The Ballards - Music

The state of play

Music is an important part of our lives. It has a unique ability to move and stimulate us.

We are very lucky to live in a time where music is so available. In previous times the average person may only have heard one band in their entire lives, but thanks to radio, records, CDs, MP3s and easier transportation both Live and recorded music have never been so accessible or pervasive. Music is everywhere.

It is said that the rise of the "Manufactured" pop band heralds the end of music as we know it. The fact that US interest in new British music has fallen to unprecedented levels is said to be symptomatic of a fundamental illness in the UK recording industry.
This is shortsighted nonsense.
Music trends are cyclical: there is no more (and no less) rubbish around than there has ever been.
In the so-called "Golden Age of Music" around 1972 so currently in retro-vogue, conveniently forgotten is that at the same time Andy Williams and Engelbert Humperdink featured high in the charts. The fact is that, in the words of Paul Simon, "every generation throws a hero up the pop charts". Whether that hero is remembered in 30 years, like T Rex, or forgotten, like Paper Lace, is the measure of their true worth.
Gareth Gates could go the way of Jimmy "Long haired lover from Liverpool" Osmond (still touring, by the way!), but within today's throwaway pop stars are the Eric Claptons, Stings, George Michaels and Robbie Williams of 10 years' time. Who of us who lived through the 80's ("there was a time... before cell-phones, before the Internet... a more innocent time", embodied by films like The Wedding Singer) would have thought George Michael could ever produce Adult music?

The current distraction with manufactured bands is nonsense: all singers, all bands, should be judged upon their musical output alone. Frankie Goes to Hollywood, ABC, T Rex, and many others, even The Monkees were all manufactured bands, but all produced some surprisingly good music. Even Prince, who's image (5'0" of scraggly-bearded Mike Myers-like sexual inadequacy) had one or two good tunes in there (Sign of the Times, Thieves in the Temple). Our job, as listeners, is not to discard, but to winnow. There is Good Music out there, but you have to listen to a lot of rubbish to get to it. With 30 years of experience, I can say It Was Always Thus.

No, the real issue facing the music industry is the Digital Genie.
Home taping has been a part of the recording industry since before Phillips introduced the Compact Cassette in the mid-1960s. For years the American RIAA ran an advertising campaign: "Home taping is Killing music" with a skull and crossbones logo. It was so obviously untrue - home taping simply doubled the exposure an artist would get - the RIAA dropped it in embarrassment. Analogue copies on to tape always suffered from Generational Loss: the effects were self-limiting.
But when the CD format was released the Digital Genie was let out of the bottle. No one realised it at the time, but after 15 years of CD-driven unprecedented (and unjustifiable) profit levels within the music industry (little of which found it's way back to the artists) the first commercial CD writers finally became available. With digital copying not suffering from Generational Loss (a CD could be copied, the copy copied again, and so on, with no loss in quality) the effects of home copying became greater.
Overall growth in the music industry offset the increased levels of piracy until the advent of broadband Internet connections, the MP3 compressed music format and P2P file-sharing applications like Napster and Kazaa finally triggered the runaway piracy the music industry had been fuelling for so long by maintaining simply huge CD profit margins. In 2001, for the first time in 20 years, CD sales dropped. The rot had set in... This article describes the problem perfectly....

How the music industry responds to the new dynamic is a very important question. The film industry firmly believed videos would kill the cinema: in fact it reinforced it.
The new technologies can take the music industry upwards but they have to let go of the traditional profit models and start thinking Outside the Box.
Consumers are increasingly aware that paying £16 for a CD to listen to two tracks they like is no longer necessary. The current level of pricing (and profitability) is unsupportable in the long term, and that becomes clearer with every passing year.
It'll be a rough ride down, and the record industry will fight it every step of the way, but there will be a retrenchment back to an earlier, lower, sustainable level of profitability, driven by new technology.
Those record companies that don't see it coming and grab the new technologies will die.

What the record companies don't seem to understand is the viral marketing necessary to spread knowledge of bands. There are only so many bands radio can accommodate and many hundreds waiting behind them for a break.
At £16 a CD people can't afford to experiment with new music, and perform the necessary viral marketing. So they will only buy the artists they know, which reinforces record company reluctance to experiment with new bands. This is very unhealthy.
A closer look at Napster and Kazaa would, I suggest, discover that they are in fact performing much of the viral marketing not being done elsewhere, especially in America where broadband Internet connections are the most prevalent.

