37 years ago today….

Thirty-seven years ago today saw the release of what I’d consider to be the best punk single of all time. When I began my initial explorations into The Clash at 18 years of age in 2012, the incomplete live footage of ‘Complete Control’ from Rude Boy was one of the first live Clash videos I saw.and it just floored me. I’d never seen anyone perform like Joe Strummer in that footage and he mesmerized me. Really, that performance coupled with ‘Know Your Rights’ from the US Festival quite simply changed my life. Joe Strummer may have ad-libbed the line “you’re my guitiar hero!” to Mick Jones but songs like this cemented The Clash as my guitar heroes.

Strong personal feelings aside, ‘Complete Control’ really is such an incredible song that’s special in a number of ways. It’s unique in that it’s sung by Strummer yet the vast majority was penned by Jones and it also has the honor of being the first song recorded with a certain Topper Headon at the drums. ‘Complete Control’ was the start of a new chapter for this band, one that would see them rise to dizzying heights only to implode all too soon. It was released in 1977 as a non-album single (in the UK at least) and it comfortably bridges the gap between The Clash and Give ‘Em Enough Rope. It’s more technically proficient than The Clash, it’s more polished, yet there’s still that unmistakeable raw edge and visceral feel that made it a classic album of the genre. This is still very much punk music, and punk music of the highest order.

Rediscovering Roxy Music

Every so often I get days were I just spent the entire time exploring music I haven’t heard before. Today is definitely one of these days, and it’s paying off dividends. I decided to listen to More Than This: The Best Of Bryan Ferry + Roxy Music and I am so surprised how much I’ve enjoyed it! I had tried to get into Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry a few months ago (after  loving a few of their singles) by trying out Avalon. I found it forgettable and at that pointed decided they were not for me. I think I may have given up on them too quickly – More Than This has really impressed me. I’ll definitely be going back to listen to those Roxy Music albums now (and probably some early Ferry solo material).

It’s even made me discover a song I’ve loved for a year or so without knowing who it was. ‘Let’s Stick Together’ was featured on a TV advert here and yet even with that unmistakable voice I never realized it was by Bryan Ferry. It sounded more like a 60s song to me, so I assumed it was from that period. Well, I wasn’t too far off the mark there to be fair as it does date from 1962 in its original version. Wilbert Harrison recorded it originally, whilst Bryan Ferry recorded his version for his 1976 third solo album, also called Let’s Stick Together. Bryan Ferry’s version proved very successful, reaching #4 in the UK Chart. It’s a song that’s just impossible to dislike really, it’s just got this irresistible pound to it. A great cover version that still stands up today!

Suicide – ‘Frankie Teardrop’

A song so disturbing that listening to it surely verges on masochism. It’s the centerpiece of Suicide (one of the finest debut albums ever made). The main reason ‘Frankie Teardrop’ is so chilling is the subject matter. Frankie works in a mundane factory job and has a wife and child and they live in deep poverty. These difficult circumstances makes Frankie become insane, until he eventually murders his wife and child and then commits suicide and winds up in Hell. It sounds like it doesn’t get any more harrowing but yet it does. It’s a deeply claustrophobic track with only a recurring, basic keyboard motif, a drum machine, and Alan Vega’s vocals. The keyboard plays the same brief melody for ten minutes – it feels like it symbolizes the repetitive nature of Frankie’s job. That’s not even the creepiest thing about the arrangement either. It’s Alan Vega’s vocals that really leave a lasting impression. The song is laden with his screams that really just cut right through you. They’re so primal that even without the sparse arrangement and chilling subject matter they’d still sound harrowing. Add all these various components together though and you’ve got one of the most gut-wrenching pieces of music you’ll ever hear. And without sounding like a masochist, I think it’s a brilliant song. There’s a definite political subtext to it. It manages to be more evocative and effective than many more overtly political songs really. Essentially, the song is criticizing dead-end, low paid jobs. It uses an extreme tale to illustrate the point for sure, but the core message is the same. It may be something you’d only want to hear once in your life, but one things for sure: it’s an unforgettable piece of music.