I’ve mentioned before that I’m part of an online group of Stockport County fans called ‘County Heaven’.
Recently, we decided to come up with our ultimate A-Z of music – a different artist beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Naturally, our tastes all differed, so I’ve come up with my own personal list. And here it is:
1. A – Old Folks
If you haven’t heard of A, and you most likely haven’t, they’re a pop-punk outfit from the ‘90s and ‘00s who are sadly no longer together as a band. In truth, the lead singer isn’t the best at singing, but their songs are so damn catchy. They’re like musical herpes. This track has elements of The Police to it, and is worth a listen if only for the not-too-great-but-quite-funny lyrics: “You did a war/and now you’re poor/and like your friends/you’re gonna get it in the end/the old folks are useless/they can’t work computers/they die in December time”. There are better bands beginning with A, and Aerosmith very nearly made my list as being the first band I ever saw live, but I’d always keep going back to this song time and time again, so it just edged in front for my CD.
2. Ben Folds Five – Brick
An achingly beautiful track, even more so when you learn the background to it. I still choke up when I listen to it even now, more than a decade since the first time I heard it. Ben Folds has since gone solo, and has written some equally fantastic songs since doing so, but if you listen to this piano-based ballad, and focus on the lyrics – which revolve around the heartbreaking true events of him and his girlfriend having to get an abortion when they were young – you can’t help but get emotional. Then again, I cry at everything these days.
3. Counting Crows – Sullivan Street
I have a number of very good bands/artists beginning with C in my collection, but there was no question of which group was making the grade for ‘C’. The problem I had, was narrowing down the many albums I own, let alone finding just the one track to put on my CD. In the end, I plumped for their debut offering (‘August and Everything After’) which is a fantastic album, and rather than go for the more obvious ‘Mr Jones’, which perhaps many of you will know, I decided on ‘Sullivan Street’. I change my mind regularly about which song of theirs I like the most, and if I were to compile a Counting Crows ‘best of’ CD, the track-listing would change daily, but this song would always feature.
4. Dave Matthews Band – Two Step
Again, there was no doubt that this band would make my album, even though most people I speak to have never heard of them. Were it not for an American student I got to know at University, who introduced me to their ‘Crash’ album, I would most likely never have known about them, and my life would be just that little bit emptier as a result. They haven’t really enjoyed much success this side of the pond, despite being huge in the States (playing, on one occasion, to over 100,000 people in Central Park). The one time I did see them live, I had to travel to the Wolverhampton Civic Hall to do so. That shows you how much I like them. Wolverhampton for Christ’s sake. Thankfully, they did not disappoint – playing for nearly three hours. They’ll be at Manchester Apollo in November, and I haven’t looked forward to a gig this much in some time.
5. Eve 6 – On The Roof Again
Oh dear, I’m becoming rather predictable. If you know me, the fact that Eve 6 are on my album will be no surprise whatsoever. Narrowing down which track to put on was again a little difficult, but I thought back to which song I would always return to, and this is it. The lyrics are fantastic and very clever, and the tune is ridiculously catchy. If I had a list of bands I’ve never seen live but would love to, this group would be top.
6. The Frames – Fitzcarraldo
As with Dave Matthews Band, if it hadn’t have been for someone I studied with (this time an Irish girl at Law School), I would most likely never have heard of The Frames, and I now own every album they have ever released – of which there are quite a few. I also own one album by a band calling themselves The Frames, which I bought by accident thinking it was them. Turns out there is also a German electro-thrash metal outfit of the same name. Who knew? Their similarities with Dave Matthews Band (the actual Frames, not the German thrashers) also extend to the fact they are very popular in their home nation whilst not so much over here, and their songs feature strings quite a bit. I’m a sucker for a good fiddle, so to speak. Fitzcarraldo is just over 6 minutes of Irish folk-rock perfection.
7. Garbage – The Trick is To Keep Breathing
Garbage are perhaps known for being, at times, a heavy rock band, but this is a far more chilled-out song from their second album – ‘Version 2.0’. It’s one of those songs that I can listen to over and over and never tire of, and adds something a little different to my album. If you do nothing else today, get a copy of this song, turn the lights out and the volume up, and wallow in its magnificence.
8. Hoobastank – The Reason
Plenty of contenders for H, but I’ve tried where possible to include songs that mean something personally, even if they aren’t the best musically or lyrically. This song represents a certain period of my life, was loved by both myself and my wife – to the extent I uncharacteristically sang it with her at a karaoke party some years ago – and the video is a quite-clever Oceans 11 style bank heist. What’s not to like?