One of the way the music business can benefit from new technology is to change the way bands are marketed. Marketing by radio needs to change: we have the ludicrous situation of 95% of radio stations, local and national, playing the same 40 or 50 records all the time in different orders.
Digital radio, giving us (hopefully) many hundreds more stations, needs to point the way to narrowcast stations specialising in different musical tastes. Currently we have far too many commercial pop stations, R1 for cutting edge teenage music, R3 and Classic FM for classical, Jazz FM for jazz, Radio 4 for news and plays, R5 Live for sports, and... well, that's about it, really.
What we need is an opera station, a C&W station, a talking books station, a 1960s station (outside London), a station that plays good, all-new (no charts) MoR rock music (not just the same 40 songs but 100s of new ones all the time), a Musicals station, a punk station, an African music station, a Turkish music station, a Russian music station, a "Jihad Radio" Middle Eastern music station, an Australian music station, an all-South African station and so on. A bit like satellite TV. The only example thus far that has emerged is Planet Rock, which is surprisingly good (how many radio stations would play "The Voice" by Alan Parsons and the live version of "Wanted dead or alive" by Bon Jovi?), and of course their station promos are hilarious, for example: "we're just like Desert Island Discs...... but without that old bird.......". Recommended.
They already do satellite radio in the US - they call it XFM. This is a great idea but badly needs some anarchy - at the moment it's anodyne MoR rubbish driven down to the lowest common denominator by the music companies to appeal to as many as possible. It will fail unless it starts to narrowcast.

Another way to move forward is to solve the "this album is not currently available" problem. Try buying Wayfaring Sons by Colin Hay, Do animals believe in God by Pink Military, or Zero she flies by Al Stewart, and you will be told there is "insufficient demand"
There is plenty of demand, there just isn't much money in it. The Internet allows "the long tail" to become profitable, and as digital donwloads become more widely available, more competitive and cheaper, this should begin to arrive.
A lower cost solution would be to put all of these "we can't be bothered to market" albums on to the Internet and give us free access to them. The PR effect would be huge. People would be able to experiment with artists they had never listened to before and, like Napster or Kazaa, create CD sales, rather than replace them. But maybe that's too obvious.


What makes an "Essential" track?

We all want to know: hence the popularity of Desert Island Discs and My Top 12 (with "Whispering" Bob Harris). We're fascinated by other people's favourite tracks, and we all have a rough guide of what makes up our own. Always assuming we had sufficient warning prior to our being stranded on the hypothetical Desert Island, we could all assemble our Favourite Tracks Of All Time.

So what makes a good track into an Essential track?

There is a lot of lazy music (most covers, most pop music)
There is puffed-up music (classical, opera) that uses musical forms current several centuries ago and claims somehow to be better than the more developed musical forms of the last century (syncopation, beat, electronic instruments, recording techniques). It’s like saying a 1910’s automobile is better for everyday driving than a BMW 530i. Maybe nice for the occasional outing, but not for everyday use…..
There is a lot of reasonable music (most stuff since the sixties, except of course Country & Western and anything by Norrie Paramour...)
Then there is that small, select body of music that we treasure. Each of us have it, the majority covers our childhood, teens and twenty-somethings. Additions become fewer as we move in to our thirties and forties.

A Favourite Track Of All Time needs to have at least one of the following:
- It tells a story (“Hotel California” by The Eagles, “Wooden Horse” by Suzanne Vega)
- It covers a subject close to our hearts (“Flesh for Fantasy” by Billy Idol)
- It has a killer riff (like “The edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks, recently appearing in the film School of Rock)
- It reminds us of a pivotal point in our lives (“Ritz” by Steve Harley)

Combinations of the above increase the likelihood of it getting added to our imaginary treasure trove.


