It has been a while, and I think I’ve been a bit serious lately, so here’s a blog post to lighten the mood a little.
You know those compilation albums you used to buy (anyone under 30 – yes, we did actually pay people to put together play lists for us)? You know – the Greatest Guitar Songs, driving songs or love songs?
Well, I think we should compile some play-lists for more prosaic reasons. Future lists might include Top Songs for European referendum day (No 1 will definitely be Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash) for example.
Well, today, I’m feeling angry. Not at anything specific, but at the World in general. So here is my Top 10 ANGRY songs. Not songs that make me feel angry (that would be full of Gary Glitter songs and 80s songs that gloried the me, me, me attitude typical of the Thatcher/Reagan era), but songs which express anger either in lyrics or melodically.
Anyway, here it is. It’s my personal top 10 – I’ve only included songs I’m familiar with (obviously), so I’m sure I’ve missed some angry classics. NB – I have made an effort not to flood the list with rappers or punk and metal bands, for whom anger is not just a middle name, but a first and last name too.
Feel free to suggest alternatives in the comments, on Facebook or to @GoonerEll (hashtag #whateveryoulikethisisn’tgoingtotrendyouknow).
No 10. Common People (Pulp). I include this reluctantly, (see my comments at No 5 below), but the furious scratch of the guitar accompanying Cocker’s spitting of the lines about watching roaches climbing the wall gives it enough to take it into my top 10.
No 9. Paint It Black (Rolling Stones). I don’t know about you, but when I’m furious, I get pissed off when I see a red door too.
No 8. What Difference Does It Make (The Smiths). When Morrissey tells you he’s “so sick and tired” you can be sure he reaaaaallly means it.
No 7. Life Is A Lemon (Meatloaf). There aren’t many who can write angry-sounding songs like Jim Steinman, and I challenge you to find angrier lyrics than the bridge (3 minutes in) in which we’re told that home, family, school, gods, friends, love, sex, hope, childhood are all defective and as for the future – well, “you can shove it up your ass”.
No 6. Fairytale of New York (The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl). Shane McGowan sneering about drunk tanks and the ethereal and much-missed MacColl calling him a cheap lousy faggot, all in the sugary coating of a Christmas song. “Happy Christmas your arse – I pray God it’s our last.” Genius. And very, very angry.
No 5. That’s Entertainment (The Jam). The song Jarvis Cocker would have written if he was more intelligent and had an ounce of subtelty. Weller and Co make the point about the hopelessness and tedium of modern urban life without a) ramming it down your throat and b) sounding like a spoilt child.
No 4. God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols). To be honest, I could have just listed the punk figureheads’ top 10 and left it at that, but I’ve picked just this one – the iconic “no future for you” refrain at the end clinches it.
No 3. National Shite Day (Half Man Half Biscuit). I wanted to put an HMHB song in here, because their album Back in the DHSS was my first “ironic” love, and they are cruelly under-appreciated. Besides, any song that can make you laugh and seethe at the same time is OK by me. “There’s a man with a mullet going mad with a mallet in Milletts”. You just have to hear it.
No 2. Hurt (Johnny Cash). From the ridiculous to the sublime. I know it was originally by Nine Inch Nails but to me, Cash captures the regret and bitterness of the lyrics perfectly, which is perhaps not surprising given Cash’s history and the circumstances in which it was recorded. I challenge you to watch this video and not be stirred – simply one of my favourite songs.
No 1. I Can See For Miles (The Who). As far as I’m concerned, this band are the masters of angry music (Keith Moon’s furious fills, the Ox’s sullen glowering, Townshend’s falsetto and savage assault on his guitar and Daltrey’s gravelled voice and street-fighter physique) which makes them a shoo-in to top this list.
I could have picked any number of their tracks – I particularly hesitated over I’m a Boy “My name is Bill and I’m a headcase”, Who Are You and, of course, Substitute – but this one, with its theme of betrayal and sinister hints of revenge, pipped it for me. As the Who regularly achieved, this song is at once melodic and catchy with a pounding, heavy metal heart. The musical equivalent of Sigourney Weaver in a red-carpet gown. Looks beautiful, but you know she could kick your head in.
You feel violence is not very far beneath the surface, and you have to appreciate the context – this song was written in the Summer of Love. The best-sellers of the year were Whiter Shade of Pale, I’m A Believer and All You Need Is Love and even protest songs were gentle and lovely.
In the middle of all this psychedelia and flower power, along came The Who, setting the scene for heavy metal and punk – a full decade ahead of the Pistols.
So there it is. My favourite angry music.