This is not a best 45s ever released list…..
There is something about the magical seven inch vinyl single, something that the CD single, and the cassingle (which must be the silliest, most useless format ever…at least the CD is convenient and usually works as its designed to) could and can never aspire too. Both are unappealingly soulless. The small round, iconic seven inch however, as rough as it sounds sometimes (and that is a part of its soul, the audio shittiness bought on by its intended disposability) defines the pop song and is the philosophical parent of the mp3 in its disposability. Something the record companies still don’t get….
I’ve got thousands of the things and I still buy the odd one. In reggae, indie rock and other styles it still thrives albeit on the edge of the public consciousness, to whom it is mostly a museum format. One of my favourite records of last year, Ice Cream by New Young Pony Club, was only on 7”. But you can’t deny that the 7” was a record of its time and that time is largely gone. Hence this list, mostly exists during my frenzied seven inch buying period from about 1974 through to the mid eighties, plus a bunch of records from the sixties which came firstly from the jukebox leftovers my dad used to bring home in the late sixties, and thence after from my endless rustling through the junk shops of the nation over the next decade or so.
Similar rules apply to this list as did to my 12’’ one earlier….I have to own the physical copy, the cut-off is 2000, and there was only to be one from each act.
This list is noticeably whiter (or perhaps less black) than the earlier twelve inch list, reflecting my punk and beat roots (although I had a big jazz fixation as a late teen and I also eagerly swooped on every soul and r’n’b single I could find, but in New Zealand, Motown aside, these were rare beasts) but also the fact that soul & hip-hop singles and the such, after 1976 or so were largely 12” formatted, with the 7”version being an aside for chart purposes.
And, like the 12’s, this is not attempting to be a list of the greatest seven inch singles ever, its about my list, the records that I look at with some joy and reverence when I come across them on a day, a bunch of little round black things that rocked or changed my world. I’m not trying to do some egotistically definitive list. There are the obvious records here for sure, but nothing like the scarily obvious and pointless list that
So, once again, in no real order except a vague alphabetical one, and where I note the B side it’s because it matters as much as the top side to me:
Alice Cooper – Eighteen (Warner Bros)..suburban schmuck punk from somewhere in the middle of
Altered Images – Don’t Talk to Me About Love (Epic)..I used to be in love with Claire Grogan….most males I knew then were, something about her scar. This record makes me feel like a little boy……
Ann Peebles – I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down (Hi)..despite my love for this I actually didn’t mind the tacky Paul Young cover of it. But, of course the Willie Mitchell produced original single from about 1971 is on another level altogether. Why this remains, to the public at large lesser known (albeit a soul classic) when Al Green is on every second TV advertised compilation is beyond me.
Ardijah – My Love is Blind (Pagan)..Betty and Ryan Munga were clearly and profoundly influenced by the likes of the SOS Band, Mtume and The Gap Band, and this, their first single was their stab at it. They got it wrong and that’s part of the charm of this. Its naïve, rough and clumsy but Betty’s rich voice sits above it and it’s a classic.
Arthur Alexander – Anna (Stateside)..common wisdom is that The Beatles version of this isn’t much chop. Bollocks…its completely charming in a naïve way, but it can’t hold a candle to the original, radically different, subtlety sexual version. That Lennon had the good taste to cover it speaks volumes…
Badfinger – Name Of The Game (Apple) Now I’m massively cheating as this is a what-if. This is the unreleased, at the time, stunning brass and strings mix of the track, which I first heard on a greatest hits. It was intended for a single but didn’t make it for some reason. I imagine, since they were on a radio roll, it would’ve been a hit and that it wasn’t is just another aspect of the tragedy that surrounds this band. I guess the best part of about doing a list like this is the ability to break any rule I want with impunity.
Ben E King – Supernatural Thing Pt1 (
Blam Blam Blam – Call for Help (Propeller)..this came off the Blam’s only album and was released as a single only at the insistence of the distributor. Don had such a wonderful funky edge back then, something he’s, despite his much deserved success later, never really caught again. The best Blam Blam Blam single complete with a very cool, Len Lye-ish video made, I think from memory, by Don’s then girlfriend, Jenny Pullar, and, still, I think, Don’s finest moment.
