4 Classics Revisited

As I eagerly await my pre-ordered, re-mastered copies of Nick Lowe’s Labour Of Lust and Screamadelica by Primal Scream I decide to dig through the vault. I find four albums, four forgotten classics of my misspent youth, to get me through the next few weeks of anticipation. It works out that every consecutive decade starting with the 60’s is oddly represented: The Rolling Stones back-to-basics Beggars Banquet, Joe Jackson’s power pop debut Look Sharp!, The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths and Blur’s homage to Ray Davies, Parklife.

There are four Rolling Stones albums everyone who calls themselves a music fan should own: Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. Beggars Banquet is possibly the least celebrated of the four but it marked the time the band stopped aping their old rivals the Beatles and got back to what they do best: blues based rock and roll.

Joe Jackson, not unlike Graham Parker, had unfortunate timing, coming out at virtually the same moment in time as Elvis Costello and subsequently lumped in with the “Elvis wannabe-angry young singer-songwriter” club. Jackson would go on to become the most schizophrenic of the three, musically speaking, releasing genre experiment after genre experiment, Jumpin’ Jive being the most successful IMHO and Night and Day being the most commercial. For me it’s still all about Look Sharp!, though.

It’s remarkable that the Smiths were only around for 5 years, and that their recording career only lasted from 1984-1987. After the lackluster (and sometimes hostile) reception their second proper album received (Meat Is Murder) they needed a bit of a re-think. They came storming back with their best. The Queen Is Dead is worthwhile for the title track alone. Not abandoning but certainly toning down on the “poor-me” sentiments helped immensely, and guitarist Marr turned up his amplifiers to 11 to great effect, although they could still write a song as subtle and beautiful as “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”.

Screw the faux “Country House/Roll With It” battle for Britain between Oasis and Blur. In hindsight it was Blur and specifically Damon Albarn, who won by a landslide. Although Oasis put out two really special albums (their first two) Blur’s Parklife and the follow up Great Escape were the superior products, Parklife winning by a nose. The use of Phil Daniels (from the movie version of Quadrophenia) was brilliant and foreshadowed Albarn’s collaborations for his future product, Gorillaz.

And how about those iconic covers, eh?