At the end of 2015 I was invited to post one of those Facebook 'favourite song' lists but after a few futile attempts to trim it to a reasonable length I decided to submit a series of favourites, based on the first letter of the artist's name. For each letter I chose one top track and a set of 'honourable mentions' - here is the resulting collection:
O Sea Swallow Me by Anastasia. Trance music with a very Slavic feel. The album it comes from, Nocturnal, makes more sense as a whole but this gives a good idea of the vibe. Rave music for monks.
Something To Say by The Action.
Overlooked 60's light psychedelic pop.
One Chord Wonders by The Adverts. The start of post-punk?
Illinois Blues by Alvin Youngblood Hart. Spooky Southern blues.
Nothing Else Matters by Apocalyptica. Heavy metal string quartet. Really!
By This River by Brian Eno. A song of breathtaking simplicity but staggering beauty, a few disparate elements invoking peace, contentment, nostalgia, timelessness and at the same time transience. A precious jewel.
Give Me Back My Man by the B-52's.
The essence of pop, and more.
You Better Stop by Barbara Lynn. Some great early R&B.
She's In Parties by Bauhaus. Strangely beautiful. 'Happy days are here again.'
Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles. Like nothing I'd heard before, literally left me open-mouthed when I first heard it.
Nothing Special by Big In Japan. Proud & fragile.
Levi Stubbs' Tears by Billy Bragg. Still brings me out in goosepimples & tears. Heartbreaking but a celebration of the healing power of pop music.
Gene By Gene by Blur. A pop song made from odd ingredients.
Fresh Wound by the Bonzo Dog Band. The best song the Beatles never wrote and the most perfect off-key singing ever. 'Come on George, snap out of it.'
Surrender To The Rhythm by Brinsley Schwartz. Joyous.
Mr Soul by Buffalo Springfield. American psychedelia without the flowers.
Pilentze Pee by the Bulgarian State Chorus. Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares was one of those few albums that sounded like nothing I'd ever heard before.
Nostalgia by the Buzzcocks. Pete Shelly is a genius.
Rilkean Heart by the Cocteau Twins. It would be hard for me to name my favourite ten Cocteau Twins tracks so this is just the first one that popped into my head. Powerfully tender, not quite a love song but if your heart isn't moved you should check that you still have a pulse. Liz Fraser's angelic voice in the perfect setting, it's just gorgeous.
Bat Chain Puller by Captain Beefheart.
Challenging but oh, so rewarding.
Winter Wine by Caravan. 'Life's too short to be sad'.
London Calling by the Clash. I wanted to go for Train In Vain but this is just essential.
Judy Teen by Cockney Rebel. When I was 17 I thought this was what the future would sound like.
Who's Gonna Find Me by the Coral. Another band who keep coming up with new, great stuff.
How To Keep Your Husband Happy by the Cosmopolitans. Fab.
Kebaluso by Daby Touré.
There's something uniquely special about music from West Africa, this is a nicely lilting piece.
Double Barrel by Dave & Ansel Collins. Like nothing I'd heard before, my first taste of toasting reggae.
Two Soldiers (from The Catherine Wheel) by David Byrne. An echo machine as instrument and the best ever guitar solo that sort of isn't. And you can dance to it!
Holidays In Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys. Vitriolic US punk with a dash of surf. Awesome.
Satisfaction by Devo. Deconstruction of a pop classic.
When The Music's Over by the Doors. The dark side of the Summer of Love.
Never Known by the Durutti Column. Atmospheric and timeless.
Moses by Elizabeth Fraser. Another chance for a Liz Fraser vocal but this is quite different from the Cocteaus, the arrangement is more of a collage than a wash and it's much more spacious and open. Ironically the end result is cosy & intimate, music from a 21st century jazz dive.
Crocodiles by Echo & The Bunnymen.
Passionate Scouse guitar pop.
King Of Vice by Ed Kuepper. Spacious & expansive, road music for a big country.
Let's Do It A Dada by Einstürzende Neubauten. Industrial pop.
I Had Too Much To Dream by the Electric Prunes. Serious psychedelia.
Pills & Soap by Elvis Costello. Poignant social commentary, especially so as it's now over 30 years old.
A Little Respect by Erasure. Joyous, perfect pop.
The Price Of Love by the Everly Brothers. Powerful & driving.
Cosmic Slop by Funkadelic. What happens when psychedelia meets funk? Strange, primal grooves that expand your consciousness while making your body dance. 'Free your mind and your ass will follow'. Another band that revealed vast new, previously unimagined sonic vistas when I first heard them.
