Hey there gang. As you may have or may have not realised, I am taking a little blogging break at the moment. It’s nothing personal, I just needed a bit more extra time in my personal life (hey, don’t we all). Anyway, despite the break, I still carried on doing my weekly Top Ten Tunes posts. Partly because I am loyal to y’all, but mainly because I have loved dong them so much. I am one for nostalgia, so it’s been a lovely trip down my musical memory lane. So, I thought I’d do a little review of my Top Ten Tunes post from over the years. Some kind of conclusion, if you like. And at the end of this post, there’s a little announcement, that I’m verrrrr excited about (because I am a musical geek. And proud). Oh and I have done one big massive Spotify playlist of my favourite songs from each year at the end.
My Favourite Years
What’s interesting is that there were definitely some years that I found easier to think of my top ten than others. Some years, I struggled to narrow it down to ten and other years it was difficult to come up with ten. Some years were definitely weaker for music, but it might also have been because what was going on in my life at the time. I have had a little think and these were my favourite years, musically:
And my absolute favourite year is 1989. I struggled more than any other year to narrow my songs down to only 10. 1989 = best year of music ever. No need to argue with me.
Top 5 Nationalities
I don’t think the top 2 will be of any surprise, but these are the top 5 nationalities that appeared the most in my top tens.
5. Canada (appeared 5 times)
4. Iceland & Sweden (both appeared 7 times)
3. Australia (appeared 14 times)
2. U.S.A. (appeared 153 times)
1. United Kingdom (appeared 204 times)
A map of the UK and where all its famous musicians hail from.
Top 10 Acts
And here are the 10 acts that appeared in my top tens the most. Can you guess who appeared the most?
5. Kate Bush & Amy Winehouse (both appeared 5 times)
4. Bjork & David Bowie (both appeared 7 times)
3. George Michael & Beyonce (both appeared 8 times)
2. Blur & Kylie Minogue (both appeared 9 times)
And the act that appeared more than any other is:
1. Madonna (appeared 10 times)
My most surprising observations of these playlists is that I seem to like Rhianna and Adele more than I thought I did. That two of my all time favourite artists didn’t appear as much as I thought they would (PJ Harvey and Tori Amos). The 00s was a terrible decade for music and I’m clearly more of an 80s & 90s girl. And I won’t ever apologise for it either.
And an observation that I had about the news sections: it’s always been bit of a shit storm quite frankly.
Oh yes, I promised you an announcement…
So, here’s the thing. Well, here’s 3 things:
I loved doing these playlists
I love music and talking about music a lot.
I love music from the 60s and the rest of the 70s that wasn’t included in my top ten posts.
As you may have guessed, I am continuing to do these lists, by going back in time. Back to when I was merely a twinkle in my father’s eye and beyond. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be doing two slightly different top tens posts, but then after that I will continue doing my Top Ten Tunes starting with 1960! Oh yeah, imma gonna go there. So, it will be slightly less nostalgic for me, as clearly I have no personal memory of those times, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love the music from those eras any less. Expect plenty of Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, the Kinks, Beach Boys- ooh it’s going to be grand.
One Last Thing
What I’ve been really grateful for with doing these weekly music posts, is the interaction with other people. Hearing, what their favourites are and discussing music and the world events from that year, has been something I look forward to every week. The following lovely bloggers have been regular visitors to these Top Ten Tunes posts over the “years”. I encourage you to have a wander around their blogs:
Here’s the mega playlist, I promised you. And my most favourite from it and from the past 42 years? Video Killed the Radio Star. Now, I know I don’t really need to remind you, but please let me know which one is your favourite from the list in the comments below. Hope to see you all in the 60s and 70s!
1989 was a pretty horrific year, Boeing 737 crashes into the M1 killing 44 people, a fatwa (order to kill) is placed on author Salman Rushdie following the publication of his book the Satanic Verses, the IRA bomb army barracks in Shropshire injuring 50 soldiers, Sheffield dock workers go on strike, a pleasure cruiser collides with a barge on the River Thames killing 51 people, Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips separate, the IRA bomb the Royal Marine School of Music in Kent killing 11 people, the Church of England vote to allow the ordination of women, the House of Commons is televised for the first time, George Bush Snr becomes president of the United States, the Berlin Wall comes down, Margaret Thatcher along with George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev hail the end of the Cold War, thousands of students occupy Tiananmen Square protesting for democracy- several hundreds or thousands (final figure never confirmed) are shot dead by the Chinese army and 96 football fans are killed and 766 injured in a crush at the FA cup semi-finals between Nottingham Forrest and Liverpool at Hillsborough stadium.
