heard on the wire

Catalogues and numerous cups of coffee

And so this musical odyssey arrives in 1979, a year that will forever be remembered for the election of Margaret Thatcher, prelude to the wilful and vicious destruction of industrial Britain and its communities. The purpose was to effect a radical shift in the distribution of wealth in favour of the most affluent, in which it was hugely and permanently successful.

Now Thatcher was no great fan of the arts — which probably tells you all you need to know about her — but the early years of her reign of terror coincided with a golden age in British music. 1979 alone gave us a handful of the finest records ever made, as well as my highest number of iTunes five star ratings to date, 23, though I suspect that record may not last into 1980.

Stiff Little Fingers unleashed their acerbic debut Inflammable Material and the staggering punk reggae of Johnny Was; Paul Weller cemented his status as the finest songwriter of his generation on The Jam’s fourth and most brilliant LP, Setting Sons; Mark E Smith biled his way through two LPs by The Fall, like having two birthdays a year; Misty in Roots hit Brussels’ Live at the Counter Eurovision festival to record a debut LP which John Peel considered to be the finest ever live recording; and The Clash crafted their tour de force, London Calling, which starts with the title track and just gets better and better — side three, for this was a double LP, is arguably as good as one side of vinyl can ever get. There was even a final and wonderful LP from Overton Vertis Wright, 1969’s pick.

But 1979’s song-from-each-year-of-my-life could equally come from any one of the year’s great singles: Buzzocks’ Harmony in My Head, the Ruts, Babylon’s Burning, Dead Kennedy’s California Uber Alles, or the Undertones’ Here Comes the Summer. Or from the Jam’s Strangetown or When You’re Young, neither of which appeared on Setting Sons, Weller simply having too many songs, or the Bruce Foxton-penned b-side Smithers-Jones.

Then there was Joy Division, who gave us the year’s best LP Unknown Pleasures, and, as regular readers will know, my all-time favourite song of all-time, thus disqualified having featured before.

So it’s back to the Jam, to Setting Sons and what might be my favourite Weller song. And going back to the beginning of this post, rather apt.

The Jam :: Private Hell
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Photo from series by Peter Reimann for the Teesside Evening Gazette.

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