The Top 240 (or thereabouts) Essential Tracks


5.15 The Who "Out of my brain on the train......"
A whiter shade of pale Procol Harum Oh, that dreamy Hammond organ...
Adolescent dream Manfred Mann The most complex synth backing ever devised. How do you play something like this? Also see "Won't get fooled again"
All you zombies Hooters All about dictators
American pie parts 1 & 2 Don Mclean Hands off, Madonna
Anchorage Michelle Shocked Hairy armpits, Diesel dykes, but great music
Angels at my gate Manfred Mann When Manfred lays off the cover versions he's pretty damn good on that Hammond
Another brick in the wall part 1 Pink Floyd Great helicopter effects
Another man's woman Supertramp It's the jazz ending I love
As wise as a serpent Gerry Rafferty The last decent track he ever made. Then he went crap
Atmospherics: listen to the radio Tom Robinson 80s bedsit angst but a great East European claustrophobic feel to this one. Written by Peter Gabriel, don't you know
Auberge Chris Rea Back in the days when Chris knew how to do a self-indulgent intro and a self-indulgent guitar solo
Autobahn Kraftwerke The only Top 40 entry ever to include a diesel truck starting up and moving off
Back to the farm Cockney Rebel "Overwrought" they say. Hah! The instrumental at the end of this is absolutely stunning
Baker Street Gerry Rafferty Classic. "Gimme a B" Bob Houlness on sax (no, not really)
Band on the run Wings More value for money from Macca. Three songs in one. And that album cover.....
Being boiled The Human League "Listen to the voice of Buddha, saying stop your sericulture..."
Big chair Tears For Fears Dark, creepy, weird, wonderful, hard to find
Big log Robert Plant Robert found he could sing as well as yell
Big Sky (meteorological mix) Kate Bush The drummer has still to recover his hearing, I understand. "That cloud looks like industrial waste..."
Big science Laurie Anderson The CD has icicles on it. So cold, so dark
Blinded by the light [LP version] Manfred Mann OK, I'll allow Manfred to do covers. I heard the Springsteen version - it's crap.
Bohemian Rhapsody Queen Often parodied, deeply uncool cod rock. But still a stunning achievement, even with 19 years hindsight
Budapest Jethro Tull How to make money from your touring. Turn the late night drinking sessions in to a (stunning) track
Bullet the blue sky U2 The simplest, the most earth-shattering bass line
Can't stop The Red Hot Chili Peppers That guitar riff.....
Can't take this town Colin Hay Colin earns his Sydney parking ticket costs back
Chelsea Monday Marillian Encapsulates London life circa 1983
Cornflake girl Tori Amos Value for money from Tori. I detect a kitchen sink in this mix
Crime of the century Supertramp Drop your gong in a bucket of water whilst it's ringing and this is the sound you will get
Crucify Tori Amos Just can't get that last nail in, Tori....
Darkness The Police "Darkness makes me fumble for a key to to a door, that's wide open"
Detox mansion Warren Zevon Get the costs of your detox back by singing about it. And play golf in the afternoon
Digging in the dirt Peter Gabriel

"Don't talk back, Just drive the car, Shut your mouth,
I know what you are"
Very dark, very spooky. Genius.

