For all the great songs on the Pitchfork 500 list, there are some right duffers. And there’s some great, well-known, hugely loved songs missing. Following on from Part One, this covers the years 1980 to 1982. These are, of course, my own personal choice. If you can think of a band that the Pitchfork writers have missed, let me know by commenting or emailing me.
Willie Nelson – On The Road Again (1980)
The Stranglers – Golden Brown (1981)
Of all the mainstream genres in the Pitchfork 500, country is probably the worst served (we’ll leave the whole World music argument for another day). Yes, there’s a few cursory nods in the direction of alt-country – Bonnie “Prince” Billy/Palace Music, Low and Wilco, and even those last two are pushing the definition somewhat – but there’s no out-and-out country music on here at all. For a self proclaimed list of the “Best 500 songs from 1976 to 2006”, that’s a pretty big miss, especially when there’s everything else from thrash metal (Napalm Death) to MOR (Fleetwood Bloody Mac). No Johnny Cash, no Loretta Lynn or kd lang, and no Willie Nelson.
It’s even stranger that a great tune like Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” is missing. This is a song that’s beloved by all and sundry, from Bonnie “Prince” Billy himself (who plays it at live shows) to Hannah Montana (who named an episode of her show after the song) It isn’t in the list when horrible AOR dross like Hall & Oates “I Can’t Go For That” and Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” are. If you don’t know it, watch this:
Brilliant, isn’t it? A rollicking love song about the joys of the road, being with your friends, seeing new places, and being so utterly lucky to be able to make a living doing the things you love, it should be played to every single rubbish band that complain about having to tour. This is one of the purest songs out there about being a musician and the sheer fun it brings. The fact that it’s also a massive earworm helps too, as well as not having an inch of fat on it. Wonderful song and a baffling omission.
The Stranglers were a pub-rock band, who found punk rock and reinvented themselves. Notorious for their violence, both on- and off-stage – threatening journalists was one of their favourite activites – they released “Golden Brown” in 1981. About as far from their earlier punk numbers as was possible, it was a harpsichord-driven song in 13/4 time, sung in a terribly posh voice by Hugh Cornwell1. Now, that’s the way to get rid of your old fans.
I remember as a 10-year old, still young enough to be scared by punks, so it was weird to love this strange turn by one of the biggest punk bands of the day. The Englishmen abroad video merely added to the mystery of the song: Naive me (and many other people, in fairness) thought it was about a laydee of the foreign extraction. But of course, the lyrics are deliberately ambiguous, with one clear stand-out line “Through the ages she’s heading west” spelling out reality.
Yep, of course, it’s about drucks. That most feted, most dangerous, most revered and hated of all drugs,
Vicks Vapour Rub heroin. It’s a bit bloody obvious when you listen to the first verse again:
Golden brown texture like sun
Lays me down with my mind she runs
Throughout the night
No need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown
See? I mean, why would a laydee be running with your mind? Why would you need to fight with a purdy laydee? So yes, drucks it is. And it’s a fantastic record – and tons better than, say, “Happy Birthday” by bloody Altered Images.
Two top songs, which would have quite happily sat in the list. Next time, we’re back with the list proper, and the flowerings of some serious hip-hop.
1 Surely the only punk rock vocalist to have a BA in Biochemistry.
The whole list is available here.
MP3: On The Road Again by Willie Nelson
MP3: Golden Brown by The Stranglers
Buy Willie Nelson’s “One Hell of a Ride” (CD Box Set)
Buy The Stranglers “Greatest Hits 1977-1990” (CD/MP3)
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