Tuesday, 19 November 2013

1993: Blur - Modern Life is Rubbish

This is another wonderful album cover, and the album that is seen in some ways as the "start" of the Blur we know and love and the seminal album of British music of the decade.

Perhaps. Perhaps it's more about what it represents than what it is. It's not my favourite Blur album - 3rd or 4th favourite really. The tale of its genesis, though, is fascinating in itself.

Blur's first album 'Leisure' was significantly more successful in both the UK and the US, but it's also a bit rubbish. There are a couple of great baggy singles, 'There's No Other Way' and 'She's So High' which showed Damon Albarn's gift for pop songs, but it was generally dismissed as copycat trendhopping.

Funnily enough, I do remember Blur on Top of the Pops in around 1991, and thinking they were rubbish, disconcerting and interesting (legend has it they were on ecstasy, which might explain a bit) so I kept a look out for the name. The early 90s was a musical black hole for me, however and if I'm honest, Blur between 'Bang' and 'Girls and Boys' passed me by entirely. Which is when all this stuff happened.

So the story begins ... they had a terrible US tour where they all psychologically disintegrated and fought each other and were ignored and hated their own music and most of all hated America. So they determined to become a proper British band. First up was the single 'Popscene', all stabbing brass, which was a big flop but is now seen as one of the best singles of the 90s.

Then came the recording of Modern Life is Rubbish, which had the working title Britain Vs America. The eventual title is a lot better. Albarn says that the rubbish means garbage, detritus, i.e. the modern world is just the leftovers of the clogged up past. Nice.

Here's an interesting thing. OK, it's now seen as a classic and proof of Albarn's genius in defiance of prevailing trends and the record company, but perhaps that's not the whole story.

Blur submitted the original album and were told it needed more in the way of singles, so Albarn wrote For Tomorrow. Then they wanted another "more American" single so they recored Chemical World.
So, really, who's the genius? Would this be half the album without those two songs, two of the finest in Blur's canon which they still play to this day? OK, Damon Albarn is a magnificent songwriter but it was not his instinct to include the two best songs on the album.

It was still be a good album with a great idea and great theme without those songs and Blur would probably still have gone on to do Parklife because it's not like For Tomorrow and Chemical World were career-boosting hits at the time. But, still, they make the album.

It's funny to think that before Modern Life, Damon wasn't thought of as much of a lyricist. For Tomorrow, the first song on the album, is one of his great tours de force, a lovely splurge of words, a romantic London song which really was the definition of the music I loved back then.

Starshaped is another cracking song (and the name of a mad Blur documentary of the time) and the song which really epitomises the cliche of oompah-loompah gor blimey guvnor Blur is Sunday Sunday - I've got to say I love it.

There are plenty of other good songs on the album, Advert and Colin Zeal and Oily Water etc. Still, few would say they didn't improve on the template with Parklife.

Seeing Blur in 2009 at Hyde Park was an indescribably awesome gig, especially since, for my own sins, I'd missed them first time around. It was a massive gig and it felt like I was part of a generation of like-minded people, which truly is a feeling I've hardly ever had in my life.

Blur were my band like they were for tens of thousands of others, the band that got me into modern music, to indie music, to real music. It was End of a Century, from Parklife, which really did it, I loved the lyrics and the brass. I loved the tracksuit tops. Later on, I loved the guitar, the ideas, the intelligence, the personalities (apart Alex James, who I always thought seemed like a cock, which he probably is, but his book is really a hoot. However, he's done a lot of TV in the last decade or so s if people think he's going to be more louche, witty and debonair than he is. Really, he's just a guy that got oh so lucky).

Albarn and Coxon isn't quite Lennon and McCartney, Albarn is always the major talent, but it's a pretty tremendous meeting of talents and gifts. And the drummer Dave Rowntree is some people's favourite band member, of course, though he probably won't be prime minister any time soon.

