After completing Lockdown LPs, which took me a year, I’ve decided it’s only right to roll out my 12-inch singles. This time, reader, I’m using the alphabet.
1) Abba – Lay All Your Love On Me (Epic)
Found on Knaresborough market, screaming out to be busted free from a world of Celine Dion and Luther Vandross. Come on then, hop in. Obviously a gleaming Europop classic and made better by the Playskool cover and price sticker eye patch on Benny.
2) Acid Washed – Acid Washed (Discograph)
A six-track EP bought on the recommendation of my friend, Steve. It burbles along trippily, as the name suggests, and all six versions weave a blanket of fuzzy electro across an early Friday evening. It reminds me of playing computer games with my little sister Kerstin, aged nine and 13. We spent hours hooked on the driving game Out Run and Kerstin invented an imaginary location for our travails: Pentonville Casino.
3) Air – Sexy Boy (Source/Virgin)
A record bought purely for the artwork in the days when I didn’t own anything to play it on. Sexy Boy was the breakthrough hit for “Air French Band” and they made a huge impression on me. They glue together school and university, for me, but there’s glitter in the glue and Francoise Hardy magically turns up on the B-side, Jeanne.
4) Air – Kelly Watch the Stars (Source/Virgin)
I love Air for the feeling they give me: it is at times mournful space disco but the music reminds me so crisply of an optimistic, exciting time. Nothing much was happening; it was my gap year and I was working in an Off Licence selling gin to old ladies, but I was finally free of essays and looming Septembers and I was looking across a blank landscape that was beginning to glow on the horizon.
5) Dot Allison – Close Your Eyes (Heavenly)
I discovered Dot Allison as a solo artist and back-tracked through her career to find the mesmerising One Dove, her former band and a lesser known Andrew Weatherall project. I fell in love and to this day I dream of finding Morning Dove White on LP. Maybe one day I will; I just need to stay on my toes and visit more charity shops in Glasgow. A folded piece of paper tumbles out of the sleeve and it’s a “set list” typed up by my friend Steve for our Leeds Student Radio music show in 1999-ish. He wants to play Curtis Mayfield and Ganga Kru. I want to play Gabrielle. It’s Give Me a Little More Time, the good one.
6) Arcade Fire – Neighbourhood #2 (Rough Trade)
I have no idea whether this is some rare promo copy or just the standard release. I know I picked it up for £3 from Rat Records, the vinyl treasure trove in Camberwell, south London. Neighbourhood #2 (Laika) is on side A, with Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) on the B-side. It’s messy, raw and gloriously reminds me of my first few months in London: also messy and raw.
7) Arcade Fire – Everything Now (Sonovox)
The one with rave pan pipes and their best song of the last few years. It reminds me of my last few months at Radio 1 where it, amazingly, got regular air play. Every desk had its own speaker and I used to sneakily crank up the volume when this came on.
8) Beats International – Dub Be Good To Me (Go Beat)
A physically dirty record, somehow the song’s fizzing poptimism fights its way through the grime. I never get bored of Dub Be Good To Me. It always makes people grin on the dancefloor. The image of Lindy Layton trying to act cool in Norman Cook’s oversized baseball jacket on Top of the Pops sums up the feeling of everyone winging it from that time. Also, the B-side is called Invasion of the Estate Agents. Because: 1990s.
9) Blur – She’s So High (Food)
I’d forgotten how fun it is hearing B-sides and it’s through them that I access my 16-year-old self; lying on my bed, loft window wide open, listening to these tunes when I should have been doing my homework. She’s So High is, of course, a Blur classic – and the artwork feels iconic now too – but the groovy, extended version of I Know is where the magic lies. It’s Damon Albarn with a bowl cut, swaying about, head upside down, about to put his burgundy Dock Marten through the speaker with a gentle snarl.
10) Blur – Popscene (Food)
A fervoured image of another world
Is nothing in particular now
This single is made far more enjoyable by the fact it never appeared on an album. It should, of course, have been on Modern Life is Rubbish next to the better known hits For Tomorrow and Chemical World. But Blur took offence at its modest chart position of 32 and decided to deny fans a second chance. So it’s a cult classic instead. And it always causes a slightly unhinged mosh pit surge.
11) Blur – Chemical World (Parlophone)
What a mad cover. A glorious, ugly, yuppies-on-pills two fingers to the pop industry of the early 1990s. Most pop bands opted for themselves on the cover (Gary Barlow in a tank top etc) around this time so it was brave. Chemical World is a fantastic tune but, as ever, it’s one of the B-sides that gets my heart all a-quiver. I remember listening to Young and Lovely, aged 16, and realising it was, kind of, about me. Even then I knew this state of loveliness was a flickering light that would dance away from me.
Haven’t got the time
Growing up so fast
Got better things to do
You can get what you want
So young and lovely
12) Blur – To the End (Food)
One of Blur’s best songs but somehow it gets forgotten. Featuring the heavenly nineties bonus of Laetitia from Stereolab’s elegant French vowels, it was always one of the tunes Blur would play as the last of the sun faded into a fuzzy festival evening. It’s a thrill to remember that it’s backed up on the B-side by the Pet Shop Boys’ seriously good remixes of Girls and Boys. Yes please, gay discotheque. Girls! Boys! Girls! Boys!
13) Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (Forbidden Fruit)
It’s good to remember that the long, 12-inch mixes of singles served a very definite purpose – and that purpose was dancing. This beautiful, epic, teasing version of the gay disco classic swells with drama and wraps Jimmy Somerville’s vocals in luscious rose petal synths. It eventually arrives at Duckie-tastic euphoria but it is, of course, the waiting that makes the explosion taste so sweet. Forbidden fruit with all the flavours: from isolation in provincial England to owning the whole damn stage in a fleshy, sweaty, glitter dome where the fruit bowl full of cherries has gone flying. Juice!
14) Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (EMI)
The holy chalice of nature and music belongs to Kate. This glorious long version of Running Up That Hill is backed up by Under the Ivy and is there anything else we really need? Take me to the garden, cover me in leaves. Wake me up when I am half tree.