80The Real Slim Shady
What a way to kick off the new millennium this was. It was vulgar, offensive, and it tore into just about everyone. From Pamela and Tommy Lee to Britney Spears, no one was off limits. Eminem didn’t give a shit and he told it like it was, and this one skyrocketed him into getting his first single to top the chart in the UK. Here’s to the coolest song to reference the Discovery Channel (besides The Bloodhound Gang). (RS)
OK so it may not have a proper name but who cares when it had that riff? And not forgetting that drum beat and of course that immortal “woo-ooh”. ‘Beetlebum’ and the like were OK and everything, but for anyone that loved ‘There’s No Other Way’ Blur, ‘Popscene’ Blur, kick out the jams Blur, this was manna from heaven, wrapped into two minutes flat of pseudo grunge joy. The US military wanted to use the track at the launch of a new stealth bomber but the steadfastedly anti war band said no. They let Lego Rock Band take it though. (TC) How We Wrote 'Song 2' Alex James: "I remember having a really bad sweaty hangover that day. And it was very sunny. We were at Mayfair Studios, Primrose Hill, and I'd been trying to think of a title for a TV show a friend was doing about rock wives. Then it came to me: 'Hits and Mrs!' So I thought that was my work for the day over. It sums up 'Song 2' really. We didn't think about it at all. Graham [Coxon] set up two kits, Dave [Rowntree] and Graham started playing drums at the same time, this real 'aggro' beat. Then the chorus is two distorted basses and Damon's guide vocal. It was kind of a throwback. We'd always done brainless rocking out, though maybe it's not what we're known for." Stephen Street, producer: "Damon's guide vocal was pure babbling, but it worked so well I suggested we went with it. He just needed reassurance that what he'd done was good." (Q Magazine)
78The Drugs Don't Work
A song that balls a lump in your throat as bulky as, say, the Manics' 'Ocean Spray', Richard Ashcroft's heart-quaking song for his father, tackling the emotion of watching him succumb to cancer, 'The Drugs Don't Work' is a thing of devastatingly downbeat beauty. No-one does cheesy worse than Richard – as everyone who's heard his 'United Nations Of Sound' album knows – but back in 1997 he was the greatest songwriter in the UK making a nation weep with him. (JF) How We Wrote 'The Drugs Don't Work Richard Ashcroft "There's a new track I've just written. It goes 'the drugs don't work, they just make me worse, and I know I'll see your face again'. That's how I'm feeling at the moment. They make me worse, man. But I still take 'em. Out of boredom and frustration you turn to something else to escape." (Select, 1995) Chris Potter, producer, on his favourite track from the album 'Urban Hymn's: "Probably 'The Drugs Don't Work', which is certainly the best song I've ever recorded. [Ashcroft's] vocal on that track is something else. There are quite a few really. I'm not actually putting it on the stereo at the moment, but I hear it every day. If you wander around you hear the whole thing anyway. I've had some mad moments with this record though. I went skiing in January and I was in a bar in Val d'Isere and this band came on doing covers and stuff. The second song they did was 'Lucky Man' and 'Drugs' was fourth. The first three minutes of 'Lucky Man' were bollocks but the end bit was really good. Their 'Drugs' wasn't much of a version though. Also that week I went way up into the mountains, where it's really peaceful and there was this little guy in a hut up there listening to 'Drugs' on the radio - right up in the mountains. I thought 'fuckin' 'ell, it's gone everywhere'." (The Raft)
77D'You Know What I Mean?
Ah, the ‘90s. Oasis’ stock was so high following ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’ that they were able to get away with one of the most arrogant and overblown comeback tracks ever. Endless feedback! Morse code! Helicopters and grenades in the video! "I can't believe I wrote it, it's going to blow people away," said Noel at the time, though he later admitted it wasn’t his finest hour. It still sold 720,000 copies, and remains one of the standout tracks from Oasis’ not-as-good phase - a titanically self-assured work of blustery-bollocks brilliance. (LL) How We Wrote 'D'You Know What I Mean' Noel Gallagher "I was going to make up some profound statement in the chorus but I couldn't come up with anything that fitted. then I just thought 'All my people right here, right now. D'You Know What I Mean? Yeah, Yeah'. Very vague, very ambiguous. Look in the mirror and wink while you sing it and it's quite saucy. The morce code in the background was inspired by The Beatles' 'Strawberry Fields'. If anyone can tell me what it means, please let me know."