Modern Life is Rubbish was apparently born of hatred of both America and Suede. I'd have to be a pretty one-eyed Blur fan not to recognise that Suede's first two albums were as influential or in fact far more so than Blur's. It's a genuinely bitter rivalry, that one, a personal and professional hatred that has never gone away. Well done to Suede for coming back rocking and with some very decent new songs but Blur took it to a significantly higher level as the two bands progressed.

Damon Albarns turned out to be arguably one of the five most prodigious, most varied, most consistent talents in the history of British pop music, and that, more than ambition, concepts and capturing the zeitgeist was the key to Blur's success and influence.

Still, perhaps if Modern Life is Rubbish had been rubbish, they'd have been dropped, split up and he'd have gone straight to making soundtracks for obscure films or something, so thank goodness for it.

Here's a compilation from the Blur members. No Fat Les.

For Tomorrow
Song 2
Best Days
He Thought of Cars
Bittersweet Bundle of Misery - Graham Coxon
A Soldier's Tale - The Good, the Bad and the Queen
Sunset Coming On - Damon Albarn
Under the Westway
Chemical World
This is a Low
Battery in Your Leg
End of a Century
19/2000 - Gorillaz
Good Song
The Universal
On Your Own
To the End

There were really far too many to choose from. For the sake of one Coxon song and a song from Mali Music, I've missed Badhead and Out of Time. Are there more great combined Albarn/Coxon songs (many Albarn, really) than almost anyone, even Lennon/McCartney?
I think the most amazing thing about Damon Albarn is that he's headlined big festivals with three different, entirely distincts acts, Blur, Gorillaz and the Good, the Bad and the Queen (yes, they headlined Latitude one year i went, not entirely triumphantly, but certainly atmospherically). Four if you count his operas Monkey and Dr Dee headlining Manchester International Festival.
Still, i'd easily swap everything else he's ever done for one more decent Blur album.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

1978: Blondie - Parallel Lines

1978, the year I was born, and a classic album cover. What a tremendous concept Blondie was, a punk band, a pop band, a rock band, a disco band, hip-hop pioneers, slick and shiny, grimy and druggy, as a notion they're one of the greatest bands ever. They probably didn't make enough great music to actually be one of the greatest bands ever, but this is an iconic band in the truest sense of the word.

Parallel Lines is considered their one great album, apart from Greatest Hits, obviously, and it's a virtual Greatest Hits in itself.

Like the Clash, Blondie broke down the barriers in the music of the time - it didn't have to be punk versus disco, pop versus rock, style versus success. Rather as I once mentioned with Martha Reeves vs Diana Ross, there's a megastardom Blondie didn't hold on to which means they might play tents at festivals in Suffolk and Madonna never drops below stadium level.

Deborah Harry was/is a star, but always an odd, cult, slightly dangerous one. She's the same age as my mum, already in her mid-30s by the time mega-success came. She dominates the band, embodies the band, of course, but they were always at pains to say they were an actual band. Perhaps they shouldn't have called themselves Blondie then ...

Does one see Deborah Harry in today's female stars? Well, no, not that much, nobody really has that coolness - you just see the grim version of blonde ambition which Madonna co-opted. Both did a fair bit of acting too - Deborah Harry was better but then, again, that's not saying much.

In indie music, there have been a fair few of those female-fronted, male instrumentalist bands - and then, perhaps Gwen Stefani is Blondie's most direct and obvious successor. Not a notion that fills me with great joy.

This is a great album - my favourite track, in fact my favourite Blondie song, is Sunday Girl. No real secret to why, it's just a cool tune. I loved the random French as well, I suppose. Then there's Heart of Glass, their disco pop sensation, which was probably the first Blondie song I heard, on a TV advert for the Best of Blondie. Shortly afterwards, on a school holiday, in dormitories, we listened to an awful lot of that album. Bizarrely, I remember the compliment of the time and place was "raj", and I remember the phrase "Debbie Harry is raj" ... being used. Odd.