Blue Magic – Sideshow (
Cabaret Voltaire – Do The Mussolini Headkick (Rough Trade) actually from an EP, but I first heard this on a Cherry Red compilation and found myself hunting out the 7” as something I had to have. Records like this, and indeed much of the Cabs work, sound like they shouldn’t exist, they bend the rules so completely.
David Bowie – Golden Years (RCA)..this is a total cop out. I can’t choose a seven inch single from
Desmond Dekker – 007 (Pyramid)…bargain shop hunting about 73 got me sorted with this. There was, to the best of my knowledge no ska, rock-steady or reggae market in
Devo – Jocko Homo (Stiff)..my best friend at the time,
Dragon – Rock n Roll Ponsonby (Vertigo)..a song about
Elvis Costello – Alison / Welcome to the Working Week (Stiff 1977)..
Fatal Microbes – Violence Grows (Small Wonder 1979)…records like this make you wonder what ever happens to people like vocalist, bleached punkette Honey Bane. They make a couple of really quite cute, rough as guts, indie singles, get signed to EMI, chewed up, and disappear. Thank god for Wikipedia eh? She married and went to the
Fire Engines – Candyskin (Pop: Aural)..is that a waltz..is it? I dunno, I’m hopeless at that sort of thing, two left feet and all. Indie cuteness from some Scottish garage a long time ago…Its funny how people used to describe this sort of thing as “dark”
Fun Boy 3 – The Lunatics Have taken over the Asylum (Chrysalis)..so closely related to Ghost Town its silly. The little tribal groove that ties it together was nicely sampled a couple of years back..I’m surprised it took so long. Lyrically, this took on a new significance in recent years…
Gang of 4- At Home He's A Tourist / It's Her Factory (EMI) try as I could I couldn’t get my hands on a 7” version of their Fast EP (I have it on a Fast album compilation and I’ll get to that list next). It’s really hard to overstate the influence that this bunch have had and no-one really realised that at the time, but you rarely do, do you, but regardless of that this stands on its own as a killer angular double A side, which used to be a dancefloor filler for me in Sydney in 79.
George Harrison – My Sweet Lord (Apple)..I love this for the production as much as anything, the chiming guitars, the way it breaks out about half way through with the fake gospel tambourines and choir. So plastic, so Spector, so cool…
Herco Pilots – Essential Services (REM 1981)..off my much loved Wonder Book EP on the three release only label, and from the darkside that is Remuera,
Jah Wobble – Betrayal (Virgin)…I loved the album this was from but especially I loved this uber-clumsy, utterly disarming single from the former PIL bassist and conceptualizer. I guess much of what makes both punk and house (and its
James Brown – Bewildered (King)…I don’t, to be honest, own many JB records on 7”, at least not many that were bought pre-86. But this is one I do, and another junk shop purchase it was. I included this on some old lounge compilation I did for PolyGram a decade or so ago and was told by the then head of the label it was too “black”. It stayed…I’ve always loved James doing ballads and this is amongst the best of them.
Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe / 51st Anniversary (Track)..when I started at boarding school some guy asked me if I liked heavy music. I guessed later that this is what they meant. I do and I did and this gets a major bonus for the marital warning that is the, non LP, flip ….You must be losing your... [sniff]... sweet little mind.
John Holt – Ali Baba (
Kraftwerk – Autobahn (Vertigo)…an album track, of course it is. But hearing this on New Zealand commercial radio in the mid seventies was like someone smashing down a wall and screaming: now you can never go back…nice 45 edit too...all the excess taken out and like all those great Blue Note jukebox edits just bang, bang, bang….
Lord Creator –
Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream (Karma Sutra)..John Sebastian wrote so many tight little pop songs…songs that sounded so throwaway on first listen but grew and grew. This just sounds like a Daydream…
Magazine – Shot by Both Sides (Virgin)…this is all about the 45 version as the album, and usually complied version is the gutless album take. One of the great guitar lines in British pop. Howard Devoto is a perplexing case of unfulfilled promise…
Marching Girls – True Love / First In Line (Propeller)..actually this came out on Bruce Milne’s Au Go Go label in
Marvin Gaye – Hitch Hike (Tamla Motown)..early Marvin, the manufactured pop period, is often ignored for the tragic artist period and that in itself is tragic.