9. Idlewild – Tell Me Ten Words
With the exception of Terrorvision, there is no band I have seen live more times than Idlewild – the first time being in support of Ash in Manchester in the late ‘90s. Their debut EP, and then full length album, were, in parts, ridiculously heavy, and at the time I loved them. But what I like best about Idlewild, is that they’ve grown older with me. As my music tastes have mellowed, so have their albums. It’s like they know me, and only release stuff they think I’ll like. Bless ‘em. Sadly, their latest album is sh*t, but I’ll forgive them that because this song is so damn good and, as with many of my choices, I’ll never tire of it.
10. Jimmy Eat World – 23
No surprises here. If you know anything about me, you’ll know this is arguably my favourite song of all time, from my favourite ever album – ‘Futures’. Pure genius. A great live band too – I even travelled to Milton Keynes twice to see them; once in support of Green Day, and then in support of Foo Fighters. They are, unquestionably, the nice guys of rock. They always arrive on stage bang on time (once, they were a minute early), and look like their respective mums have not only dressed them, but are back stage with a packed lunch each for after the show.
11. The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It
Bit of a bittersweet choice this one. I absolutely love this song, and the debut album from which it came, but unfortunately The Killers have been utter toss ever since. Nuff said.
12. Longview – Further
Another band very few people know about. They only have one album (I assume they aren’t releasing any more, as this was over 10 years ago and their Wikipedia page has gone quieter than Rolf Harris’ ever since). Shame, as it’s a great album and this, the opening track, is about as good as music gets. Oh, and it has strings in it… I bloody love strings in rock songs. Have I mentioned that?
13. Mansun – The Chad Who Loved Me
What a way to end my first disc. Mansun’s first offering – ‘Attack of the Grey Lantern’ – is my favourite debut album of all time (yes, I have to categorise my favourite albums to give more than one a chance) and this is the opening track. ‘Wide Open Space’ and ‘Stripper Vicar’ are certainly better known, but as far as album openings go, this is astonishing. The album even ends as it begins, and tells a story (albeit an extremely bizarre one) throughout – prog rock at its finest. Lastly, it reminds me of 6th form – when girls were rejecting me left, right and centre, Mansun never let me down. It’s one of those rare albums that I can listen to without skipping a single track (yes, even ‘Taxloss’), and never get bored of.
I’d like to give an honorary mention here to Motion City Soundtrack, and their song ‘Last Night’. Unfortunately for them, I’ve been listening to Mansun far longer. If I repeat this list in a few years, ‘Last Night’ could very well substitute in. Motion City Soundtrack are the one and only band ever to be suggested in my itunes ‘Recommendations’ page that I’ve actually fallen in love with. Normally, I get messages like: “If you like Mansun, you might like Madonna, as she begins with M too, and once went to Chester…..”
1. New Order – World In Motion
The greatest football song, for the greatest World Cup, ever. Can’t say any more than that. Any song that can get away with having John Barnes rap in the middle of it must be doing something right.
2. The Offspring – Million Miles Away
Ok, so they’re a bit daft. And a lot of their earlier stuff sounds the same. But so help me this is a good song. I like tracks that build up as they progress to a cacophonous conclusion, particularly when, as in this case, that involves lots of backing singers, singing different lyrics at the same time. Sadly, there are no strings (had there been strings and overlapping backing vocals, I would have been especially weak of knee), but it’s still a good song. A special shout out to OK Go, who, had this been an A-Z of my favourite music videos, would certainly have featured. Sadly, their songs don’t necessarily live up to the videos.
3. Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing
I very, very, nearly agreed with the County Heaven CD here, and opted for Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, but, as with many of my decisions, this is a song that I could listen to over and over, and immediately transports me back to my room in halls at Lancaster University, blasting it out at full volume with the window open because it was so warm and sunny outside. For a special treat, listen to the version they did with Bowie.
4. Queen – You’re My Best Friend
Sod it. You all know my thoughts on Queen, but there really are no other viable alternatives as far as I’m concerned, and this song is, in all honesty, very good indeed. Plus, I promised myself I’d stick at least one of the songs from our C.H.U.M.S. collection onto my own album, so here it is. A ‘90s band called The Supernaturals (you probably know their song ‘Smile’ which has been on at least 17 adverts) covered it, and did a rather good job too.
