Chosen by: Gaz Coombes
They really blow me away because they were so far ahead of their time. To hear this sound coming out of the speakers and realise it was the same time as The Beatles were singing ‘I Need You’ is incredible. It’s true punk-rock and, like The Modern Lovers, The Sonics had this late-’70s sound, but in the mid ’60s. I love finding these people – it’s really inspiring.
Chosen by: Beastie Boys, MCA
No-one can emulate these guys. The drummer, Zigaboo, plays with that New Orleans swagger – almost behind the beat, lazily hitting the groove. Then you’ve got George Parker, just the funkiest bass player on the planet. They lock things down and then you hear the guitar and organ just floating over the top. Listening to these guys set us off in a new direction as a band.
Chosen by: Pete Doherty
Chas n Dave burst into ‘The Banging in your Head’ and two old sorts give it the old edmonton shuffle! I’m not sorry to say that by the time they do ‘Gertcha’ this libertine is engaged in the time old ritual of a good old knees up... All night they’ve nattered between songs to us like old friends, and now they introduce the encore of ‘There aint no pleasing you’. It’s irresistable.
Chosen by: Jamie Hince, The Kills
I was in this junk shop and I came across ‘Chinese Restaurant’ by Chrisma. It had the most incredible cover, these two people outside a Chinese restaurant with the guy looking like he’s just had his face cut from his mouth to his ear. I bought it on the strength of the cover, and it was absolutely brilliant. There’s a song called ‘Black Silk Stocking’ which is just phenomenal.
Chosen by: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Junior Murvin is a guy with massive talent. We made ‘Police And Thieves’ together, and then The Clash made their cover of it later. He had a very special falsetto voice, like Curtis Mayfield. An international falsetto voice, we used to say – because you could hear him very clear all over the world. And when he started we used to say he sing like a girl! Or, maybe I should say he sing like a lady?
Chosen by: Stuart Murdoch, Belle And Sebastian
There was a joylessness and obtuseness to a lot of ‘independent’ ’80s music, and you couldn’t get more obtuse than the Cocteaus. Heaven knows what their mission was. For me, the perfect time to listen to them is when I’ve been up all night talking about books and the possibilities of reincarnation. Then I stagger home and drift off listening to ‘Victorialand’.
Chosen by: Derek E Miller, Sleigh Bells
I can’t think of a tougher, more talented group than Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers. To my ears, no single band has slashed and burned so hard while breaking hearts and heads at the same time. The core rhythm section of Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones, Richard Allen and James Jamerson never leaves me cold. At their best, they make me wanna claw my eyes out.
Chosen by: Bobby Gillespie
Lux was one of the great rock’n’roll showmen/shamen. He seemed to want to burst free from his body and explode outta this world, taking his audience with him. Lux Interior and The Cramps were possessed by the wild, free spirit of rock’n’roll music and that is a truly beautiful and wonderful thing. Thanks for the music Lux. We miss you.
Chosen by: Mica Levi, Micachu & The Shapes
I first heard Harry Partch when I was 17. I was unprepared for the sound. It was unearthly, exotic, woozy and cool. I then found out that the reason it sounded so unique was partly because he invented all the instruments only to accommodate his new pitch system. It seems obvious that in order to write your own music – why not create your own notes and instruments?!
Chosen by: Noble, British Sea Power
Basically, he’s this fantastic poet and terrible singer, spewing tragi-comic tales of crushing heartbreak, and psychedelic sex and drugs experiments in Butlins. He must be almost 60 now, but there is more fire, spontaneity and mischief in Jock than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s like a heroic drunk who’s as bright as a button.
Chosen by: Jack White
When I was about 18 somebody played me Son House. I didn’t know that you could do that, just singing and clapping. It meant everything about rock’n’roll, everything about expression and creativity and art. One man against the world. ‘Grinnin’ In Your Face’ is my favourite song. It became my favourite song the first time I heard it, and it still is.
Chosen by: Jacob Graham, The Drums
With what we would consider a prototype synthesizer, she made ‘Switched-On Bach’ – the first electronic music album to be certified gold and then platinum. Wendy is responsible for people taking electronic music seriously, but her reclusive nature at the height of her success prevented her from reaching any celebrity status.
