The stories of 4 albums that all faded into obscurity as quickly as they were released, before going on to be hailed retrospectively as lost classics of their time.
This edition of Recent Decents slipped right out of my fingers. Having only just discovered the first track, “Can I Help You?” by Amnesty, in the last week, I instantly knew it would be straight into this mix.
Despite being a fan of the longer slow-build tracks, rightly or wrongly, I tend to judge a new song from the first couple of notes. “Can I Help You?” was one of those that gripped me straight away. It starts with a drifty guitar and a few brass notes but pretty soon it’s a heavy, heavy beat that hooks you in.
At that point in my musical discovery, I check to see if any part of my body is tapping something. If it is, I’m in. …
In 1981, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” was about to set new records and provide the soundtrack of the decade. The song is a genre-defining track which is the pinnacle of the electro-pop sound of the ’80s. It is instantly recognisable from the first second due to its unmissable heavy synth beat.
It would top the charts the world over, setting new records on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet, even before its release, it would see the birth of an underground movement and the death of an icon.
In 1964, whilst releasing family-friendly doo-wop records with The Four Preps, Ed Cobb was writing and producing R&B and soul records on the side. He is responsible for writing “Every Little Bit Hurts” for a sixteen-year-old Brenda Hollaway, which would go on to become a smash for Small Faces and the Spencer Davis Group. …
As with the rest of the world, there is a lot happening right now in the UK.
Despite 4 elections in a decade, we’ve been through 10 difficult years of Conservative rule who started the decade with bleak austerity before branching out into divisive Brexit politics, then ending it with a record-breaking poor showing against the pandemic.
It's hard to pick out the positives from this. But there are a few and Sleaford Mods are one.
They are a visceral shove back against 10 years of punch-down politics and working-class oppression.
Musically, they are hard to describe and best understood by watching them live. …
The notoriously strict People’s Republic of China might not be the first place you’re looking to for new music but as always, the best underground scenes are born out of adversity.
In the past few decades, China’s alternative scene has boomed.
After years of protectionism, the government introduced the “opening up” policy of the 1980s — a period of reform which focused on engaging with the rest of the world, economically and culturally. Amongst other things, this would expose the next few generations to a world of influences. China’s music scene is now bursting with creativity.
The entertainment and culture industries are still tightly controlled by the Communist Party and a burgeoning alternative scene has emerged in spite of this. The need to avoid the censorship issues faced by mainstream labels has pushed independents to find new ways to get their artists out. …
The 2020 Mercury Music Prize has just been awarded to Michael Kiwanuka for his album, KIWANUKA.
Every year in the UK, this prize is awarded to the best album released in the past 12 months by a British artist.
However, the word ‘best’ has been hotly debated since the Mercury Prize was first awarded 26 years ago. I’ll take a look at some of the groundbreaking albums that lost out to lesser-known artists.
In 2006, when Alex Turner stepped up to receive the award for Arctic Monkey’s debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, his coy acceptance speech started with “somebody call 999 ’cause Richard Hawley’s been robbed”. …
As classic songs go, there are not many that are more famous than “Mack the Knife”. The song is synonymous with Bobby Darin, a singer who worked across multiple genres but was most famous for his big band swing records of the 1950s.
The song was Bobby Darin’s best selling single and is now part of the fabric of modern music. It was the biggest hit of 1959 and is the third most successful song ever according to Billboard magazine, ahead of modern classics such as Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”.
The lyrics tell the tale of a debonair serial killer ruthlessly ticking off his victims one by one. The tune, however, is upbeat with a catchy melody and big brass instrumentals, typical of the decade. …
A huge, lumbering, off-white desktop computer sits in my childhood kitchen and the 13-year old me waits in anticipation as the dial-up internet crackles and pops, attempting to connect to a world of musical opportunity.
My musical coming-of-age coincided perfectly with the advent of the initial wave of music downloading. Napster was king in 2000 and although it would be quickly shut down my Metallica’s legal challenges, the horse had already bolted and there was no shutting the stable door.
Napster’s unique method of P2P sharing made music accessible in a way that has never been seen before. As I’m typing this I can hear the opening riff to “I Disappear”, the song that Metallica discovered had been shared online for free through Napster. It’s actually hard to comprehend in 2020 that they were unaware their music could be shared online for free. …
Dionne Warwick’s heartbreaking soul classic, “Walk on By” is, according to Rolling Stone magazine, the 70th Greatest song of all-time. In terms of female solo tracks, the song is second only to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” on that list.
However, the song wasn’t always destined for greatness and almost didn’t make it at all.
In 2012, as he awarded Dionne Warwick with the Q Classic Song award, Tim Burgess summed up what the song brings to the listener.
The song involves tears in the street, unrequited love and Groundhog Day-style heartbreak. If you listen properly it’s everything but easy listening. …
Discovering new music can be bittersweet.
Early on in my musical exploration, I fell in love with Jeff Buckley’s Grace album on CD in the early 2000s.
It’s a relationship that I’ve maintained and Grace has entered my record collection again this time on vinyl and it’s as good as I remember.
As a young man, it was crushing to learn in the same instance of Jeff’s untimely death in 1997, aged just 30 years old. It’s still hard to imagine that having given us so much on that one album, he will never be able to add to it.
Again, it wasn’t until later that I also realised his father, Tim Buckley, was a folk star. On finding out, I expected to read of the kind of relationship that could produce the tenderness of Grace through his father’s experience and knowledge. …