Modern Lovers – Roadrunner Once / Roadrunner Twice (Beserkley) with the John Cale produced version (the better known one) on the flip, and a later take on the A side.
Neil Diamond – Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon (
Nick Lowe and His Sound – What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding (Radar) I like the fact that Nick released an EP called Bowi because
Nilsson – Everybody’s Talking (RCA).. I guess this is because of Midnight Cowboy, still after all these years, one of the greatest films I’ve seen and so perfectly matched with the pathos in this song. Considering he was such a great songwriter its odd how most of Harry’s hits were covers..
Orange Juice – Simply Thrilled Honey (Postcard) ..I saw these guys described recently as The Four Tops meet The Clash and it’s not far from the truth. I literally bumped into Edwyn Collins outside a theatre in
Otis Mace and Rex Rental –
Paul McCartney & Wings – My Love (Apple)..will I get grief for including this…do I care?
Plastic Ono Band – Instant Karma (Apple)..wasn’t this written, recorded, pressed up and released all in a week. I think so, but I forget. We All Shine On….yep, Johnny you still do for me and always will
Proud Scum- Suicide 2 / The Terrorways- Short Haired Rock And Roll (Ripper)..if any record ever defined the ethic that was punk rock it was this, on Bryan Staff’s deservedly legendary label out of the back room of his smelly club in
Public Image Ltd – Public Image (Virgin)..forget God Save The Queen or Anarchy, this was Lydon’s greatest punk single, bar none. The moment when he stood up and became everything he’d always claimed to be in the Pistols….
Richard Hell & The Voidoids – Love Comes in Spurts / Blank Generation (Sire)..the supreme double A sided single to come out of the punk from the man who was responsible for creating so much of what changed the audible world in the early to mid seventies and beyond.
Rose Royce – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (Whitfield)..I used to lie in bed in my flat in Parnell in the morning before I went to work in Taste Records, waiting for this to come on the radio, which for a few months, it seemed to with some regularity. Norman Whitfield heaven…
Roxy Music –
Sandie Shaw – Hand in Glove / I Don’t Need You Anymore (Rough Trade)..it was a tough call between Girl Don’t Come, Wight is Wight (a charming long forgotten cash-in ode to the Isle of Wight Festival that never makes the greatest hits collections), and this, but the fact that this was also a de-facto Smiths single too tipped the balance somewhat. Johnny Marr’s almost fairground intro on I Don’t Need You Anymore is one of my favourite moments in pop. And
Santana – Evil Ways (CBS) pure electric Latin funk. It’s hard to look at Carlos now and grasp just how good he and his band were about 1970
Sardine V –
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Metal Postcard (Mitageisen) (Polydor)..I think this was only ever released in
Sisters Love - Give Me Your Love (Mowest)..from a junk shop in
Sly and The Family Stone– Running Away (Epic)..it could be any Sly single but this sis the only one I own on 45 so it gets the hike. I was besotted with these guys where I, as a slip of a lad slipped into the R18 rated
Small Faces – Afterglow (Immediate)..the perfect sixties pop band in every way, they never really lost their raw snottiness unlike so many of their peers. I love the crashing intro and the way Stevie Marriott’s vocal comes in so plaintively..and the slightly distorted feel of the whole song.
Special AKA – Gangsters (2 Tone) I forgot Ghost Town from the 12 inch list so hopefully this will make amends, in my mind at least. We are told things are moving at an ever faster rate than before. Not true. Musically, post punk, trends blew up, produced a clutch of bona fide classics, such as this, and then imploded under their own weight a few months later.
Split Enz – No Bother to Me (White Cloud).. I bought this, on the day of its release back in 1975 from an electrical shop in
Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative
Style Council – Speak Like a Child (Polydor)..it really seemed at the time follow on seamlessly from the last Jam single, the glorious Beat Surrender, which was so much just a Weller record…go and watch live footage of the band about that time and see the obvious chasm between him and the other two.
Suburban Reptiles – Saturday Night Stay at Home / 45 Single (Vertigo)…I had much more to do with the first Reps single but this was the better of the two by an urban kilometre and it remains a
Teardrops Explode – Bouncing Babies (Zoo 1980)..Tim Mahon from Blam Blam Blam and I threw Julian Cope out of a recording studio once for being a twat. I think he still is, but the early singles were psychedelic punk masterpieces and this was the best of them.
