Ghost Town, by The Specials
The sad passing of Terry Hall this week reminds us about the fragility of life itself and also how supremely talented and influential he was. The song was released one day before my 13th birthday, back in 1981, and at that time I was the shortest-haired rocker in the UK. Whereas most of my mates were into The Specials, Madness, and The Jam, I was going to Whitesnake concerts. Every day is a school day, yeah?
But even though I was into music that seemed at the other end of the scale to mod, 2-tone and ska, I could still appreciate what others saw in it, and just how it could provide a commentary about life on the streets of our country. Listen to the lyrics – they’re as relevant in 2022 as they were in 1981, and a spot-on slice of social commentary. Indeed, one of the tracks on the double B side (Why?) was a plea for racial tolerance. Who says music becomes irrelevant after a period of time.
Hauntingly beautiful, Ghost Town won Single of the Year awards from all three of the big hitters - Melody Maker, NME and Sounds - and sounds as fresh now as it did 41 years ago, and is needed as much for the present as it was for the past.
Pray, by Take That
Just to show footballing allegiances don’t come into the Top 100, here he is, as part of the biggest UK boy band of recent times. And as much as it pains me to say it, Pray is a stunning pop ballad, nigh on perfect to be honest. The fact the missus absolutely loves Take That should show everyone that there is zero favouritism in my selections!
Through gritted teeth, this is a great song. Right, I'm offer for a bath!
Temptation, by Heaven 17
I've never been closer
I tried to understand
That certain feeling
Carved by another's hand
…….Yet here is a band that I do love! As I stated a week or so ago, is Sheffield the most underrated UK city for music? I reckon it really could be. The list of great bands and music from the Steel City is phenomenal for its size compared to other far bigger places *waves at Birmingham, see ELO in a minute*
From the superb The Luxury Gap elpee, it’s not often you hear a song that is based on both the Lord’s Prayer and sex, is it? This is simply a pop/dance anthem that builds and builds into the most stunning of vocals by Carol Kenyon. A sign of its dance credibility was the fact that it was superbly remixed by the Brothers In Rhythm and also featured in the film Trainspotting. Indeed, I would implore you to source down the BIR remix, as it turns a stunning pop song into a Balearic-introed dance monster.
Borderline, by Madonna
The Queen of Pop, isn’t there at least one Madonna song that absolutely every person on earth loves? Even in secret? No secret here, I love loads of her stuff and could have quite easily replaced this with the likes of Justify My Love, Vogue, Hung Up, Holiday, Frozen etc etc….and you can add in the many ace remixes of her stuff, too.
But Borderline, for me, is her best single – and from the amount of our Twitter followers who put it down as their choice, it’s many others too. Described at the time as "state of the art dance-pop"- you simply can’t argue with that, can you? Well you can, but I won’t be listening.
Mr Blue Sky, by ELO
Sun is shinin' in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin' everybody's in the play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day, hey hey
The sound of the back seat. Nooooooooo, not that you mucky lot, I know what you’re thinking! No, it’s me as a kid clambering into the back of our Mini and this being played constantly by my parents. I grew up listening to ELO, The Carpenters, and Streisand – a brilliant musical upbringing when it comes down to stunning songwriting and performing.
The title gives this away – it’s basically Summer on vinyl. As soon as it starts, so does my smile. It just makes me feel better – and after the crappy few years we’ve all had, isn’t that bloody brilliant? And isn’t that what music can do for you? The little dig on musical Brum above may be a bit uncalled for, but for me it’s a city that for its size hasn’t produced the number of great bands that it should have done. ELO are a huge exception to that (probably unfounded) rule. They wrote classic after classic. None more catchy than this - and I love the surprise ending, too!