When Harry Met Sally and Glory were released. I celebrated entering my teenage years (I very much doubt my parents celebrated this though).
Mate, this post was originally going to be a top 15 tunes as I simply couldn’t decide on a final top 10, but at the last minute I decided to be ruthless and have somehow narrowed it down to 10 (sorry Martika but you had to go in the end). So, here in no particular order, is my most tricky year to decide on so far- 1989…
1.Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) by Soul II Soul
2. Ride on Time by Black Box
So this was the Italian model that Black Box pretended was their singer when in fact it was British soul singer Heather Small’s vocals on their records. It was kind of a Milli Vanilli/Phoebe Buffay move.
3. Baby I Don’t Care by Transvision Vamp
4. Poison by Alice Cooper
5. The Best by Tina Turner
6. Sowing the Seeds of Love by Tears for Fears
7. Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses (ok so the below video is not from 1989. Nor is it obviously, Guns N’ Roses, but I just wanted an excuse to play a clip from one of my favourite ever comedy films Step Brothers…“you don’t even look good while you’re singing”).
8. Like a Prayer by Madonna
9. Eternal Flame by the Bangles
10. This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush
Hands down, my favourite year so far, but my favourite of the lot is still an easy choice this week. My second favourite song ever, Like a Prayer wins (my very favourite was in year 1979). So, which one is your favourite from these 1989 songs? And reading the news sections, aren’t you starting to get the feeling that it’s always been a bit rubbish and that it really isn’t just our present times?
The first Red Nose Day with Lenny Henry, Jonathan Ross and Griff Rhys Jones
In 1988, the first Red Nose Day occurs, a concert takes place at Wembley Stadium in honour of Nelson Mandela, three gay rights activists invade the BBC studios during the BBC news, new licensing allows British pubs to stay open all day, Princess Beatrice is born, the Olympics take place in Seoul, South Korea, Edwina Currie claims that all British eggs have salmonella, 35 people are killed in the Clapham Junction train crash, Pan Am flight 103 explodes over the town of Lockerbie killing all 259 people on board the flight and 11 people on the ground, several British soldiers are murdered by the IRA, Benazir Bhutto becomes Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first ever female leader of a Muslim country and the film Big was released. Oh and I turn 12 years old.
This week for only the second time, the same artist features twice. Also, you have no idea how hard I had to resist adding our George again this week (with Father Figure), but I figured you might be getting sick of him by now and he is reappearing again in a couple weeks. So, on we go with 1988…
1)I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue
2) Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry
3) The Only Way is Up by Yazz
4) Crash by the Primitives
5) Orange Crush by R.E.M.
6) China Doll by Julian Cope
7) Twist in My Sobriety by Tanita Tikaram
8) A Little Respect by Erasure
9) Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
10) Especially For You by Kylie & Jason
I can almost smell the 90s from here, it’s fast approaching gang. Now then, Kylie comes a very, very, very, very, VERY close second, but Erasure is my absolute favourite this week. It is one of my all time favourites after all. Please let me know which is your favourite below.
Talk About Pop Music have also done a brilliant extended playlist from 1988 and you can check it out here See you next week for our final week from the 80s- 1989
The Simpsons looking a little bit different in 1987
In 1987, Terry Waite is kidnapped in Beirut, Margaret Thatcher wins the general election again for the third time, in Hungerford, Berkshire Michael Ryan shoots dead 16 people and injures 16 before turning the gun on himself (this is the same day that whilst staying with our grandparents, my brother & I decided to go for a walk in the woods. We told our grandmother we’d be 10 minutes. We were gone for over 2hrs. Where did my grandparents live? Berkshire. Not far from Hungerford. Cue a very panic stricken grandmother greeting us at the gate when we nonchalantly returned), hurricane force winds kill 23 people in South-East England, a fire at Kings Cross underground station claims 31 lives, The Simpsons first appear on the Tracey Ullman Show, a cross-channel ferry capsizes near Zeebrugge, Belgium killing 193 people and Dirty Dancing, Robocop and the film that would deter anyone from having an affair (and then leaving your pet rabbit unattended) Fatal Attraction were released. And I turned 11 years old.
Yes, I know it’s about the 900th time that both the Smiths and George Michael have featured in my top tens, but hey- the heart wants what the heart wants. And it’s not my fault they were both so prolific and good (it’ll be the last appearance of the Smiths FYI). Anyway, never fear- we’ve got plenty of first time appearances from several artists this week too. 1987 coming atcha (in no particular order)…
1.Sweet Little Mystery by Wet Wet Wet
Poor ginger bloke from Wet Wet Wet
2. Respectable by Mel & Kim (the first single I ever bought. Purchased with the £1 coin that my brother had sellotaped to my Birthday card as my gift. I genuinely couldn’t have been happier. I literally ran to the local record shop to buy the 7″…does this all make me sound old?)
3. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston
4. Don’t Get Me Wrong by the Pretenders
5. Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle
6. Faith by George Michael
7. The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson
8. China in Your Hand by T’Pau
9. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship
10. Last Night I Dreamt Someone Loved Me by The Smiths
So easy to choose my favourite this week. As I’m at my happiest when it’s 2am, I’ve sunk a few Sambuccas and am dancing with my girl gang to I Wanna Dance With Somebody, it most definitely has to be our Whitney this week. Which one of these 1987 treats is your favourite?
And if you want more deliciousness from 1987, hop over to the wonderful Talk About Pop Music‘s blog on what songs they thought were the best from 1987 here. See you next week for 1988!
In 1986, the trusty Sun newspaper claims that comedian Freddie Starr ate a live hamster, journalist John McCarthy is kidnapped in Beirut, rioting breaks out in Portadown in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson, the Commonwealth Games are held in Edinburgh, GCSE exams replace ‘O’ Levels, Australian soap opera Neighbours is launched on the BBC, Margaret Thatcher opens the completed M25, the government launches a £20million campaign to warn people about the dangers of AIDS, the first case of BSE (mad cow disease) is discovered in British cattle, the highest audience of all time for a British TV drama is recorded on Christmas Day as Dirty Den hands Angie Watts divorce papers– 30 million people tune in, a Soviet nuclear reactor explodes at Chernobyl, Comet Halley reaches it’s closest point to Earth during it’s second visit to the solar system in the 20th century, The space shuttle Challenger disintegrates seconds after launch killing all 7 astronauts, FOOTballer Diego Maradona scores a goal with the back of his hand (“the hand of God“) against England in the World Cup and the films Top Gun and Stand By Me (one of my all time favourite films) are released. And I celebrate entering by double figures.
In case you haven’t worked this out already, you really need to get used to Madonna appearing in these top tens. What can I say, I’m a woman who had an 80s childhood- of course she’s is going to feature heavily. Anyway, here’s my personal top ten from 1986 (in no particular order). Spotify list at the end as per.
1.World Shut Your Mouth by Julian Cope
2. You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon (so in love with 1980s Chevy Chase)
3. Caravan of Love by the Housemartins
4. Manic Monday by the Bangles
Another example of 80s hair magnificence
5. Don’t Leave Me This Way by the Communards
6. Panic by the Smiths
7. For America by Red Box
8. A Different Corner by George Michael
9. True Colors by Cyndi Lauper
10. Live to Tell by Madonna
It’s so very close between The Smiths, Paul Simon and Cyndi Lauper this week, but I’m going to have to give it to my girl Cyndi. It always makes me feel emotional. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE? Answers on a cyber postcard below.
So in 1985, the Sinclair C5 is launched, TV soap opera Eastenders debuts, a fire breaks out at Bradford football stadium during a match killing 56 people, the Football Association bans all English football clubs from playing in Europe due to football riots and hooliganism, the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior is sunk after French agents plant a bomb, Live Aid concerts in both London and Philadelphia raise over £50,000,000 for famine relief in Ethiopia, the wreck of RMS Titanic is located by an expedition team, rioting as a result of racial tension take place in both Birmingham and Brixton, 55 people are killed in the Manchester Airport disaster when a plane bursts into flames, the first British mobile phone call is made and the films The Breakfast Club, The Goonies and Back to the Future are released. I turned 9 years old.
There’s quite a few repeat appearances here. There’s only two acts here that you haven’t seen before in previous weeks, but it does not make this week’s playlist any weaker. Also, please note how the hair has definitely got a lot BIGGER in 1985.
1.How Soon is Now? by The Smiths
2. Shout by Tears for Fears
3. You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead or Alive
I kind of feel sorry for the bloke on the right who is lacking in the hair department. Do you think he felt left out?
4. Take on Me by A-Ha
5. I’m Your Man by Wham!
6. Inbetween Days by the Cure
7. Raspberry Beret by Prince
8. Running up That Hill by Kate Bush
9. Crazy for You by Madonna
10. Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads
Whilst Dead or Alive are a close second, it’s Kate that wins again for me this week. One of the best songs ever written and those lyrics are phenomenal “And if I only could, I’d make a deal with God, And I’d get him to swap our places”. So, which one is your favourite?