We Come 1 by Faithless.
I was almost too late for rave music. But not quite.
Weaver's Answer by Family. The nearest they came to a pop single, beautifully eccentric.
Meadow Meal by Faust. I can't explain why this is great, it just is. Incomprehensible but marvellous.
Rävmarschen by Filarfolket. There's something about Scandinavian folk music that I love, this is a great example of traditional dance music evolving into something more.
Peaches In Regalia by Frank Zappa. Intricate and precise, yet full of life.
Our Lips Are Sealed by Fun Boy Three. A great song deconstructed into its essential parts.
Lovely Head by Goldfrapp. An atmospheric, almost eerie song, a bit like an avant-garde 60's film theme processed through 21st century ears. The whole Felt Mountain album has this otherworldly sound, strangely beguiling.
Anthrax by Gang Of Four.
From another 'is that a guitar solo?' solo into the ultimate in pop deconstruction. An
Stupid Girl by Garbage. An infectious dance groove.
On Reflection by Gentle Giant. Wonderfully creative prog rock. The live version is the best.
Feel Good Inc. by Gorillaz. A rare example of rap in my collection.
Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions by Graham Parker & The Rumour. Impassioned and driving, a cry from the soul.
Extraordinary Girl by Green Day. Great power pop.
Cherry Red by the Groundhogs. Old school guitar rock.
Say Goodbye by Hunters And Collectors. A powerful slice of Aussie 'Pub Rock' from 1986. H&C are one of my favourite bands and I own pretty much everything they've released, from their early experimental recordings through the more 'rock band' stuff and into the later more contemplative songs. A very (Australian) male viewpoint but an honest look at all sides of being a man, not just macho posturing.
The Lone Deranger by Hallucinogen.
Fabulous psychedelic trance music.
Coat Of Mail by Harry Manx. Modern acoustic blues.
The Rotters Club by Hatfield And The North. The jazzier end of the Canterbury sound.
Space Ritual by Hawkwind. A sci-fi tinged, chemically fuelled sonic onslaught.
Rockit by Herbie Hancock. This really did seem the like a taste of the future at the time. And it's still great.
Oh Lord Give Us More Money by Holger Czukay. High art collage in musical form, and with a sense of humour too.
Bus Stop by the Hollies. A near-perfect pop single.
Too Many Tears by Ike & Tina Turner. Before they succumbed to fame, riches & the excesses that come with them Ike & Tina produced some fabulous soul music.
You'll See Glimpses by Ian Dury & The Blockheads.
Heartwarming, poignant and sad.
Come On by Ian Gomm. This is how you do a cover version, a complete reinvention of the earlier recording(s).
You Held The World In Your Arms by Idlewild. Jangly, noisy Scottish rock.
Dum Dum Boys by Iggy Pop. The best blend of Iggy's raw energy and Bowie's dispassionate reserve.
Need You Tonight by INXS. Just a bunch of samples but what a great single.
Things Fall Apart by Jerry Harrison. White boy funk in an uneven rhythm - just my cup of tea. A wonderful tangent from the work of Talking Heads.
I Got You by James Brown.
The bedrock of funk.
Ghosts by Japan. Sparse but sumptuous.
Villanova Junction by Jimi Hendrix. Poignant blues from the master.
One More Time by Joe Jackson. Sharp, angry pop.
I'd Rather Be The Devil by John Martyn. The awesome outcome of fiery passion meeting an Echoplex.
Shakin' All Over by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. Archetypal guitar-led pop.
Atmosphere by Joy Division. A perfect moment of reflection.
The Heat by Jungle. Understated retro-funk.
Naafigi by Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara. Gorgeous Gambian blues.
Szerelem by Kolinda. Hungarian prog-folk, which is not something you come across every day. A marvellous example of taking traditional music as a base to work from rather than a museum piece. Creative & imaginative.
The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett.
But is it jazz?
Mr Brightside by the Killers. A great power pop single.
Pssyche by Killing Joke. Unrelenting drive & power.
Starless by King Crimson. Epic, with a 2-note guitar solo.
Victoria by the Kinks. A wonderfully unpredictable sequence.
Last Train To Transcentral by the KLF. Impossible to listen to & not dance.
Here To Stay by Korn. Visceral nu-metal.
Computerlove by Kraftwerk. Music making as (retro-)science & technology.