It was also rather marvellous that, starting from 1998, they had a whole new career with new material and everything. Maria was a great comeback single and deserves its place amongst their biggest hits.

With Blondie, you can't look too far beyond the singles, I think. This would be my Blondie compilation

Rip Her to Shreds
Sunday Girl
Heart of Glass
One Way or Another
Fade Away and Radiate
Call Me
Hanging on the Telephone
Picture This

Basically, a greatest hits, sorry. With no Tide is High. Because Atomic Kitten ruined it for me.

Friday, 15 November 2013

1983: Billy Bragg - Life's a Riot with Spy Vs Spy

1983's a bit of a funny year, isn't it? Thatcher got re-elected, Thriller had just come out but Madonna hadn't hit yet, the Jam had split up to be replaced by the Style Council, new romanticism was a dominant commercial force, and I, I was not yet conscious. I mean, I was conscious, but I was not conscious that it was 1983. 1984 was my first year of historical understanding. Not much, but a bit, so it's quite hard for me to know what to make of 1983. It seems like a bit of a non-year to me. What were the classic albums? Anyone?

So I've gone for the first album (I say album, it's 7 songs in 15 minutes) by a quietly powerful presence in British music. Bragg's right there at the heart of the 80s alternative, with the famous Red Wedge which famously made absolutely naff-all difference, with that sturdy, strong voice from the left.

30 years he's been doing it, and he's made himself a kind of national treasure, a figure beyond music. Blackwell's, Charing Cross Road, 2001-2, we got a lot of famous folk in - I'll never forget my shock on my first day when Laurence Fishburne strolled in and asked to be directed to the drama section. But in my Social Sciences department, we were never so close to being starstruck, or at least wishing to go up and pat a celeb on the back and say "good on you" as when Billy was browsing the History section. He seems like a good one.

I was listening to this album earlier, and, to be honest, I wasn't enjoying it that much. It's got A New England, which is Bragg's most famous song, The Busy Girl Buys Beauty, The Milkman of Human Kindness, it sets a very nice template for his career, but it's obviously very one-paced and basic. Thriller it ain't.

I was reminded of something Jeff Tweedy slightly churlishly said after Billy Bragg and Wilco collaborated on Woody Guthrie lyrics for the Mermaid Avenue album. There was a bit of tension on the closing stages, apparently, and a falling out, which was least partially repaired. But I remember Tweedy being asked what he'd learnt from Billy Bragg in the sessions and him saying it was more along the lines of what Bragg had learnt from Wilco.

I kind of get his point. Tweedy is a master, a man who has gone from style to style, who creates all different types of songs, creates classic albums, makes strange and daring noises. I can imagine him making the simplicity of Billy's form seem a bit amateurish.

Not to say it was not a fruitful collaboration. There are some wonderful songs on Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue Vol II. And not to say that Billy Bragg is not awesome, with some awesome songs, but I think a 10 song compilation will be about right for him.

He's an astute, witty, lyricist, but I'm not sure there's that often enough in his songs to get lost in them over and over again.

His career's mainly been on the fringes, not many big sellers. Bizarrely, there's a Number 1 single from 1988, on a Double A side in aid of Childline with WetWetWet - they did With A Little Help from My Friends, he did She's Leaving Home - I've a feeling there's was the more popular number. Apart from that, a few Top 40 hits, Sexuality, Between the Wars, one called Take Down the Union Jack. He's never quite been able to move beyond being a one (no, two, Mr Love and Justice) trick pony.

Still, 1983 felt like Billy Bragg's year to me. The left is coming, I tell you. The left is coming.

Here's a list. Despite whatever negativity I've expressed, I like all these songs a lot, and two or three of them, I like an awful lot.