In 1984, Torvill and Dean wins gold at the Winter Olympics, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated, the miners’ strikes begin, comedian Tommy Cooper collapses and dies from a heart attack live on TV, police officer Yvonne Fletcher is shot and killed in the Libyan Embassy siege, a Brighton hotel is bombed by the IRA in an attempt to kill PM Margaret Thatcher- she narrowly escapes injury, but 5 people are killed and 31 were injured, the Thames Barrier is opened by the Queen, British unemployment reaches an all time record high, runner Zola Budd controversially collides with Mary Decker during the 3000 metre race at the Los Angeles Olympics, Prince Harry (officially Henry) is born, the Band Aid charity single is released and goes to the top of the charts, pop band Bucks Fizz are involved in a serious road accident, Marvin Gaye is shot and killed by his father and the films Ghostbusters, Gremlins, the Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Footloose are released. I turned 8 years old.
I think 1984 is another one of my favourite years so far. So many big names this week and our George features twice. So here’s my top ten 10 tunes from 1984, in no particular order. There’s a Spotify playlist at the end as per.
Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham! (This video is pure 80s, pure Wham! and pure George- shaky camera work and bad miming ‘n’ all)
2. White Lines (Don’t Do It) by Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel
Is this the most perfect band photo ever?
3. Borderline by Madonna
4. Hero Takes a Fall by the Bangles (watch the Bangles destroying the patriarchy in this video)
5. Seven Seas by Echo and the Bunnymen
6. Careless Whisper by George Michael
7. Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat
8. The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
9. Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper
10. Purple Rain by Prince
What?! Now you want me to pick one, singular track from that lot to be my favourite?! When you’ve got George Michael, Cyndi Lauper, Frankie, Wham AND Prince in that list altogether, it’s not possible, surely?…but I’m thinking as I still can’t listen to Purple Rain without getting misty eyes, it’s probably that. So, can you decide which one is your favourite? Let me know below.
So 1981, the year that Prince Charles married Diana Spencer (and I won a fancy dress competition dressed as Diana in her wedding dress), Peter Sutcliffe is charged with being the Yorkshire Ripper, Dynasty debuts on TV, Pope John Paul II is shot, but not killed, John McEnroe throws a paddy at Wimbledon and shouts “You cannot be serious” at the umpire for the first time (and my brother won the boys section of the same fancy dress competition dressed as McEnroe with a large plaster over his mouth. The Beasleys were on FIRE in 1981), raceriots spread across the UK, Bucks Fizz won the Eurovision Song Contest (best UK entry ever) and Raiders of the Lost Ark was released. I turned 5 years old.
Oh so this is when things get deliciously 80s. There may be some credible tunes here, but yes there is Adam Ant, yes there’s Kim Wilde and yes there’s Bucks Fizz and I’m not apologising for any of it. Enjoy!
Just Can’t Get Enough by Depeche Mode
2. Reward by Teardrop Explodes
3. Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants
4. Can You Feel It by the Jacksons
5. Tainted Love by Soft Cell
6. Pretty in Pink by Psychedelic Furs
7. Kids in America by Kim Wilde
8. One in Ten by UB40
9. Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (If you need cheering up then I implore you to watch this. It’s their Eurovision performance and it evens features our Tel*)
10. Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
Whilst this has been one of my favourite years so far (I think I say that every week), choosing my favourite was easy. It’s Queen and Bowie. Obvs. Which one is your favourite?
I’ll be taking a break from Top Ten Tunes next week as I’ll be posting my 10 most popular blog posts from this year instead. So see you on Friday 5th January for 1982.
*Famous Irish TV/radio personality Terry Wogan who was hugely popular and bit of legend in the UK and Ireland and who we sadly lost last year.
1980 was another eventful year. John Lennon was shot and killed in New York, a former Hollywood actor became the president of the United States, Alton Towers opened, the Rubik’s Cube was voted best toy, terrorists seized the Iranian embassy in London, which leads to the SAS to storm the embassy and release all the hostages, the world found out “who shot JR?” and my all time favourite film The Shining is released. And I turned the grand old age of 4 years old.
So here’s my top ten songs from 1980. There’s a few repeat artists here (artists that have appeared on previous Top Tens), but this list is no weaker for it. Lots of strong tunes here and there’s a Spotify playlist at the end as always.
