Sunday, 26 October 2014

Joy Division

Here's my Joy Division Top 5. It would be hard to pick if this wasn't a band I already loved because my computer is playing silly buggers with the sound. Fortunately, that is not the case. I have resisted the temptation to choose five tracks from Closer, not least because this is the first thing of theirs I heard. I remember the shock when Ian Curtis died and people started writing to Sounds claiming he died for our sins. That pissed me off to say the least because it's a cop out, not for Curtis but for those who worshipped from afar and could not accept that their idol was (a) human, and (b) deseperately unhappy.
Anyway, enough of my angry rant. I choose this as number one. I know it's the most popular but I LOVE the way it's used in urban horrorflick "Series 7: The Contenders". Ladies and Gentlemen, Love Will Tear Us Apart.

2) "Colony", Ladies and Gentlemen. "God in His wisdom took you by the hand". Normally I'm a fan of singers and Ian Curtis was marvellous, but listen to the rhythm section on this. To die for. Did I really type that and not delete it? The perfect club mix and it's effortless. Love it Pop Pickers.

3) I've always wanted to write. Everything else came a distant third after writing and suicide and so, In the eighties, every time Interzone (the only market for SF short stories in the UK) sent me a rejection slip, I was tempted by plan B (which involved a belt and a bang). But then I would listen to this and sing it loud and think 'fuck 'em, they ain't worth it'. Interzone is my number 3.

4) After this it gets harder, but this song is another for blowing away the green cloud in my head and silencing the growling of the bears. After all, Ian Curtis clearly put his trust in me. So this song for me does what it says on the tin. It's "A Means To an End".

5) For last place, I lined up the ones it would hurt to leave out and rolled the dice. It came up snakes eyes and so I had no choice but to choose "She's Lost Control".

And the others it hurt to leave out? The Atrocity Exhibition. Isolation. Ceremony. Disorder. Something's Gotta Break. New Dawn Fades. Pretty much anything else. What can I say? I'm a fan.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Nina Simone

The time has come for me to try to narrow down my appreciation of Nina Simone to a top five. That is not easy but, never being one to back down for a challenge unless it involved doing some actual you know, like work, I'll have a go anyway.
1) Nina Simone is not the most accessible of artists and it makes a big difference how you come to her music. My number one is a song that incites anger at the world she grew up in, and delight at her appreciation of the music she brought together from blues and soul to classical. So, my number one. Mississippi Goddam.

2) Nina Simone is known for a whole load of awesome versions (I won't say covers because she always made them her own). Here she takes on Screaming Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You".

3) The greatest thing about her, for all her training and drop-down gorgeousness, is her clear eyes. She sees into the future, the one we're living in now and she sees clearly, so very clearly what is needed. "Revolution" baby, revolution.

4) The next one is an education in itself. It should be illegal for a child to reach adulthood without hearing it. This is 'Roots' in less than five minutes. "Four Women". It should really have been my number one, but it makes me cry too hard to type in the others.

5) And of course, she's so Goddam GOOD at good old-fashioned love songs like this one. "Love or Leave Me."

And all that's left to say is how much it hurt to leave out "My Baby Just Cares For Me" and "Sinnerman" and "Ain't Got No - I Got Life" as well as half a hundred other songs. A hundred, two hundred, a thousand years from now, Nina Simone will be remembered and her songs sung beneath other suns long after Elvis is forgotten.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

My Human League Top Five

Here is my Human League top five (only five). In the time when they dominated the charts along with Kraftwerk, I would sit in my room in Cambridge YMCA and try to make sure they heard Travelogue in Trumpington.
My love goes even further back though, to the name itself. Before Dungeons and Dragons was released, I had come up with a roleplay game of my own. It changed a bit but eventually, I adopted rules from the SPI boardgame, Space Marines. The game had several factions for players to be including two separate human factions: The Pan-Human Hegemony and the Human League. Any band picking that name would have my attention.
SO here goes.
1) WXJL Tonight - a thoroughly disturbing track in which a DJ is plugged into the system so that it HURTS when the ratings fall. I hate the idea of popularity bing that important because there is no world in which I could be popular but this song, this song I love.

2) Dreams of Leaving. Repetitive electro-beat with a melodic sound over the top, then chaos for a second before refugee status arises. But of course, being a refugee is not a solution and the second half of the song shows this. Magnificent.

3) Being Boiled - I bought this when it first came out, solely on the basis of a review in Sounds. I didn't even have a record player so I had to wait until I got my own from my mum's house before I could play it. I liked it so much, I've stood on stage and done an acoustic version.

4) Empire State Human - first because I identify with this and second because I've used it as a lullaby for the kids.

5) Sound of the Crowd - This is a representative of the later stuff. I preferreed the old stuff, of course I did, but Dare made the Human League popular, and also paved the way for the magnificent Heaven 17, so I refuse to reject it. This is my favourite example of the later stuff. 

Hurts to leave out "Crow and a Baby", "Don't You Want Me", "Tom Baker", "Austerity".
Hope this works this time