Monday, 31 January 2011

73: Boston, “More Than a Feeling” (no.22, 1977)

If “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the anthem of the home of the brave, this, surely, is the unofficial theme of the land of the free: a thumping drive-time classic written, performed and produced in such a way as to ensure listeners would be drumming their fingers on steering wheels for decades to come. Recently revived by Guitar Hero and those Barclaycard ads, “More Than a Feeling” remains a de facto compendium of rock: depending on your ears, that chorus will contain traces of everything from The Kingsmen’s immortal “Louie Louie” (more on this later) to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

74: Al Stewart, “Year of the Cat” (no.31, 1977)

The greatest piano hook in chart history? (Certainly the only one I’ve ever wanted to learn to play.)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

75: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, “Fire” (no.1, 1968)

One of a couple of great one-hit wonders that bear the hand of Pete Townshend in a producing capacity. (Presumably, he’s had to stop in recent years because he’s been busy “researching his book”.) No guitars, you’ll note; just a demonstration of the inflammatory capabilities of one Hammond organ and a powerful brass section, and yet it’s an anomaly that remains more influential than might have been expected upon its first release. The horrors of prog rock are instantly detectable in those grandiose organ riffs - hell, a cover version even found its way onto a later ELP album entitled “The Return of the Manticore”, which is about as prog as it gets - but the more sonically extreme elements of black metal are never too far away, either. (It’s also been covered by Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson and, I’m assured, “Dutch death metal band God Dethroned”.) With its tattooed and posturing frontman, could we not equally hear The Crazy World of Arthur Brown as forerunners to the Prodigy - who sampled “Fire” on their 1992 album Experience, and themselves went on to frighten very small children, not to mention start fires of their own?

76: Jane Child, “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” (no.22, 1990)

Ridiculous hair, admittedly, but - back in 1990 - this was as dynamic a sound as could be made with keyboards; that synth progression towards the very end remains as thrilling as ever. Don’t ask me how I know this - it’s such a useless piece of trivia it doesn’t even appear on the song’s Wikipedia page - but the video was directed by Gary Goetzman, long-time producing partner of Tom Hanks, which gives me another excuse to link to this.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

78: Harry Chapin, “W.O.L.D.” (no.34, 1974)

From the elite group of one-hit performers to have been nominated for an Academy Award. (Chapin directed the 1968 documentary Legendary Champions, about boxing’s earliest prize-fighters: clearly, his storytelling instincts ran deep.) The tale of an ageing DJ on his travels, desperately looking to connect with the one woman who can no longer bear to listen to him, “W.O.L.D.” remains Chapin’s second best-known track - behind the same year’s “Cat’s In The Cradle”, as later covered by Ugly Kid Joe - yet his only UK chart hit, owing much of its success over here to the support of then-Radio One fave Noel Edmonds. Still, listen again to that chorus. “The great good morning voice who’s heard but never seen/Feeling all of 45, going on fifteen”: this is destined to be the Chris Moyles story, isn’t it?