I don’t do things by halves. I do things by at LEAST three quarters. Ergo, this playlist is brought to you via Friday night, a bottle of mid-priced red, my sofa, and three hours plus of my actual time.
The basic premise is thus: deeper cuts by well-known artists, shallower cuts by less well-known artists, or songs that might surprise you by artists you may, quite fairly in some cases, have pigeonholed.
If you find something you like - which is sort of the point - go and see ‘em live (with the notable and noble exceptions of Syd Barrett, Tom Petty, and Leonard Cohen, all of whom are sadly very...dead. That’s one GREAT gig in the sky). Let’s not forget that all of this is basically free.
I am writing this live - so if it’s anything like me on a night out, it may peak, before troughing in dramatic fashion once I’ve got on to the whiskey. I apologise in advance.
White Rabbits – Percussion Gun: Never has music been more accurately summed up by its title. Except, perhaps, ‘Don’t’, by Ed Sheeran.
Underground Heroes – Punk Special: Basically Medway distilled into a song, if you remove the sound of police vans and fighting.
The Gaslight Anthem – Film Noir: If the Gaslight Anthem were an ad agency, they’d get accused of plagiarism by Bruce Springsteen. Except they’re not, Springsteen’s far too much of a Boss, and the music scene is clearly more chivalric than the advertising industry.
Elle King – Under the Influence: This voice isn’t particularly famous. Meanwhile, Sheeran has headlined Glastonbury. Go figure.
Wolf Parade – Language City: No chance this wine will outlast this playlist at this rate. Anyway, weaving piano, synths and guitar – what’s not to like? I know literally nothing about this band, bar the fact I have three of their albums and they’re all very good – yet I remain curiously uninterested in finding out more.
Bruce Springsteen – From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come): As the first Springsteen song I ever saw live, this one has a special place in my heart. It was in Cardiff, home of The World’s Best Wetherspoon’s™. If you know, you know. Coincidently, The E Street Band is the world’s best live band. Don’t @ me.
10cc – Clockwork Creep: Mental.
The Dead Weather – Die by the Drop: Everything Jack touches turns to (White) gold. Wait – does that analogy work? Is white gold…good? Whatever; this is his voice at its frantic, frenetic best.
The Alan Parsons Project – Silence & I: Wait for it. Waiiiiit for it……..Oh, fuck it – skip to 02:17. A perfectly FINE beginning and end sandwich an excellent middle; like making a steak sandwich with brown bread. Shades of ELO and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis (also known as, and I shall accept no counter argument here, ‘when Genesis were actually good’. Phil Fucking Collins, come on). I’m a sucker for a tempo change. This may explain a lot of what is to follow.
Elton John – Cage the Songbird: Hard to find an Elton deep cut that isn’t absolute dross, TBPFH. I love a bit of Elton, but he’s like the little girl with a little curl right in the middle of her forehead: when he’s good, he’s very good; when he’s bad, he’s horrid.
Gabrielle Aplin – Please Don’t Say You Love Me: I first discovered this one playing live in the Greene King brewery years ago, before getting [drunk, and] myself hopelessly lost in Bury St. Edmunds. Put it this way: there are worse places to get lost (see: Medway).
Miley Cyrus – You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go: Give me nice, sweet, classic song-covering Miley over tongue out, crotch out, Wrecking Ball Miley any day. I can’t shake the feeling she’s actually very nice; the kind of person you’d enjoy a meandering chat over a pint with down your local. Just keep off the Jägerbombs.
Joan Baez – Winds of the Old Days: I want to give Joan Baez a hug. Essentially a heartbreaking, accepting part-love letter, part-biography and part-goodbye to Bob Dylan. The scoundrel.
Bob Dylan – It’s All Good: On that note. Bob at his sneering, sarcastic best.
Father John Misty – Holy Shit: A disarmingly sincere love song written through an otherwise (and typically) nihilistic lens, in the way that only Josh Tillman can, makes this all the more enchanting. Side note: he managed to write this on his wedding day, and somehow stay married. This is how you do it, De Burgh.
Diane Birch – It Plays On: I’ve got something in my eye.
The Rolling Stones – You Got the Silver: Keeeeef > Mick.
The Raconteurs – Carolina Drama: A song that could have been written at any point over the past 50 years, and been a classic in any of them.