New England
Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key
Brickbat (oh I love this one!)
The Busy Girl Buys Beauty
All You Fascists Bound to Lose
St Swithin's Day
Between the Wars
Waiting for the Great Leap Forward
Greetings to the New Brunette

That's be mine. There should be more like Billy Bragg

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

2006: Beyonce - B'Day

I'm not going to lie to you, I don't own this album. I wanted to put together a Beyonce/Destiny's Child compilation, so needed to pick an album. So i chose the one with hilarious title, released on her birthday but beloved of fans of posh bathrooms. Also released the same year was 'Respect M.E.' by Missy Elliott, but not sadly 'R's Soul' by R Kelly.

Anyway, the title was a rare misfire for Beyonce, who is by a huge huge distance the great pop star of our age. Who are our megastars of pop? Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Bieber, Eminem, Rihanna, Timberlake, even maybe Adele. Well, how much better is Beyonce than all of them?

Though still in her early 30s, she's a proper veteran - Destiny's Child's first hit was 16 full years ago, and they were immediately awesome, tight, futuristic r'n'b. And there's barely been a let-up sibce. That's a hell of a career. A hell of a lot of hits. And - perhaps someone can answer me this, what's not to like about Beyonce?

The worst one hears is that she's very focused, very driven, has a big, slightly imposing entourage, but she's pretty much entirely avoided the diva stories, the accusations of unpleasantness, stupidity, talentlessness, wild egocentricity and messiah complex, mentalness that accompany a lot of the biggest stars in pop.

And, sorry to sound like a grandad from Tunbridge Wells, but she's frankly a better role model, whatever the fuck that is, than the rest of these garish goons. She's a pro. She says measured, intelligent things. She doesn't slag people or groups off, ya de ya. I realise there's PR and reality, so I'll stop boring on about all that, and just remember how many awesome songs she's been a part of.

On 'B'Day' there are one or two crackers, including "to the left, to the left" Irreplaceable and Deja Vu (which I actually think is a little bit of a mess).

Being such a fan of Beyonce, I do wonder why I haven't actually shelled out on a full album, rather than the individual songs I own. Is that the essence, for someone looking for a little bit more in their music and believing it really is an art form, of the limitations of pop music? I can't lose myself in it and I don't hear enough different stories. I'll flirt with it then return to my folk, rock, country, whatever.

I do think Beyonce is capable of an album I would love and maybe next time I'll bite the bullet. She is capable of glorious soul music, songs you lose yourself in, she's capable of lots of different textures and moods. I actually think her voice isn't perfect, it's not effortless grace, you can really hear her putting the effort in and it sounds surprisingly shrill sometimes near the top. But, you know, it's a pretty great sound.

She gets songwriting credit on pretty much all her songs - what role she's played one doesn't know exactly but it seems she comes up with lyrics and melodies more than beats and instrumentation. Either way, there's no reason to doubt she's not got a real talent in that area.

There's a song on her latest album, called '1+1' which is quite a spare power ballad, but it really is a thing of wonder, which pushes close to breaking point, but is actually moving beyond what we've any right to expect.

Here would be my Destiny's Child/Beyonce compilation (it doesn't include their work with former Coronation Street star Matthew Marsden in the late 90s)

Crazy in Love (being the best song of the 2000s, according to the NME and pretty much everyone else)
Bills, Bills, Bills - Destiny's Child
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)
Independent Women Part I - Destiny's Child
Jumpin, Jumpin - Destiny's Child
Lose My Breath - Destiny's Child
Nuclear - Destiny's Child
Say My Name - Destiny's Child

Pretty damn good that, and there's plenty more where that came from. Beyonce is the outstanding pop artist of our time, and just for once, you can stick your boys with guitars and beards.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

1966: The Beatles - Revolver

Right, no fucking about with this one. 1966 - Revolver, The Beatles. If you were to collate all the lists ever of Best Album ever, this would surely come Number 1. Because it's the Best Album Ever, I suppose.
And if it's not the best, no one's going to say it's not one of the ten best.

