Day 61: ‘It’s My Party’ by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin

Hands up everyone who thought this was Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics, moonlighting with someone else.
This Dave Stewart is a well-known figure on the so-called ‘Canterbury Scene’ in Prog Rock. He’s been the keyboard player in (among others) Hatfield and the North, National Health, Bruford, Uriel and Egg.
Barbara Gaskin has sung with (deep breath) Spirogyra, Hatfield and the North, Egg, National Health, Phil Miller, Peter Blegvad, Bill Bruford and Mont Campbell – a veritable roll-call of progressive and avant-garde musicians – as well as working with Nigel Planer and Jane Wiedlin. Bizarre or what?
An odd couple to score a Number 1 hit single with a cover of a Lesley Gore classic, you might think.
You’d be wrong. It’s tremendous stuff.
It’s also appropriate for today, because when midnight chimes tonight I’ll be at home, listening to music and getting ready for the inevitable fireworks from my neighbours’ houses. I hate New Year’s Eve almost as much as I hate Xmas. It’s my party, and you’re not invited. I’ll cry if I want to.
See you in 2016, folks!

Day 60: ‘Armenia’ by Einstürzende Neubauten

Normal service has been resumed. Here are some Berlin noise merchants who achieved cult status in the UK in the mid-1980s. Probably the best-known of the metal-bashers who came about in the wake of the original Industrial bands, Einstürzende Neubauten combined traditional instruments, synths, percussion, found sounds and samples to create something totally unique. I never saw them live, but their gigs often ended in chaos. They once took a pneumatic drill to the floor of London’s prestigious Institute of Contemporary Arts. Totally bonkers.
This is one of the standout tracks from their LP Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T., released in 1983. I bought it on a rare trip to Cardiff, and played it to death afterwards. Atmospheric and disturbing stuff. Their main man Blixa Bargeld also played guitar with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I’ve stood about five feet from him, right at the front at the Electric Ballroom in London. Scary guy!
Blixa Bargeld – lead vocals, guitars, miscellaneous; Mark Chung – bass, backing vocals, miscellaneous; N.U. Unruh – percussion, backing vocals, miscellaneous; F.M. Einheit – percussion, backing vocals, miscellaneous; Alexander Hacke – tapes, percussion, miscellaneous

Day 59: ‘Eternal Flame’ by the Bangles

An odd choice, you might think, coming on the tail of some fairly confrontational stuff, but I do have a softer side as well. This is a beautiful love song, and Susanna Hoffs is to die for. ‘Nuff said!
Susanna Hoffs – vocals, guitar; Vicky Peterson – guitar, vocals; Debbie Peterson – drums, vocals; Michael Steele – bass, vocals

Day 58: ‘Revolution’ by Chumbawamba

tLong before doing Top of the Pops and throwing buckets of water over John Prescott at the Brits, Chumbawamba were stalwarts of the anarcho-punk scene, gigging constantly and releasing the odd record on their own label, Agit-Prop. They were probably the logical successors to Crass in the late 1980s.
I first became aware of this bunch of jolly lads and lasses from Yorkshire through the pages of Sounds. It appeared that nobody could ever get their name right. I stumbled upon this single in a record shop in Bristol, and bought it without ever having heard it. It came packaged in a little booklet, with pages of lyrics and observations about life, politics, the music industry, and philosophical musings.
I bought their LP and a couple of subsequent singles. Just before they hit the big time, they played at the Big Weekend in Cardiff. I went down with a couple of girls I knew, making a nightmare journey by bus from Aberdare for the occasion. (We were lucky to bump into some friends when we were there, so we had a lift back.)
‘Revolution’ came out in 1985, and made it to Number 6 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty, a poll of the year’s best records as voted for by listeners to his radio show. The rest of the chart was dominated by the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Wedding Present, the Smiths, the Fall, and the rest of the usual suspects. Bet nobody saw that coming.
It’s a record of two halves, running to nearly ten minutes, and luckily someone’s spliced them together. They were brilliant, inventive, eclectic, theatrical, intelligent, witty, and humane; we need more bands like Chumbawamba.
Alice Nutter – vocals; Man Afraid – guitar, drums; Loo – guitar, vocals; Dunst – bass, vocals; Boffo – guitar, vocals; Danbert Nobacon – vocals; Artmi (aka Harry Hammer) – drums, guitar; Simon Lanzon – keyboards, voice

