|The Last Legend of Bear|
|Playlist submitted by Bear on Jun 15, 2012|
|1.||The Ronettes||Be My Baby|
Drums, rhythm, castanets, ‘the night we met I knew I / needed you so'… My favourite song, has been for years, and I don't think anything will ever dislodge it. I don't want anything to ever dislodge it.
|2.||The Supremes||You Can't Hurry Love|
Motown continues to astonish and delight, as well as provide me with cast-iron ammunition against what I perceive as the ‘it's not proper music unless the artists have Written The Song Themselves' brigade. What those dudes got up to in Detroit in the 60s comes as close to a Favourite Genre as any. Here are two unmesswithable bangers of that genre, magical, effervescent, life-affirming icons both. That you can dance to.
|3.||The Four Tops||I Can't Help Myself|
Since beginning these notes I have done some research, ie listening to a bunch of music, and come to the conclusion that Reach Out, I'll Be There is the superior song. Fuggit. Can't Help Myself is what I grew up with.
|4.||Madonna||Like A Virgin|
This is one of the very first songs I knew, from Top of the Pops and my older brother's cassette, back in 1984, when pop music grabbed me by the heart and never let go. Whoa-oh-oh-oh… hey!
I like to think their greatness is now undisputed, but I still get into arguments about it, usually with Led Zeppelin fans. Whatever. Apart from just being simply fantastic, this song also marks the time I first started thinking about pop music… philosophically, for want of a better word. It was an essay in Melody Maker I think, talking about how this is what pop music can do, be complete shiny throwaway disco fodder on one hand, and the other contain such exquisite bottled melancholy not usually encountered outside of Russian novels. That can all be here boiled down to one word, ‘tambourine', and what Agnetha and Anna-Frid do with it. And the two words that come next: ‘oh yeah'.
|6.||Beyonce||Crazy in Love|
Hot summer of 2003, and this song ate everything in its path. I love these blockbuster pop anthems that everyone (everyone, surely?) agrees on. Horns blare, drums bounce, a beautiful girl in a gold sequinned dress goes ‘uh-oh-uh-oh-uh-oh-oh-no-no' and everyone dances.
|7.||Little Esther Phillips||Mojo Hannah|
Also in the summer of 2003, I landed myself a job djing Friday and Saturday nights at a small late-night bar. With three hours to fill, I soon realised I'd, uh-oh, oh-no-no, need some more records, and thus spent Saturday afternoons, and my dj wages, looking for them. Early purchase was an awesome compilation called ‘Blues and Soul Power', containing all sorts of gems from Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Tony Joe White and more, and the opening track, this terrific little number. It's 2.22, rattles along on drums bass hot-lickin' guitar Esther's sweet fiery vocal, and conjures as much Southern sweat passion and story as an early Capote. That you can dance to.
|8.||Belle & Sebastian||Lazy Line Painter Jane|
I don't listen to B&S as much as I used to, and have thus far passed over their last album, but in my twenties they meant a helluva lot to me, as I understand they mean(t) a helluva lot to a helluva lot of people. They've got plenty of great songs; this one might rank as their best achievement. It does what they do on a fine and grand scale, and then a bit more, and then at the end, on 45rpm 12" vinyl, absolutely fills the room.
Sufjan's ‘Illinois' album made my top 15 with no problems, though I chose a different track for the mix. Here's its most famous cut.
|10.||Johnny Cash||Ring of Fire|
Cash was a big favourite between me and a friend a few years ago; I sent the guy ‘Live at San Quentin' and he said it got him through his finals. He was quite upset when the big man passed away. I'm sort of glad Cash heritage has quietened down now and you can just enjoy the music for what it is: wonderful, timeless, carved in stone.
|11.||Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers||Roadrunner|
I've read essays about this song and what it means and what it does with two chords. Here's a great one, says more, and more eloquently, than I could here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2007/jul/20/popandrock5
|12.||The Specials||Ghost Town|
Like a Virgin is one of the first songs I knew; I sometimes think this might be the very first. We're talking four or five years old, telly on, Terry Hall and Jerry Dammers and Neville Golding crammed in the front of car, gazing out at the viewer and issuing their genius state of the nation address / number one record. I knew nothing about the politics, I just heard a chorus of ghouls chanting the chorus, saw those disembodied faces, and absolutely could not look away.
|13.||My Bloody Valentine||To Here Knows When|
Rainy early winter of 1991, listening to the Top 40 countdown on Radio 1, and I misheard Bruno Brookes. Who the heck is Eddie Valentine, and what on earth, or anywhere, is this incredible multi-coloured din? Wait: is there something wrong with the tuning? I got it all figured out in the end. I later heard it described in some magazine as the ‘most extreme piece of music ever to make the UK Top 40', and would be inclined to agree.
|14.||The Beach Boys||God Only Knows|
Favourite song, The Ronettes, Favourite album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, absent here because you can't boil it down to just one song. You'd maybe think the same about Pet Sounds, but I think this song stands out well enough, and besides, I first heard it, maybe at the cinema, at the end of Boogie Nights, long before hearing the album complete. Glad I now have. Since then, I've had a theory that it's the absolute opposite of the Velvets' debut: love v nihilism, sugar v poison, yearn v snarl. But you wouldn't want to be without either, would you?
