Bob Stanley: 50 Songs I Love

Saint Etienne member and journalist Bob Stanley picks his top 50 tracks, from Pink Floyd to 3 Of A Kind via Barbara Mason.
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Saint Etienne member and journalist Bob Stanley picks his top 50 tracks, from Pink Floyd to 3 Of A Kind via Barbara Mason.

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1. Del Shannon - Runaway

Darkest chords, darker story, driving rain, wailing falsetto, sci-fi organ, ultimate fairground rock'n'roll.

2. The Velvet Underground - I Heard Her Call My Name

The sweetness of the backing vocals over the waves of guitar weirdness, the noise immediately after Lou Reed says "....and then my mind split open." There are still a dozen possible futures hidden within this song.

3. The Beatles - Money (That's What I Want)

Britain's class barriers are trashed by the time it reaches its screamed climax - "I gotta be freeeeee!"

4. Daddy Maxfield - Rave 'n' Rock

Very crunchy. An American take on Glam, played with a seizure-inducing enthusiasm.

5. The Lines - Nerve Pylon

Post-industrial Britain, 1980 in a nutshell, combined with a melody to make Paul McCartney blush.

6. Sandy Denny - Next Time Around

A walk through a mossy forest on a murky day. One of my favourite opening lines: "Then came the question, and it was about time..."

7. The Fleetwoods - Tragedy

"Blown by the wind, kissed by the snow." Womb-like teen ballad. Exquisite use of brushed drums and woodwinds.

8. Josef K - Chance Meeting

Defined 'independent music' in 1981, but nothing tagged 'indie' would ever penetrate its secret boxy power.

9. The Stereo Shoestring - On The Road South

Elephant guitars, extreme fuzz guitars, guitars that sound like they're felling trees... an extraordinary noise, and taken at such a ferocious pace.

10. Barbara Mason - You'd Better Stop

Once so coy on the equally great Yes I'm Ready, now Barbara is beaten, propped up only by rickety strings and drums, with an astringent guitar line as a crooked crutch.

11. Theola Kilgore - This Is My Prayer

The most devotional love song. And in spite of the title it's not about God, it's most definitely about a boy.

12. John Forde - Stardance

Ghost disco.

13. George McCrae - Rock Your Baby

Sun rays catching dust in the air, filtered through beech leaves, on 1974 film stock.

14. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Sealand

Korg-led choral tribute to the renegade independent nation a few miles east of Felixstowe.

15. Elvis Presley - Suspicion

Barely controlled emotion, sweetly seething, backed by a celeste - an instrument that really should be used on more records.

16. Blue Mink - Stay With Me

Narcotic, washed out, the musicians who played on Walk On The Wild Side return to the Home Counties.

17. The Fall - Spectre vs Rector

MR James meets possibly the most radical production in British pop history. Someone should make a film of this.

18. Chuck Jackson - I'm Your Man

A selfless love song with a definite undertow of menace. Very, very New York.

19. Slick - Space Bass

Giorgio Moroder and Chic liberated from gravity by vocals that remind me of Captain Scarlet's Destiny Angels.

19. Basil Kirchin - Prelude And Dawn

More abstractions of the industrial north.

20. Frankie & Johnny - I'll Hold You

Glaswegian soul, built from sandstone. One of the half dozen greatest intro's, too.

21. John Barry - Romance For Guitar and Orchestra

The chord changes are outrageous, unexpected, as good as Brian Wilson's, and they turn me inside out.

22. Broadcast - Come On Let's Go

Theme tune for opting out of everyday nonsense. I get this in my head a lot.

23. The Ronettes - I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine

The ultimate Brill Building/Spector 45, and he wouldn't even release it.

24. Highly Likely - Whatever Happened To You

Glued to the box.

25. R Kelly - Ignition

"I'm like, so what, I'm drunk - it's the freakin' weekend." His back catalogue may be patchy but there are enough suggestions of true greatness. Time will tell.

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26. Johnny Burnette Trio - Train Kept a-Rollin'

All about sex (the lyric) and violence (the trio). The most energising thing I've ever heard.

27. The Cake - Baby That's Me

Spector sidekick Jack Nitzsche creates a girl group song of total emotional abandon.

28. Frankie Laine - Swamp Girl

A soupy southern cinematic vision. I think Nick Cave might have heard this.

29. Gene Clark - Strength of Strings

Lost in music, music about music; the "cosmic American music" Gram Parsons talked about.

30. Pink Floyd - Cirrus Minor

Pastoral psychedelia is my favourite kind. The 'More' soundtrack is weirdly underrated.

31. The Beach Boys - All I Wanna Do

Some kind of universe of its own, similarly oxygenated and as sensuous as the place in the Hollies' The Air That I Breathe, but better.

32. The Dells - Stay In My Corner (1965 version)

Total pop modernity - doo wop meets soul meets R&B. Marvin Junior's voice is unreal. The Dells were together for the best part of 60 years.

33. The Cryin' Shames - Please Stay

Intense Liverpool noir. This is late period Joe Meek, with a haunted ice rink organ, and a barely alive vocal.

34. Roy Wood - Forever

"I saw my brand new baby walk out the door". Teen traumas revisited and somehow reinforced in middle age via a Beach Boys/Neil Sedaka tribute.

35. Fingers Inc - Mystery of Love

Deep chords and so much space. No hidden agendas.

36. Diana Dors - So Little Time

So much desperation from Diana. Fortunately, there's a lusty young guitar player just over her shoulder.

37. New Order - Ceremony

Destroying the past, on the brink of the future, endlessly inspiring.

38. Baby D - Let Me Be Your Fantasy

Melancholic breakbeat perfection. I love the fact this was a number one hit.

39. N-Trance - Set You Free

A close cousin to Baby D, but entirely unrestrained. Skyscraper vocal, endless optimism. "When I hold you ba-a-a-yay-beh!"

40. Mott The Hoople - Roll Away The Stone

Dares you not to feel better than you did three minutes ago. I'm especially fond of the spoken-word-into-moog-squiggle section.

41. The Bee Gees - Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)

For the multiple key changes, ludicrous title, warmest bassline, and, um, its genuine tenderness.

42. Billy Fury - Run To My Loving Arms

Entirely convincing. Billy is singing just for you, and the massed orchestras of Mike Leander are cowering in awe behind him.

43. Lou Christie - She Sold Me Magic

What's going on here? What are the lyrics? How does he DO that?

44. Wimple Winch - Save My Soul

Complete deliverance as it gradually builds to a climax of white noise, then stops dead.

45. Tim Hardin - It'll Never Happen Again

The saddest voice ever, with a string quartet Hardin apparently hated, locked out of the studio and crying in the corridor. "All the pain, always the rain coming down in my eyes."

46. Galaxie 500 - Flowers

The Scottish lowlands from a train window.

47. The Shadows - Atlantis

Or it could've been Wonderful Land. Hank Marvin conjures up the sound of a British dreamscape, part post-war new town, part mid-Atlantic fantasy island.

48. Soft Cell - Say Hello Wave Goodbye

Another film wrapped up inside three minutes. Unless you're listening to the 12" version, which also includes the best clarinet solo in pop.

49. 3 of a Kind - Babycakes

Pure joy. No apologies.

50. Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman

Lyric, production, structure, instrumentation, delivery, intensity. And then there's the coda. This is too perfect.

Bob Stanley's book Yeah Yeah Yeah, a history of popular music is out now.