INXS - KICK
Let’s not pretend that our early music tastes were any good, early teens which I assume is the age most of us get into albums are a dangerous age where we are easily influenced and let’s face it, not very cool. We are hardly Paul Weller are we – more on him later. Anyway, I’m proud to admit that my early album purchases in those middle to late ‘80s were such greats as Wet Wet Wet’s debut, Holly Johnson’s solo, Now Albums and other such chart pop music. It’s all I knew, but then I got a Kick. It was the summer of ‘87 and my best pal at the time, Big Liam, introduced me to a new song from some unknown Aussie band called INXS (Inks?). That song was the beginning of a love affair with said band that, despite leaving me when I thought I was too cool to like them in the late ‘90s, only to return stronger than ever in the last ten years was called Need You Tonight - a sex-filled, rock, funk stomper that even now is hard to beat.
It came from an album called KICK and album that was world conquering and turned an almost unknown Aussie band of brothers and mates into rock royalty that rivalled U2 and Guns N Roses in the stadium filling stakes. Oh, and they had a frontman that was – how do I put this lightly – the most beautiful man in the world! 100% rock god and poet – part Jim Morrison, part Bono – but also his own thing. Hutch was the real deal, he looked amazing, he had a great voice, boys wanted to be him and girls wanted to shag him… I think boys did as well. But what of the album you say.
KICK is chock-full of amazing songs, from the start off when Guns in the Sky kicks in, right through to the last track Tiny Daggers, it never lets the quality drop – banger after banger as they say. New Sensation, Devil Inside, Need You Tonight/Mediate, on and on it goes, Never Tear Us Apart, Mystify – very few albums pack such a meaty punch and combining rock with a funky dance groove has rarely been matched and hardly bettered in my opinion.
I was obsessed with this band for about 3 three years – bought everything I could, grew my hair, got a leather jacket, the works. I saw them live twice in a week and they were incredible and everything I wanted them to be. They showed me that there was more music out there than the drab ‘ 80s pop I was listening to and for that I am eternally grateful for.
The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
As the previous band started to wind down, a new noise was starting to be heard from the north of England. By now I was into New Order, I knew about Happy Mondays, I’d learned about The Smiths, Echo and The Bunnymen, I was reading Record Mirror (not NME at this stage). I was savvier on the current music scene but by 1989 I was still a long way from having my finger on the pulse. So, during the summer of ‘89, during my fake ID, clubbing and raving phase (1) there were whispers of a band so good they were going to blow your mind – tapes went round our social group and eventually they hit my turntable.
It easy now to reminisce about how this album changed everything for anyone that heard it – how the TOTP episode with The Mondays goes down in folklore, how 25 million people attended Spike Island (at the last count) – it almost sounds ridiculous to say it but for those of us that were there at the time and experienced it, it did, it really did – The Stone Roses changed EVERYTHING you knew about a band and its music. They looked amazing, they were super cool and, yes, the music and this album, well, it’s the greatest ever isn’t it. No arguments! Even now when I listen to it, and I still listen to it very often in full, in order, as it should be, start to finish, I always hear something new. Harmonies, basslines, drums, guitars, lyrics, etc. We all know the songs so I don’t need to go into that, but it’s so bloody perfect and soul enhancing that it’s almost impossible to put into words – I have had more conversations with strangers about this album in clubs, raves, festivals, online than anything else.
Their impact on my life cannot be understated – they led me to The Byrds and Love and XTC to funk, soul dance, northern soul, the list goes on and on. Some things are untouchable and this album is just that.
Paul Weller – Wild Wood
Being old enough to remember seeing The Jam on TOTP during their pomp or listening to my brother playing The Style Council during his white soul boy stage are memories for sure, but the Paul Weller I know and cherish really started with this album. I already purchased his debut and despite my view at the time that it was patchy (it’s not), Paul’s second solo album was a bloody revelation. When I first heard Sunflower in 1993 it was one of the first songs I’d heard since probably the late months of 1990 that really spoke to me and suggested that British popular music was ready to take back its crown from grunge and, again, the appalling Top 40 pop rubbish. Indie by now was quite popular indeed – it did get in the charts, it did get acts on TOTP, and artists had decent followings, but great songwriting I felt was missing. The classic sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s were being used by a few bands, but it wasn’t the world changing Britpop we know of now – we had to wait a bit for that.
But what The Modfather did with Wild Wood was lay down an album so rich, warm and exciting that there was no chance this old punk was going to go away soon.