14 songs, which is quite a lot, but the hits keep on coming. Does anyone disagree with me that it's McCartney's album primarily? His finest hour. His songs on this one are Eleanor Rigby, Here There and Everywhere, Good Day Sunshine, For No One and Got to Get You Into My Life. For me, all of those except are Good Day Sunshine are stone cold classics, in my favourite 10 Beatles songs. Here There and Everywhere is the one Macca consistently says is his own favourite.

Though I'm generally of the McCartney beats Lennon persuasion, there are other Beatles album where I accept Lennon has the best moments and gives the album its heart. I even think Lennon is pulling away on the later stuff, but on 'Revolver', Lennon's stuff is great, Harrison's burgeoning but not quite at its peak. McCartney is at his most beautiful and perfect. And Ringo sings Yellow Submarine. Which is the best you can hope for, really.

I do understand why Sgt Pepper's was for a long time considered the best Beatles album. The concept is dazzling. The package is dazzling. The colours are beautiful. But we all know it's a bit silly, really, and there are really only about four great great songs on it.

Whereas Revolver is just a magnificent collection of talent. They give Harrison the first number, which is nice - Taxman - sounds great, but it's a bit moany. Then Eleanor Rigby, which only suffers because it's the pop song most patronisingly appreciated by dumb classical fans who think pop music actually has to justify its existence to them. Shitbags. Anyway ... it's a good song

As is I'm Only Sleeping. Better than the Suggs cover. Then more Harrison, Love You To. Well, ok, it's not necessarily a classic song in and of itself, but it's a real eye-opener, a real "look what we're doing now" moment. A nice bitter before the sweet sweet of Here There and Everywhere.
Then the heart of the album, with Yellow Submarine, She Said She Said (which sounds better to me now than ever), Good Day Sunshine and one of my favourite ever Lennon songs, And Your Bird Can Sing. 1.20 in "Tell me that you've heard every sound there is ...", that surely is one of the great "Here, this is the Beatles, this is how good they are" moments.
And then, wonder of wonders, For No One. Is this the Beatles' most mature, heartbreaking song? Did it create MOR? Either way,  it's an all time favourite of mine.
Then, a little dip, but perhaps a necessary dip and not much of a dip. Doctor Robert and I Want to Tell You, another one where Harrison is not quite fantastic yet but close enough. You can sense his muse coming.
Then time for the big finish. You can understand why Lennon's Tomorrow Never Knows gets the big finish. The way of the future. The way of the future. I wouldn't say I love it but I do remember how enormously impressed I was in the 90s that The Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers sounded no more modern than it, and it seemed that every strand of successful popular music was in thrall to the Beatles.
But anyway, McCartney's last shot is Got to Get You Into My Life, just as much a drugs song as Tomorrow Never Knows, but couldn't be more different in sound and feel. What a melodic gift he had!
And that's it - 14 songs but only 35 minutes. Perhaps it's not right to call it the perfect album, the best album, but it's surely the perfect "band" album, where there is space for different styles, different personalities, different aims, but it all sits together beautifully.
The debt we as pop music fans have to the Beatles and to this album is immeasurable. This is what gave it the momentum to be what it still is. It's a minor, trivial point, but this album was Number 1 in the same summer England won the World Cup. Was this as good as it got for this little country?

Anyway, I'm not going to write much else about the Beatles. I've heard a bit of McCartney's new album, and it's rather good, sounds like the Beatles, not just a pale facsimile.
Their story is the perfect happy accident - how did it happen that there was not one, not two but three of that amazing, world-changing talent (sorry Ringo) all in that part of Liverpool, all at that time? What are the chances? Seriously, statisticians, what are the chances?

How long should a Beatles compilation be, bearing in mind I'm allowed to incorporate the best of their solo careers too? 100 songs? Maybe 50? Jeez, this is tough.
I'll limit myself to 20, but I'll miss some of the greatest songs ever written, just because of the mood I'm in.