1. Babooshka by Kate Bush
2. Baggy Trousers by Madness
3. Going Underground by the Jam
4. Too Much Too Young by the Specials
5. Master Blaster (Jammin’) by Stevie Wonder
6. Happy House by Siouxsie and the Banshees
7. Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie
8. Atomic by Blondie
9. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division
10. Brass in Pocket by The Pretenders
Whilst it’s very close between Blondie and Joy Division for my favourite track this week (kind of annoying these two songs appear within the same year tbh), but it has to be Joy Division. Love Will Tear Us Apart is one of the greatest songs every written. So, which is your favourite then?
I’m not exaggerating when I say that music was the most important thing in my life when I was a teenager. More important than school, more important than my fast-developing body and yes even more important than my Mum’s macaroni cheese (mate, that is really saying something). Every week I had the NME, Melody Maker and Smash Hits delivered, as well as going out and buying Select, Vox and Record Mirror magazines (yeah I got a discount at the newsagents I worked at thankfully). Whilst my brother was eating, sleeping and breathing football, I was doing the same with music. It’s safe to say that music plays an important role in the socialisation of adolescents. When you think of your teenage years, you will most likely have a soundtrack that accompanies it. After seeing a friend list her favourite albums from her teenage years on Facebook, I started to consider which would be mine. Every time I thought of an album, I realised sometimes its influence on me was possibly far more important than it’s musical credibility. Therefore, these albums aren’t necessarily the best albums of my teenage years or even my favourites, but they are the albums that influenced me the most and helped shape me. Some were released before I was a teenager, but were albums that I discovered and listened to a lot in my teen years. I’ve included a Spotify playlist at the end of the best songs from each album.
Raw Like Sushi by Neneh Cherry (1989)
Neneh (remember, it rhymes with henna) was the first act to get me into hip hop music (ok I was rather partial to Walk this Way by Run DMC before then) from there I embraced the sounds of De La Soul (technically the hippies of hip-hop because they had some flowers on their album cover), Monie Love and Queen Latifah. Yes, the creme de la creme of late-80’s/early 90’s hip hop. Is this the right time to mention, that I loved Betty Boo too? Moving on…
So, I was beyond excited when on Christmas day I was presented with the Raw Like Sushi LP by my parents. I spent the rest of the day locked in my room, ignoring my family and playing the album over and over again.
A common theme with some of these albums that soundtracked my teenage years, is that both myself and my friends were equally obsessed with them. Raw Like Sushi is one of them. We would sit in each other’s bedrooms listening to it whilst “rapping” along (have you ever heard a group of 13/14 year old girls from Oxfordshire rapping? We sounded goooood). So, altogether now:
“who’s that gigolo on the street, with his hands in his pocket and his crocodile feet, hanging off the curb, looking all disturbed, at the boys from home, they all come running….”
“Chocolates, bananas, doughnuts and salami, ain’t gonna fit cos you’re full of bologna”.
Ooh nice burn, Neneh.
I remember reading an interview with Neneh in Smash Hits magazine (greatest magazine of all time) and talking about her hatred for Margaret Thatcher. Whilst, it probably wasn’t a radical point of view, it felt radical to me at that age, to hear one of my idols talk about our country leader in that way. Also, remember the storm that erupted when Neneh performed on Top of the Pops heavily pregnant? One newspaper denounced her and claimed performing whilst pregnant was bad for the unborn child. This was less than 30 years ago. I don’t believe she was trying to make a big political statement. Rather, she was just a woman who happened to be pregnant and was just “getting on with things” and I absolutely loved her for it.
I still love Neneh and have bought every album she’s produced since, but nothing will top the glorious Raw Like Sushi.
Favourite song: Buffalo Stance
Everything by Bangles
Many of you will probably remember slow dancing to Eternal Flame at the school disco with Aaron Taylor who later on that evening gifted you with the chewing gum from his mouth as you snogged by the bins*. But for me the Bangles and this album meant so much more than a slushy song one would exchange saliva to.
Imagine it’s 1989 and you’re a teenage girl that wants to be in a band with your girlfriends and you want to play your own instruments and write your own songs. Imagine that you look at the charts and your only female role models available are mainly female pop singers that have songs written for them. Then you see the Bangles on Top of the Pops doing exactly what you want to do. Here began my love/obsession with them.
I loved everything about them. Their music (I remember telling my Mum that I thought Eternal Flame was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. I was 13 okay! Leave me alone. God), their clothes ( you have no idea how many charity and vintage clothes shops I trawled trying to imitate their style), their harmonies and yes even the hair (I dreamed of having pillar box red hair a la bassist, Michael Steele). I did go on to form my own band with my girlfriends. We used to sit in each other’s bedrooms writing teen angst poetry and trying to put the words to music along with very bad guitar playing. We were awful. Then I went on to join a Bowie covers band. We were also awful and that was the end of my band member career. However, the dream of being in a band all started with my love for the Bangles. I still love them today, but I’m not sure if that’s just with nostalgic affection for the 13/14 year old me or whether I actually think they’re any good.