Predict The Day by Ladytron. A nice slice of techno-pop.
Gorecki by Lamb.
From a gentle start it just keeps building.
Hats Off To (Roy) Harper by Led Zeppelin. Exploring the crux of the blues.
I Think We're Alone Now by Lene Lovich. An almost perfect pop single.
Rivermudtwilight by Les Triaboliques. Sort of blues. -ish.
Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit. A raw blast of childish angst.
Perfect Day by Lou Reed. Maybe the saddest song in the world.
Choo Choo Ch'Boogie by Louis Jordan. Fab.
Arterial by Lusine. Cool electronica.
Castlemaine by Mark Seymour. As my own years pile up it's nice to find someone writing songs from a 'middle aged guy' perspective. I've been a fan since his days in Hunters & Collectors and find him an insightful songwriter and a great performer. There's not many YouTube clips so I've gone for this live one, check out Waratah Street or Moment Of Doubt for more poignant songs.
Love Me Like You by the Magic Numbers.
A great pop single.
O Caroline by Matching Mole. One of the great love songs.
Kick Out The Jams by the MC5. Driving 60's rock.
Black Sheep by Metric. A wonderful slice of arty power pop.
Rooms For The Memory by Michael Hutchence. Very 80's but still wonderful.
True Rasta by Misty In Roots. Irie roots reggae.
Steppin' Stone by the Monkees. Ignore your preconceptions, this is a great single.
Blackberry Way by the Move. British psychedelia at its best.
(What'sSo Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding by Nick Lowe. A bit of a cheat as it's actually Elvis Costello but this was the B side of a Nick Lowe single & credited to him. The fierce vocal delivery give it an extra edge, a hint of anger & determination rather than plaintive lamentation. A great song.
The Collapso by National Health.
Highly intellectual prog rock but you can still dance to it.
Ceremony by New Order. Elegaic and poignant.
You Know You're Right by Nirvana. Edgy & dangerously intense.
Doppler by Node. Retro-synths but strangely timeless.
In A Manner Of Speaking by Nouvelle Vague. Punk reinterpreted as bossanova. And it works!
Mustt Mustt by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. A devotional groove.
Music For Gong Gong by Osibisa. My first exposure to African music, quite a revelation in my mid-teens! It sounds a little tame & dated now but the combination of big band horn section with tumbling rhythms and slinky bass still gets me up & dancing.
The Lost Polyphonics by OMFO.
Another Girl, Another Planet by the Only Ones. Possibly the best single ever.
Jäähyväismenuetti by Ottopasuuna. A tender piece of Finnish folk music.
Hay Ya! by OutKast. Quirky pop.
Lucifer Sam by Pink Floyd. A track from the Syd period, a blend of the driving space rock and trippy whimsy that made up a lot of their early repertoire. Gloriously creative and unexpected, a short taste of altered consciousness.
P-Funk by Parliament.
Don't step on my funk!
Jadoo by Passport. Germanic jazz-funk.
Judgement Day by Pauline Murray. Epic post-punk.
Echoes by Pink Floyd. Later period Floyd, it was this or Atom Heart Mother.
Teenage Angst by Placebo. Wonderful noisy guitar.
Mourning Air by Portishead. Unearthly and offbeat.
Rocks by Primal Scream. Another 'best song the Stones never wrote'.
Breathe by the Prodigy. Fractured electronica.
Jewel by Propaganda. Arty & pretentious but still great.
Careering by PIL. Strangely disturbing.
No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age. A killer riff and a bizarre middle break.
Keep On Keeping On by the Redskins. Alexi Sayle used to joke about his 'Marxist-Leninist funk band' but here's the real thing - righteous socialist sentiments with a backbeat and a horn section. A great song.
Sehnsucht by Rammstein.
Serious, Teutonic electro-metal.
Gone Forever by the Raveonettes. Poppy shoegazing.
Elvis And His Boss by the Residents. Strange, even for me. But also great.
I Can't Stand My Baby by the Rezillos. A wild gush of irrepressible guitar pop.
This Day by Rico. Gorgeous reggae.
Old Before I Die by Robbie Williams. Just a marvellous song.
Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley by Robert Palmer. The ultimate Southern boogie, with a Brit singing!
Sea Song by Robert Wyatt. Atmospheric and intimate.
Dounia by Rokia Traoré. Spooky.
Virginia Plain by Roxy Music. Shockingly (retro-)modern on first listening, back in the 70's.
Despondency by Ruts DC. Very post-punk.