76Where It's At
The first – and arguably best – single from Beck’s breakthrough album ‘Odelay’ sees subdued Hammond synths introduce an idea-packed treat of a track that takes in all manner from samples, from obscure sex ed album ‘Sex For Teens’ to the classic Mantronix call of “we got two turntables and a microphone” and The Frogs’ “that was a good drum break”. The video, which saw Beck take on a variety of professions from garbage man to pirate, was the first ever clip played on once-essential station MTV2. (TC)
75A Design For Life
I’ve written about this song so, so many times now, but still I don’t think I’ll ever be able to come close to really explaining how good it is. So let’s just say that musically and lyrically, it’s pretty damn close to perfect. It would take most people a decent-sized novel to get close to touching the subtle anger, the apt analysis of post-war social history and the flamboyant defiance that Nicky Wire lays out with classical concision here. And the music! The grand, string-swept sway of it, the romance and rage, James’ raw-throated bellow. I remember their anger when people misinterpreted the lyrics “we don’t talk about love/We only wanna get drunk” as them sneering at the lager-swilling lumpenproletariat. Ironically it was written partly as a riposte to Blur’s ‘Girls And Boys’, a song they despised for just that reason, The Manics identify in themselves as much as anyone, that frustrated working-class rage, that anti-sentimentalism. It never fails to blow the cobwebs from the back of your brain, to make you consider what it’s saying anew. There you go, I had a try. Failed again. (EM) How We Wrote 'A Design For Life' James Dean Bradfield: "After that terrible experience [Richey's disappearance], luck did turn our way again. We dig for victories sometimes but this came easily." Sean Moore: "Always better on the back foot." Nicky Wire: "It was important we weren't aping 'The Holy Bible'. It would have been so fake if we'd come back with something like that. The fact that it was this glorious death waltz, having working-class culture patronised by Britpop, to actually have a moment where we could say 'This is what it really is, we've actually grown up in it.' I remember getting the midweeks, only Mark Morrison's 'Return Of The Mack' was gonna beat us, great pop single as it was." (NME, 2011)
74Supermassive Black Hole
On which Matt finds his funk. Inspired, according to an NME interview, by nights out in New York clubs and Franz Ferdinand’s pioneering dance-rock dalliances, it’s Muse at their most genre-bending, pulling together loose strands of R&B, robo-funk and industrial for one slinky shuffle. And it paid off, charting at Number Four and earning Muse their highest spot to date. Of course, placement on Twilight, Doctor Who and all manner of films and video games didn’t hurt either. (TC) How We Wrote ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ Matt Bellamy and Dominic Howard On the track’s influences: Matt: It’s the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. We’ve taken some Belgian influences such as Millionaire, dues, Evil Superstars and Soulwax, and added a bit of Prince and Kanye West to the mix. The drum beat isn’t rocky, and it had Rage Against The Machine riffs underneath. We’ve mixed a lot of things in this track, with a bit of electronica. It’s different, slow, quite funny… On recording in the 17th-century Chateau Miraval in Provence, France: Dom: Things got so secluded and detached in France that the vibe was getting dark there. It was great at first, but then we started getting fearful of the world being out there on our own. We started discussing World War III and what would happen if the end of the world happened. There was a lot of paranoia there. Things were getting a little too prog. At one point we contemplated a triple album – the first disc being devolution of rock and the third being a load of twiddly synth noises. We had to get away. On moving the recording process to New York: Matt: New York has vibe. I even did a bit of DJing… Dom: It was a vibe thing. We found loads of positivity in New York. It’s so fast and so busy that it’s hard to feel so dark. We started going out to clubs and dancing.
73Out Of Time
Funny to think it now, but when Blur released this they were in choppy waters. Coxon had left and an army of new bands - Strokes, White Stripes, Libs - were finally threatening to make the old Britpop guard look utterly redundant. But then this came along - all sombre and otherworldly and different sounding, and released smack bang in the middle of the Iraq war. 'Out Of Time' seemed to sum everything up. And you can't ask for anything more than that from a pop song really. (MW)
Debut smashes don't come with much more swagger and bombast than The Big Pink's breakthrough did. Constructed around a skyscraper-sized beat, the track's lyrics might be cruder than the bits that were deemed too rude for Viz magazine, but it's still stupidly catchy and hummable, as proved when Nicki Minaj's underwhelming re-telling of the hook still left you singing along. They're going to have trouble topping this with album number two. (TG)
71Don't Look Back Into The Sun
If it was brilliant at the time, it’s even more poignant now. Whilst there’s that line about how “She’ll never forgive you but she won’t let you go, oh no”, there’s no doubting that arguably The Libertines’ best song – that perfect match of sweet and scruffy – was ever about anything but Pete and Carl’s eternal, beautifully doomed romance. It stands strong as one of the cornerstones of the noughties' indie stronghold and a bittersweet reminder of that youthful, us against the world optimism: “Oh my friends, you haven’t changed… (LS)