137. The String Kings "The Bash" (Gaity)
138. Billy Lee Riley "Got the Water Boiling" (Sun)
139. Bobby 'Blue' Bland "Is It Real" (Duke)
140. Connie Francis "Among My Souvenirs" (MGM)
141. Johnny Kidd & the Pirates "Growl" (HMV)
142. Eddie Cochran "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" (Liberty)
143. Peggy Lee "Hallelujah, I Love Him So" (Capitol)
144. Tommy Blake "$ F--olding Money $" (Recco)
145. Elvis Presley "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such as I" (RCA)
146. Ray Smith "Rockin' Little Angel" (Judd)
147. Connie Francis "You're Gonna Miss Me" (MGM)
148. Jackie Wilson "Talk That Talk" (Brunswick)
149. Howlin' Wolf "You Gonna Wreck My Life" (Chess)
150. Fats Domino "Margie" (Imperial)
151. Brenda Lee "Weep No More My Baby" (Decca)
152. The Cadillacs "Zoom-Boom-Zing" (Josie)
153. Larry Donn "Honey-Bun" (Vaden)
154. John Lee Hooker "Hobo Blues" (Vee Jay)
155. Sam Cooke "Summertime" (Keen)
156. Howlin' Wolf "Howlin' Blues" (Chess)
157. Little Richard "Lonesome and Blue" (Specialty)
158. Penny Candy "The Rockin' Lady (From New Orleans)" (Flippin')
159. The Fireballs "Torquay" (Top Rank)
160. Eddie Cochran "Little Angel" (Liberty)
161. Clyde McPhatter "You Went Back on Your Word" (Atlantic)
162. Jerry McGill & the Topcoats "Lovestruck" (Sun)
163. Mel Robbins "Save It" (Argo)
164. Freddy Cannon "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" (Swan)
165. Gene & Eunice "Poco Loco" (Case)
166. Andy Anderson "You Shake Me Up" (Apollo)
167. Duane Eddy "Yep!" (Jamie)
168. Johnny Cash "Katy Too" (Sun)
169. Howlin' Wolf "I've Been Abused" (Chess)
170. The Chantels "Goodbye to Love" (End)
171. Lloyd Price "Come into My Heart" (ABC-Paramount)
172. The Impalas "Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home)" (Cub)
173. Duane Eddy "Three-30-Blues" (Jamie)
174. The Everly Brothers "Poor Jenny" (Cadence)
175. John Lee Hooker "I'm in the Mood" (Vee Jay)
176. The Drifters "(If You Cry) True Love, True Love" (Atlantic)
177. Brenda Lee "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home" (Decca)
178. Little Richard "Wonderin'" (Specialty)
179. Eddie Cochran "Boll Weevil Song" (Liberty)
180. Brook Benton "So Many Ways" (Mercury)
181. John Lee Hooker "Tennessee Blues" (Vee Jay)
182. Little Richard "Whole Lotta Shakin'" (Specialty)
183. Preston Epps "Bongo Rock" (Original Sound)
184. Connie Francis "Frankie" (MGM)
185. Ronnie Hawkins "Ruby Baby" (Roulette)
186. Jerry Lee Lewis "Little Queenie" (Sun)
187. LaVern Baker "Tiny Tim" (Atlantic)
188. Duane Eddy "Detour" (Jamie)
189. Howlin' Wolf "I Better Go Now" (Chess)
190. The Staple Singers "Downward Road" (Vee Jay)
191. The Crests "Sixteen Candles" (Lana)
192. Nat 'King' Cole "Midnight Flyer" (Capitol)
193. Bill Parsons "The All American Boy" (Fraternity)
194. James Brown "It Was You" (Federal)
195. Ray Price "Heartaches by the Number" (Columbia)
196. Jim Reeves "He'll Have to Go" (RCA)
197. Chuck Berry "Anthony Boy" (Chess)
198. The Platters "Enchanted" (Mercury)
199. Billy Lee Riley "Down by the Riverside" (Sun)
200. Dave 'Baby' Cortez "The Happy Organ" (Clock)
201. Billy Eldridge "Let's Go Baby" (Vulco)
202. Eddie Cochran "Teenage Heaven" (Liberty)
203. Ricky Nelson "Never Be Anyone Else But You" (Imperial)
204. Johnny & the Hurricanes "Reveille Rock" (Warwick)
205. The Genies "Who's That Knocking" (Shad)
206. Sammy Turner "Always" (Bigtop)
207. The Everly Brothers "Take a Message to Mary" (Cadence)
208. Chubby Checker "The Class" (Parkway)
209. Bobby Freeman "Do You Want to Dance?" (Josie)
210. Gene Vincent "Summertime" (Capitol)
211. Little Richard "Troubles of the World" (End)

1979 SONGS
This was the hardest I've ever worked on one of these archival lists; this happens to come at the tail end of, along with the mid-1950s, one of my favorite periods of popular music, and there are so many strands to investigate: disco, punk, new wave, R&B/soul and the mainstream pop stuff. And each of those quadrants comes with multiple layers to uncover. I ended up hearing a lot of absolute dogshit for this but I also found some out-of-the-way DIY singles I'd never have discovered otherwise, some extraordinary dance music I missed and even some familiar stuff I never properly considered. It was an insane amount of work for something that very few people are ever likely to look at, but it was a great experience... and one I'm very, very glad to have finished! But good fucking night, what a wild cross section of stuff was hitting its peak around this time. Even power pop! The proper beginnings of hip hop! It just keeps going.

