12 Essential New York Records.

8 02 2018

CBGB bowery OMFUG rock punk

 

I’m not someone who gets overly annoyed easily (but if you chew loudly or sniff constantly on public transport, I’ll probably want to smack you in the kisser.) However, after reading the apparent “essential” NYC records chosen by BBC 6Music, I got annoyed. In fact, it went beyond being annoyed. I am pissed off. A pissed off Punk who is absolutely infuriated by this list and I know that I am not alone in this.

If you want to share my rage, here is the list:

1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. Wu Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers
3. Blondie – Parallel Lines
4. Talking Heads – 77
5. Nas – Illmatic
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
7. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
9. Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
10. The Rapture – Echoes
11. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
12. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

 

I am a massive fan of Nas, Wu Tang, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. The Strokes first record was my crutch for a long time, and I do agree with it being there- but not at the top. There is so much missing from this list- how can you even condense it down to 12 anyway? Maybe 20 wouldn’t even be enough.

So with my burning rage, I have to come up with my own list. I don’t want to claim that my list is correct or anything like that- it’s just an opinion. I could be wrong, or someone may feel like they agree with me. The severe lack of Punk in the list just makes me sad. I do agree, as I said with some of the records being there, but some are wrongfully missed.

Also, it isn’t in any order- I don’t like order, it makes me nervous.

Ramones-Ramones.

It was either this or Leave Home. I think Leave Home is my favourite Ramones record, but their debut deserves to be there because of the huge impact it had. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was about 14/156. The age where everything and anything can influence you. I remember hearing it and feeling like I had been born in the wrong era. Every song gave me this incredible feeling, and every song just made me idolise them. I think it is obvious that I worship Joey Ramone. Oh man, Beat On The Brat is one of my favourite Ramones songs. I love the lyrics and I love the humour in their songs but there is a real sensitivity in Joey’s voice that is so unique and beautiful. It’’ just such an iconic record. It was made to influence and to be played loud.

Lou Reed-Transformer.

The most important NYC record of all time. ALL.TIME. Why the hell wasn’t it included?! It’s pretty insulting to Lou’s legacy that this record isn’t on there. It’s not only a great NYC record; it’s probably my favourite record of all time. As a gay person, this record gave me this sense of freedom that I hadn’t found in any other record when I first heard it. I didn’t come out until years after hearing this record, but it gave me this feeling of being alright with who I was. Besides, me being gay doesn’t define me. Never has, never will Transformer is just the coolest record ever made. I hate the word cool, we know that but fucking hell Lou Reed was THE coolest person to have ever lived and he just smacks it in our faces with this record. Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby are obviously worth mentioning. Pretty sure my list could just be Lou and Ramones records. Vicious and Andy’s Chest…man alive! “You hit me with a flower.” That’s GOT to move you in some way. I love the lyrics to Vicious, and I think this whole record shows Lou in a different way, you know? He just expressed himself in a way nobody else had dared to. I still don’t think anything can touch this record.

New York Dolls-New York Dolls.

The clue is in the bloody name really. Absolutely criminal and horrendous that this record isn’t on the list. My mum got me into the Dolls at a very young age. I don’t even think I was a teenager. I remember finding her copy of the record, and being in awe of the Dolls in drag. How beautiful they were! I was drawn of course, to Johnny Thunders (the greatest guitarist of all time.) Subway Train is such a beautiful song. Jet Boy has this incredible snarl to it. The whole record oozes attitude that is so unique to the Dolls. The lyrics to Trash and Personality Crisis are just great. This record is New York through and through. It’s got the charm and grit. It’s got the attitude and bite. It’s a record that I always find myself going to time and time again, and discovering more things to love about it. It’s just timeless.

Richard Hell + The Voidoids-Blank Generation.

Alright so Richard isn’t from New York- but this record was recorded at Electric Lady Studios so, it’s a NYC record. And he moved there pretty early on, so it’s fine. It’s acceptable.