Favourite song: Something to Believe in
The Cole Porter Songbook by Ella Fitzgerald
Perusing my best friend’s parents’ CD collection (being the nosey cow that I am, I always did/still do this when I spot a music collection in someone’s home), I came across a couple of Ella Fitzgerald CDs of her singing Cole Porter. After much begging, my friend agreed to put these albums on for me (at the time she would have much rather listened to Carter USM). I already had one Ella album, but was desperate to hear her sing Porter. I wasn’t disappointed. This album started my infatuation with all the greatest American Jazz singers (Billie, Dinah et al), but it was Ella’s voice that captured me the most. Her effortless, natural vocal style (or as my Gran would say “she can sing lying down that one”) had a huge impact on my own vocal style. I would spend hours in my bedroom trying to emulate Ella’s voice. Needless to say it was a futile effort, as no one would ever be able to get anywhere near her talent and perfect sound, but her style would influence my singing forever.
Favourite song: Too Darn Hot
Screamadelica by Primal Scream
By 1992, my love of all things Indie was in full flow. I spent the whole summer with my best mate Ange discussing Blur in great lengths (she was in love with Damon, I was in love with Alex), accidentally starting fires in the local park and debating who would die first if we tried to strangle each other at the same time (no, we weren’t very bright teenagers). We also spent most evenings in the pub hanging out with a group of ‘boys who loved music’. The band that united them the most as a group of friends was Primal Scream. It was these friends that “introduced” me to Primal Scream. I say “introduced’ lightly as it was more like “barked-at-me-until-I-relented”. However, I was very pleased that they did. I’ve never been a fan of people telling what I should or shouldn’t be listening to, but this time these friends were right. This was one of the first albums, that I would just lie on my bed and listen to without moving or having to do anything else, other than enjoy it. I found it (and still do) an almost meditative album. I went to see Primal Scream live at Glastonbury. Myself and my tiny friends (we were all 5’4″ and under) practically got crushed and had to leave after the first song. I had scratches down my legs, one friend lost her watch that her parents gave her for her Birthday and another friend had a panic attack. For years after, the words “Primal Scream” were muttered with contempt (because it was obviously, completely their fault we thought standing in the middle of the crowd would be a good idea for us) by all of us, but secretly I would still listen to my Screamadelica album alone, my love for it resilient to our traumatic experience of trying to see it live.
Favourite song: Higher Than the Sun
Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos
As I got ready for school, cleansing my face with Anne French cleanser, spraying myself with a suffocating amount of Exclamation! perfume and listening to Simon Mayo do the breakfast show on Radio 1, I remember stopping everything that I was doing when he put a record on by Tori Amos called “Silent All These Years”. I quickly decided it was the best song that I had ever heard (yes even better than Eternal Flame) and bought the Little Earthquake album as soon my savings from my part-time job would allow. Then there was very little else that I did with my time other than listen to it and wish that one day I would be as good as a songwriter as Tori. This album imbues rawness and bravery, from the eeriness of Me & a Gun (written about Tori’s traumatic ordeal of being raped) to the sexually overt Leather to the many songs that reflected her childhood (Mother, Winter, Tear in Your Hand). This was an album that an abundance of teenage girls in the 90’s (and beyond) turned to as their anthem. It is one of a handful of albums from my teen years that I still listen to and genuinely enjoy today (and obviously sing along to at the top of my voice as I still know all of the lyrics).
Favourite song: Winter
Help! by the Beatles (1965)
I’ve documented my love for the Beatles in this blog here, but it was the Help! album that first made me fall love with the Beatles. I bought this album after watching the insane Help! film with my friends (yes it was this same film that made me fall in love with Ringo. I’ve always loved an underdog me). Whilst, this may not be my favourite Beatles album, it has some of my favourite Beatles tracks on it (Help!, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, Ticket to Ride and I’ve Just Seen a Face). I still absolutely love the Beatles to this day and it all started with this album. Do read my above blog on the Beatles if you’re a fan or want to read more.
Favourite song: Help!