My rules for song lists in this period allow one song per album unless the song in question was also a single. A loophole, in other words, but one that I think is warranted by the material

1. Michael Jackson "Rock with You" [Off the Wall + single]
2. Michael Jackson "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" [Off the Wall + single]
3. Patti Smith "Dancing Barefoot" [Wave + single]
4. The Records "Starry Eyes" [Shades in Bed + single]
5. The B-52's "Dance This Mess Around" [The B-52's + single]
6. Donna Summer "Dim All the Lights" [Bad Girls + single]
7. The Clash "Lost in the Supermarket" [London Calling]
8. Sugarhill Gang "Rapper's Delight" [Sugarhill Gang]
9. Wire "Map Ref. 41 N 93 W" [154 + single]
10. Donna Summer "Hot Stuff" [Bad Girls + single]
11. Donna Summer "Bad Girls" [Bad Girls + single]
12. The B-52's "Planet Claire" [The B-52's + single]
13. Talking Heads "Heaven" [Fear of Music]
14. The Clash "Train in Vain" [London Calling + single]
15. Gang of Four "Natural's Not in It" [Entertainment!]
16. The Jam "Thick as Thieves" [Setting Sons]
17. The Only Ones "Out There in the Night" [Even Serpents Shine]
18. Joy Division "She's Lost Control" [Unknown Pleasures]
19. Blondie "Dreaming" [Eat to the Beat + single]
20. Funkadelic "(Not Just) Knee Deep" [Uncle Jam Wants You]
21. The B-52's "52 Girls" [s/t]
22. David Bowie "Look Back in Anger" [Lodger + single]
23. Talking Heads "Cities" [Fear of Music + single]
24. Prince "I Wanna Be Your Lover" [Prince + single]
25. Joy Division "Transmission" [Factory 12"]
26. The B-52's "Rock Lobster" [The B-52's + single]
27. Bee Gees "Love You Inside Out" [Spirits Having Flown + single]
28. Blondie "Die Young Stay Pretty" [Eat to the Beat]
29. The [English] Beat "Tears of a Clown" {Miracles cover} [I Just Can't Stop It (1980) + single]
30. Chic "I Want Your Love" [C'est Chic]
31. The Police "Walking on the Moon" [Reggatta de Blanc + single]
32. Neil Young "Powderfinger" [Rust Never Sleeps]
33. Prince "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" [Prince + single]
34. Wire "On Returning" [154]
35. Anita Ward "Ring My Bell" [TK 12"]
36. Chic "Good Times" [Risque + single]
37. The Clash "I Fought the Law" {Bobby Fuller Four cover} [The Cost of Living EP + single]
38. The Police "The Bed's Too Big Without You" [Reggatta de Blanc + single]
39. Buzzcocks "You Say You Don't Love Me" [A Different Kind of Tension]
40. Buzzcocks "Why Can't I Touch It?" [b-side]
41. Blondie "Atomic" [Eat to the Beat + single]
42. Amii Stewart "Knock on Wood" {Eddie Floyd cover} [Knock on Wood]
43. Shalamar "Take That to the Bank" [Disco Gardens]
44. X "I Don't Wanna Go Out" [Aspirations (1980)]
45. The Slits "Typical Girls" [Cut]
46. The Spinners "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl" {Four Seasons cover} [Dancin' and Lovin']
47. David Bowie "DJ" [Lodger + single]
48. Prince "I Feel for You" [Prince]
49. The Pretenders "Brass in Pocket" [Pretenders]
50. The Cure "Boys Don't Cry" [Boys Don't Cry + single]
51. Fleetwood Mac "Tusk" [Tusk + single]
52. The Isley Brothers "I Wanna Be with You, pts. 1 & 2" [Winner Takes All]
53. Gary Numan "Cars" [The Pleasure Principle]
54. Parliament "Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)" [Casablanca 12"]
55. Gloria Gaynor "Anybody Wanna Party?" [Love Tracks]
56. The Police "Message in a Bottle" [Reggatta de Blanc + single]
57. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark "Electricity" [OMD (1980)]
58. James Brown "It's Too Funky in Here" [The Original Disco Man]
59. The Clash "London Calling" [London Calling + single]
60. The Jacksons "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" [Destiny]
61. Delta 5 "Mind Your Own Business" [Rough Trade 7"]
62. Buzzcocks "Harmony in My Head" [United Artists 7"]
63. XTC "Making Plans for Nigel" [Drums and Wires + single]
64. The Police "Bring on the Night" [Reggatta de Blanc]