I am a Richard Hell obsessive. I paid £30 once for a Richard Hell t-shirt from a shop on Brick Lane. Yeah it was too much money, but it’s Richard Hell.

Blank Generation would easily be in my list of best Punk records. It’s got this raw attitude to it, and I just love Richard’s voice. As a singer and as a writer, I just love him. His autobiography is one of the best of its kind I’ve read. He has most certainly lived a colourful life. Sure he’s done questionable things, the little bugger. But, he’s made some incredible music along the way.

Suicide-Suicide

Suicide are probably the best duo of all time. Frankie Teardrop is the best 10 minute song of all time. Dream Baby Dream is a masterpiece. The whole record is a work of art. If any record can capture the roughness of New York in the 70s, it’s this record. It is such a grand record and well ahead of its time. It still is. Nothing and no one has ever come close to this. For me, I think Suicide are massively underrated but they have influenced so many bands that I adore. It still hurts and it still sucks that Alan Vega is no longer here. I remember when he passed; I had the same reaction most had for Bowie. Suicide were never afraid to push their sound and to make music that was entirely different. It is a beautiful noise that brings such pleasure and joy to the ears. It is a gritty record from start to finish, and they keep that grittiness throughout every record they have ever made.

The Heartbreakers-L.A.M.F

I think this was recorded in London, but Johnny Thunders was a New Yorker, The Heartbreakers were a supergroup. I did want to pick a solo Johnny record, but I remembered how much I am obsessed with L.A.M.F (it stands for Like A Mother Fucker.) and how One Track Mind is such a great song. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Johnny was still here. Like I said earlier on, for me he’s the greatest guitarist of all time. His style was just impeccable and one of a kind. No one else could play like him. His style was way ahead of its time. He was ahead of his time.  He had this way of just magnetising you with every note. The record has been reissued so many times, but regardless of what version you have- it’s a genius record. It is proper Rock N Roll and has Punk foundations. Of all the records I own, I think this might be my most played. It’s one of those records I just really enjoy listening to over and over again.

Nas-Illmatic

Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time, that’s obvious. There are so many Hip Hop records I could have chosen. I know that The Big Picture by Big L is one of the best. I bought it when it came out, and to this day it is still one of my favourite records. Like Nas, Big L was and still is above the rest. Illmatic portrays New York in a way that most don’t want to hear. Nas is not, and has never been afraid to show the harsher side of life. From losing friends to growing up in the projects in Queens- he really takes you there. He’s a poet, a storyteller. Halftime is one of the songs on Illmatic that really show this. He makes you see the world and his world the way he does with Illmatic. Is it his best record? For sure. It’s one of the best Hip Hop records of all time. Nas has constantly brought out remarkable records that have, and still do influence so many. It’s one of those records that you can’t imagine not ever happening. It is such an important record- irrespective of what kind of music you’re into; it is such a phenomenal record. What he did with this debut record most want from their whole career.

A Tribe Called Quest-People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Tribe have always made consistently great records that are so experimental and diverse. They fused together all styles of music. There are so many records by them I could have chosen, but it felt right to go with their debut. It came out in a time where you had groups like NWA with their aggressive songs. Sure their songs may have been, but it is important to remember that NWA were telling us about the things that were happening in Compton- it is just as important and to an extent maybe more so. But this about New York right now. What I love about the first Tribe record is that it frees your mind, it gives you something that you won’t find anywhere else. Q-Tip and Phife are two great rappers, and I don’t think they have ever got enough credit it. Tribe’s records each have distinctive sounds. Push It Along is nearly 8 minutes long, Bonita Applebum is genius, I Left My Wallet In El Segundo is timeless and Luck of Lucien is just amazing. The samples on this record used range from Grace Jones to The Beatles to Lou Reed. It’s a record that quite simply, you need to own.

 Sonic Youth-Confusion Is Sex

I could have happily listed every single record by Sonic Youth. I’d have no idea where to start- so I went to the start. It’s such a heavy record; it’s a record that has influenced so many. It is powerful, it is loud and it has Jim Sclavunos on drums. What more do you need? (She’s In A) Bad Mood is such a brilliant way to start the record. Jim’s drumming is so brutal; they all just move you in a way that you wouldn’t expect. There is nothing calming about the sound on this record- they just rile you up in a way that is mind-blowing.