I first heard this in a Liverpool record shop in 1997. I have no idea what it means; I just know that swirling melody and motorik beat could go on for ever and I'd never get bored.
|16.||Limahl||The Never Ending Story|
A long flight to Bogota, a sword n sorcery book in hand, and this song going round my head. My childhood (pop music, fantasy novels and airlines) in one swoop.
Curious late entry this one. It might be the lyrics, or the drama, or just that it's great fun to sing along to. Best line: ‘And then I would become all-knowing / My beard so very long and flooooowing…'
|18.||Bobbie Gentry||Ode to Billie Joe|
I'm a sucker for stuff like this, songs like ‘Mojo Hannah' or Dolly Parton's ‘Joshua', that tell tales of an American south that, having grown up in Texas in the 80s, is part recognised, part mythical and exotic, entirely yearned for and fetisihised. I listen to this, hear that plucked guitar, those humid strings, Bobbie's languid vocal, and… I can smell cotton and hay and apple pie, feel the road under my feet, smell the muddy waters off the Tallahassee Bridge.
|19.||Simon & Garfunkel||I Am A Rock|
They rank, curiously, up with Madonna and The Specials (and Soft Cell's ‘Tainted Love') among the first pop music I remember, on my mum's cassettes on the car stereo in Essex and Colombia and Texas, at home while rain fell and chocolate cakes cooked. They transcend fashion and time and anything: they're just Simon & Garfunkel, I love them and this is the song of theirs I love best.
|20.||Mercury Rev||Car Wash Hair|
Summer 1992 and some buddies and me go camping on some stretch of river outside the town we grew up in, walking out of town on some muggy evening, looking for a place to make camp and light a fire and drink surreptitious bottles of cider. The sun sets over the fields and the trees fall down into dark shapes and the river makes noises in the darkness. In the darkness, two songs: Sonic Youth's ‘Teenage Riot', which should be here, and this, whose scratchy, languid, luminous guitars and drums and flute and noise capture what this all means, right now and forever.
|21.||Glen Campbell||Wichita Lineman|
Another American short story in song, like Gentry's (they collaborated often), this time less Faulkner and more Proulx. We've got the great Jimmy Webb to thank for the fantastic song and some anonymous players to thank for those keening mournful strings, but Glen's sweet yearning voice brings this tale of snow and wires and need and want to life.
|22.||Lambchop||Up With People|
Like LLPJ… it hits, it moves, it builds, it crescendos. I'm still not sure what it's all about, apart from, maybe, ‘Be excellent to each other'. It does this, and makes you feel better and hum and whistle, and inspires you to seek Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye and Gram Parsons, and makes life seem better, and, oh gosh, does he split up the verb and preposition deliberately, he must, but here it comes, split, anyway: ‘Up our lives today!'
|23.||John Denver||Take Me Home, Country Roads|
My parents, Catholic and Quaker they were, used to hold these evenings at our house in Essex called ‘Hay Friday', which far as I could tell was social and religious in nature, but basically involved a bunch of dudes sat around playing songs like this on guitar and singing and hollering and having campfires when the weather was good, which is obviously an awesome way to spend Friday, Hay or no. Lyrically, Denver's cheese classic fed into my love for a mythical America several years before we moved there. Ain't that grand, and confusing.
I continue to admire what Blur did: go from also-rans to definers while making a whole load of great memorable pop songs. In 1999, a moribund year, they put out an eight minute indie-country-gospel-pop single, which was weird and idiosyncratic and a sure-fire SMASH, and only ‘Baby One More Time' stopped them getting to #1. Okay, Super Furry Animals' ‘Northern Lites', which came out a couple of months later and should be on this list, could have got to #1 if they'd volunteered to release it across two CD singles, but the point remains.
Best single of the 00's. It's sly and clever and anarchic; it's also enormous fun that sounds brilliant on the radio. It's nearly as good as the first song on this mix, and it sounds ace as the last, so here it is.
I've bent the mixathon brief a little here- obviously, these songs don't fit one genre. I don't think about genres, man; I've never made a mix containing just one genre and don't intend to start now. Instead this is like the '15 Albums' mix of late 2010, except with songs, and 25 of them. Maybe not my 25 favourite tunes of all time, but the 25 I came up with on the day. Some might fall away in time; others will always be there. They're in no order other than an order that makes for a good flowin' playlist. Please excuse the long notes, which I wrote to amuse myself, or enjoy them, as appropriate.
Anyway... cheers to Todd and Derek for all they've done here, and everyone else for making cool mixes. Let's keep doing it and meet somewhere else soon eh.
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