65. Leonard Cohen "Humbled in Love" [Recent Songs]
66. Gary Numan "Complex" [The Pleasure Principle + single]
67. Gang of Four "At Home He's a Tourist" [Entertainment! + single]
68. Dennis Wilson "He's a Bum" [unreleased; Pacific Ocean Blue deluxe (2006)]
69. The Clash "Gates of the West" [The Cost of Living]
70. Switch "I Call Your Name" [Switch II + single]
71. The Crusaders "Street Life" [Street Life]
72. Mass Production "Firecracker" [In the Purest Form]
73. Fleetwood Mac "I Know I'm Not Wrong" [Tusk]
74. The Younger Generation "We Rap More Mellow" [Brass 12"]
75. Michael Jackson "I Can't Help It" [Off the Wall]
76. Donna Summer "On the Radio" [On the Radio: Greatest Hits]
77. Fleetwood Mac "Sara" [Tusk + single]
78. The Jam "When You're Young" [Setting Sons + single]
79. The Go-Betweens "People Say" [Able 7"]
80. The Bar-Kays "Move Your Boogie Body" [Injoy]
81. Talking Heads "I Zimbra" [Fear of Music + single]
82. The Clash "Pressure Drop" {Toots & the Maytals cover} [b-side/Black Market Clash]
83. Roxy Music "Dance Away" [Manifesto]
84. Talking Heads "Life During Wartime" [Fear of Music + single]
85. M "Pop Muzik" [New York + London + Paris + Munich]
86. Tubeway Army "Me, I Disconnect from You" [Replicas]
87. David Bowie "Red Sails" [Lodger]
88. XTC "When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty" [Drums and Wires]
89. Fatal Microbes "Violence Grows" [Small Wonder 7"]
90. Gary's Gang "Keep on Dancin'" [Columbia 7"]
91. Peter Brown "Crank It Up" [Stargazer]
92. Thelma Houston "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" [Ready to Roll]
93. Joy Division "Novelty" [b-side]
94. Cerrone "Give Me Love" [Supernature (1977)]
95. Tubeway Army "Are 'Friends' Electric?" [Replicas]
96. The Beat "Ranking Full Stop" [I Just Can't Stop It (1980) + single]
97. Buzzcocks "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" [United Artists 7"]
98. Urinals "Black Hole" [Another EP]
99. Sham 69 "Questions and Answers" [Polydor 7"]
100. Tyrone Davis "In the Mood" [In the Mood with Tyrone Davis]
101. Stevie Wonder "Send One Your Love" [Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants + single]
102. The Specials "Nite Klub" [The Specials]
103. Lene Lovich "Lucky Number" [Stateless]
104. Bootsy's Rubber Band "Jam Fan (Hot)" [This Boot is Made for Fonk-N]
105. Sister Sledge "He's the Greatest Dancer" [We Are Family + single]
106. McFadden & Whitehead "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" [McFadden & Whitehead]
107. Killing Joke "Turn to Red" [Malicious Damage 7"]
108. The Stranglers "(Don't Bring) Harry" [The Raven + single]
109. Ashford & Simpson "Found a Cure" [Stay Free]
110. The Undertones "Get Over You" [s/t + single]
111. The Raincoats "Fairtytale in the Supermarket" [s/t]
112. Peaches & Herb "Reunited" [2 Hot (1978)]
113. Edwin Starr "Contact" [Clean]
114. Sister Sledge "We Are Family" [We Are Family + single]
115. The Specials "Gangsters" [Specials + single]
116. Eruption "One Way Ticket" [Leave a Light]
117. The Only Ones "You've Got to Pay" [Even Serpents Shine + single]
118. Pere Ubu "Small Was Fast" [New Picnic Time]
119. Gary Numan "Engineers" [The Pleasure Principle]
120. Michael Jackson "She's Out of My Life" [Off the Wall + single]
121. Bee Gees "Tragedy" [Spirits Having Flown + single]
122. The Meanies "Waiting for You" [Vendetta 7"]
123. The Donkeys "What I Want" [Rhesus 7"]
124. Alternative TV "The Force Is Blind" [Deptford Fun City 7"]
125. The Clash "Armagideon Time" {Willie Williams cover} [b-side/Black Market Clash]
126. The Selecter "On My Radio" [2 Tone 7"]
127. TNT "Zuri Brannt" [Voxpop 7"]
128. Monitor "Beak" [World Imitation 12"]
129. The Government "Flat Tire" [33 1/3 EP]
130. The Damned "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" [Machine Gun Etiquette + single]
131. Mi-Sex "Computer Games" [CBS 7"]
132. Maze "Feel That You're Feelin'" [Inspiration]