For me, it’s an album that makes me visualise Britain in all its suburban glory, the beauty of fields and forests, it’s probably the last great British album, something The Kinks were great at, The Small Faces as well, all of which are Weller’s heroes. Tracks like Can You Hear Us Holy Man, Country, Wild Wood are classic Weller songs, but this album also has one I consider to be one of his best songs ever - Has My Fire Really Gone Out? a song about getting older and maybe not being relevant anymore. It isn’t just about Paul’s own fears but it’s the fears we all have – I play it often when I feel down and need a kick (that word again) up the arse. Also, Foot of the Mountain and Shadow of the Sun played side by side on the album are just incredible pieces of music; throw in the catchy The Weaver and already you have a classic that rivals any album. From here onwards there was no stopping Woking’s finest and, in a year where he has just had another two number one albums in 12 months proves just that. His fire really isn’t going out any day soon.
The Stooges - The Stooges
As part of my musical education, and for anyone's, you must spend some time in the company of Mr James Osterberg, or Iggy Pop to his fans. And if you’re going to listen to Iggy’s solo work, of which there is much to love and enjoy, if you want to know how it all started you’re going to have to go back to the beginning, and to be honest there isn’t any other better place to start.
Iggy Pop is THE Punk Rock God – the legend – he’s done it all, so they say, and lived to tell the tale. But does the myth/legend blur the musical clout of The Stooges? Yes it does… until you listen to it and then you realise Iggy wouldn’t have been anything without this band and the musicians within. It’s an incredible album and for me in my early 20s when I was having one of my many “Who am I?” crises, this album spoke to me. From the very first Wah Wah guitar and Iggy’s “Alright” call to arms, before the tribal drums kick in on 1969 you are hooked. It’s an album so powerful, loose and dangerous that it’s amazing to think it beat punk by at least seven years and helped put a full stop to the flower child era of the’60s. .
Chock-full of punk classics like I Wanna Be Your Dog and No Fun (gloriously covered by Sex Pistols), it’s an album that helped me realise that you don’t have to just accept the status quo in life, that being different is ok - you can work in an office and be a punk, stick to your beliefs, conform but on your own terms, but also when I wanted to just crank up the music in my bedroom or car and lose myself for a short time in the noise of it all I could. Life can be tough for young adults and The Stooges addressed this perfectly in this masterpiece.
Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
Growing up in a working-class area of South London, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like hip hop – for all my rock/indie favourites, its hip hop that shares billing when I try to describe my tastes. I wanted to be a breakdancer for ten minutes, I know graffiti artists (kind of), I love Adidas, oh and for a time I used to steal VW badges from parked vehicles.
I guess my hip hop love is what one would call Old Skool – the early years – Grandmaster Flash, White Lines, RUN DMC, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim etc. But in my heart the Jewish punks from New York hold an everlasting appeal, and with Ill Communication they will always remind me of a great period in my life - 1994 when things just seemed to be cool. Not me, I’ve never been cool, but what was going on around me and what I was listening to, just seemed to be glorious.
The BBs had been pretty much written off by ’94 – Check Your Head had helped raise their profile amongst the proper hip hop elite after the commercial failure of Paul’s Boutique (despite it being a masterclass in the genre) but when Ill C hit this world, there was no stopping them this time.
Like people remember where they were when Kennedy or Lennon were shot, my memories are a bit more skewed. I stood in my mate’s front room as he pressed play on the video and said watch this. It was the greatest video of all time - Sabotage – a pastiche on all those great TV cop shows of the ‘70s played out by three crazy blokes dressed up, but with a song that kicks major arse. It’s loud and funky and in your face – is it rap, is it rock? It's the Beastie Boys. Listen all y'all it’s a sabotage! Pure joy in three minutes.
The album itself is a long one – full of crackers like Sure Shot, Root Down, Sabotage but also brilliant instrumentals featuring Money Mark on keyboards/organ – Bobo on the Corner is prime ‘70s blaxploitation, Sabrosa a chilled funky tune and that’s before you get the punk tracks like Tough Guy or Heart Attack Man.
The Boys really go for it, and nothing is off limits – I love the bravery of the album, the don’t give a shit approach. Lyrically it’s funny, clever, stupid and, in places, got something to say about the world we now live in.
But for me it’s just about the fun it brought me and the memories of watching that video over and over and the friends I enjoyed it with.
The Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole
I love to dance – I really do – whether I can or not is another matter but when the groove hits me, I am there on the dance floor giving it to the max.
