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07.08.09

45


I AM 45 TODAY. There's a loose statistical probability that this is the midpoint of my life, which is enhanced by a nagging personal sensation that it is. The number itself certainly looks right - living till 100 is some sort of feat that I'm not either arrogant or ambitious enough to imagine, but 90 seems reasonable, which puts me here, in the middle of middle age, anticipating a perceptible quickening of pace that comes with heading down, not up, the slope of my life.

I have no way of marking the occasion except with this list - forty-five 45rpm records, a little e-mail meme that was started by my onetime boss,
Nerve magazine editor Dave "Rave" Macintosh, when he hit 45 last year, and circulated among former writers for the magazine. Needless to say, the real challenge was whittling down my list to just 45 records, after a quick run through iTunes - I could have done 90 at 45 no problem, and still stuck to the rule that every entry had to have been released as a single, at least somewhere in the world.

Once I'd compiled my list, I was struck by two things. One - there wasn't a single record made before I was born. I could, if I wanted, have made this a real challenge and found one record for every year I've been alive, but that would have been an increasingly desperate and unrewarding task, especially for the last fifteen years or so, during which I began the inevitable transformation into an old fart - a one man classic rock station of my own imagining. My pal Chris Buck, another Nerve veteran who's on Dave's e-mail list, thought he might be up to the challenge, though, and good luck to him.

Two - the vast majority of these records are from the '70s. I have no explanation for this. I am, in fact, confounded by it - the decade wasn't a great one for me (bad school, bullying, father dead, polyester) and I was largely unconscious of anything that wasn't playing on top 40 radio at the time, and even then I spent much of the decade pretending to be a classical music snob, until a brief but intense interest in prog rock broke open the floodgates before punk rock swept, tsunami-like, into my musical beach resort.

It's a pretty decent list; if I was restricted to just a couple of hours of music for the rest of my life, it would do nicely. And, of course, if you're approaching your 45th birthday and feel moved to do something similar, by all means include me on your e-mail list. (Just as good - 33 LPs at 33; 78 seventy-eights at 78. It's a shame that mp3s don't lend themselves to this conceit as well, though.)

Also, I'm doing another guest spot on the Michael Coren Show on CTS tomorrow night (July 9,) so please tune in. And since it's my birthday, I'll draw your attention to the PayPal button and my amazon.com wish list on the right (hint hint.) And I promise to get posts up on a more frequent schedule once we've dug ourselves out from the mountain of packing boxes. In the meantime, enjoy the list.


1. Beach Boys: "God Only Knows"/"Wouldn't It Be Nice" (1966)
Oh dear God I love this record. It yearns and longs the way a blast furnace combusts - at an intensity that's blinding. I remember it on the radio when it was relatively new, but I didn't connect with the song until I'd become old enough to know that youth was slipping away, a perverse bit of utterly useless knowledge that transforms every fresh, unbearable moment in your young life into nostalgia almost as soon as it's lived. I'm still amazed that anyone - even Brian Wilson - could capture this sensation. (from Pet Sounds)

2. Dwight Twilley Band: "You Were So Warm" (1975)
Truthfully, if "Sleeping" had been released as a single, it would be here instead, so this is a cheaty little proxy entry. A band I would never have heard when they were recording, or even for many years afterward, though the name did crop up with regularity. I can thank the internet, and mp3 blogs, for my very belated discovery of this band, and helping me discover the '70s that thrived beyond the playlist charts at CHUM AM and FM. (from Sincerely)

3. Sex Pistols: "Bodies" (1977)
"Fuck this and fuck that." Indeed. (from Never Mind The Bollocks)



4. Walter Jackson: "Uphill Climb To The Bottom" (1966)
Another song I discovered on an mp3 blog. My friend Alan came up with the concept of "the other Sixties" a few years ago - a term to describe the music and culture that went on with the increasingly overground counterculture in the corner of its eye, a phrase that, as I understood it, could describe everything from highly orchestrated pop groups like The Association to arty bastards who still charted, like Scott Walker. Jackson, a soul crooner in the mold of Lou Rawls or Brook Benton, was the kind of singer they probably played for Walker during his time at the top of the English charts; he did a version of "My Ship Is Coming In" that Walker must have heard. It's a source of solace to me in my old age that I have more records, by Jackson and singers like him, yet to discover. (from Welcome Home: The Okeh Years)

5. The Only Ones: "Another Girl, Another Planet" (1978)
The punk rock song nobody I knew was anywhere near talented enough to play. Was it punk rock? I really don't care - Peter Perrett's voice had a languid, snotty cadence that was close enough, even if his band sounded like they could just as well have been playing in Caravan. (from The Only Ones)


