If Saturday list #100 hadn't beenn Saturday list #100, this would have been Saturday list #100. I am a huge an of the Robert Elms show on BBC radio London. Every week he does a "Fourfar", where he gets listeners to suggest four themed songs. A couple of weeks ago the theme was "the four greatest British female singers. As is Roberts want, he actually chose five and I suspect his list was just about as close do definitive as you can get. You may swap one or possibly two, but it is a damn fine list and was Amy Winehouse, Dusty Springfield, Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading and Sade. But the more I thought about it, the more unsatisactory I felt the list was. Not because it isn't a great list, but because, well I just don't think five choices really scratches the surface. Whole musical genres are ignored and ultimately, well to quote the great Elvis Costello "All this and no surprises, from this years girl". So this isn't a criticism of Robert, it's a celebration of the great talent we've seen develop from these shores.
These are in no particular order (so it's not six to fifteen, if we buy into Roberts top five).
1. Vera Lynn. Vera Lynn was the first British female vocalist superstar. Radio was still a relatively new medium, when Vera Lynn came to promenance. She toured the world. She's still going and at 92 became the oldest ever artist to top the album charts. She set a new standard for showing what female artists could achieve.
2. Souixsie Souix. The queen of punk. A true fashion and music icon. I think Souixsie was the only person I've ever found truly intimidating. Her musica catalog is immense and hugely influential. The sound of Souixsie is unique and beyond compare.
3. Sandy Denny. Sandy Denny was the lead singer of Fairport Convention, the leaders of the British Folk Rock scene in the early 1970's going on to make some classic solo albums. An incredible talent. Whilst folk never really became mainstream, Sandy Denny was the queen of folk and her work really deserves a reprise
4. Pauline Black. The Selecter were one of the late 1970's Ska bands. Unlike The Specials and Madness, they had a female lead. The incomparable Pauline Black. Pauline was stylish and sassy and brought a whole new dimension to the UK SKA scene. Many of the female artists who have followed have, consciously or not, given a nod to Pauline and her style
5. The Beverley Sisters
The Beverley Sisters were the proto girl group. They were the highest paidfemale act in the UK for many years. Long before Posh and Becks, Joy Beverley married England football superstar Billy Wright. It is easy to overlook artsist from this period, especially when they are not at the "serious" end of the spectrum, but in many ways it is the artists that influence the mass market acts that really make the biggest impact. The Beverley sisters were always great singers and great performers and we should give them their rightful place in the history of the UK music scene.
6. Poly Styrene. I love Poly Styrene. I doubt she could have been a Pop Start in any other era than the Punk Era, but I feel honoured to have been around when she was at her peak. She looked and sang unlike any other start before or since. She was a gentle, lovely, sweet soul, but her songs were full of wit, dark humour and razor like obsevations on modern life. She was an embodyment of the fact that in the Punk era, anyone could make it if they had something to say.
7. Cleo Laine. A member of the UK's Jazz aristocricy. A back catalog to die for, numerous collaborations. I guess if you were going to choose any UK Jazz artists to epitomise the UK Jazz century, you'd be hard pressed to beat Cleo.
8. Lily Allen. Of all the new artists to come to promenence since the new millenia began, Lily Allen is perhaps the one who best speaks for the new generation. She's not afraid to put herself out there. It would doubtless be easy for musical snobs to ignore her, but I think she's great. Launched a whole fleet of soundalikes and helped get people back into the SKA sound, with here catchy rythms.
9. Janet Kay. The first Black female Reggae singer to have a number 1. Janet was at the forfront of Black Londoners who were showing that the UK regggae scene had developed its own style and personality and was not simply an offshoot of Kingston. Sadly like many black artists, never really got the support from her label her talent deserved.
10. Kirsty MacColl. For many, Kirsty should have been in Roberts top five, let alone my top ten! I agonised long and hard over which video to choose. In the end, I chose this one because it was just such a celebration of life. I could have done a Kirsty Top Ten.
Of course, there are dozens that I left out. We all have our own top ten. This list has tried to span as many eras and influences as possible. I am sure that anyone could easly say what about.... So if you have your own top ten, feel free to post a comment.