Saturday 10 April 2021

The Saturday list #303 - My top 30 tracks by female artists

This series and these playlists seem to be quite popular. Todays is the biggest one so far, a bumper 30 tracks! As my rule is one song per artist, it was quite hard narrowing this down. Initially it was a 20, then I remembered another few songs and artists, which bumped it up to 25. Having got there, I then heard one of the tracks on the radio, taking it to 26 and before I knew it I had 30. I think it is pretty solid list. 

All of these songs feature in my vinyl collection. I suppose some may seem controversial, but since I started this, I've listened to the list twice in the bath and am very pleased to say it passes the test (although the water is cold long before the list is finished). The list is pretty much in the order I thought of  the songs. I did swap a couple around as they didn't follow too well. 

We start with Patti Smith and Gloria in excelsis Deo. The first time I played this song, I had a massive row with my Dad, a devout Roman Catholic, who said it was blasphemous, opening with the line "Jesus died for somebodies sins but not mine". Strangely I never saw it as blasphemous, simply as an assertation of responsibility. I always feel that Patti Smith is an incredibly spiritual person. At some point I will make a list of my favourite songs. She is best known for Because The Night, but I think this is a million times better. I'd probably put Because The Night as my 8th or 9th on the list of her songs, but enough of that another day.

Silly Games by Janet Kay is a wonderful song. I actually thought of this because she rang to move a session at the studio when I was starting the list. It was a central feature in Steve McQueen's lovers rock, which was one of the best things on TV last year. I've seen Janet quite a few times and she is truly amazing. In my job at the studio, it is always great when you meet someone who's music you grew up with. When they are as lovely as Janet, it is an honour. Us ageing punks have a very soft spot for Reggae and it doesn't really come much better than this.

X Ray Spex were one of the bands that made me fall in love with music. There is a recently released film about the life of Polly Styrene, which is quite tragic. To me she was a visionary and a genius, one of many artists massively failed by the music industry. She railed against consumerism and for ecological awareness. The day the world turned Dayglo is a magnificent song, possibly her finest IMHO. 

Christine by Siouxsie and The Banshees is a song I've always loved. Very sparse and haunting. Based on the story of a young girl affected by mental health issues and almost destroyed by a film made about her. The Banshees had a ground breaking sound and probably haven't received the recognition they deserve.

Joni Mitchell was one of the few artists I liked before I got into punk. My sister Valerie had a couple of albums. I got into her through the hippy dippy 'Big Yellow Taxi', but I found this track through the live version on Miles of Aisles. I prefer the studio version, but both are great. Cold blue steel and sweet fire is a very dark song, but very beautiful. 

I had a period when I was completely obsessed with Debbie Harry, she was the epitome of what I thought a female should be, drop dead gorgeous and a punk rocker. The first Blondie album is a masterpiece. Rip her to shreds is the stand out track.

With Amy Winehouse, I had a real dilemma. She had many fine tracks, this is not an obvious one at all, but it is the one I play most when I am DJ'ing. I also love that Amy sounds as if she's having fun when she recorded it.

In these shoes by Kirsty MacColl is one of the sexiest tracks ever recorded IMHO. She is so full of life, I always feel devastated when I hear it, reminding me of her tragic demise. But it simply has to be on the list.

I am a big fan of Holly Cook and I love this tribute to Ari Up, sadly deceased singer of the Slits. I love the way the angelic start morphs into a light ska feel. 

Althea and Donna's Uptown Top ranking was one of the songs of '77, the year I properly discovered music. I liked the fact that they looked like girls from next door. The song is a proper summer fun song. I cannot hear it without smiling.

I can remember the first time I heard Prelude  sing After The Goldrush on the radio. It was one of the first singles I bought, back in 1974. I'd never herd an acapella song before. It is haunting. The lyrics always conjoured the most amazing visions for me. I thought it was about the first world war. I was quite disappointed when I learned it was Neil Young singing about the effects of LSD. I don't really like Neil Young's version, this and Patti Smith's versions are my favourite.

Aretha Franklin is another artist that you could pick a dozen songs from. I picked a relatively obscure tune, as I like the fact that she holds back on this and doesn't throw the kitchen sink at it. Save me is a great pop song. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I got into Aretha thanks to Aussie Punk band the Saints cover of this, so I had to choose it.

Sandy Denny was an icon for my eldest brother Laurie and my sister Val. They loved the Fairports. Laurie would often play Mr Lacey from the What we did on our holidays. I found the copy in around 1981 and had a listen out of curiosity, not having heard  it since I was 8. I realised what a great band the Fairports were. I checked out Sandy Denny and realised what a great talent we lost. This is probably her finest track.