Dirty laundry Don Henley This really upset the Press big time when our Don released it.
Dont leave me alone with her Sparks Spooky stuff, especially when you've seen Ron playing the piano and doing that sideways look thing he does
Don't let it bring you down Wings When you're depressed play this track. You won't get any happier (for that you need Prozac), but it's good therapy
Down by the sea Men At Work Bass guitar and sax, always a great combination. Where did Colin get that voice from?
Down in the hole The Rolling Stones The most underrated Stones track never to be a single
Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather Alan Parsons Alan's great: he always gets other people to sing. This stars John Miles in a very carefully produced Phil Spector-like "wall of sound", only better. I'm convinced I heard a kitchen sink in this mix, too
Driver's seat (any mix exceeding 6 minutes) Sniff and the Tears Best song of the 80s; No competition. Best driving song of all time. Play loud (and uncut)
East River The Brecker Brothers Almost impossible to find nowadays
Einstein-a-go-go Landscape From a time when groups were really making new sounds with synthesisers, not just sampling old stuff
Elemental Tears for Fears I just don't understand why this album didn't sell like hot cakes. I suppose the CD-buying public moved on.... to WestLife and stuff. Knight that Orzabal immediately
Excerpt from a teenage opera Keith West "Grocer Jack, Grocer Jack, is it true what Mummy says, you wont come back?" Like the blind spur on the White City M40 junction, they never got around to doing the rest, and so the world is a poorer place
Experiment IV (12" extended nuclear holocaust mix) Kate Bush Kate at the height of her bonkers period. Why did she go all wimpy after this?
Fair game Crosby, Stills And Nash "The ones you never notice are the ones you have to watch.
She's pleasant and she's friendly while she's looking at your crotch"
Family business Fish Best song ever about child abuse. All profits to Childline?
Fisherman's friend Colin James Hay At last, Colin let's his voice really go...
Flesh for fantasy Billy Idol Best ode to pornography ever. Go, Billy, go
FM: No static at all part 1 Steely Dan It's hard to believe that once upon a time FM radio was something to write home about
Fool to cry The Rolling Stones The Stones can do ballads
For all these years Tanita Tikaram Deeply spooky. If she'd done a whole album like this instead of the pap she ended up doing, she'd....sell no more records, but I'd like her more
Freaks Marillian Listen on headphones. Further evidence of Fish's dark genius and post-Fish Marillian's complete lack of any creative spark whatsoever
Give it up Talk Talk Vastly superior to any other "music to give up smoking/drugs/booze by"
God (Dharma Kaya mix) Tori Amos The original is unmelodic but this version is so New Age it's Tantric
God is an anarchist Steve Harley A hugely underrated Harley track. "Rickety, rickety rickshaw"
Going to Hell in a bucket Grateful Dead But at least Jerry Garcia was enjoying the ride
Haitian divorce Steely Dan How do they create that sound?
Hammer horror Kate Bush Kate's first attempt at something a bit meatier
Here is the news Electric Light Orchestra Nothing changes in the future. Humanity takes it's ills with it wherever it goes. Good message.
Home / Second home by the sea Genesis The apex of post-Gabriel achievement. It was all downhill after that. But do they need to work ever again? And are they happy?
Honky tonk train blues Keith Emerson I've seen Keith play this having kicked the piano over and standing with his back to the piano. Maybe no greater pianist exists. Not even Tori Amos is that good
Hotel California The Eagles Couldn't leave that one out. I'm a child of the '70s. I still sends goose pimples up and down my spine whenever someone plays it. Listen really hard to the lyrics.
I am the walrus The Beatles The original stream of consciousness record
I don't care anymore Phil Collins Phil exorcising the last of his drumming demons. He never did another decent song.
I feel love Donna Summer Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer were an unstoppable combination in 1977
I scare myself Thomas Dolby I can see Thomas in a nightclub doing this. Very smooth but song #3 about mental illness
Imperial Wizard David Essex Dave tries (very successfully) something a little more meaningful. It flops, he retires. Shame.
In the evening Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin discover synthesisers
Intruder Peter Gabriel Very dark; maybe the only track ever written from a stalkers perspective?
In there TV Smith Great guitar playing, especially at the end. Why doesn't it go on longer?
Is Vic there? Department S Department S were a pretty strange lot, but the tune sticks in your head. Once heard, never forgotten
Joe Le Taxi 12" Vanessa Paradis That damn sax again. Gets me every time. And she's horny as hell
Judy Teen Cockney Rebel No one, before or since, has abused a violin quite like this
Just give 'em whisky Colourbox Just what did they think they were doing?
Karn evil 9 impression 1 Emerson Lake & Palmer The bass energy in this will kill an average badly designed and implemented stereo system
Kick it in Simple Minds It's hard now to believe it, but they were bigger than U2 in the 1980s
Land down under Men At Work One of the greatest good times records of all time
Last dance with Mary Jane Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers There's an interesting story to go with ths one
Layla 12" Derek and The Dominoes That guitar riff. Eric does Layla acoustically now, which rather misses the point. A bit like tea without the teabag
Lazy X.Press 2 featuring David Byrne He's still got it, you know. Best track of 2002. By far
Leave it Yes Acapella fun from Jon Anderson and friends
Left of centre Suzanne Vega The Pretty in Pink soundtrack. Never on a studio album
Let me entertain you Robbie Williams For the sheer energy and the line "I'm a burning effigy of everything I used to be"
Let's go all the way Sly Stone Reminiscent of Lennon-inspired Beatles tracks
Letting go Wings Desperation shows through
Life in dark water Al Stewart Make music from a submarine sonar. A mysterious track
Life's been good Joe Walsh The instrumental bits go on and on
Listen to the band The Monkees The exact point at which they turned heavy and angry
Little earthquakes Tori Amos Best song about female orgasm I ever heard
Living in the past Jethro Tull Their first hit, and still wonderful
Look at that woman go Flash and The Pan As big as Sniff and the Tears in the 1980s