133. Penetration "Come into the Open" [Virgin 7"]
134. Algebra Mothers "Strawberry Cheesecake" [Aftertaste 7"]
135. Minny Pops "Footsteps" [Plurex 7"]
136. XTC "Life Begins at the Hop" [Virgin 7"]
137. Wings "Goodnight Tonight" [Columbia 12"]
138. Madness "The Prince" [One Step Beyond... + single]
139. Bauhaus "Bela Lugosi's Dead" [Small Wonder 7"]
140. Chic "My Forbidden Lover" [Risque + single]
141. The Jam "Smithers-Jones" [Setting Sons + single]
142. The Adverts "My Place" [Cast of Thousands]
143. The Barracudas "I Want My Woody Back" [Cells 7"]
144. The Ruts "Something That I Said" [Virgin 7"]
145. The Stranglers "Duchess" [The Raven + single]
146. Disturbed "I Don't Believe" [Parole 7"]
147. Angelic Upstarts "I'm an Upstart" [Teenage Warning]
148. Buzzcocks "Something's Gone Wrong Again" [b-side]
149. The Damned "Love Song" [Machine Gun Etiquette + single]
150. Nervebreakers "Hijack the Radio" [Wild Child 7"]
151. The Buggles "Video Killed the Radio Star" [The Age of Plastic]
152. ABBA "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midniht)" [Greatest Hits Vol. 2]
153. Uncle Louie "Full Tilt Boogie" [Uncle Louie's Here]
154. Diana Ross "The Boss" [The Boss]
155. Sid Vicious/the Sex Pistols "Something Else" {Eddie Cochran cover} [The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle]
156. Cabaret Voltaire "Nag, Nag, Nag" [Rough Trade 7"]
157. The Damned "Smash It Up, pts. 1 & 2" [Machine Gun Etiquette + single]
158. The O'Jays "Sing a Happy Song" [Identify Yourself]
159. Patrice Rushen "Hang It Up" [Patrice (1978)]
160. Mother's Ruin "Godzilla" [Godzilla EP]
161. G.Q. "Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)" [Disco Nights + single]
162. The Only Ones "Trouble in the World" [CBS 7"]
163. Fleetwood Mac "Think About Me" [Tusk + single]
164. Van Morrison "Troubadors" [Into the Music]
165. Pere Ubu "The Fabulous Sequel" [New Picnic Time + single]
166. The Jam "The Eton Rifles" [Setting Sons + single]
167. Ian Dury & the Blockheads "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3" [Stiff 12"]
168. Blackouts "The Underpass" [528 Seconds 7"]
169. Public Image Ltd. "Memories" [Metal Box + single]
170. Donna Summer "Heaven Knows" [Live and More]
171. Cheryl Lynn "Star Love" [s/t]
172. The Scabs "Leave Me Alone" [The Scabs EP]
173. The Cure "Jumping Someone Else's Train" [Boys Don't Cry + single]
174. Cockney Rejects "I'm Not a Fool" [EMI 7"]
175. The Flying Lizards "Money" {Barrett Strong cover} [s/t]
176. Evelyn 'Champagne' King "Music Box" [Music Box]
177. Phyllis Hyman "You Know How to Love Me" [You Know How to Love Me]
178. Rick James "High on Your Love Suite" [Bustin' Out of L Seven]
179. The Village People "Go West" [Go West + single]
180. The Atlantics "One Last Night" [Big City Rock]
181. Chinas Comidas "Snaps" [Exquisite Corpse 7"]
182. The Adicts "Easy Way Out" [Lunch with the Adicts EP]
183. The Gap Band "Open Up Your Mind (Wide)" [s/t]
184. Pleasure "Glide" [Future Now]
185. Joe Simon "Love Vibration" [Love Vibrations]
186. 999 "Homicide" [Separates]
187. The Daze "I Wanna Be a Star" [Motor City Rhythm 7"]
188. The Manikins "Premonition" [s/t]
189. The Simpletones "California" [Posh Boy 7"]
190. Siouxsie and the Banshees "Playground Twist" [Join Hands]
191. Smokey Robinson "Cruisin'" [Where There's Smoke...]
192. G.Q. "I Do Love You" [Disco Nights + single]
193. The Undertones "You've Got My Number" [Sire 7"]
194. Instant Funk "I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It)" [s/t]
195. The Stranglers "Nuclear Device" [The Raven + single]
196. Dead Kennedys "California Über Alles" [Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables]
197. Misspent Youth "Betcha Won't Dance" [Big Bear 7"]
198. The Leather Nun "Slow Death" [Slow Death EP]
199. The Pop Group "She Is Beyond Good and Evil" [Y]
200. Chrome "Half Machine Lip Moves" [Half Machine Lip Moves]
