Categories
Playlists

Playlist (revisited): EDGE 102.1’s top 1002 of all time (1999 version)

Just over a year ago, I posted a playlist that I didn’t create. I wrote then about how I was doing a bunch of driving, was looking for a good long Spotify playlist to stream in the car, and finally settled on one my friend Tim had made. He created it using a countdown of the “Best 1002 songs of all time” as voted by CFNY (aka EDGE) 102’s alternative rock radio listeners way back in 1999. Then, not long after, well before I managed to get all way through the 900+ songs on the playlist, I switched my streaming service allegiances from Spotify to Apple Music*.

Then, a few months ago, I decided I wanted to finish listening to the playlist and to do so, started building my own version of the playlist on Apple Music. I really got an appreciation for the patience Tim must have had in building the original Spotify playlist because it took me quite a bit of time and searching to find the right versions of all these tunes. Interestingly, Apple Music was only missing 9 of the 1002 songs, whereas Tim’s Spotify version is a good 28 tracks shy, though I am sure Spotify’s catalogue has expanded some in the years since he originally put it together.

Another interesting point: I noticed while compiling this playlist something that didn’t really strike me while listening to the original. This list of the “best songs of all time” really is of its time and place.

The Tragically Hip is the artist with the most songs (22) on the list, outpacing iconic alt rock groups like U2 (19), R.E.M. (16), and Depeche Mode (14). And though The Hip are a pretty great band, pretty much universally loved here in Canada, they are largely unknown everywhere else in the world.

The list is also pretty heavy on the 90s grunge and post-grunge side of alt rock. Bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins all have more songs on the list than The Clash, David Bowie, The Smiths, and New Order.

Nevertheless, it was fun to put this list together and has been fun revisiting it with my earphones over the last month or so. It’s a great selection of alternative/indie rock spanning from the 60s and 70s, through the 80s, and right up to heyday and wane of alternative in the 90s. Plenty of my favourites, as well as songs I don’t get to hear all that often but love, just the same.

If you’re curious, here’s the top 25 songs on the list and the rest can be found here:

ARTIST TITLE
1 Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit
2 The Smiths How Soon Is Now?
3 Pearl Jam Jeremy
4 U2 Pride (In The Name Of Love)
5 Nine Inch Nails Closer
6 The Tragically Hip New Orleans Is Sinking
7 The Cult She Sells Sanctuary
8 Soft Cell Tainted Love
9 R.E.M. Losing My Religion
10 Pearl Jam Alive
11 U2 With Or Without You
12 The Smashing Pumpkins Today
13 The Tragically Hip Blow At High Dough
14 Stone Temple Pilots Plush
15 Live Lightning Crashes
16 Talking Heads Once In A Lifetime
17 Soundgarden Black Hole Sun
18 U2 I Will Follow
19 Pearl Jam Even Flow
20 Peter Gabriel Games Without Frontiers
21 Tears For Fears Shout
22 New Order Bizarre Love Triangle
23 The Tragically Hip Little Bones
24 The Violent Femmes Add It Up
25 The Smashing Pumpkins Disarm

For you Apple Music users, you can link to my version of the playlist here. If you’re still on the Spotify, you can have a sampling at my original post here.

Enjoy.


*I spoke a little bit about the reasons for making this change on one of my other playlist posts from last year.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the playlists I myself have created and shared on these pages, you can peruse them here.

Categories
Tunes

Eighties’ best 100 redux: #97 The Box “L’affaire Dumoutier (Say to me)” (1985)

<< #98    |    #96 >>

My parents must’ve gotten tired of waking me up in time to go to school at some point a few years before high school because, one Christmas, I received as a gift my very own clock/radio. These are probably not in use as much these days with today’s youth, possibly opting instead for setting an alarm on their smartphones. However, it’s a gift I grew to love, not long after I got over the shock of unwrapping something other than games or chocolates or clothing. With the novelty of it, I plugged it in right away and placed it within arm’s reach of my single bed. I set the time and an alarm time around 7am and then, started playing with the other functions. I turned on the radio and found CFTR, an old AM radio station that has long since gone talk radio but at the time was playing current hits, and I likely didn’t touch the dial for quite a few years.

