This month we invited our writers to get all wistful and nostalgic and cast their eyes and ears over their record collections/iTunes folders, dig out their old ticket stubs and tell us what has been the greatest year for music within their lifetime…
In August 1966, The Beatles stopped touring. (This preceded my birth by three years and two months, and therefore gives me an authority I rarely possess.) Their last gig at Candlestick Park was half empty, 11 songs with words barely heard above the screams. Earlier that month, they had released Revolver. Strange magic was taking place in closed rooms. Pop would never be the same again. Dylan was droning in a similar key, second hand from Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie. All three produced music that was more about humanity and politics, rather than teenagers in love. Admittedly, there is a lot of love on Revolver. But there’s also boredom, frustration, lust, loneliness and the occasional nod to mind-expanding substances. Ostensibly, this is a boyband falling heavily out of love with being famous, wanting to be their organismic selves. And from this point on, things would never be the same. Revolver is four musicians in the same universe telling us genuinely how they felt. Living these songs, rather than third hand experience or storytelling. So, the next time a pop star says they are ‘keeping it real’, ask yourself this: is it as real as Revolver?
When Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols came out in October 1977, I was still in nappies, so the closest I got to punk was the safety pin holding my diaper together. Similarly, I have zero first-hand experience of the New York disco scene, where Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ was providing a blueprint for dance music for the next 20 years. However, I can lay claim to being a big fan of Bob Marley & the Wailer’s Exodus, which I’m told was the first record I danced to (thanks, Dad). But ’77 wasn’t just about punk, disco and reggae: it’s also the year that David Bowie released both Low and “Heroes”, Fleetwood Mac put out Rumours, Television turned us on to Marquee Moon and Kraftwerk manufactured Trans-Europe Express. Bowie also found time to produce The Idiot and Lust for Life for Iggy Pop (four albums in one year – what was that man on?), whilst debut LPs from The Clash and The Jam capped a great year for British music. When it comes to inspiring great music, 1977 is easily the most important year since 1963. Just think how bland the ’80s and ’90s would have sounded without bands like the Pistols, The Clash and Kraftwerk, or tunes like ‘I Feel Love’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lust for Life’. The only downer was Elvis dying.
It’s a two horse race to win the title of the greatest year ever for music in my lifetime – 1994 and 1989. Two vintage years which stand head and shoulders above any other. In a photo finish however the winner was 1989… The crowning glory for 1989 is The Stone Roses’ debut. This, in my humble opinion, is the greatest album written by any band, ever. Throw a nice £20 ecstasy tablet and some 22″ flares into the mix and you’ve suddenly got the greatest sub-culture movement going too… On top of that album, you’ve also got New Order’s finest moment in the Ibiza-recorded Technique, De La Soul’s anti-gangster rap masterpiece 3 Feet High and Rising and Pixies dishing out Doolittle. Not ’arf bad. Read more and check out my 1989 playlist here: http://www.gigslutz.co.uk/why-1989-was-the-greatest-year-ever-for-music/
I’m a lucky boy. I was 15 in 1994, I’d just picked up a guitar having played the trombone for ten years (hard to sing and play at the same time) and my musical horizons were about to be blown away. Having devoured The Beatles’ albums many times over I was ready to fall in love with another band, and little did I know there was about to be a whole plethora of albums and artists that remain some of my favourites to this day. Arguably the biggest album of that year was Oasis’s Definitely Maybe: Liam’s snarl cut through the daily humdrum whilst Noel’s lyrics of hedonism and hope struck a chord like no other. My more moody side was satiated by the releases of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged (a VHS tape that you’d not be ashamed of rewinding time and time again) and Portishead’s Dummy for those smoke-filled nights at friend’s houses. I’d been exposed to breakdance culture at a very young age so I’ve always had a lot of love for hip hop; Nas’s Illmatic and Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication were seminal releases that harked back to the origins of the culture and still stand strong today.
When asked the question ‘Which year has been the greatest in your lifetime for music?’ there is one that springs to mind that simply has no competitors. And that’s 1999. Pop music was at an all-time high with the likes of The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lou Bega… Need I go on? But it wasn’t just pop music; R&B, rap and punk rock genres were all in their prime, with iconic bands such as Blink 182 producing albums that took multi-platinum status. It’s undeniable that the huge crowds that were drawn in to see their headline slot at Reading and Leeds festival this summer are a clear indicator that they haven’t been forgotten. But alas, however great the music was, you can’t help but question the fashion. Sparkly belly button jewels, dolphin tattoos, crop tops matched with hipster jeans – what were they thinking? Of course, this was then followed by the futuristic era, where everyone was sporting metallic baggy pants and filming videos with outer space backdrops (yes TLC, I’m looking at you). Admittedly, my music taste has differed a lot over the past 15 years, and forgive me for being a total ‘90s kid’, but it really is a year of nostalgia. And let’s face it, as a whole, the ’90s rocked.
