70Wire - 'I Am The Fly'
A prime slice of arch, amphetamine-driven art rock from Wire. Their ever-evolving sound meshed with a Floydian level of the surreal in the lyrics to create this one-note stomper where Colin Newman twisted his voice into unlikeable shapes to create a sonic earworm that you’d never forget.
69Sparks - 'This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us'
The Mael brothers' most majestic, rabbit-out-a-hat single suggested magic realism via The Wild West. Imbued with a cartoonish drama, Russell and Ron's compulsive stomp demands your attention like the musical equivalent of a quickly unraveling disaster film.
68The Clash - '(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais'
A brilliant piece of songwriting that managed to address social unrest and racial tension via the prism of the state of punk rock in 1979. The drifting Ska of the track showed the stylistic range of band unafraid of crossing genre lines which made them an more authentic representation of young Britain than some of their contemporaries.
67Carly Simon - 'You're So Vain'
Perhaps we’ll never know who it was about, but the reflected narcissism Simon showed in the lyrics had an uncharacteristic bite to it. The sting was matched by the sloping tease of the music, highlighted by a sleazy guitar solo, hazy cowbell and Jagger’s (surely ironic) backing vocals.
66Prince – 'I Wanna Be Your Lover'
Prince’s first real hit, 'I Wanna Be Your Lover' also showed the first flourishes of his musical trademarks that would define his megastardom in the decade which followed. The falsetto vocals and lascivious lyrics were laid over a disco guitar figure which nodded to both the Bee Gees and Chic. A joyful taste of what was to come.
65George Harrison – 'My Sweet Lord'
Post Beatles, Harrison’s hymn to the Hare Krishna religion was filled with a sunny spirituality which reflected not just a hope for a post Fab Four world, but also for the new decade, despite the hippy dream being over.
64Big Star – 'September Gurls'
Alex Chilton’s track goes straight for the heart with its chiming power chords, poignant lyrics and the feeling of a chance romance now all but a memory. It was later covered by the Bangles in a Paisley Underground style, which prompted Chilton to get the biggest royalty cheque of his career.
63Nick Drake - 'Pink Moon'
It’s easy to project posthumous meaning onto a track, but ‘Pink Moon’ sounds like a warning about what’s to come. Stripped of all his past production crutches, here Drake is stripped to the elemental basics, purring about the ominous moon that’s “on its way”. The result is unforgettably sad.
62Gary Numan – 'Cars'
‘Cars’ was significant in that it married Numan’s Tubeway Army experiments with a more conventional, rock song structure. With a knowing nod to JG Ballard, Numan retained his high art credentials to create an trailblazing pop single which sounded like the future.
61Patti Smith – 'Because The Night'
Penned for ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ by Springsteen, the Patti Smith Group re-tooled it to give it a more poetic nuance. The marriage of The Boss’ broad rock sensibilities and Smith’s yearning delivery yielded a rarity - a love song with a real, visceral heart.