Sunday, 21 January 2018

TSP's Hottest 100

NB: if you're on a 90s speed internet connection this page is likely to take until the second Bicentennial to open.

Politically Cory Bernardi is a bit of a kent, but I suspect he actually holds the sort of high respect for gimmickery that I admire in a person. Which is where his rival Hottest 100 countdown comes in. There's no better - and more shameless - gimmick than doing something specifically designed to annoy people, then sitting back and watching carnage unfold.

The suggested playlist he uploaded to Spotify was given the boot so quickly that I can't even find the full list to pass judgement on it. I can only assume no real thought went into it, and he just added any Australian track he could find to make a point. This led to the bloke out of Savage Garden threatening to get 'the publishers' in, as if putting your track on Spotify isn't an open invitation for anyone to put it on a playlist.

The irony of the 'businesses should be able to discriminate' crowd being discriminated against wasn't lost, but it's a bit harsh on the people who are looking for a spot of light entertainment as they shelter in place at the prospect of same-sex marriage ripping society to bits. Presumably while also fanging for the new series of Married At First Sight to come on.

The only mistake he made was not to put ads on the voting page, losing the opportunity to make money out of everyone coming along to yell "HA HA COP THAT YOU PRICK!" while voting for Yothu Yindi. Maybe Triple M will do that for their Australia Day countdown, the one that's made people upset because they're shelving their usual January 26 playlist of political lectures and self-immolation.

Instead of deleting the top 100 songs of political party leaders, the process should be encouraged. In fact it should form part of the election campaign, lose one debate and instead have all the big hitters come on and justify their list. Nobody's going to believe anything on Malcolm Turnbull's list after the AC/DC debacle, so what better TV would you ever see than him having to explain how I'm So Excited (The Bum Dance) by Sara-Marie and the Sirens got to #58? Which is 46 places lower than it got to on the actual Australian singles chart you sick freaks. Bill Shorten comes across the sort of guy who'd have picked The Theme From Burke's Backyard before recent revelations.

And so, because I'll be standing on the Depressed Melbourne Fans/#fistedforever Alliance ticket in the next Senate elections (but more importantly because countdowns make me randy) here's my apolitical contribution to the collection of Australian Hottest 100s. Play it on whatever day of the year you like.

House rules
  • Nobody ever reads the rules, but let's be quite clear - this is my personal 100 and should not be confused with sales, critical acclaim or your own favourites. If you don't like it do a Cory and organise your own damn countdown
  • For the sake of variety, a maximum of five songs are allowed from the same artist. It's ok if they appear under different bands, or as solo artists. Otherwise the pool will be so small that I Hate Cats by Rodney Rude will finish top 10
  • Initially I stamped 'NOT AUSSIE ENOUGH' on Dragon and Crowded House. Then it turned out they were both in the ARIA Hall of Fame so they're back in. No hard feelings.
  • Spoiler - Savage Garden will not be calling to complain, and if you've come looking for Horses close the page and go boil yourself in oil
  • For those of you keen on diagnosing problematic scenarios, you'll notice this collection is stacked with male artists. Direct your complaints about toxic masculinity to PO Box 999 in your capital city and I'll send you several pieces of A4 paper (single sided only because my printer is shit) containing my top 100 songs by women of all nationalities.
Have at it:

100. Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls - Dumb Things (1987)

These days if you turned up with an all-white male backing band called the Coloured Girls you'd be in significant trouble. But don't let that - or a close association with the long forgotten Young Einstein - put you off, this is a great tune with a memorable chorus. Also recommended, the bit where he howls the word "howling". It's the simple things.

If you're into that sort of thing there's also a Yahoo Serious-free version of the video which appears to be done for the US market and should have been strangled at birth. It must have worked, the song charted higher on the Billboard Modern Rock chart than it did in Australia.

99. Men At Work - Down Under (1981)

Familiarity breeds contempt. But even taking the cultural impact off the table you can't fight nature, this is just good clean pop fun. The courts say the melody was nicked from Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree, to which we ask how come Iggy Pop never cleaned out Jet for racking the tune of Lust For Life lock stock and fucking barrel? And that's the last you'll be hearing of Jet for the next 98 entries.

98. Divinyls - Sleeping Beauty (1985)

Public perception suggests every Divinyls track featured Chrissie Amphlett screaming her head off with her knickers on show. We'll get to all that eventually. This track still heavily implies a legover has happened (or is currently in play), but in a far gentler way than their other greatest hits. Several years later all subtlety was thrown out the window and they just called the song I Touch Myself.

97. Ratcat - That Ain't Bad (1990)

Their brief run was effectively out of fuel by the end of 1991, but at least it generated two singles worthy of consideration amongst the best. They racked up a #1 album soon after, before putting the feet up and disappearing into the background again.