I have probably danced to more Chemical Brothers music than anything else – from small Sunday socials when they were Dust Brothers, to Essential Weekends in Brighton, V Festivals, etc – I have got my freak on every time. And Dig Your Own Hole is the one that does it for me every time.
Kicking off with Block Rockin Beats (Number one in the charts), this album is in your face - back with another one of those block rockin beats – it starts and by the time the drum beat kicks in – you’re jumping around like Keith Flint's love child (RIP Keith BTW).
There is no resting up early on for this album – Dig Your Own Hole follows, Elektrobank, Piku and before you know it Setting Son with Noel Gallagher adding vocals to another brilliant number one. It's relentless but never boring or repetitive like many dance albums before could be. It’s an album to be played again in full from start to finish but obviously works as a dipping in and playing a banger before you go out variety.
By the time Beth Orton comes in to slow it all down with the sublime Where Do I Begin? you’re thinking what a great time you’ve had, but like all good albums, they leave the best till last.
The Private Psychedelic Reel is quite possibly the greatest dance track ever. It’s certainly the dance version of I Am The Resurrection. And for me it holds the best memories due to the lady that is now my wife. I still have the Chemical Brothers t-shirt she bought me all those years ago and before lockdown it still fitted. Perhaps I need to play this album more and dance along to get the lockdown weight off. Anyway, whilst we agree on many things and disagree on lots of other things – The Boss and I love this album and this track and have both danced along together to it, in one great big, shared memory. For all the people I have met at raves, etc, over the years, sharing it with the wife is right up there as one of the best.
Shack – HMS Fable
Back to songwriters with guitars now – I think there is something distinctly British about loving the underdog, the guy that never quite wins, the bloke that, despite all the talent in the world, never makes it big. But what is big anyway? What is success? Who cares?
If you were to ask many a musician or music fan who is one the greatest living British songwriters, you’d be told often that its Mick Head, a man so blessed with the ability to write brilliantly catchy and life affirming songs but whose almost unknown to all but those that seek out music, that want their lives to be enriched by Shack, The Strands, Pale Fountains or any other name Mick Head has gone under these nigh on 40 years!
HMS Fable for me is probably the best album of the late 1990s. During Brit Pop, Mick and his brother John – despite all their trials and tribulations (which someone should write a book about) – got it together enough to write and record this album and a major label sensing another Oasis/Liam and Noel type cash cow put it out and sat back to watch the money come rolling in. Did it? Did it fail? Well kind of, but to be honest that was always likely to happen because my view is that some music isn’t for everyone – yeah, I love it when my favourites get success but also, I kind of hate it as well. With Shack/Mick you know that’s just not going to happen, but I do really wish this album did sell five million copies because it’s that good.
For me, the album is everything great albums are about – they transcend time and space – yes, this album at its heart is a scouser singing songs that the Beatles could’ve written but it’s so well done, especially when you consider a few of them (Lends Some Dough and Streets of Kenny) are written about heroin addiction, but heroin addiction if Burt Bacharach had written about it, I guess.
My favourite tracks are Pull Together - a song that Noel G would chew his left arm off to have written, I reckon – it’s a shared vocal track that’s an astral twin of Acquiesce by Oasis and deals with the challenges of two brothers trying to work together despite a difficult relationship.
Reinstated really is a lost Burt Bacharach classic – from its trumpet intro it’s all Burt, with strings and orchestra and Mick’s vocals lifting the track to epic status. I’m sure in an alternative universe it’s a national anthem or something. Just marvellous.
Without trying to be boring this, album brings back the memories of the first flat me and The Boss lived in together. We played the album and planned our life together so it’s quite fitting that just like Shack, it wouldn’t go to plan.
As a final note, I saw Mick Head play live just before lockdown and he was superb – I recently thought that if I never saw another live act again that he would be a fitting headline to end it all.
Embrace – The Good Will Out
Conscious that you dear reader may have given up by now with my ramblings so I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Embrace are Our Band – we’ve seen them more times as a couple than any other musical entertainment. This album is the soundtrack to our early relationship, settling down, starting a family, etc – the album has followed us through it all and is played often in Tanner Towers – the recent gigs playing the album in full were a triumph and reminded many others how good a band they are. This album is better than Be Here Now that came out in the same year.
Please use this section to tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Michael Tanner, I also go by the Twitter/IG Handle of Mobytanner. I write a blog called The Rebirthofcool and I DJ on In Your Ears Radio playing the best unsigned indie and dance music around. I live in the countryside after escaping from Croydon with my wife and two daughters. I like food, beer, vinyl, comedy and gigs.