heard on the wire

This really ragged notion that you’ll return

M1 sunset

It sounds so cinematic: from Saturday I’m going on my first road trip, taking in seven destinations in seven days. Of course, were it a road trip on arrow-straight roads stretching to the horizon, amid tumbleweed and motels, tuned to WKPR, that’s exactly what it would be. But it’s not, it’s motorway service stations and the occasional glimpse of corrugated steel, roads dug into cuttings, dormitory towns; it’s a road trip around England. It’s a beautiful country, but its beauty can rarely be seen from the motorway network.

However one thing is certain, whether it’s WKPR, the dismal miasma of daytime BBC, or a magnificentally stocked iPod, road trips require music. And what better music than that which punctuates each destination, starting with London.

The Smiths were from Manchester, where they, like many, felt the lure of London. This song captures that perfectly.

The Smiths :: London

Audio MP3

One of the great musical unearthings of the past few years has been the release of three LPs that have collected disparate recordings from the Bristol reggae scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The most recent of the three is the second to include a track from Talisman. Music this good is a rare treat.

Talisman :: Luck and Run

Audio MP3

When the poll booths close on voting for the greatest York band ever, the result will be unanimous. Not just the greatest band from one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, but one of the best ever, whose staggering talent flowered all too briefly. They have just the one LP to show for their efforts, Neither Washington nor Moscow, a socialist call to arms that continues to inspire.

The Redskins :: Bring it Down!

Audio MP3

Next stop Darlington—that’s got you thinking. It had me too, until I discovered that the town where I once saw Fulham stroll to a comfortable 2-0 win was home to We Start Fires. This is without question the best Stranglers–Elastica mash-up you’ll ever hear.

We Start Fires :: Magazine

Newcastle Upon Tyne has a rich musical heritage that includes Sting, Dire Straits, Lindisfarne, PJ and Duncan and Cheryl Cole. Sorry, I mistyped …a rich musical heritage, despite….

If ever there were a band name that must sound fantastic in a Geordie accent.

Milky Wimpshake :: Milk Maid

Audio MP3

Like their contemporaries in York, Swindon voters will also return a unanimous vote, for a band named after a sex shop. One of the most undervalued bands of the 80s, XTC originally put this ditty on a b-side to a single that no-one recalls because everyone flipped it over. It was subsequently released as a single in its own right and rightly so. It brilliantly questions religion without ever attacking the religious, a lesson that has never been more relevant.

XTC :: Dear God

Audio MP3

And finally, back to London, with Cinerama’s take on The Smiths followed by the greatest, coolest rock ’n’ roll band ever and their greatest song about London. And before anyone objects, London Calling is not about London, whatever TV music programmers may think.

Cinerama :: London

Audio MP3

The Clash :: London’s Burning

Photo: M1 sunset by Ben Sutherland; some rights reserved.

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