It was this clock/radio that started a habit that I didn’t break myself of until I moved in with my girlfriend, now wife, a decade and a half later. I discovered the sleep function and fell asleep to the sweet sounds of music every night, some nights I would have had to extend the sleep past the standard hour when it took longer. This is where I discovered a lot of music in my youth, some of which are still favourites and some appear on this list, including this song.

I definitely remember hearing “L’affaire Dumoutier (say to me)” quite often in the evenings while falling asleep or as the alarm went off in the mornings*. I didn’t know the name of it at the time, nor did I know who performed the song, I wouldn’t discover either of these until much, much later, during a period in the early 2000s when I started using the powers of the internet for good and ill and to reconnect with the long-lost favourites of my youth.

The Box was formed by Jean-Marc Pisapia in Montreal in 1981, a year after he left Men Without Hats**, and they released four full-length studio albums before disbanding a decade later. Little did I know that they were actually quite successful in the late 80s and had a string of hit singles on Canadian radio, many of which I actually knew and loved. I only discovered this last fact recently when I saw them advertised as touring here in Ontario with Chalk Circle, another classic Canadian alternative band, and decided to investigate songs other than “L’affaire Dumoutier”.

Although I can say now that I am more of a true fan of their work, this one is still my favourite. Based on a real news item that Pisapia had read that had haunted him, the song deals with mental illness and its dangers, a murder committed when its perpetrator was not in his right mind. The sound of the song is also haunting, the gonging of church bells interspersed with police sirens in the fog, the verses spoken as news reportage, including interviews and statements, both in English and French, and though I couldn’t understand it all when I was younger, I knew something dark was at play. Of course, the chorus as a counterpoint is a singalong and infinitely hummable, which I did at various points in my life whenever the song came back to me.

Original Eighties best 100 position: n/a

Favourite lyric:  “Non coupable! Pour cause d’aliénation mentale…” My French wasn’t strong enough for me to understand what this meant at the time but I still loved how this was spoken with such finality to end the song. Now that I can understand it, I appreciate it even more.

Where are they now?: Jean-Marc Pisapia revived the band back in 2004 with himself being the only original member. This new incarnation has since released two albums, an EP, and a bunch of singles and has toured quite regularly.

*Because, of course, I used to opt for radio rather alarm sound to wake me up.

**Another Canadian new wave group of whom some of you may have heard.

For the rest of the Eighties’ best 100 redux list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Top five tunes: The Specials

(We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming today with a special guest post from our good friend Andrew Rodriguez, who was perhaps inspired to write some words by the recent news of Terry Hall’s death. We will return to our end of the year Best Albums countdown on the morrow. Enjoy.)

I met Todd Burnham in 1986. He was an “Old Boy” from the Boarding School I attended for a few years. In fact he was partially responsible for me being sent there in the first place, our fathers were friends, and Mr B had told my father about how ‘impressed’ he was with the school. What impressed me about Burnham most however, was his style. He was a Rude Boy. And he dressed like nothing I had ever seen. 2 Tone Dr Marten brogues, rolled up jeans, Fred Perry, Stingy Brim and a jacket covered in patches. “What is Ska?” I asked. “It’s early reggae – it’s faster tempo”. I cooly memorised all the names of the bands displayed on his jacket and made a note to seek out what albums I could, when I got to go home. The largest of the patches had a checkerboard theme and said simply ‘THE SPECIALS’.

About a year later I bought my first Specials album, with my allowance. It was called More Specials – their second album, though I didn’t know that at the time. From the first needle drop, I was very much hooked. A danceable mixture of styles and themes, characterised by a sort of (my term) pragmatic moodiness.

They formed around 1977 in Coventry England, from a band called the Coventry Automatics. They were key figures in the “2 Tone movement”, also called “second wave ska”, which was based around the 2 Tone record label (created by Jerry Dammers – their Organist). There were several other notable bands on that label but I won’t discuss them here. If you choose to look further into the Specials (you should), do not be confused by the names. Early on they went by the name “Special AKA”, and variations thereof. That name was also used by the second incarnation of the band, so it can get a bit confusing! With various lineup changes they’ve been an active touring and recording band since reforming after their first real breakup in 1984.

For the purposes of this short entry (no-one is allowed to go over word limits here – we are professionals goddammit!) I’ll skip the details of the band, that is what Wikipedia is for (be sure to donate too they are begging for money). I’m also going to stick to their (best) earliest era, lineup, and albums.