Clear Trails by Shriekback. Dance music deconstructed to within an inch of its life, at once mechanically robotic but still fragile & human. Music for loners and those on the fringes. 'This is the face that we show the world'.
Why Can't We Live Together by Sade.
A dry, British take on soul music.
Tank! by the Seatbelts. Big band jazz from Japan.
No Feelings by the Sex Pistols. Raw, savage & powerful.
Museum of Consciousness by Shpongle. Awesome psychedelic trance music.
Spellbound by Siouxie & The Banshees. Exhilarating.
Itchycoo Park by the Small Faces. One of those jaw-dropping first listens.
How Soon Is Now by the Smiths. Amazing sonic textures.
Man At C&A by the Specials. Apocalyptic ska.
God Speed The Plough by Stackridge. A rustic mini-symphony.
Gimme Danger by the Stooges. Barely-controlled energy.
Reptilia by the Strokes. Quintessential New York guitar rock.
Ghost Rider by Suicide. Compelling & disturbing.
Dominoes by Syd Barrett. Fragile beauty, a sadly lost soul.
Chop Suey! by System Of A Down. Fiercely creative.
The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades by Timbuk 3. Cruising towards the apocalypse? Minimalist boogie done so, so well.
Do The Standing Still by the Table.
Absurdist punk. Best first line in pop history.
I'm Not In Love by Talking Heads. Frantic New York twitchiness.
Rubycon by Tangerine Dream. Majestic sonic landscapes.
Part Time Punks by TV Personalities. Gloriously self- referential.
Psychedelic Shack by the Temptations. Trippy Motown soul.
Under The God by Tin Machine. Bowie (& friends) letting rip.
Funky Kingston by Toots & The Maytals. The kings of ska.
Telstar by the Tornados. Out of this world when it came out. 1960!
Glad by Traffic. Almost jamming but done so well. Live version is best!
Always Something Better by Trentemøller. Drifting, chill out electronica.
Untouchable by the Undertones. A long way on from Teenage Kicks - and with a horn section no less! Urgent & passionate, guitar pop with soul.
I Will Follow by U2. A shockingly new sound in 1980.
Sister Ray by the Velvet Underground. Hard to pick one VU track so I've gone for their sprawling masterwork - an unstoppable attack of noise that drags you into a dark, sinister realm but then reveals its beauty. Powerful, delirious & careening.
Man-Erg (or anything from Pawn Hearts) by Van Der Graaf Generator.
Serious prog rock.
Maamo by Värttinä. Gorgeous Finnish vocal harmonies.
Sport (The Odd Boy) by Vivian Stanshall. Technically a Bonzos song but I don't care - insightful & poignant while still being funny.
Won't Get Fooled Again by the Who. Arguably the finest hour of the best ever rock band. Forceful & dynamic, truly a whole that is greater than its (already impressive) parts. As an adolescent it told me not to trust leaders, later on it reminded me that not being fooled was my task, not theirs. Awesome.
Seven Minutes To Midnight by Wah!
Adrenaline rush rock.
Keep It Healthy by Warpaint. Offbeat introspection.
I Am The Fly by Wire. Jagged, angular pop.
Heavenly Creatures by Wolf Alice. Tender & fragile.
Moving To New York by the Wombats. Brash and bright indie pop.
Identity by X-Ray Spex. A punk classic and, IMHO, one that exemplifies the punk ideal - do what's real for you, not what you're told. 'Did you do it before you read about it?'
It's Going Down by the X-Ecutioners.
Papalambrena by Xenos. An atmospheric Greek folk tune.
Are You Receiving Me? by XTC. The highpoint of the original line-up - quirky, angular pop.
Brand-New-Life by Young Marble Giants. Perfect pop music distilled down to its essential elements. Mechanically precise but human scaled, no frills but nothing missing. Intimate but eternal. Great.
Kala by Yann Tiersen.
Ethereal & atmospheric. And an excuse to have another Elizabeth Fraser vocal.
Over Under Sideways Down by the Yardbirds. Mid-60's British guitar work at its best.
Don't Go by Yazoo. Big voice & electropop - a great combination.
Jungle Bill by Yello. Absurdist Swiss techno dance music.
Inner Universe by Yoko Kanno. Almost operatic Japanese techno futurism.
Long Time Coming by the Zutons. A driving rocker with some great staccato sax.
She's Not There by the Zombies.
Waitin' For The Bus by ZZ Top. Definitive Texas boogie.