We Can Work It Out (this, by the way, is what I would call the perfect Beatles song. The perfect Lennon/McCartney song, if you will)
Penny Lane
In My Life
For No One
All Things Must Pass - George Harrison
I Want to Hold Your Hand
Day in the Life
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
Here There and Everywhere
Happiness is a Warm Gun
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Band on the Run - Paul McCartney
Ticket to Ride
Eleanor Rigby
God - John Lennon
Got to Get You Into My Life
And Your Bird Can Sing

What have I missed? I mean, seriously, the songs I've missed are still pretty much better than every other band in history's career, aren't they?

2013: Arctic Monkeys - AM

So the most recent happens to be by the band that comes first in alphabetical order. I'd have quite liked to write about Ash's 'Free All Angels' for the letter A, which I think is one of the unsung perfect albums of recent times, but 2001 was a bit of a busy year for albums, and the Arctic Monkeys work for 2013 in a way that nothing else does really.

So here we go, 'AM' - a title shared with Wilco's 1st album, a nice little pun which was no doubt carefully thought through. And it's the Arctic Monkeys' 5th album, which means they've already caught up with Coldplay, who started 6 years earlier, and bearing in mind Alex Turner has also had time for a Number 1 album with the Last Shadow Puppets and a very good soundtrack to the film 'Submarine' he can fairly be described as prolific.

It's time for the cynics and doubters, who have included myself, believe me, to accept that the Arctic Monkeys are an all together good thing. They're Kaiser Chiefs, but good. They're Blur, but still together. They're Oasis, but consistent. They're Oasis, but nice. They're Oasis, but smart. They're Oasis, but not really Oasis, cos they're way better. They're every other British indie band, but enormously successful. In a good way.

When their first album came out to phenomenal success and they were 18 and I was 27, they were quite frankly a bunch of precocious smartarses. And so they remained for quite some time. I begrudged their success, their talent, their Northern wit. I was interested, but from a distance.

I'd bought the first album, but truly not enjoyed it all that much. Nothing else sounded as good to me as 'I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor'. Looking back, it's a phenomenal work by teenagers, a fine album ful lstop, but thankfully, and impressively, it's not their best. And it's reasonable to hope they'll only get better.

'AM' from 2013, is probably their most critically aimed record and the one where I finally realised resistance was futile. It's just really good. Every song is good, it's imaginative, it rocks, it's eclectic, it's got a bit of heart, it's just really good.

How often has a band who exploded on the scene like they did been able to cope with the gradual and inevitable decrease in sales and acclaim, while still keeping it at a very acceptable level (all their albums have gone to Number 1 in the UK and Top 25 in the US) and then rediscovered huge success and acclaim again on their 5th LP?

'AM' was recorded in America and has a slighly American feel, incorporating a bit of a hip-hop feel and also heavy rock and a few tales from the rock'n'roll road, but Yorkshire is unmistakeable.

America has often embraced British music but rarely has it embraced British bands who sounded totally and unmistakeably British and dealt in British idiom. Maybe the last one was  the Beatles. Are the Arctic Monkeys the new Beatles? I thought I'd give a shit about answering that question, but it seems I don't, thank goodness.

They're a bit of an anomaly, a proper indie band for whom success has come easy and stayed easy, who haven't blanded out. Now they're in their later twenties, I do confess it's easier to like them than it was. It's hard when the footballers and rock stars are all younger than you (Michael Owen will always be young Michael Owen to me) but I was dealing with it quite well til the Arctic Monkeys came along. 18? You're 18? Piss off.

It's not been perfect. They erred in that their one line-up change (bassist Andy Nicholson swapped for Nick O'Malley)  came after, not before, the first album (unlike, say, the Beatles!) creating the impression of disharmony or manipulation.

But there's a lot to like now. Including great drumming and great backing vocals (who's not a sucker for ooh-la-las?). Although most of the focus is on the lead singer Alex Turner, the drummer Matt Helders might well be the power behind the throne.