5. R.E.M. – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Again, with the possible threat of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’, R.E.M. were always going to get onto my album. Besides, anything Radiohead have released post-OK Computer is utter toss, so they’ve effectively eliminated themselves by being smug tw**s (despite this, keep an eye out for Bono making an appearance shortly). Narrowing it down from R.E.M.’s colossal back catalogue was tough, but I’ve gone for this song because, not only is learning all the words one of my greatest achievements (along with finding a woman who was willing to marry me), but they always used to end with it live and it’s just a brilliant, brilliant pop song.
6. Silversun – Lava
Continuing the trend of people undoubtedly responding with “Who?”, Silversun enjoyed brief success in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s – mostly thanks to appearing regularly on TFI Friday – and this, from their debut album (they only had two), is utterly barking-mad genius. It’s like a heavy version of The Beach Boys, and the whole of that eponymous album is perfect for driving around to, with the windows down and the stereo up high, on a hot summer’s day.
7. Terrorvision – If I Was You
Terrorvision are, in my eyes, almost without fault. I never shut up about them, so their inclusion here is surely no surprise to anyone. Even I can admit that they aren’t the greatest musicians ever, but my God can they write a pop/rock song. If I was to compile this album based purely on bands and songs that are fun, Terrorvision would fill all 26 slots, regardless of the alphabet. I’ve gone for ‘If I Was You’ as, not only will it’s length (almost exactly two minutes), provide a nice contrast to some of the longer, more anthemic, songs – like ‘23’ for example – but it’s a great song to hear live. Even better, Ollie learned all the words when he was only 3, and performed them on film for me so I could send it to the lead singer, Tony Wright, on Facebook. Good ol’ Tone seemed delighted too.
8. U2 – With Or Without You
Let’s get one thing straight first – Bono is a kn*bhead. I know that. You know that. Hell, deep down, I’m sure he knows that, if he’s honest. But, for me personally, there are no other contenders for the letter ‘U’, and this really is a good song. Sorry. I’ll leave it there though, as somewhere in the world Bono’s ego just swelled slightly, and that can only be a dangerous thing.
9. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
The Verve seemingly disappeared after some huge success in the ‘90s with their ‘Urban Hymns’ album, only to re-emerge a few years back. They probably wished they hadn’t, as they didn’t get close to recreating the impact they had a decade or so earlier. Still, this was their first offering to the world, had a ludicrous video of Richard Ashcroft essentially assaulting everyone in the street with his massive leather-jacket clad shoulders (if they’d filmed that in Stockport, he’d have been decked inside a minute) and, as we all know by now, strings = success.
10. Roddy Woomble – My Secret Is My Silence
I’ve just realised that this is the first solo artist to make my album, and we’re nearly at the end. There’s a good chance that you won’t have heard of the stupidly-named Roddy Woomble, but don’t hold his parent’s poor baby-naming abilities against him. He’s the lead singer of Idlewild and, as I mentioned earlier, as I grew older and more mellow in my musical tastes, so did they. This must surely have been influenced by Roddy, who then chose to do a very Irish-sounding folk album (which is strange, because he’s more Scottish than Billy Connolly).
11. Charli XCX – Boom Clap
Time to stretch the rules slightly. Whilst I’m sure Charli XCX should be disqualified, on the grounds I’m 99% certain her surname is not, in fact, XCX (unless she’s Eastern European and it’s pronounced like someone coughing and sneezing at the same time), the truth is I’ve been through the list of bands and artists beginning with X and they’re either crap or I know nothing about them – and even less about their music. So, I’m cheating and voting for this song which was only released at the tail end of last year. So now my CD has some street cred with the yoof of today too. Lovely.
12. Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart
Hand on heart, I’m not sure I could name another Yes song if my life depended on it, so I can hardly call myself a fan of theirs, but I do like this song very much. Also, and this no way swayed my decision, but the video for the remix done by Max Graham as few years back (you know it’s cool, because it’s labelled as ‘Max Graham vs. Yes’ and we all know a ‘vs’ means it’s cool) features lots of scantily clad young lovelies. Brilliant.
13. Warren Zevon – Werewolves Of London
This is a shame. I do like this song, and as far as I’m concerned it has no competition whatsoever for the letter Z, but it’s also the weakest track on my collection (in my humblest of opinions), so this feels like something of an anti-climax. It’s a shame the alphabet doesn’t end with the letter ‘J’ really, as if this truly were my mix tape, I’d end with something soaring like ‘23’. Still, everyone knows that the second disc of any compilation is always the worst, and usually tails off with a few tracks to go, so I’ve done well to make it this far.