The Adverts – One Chord Wonders (Stiff).. I like this, and I really don’t know why, as its really not that great a single, but, y’know..time and place…
The Beatles – Paperback Writer / Rain (Parlophone)..ha, really I’d fill 22 places in this list with Beatles singles but I’ve made rules so…this gets in for five reasons. Firstly it has one of John’s best songs, and Paul’s best songs on either side; secondly, it was more revolutionary a single in its construction and it’s recording techniques than any other (more so than Strawberry Fields / Penny Lane which draws a direct line from this) and that in a career where every single smashed the rules; thirdly, its so wonderfully concise, not a moment is wasted or filled with flowery excess; fourth, it came with that still stunning promo clip; and finally, and just as important, in early 1966, they just looked so bloody cool.
The Bee Gees – How Can you Mend a broken Heart (Spin 1972)…is it a cool record? Who the fuck cares. Al Green thought it was and that’s good enough for me. I’m a sucker for early Gibb stuff. Its pop you see, and pop is a beautiful thing. End of….
The Birthday Party – Nick the Stripper (Missing Link)..seeing The Birthday Party live in 1980 and 1981 in Melborne was quite a thing. To me, this was their finest moment on single, groaning, snarling and threatening, and indeed
The Buzzcocks – Spiral Scratch (New Hormones)..just because…do I really need to explain this one…
The Casuals – Jesamine (Decca)..funny one this. I used to think I was soft for having a soft spot for this late sixties throwaway. And then Paul Weller put it on his Under The Influence album. So everything’s alright now…
The Chills – Pink Frost (Flying Nun)..Martin Phillips finest moment and he’s had a few. If this was not a 7” list I guess I Love My Leather Jacket might sneak in instead. I love the depth of his melodies but I guess that comes from an admirable obsession with all things Brian Wilson
The Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais / The Prisoner (CBS 1978)…I cried when Joe died and it still makes all misty like. I love The Clash and they defined so much of my life, not just the music although there is that, but the philosophy. So how can I possibly name one record? I can’t of course, but this little faux reggae track is genius. The line about Adolph Hitler coming again sounds vaguely prophetic now. They just renamed him Bush….
The Clean – Tally Ho (Flying Nun 1981)..FN were, I guess, responsible for dozens of wonderful records, quite a few on 7”, but none were as revolutionary as this. I think the $50 recording bill is a myth, but it’s a good one.
The Cure – 10.15 / Killing an Arab (Small Wonder)..I bought this from a shop in
The Damned – New Rose / Help (Stiff)..the first
The Dramatics – In The Rain (Stax)..part of my conversion to the joys of soft soul, and another junk shop find back in the mid seventies. Keith Sweat did a wonderful, Teddy Riley produced, version of this on his first album but it couldn’t hold a torch to the subtlety of this original. And there is, as Spector knew, something about records with weather effects too…
The Fall - Fiery Jack (Step Forward)…beyond the first few singles I’ve never liked grumpy Mark E Smith that much, and I’ve always thought The Fall were a pre-punk hippy band stuck in the wrong era, and their influence is ugly. That said, the first few singles really were the shit, and this and Elastic Man are the best of them.
The Features – City Scenes/ Do You Want To Know a Secret / Police Wheels (Propeller)..the first single I released on Propeller and recorded on a whisper and a prayer (that we would find the money to pay the studio after we’d spent the budget on beer). A truly extraordinary band that would only ever make two singles, although Jed Town was to realise many of the ideas in Fetus Productions. The remake of the Fab’s Do You Want To Know a Secret on the B side turned it from a lilting naïve love song into a stalker’s threat.