201. Michael Jackson "Off the Wall" [Off the Wall + single]
202. Kleenex "You" [Rough Trade 7"]
203. Switch "Best Beat in Town" [Switch II + single]
204. Herb Alpert "Rise" [Rise]
205. Skams "Konfirmationen" [Konfirmationen EP]
206. Rick James "Love Gun" [Fire It Up]
207. David Bowie "Boys Keep Swinging" [Lodger + single]
208. The Searchers "Don't Hang On" [The Searchers]
209. The Weirdos "Happy People" [Who? What? When? Where? Why?]
210. Psykik Volts "Totally Useless" [Ellie Jay 7"]
211. The Specials "A Message to You Rudy" [The Specials + single]
212. The Cars "Let's Go" [Candy-O + single]
213. Average White Band "Stop the Rain" [Feel No Fret]
214. Sema 4 "Even If I Know" [4 from Sema 4]
215. The Undertones "Here Comes the Summer" [s/t + single]
216. Sham 69 "Hersham Boys" [Polydor 7"]
217. Luxury "Green Hearts" [Angry Young 7"]
218. The Searchers "It's Too Late" [The Searchers + single]
219. Ohio Players "Everybody Up" [Everybody Up]
220. Neil Young "Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)" [Rust Never Sleeps + single]
221. The Staple Singers "Chica Boom" [Unlock Your Mind (1978)]
222. Leonard Cohen "The Guests" [Recent Songs + single]
223. The Hoax "Oh Darling" [Only the Blind Can See in the Dark EP]
224. Newtown Neurotics "Hypocrite" [No Wonder 7"]
225. Mekons "Work All Week" [Virgin 7"]
226. Nicolette Larson "Lotta Love" {Neil Young cover} [Nicolette (1978)]
227. Terminal Mind "I Want to Die Young" [I Want to Die Young EP]
228. The Ramones "Rock 'n' Roll High School" [Rock 'n' Roll High School OST]
229. The Rude Kids "Absolute Ruler" [Safe Society]
230. Isaac Hayes "Don't Let Go" [Don't Let Go]
231. Siouxsie and the Banshees "The Staircase (Mystery)" [Polydor 7"]
232. Hot Chocolate "Going Through the Motions" [Going Through the Motions + single]
233. James Brown "For Goodness Sakes, Look at Those Cakes (Parts 1 & 2)" [Take a Look at Those Cakes]
234. Augustus Pablo "Cassava Piece" [Hot Stuff 7"]
235. The Clash "Groovy Times" [The Cost of Living + single]
236. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious 5 "Flash to the Beat" [Sugar Hill 12"]
237. Art Garfunkel "Bright Eyes" [Watership Down OST]
238. The Tapes "You Can't Just Sleep" [You Can't Just Sleep]
239. Earth, Wind & Fire "Boogie Wonderland" [I Am]
240. Natalie Cole "Stand By" [I Love You So]
241. The Dickies "Banana Splits (Tra La La Song)" [A&M 7"]
242. Public Image Ltd. "Death Disco" [Metal Box + single]
243. Village People "In the Navy" [Go West + single]
244. George Harrison "Not Guilty" [George Harrison]
245. Stevie Wonder "Voyage to India" [Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants]
246. Dennis Wilson "All Alone" [unreleased; Endless Harmony (1998)]
247. Hot Chocolate "Mindless Boogie" [Going Through the Motions + single]
248. GG Allin "Bored to Death" [Always Was, Is And Always Shall Be]
249. Crap Detectors "Police State" [Real 7"]
250. Madness "One Step Beyond" [One Step Beyond... + single]
The Lines "On the Air" [Red 7"]
Curtiss A "I Don't Wanna Be President" [Twin/Tone 7"]
War "Good Good Feelin'" [The Music Band]
The Boys Next Door "Shivers" [Door, Door]
The Jam "Strange Town" [Polydor 7"]
The Records "Girls That Don't Exist" [Shades in Bed]
The Beach Boys "Baby Blue" [L.A. (Light Album)]
Chrome "TV as Eyes" [Half Machine Lip Moves]
999 "Found Out Too Late" [The Biggest Prize in Sport]
Model Mania "No Pride Slow Suicide" [Boob 7"]
Chinas Comidas "Peasant/Slave" [Exquisite Corpse 7"]]
The Searchers "Hearts in Her Eyes" [The Searchers + single]
Kleenex "Ain't You" [Liliput]
The Dark "My Friends" [Fresh 7"]
Kurtis Blow "Christmas Rappin'" [Mercury 12"]
20/20 "Yellow Pills" [s/t]
The Cars "Got a Lot on My Head" [Candy-O]
Tammy Wynette "They Call It Makin' Love" [Just Tammy]
Misfits "Night of the Living Dead" [Night of the Living Dead EP]
Allan Ladds "13 ar" [s/r 7"]
The Beat [U.S.] "Work-a-Day World" [The Beat]