Perhaps both a strength and a drawback of the band is the pure attention to detail of Alex Turner's lyrics  - it can sometimes seem almost too perfect, too showy, like you can hear him slaving over it, rather than just coming naturally. There's a slickness and smartness to the internal rhymes and the long, elegant lines which is frankly enviable.

So, there we go, Arctic Monkeys, the band of the present, the band of the future.

Here is a 12 song Arctic Monkeys/Alex Turner compilation

I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
Fluorescent Adolescent
Stuck on the Puzzle - Alex Turner
Snap Out of it
Knee Socks
Fake Tales of San Francisco
Do I Wanna Know
The Age of the Understatement -  The Last Shadow Puppets
A Certain Romance

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

50 Years of Rock'n'Roll for Grown Ups

It always helps with this blog to have a concept to work through at length, otherwise it can be a bit directionless, so first I had "Songs about ..." which was a big exhaustive concept, then I had "31 songs" which was a really fun and simple way to go off on a tangent when writing about songs.

So I've got another concept, quite a nice one. Rock'n'roll has been a grown-up for 50 years, hasn't it? No dissing Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison and Elvis and all those cats, but 1963 was the year Dylan and the Beatles really broke, Motown really started coming into its own. There were still a few more years before it got really grown-up, but 1963 is Year 1 for me.

I'm going to list one album for each year since (51 in total, therefore), write a little about the act and give a playlist for that band. The playlist will be 10, 12, 16 or 20 songs depending on what I think would be the best compilation for said act.

So it doesn't get a bit boring and predictable (for me more than you), I won't do it in chronological order. It'll be in alphabetical order of the acts, so will jump around the years a fair bit. So you can predict, if you wish, what year and act comes next. What fun that will be!

I reserve the right to change an album from my original list so the alphabetical thing might not hold perfectly. I've already made the list and some other albums/bands I really want to write about might come up.

These won't necessarily be my 51 favourites. Indeed, I've already found some irritating instances where I can't include some great albums/acts and then some years are a bit weak. So be it. Also, there might be some acts/albums I'm not a massive fan of, but I just think are worth writing about.  I'm really going to try not to just write about the same old shit I'm always going on about, the alt-country middleweights and the mystery white boys, but you know, there'll be a fair bit of that.

Also, I often discounted great albums because the acts in question only really did one great album so didn't actually make for a great compilation e.g. The Stone Roses and Love's Forever Changes. And I've given room for manoeuvre on what can appear on the compilation - it can be one band and related acts. It could be 'N Sync's ' Celebrity' for 2001 and then the album could contain the best of 'N Sync and all JT's solo stuff as well as his bandmates' solo wonders. It won't be.

There are some, like the Velvet Underground/Lou Reed recently, who I've already provided a good playlist for, so they'll only miss out because of that. Perhaps this concept will tell the true history of rock'n'roll.

Here's a random compilation to start - a massive 26-song list of one song for each letter of the alphabet. I'm making it up as I go ...

Side 1

Arcade Fire - Wake Up
Beta Band - Dry the Rain
Common - I Used to Love H.E.R
Del Amitri - Nothing Ever Happens
Echo and the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
Frank Ocean - Bad Religion
Glen Campbell - Guess I'm Dumb
Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta
Idlewild - When I Argue I See Shapes
Janis Joplin - Cry Baby
Kenickie - Punka
LCD Soundsystem - New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
Matthew E White - Steady Pace

Side 2

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
OutKast - Ms Jackson
PJ Harvey - Sheela-Na-Gig
Queens of the Stone Age - Feelgood Hits of the Summer
Robyn - Dancing on My Own
Squeeze - Tempted
Tom Waits - Martha
Ultrasound - Stay Young
Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day
Wu-Tang Clan - Can It Be All So Simple?
XTC - Senses Working Overtime
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Bang
Zombies - Time of the Season

Super. Not quite the conclusive story of rock'n'roll, but a nice start