Dry by PJ Harvey (1992)
“Let’s listen to this John Peel session then”, I said to myself at almost 16 years old, which basically meant “let’s change my life forever”. The moment I heard Water, I sat up alarmed, like my brain and ears had heard music that I’d been waiting for all my life. The very next day I ran to my local, independent music shop (which closed down in the 90s, but last year, a truly wonderful thing happened and it opened back up again in exactly the same spot) and bought the Dry album. Then started my life-long love of PJ Harvey that has not waned in the slightest. Every PJ Harvey gig that I went to in my teens, made me love her even more. From the nervous girl from Yeovil on stage at Glastonbury with her one earring, to the woman clad in a red dress and leopard print fur coat and shades at the Forum, to the absolutely awesome Polly in her pink jump suit, black bra and blue eye shadow completely owning the Pyramid stage, she continued to entertain, enthral and bring me joy throughout my teenage years and beyond.
It’s hard for me to articulate what PJ Harvey means to me, but know this, she is very special to me and this album will be part of me forever.
Favourite song: Dress
Like a Prayer by Madonna (1989)
Raw Like Sushi was not the only LP that I played in my bedroom over and over again on Christmas Day, 1989. Yes, not only did my parents present me with one LP, but they laid two in my palm. Double excitement!
Now before this album was released, I was already a Madonna fan. I had already learnt the lyrics to Like a Virgin off by heart, singing the song over and over without really knowing what I was singing about. My best mate & I were already obsessed with the True Blue album, drawing the conclusion that Papa Don’t Preach, La Isla Bonita and Live to Tell were some of the best pop songs every written (on reflection we were probably right) and I had of course as any self respecting girl of my age, tried to dress like her in Desperately Seeking Susan, but it was with Like a Prayer that I become a Madonna fan 4life.
I remember the excitement and buzz that surrounded the release of the Like a Prayer single and its accompanying video (I also remember staying up late one night and watching the Word where it showed a clip of the video reversed, that proved in actual FACT Madonna is singing “hear us, save us Satan”. I mean there’s absolutely no way that’s bollocks, right?). So, like Raw Like Sushi by the end of Christmas day, I had pretty much learned all of the lyrics. I also felt, I had established a deep understanding of Madonna’s inner psyche. I mean, Till Death do us Part is totally about her and Sean Penn and Promise to Try is totally about her Mum dying and that. I had her sussed and I actually thought I was probably the only person who had ever made these connections (despite the fact she went on to deny there were any autobiographical grounds to Like a Prayer. Does she think we’re stupid? Answer: probably).
It’s not unusual for a woman my age to have long-lasting love for Madonna. I’ve stuck by her through thick and thin. However, our relationship has been tested at times (see Hard Candy and Swept Away– fuck it- most of her films).
Many people don’t get her and some seem to hate her with an inexplicable passion. I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out (though I am generalising) when I say most of the time it’s straight men that don’t like her (and don’t they just love to tell you about it. That and the fact they don’t find her sexually attractive. It’s ok, I’ll make sure she gets the memo, guys. I mean, how dare a hugely successful woman show her face within the public sphere when you don’t fancy her). However, it cannot be denied that her cultural impact has been monumental. Some claim she is the greatest gay icon of all time. She has undeniably helped liberate female sexuality and the amount she has raised for AIDS charities is nothing short of admirable.
Favourite song: Like a Prayer
Rhythm Nation 1814 by Janet Jackson (1989)
When Janet Jackson released this album she said that through her music, she wanted to capture the attention of a younger audience who may have been unaware of what it meant to be socially conscious. This is exactly what she achieved with me with this concept album released in 1989, covering subjects such as racism, poverty, and education. At 13yrs old, I had to look up in the dictionary the meaning for some of the words that Jackson introduced me to, such as ‘prejudice’ and ‘bigotry’. Yes, that is how naive and ignorant I must’ve been, not forgetting privileged. Listening to this album on repeat made me quickly realise this.
Whilst, some of the songs have dated and don’t sound as great as they did when I was a teenager, there are still many fantastic songs (Rhythm Nation, Miss You Much, Black Cat, Escapade). The amount of time I spent in my bedroom trying to copy and perfect all of Janet’s dance moves to this album, I think we can all agree, were in no way wasted. I even created a stage show using the music and dance routines from this album. In my head.
Then there was the accompanying film that featured three songs from the album and told the story of two boys who pursued their dream of a musical career which was then destroyed by substance abuse and addiction (it was a fun film). I remember making my Dad sit down and watch it with me to which his response was probably along the lines of “yes very good, I better get on wth planting the runner beans now”. Still, it all added to my light bulb moment that “gosh not everyone has had the same chances as me. How thoroughly unfair”.
Janet Jackson was the first woman ever to be nominated for a Grammy for best producer, with Rhythm Nation 1814 and the album received much critical acclaim. She expected the social consciousness of the album to have a negative effect on album sales, but the album has sold over 12 million copies worldwide and was the biggest selling album in 1990 in America. Sadly, the issues that Jackson wrote about on Rhythm Nation 1814 makes the album still very relevant today.