6. The Raspberries: "Go All The Way" (1972)
I like to think that The Raspberries were the sound of the younger brothers and sisters of the '60s kids pulling away from the chill, overcast autumn of love into their own sunburnt carnival midway for a few years at least. A bit bubblegum, a bit glam - Eric Carmen and the Raspberries deserved their own primetime sitcom to go up against The Brady Bunch. (from Raspberries)



7. Sparks: "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" (1974)
This might have made it onto the CHUM charts back when I was 10 years old, but I have no memory of it at all until the '80s and '90s, after which it became a solid piece of musical furniture that always seemed to have been there. In the context of the '70s, it makes most glam rock sound like sissified boogie; played alongside almost anything today, it reminds us that ambition and flamboyance were once the sort of things you put into your music. (from Kimono My House)

8. Four Tops: "Ask The Lonely" (1965)
Did you ever feel really, really sorry for yourself? I sure did, and from the moment I discovered this song on a Motown compilation in grade 11, it was the theme song for the opera of self-pity that comprised probably the whole of my interior life as a teenager. (buy 50th Anniversary Anthology)

9. Nick Lowe: "Cruel To Be Kind" (1979)
Nick Lowe and punk rock had the same relationship that Tito Puente had to Sesame Street - a hip, kindly uncle who'd drop by every now and then and show off a bit without seeming condescending. It's amazing that no one but the new wave-loving FM stations would touch this bouncy, sunny bit of pop thanks mostly to the singer's role as Damned producer. This track has bounced back and forth between my punk, '70s and '80s playlists since I downloaded it. (buy Basher: The Best Of Nick Lowe)



10. Pulp: "Razzmatazz" (1993)
So you can either read novels by Will Self, Hanif Koureshi or Martin Amis, or you can listen to Jarvis Cocker; one takes a lot longer, but isn't necessarily more rewarding or profound. Pulp's Britpop renaissance was long over by the time I came around to the band, which gave me the added pleasure of being able to appreciate their output as finite, with no surprises in store. I especially love this spiteful put-down to an ex-girlfriend; I never found myself in the right circumstance to use a line like "The problem with your brother, he's always sleeping with your mother." I don't know why I actually regret that. (buy Pulp Hits)

11. Zombies: "Tell Her No" (1964)
If you've ever seen the Zombies perform this on some British TV pop show, you can't help but marvel at the way singer Colin Blunstone actually prances around the stage while fronting what looks, for all the world, like a bunch of public transit engineers. Released the year I was born. (from The Zombies)

12. George Harrison: "What Is Love" (1970)
Good question, George - it took me years to figure it out, but if you think I'm going to let that secret slip, you've got another thing coming. Phil Spector might have been a murderous loonie, but he did produce this amazing song, which consists mostly of choruses trying to pummel each other into a bloody daze in a battle of crescendos. (from All Things Must Pass)

13. Aretha Franklin: "Runnin' Out Of Fools" (1964)
I love you, Aretha, but if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you never, ever run out. (from Runnin' Out Of Fools)



14. Todd Rundgren: "I Saw The Light" (1972)
I was never sure where Todd Rundgren was coming from, as he made his bubblegum pop for grad students; what I did know was that he was some sort of genius, albeit one of the less intimidating ones. My brother worked with him briefly, but he's never passed on an anecdote that explained the man sufficiently to me. (from Something/Anything?)

15. Arcwelder: "White Elephant" (1995)
A Volcano Suns cover, b-side of the Captain Allen single. If I ever host a radio show, this will be my theme song.

16. Barry White: "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up" (1974)
Some friends once caught me singing along to "the Bear" one night when I left the door to my apartment open. A singularly embarassing moment in my life; only Barry White could do Barry White without looking ridiculous. (from Barry White's Greatest Hits)

17. Gordon Lightfoot: "Summer Side Of Life" (1971)
I worked with Gord, shooting the cover of one of his later records, and it's my great regret that I never asked him just what this song is about. Perhaps it's best that I never did - in my own mind, it's about Canada's own Wilfred Owens and Siegfried Sassoons, leaving behind an Edwardian pastorale for death in the trenches. It turns the song into a little movie whenever I hear it, and I'd hate to have that ruined for me. (from Summer Side Of Life)

18. The Dells: "Stay In My Corner" (Vee-Jay Records version - 1965)
The not-quite-missing link between doo-wop and '70s soul. Man, does that ever sound pedantic. (buy The Dells: Anthology)



19. Cheap Trick: "Auf Wiedersehen" (1978)
Technically the b-side of "Surrender," which is all the more reason to put it on here. Up there with Sparks in the pantheon of "Huh?" '70s bands that were, in the long run, far more important than, say, Bad Company. (from Heaven Tonight)


20. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes: "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (1972)
I think I've finally resigned myself to the fact that I'll never sing like Teddy Pendergrass. (buy If You Don't Know Me By Now: The Best Of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes)