OK! They were just such a striking band. Their dress style was heavily influenced by the early 60s mod scene. Their first album was produced by Elvis Costello, and had a punk feel to it, something you really get in their live recordings. By the second album they slowed the tempo down a bit and the sound was fuller and more produced. More Specials also included outside personnel, including the Sax player from Madness and the singer from the Bodysnatchers – both labelmates on 2 Tone. Their lyrics were substantial, addressing daily life, with some political and social commentary elements thrown in for good measure. They looked cool and sounded even cooler. In keeping with the restrictions placed on me spirit of this blog, I’m now going to introduce you to 5 of my favourite Specials tunes. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

“Concrete jungle” (from The Specials, 1979)

Remember I mentioned the punkiness of some of their early stuff? First up is a live version of Concrete Jungle, from their self-titled debut LP. It’s not a cover of the Bob Marley song. The grainy footage is taken from a film called Dance Craze which was a sort of promo for 2 Tone, it and the associated live album are quite good, and feature most of the bands on the label. Both are on Youtube.

“It’s up to you” (from The Specials, 1979)

Now, this is direct from the first album – The Specials. I picked this because it showcases a bit more of their ska/reggae influences. The entire album is worth a spin, it’s hard to select just a few.

“Rat race” (from More Specials, 1980)

Next up we have Coventry’s finest looking very Scholarly, in the video for a tune from their second album (and the one I bought first) More Specials. Rat Race (again not a Bob Marley cover!). Note the slightly moodier tone. Note also, singer Terry Hall and the band don’t look nearly as dated as the 1980 kids in the ‘classroom’ – some looks just don’t go out of style.

“I can’t stand it” (from More Specials, 1980)

Hey – I coined the term “pragmatic moodiness” – so I certainly as EFF can determine this song to be the epitome of it! From More Specials, and a personal favourite, I Can’t Stand It. verbally jousting with Terry Hall is Rhoda Dakar – the singer from the Bodysnatchers.

“Ghost town” (from Ghost town, 1981)

NOW. The final selection, this is from the Ghost Town Ep. It was a single and it went to number 1 in 1981. Shortly thereafter Terry, Neville, and Lynval left the group to form Fun Boy Three. Ghost Town was a 3 song Ep and it is phenomenal. It is more reggae than ska. Since I really can’t make my mind up – you really should check out all three songs, each is very different. Friday Night and Saturday Morning is probably my favourite Specials song of all. But I won’t play it here because I’ve already done a moody song. Why? is also fantastic. But I will take the lazy route and just select the single itself. I drove around town a lot listening to this during the lockdown(s). You might see why it was stuck in my head.

Well that’s a wrap. Thank you for reading. Sadly, the day that I wrote this, I learned (from John) that Terry Hall died. The details are sparse, which generally leads some to speculation. There is no speculation to be found in these pages; merely respect, and appreciation for a fantastic singer and entertainer. Thank you Mr. Hall. You will be missed. On a more positive note I would like to wish the readership a Merry Christmas, and Happy music listening New Year!


A few more stats on The Specials

Years active: 1977–1981, 1982-1984, 1993, 1996–2001, 2008–present

Original band members:
Terry Hall – lead vocals (1977–81, 2008–22)
Lynval Golding – rhythm and lead guitar, vocals (1977–81, 1993, 1994–1998, 2008–present)
Horace Panter – bass guitar (1977–81, 1982, 1993, 1994–1998, 2000-2001, 2008–present)
Jerry Dammers – keyboards, principal songwriter, vocals (1977–81)
Roddy Radiation – lead guitar, vocals (1978–81, 1993, 1996–2001, 2008–14)
Neville Staple – toasting, vocals, percussion (1978–81, 1993, 1996–2001, 2008–12)
John Bradbury – drums (1979–84, 2008–15)
Dick Cuthell – flugelhorn, trumpet (1979–84)
Rico Rodriguez – trombone (1979–81, 1982)

Discography (studio LPs only):
The Specials (1979)
More Specials (1980)
Today’s Specials (1996)
Guilty ’til Proved Innocent! (1998)
Skinhead Girl (2000)
Conquering Ruler (2001)
Encore (2019)
Protest Songs 1924-2012 (2021)


For other top five lists in this series, click here.