I think it is possible the record that shows us all just how amazing Kim Gordon is. I mean, we know that anyway but Confusion Is Sex has some awesome moments that just leave you inspired by Kim. Shaking Hell is my favourite on this record; it’s so aggressive and really brutal. The louder you play this, the better. The way she yells “Shake off your flesh!” is so hypnotising.

The Velvet Underground-Loaded

Maybe I should have gone with their first record. Maybe. But, Loaded is my favourite and I remember buying my copy of this in Brussels and feeling like I had won the lottery. My copy doesn’t play as well as it should but that’s because I am always playing it. I love listening to it and allowing Velvet Underground to take me some place really magical. Rock & Roll is such a fantastic song, and you can’t help but think you’re the person Lou has written about. Lonesome Cowboy Bill is out of this world- it’s not like anything else.

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is up there as being one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s one of Lou’s best, easily. I’ve written about this record so many times, and I’m sure I have never done it justice.

Television-Marquee Moon

I cannot make this list without mentioning Television, and this record. Many have regarded it as one of the best records ever made, and they aren’t wrong. It is such a wonderfully created record. From the vocals to the production- it is so effortlessly great and really does have a slick sound that you know is from New York. Every song on Marquee Moon is so distinctive. You hear one note, and you immediately know that it is them. The intro to the title song is one of the most iconic ones of all time. It’s an intro that just stays with you. You immediately go back to the first time you heard it as soon as it comes on. It’s just a magnificent record that definitely does deserve its status as being one of the greatest records ever made.

The Strokes-Is This It

There are a number of records I could have picked. I could have gone with Foxy Brown, Mos Def, Interpol, Talking Heads, Big L- so many. Why did I stick with The Strokes when I could have picked someone else? Because this record holds a lot of importance to me. It’s got me through hell and back. It still does. I adore Julian. I love his words, his voice and just him. It’s a record I constantly go back to. I can play it and I immediately go back to my first time hearing it. I was 15 years old, being bullied at school. I’d play it every day. And every single day I would imagine I was hanging out with Julian in New York City eating pizza, going to record stores and going to shows. This record was my escape, and it still is. It captures New York and it captures what music means to me. So from a totally personal point of view, this record is New York. This record is important. Again, it is one that is still a massive influence to bands. They are all great musicians, and there will never be anything else quite like it- just like all the records I have mentioned.

 

Like I said, there are so many records that could have been named. This is just my personal take. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right. It’s just a point of view, like the 6Music one is. But I just find it hard to accept that so many great and influential records were missed off.





A TRIBE CALLED QUEST.

22 07 2013

 

 

1990. I’m a baby; in my mother’s eyes I always will be. I’m only 4 years old in 1990 but I already had a love for music that was evidently going to stay with me forever. I saw a video on MTV that was bright and had something about it that I instantly realised- this band would be in a line of those I quite simply, couldn’t do without.

I Left My Wallet In El Segundo was the first song I remember hearing by A Tribe Called Quest. They had an approach to Hip Hop that, at the time I didn’t really get. I was too young. Move on 10 years and I get it. I hear sounds and words that made a world of sense to me. Words and sounds that eased the soul and freed the mind. Their relaxed vibe made me feel like an alien to where I was growing up. Where your heart is, that is home. My heart was in Hip Hop and I know it always will be. Hip Hop and Punk. Both entirely different but the same in some respects. Both allowed you to be free. A Tribe Called Quest were a ticket to a different world. It all started with leaving a wallet in El Segundo.

Stressed Out which featured the beautiful Faith Evans will always be one of my favourite A Tribe Called Quest songs. It’s like a comfort blanket and a release in one. Again, they just soothed the soul and take you to a spiritual place.