The Flaming Groovies – Shake Some Action (Sire) .. the 45 mix was a completely different record to the much better known album mix, the guitar is quite different but more entrancing. I went through a Groovies fetish period at one time, during my brief power pop period
The Formyula – Nature / Home (HMV)..the topside may have be named the APRA best NZ song ever but this was really all about the B side for me, a moving ode of nostalgia for the nest which used to come back to me as I caught the 159 bus down a rainy Abbey Rd (where it was recorded) all those years back
The Gordons – Futureshock EP (self released)..I distributed this when it first came out, long before Flying Nun reissued it some years later. It caught the bands relentless wall of electric sound so well, perhaps because of the primitive way it was recorded. Technology does not always improve…
The Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks (Track)..I don’t like junkies and I guess this is the ultimate junkie anthem of the seventies. But there was something Eddie Cochrane about Johnny Thunders and the LAMF album and this is so indicative of the uglier side of the punk scene and is so sleazy it, happily, by implication, gives junk a band name. And it has a killer riff, going a long way to show why the best Ramones songs were always by Dee Dee
The Jam – Strange Town / Butterfly Collector (Polydor)..single after single, classic three minute anthems one after another, bang bang bang. Every couple of weeks, or so it seemed at the time Paul Weller would release a two headed killer. This is my favourite Jam single, but only just, and only this week. A frantic tale of alienation on one side and a vicious attack on a long forgotten (but oh so typical) record company staffer on the other.
The Kinks –
The La De Das – How is The Air Up There (Zodiac) simple because it has the best, most fuck-you intro of any single I’ve ever heard…and it was made in Herne Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, less than a kilometre from where I lived for the past decade.
The Mighty Diamonds – Stoned Out of My Mind (Channel One)…the first time I had the courage to venture into the strange world of Dub Vendor in Ladbroke Groove I bought this. I’ve never heard a bad version of this song.
The Miracles – Ooh Baby Baby (Tamla Motown)..there are all the clichés of course about America’s greatest living poet and such, but none of them come close to the sound that Smokey crafted on all those wonderful, wonderful singles, both for himself and those blessed to be gifted a song or a production by the man.
The Mockers – Murder on Manners Street (DonKey)…there are too few great songs about
The O’Jays - Backstabbers (
The Pretenders – Stop Your Sobbing (Real)…if I’d known when I first heard this how absolutely, offensively annoying Chrissie Hynde was and would become I might’ve ignored it. But, when Terry Hogan bought the promo down to the record shop I was working in at the time I had no idea about any of that and we thrashed this for weeks.
The Ronettes – I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine (
The Shangri Las – Past Present and Future (Red Bird)…there were moments when / well there were moments when...I love Phil Spector as long as he’s not shooting starlets, but spare a moment for the great Shadow Morton, completely, excuse my phrase, in the shadow of Phil. This record is such a litany of clichés it couldn’t help but be brilliant….don’t try and touch me because that will never happen...again / shall we dance..
The Slits – Typical Girls / I Heard it Through the Grap
The Spinners – Ghetto Child (Atlantic 1973)..I find most of the Spinners stuff too fluffy and lightweight but there is something delicately charming about this record.
The Subway Sect – Ambition (Rough Trade)..cheap keyboard heaven from always odd Vic Goddard. The bit at about 2.30 where it drops down and then violently bounces back is well cool.
The Techniques – Queen Majesty (Treasure Island) originally, in the grand JA tradition, an adaptation of an old Curtis Mayfield tune, something I didn’t know until a few years after I found this in a junk shop. Some
The Undertones – Teenage Kicks / True Confessions (Sire)..John Peel was right about TK but everybody ignores the flip side (it was actually a 4 track EP but these are the ones that matter) which is just as good. Another one given to me by my old friend Terry Hogan (the guy who designed the AK 79 cover actually) from Warners. We used to drink, umm, quite a bit, from the pub next door to the shop we worked in on Saturdays in Parnell back in the late seventies and dance to this, much to the chagrin of many of our customers.
Thomas Leer – Private Plane (Oblique)..another friend, Nadine, sent me this from
Throbbing Gristle – United (Industrial)..Harry and
Timebox – Beggin’ (Decca)..big brassy, dramatic pop from
Toy Love - Rebel / Squeeze (Elektra)..I think I rambled on about this in my Toy Love blurb elsewhere on this blog, so I’ve already told a story or two about this. It’s sufficient to say that the failure to this to appear in the APRA Natures Best list, just underlines the comments I made above.
Vivien Goldman – Laundrette (Window)..produced by John Lydon and Keith L
And so, that, more or less is the seven inch part of the story. There is an album version to come at some stage, and I guess a few artist and records I’ve missed here, and I’m aware I’ve missed (The Ramones?) are going to get their due there. When will it appear….ha, god knows, these things take a while and I’ve the urge just to revert to the humble, less consuming, blog for a spell…