Love is a battlefield 12" Pat Benatar Recently appearing on "13 going on 30", it's still stunning
Love of the common people
(album version)
Paul Young In the 1980s we experimented with different musical forms, in the 1990s we chanted tunelessly to each other, in the 2000s we are eating the seed corn by sampling and re-releasing
Madman across the water Elton John The best track of the best of the good (pre-1976) albums
Mandela day Simple Minds It's all come to pass now, but in 1991 it was all still in the balance
Marlene on the wall Suzanne Vega Her first hit. A true classic
Message in a bottle The Police Massage in a brothel
Mirror in the bathroom The Beat The other song about mental illness. The only decent record to emerge from the Two Tone Revolution - remember pork pie hats?
Momma Genesis Genesis on amphetamines
Morse moose and the grey goose Wings Value for money from Mr Mcartney - two tunes in one
Mother Russia Renaissance A long-forgotten classic about Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other Russian intellectual exiles. The beginning of the end for Communism
Mr. Raffles Cockney Rebel "Wow! There were women and children, too
They would have hanged us if they knew..."
Mysterons Portishead Portishead's Trip hop salute to Captain Scarlet
No parléz Paul Young In the early 1980s, before his voice gave out and he resorted to wimpy ballads, Paul could really belt them out
No restrictions Men At Work Great riff
No sign of yesterday Men At Work Heart-rending stuff from Mr Hay and associates
Norman Bates Landscape For just a few minutes there, Landscape did some great tracks
Norwegian wood The Beatles Simple. Beautifully assembled. Subversive.
Nostradamus Al Stewart A guitar bridge to make your fingers bleed
Oh England, my lionheart Kate Bush Peter Pan steals the children from Kensington Park
Oh Superman Laurie Anderson "So hold me Mum, in your arms, your petrochemical arms". Gotta be the only time the word "petrochemical" has made it into the Top 40
Oh Yeah Yello Test your subwoofer
Old Siam-Ser Wings The last of Paul's decent tracks before the mush finally closed over his head
On the Western skyline Bruce Hornsby & The Range Defines mid-Western rock for me. Thousands of miles of corn....
Once upon a time in the West Dire Straits "Sunday driver, never took a test..."
Oxygene part 4 Jean-Michel Jarre Best listened to stoned and through headphones
Pandora's box Procol Harum Best (and simplest) use of a xylophone ever
Pinball Brian Protheroe One of two records in the chart about mental illness. And a killer sax break. Brian's an actor now
Pipeline Alan Parsons Once heard, always hummed
Pissing in the river Patti Smith Patti sounds so world-weary singing this
Pleasant valley Sunday The Monkees So pleasant, yet so subversive
Precious things Tori Amos "Just 'cos you can make me come doesn't make you Jesus...."
Private investigations Dire Straits It takes guts to release a single this unconventional
Redemption day Sheryl Crowe Sheryl and Joan Osborne have cornered the rock-Christian conversion market
Refugee Tom Petty The song that launched him. He's never done better. No one else sounds remotely like Tom Petty.
Relax Frankie Goes To Hollywood OK, OK, I know they were all shirtlifters, but the funk was good
Return to fantasy Uriah Heep They never did anything else remotely as good
Riders on the storm Doors,The Even the CD smells of marijuana...
Ritz Cockney Rebel I haven't a clue what it's all about but it feels lovely
Road to Hell part 1 Chris Rea For anyone sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 in the rain...
Roads to Moscow Al Stewart The most powerful song ever written about the Eastern front in WWII
Run like hell Pink Floyd Starts with the most unearthly sounds ever to come from a plucked stringed instrument.... Even better in the Live version
Say it ain't so joe Murray Head All about Joe Stalin and the disillusionment of the Communists. Powerful stuff
School Supertramp Great transients. Music to test hi-fis on
Screen kiss Thomas Dolby All about life as an ex-pat in Hollywood
Sebastian Cockney Rebel No one can pronounce "Sebastian" like Steve
Sex machine James Brown Not so radical now, but in 1970 this was the stuff of revolution...
She New Bohemians Mrs Paul Simon's best solo effort
Shine on you crazy diamond part1 Pink Floyd Perhaps the finest (and longest) intro to any self-indulgent 70s prog rock guitar-fest
Shout (12" mix) Tears For Fears Only on the 12" can you hear the guitar sounding remarkably like a BR locomotive whistle
Silent all these years Tori Amos Tori masturbating on her piano stool
Silver Thunderbird Marc Cohn Even better (if that is possible) than "Walking in Memphis"
Sledgehammer Peter Gabriel The moment he finally proved he could do better than Genesis
Slide away Sniff and the Tears The 2nd best track at defining 80s California (and the best was by Sniff and the Tears as well...)
Snack attack (12" mix) Godley And Creme The greatest song about being a food-junkie. Very clever lyrics. Demand the 12" mix (with extra bacon bits...)
Solsbury hill Peter Gabriel For me this defines 1976
Somewhere in hollywood Ten cc "It's crazy, a dog up in Beverley Hills...."
Southern man Neil Young I'm sorry, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sowing the seeds of love Tears For Fears Roland Orzabals tribute to John Lennon. They did it much better than the decidedly second-rate Oasis
Spiders web Joan Osborne Dreamed about Ray Charles last night
And he could see just fine you know
I asked him for a lullaby
He said "Honey I don't sing no more"
Stairway to heaven Led Zeppelin It's not a track you can leave out
Steel and glass John Lennon For the deliberate, paced venom in John's voice turn me on Emerson Lake & Palmer Greg Lake's vocals are haunting here. He so often sings of interstellar war and other doom-laden subjects, it's nice to hear him turn to whimsy
Stripped Dépêche Mode Dark dark dark. Real spooky. For some reason there are a million and one crap remixes of this out on the web
Stupid thing Aimee Mann To anyone who has ever wasted any education time and now regrets it
Suicide blonde Demolition Mix INXS Australia's answer to The Rolling Stones
Sultans of swing Dire Straits The song that made Mark Knopfler a millionaire
Summer breeze The Isley Brothers That lead guitarist was definitely on some good shit
Sunset grill Don Henley Crockett and Tubbs, fast cars, women with hairspray.... the soundtrack to Miami Vice, in a can
Superstition Stevie Wonder No one else has ever produced a backing track that sounds anything like as good as this....
Sweet home Alabama Lynyrd Skynyrd