The way Phife and Q-Tip went back and forth with their lyrics was insane. It felt like they never wrote anything down; that they just brought it out of each other. This laced with Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s production skills just made them stand out from everything else that was going on in Hip Hop. They didn’t project anger; they oozed this brightness to their sound that is found in the likes of De La Soul. They were, as lame as it sounds, fun. Fun is such a shit word, I’m sorry. But they made you feel as if you were part of something worthy of being proud of. They were the first Hip Hop group that made people consciously aware, maybe. Of course there were some before but I feel they brought it to the mainstream for others to see. If I started a Hip Hop group, I’d use all their records as a blueprint to what I would want to create.

Even in their solo projects they still managed to keep that Quest vibe to their music. They went in different directions, but still carried that sense of unity with them wherever they went and with whoever they worked with.

Scenario turned many on to the insane sounds of Busta Rhymes. There’s a live performance of the song where Busta turns his hat inside out and raps as if it was nothing. He quickly became one to watch; he had this way of creeping up on you on Scenario, I think that style stuck with him. Especially early on in his career. He had a wild style that caused many to fall for. Just like how A Tribe Called Quest had that calm vibe about them that lured you in; it stayed with them.

I have no idea what the world thinks of A Tribe Called Quest or what caused people to fall for them. I can only speak for myself. I just know that they’ve always been and always will be a massive part of my life. If not from a musical perspective, but from a spiritual way too. They offered more than music and they offered more than most.

They was Phife and Tip confidently bounced off each other whilst Ali Shaheed Muhammad stayed cool behind them was something that just set them apart and above the others. They sounded like none before and none after sounded like them. They had a unified sound and a family vibe. They created a world where everyone belonged. It didn’t matter where you were from or what you were- they made you feel alright with the skin you were in. There aren’t many bands that do that now. Maybe no one else ever will. It’s alright, because what A Tribe Called Quest gave us was priceless.

Every member was (and still is) distinctive in their own right. When you recite their songs you don’t know if to be Phife or Tip- so you recite both parts. You become A Tribe Called Quest and that is exactly why their music is not only important, it also improves that they will always be there.





New York.

14 08 2011

New York City. The birthplace of two genres of music that own my heart. Punk and Hip Hop. Oh, I can’t love the two? I can’t possibly love Hip Hop because my favourite band of all time is The Smiths? I can’t love Hip Hop because I think Warpaint are one of the best bands around right now? Oh okay then, I guess I’ll just start being small minded like the rest.

Or not.

New York City has given us some of the greatest musicians of all time. From Disco to Salsa- it all started in NYC. Going through most of the music I own, most of it comes from NYC. It’s something that I’ve recently picked up on and as a result, I am fascinated with all music that is created in this city. I hate flying. It shits me up a stupid amount. I have a brief panic attack whenever I fly to see my family on the Isle of Man and that’s only a 20 minute flight. However, if I had the money and a doctor gave me enough tablets to knock me out for the duration of the flight- I’d go to New York. I’d explore the birthplaces of the bands I love, the venues that they’ve played. I’d go to underground clubs and watch bands play that nobody has ever heard of. I’d wander round eating a bagel and explore the record shops. I’d take a virtually empty suitcase and bring back a load of records and books with me.

I’d take everything in and refuse to go back home. Knowing me, I’d probably take copies of my CV with me whilst there and give it to various record and book shops. That would be the best thing ever. Not only would I no longer be in England, but I’d be constantly surrounded by good music.

I can dream I suppose. Or, I make that dream a reality. I’m going for the latter.

So, New York City. The home of The Strokes, Ramones, Mos Def, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars. I could list them all.

It’s quite possibly the home to the greatest. I am tempted to say Manchester because of Morrissey- and of course, I regard this one person to be greater than thousands. Always.

The city has given us, within the last 10 years, bands such as The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Battles, TV on The Radio and Brand New. All of which have their own distinctive sound.

I remember when I first listened to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and thinking it was the early 90s and in hope that The Jesus And Mary Chain were still going, coming back to reality wasn’t nice.