Day 57: ‘Panic’ by Coil

Hang on to your hats, this is going to get very weird.
Geoff Rushton (aka John Balance) first became Coil when he was still at school, releasing very experimental cassettes and corresponding with the likes of Throbbing Gristle. When he arrived in London, he naturally gravitated to the TG circle and became a part-time member of Psychic TV (see Day 50). He eventually paired up (musically and romantically) with Peter (‘Sleazy’) Christopherson. They remained at the core of Coil throughout its long and varied existence, exploring the darkest recesses of human behaviour and releasing some of the most terrifying sounds ever committed to vinyl.
They released this single in 1985 – an extended version of a track from their LP Scatology – and the B-side featured their radical reworking of ‘Tainted Love’. They turned the erstwhile Gloria Jones Northern Soul classic (and Soft Cell Number 1 hit) into a song about HIV and AIDS (‘I gave you all a boy could give you’), which was just starting to make the headlines in the UK.
All the proceeds from this single were donated to the Terence Higgins Trust, while the video for ‘Tainted Love’ earned them hate mail from the US record company they were licensed to. Since I’ve already shared that in another blog, I’ve gone for the A-side here.
Neither Balance nor Sleazy are with us any longer. When Sleazy’s death was announced, I posted one of their shorter songs on Facebook. I thought it was fitting to have two minutes’ noise in his memory. Incidentally, I own a signed copy of their second LP, Horse Rotorvator. Great bunch of lads!
John Balance – vocals, synths; Peter Christopherson – synths, sequencers; Bily McGee – bass; Clint Ruin – drum programs

Day 56: ‘Eighth Day’ by Hazel O’Connor

Here’s a cheery one for the festive season. (Not!)
Hazel O’Connor was born in Coventry, and came to prominence in the cult 1980 film Breaking Glass. This video is taken from the film, which I’ve never seen, but the song is tremendous. SF-influenced songs were regular chart features during the immediate post-Star Wars era. Most were gimmicky and forgettable, but this is one of the better ones. If Harlan Ellison or J. G. Ballard had written rock songs, they’d have probably come up with something like this.

Day 55: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ by Band Aid

I admit to tweaking the numbering slightly for this one. While it’s not an outstanding record, the importance of Band Aid simply cannot be underestimated. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s initial idea gathered momentum, resulting in this remarkable single. In the summer of 1985 the Live Aid concerts put the famine in Ethiopia front and centre.
For (arguably) the first time since George Harrison’s concert for Bangladesh, a Who’s Who of pop and rock stars threw their time and energy into trying to make the world a better place. Twenty years later, alas, the Live 8 concert proved that it would take more than songs to pull off that task. All the same, Band Aid made us all feel that we could change things if we just made the effort.
I won’t list all the performers, because there are a couple of dozen names. You can find the line-up here.

Day 54: ‘Dr Mabuse’ by Propaganda

A small handful of artists have made my 100 songs shortlist twice. Propaganda are one of them, partly because they had a such a fantastic sound, and partly because I was head over heels in love with Claudia Brücken when I was about eighteen.
This was the first single they issued on Trevor Horn’s ZTT label, and I bought it in a couple of formats. It was recorded with a slightly different line-up from ‘Duel’ (Day 45) – founder member Andreas Thein was still with them, and Michael Mertens had yet to come on board. The remixes were stunning – full of pounding percussion, layered samples, and backwards vocals – and I still think they’re superb records.
The video is pretty damn cool. Hallucinatory, mysterious and beautiful, I think I’m right in saying it was directed by the well-known rock photographer Anton Corbijn. See how the ‘hand through the mirror’ trick prefigures The Matrix by nearly two decades. Claudia looks amazing, too. What’s not to like?

Day 53: ‘It’s a Sin’ by the Pet Shop Boys

It’s difficult to believe that two guys can produce such a massive sound. Neil Tennant was a music journalist who went to the dark side and started singing for his supper. Chris Lowe did everything else.
They were an openly gay band at a time when it was still something for the papers to gossip about. The song’s about living a lifestyle your parents really wouldn’t approve of – Catholic guilt set to a massive beat and almost symphonic backing. Enjoy it now and repent at your leisure …