"a one, a two, a one two three four..."
"Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around anyhow..."

Sympathy For The Devil The Rolling Stones Oh, the Devil most definitely has all the best tunes
Take five Dave Brubeck Try dancing to this one
Talk Talk Talk Talk Hypnotic
Tear your playhouse down 12" Paul Young In the early 1980s, before his voice gave out and he resorted to wimpy ballads, Paul could really belt them out. I reckon this is the one that finally knackered his voice
Telegraph road Dire Straits Get your tennis racquets out, it's air guitar time
Temptation Heaven 17 Story of my life
Thank God its not Christmas Sparks Staggeringly, Russell and Ron are still hip in 2006
The battle of Evermore Led Zeppelin The best folk rock track ever, without exception. The real soundtrack to Lord of the Rings
The boys of summer Don Henley Fly to Florida or California. Get a convertible. Wear shorts and sunglasses. Put this on loud.
The chauffeur Duran Duran "What exactly is colour camouflage?"
The edge of seventeen Stevie Nicks The ultimate riff. 'nuff said. So good they sampled it recently for some damn (c)rap track
The end The Doors Can't listen to this without seeing Hueys and napalm
The friends of Mr. Cairo John And Vangelis The ultimate salute to 30s gangster movies
The future's so bright........ Timbuk 3 When you're really happy, you can't not sing this song
The gallows song Led Zeppelin What happened when Page and Plant took the Blues and turned up all the amplifiers to "11"
The garden of England Gerry Rafferty They had an Empire, but they gave it all away....
The immigrant song Led Zeppelin Nirvana never did anything new - it had all been done 20 years earlier
The Lone Ranger Quantum Jump

Listen really carefully to the rest of the lyrics. Now watch "Spiderman-The Movie". This song was 20 years ahead of it's time in it's super-hero homoerotic subtext