The city has so much to offer for anyone. It doesn’t matter what your race, religion, sexuality- anything. None of it matters (it never should anyway) there’s just something for everyone. It’s just this ridiculously huge place that has everything.

When I listen to the Ramones, I always think what it must have been like to have been around in New York when the whole Punk scene started. Imagine going to CBGBs and seeing a band start out- years later, they become one of the most influential bands of all time.

Imagine being part of the Factory scene- being in awe of Edie Sedgwick’s beauty every single time she walked past. Or being around when the Velvet Underground first emerged.

New York City, responsible for so much- yet it doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Ever.

You cannot mention New York without naming one of the best bands to have come from the city- A Tribe Called Quest. They were one of the first hip hop groups I remember falling in love with. I remember watching the video to Scenario on MTV at a very very young age, and just being obsessed. I loved the way Q-Tip pronounced his words and the words he used. I just loved everything they did.

I loved Q-Tip’s solo work- anyone who doesn’t love Breathe & Stop is a twit. Seriously. I just couldn’t get enough of them. The Low End Theory is easily one of the greatest Hip Hop albums created. It mixes Jazz with Hip Hop in a way that has not been done since, if it has, it hasn’t been done as well. The production on the album is mind-blowing. The samples used on it are just insane. From start to finish, it is sheer perfection.

I remember in 2001 first hearing The Strokes. For the past 10 years they have got me through bad times and have been there through the good. Two years ago I had Is This It tattooed on me. The album is so personal to me. I obviously don’t need to tell you why, but it was a crutch for so much- it still is. It always will be. I fail to see why many overlook First Impressions of Earth- the bass on Juicebox is mental. Heart In A Cage is just perfect. Evening Sun is beautiful. All four of their albums mean a lot to me for various reasons. They have that same rawness that the Ramones had. They don’t have to explain or define what they do to anyone- that’s how it should always be.

Music from New York has this type of edge to it. I can’t think of a better word, so I’ll go with edge. It has a distinctive sound. When you listen to band from the city, you know they are from there. It’s this raw, powerful sound. The feel of Punk still lies within a lot of bands from New York- even if they don’t realise it. Punk wasn’t just a genre of music- it was a way of life, a state of mind, an attitude. It’s in bands such as The Stokes, Vivian Girls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs etc- the way they play and how they are on stage just shows this.

Some may regard Punk as a music genre as dead, and that is the case. But the true spirit of it is alive and well within certain bands from New York City.

When I think of the music that has come from New York, I think of all the cultural aspects that are with it too. It’s such a vibrant place. It is full of all forms of Art. Whether it’s break-dancing, graffiti, theatre, cinema, Salsa- it’s everything. It has everything.

So many songs have been written about New York. It’s the Hip Hop community that you feel can truly sum up what New York is, and what the place is to true New Yorkers.





What Hip Hop Means To Me.

12 08 2011

As I write this, I am watching How Hip Hop Changed The World on Channel 4. I also have a migraine and I’m unsure if I’m going to pass out from pain or throw up. I’m also fighting off sleep like a stubborn toddler.

This programme is bringing back a lot of memories for me, and it’s got me thinking- what does Hip Hop mean to me?

I grew up on so many kinds of music. Everything from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan to Blondie. I heard everything. It all inspired me in so many ways.

When I went to secondary school, I didn’t exactly have the time of my life there. To say it was hell is a massive understatement- but that’s not for here. Never for here. I remember walking down the corridor in my second year of secondary school playing Eric B & Rakim’s album Don’t Sweat The Technique  on my Walkman. Tape Walkman that is. I loved Eric B & Rakim so much. I thought Rakim was the best thing since hiding in the library to escape everything and everyone.

I adored bands such as De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, Salt n Pepa. I loved them all so much. I felt like nothing could touch me as I walked through school. The reality was, I just couldn’t hear anything due to having my music blaring in my ears ridiculously loud.

I never liked the songs that degraded women or bragged about the amount of money so and so had. I loved the fun lyrics and the in depth lyrics.