So what's next? I've got some serious catching up to do and one gargantuan task still ahead of me is to tackle the Beatles' Nagra tapes so I can put that massive project to bed at last; the next several posts here will be Beatle-related housecleaning leading us up to a numeric milestone, and then, I freaking promise, some good old-fashioned Content and even some reviews of, gasp, new music!! I'll get to work as quickly as I can because I think once the content mill is well-oiled again this blog will actually return to being semi-interesting. Or maybe not! We'll see won't we!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Leonard Cohen: The Future (1992)


!!! A+ RECORDING !!!

The news of Leonard Cohen's death in 2016 broke one day after Donald Trump's election to the United States presidency; however, his life had actually ended three days earlier. Cohen breathed his last unaware that fascism was coming to power in his adopted country -- or perhaps it's just as likely that he knew it was going to happen before any of the rest of us did. The following Saturday, the wheezing Baby Boomer relic that was NBC's zombie sketch comedy Saturday Night Live -- which had embraced Trump as a guest host one year prior but now feigned outrage at his empowerment -- opened with Kate McKinnon, dressed up in her signature role as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, incongruously singing Cohen's "Hallelujah" at a piano, intended apparently simultaneously as a tribute to Cohen and an uninquisitive requiem for the failures of the Clinton campaign. "I'm not giving up," she announced at the end, "and neither should you." Giving up what, one wondered, along with what degree of good fortune gave her the option to make that decision.

"Hallelujah" is a song from Cohen's 1984 album Various Positions that he never really recorded properly apart from some fine live performances; it became more famous (and more publicly palatable) in reverent covers by a wide range of sullen singer-songwriters ranging from John Cale to Rufus Wainwright to Jeff Buckley, enhancing its simplistic beauty while robbing it of Cohen's swagger, and ultimately became Cohen's signature track, replacing his debut single "Suzanne" as the one song of his that people broadly tended to be familiar with. If SNL's producers had really wanted to tip their hats to Cohen and give a taste of his worldview while coalescing with a snapshot of a nation and world that now sat on some incomprehensible precipice, they might well have had McKinnon take to the bench to croon "The Future" instead.

Whereas "Hallelujah," at least in the more familiar versions, traffics in biblical imagery and the not uncommon Cohen ideal of passionate trembling before beauty -- though not absent of wit or cynicism, it is a song of reverence -- "The Future" is a song about the world crumbling, a prophecy in which the singer is so traumatized by what he has seen laying ahead ("I've seen the future, baby, it is murder") that he pleads the universe for a return to what we once thought were catastrophes and tragedies (from the crack epidemic to the Berlin Wall) because "things are gonna slide in all directions" and soon, there "won't be nothing you can measure anymore." Though not dissimilar in affect from the pessimism exhibited in 1988's "Everybody Knows," which similarly forecast a surveillance state and a class aware that the end was nigh and intending to ignore it, "The Future" feels less paranoid, more directly angry, more matter-of-fact. Like a coolheaded Johnny Rotten, Cohen locks into a groove and runs down the chaos, madness and genocide of the years to come: pestilence, misery, systemized warfare, the dominance of the sneering, a world on fire, Charles Manson as artistic influence, white men dancing, and all traces of organic life sucked into a black hole, beauty and truth along with them -- the only survivors the cockroaches, human and non, who will use what's left to act out de Sade.

It sounds like a news report from a couple of years from now, and Cohen felt comfortable not hedging his bets because he was aware that the things clarified by the Vietnam War, deregulation, fundamentalism made his visions all but inevitable. It's likely that the song's prescience will outlive all of us. (In fact, if people keep going to the fucking park in the middle of a goddamn pandemic, it almost certainly will.) So imagine, for a moment, McKinnon taking to the airwaves on November 11th, 2016 on a live feed -- a less meaningful action than it was a few decades ago, but at least she'd be knocking a few comfortably aging marrieds onto their fainting couches -- and spitting this out, actually confronting the reality of what Donald Trump's election represented but did not originate, and then crying out "live from New York, it's Saturday night." Would it have been a revolutionary gesture? Of course not. We're fucked no matter what our "satirists" say on the TV. But it would have been something more than a comforting lie, and it would have been perceptive and challenging and deliriously funny, and would have made Cohen (himself sick to death of "Hallelujah" by 2009) smile from beyond; it would also have been the only actually meaningful response. Anything else, like what actually happened on the air, is pablum from airheads.

If Cohen had never recorded another album, as was perhaps intended at the time, The Future could well have stood as his final and most lingering statement: the articulation of an entire worldview in all its inherent contradictions, each facet confronted with a full and unwavering focus. This thorny and uncompromising record that was released when he was 58, over twenty years after the beginning of his career as a folk singer, will conspicuously dominate any list of his greatest achievements in songwriting. In a discography with multiple peaks, it is the peak, the one in which his every whim is so inspired and his instincts serve him so well that it nearly feels criminal he can sound so relaxed about it all.

