heard on the wire

Wear high heels and get a record deal

A song-from-each-year-of-my-life for 1996 should be straightforward. Choose a track from the year’s best LP, Murder Ballads, and move on to 1997.

But Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds graced 1994 and and while there are no rules prohibiting multiple appearances — after all, New Order have already done the double — I’m craving variety.

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Don’t change a hair for me

Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle is both the German system for film classification and a German band whose commendable lack of chart success spans almost 30 years.

Discovered, in the UK at least, by John Peel, they scored a festive fifty hit with I Wish I Could Sprechen Sie Deutsch in 1986 and that was all I heard of them until 2004’s First Take Then Shake LP, by which time they’d truncated their name to FSK.

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On an endless night a silver star spangled

For about five years and over the course of three LPs, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were the greatest band in the world, or at least in my world.

Their dominance started with the release of Henry’s Dream in 1992 and culminated in what may be described as their commercial breakthrough, 1996’s Murder Ballads and an appearance with Kylie Minogue on Top of the Pops.

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A change is gonna come

Thanks Steve, how different my life would have been had it not been for you and Apple. I used Macs in my first ful-time job and have used them and written about them ever since.

There’s not a lot to add that hasn’t been said already. Steve Jobs resigns; Apple goes on. Sure the company will change, but that would have happened anyway. Under Jobs, Apple never stood still. Industries were transformed and our lives are less dull and a lot less frustrating than they would otherwise have been.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

In 1993 I bought a JVC portable stereo cassette player on the basis of a review by “legendary” producer Pascal Gabriel. I loved it, still have it and it still works.

For the next six months, The Boo Radleys’ Giant Steps was ever-present among the selection of cassettes that I carried around with me. It remains an astonishing record, by a long way the best LP of the year.

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Number one in Portugal…

…was the unlikely destination for this collaboration between Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan, two of the great-but-undervalued voices of rock/pop/blues/country/folk/whatever music.

Cave is, of course, a genius, one of the very best singer-songwriters of any generation; MacGowan is sadly a drunk who flirted with a genius that was consumed by his excess. Their collaboration could only be, well, genius — and 1992’s song-from-each-year-of-my-life.

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Chief economist and senior director of mergers for the Office of Fair Trading

I can’t say I’m that keen on the music of 1991, a year in which I count just six four- and five-star ratings in iTunes, contrary to a general consensus that the year produced three “classic albums” (a phrase and concept I abhor, but nevermind). Talking of which….

Nirvana garnered huge critical acclaim and commercial success with their Nevermind LP, the sound of a bloke shouting incomprehensibly, like a drunk tramp outside a town centre shopping arcade. Primal Scream’s Screamadelica was similarly lauded, a zeitgeist record that’s actually quite boring; likewise Blue Lines, Massive Attack’s debut. Clearly I’m in a minority here (or at least I was) as Blue Line’s Unfinished Sympathy was number one in a 1998 Radio One poll to find the best songs ever, just ahead of its contemporary, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, while Screamadelica’s Loaded managed number 62. Nirvana also took top spot in that year’s festive fifty.

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You can tell by the way I use my walk

A song-from-each-year-of-my-life for 1990 provides the opportunity to introduce all and sundry to one of the most brilliantly awful cover versions of all time.

First, some regurgitated Bee Gees from a band whose drummer was my boss in my first ever full-time job. They managed a dozen or so gigs before — utterly remarkably — a record label decided to put out an LP which promptly disappeared almost without trace (I have a copy, if anyone wants to hear it). But had the LP contained the band’s definitive version of a disco classic, it would have sold millions…. Instead the only extant recording is taken from a cassette demo, whose lo-fi seems entirely appropriate.

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I never want to see you again

Like Wikipedia, I know next to nothing about The Popguns, save that they made several lovely, jangly records of the kind that went out of fashion in the late 80s only to make a resurgence in recent years.

I do know that they didn’t make my favourite record of 1989. That would be The Stone Roses’s Made of Stone, but monstrously good as that is it doesn’t quite have the charm of my pick for a song-from-each-year-of-my-life.

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Mixing Pop and Politics

There are several Billy Bragg songs that could easily have featured as a song-from-each-year-of-my-life: A New England, Saturday Boy, A Lover Sings and Accident Waiting to Happen to name but four.

But it’s the last great single from the Bard of Barking that is 1988’s choice. A series of smart non-sequiturs set to one of his best tunes, it’s a record I can quite happily listen to over and over again in the vain hope that, yes, the revolution is only a T-shirt away.

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