I loved (and still do) Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common. Those three were the ones I constantly played. Black on Both Sides by Mos Def still remains one of my favourite albums ever. I loved LL Cool J’s early stuff. I challenge you to listen to Mamma Said Knock You Out and not feel like you were the most important person ever. It just held you so high, you felt like you could do anything.

I was obsessed with Tupac. I’ve still got all his albums, all the books, his poetry book, videos- that’s right, I’ve got VHS’ of Tupac, all the films he was in, bootleg tapes and CDs. I just adored him. I still do. I loved his honesty, his brutal lyrics, his loving lyrics. I still can’t listen to Dear Mamma without crying. It still tugs at my heartstrings. I’m also still angry that they never caught his or Biggie’s killer. I know everyone was its either Tupac or Biggie- you couldn’t like both. I thought both were brilliant. Biggie’s Ready To Die is a phenomenal debut album. The way Tupac could break your heart then instantly make you laugh with his wordplay just blew me away. First and foremost, he was a poet. He made you see the world how he saw it with his words. He made you change how you saw the world with his words.

I could write so many words on why I love him and what he means to me. I probably will soon, I can feel some kind of essay about Tupac coming on if I don’t move onto a different part of Hip Hop.

There’s always been a lack of females in Hip Hop. Those that ever got anywhere were usually half naked on stage and being ever so vulgar with their words. For some reason, I loved Foxy Brown. I loved her deep voice, the way she didn’t care about what she said and how she said it- she wasn’t afraid. That for me just made me love her music. I was never a fan of Lil’Kim. I don’t know why, I just didn’t really care about her music as much as I cared for Foxy Brown’s.

Does anyone remember MC Trouble? No? Well, she was amazing. But she died before anyone really knew of her. MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Missy and my favourite- Monie Love. They were all strong female rappers. Ones worth looking up to.

Many argue about who and where Hip Hop started- I’ll always say it started with DJ Kool Herc. Always. But obviously there is no way you can deny that Grandmaster Flash played an equally vital role as Herc did. I guess I’d say, they both started it.

Kurtis Blow, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane are three of my favourites ever. EVER. There is no denying that those three flow so smoothly over beats. Their wordplay hypnotised you and made you want to rap. I was just in so much awe of them when I first heard them. I still am now. There’s never been anyone else like them, there never will be.

One rapper that I adored and was massively upset when he was killed was Big L. The Big Picture is up there with one of the best hip hop albums ever. I’d safely place it in my list of favourite albums of all time too. His song. Ebonics educated you on street slang. The Freestyle on the album blew you away. His duet with Tupac, Deadly Combination was just stunning. It’s just a perfect Hip Hop album.

So, what does Hip Hop mean to me? Well, I personally feel it has that Punk vibe to it. Don’t care what anyone thinks about you or says about you- just be yourself and express yourself. It’s an art-form. A way of life. Pop music isn’t a way of life or a state of mind. It’s just empty words over repetitive sounds. Hip Hop on the other hand educates. It’s a state of mind. Just listen to Public Enemy if you want to be educated in a way you never thought you could be taught.

For me, Punk rock and Hip Hop go hand in hand within the music industry. They went against everything you were told you listen to. It was rebellious at best and dangerous at worst.

What still pisses me off is the way people are always going on about how it degrades women and is mindless.

Those that say this are listening to the kind if Hip Hop that doesn’t deserve to be called Hip Hop. They are ignoring the songs that hold depth and lessons.

Go listen to Public Enemy, go listen to Jurassic 5, go listen to Dilated Peoples. There is more to Hip Hop than what the media rams down your neck.

Not every rapper carries a gun and a wad of money in their back pocket. Open your mind and go listen to the true essence of Hip Hop.

There will always be rivalry in Hip Hop. The media will always blow it out of proportion and make Hip Hop out to be the bad guy- when really, it isn’t. Hip Hop speaks to people; it’s a form of art and a way of life that has undoubtedly saved lives.

Remember, “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.”