It is not merely on "The Future" itself that he confronts the dread of reality, the doom of the forthcoming, but on "Waiting for the Miracle" -- his most convincing electronic groove slow-burn aside from "Everybody Knows" -- and "Closing Time," both among his most extraordinary songs, he somehow manages to find a way to greet and embrace inevitability as a glorious counterpart to life itself. "Miracle" is seduced by a latter-day love affair with a mixture of gratitude and resignation, with no ecstatic promise beyond the experience of a shared decline, in which Cohen spots a distinct kind of lustful dignity: "we've been alone to long / let's be alone together / let's see if we're that strong." Apocalypse still hangs over it all; he shares no expectations of joy, but finds something that merits survival. Thriving amid unyielding disaster is also the theme of "Closing Time," which could well be Cohen's most evocative lyric of all; it is certainly the prime example of song in which he has a great deal to say and uses every possible moment to do so, never wasting a single word. In the manner of the greatest poets the lyrics create their own music, to which he seems to respond almost incidentally:

So we struggle and we stagger
Down the snakes and up the ladder
To the tower where the blessed hours chime
And I swear it happened just like this:
A sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
The gates of love, they budged an inch
I can't say much has happened since
But closing time

Cohen's singing, aged and more ragged even than on I'm Your Man, the album on which he finally shed his old troubador voice once and for all, and frankly more so than on his work within the first several years of his 2000s comeback, welds itself to this melody and lyric. There are several points on this album, the title cut included, when he seems like never before to be enjoying the all but unrelated rhythms and tin-can grooves surrounding him, leaning into his hipster old-man persona a bit in a way that's both indulgent and earned, therefore totally forgivable and charming. That sudden subservience to even heavily processed and artificial music, much (but not all) of it played by other people, marks the final phase of Cohen's transition from a traditional singer-songwriter format, a changeover that began with Death of a Ladies Man and had almost taken complete hold with Various Positions... but which here, at last, he seems to fully and unabashedly embrace. One assumes that's the reason the album contains a cover -- for the first time on a studio LP (discarding Cohen's arrangement of "The Lost Canadian" on Recent Songs) since "The Partisan" in 1971; and not even just one cover, but two -- and is the only Cohen record to contain an instrumental, his own ambient piece "Tacoma Trailer."

It's also why it's significant when Cohen clearly feels so strongly about the words to "Closing Time" that he seems, at a few points in the song, to be completely overtaken with passion, thoroughly destroying the apathy with which he began the evening and laying down some of the most moving vocals of his career while audibly straining (and succeeding) to overwhelm the very acquired-taste canned country sound that surrounds his words and music. Listen to his voice on the lines "there's a voice that sounds like God to me," or "we're lonely, we're romantic," or the song's thesis statement, "I lift my glass to the awful truth / which you can't reveal to the ears of youth / except to say it isn't worth a dime." Though he's drowned out by the female chorus just afterward, the lyrics that follow those lines are among the most irresistibly rendered in the catalog:

And the whole damn place goes crazy twice
And it's once for the devil and it's once for Christ
But the boss don't like these dizzy heights
We're busted in the blinding lights
Of closing time

It's no controversial statement that Cohen is among the few performers in the rock or pop or folk idioms who can make you swoon or completely thrill you with a masterful turn of phrase, the way Cole Porter or Irving Berlin once did. The clear contemporary analogue is Bob Dylan, but during this period when Dylan wasn't writing much of anything, Cohen was at some sort of zenith as a writer and lyricist. No one else would conjure up a stanza like "it's coming from the sorrow in the street, the holy places where the races meet / from the homicidal bitching that goes down in every kitchen / to determine who will serve and who will eat." That's from the album's most sharply satiric song "Democracy," the deadpan-sarcastic flipside to "The Future"'s snarling fatalism, which catalogs the emptiness of political transformation in a country with as dark a past as the United States, democracy rising up "from the fires of the homeless, from the ashes of the gay." In all the song's flagrant Churchill-quoting heralding of a new age, one could mistake it for a sincere bow to the hope of upheaval in the 1992 elections, but for the last verse wherein -- again prophetically -- he lays out the situation in which all of us are truly and forever stuck:

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
That time cannot decay
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
This little wild bouquet

Yet casting this as an album -- or a career -- that is about lyrics would be short-sighted. The thinness of the production on Cohen's albums of this period, which made them sound slick and anonymous at the time, terribly dated a few years later and now impenetrably cool yet locked in fleeting style, is beside the point not just because the words and ideas are masterful but because the melodies, the singing, the performances are. Cohen does much more than just deliver the songs like some Brill Building demo artist, which unfortunately is more or less his legacy in some quarters. (But then, the same is true of Dylan; how many people have tried to tell you he's no singer?) The range of emotions on I'm Your Man was already extraordinary, romantic or broken as often as confidently mysterious, but it deepens across the spectrum here. Cohen was in a fresh relationship during the writing of the album, and this sparks an embrace of sensuality that remains infectious all these years later. His own composition "Light as the Breeze" is his most relaxed and wise celebration of the flesh, while he finds a considerable undercurrent of romance and carnality in his lovely version of Marlena Shaw's "Be for Real" (written by Frederick Knight, thanked by name in the recording itself) and an astoundingly funky breakdown of Irving Berlin's "Always." (On that last performance, the microphones for the backup singers are left on and mixed at full volume throughout, so that the listener can be privy to their firsthand responses to Cohen's vocals.) Even "Waiting for the Miracle," for all its shrouding of darkness, possesses a slinky and impressively bottom-heavy groove that addicts and remains welcome for seven full minutes.