The No.1 song in heaven pts 1 & 2 Sparks Well, if Giorgio Moroder can do it, then so can the Mael brothers....synths ahoy!
The pretender Jackson Browne How I felt aged 18
The problem / Ready for Ralph Godley & Creme "How long will it take... to fill the bath?"
The roof is leaking Phil Collins Phil's most unconventional track to date
The sound of silence Simon & Garfunkel Encompasses East Coast America mid-1960s. And of course "The Graduate"
The state of Independence John And Vangelis Anarchic arrangement
The voice Alan Parsons Only because Steve Harley does the vocals
The way it is Bruce Hornsby & The Range The album cover (big US rig on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at sunset) says it all. Mid-Western rock at it's best. Apparently Bruce was told by the record company not to play the piano as it was "uncommercial". We're all glad he didn't listen.
The year of the cat Al Stewart

Encapsulates 1976.
Also the title of a great (and impossible to get hold of) film starring Judi Dench

They shoot horses dont they? Racing Cars Desperately sad track. Always makes me cry
This is the picture Peter Gabriel/Laurie Anderson Both versions are stunning

This is what you want...
(The order of Death)

Public Image Ltd John Lydon at his doom-laden best. Used over the credits at the end of the film "Hardware" (for some reason, another film impossible to get on DVD)
This is your land Simple Minds Jim Kerr's African period
Time passages Al Stewart Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight..
Toast The Street Band aka Paul Young Paul doesn't want you to hear this. But the bass line is too good to miss, and I'm sure that's Eric Idle in the second verse doing Mrs yettiegoosescreecher
Torch song Marillian I know how he feels
Tux on Marillian The price of fame
Twist in my sobriety Tanita Tikaram A voice that says "Capstan full strength". If she sung with a French accent she would be a billionaire
Two tribes (annihilation) Frankie Goes To Hollywood "If your Grandmother or any other member of the family should die, put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes...."
Undercover The Rolling Stones Just when you thought they were too old to rock, they come out with this. The only ever hit written about torture and disappearances.
Unemployed in summertime Emiliana Torrini Whimsy under the production of Roland Orzabal
Vienna Utravox Midge Ure plus some synths
Virginia Plain Bryan Ferry Just for the instrumental break.....
Waiting so long Supertramp And the blindness goes on.....
Walk like an Egyptian The Bangles Oh, I do fancy Suzannah Hoffs
Walking down Madison 12" Kirstie Mcall Kirsty goes to big city USA and is shocked by what she sees. Perhaps her epitaph. She really could sing, and she really did have a social conscience. What a way to go, though...
Walking in Memphis Marc Cohn White man's soul
Walking the dog Roger Daltrey The greatest riff of all time
Wanted dead or alive Bon Jovi For all bikers who feel they must decorate their panniers with faux cowboy accessories
Warm wet circles Marillian Value for money from Fish
Weather with you Crowded House Once heard, forever whistled
Welcome to the pleasure dome Frankie Goes To Hollywood Despite bad publicity, a rocking track. Crap start, though
Well well said the rocking chair Dene Friedman Yes, I know he sounds like a Jewish duck, but it's still a great track
West End girls (extended version) The Pet Shop Boys Defines working class London, c1986
What a waste Ian Dury The quality of the production and musicianship on this track is way out of proportion to the low quality of the vocals, like much of Ian's work.
What goes around Justin Timberlake You didn't think you'd see him in here, now did you? Best song of 2007, by a country mile. Goes to show that (like Robbie Williams) even an ex-Boy band singer can come good.
White Russian Marillian

Fish likes to sing about persecution

Who are you? The Who Yet another track that's awful in it's truncated 45rpm format but awesome when the full version is revealed
Whole lotta love Led Zeppelin A game attempt to capture orgasm in a rock track
Who's that lady? Parts 1 and 2 The Isley Brothers That lead guitarist was definitely on some good shit
Won't get fooled again The Who Chords to make your fingers bleed. An attempt to jam the maximum number of notes in to the shortest possible time
Winter Tori Amos A very simple piano chord and a vulnerable voice
Wish you were here Pink Floyd Everyone's favourite acoustic guitar play-along solo
Woman of mine Dene Friedman Yes, I know he sounds like a Jewish duck, but it's still a great track
Wooden horse Suzanne Vega Play loud. Suzanne bleeds in to the microphone
Working class hero John Lennon "You're still fucking peasants, just as far as I can see"
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Gordon Lightfoot A haunting melody
You cant always get what you want The Rolling Stones No truer sentiment has ever graced the title of a rock track