Judas Priest – Diamonds & Rust: I mean, the sheer fucking audacity of heavy metal Judas Priest covering lovely folk songstress Joan Baez. Somehow, it works. It REALLY works. Live version for added 🤘🏻
Arcade Fire – Joan of Arc: This lot are playing Wembley Arena in the round next month. You’ll be in the WRONG if you aren’t there. Fuck me, that is a terrible pun even by my standards. Sorry.
Franz Ferdinand – Lucid Dreams: Are Franz Ferdinand desperately uncool? I feel like Franz Ferdinand are desperately uncool. But when they sound this good on an unexpected synth breakdown, who cares?
Seal & Jeff Beck – Like a Rolling Stone: Yes, you’ve heard Like a Rolling Stone, but have you ever heard Like a Rolling Stone done by Seal & Jeff Beck? Ex-fucking-actly.
Gaoler’s Daughter – How Do You Know: I used to sit next to the guy that wrote this on the school bus. That’s him, on vox. Here’s me, on a sofa in Hackney, alone bar a rapidly depleting bottle of Tesco’s finest (but still sub-fiver) red wine. Hmm.
Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma: I really can’t better Wikipedia here: ‘Artrocker magazine…said the song "…delivers a subtle but groovy dance beat and a tender gospel atmosphere.” Pitchfork Media reviewer Sean Fennessey referred to the song as "a 'We Didn't Start the Fire' for heroin addicts, haunted by visions of Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, and 'a custard-colored super-dream of Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen'" and called it "unhinged and unerringly beautiful.” And Sean O'Neill of The A.V. Club said the song was "even breaking the band's own 'No love, no piano' creed" and referred to it as "grandiloquent."’
Roger Waters – Leaving Beirut: Whatever your preconception of Roger Waters, this is…probably it.
Lady Gaga – The Edge of Glory: Arguably the least on-brief song on here. However: Clarence Clemons on sax makes that entirely irrelevant. RIP, Big Man.
Iron Maiden – Empire of the Clouds: This is the song I play to people when they say they don’t like Iron Maiden. Partly because it sounds fundamentally unlike what people expect Iron Maiden to sound like (piano!). Partly because it’s a proper epic, steeped in history and tempo changes. But mainly out of spite, because it’s 18 minutes long.
Leonard Cohen – Treaty: “I’m angry, and I’m tired all the time.” I hear you, man.
Syd Barrett: Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe): A cry for help, from someone who by this stage was way beyond it. Powerful, tragic, and actually quite hard to listen to.
Rush – The Larger Bowl: What should be an essentially straightforward pop song…but written as a pantoum. Y R U LIKE DIS, RUSH?
Hugh Laurie – Swanee River: Quintessential Brit Hugh Laurie sings the Blues in the American accent he picked up playing cantankerous Yank physician, House. This has absolutely no right whatsoever to be any good.
PSA: the wine is gone.
Vintage Trouble – Angel City, California: Super tight LA rock ‘n’ roll band fronted by achingly cool black soul singer. If you don’t like this, you’re…well, wrong, quite frankly.
PSA (reprise): I’ve cracked open the whiskey.
My Chemical Romance – House of Wolves: WHAT.
Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul – Forever: AKA the Sopranos’ Silvio Dante, Lilyhammer’s Frank Tagliano, and Springsteen’s long-term partner in crime. This time as bandleader in his own right, with a – and I believe this is the technical term – fuckload of horns. What can I say; the man’s an even better musician than he is an actor. Joyous.
Take That – SOS: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Zero From Outer Space: In one sense, I could’ve picked plenty of songs to fill the Tom Petty Slot. In others, I’m limited to single figures. Thing is, trying to pick a Petty song everyone doesn’t know is almost impossible. This one wins through, because it includes the word ‘fucking’, and there’s just something mesmerising about that word sung in that Southern drawwwwwl.
Wishbone Ash – Phoenix: Okay, 60% of this song is bang average at best. But the 40 that isn’t makes this well worth its inclusion. If you’re short of patience, skip to…oh, as if any of you have even made it this fucking far.
The New Basement Tapes – Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street): I just need a break after that Wishbone Ash aural assault TBH *wipes a drop of blood from ear*
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Death is Not the End: It is though, isn’t it? And so is this.
Full disclosure: After this playlist finished, I put Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Stranger in Town on grey vinyl (a recent bargain find from Whitstable’s excellent Rock Bottom Records) on the record player. I lasted one side, before deciding I was too drunk, and it was time for bed.