Favourite Song: Rhythm Nation
Please enjoy this photo of my school art folder from 1990, that I recently recovered from my parents’ attic. On it, I have scribbled lyrics from Rhythm Nation 1814 and other great “artist’s” names on it. Hold on -wtf- when did I ever like U2?! I’m not even slightly embarrassed by my love for Wilson Philips though. That just makes perfect sense.
Modern Life is Rubbish by Blur (1993)
I’d played my Leisure LP to death, I was already in love with Alex James (don’t judge me), I was even one of three people who bought the Popscene single. When I went to my first Blur gig (not at a festival) at Fulham Gardens, we somehow gatecrashed their aftershow party at the Maison Rouge recording studios down the road. After drinking the free bar dry, I accosted Damon and told him how the song ‘Sing‘ from the Leisure album was my all time favourite song. He seemed disappointed in this. “Fine’ he said “but it’s our new music you should be interested in. You need to get on board with it. We’re going in a different direction and it’s going to be massive”. So, when I stumbled out of the recording studies at midnight like (actually not even vaguely like) an indie-Cinderella giddy with excitement, my mind was reeling with the prospect of Blur’s new album. Then, THEN the announcement came that they were to release a new single and album. I remember in the hour long lunch break I had at my college in Henley where I was doing my A-levels, I ran to the train station and got the train to Reading. I then ran from the train station in Reading to HMV, picked up my reserved copy of For Tomorrow, ran back to the station, got the train back to Henley, ran back to college and spent the afternoon not being able to concentrate in class knowing that I had the new Blur single in my bag. I then sat on the bus home at the end of the day, clutching and staring at the single with much anticipation and excitement. When I got home, I no doubt ignored my Mother, ran upstairs and played the single over and over again. I went from being a Blur fan to an obsessed Blur fan. A Blur loyalist if you will. A week later the album was released and I was forever in love with Blur. I bought ‘Modern Life is Rubbish‘ t-shirts and wore them with pride as I served in my local newsagent to the mirth of men who had clearly lived through the second world war and thought it was hilarious that I thought modern life was in fact rubbish. When they asked me why I thought it was rubbish, I thought it was wise not to just say “because Damon Albarn said so & he’s so pretty”, so I just mumbled something about computers.
Then, as luck would have it, posters appeared all over my college announcing that Blur were doing a warm-up gig for their Sugary Tea tour, in of all places- the night club Washington Heights in Reading (or as we liked to cleverly call it- Washington Shites). Queue more running and train journeys to Reading and back to buy tickets for the most hotly anticipated gig of my life (there was a lot of running involved for me when it came to music). Me and my three other Blur loyalist friends went to the gig and again forced ourselves into their aftershow party where (and I cringe as I write this, but it’s almost cathartic for me and maybe it will encourage other people to confess their embarrassing 90’s indie stories) I presented Alex with a poem I had written for him about stars. Oh yes. Yes, I actually did that. Now, I know I’m no Patti Boyd, but on Blur’s following album Alex did write a song for it about…stars. I know, the coincidence is too much, but I’ll happily take credit for Alex’s creative input into Parklike. You’re welcome.
We then followed them for most of the Sugary Tea tour, always standing at the front (but to one side to avoid being totally crushed. We’d learnt that valuable lesson since Primal Scream) at every gig. I even won a Melody Maker competition to interview them before their gig in Brighton (I asked them how much sugar they took in their tea. Just call me Kate Adie). This album out of all of the above albums was the most influential for me as a teenager. It made me love the country I lived in, it made me ask questions (and not just about sugary tea), it widened my music taste, and I’d even go as far to say that it made me want more out of my life. I guess you could say in many ways, it made my life definitely less rubbish, which kind of contradicted the whole album theme, I suppose.
Favourite song: For Tomorrow
The Albums That Almost Made It:
Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1. by George Michael (1990). Best song: The Stevie Wonder cover, They Won’t Go When I Go (There is not one bad song on this record. Also, ohmyGod George’s voice on this record)
Germfree Adolescents by X-Ray Spex (1978). Favourite song: Identity (Poly Styrene was a hero)
Bostin’ Steve Austin by We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna to Use it (1986). Favourite song: What’s the Point? (I wanted to be in punk days-Fuzzbox so badly. They always looked like they were having so much fun. Also, hair.)
So, that’s my most influential albums as a teenager. What were yours and why?
Some of the original LPs that I used to play in my bedroom as a teenager.