21. Matthew Sweet: "Sick Of Myself" (1995)
And by the middle of the '90s, and the beginning of my '30s, I truly was. (from 100% Fun)

22. Bram Tchaikovsky: "Girl Of My Dreams" (1979)
I didn't figure out that it was about a blow-up doll until a few years ago. Thankfully I'm old enough that it doesn't diminish the song; back when it charged out the speakers on CFNY, I think it might have ruined it for me. (from Strange Man, Changed Man)

23. The Damned: "New Rose" (1977)
Actually the first punk band I ever heard, on some sort of late night NBC show that aired after Saturday Night Live when I was starting high school. Needless to say, they'd never heard of them at the mall record store down at Jane Park Plaza. (from Damned Damned Damned)



24. David Bowie: "Life On Mars" (1971)
I could have put a lot of Bowie on this list; one of the revelations of my first iPod was just how much Bowie made it onto the playlist I simply called "70s." "Suffragette City" or "Golden Years" or "Heroes" could have made it here, but this song embodies just what we found so fascinating about Bowie back then - a song about Mars (sort of) sung by someone with an improbably abiding affection for Anthony Newley. (from Hunky Dory)

25. The Staple Singers: "Respect Yourself" (1971)
I've loved this song since it was a top 40 hit; it's amazing to think such a thing was possible. I didn't, however, understand the message for many, many years. (from Be Altitude: Respect Yourself)

26. The Motors: "Love And Loneliness" (1980)
Such a huge, stamping, headrush of a song. Big, metallic synth chords massed behind the bellowing, manly vocal by Nick Garvey. I liked to think that this is what the '80s might have sounded like, but we all know now I was wrong. (from Tenement Steps)

27. The Bags: "I Know" (1989)
I know nothing about this group. They were apparently the one-band vanguard of pre-grunge rock in Boston in the late '80s, but I wasn't paying much attention to indie scenes as the decade ended, and they slipped past me much as all the stuff I was listening to earlier in the decade flew completely under the radar of everyone else. Once again - thanks to the devoted fan who posted this on their mp3 blog a few years back.



28. American Music Club: "Rise" (1991)
I don't listen to lyrics very much, so the less concrete sense they make to me the better. I prefer to intuit the meaning of the song from how it sounds, and like so many of my favorite songs, I always thought that AMC's "Rise" was about transcendence, which would sound not unlike the soaring intervals that border the choruses. Transcending what, of course, is the big question. For me it was always despair; AMC singer Mark Eitzel might be surprised - even offended, perhaps - to hear that, for me at least, there's a straight line between this song and Spe Salvi, a papal encyclical on hope that affected me profoundly. (from Everclear)

29. Gang Of Four: What We All Want (1981)
My favorite punk band was probably Television, who weren't really much of a singles group. My favorite post-punk band was this bunch of Marxists from Leeds, who co-opted capitalist exploitation just enough to release a bunch of thundering singles like this one. Today, I'm a wary, red-hating Christian conservative, but I still love this group and all their thumping, slashing records. I don't need to tell you that if I only listened to people who shared my politics, I'd be down to a very short, unbearable record collection, the best of which would probably be Megadeth. (from Solid Gold)

30. Mott The Hoople: "Roll Away The Stone" (1973)
There is absolutely no way I could have heard this when it came out. Apart from "All The Young Dudes," which was a Bowie song in this part of the world for all intents and purposes, Mott didn't export particularly well. That sort of thing seems meaningless today, though I'm sure Ian Hunter would have seen things differently. (from The Hoople)


31. Buzzcocks: "Harmony In My Head" (1979)
Steve Diggle's voice wasn't anywhere near as defining to the Buzzcocks' sound as Pete Shelley's, but his turn singing lead on this single was immeasuably appealing - his bellow was more of a sonic stand-in for the average fan than Shelley's neurotic wail. Even if it was never recorded I still could have put any number of Buzzcocks singles here, but thanks to Diggle, this one has an unselfconsciousness that makes it stand out. (from Singles Going Steady)

32. Them: "I Can Only Give You Everything" (1966)
One song to stand in for a whole decade's worth of fuzzy, nasty garage rock numbers, any of which I could have put on here. Also, after years of considering Van Morrison from Brown-Eyed Girl to Saint Dominic to A Period Of Transition and beyond, this is the one I prefer - a fat, snotty Ulster kid singing a song that, along with "Gloria," became a standard for snotty, cacaphonous garage bands from Tacoma to Tampa. (from Them Again)



33. Bob Dylan: "Positively Fourth Street" (1965)
I never really got Dylan - or more accurately, I did my best to resist getting Dylan for many years, until I married a Dylan fan and slowly found myself becoming charmed by the cadaverous, strange old man he'd become by the Love And Theft album. I was content to enjoy this Dylan, until I discovered the key to the younger man with this song, which I'd heard on the radio for decades, while never really paying attention to the lyrics.