Chosen by: Jacob Graham, The Drums
Working largely in the 60s, Delia made otherworldly pieces by recording sounds to magnetic tape, then splicing the tape with razor blades. She is responsible for the much-revered Doctor Who theme song, for which she was uncredited – all too common at the BBC at the time. Perhaps ironically, she gave up on music when the synthesizer was born, reasoning that electronic music had become too impersonal.
Chosen by: Jacob Graham, The Drums
Born in 1911, Clara was a violin prodigy whose career was cut short by health complications in her teenage years. Her future as a violinist vanished; but Clara soon discovered the theremin which, because it needn’t be touched to be played, was perfect for her sensibilities and condition. She was world renowned in her time, but history remembers her as little more than a novelty.
Chosen by: NME’s Laura Snapes
The members of Grinderman and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds are a list of cult heroes in their own right. But one of the most intriguing associates of both bands is Warren Ellis, who also plays violin in the instrumental trio Dirty Three. Dirty Three’s gigs are the kind that shoot straight into your top five of all time. And that’s mostly thanks to Warren Ellis.
Chosen by: Conor Oberst
It was Tim Kasher’s [from Cursive] first band. We started our label [Saddle Creek] ’cos we were all in love with this band and wanted everyone to hear it. We got all our friends to kick in money to make a CD. They were into the Pixies, high energy, amazing melodies. This was in ’93. I was 13. Up until then I wasn’t really playing music, but seeing them, I saw how it was possible.
Chosen by: Tom Vek
As the frontman of ’90s New York hipster-hop ‘slacker jazz’ band Soul Coughing, he encapsulated the sound of post-everything beat music. Even stylistically, the image of Doughty wearing black-rimmed spectacles had a resounding impact. Equally accessible and cryptic in words and tone, he’s thoroughly deserving of cult status.
Chosen by: Freddie Cowan, The Vaccines
I had loads of people I could have chosen for this: But Link Wray was amazing. He was one of the first guitarists to take it to the next level. His record ‘Rumble’ – which probably everyone knows even if they don’t realise it – is just one of the best guitar songs of all time. My old man has got it on his jukebox, and I still think it’s brilliant to this day.
Chosen by: Max Kakacek, Smith Western
We’ve been fans since high school. Jay was young when he started out and you can read his discography as a timeline of his life – his progression from punk to pop, from fucked-up to a little less fucked-up. Whether he was onstage, recording, or just hanging out, he had an air of violent confidence; it made him attractive as an artist and persona.
Chosen by: Ryan Jarman, The Cribs
I was in Chicago a few years back, and Bobby Conn gave me a copy of his first, self-titled record. It’s quite out-there, but also contains the pure pop gem that is ‘Never Gonna Get Ahead’ (a song about not using oral sex to advance your career). It draws you in to his world, which seems nothing like yours. You’ll love it, I’m sure. Whoever you are.
Chosen by: Katy B
When I was about 15 my friend’s dad was always in touch with new soul records. He put his daughter onto Teedra Moses and we rinsed the life out of ‘Complex Simplicity’. She’s been out of the loop since her record label went bust, and has been writing for other artists and releasing mixtapes. But you know what? I want a new album, Teedra!
Chosen by: Alex Turner
I used to pull pints in this bar and Johnny Clarke was there supporting The Fall. He came on, and while I couldn’t see him, I could hear the laughter, he was totally commanding this crowd. I first heard him when I was starting to write lyrics, and it showed me what you could be capable of with language. It really gave me a push, you know?
Chosen by: Fab Moretti, The Strokes
They’re the band that reassured me that maybe I could make music. When I was, like, 15, 16, I had a best friend who just knew all these bands. He would never play them for anyone, but for some reason he would for me every once in a while. He started playing Guided By Voices. It was almost like hearing for the first time.
Chosen by: Theo Hutchcraft, Hurts
Not only is Jehst the best British rapper of all time, he’s also one the greats on an international level. He has the wordplay of a poet laureate, but the raw, uncompromising ferocity of somebody like Eminem. British hip-hop is so much more than the mainstream recognises, and the best will remain underground, where it should be.
Chosen by: NME’s Liam Cash
No musician ever made the distinction between ‘rock’n’roll star’ and ‘cult hero’ more clear than Syd Barrett. Collaborators remember him once suddenly “wearing lipstick and high heels, believing he had homosexual tendencies”. A dark, sporadically beautiful and to this day fascinating character – and the “sporadically” bit is absolutely key.