This is without a doubt my most difficult All Talk to date, and has seen an immeasurable amount of conversations/arguments taking place inside my brain, but I think I’ll have to settle with 2004. It was the year I became an adult (numerically) and one of my most memorable presents from the occasion is Morrissey’s ‘comeback’, if you will, You Are the Quarry. Not exactly music to celebrate with, but quite possibly one of the first albums that made me realise that music doesn’t have to be about boy meets girl, who become each others’ worlds, together, forever, etc… Presumably I’d asked for the record knowing that Morrissey was one of the ’80s most prominent figures, and other icons from the decade make up my decision: U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb secured their status as perhaps the biggest band in the world, while the original Duran Duran line-up released their first LP together in two decades (Astronaut) and while Blondie’s The Curse of Blondie did feature the odd moment of horror, it proved that the band still had some magic left. Big fan of debuts from The Thrills, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight and Scissor Sisters too…
I turned 19 in April, 2005, in the midst of my gap year. QOTSA’s Lullabies To Paralyse had just been released and I was enjoying my birthday listening very much. In May, I jetted off to Australia to go backpacking. About a month into my stay, Foo Fighters released In Your Honor. Despite being in the most idyllic, reef-side location at the time, the first thing I did on the morning of my favourite band’s release was find the nearest record shop; the memories of the rest of my stay in the Whitsundays largely consist of lying on snow-white sand, accompanied by favourites such as ‘DOA’ and ‘Razor’. I got back from Down Under just in time for Leeds Festival. As well as Foo Fighters headlining, I was lucky enough to catch QOTSA, Pixies, The Coral, Incubus and some guys from Sheffield called The Arctic Monkeys… Despite not being able to remember too many details (the most prominent being laughing at my mate’s ‘Dolphins Are Gay Sharks’ T-Shirt), it’s definitely one of my most memorable musical experiences. In September, I returned to Leeds for university. Here, I spent many a night in the dingy Cockpit or the Met’s ‘Star’ club-night dancing to the Libertines and ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. In my first term, the Cockpit also offered a host of wonderful live gigs, including ska-punksters [SPUNGE], Editors and Cribs, whilst The Met hosted a night of singing and skanking along to Reel Big Fish. (On a visit to Sheffield I also met Richard Hawley in his bar… a definite stand-out moment in my compendium of musically-related experiences.) So, although my decision may be perhaps slightly swayed by 2005 also being one of the most fun years of my life generally – a time when anything and everything seemed pretty exciting – it was an exceptionally good year for musical memories.
For the majority of the population 2012 will be the year that Britain enjoyed the spotlight with both the Jubilee and the Olympics, but for me it was my summer of music. Blur were splashed across the front pages of almost every music publication for their return, for which I spent a weekend in Birmingham for their ‘warm-up’ show. Once I got back to London, Hyde Park was hosting free gigs as part of the Olympics celebration. Therefore, in the space of one summer (and in one park) I got to see Ocean Colour Scene, New Order, The Specials and then Blur again for BT London Live. I had even bumped into The Bots again, who had supported Blur in Birmingham, and were sweet enough not only to remember my face, but also to share their freebie chocolate medals with me. Free chocolate and free gigs, what more could a girl ask for?
It’s the 31st December 2013 and I’m reflecting on what a year it’s been for music. I can close my eyes and suddenly I’m stood at the front of a mosh-pit in Birmingham, sweat pouring down my face. I’m pretty close to fainting and I can no longer feel my feet but this is the most ecstatic I’ve ever been. The Courteeners have just played my favourite song ‘That Kiss’ live and I’m still reeling from the exhilaration of singing along, cares well and truly abandoned for those brief few minutes. This month alone has been jam packed full of gigs; I’ve seen White Lies in Manchester, The Cribs and Vampire Weekend in Leeds, and The Pigeon Detectives took the title of ‘Last Gig Of 2013’ in my hometown of Sheffield only a few days before Christmas. I can still hear ‘Celestine’ by Spector ringing in my ears and feel the warmth from flame jets as I stood at the barrier for Biffy Clyro at Leeds fest this year. My iPod has been spoilt rotten with some epic additions, including The Strokes’ Comedown Machine, Palma Violets’ 180 and Johnny Marr’s The Messenger. This year I fell in love. With music. So much so that I decided I could try my hand at this whole journalism shenanigan.