The thing is, Dylan is a truly hateful bastard. While his generation was doing their best to celebrate love - or this squishy, tedious, wooly-headed passive-aggressive social projection they called love - Dylan was spitting out venemous lyrics that only developed real edge when he moved his focus from abstractions like Masters Of War, or proxy villains ripped from the headlines like William Zantzinger, to his own friends and acquaintances, which resulted in this masterpiece of close-quarter invective, a raised middle finger embodied in song. "You got a lot of nerve..." (from Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits)

34. The Move: "Do Ya" (1971)
I knew the ELO version since A New World Record was one of the first LPs I ever bought (with money from caddying,) but my buddy Tim Powis introduced me to Roy Wood's even better original. Thanks, Tim - I would have to have been seven years old to have bought the Move's version when it came out, and no one is that hip. (from Message From The Country)

35. Talk Talk: "It's My Life" (1984)
Once I left the house, I was all about the hardcore punk and bad attitude, but behind my bedroom door, I loved this band, who were, at least at the beginning, like Simple Minds without the affectations or the knob lead singer. Liked them just as much when they took years to produce records featuring three songs that sounded like dry wind moving through industrial wreckage. (from It's My Life)

36. Magazine: "The Light Pours Out Of Me" (1980)
Another example of the transcendence I was talking about with "Rise." The light Howard Devoto was singing about might not have been cleansing as much as it was scalding, but that was good enough for me. (from Real Life)



37. PiL: "Public Image" (1978)
This song inevitably pushed a little button marked "pogo" at the base of my spine, and still would today, if I weren't worried about my bad knee. I remember gleefully caroming around the dance floor of college pubs when one of my DJ buddies would put this on; I like to think of it as my "Louie Louie." (from First Issue)

38. Alternative TV: "Action Time Vision" (1978)
Of course, nothing else this band produced had the drive or energy of this one song, which had the bracing swagger of a manifesto performed with tongue firmly in cheek. Call it motivational punk. (buy The Image Has Cracked)

39. Pagliaro: "Lovin' You Ain't Easy" (1971)
Still shivering with the residual charge of Expo 67, Canada looks forward to a new decade, tossing Beatles-esque pop tunes hither and thither. Of course, if your glass is half empty, you can say that it was Montreal's attempt to paste on an insincere smile and pretend that the October Crisis never happened. Does anyone else feel obliged to mine so much political significance out of their chart hits? (buy Hit Parade)

40. New Order: "Thieves Like Us" (1984)
From the dance club that I only ever went to in my own mind. (buy Power, Corruption & Lies)



41. Ringo Starr: "It Don't Come Easy" (1971)
A smile-making record, infused with its singer's wholly affable personality, but it really takes flight with George Harrison's slide guitar solo. (from Ringo)

42. Stranglers: "Walk On By" (1978)
The Stranglers, loads of Hammond organ and Burt Bacharach. I don't know what more you could ask for. The record that nudged me to the likelihood that a lot of punk bands were probably capable of a lot more than complaining about being bored, and that I should take a hint from that. (from Black and White)

43. The Icicle Works: "Love Is A Wonderful Colour" (1985)
Same idea as the Talk Talk track; like anyone else just hitting their twenties, I wanted love and thrills and a mad, careening party. The '80s just didn't oblige, much as songs like this left me hopeful. Overall, the decade was more Black Flag than Icicle Works for me, but you don't see "TV Party" on this list, do you? (buy The Icicle Works)

44. Paul McCartney & Wings: "Jet" (1973)
Check it out - I have one record on this list by every Beatle but John. Frankly, once adrift from the group, he was either authoring insufferably self-righteous hippie screeds or drifting into quiff-and-pegged-pants early rock and roll covers. I frankly would have preferred the latter. As for Paul, he wrote some decent pop songs for awhile, and this strange, reggae-inflected thing set to big Glitter Band saxes on the chorus. I think it's a marvellous thing. (from Band On The Run)

No Beatles records, either - what's up with that?



45. The Skids: "Into The Valley" (1978)
The bass intro to this song, like the one at the beginning of the PiL track, never fails to make me raise my head, meerkat-like, when it comes out of some speaker somewhere. They're Scots, as is Dave, the inspiration for this list, so let's call this a shout-out to that stalwart Caledonian in his highland fastness. (from Scared To Dance - I don't know, Dave, were you?)

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© 2009 rick mcginnis all rights reserved
WHO

i'm a dad in my forties with two daughters. i've worked as a photographer, journalist and, recently, tv columnist. currently a member of the growing workforce awaiting new employment opportunities. church-going catholic.

punk rock was my crucible, lodestone and avalon.

i look nothing like william powell.

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