The Supremes were very much the sound of our youth. I loved Motown Records. I had a good look through the songs by Diana Ross and the Supremes and concluded that this was the one I liked best. Great vocals, great production and a damn good song. 

On My Radio by The Selecter is a great Ska/Pop song. It transports me back to 1980 and some very good gigs. Ska music is what I turn to when I need a lift and this is one of the first songs I play. 

Son of a Preacher Man by the Gayettes is another great Ska song. People know the Dusty Springfield version, but I found that this is the one that really gets people dancing at the end of the night. It is funny how many drunk revellers say to me when I play it "I love Dusty Springfield"!

Watching Top of the Pops and seeing Can The Can by Suzi Quatro was perhaps the moment that I realised that I have a thing for attractive ladies playing the bass in leather cat suits. My sister used to tease me relentlessly for liking  this. She ended up presenting a show on an Essex based local radio station and interviewing Suzi. She said she was a hoot and felt rather guilty for deriding her so!

We are Family by Sister Sledge is a great song. I am a massive fan of Nile Rogers. Perhaps the perfect dance/disco song. When this first came out, being a punk, I was not really that interested, but Craig, who played guitar with the False Dots was raving about it, so I had a proper listen. He was right. I realised that Nile Rogers was a fantastic guitarist.

Good Times by Chic is another Nile Rogers work of art. A great song to listen to when you are enjoying yourself. Alfa Anderson was the vocalist and a fine gob she did.

Dusty Springfield had to be in this list. I chose Take another little piece of my heart, as I think it showcases everything good about Dusty. Her life was quite tragic and she channels this through the song with such emotion.

Not too many people know the work of Indra Rios-Moore, I think she is pretty amazing. Do yourself a favour, if you like this track, check her out.

The Slits were the first all female punk band. They were quite outrageous, the cover for this single had them naked and smeared in mud. What many missed is that it is actually a really good cover of a classic song. Although the Marvin Gaye version is infinitely better sung and better produced, Ari Up actually sounds as if she means it and she's devastated by it. It took me a long time to really get this, but once I did I realised just what a great track it was.

I could rave all day about Love and Affection by Joan Armatrading. Another album that I first got into through my sister Val, who was a big fan. I love the production by Glyn John, it is an amazing song and very well delivered. The best compliment I can pay is that if this was released tomorrow, it would sound 100% contempory, there are not many songs recorded in 1974 that you could say that about.

Ronnie Spector's Don't Worry Baby is a glorious piece of pop silliness. The dark side of Phil Spector looms large over this, but Ronnie Spector is a great singer and this is a very good song indeed.

Gabriella Cilmi was sixteen when she recorded this. It is a wonderful song and it is a bit of a shame that it wasn't a monster hit. Quite dark, sassy and sexy.

Minnie Rippertons loving you was one of the songs that I heard on the radio and was just totally intrigued by. I think I heard it on Robbie Vincent on BBC Radio London the first time. He was raving about it. Another song that makes me feel a little bit sad when I hear it. She was such a fine singer. I believe this has the highest ever recorded note. I love listening to female vocalists from the pre 'autotune' era. Minnie Ripperton was always bang on pitch. 

Dionne Warwick's walk on by is another song I found via a punk cover. The Stranglers did a pretty good cover of it, but the original is amazing. There is a quality to the production that is wonderful. The song has a fantastic arrangement.

The Pretenders Brass in Pocket was the song that established Chrissie Hynde as a star. The band had a string of hits and were a fine live outfit. I had a rather embarrassing moment with Chrissie Hynde backstage at a gig at the Brixton Academy. I was watching my good friend Boz Boorer and got an invite to the backstage party. I found myself next to Chrissie Hynde, having had a couple of beers, I knew the face and struck up a conversation. It was only after we'd a exchanged a few words that I realised who she was. At that moment Boz came over and joined in. I'd assumed she was one of my studio customers and I think she was a bit bemused by my "Hi how are things, not seen you for a while". Luckily Boz's intervention spared me from needing to come clean.

I've always loved Nancy Sinatra and Bang Bang is probably her finest song. A true work of genius. Nancy and I follow each other on Twitter. It's fair to say she wasn't a fan of Donald Trump and it is great when you find that someone who's music you like is as sound as a pound.

I finish with Nico and The Velvet Underground. Another one of my brother Laurie's favourite bands. I love the Germanic sterness and detached quality of her performance. This is a great pop song. The Velvet underground were more well known for their controversial work such as Heroin and Waiting for the Man, but they were also capable of knocking out great pop songs such as this. 

Well thats's my list, hope you like it. 


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