All the love and sex that colors this experience of course is an intentional counterpoint to the bleakness that pervades The Future, but neither matter tempers the other, nor is it meant to. When he announces on "Closing Time" that "the awful truth" is nothing finally worth uncovering, it is a resignation that feels like a celebration, the same kind of contradiction as "looks like freedom but it feels like death." Cohen is acknowledging the misdirection and folly of being young while suggesting it constitutes a cycle of inevitability whose crushing disappointments are worth experiencing as much as bemoaning. In "The Future," his pronouncement that "love's the only engine of survival" is a plea for sanity at the same time that it's a retreat, a back turned deliberately toward a world in chaos; perhaps he meant the line as a statement that love could conceivably incite redemption for the doomed and miserable, but its more pertinent application seems to be in the quest is to subsume and preoccupy oneself with matters like those in "Always" and the abandon that's lifting the whole bar off the ground in "Closing Time."

In these ways the record feels exactly like the rebuke of modernism and civilization it would ultimately turn into, whether it was consciously intended as such at the time or not. The begrudging optimism on "Anthem," the album's most reverently beautiful and hopeful song, is of course a balm after a fashion; it's comforted so many since its release with its hymn-like chorus reminding us that "there is a crack in everything / that's how the light gets in." But just as much of the song feels like the final parting shot of someone who has realized the cycle to which we have surrendered ourselves offers no conceivable escape, or as Cohen put it two decades earlier, "carries no survivors." The holy dove "is never free," he now tells us, and he lends censure to "that lawless crowd" and "the killers in high places [who] say their prayers out loud." It is a statement less, finally, of faith than one of clarity, because like the "Democracy" narrator who doesn't leave home on election night, it's a suggestion that our destiny, regardless of what we conceive of as our power, is in the hands of those with no interest in our continued existence. The crack won't expand; it's just all we really have to look for. In Cohen's eyes we are all Kenji Mizoguchi's aged concubine in The Life of Oharu whose life is a cascading procession of tragedies, rejections and losses: as the planet goes up in flames around us, the only path is detachment: a true merging with the darkness.

When we say "detachment" here it means more than just sounding cool while singing about the 1992 post-Rodney King riots; it means a oneness with nothing. In Buddhism, Taoism and other Eastern religions it is the renunciation of suffering through the rejection of expectation. The Future certainly does not renounce lust within its text, but its embrace of cheerful frivolity does amount to an analogy for the unresolvable limitations of physical life. The world is so mad that it causes Cohen essentially to go quiet, to parrot the words of Irving Berlin and then to offer no words whatsoever -- and these choices have the feel of a protective wall. Separation from thought, therefore separation from harm, therefore peace are tenets of Zen Buddhism; after The Future, Cohen would retreat to the San Gabriel Mountains and become an ordained Zen Buddhist monk, as the student of Kyozan Joshu Sasaki (who would ultimately be accused of inappropriate sexual conduct, which is implied in Cohen's Book of Longing to have precipitated his exit from the temple). It lasted around five years before the life of a Monk became intolerable for him, but that it happened at all tells us much about Cohen's mindset in this era. Looking back today, it's hard to disagree when taking in the full breadth of our reality that there is no "way out," only the chance of a walled-off, thoughtless existence: Nekkhamma.

But even this creates ethical concerns for the wrestling that are unanswerable, including the inconsistencies that manifest on this record: how can love be "the only engine of survival" if the only path to perfection requires the repudiation of all pleasure and sensuality? That's why The Future is not an illustration of a philosophy, spiritual or otherwise, but the representation of a worried mind in totality, within and without the context of violent unrest. In the years to follow, riddled with the travails of a crooked accountant, disillusionment with life in the Mt. Baldy Zen Center, and an unexpected outpouring of creativity, Cohen would return and continue writing and touring until his death. He was destined to waver at times from the kind of harshly focused messaging of this album and its unapologetic embrace of anger, hedonism and grace all at once, but the individual records he would eventually issue afterward each seem like a further, if not closer, examination of some tenet within this one, their conflicts forever dangling. He's no longer here for whatever guidance he'd probably refuse to offer, but maybe it would behoove us all to remember in this moment -- and presumably for the moments that remain -- that the only logical answer to anything that confronts us as people or as a society may be the lack of an answer. We could do worse, though, that the one prompted on "Light as the Breeze" by a lover and her body: "for something like a second," he sings, "I'm cured and my heart is at ease." We've seen the future, yes, but it mustn't be all that we see.