Unless I'm completely making it up the 1991 TV Week Logie Awards had some sort of musical category, and that I was inspired to buy a stamp, lick an envelope and write in to vote for Ratcat. Several years later TV Week implemented a voting system where you had to type in a number off the front of the magazine. The problem was they didn't bother to randomise the numbers, so you just had to go into the shop, write one down, then add a digit every time. Cease and desist letters were sent by the publishers, and urban legend suggests somebody was put on by the magazine just to weed out votes for Hot Dogs off Big Brother. Then they discovered how to make a motza off SMS voting and laughed all the way to the bank.

96. Hoodoo Gurus - Tojo (1983)

Always reminds me of that Cyclone Tracy movie where the guy innocently rings up from interstate, asks what Santa brought for Christmas, and gets the immortal reply "A BLOODY CYCLONE!"

95. Flash and the Pan - Walking In The Rain (1979)

The Grace Jones version is way better, but she can't even claim a tenuous link to Australia so the original will do for now. Warning - if you like your songs full of action you're shit out of luck here, it doesn't really go anywhere.

94. Faker - Hurricane (2005)

From the 'randomly seen on Rage while flicking through the channels' file. I'd have probably kept going the first time I heard that wonky first line, but the video shot in the State Library (my second favourite Melbourne building behind the Arts Centre fact fans!) kept my interest and by the end I'd gotten right into it. That's how wonky this countdown is, if it had been filmed in any other library I'd have pushed on and likely never listened to it again. Let me tell you, realising that this is from a full 12 years ago makes me feel SO OLD. The first time I heard the name Chet Faker I just assumed it was this guy. Apparently not.

93. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Stagger Lee (1996)

Forget Nick clubbing in Kylie's head and disposing of the body in a pond, this was the standout of the thrilling Murder Ballads era. Well, thrilling if you were 15 and keen on gratuitous violence anyway. It was a version of a hundred year old song, but dripped with menace like nothing else on offer at the time. Suffice to say you could only get it via Triple J, because commercial radio wouldn't touch this sort of thing with a 10 foot bargepole.

To prove that nothing good comes of festivals, watch Nick do it at Glastonbury in 2013 in front of a bunch of gurning fucks waving flags and a plastic shark on a pole.

92. End Of Fashion - Oh Yeah (2005)

Another one I picked up at random in an era where I was doing my best to avoid new music. The singer has an incredibly punchable face, the opening line is probably the worst in this list and to begin with the music is a bit Pixies - Where Is My Mind, but it gets better. It's all tip and no iceberg as the best work is done in the chorus, but it's a great chorus so ultimately balance is achieved.

91. Tina Arena - Heaven Help My Heart (1995)

Surely only a tiny percentage of the listeners to Martin/Molloy had even the remotest interest in the music. You'd sit there doing the international gesture for 'get on with it' at the radio whenever they spun Meredith Brooks, Merrill Bainbridge, Alanis Morisette or asked the time-honoured question "What If God Was One Of Us?" Well he wouldn't had stood for the Nicki French version of Total Eclipse of the Heart, that is for sure.

Err, anyway, occasionally one of these female demographic focused tracks would hit the spot (I've decided that the shouty Mother Mother by Tracy Bonham deserves another look 20+ years on). I'd never have admitted it to my classmates lest they wrap me up in a carpet and roll me down a hill, but this was a great pop song.

90. Cold Chisel - Home and Broken Hearted (1978)

My first exposure to the extended Chisel catalogue was that greatest hits album with a cover that looked like Piss Christ by Andres Serrano. This wasn't on there, so I didn't hear and appreciate it until years later. It's rough as guts, but once you tune into the lyrics the story sticks together perfectly across three and a half minutes. Chisel got better, but this is the best of their 70s stuff.

89. You Am I - Rumble (1998)

A rare music video where Tim Rogers looks like he can be bothered. This song was one of the reasons that I let myself be talked into spending New Year's Eve 1999 at the Falls Festival. My then girlfriend's dad was a security guard, so a side-door was MYSTERIOUSLY left open to allow us gratis entry.

Research suggests they were only third on the bill behind the Violent Femmes (fuck me, what is this country's obsession with them?) and The Tea Party, but if they weren't the headliners I certainly stopped paying attention when they finished. It was not a great crowd to be in with an apocalyptic computer meltdown looming, two guys climbed on top of a giant tent and almost double bounced each other off, then some dickhead who'd failed his Illegal Fireworks licence test tipped them over and they fired horizontally into the crowd. In the end the only Y2K issue was going to work at Video Planet in Tooronga Village the next day and discovering the fax machine had necked itself.

88. Midnight Oil - Dreamworld (1987)

It's a fair guess that Peter Garrett hanging shit on everyone even marginally aligned with the right of politics would not have featured prominently in the Cory Countdown. In this one Pete accurately predicts Docklands by warning of apartments being built on every square foot of free land.

In this case I can understand where Cory and the Conservatives (shit band name) are coming from. It's hard to completely remove yourself from the politics of songs. But in the case of the Oils the songs are so good that even if they occasionally bash you over the head with the message only the most wound-up ideological warrior wouldn't be able to turn their political views off for four minutes and enjoy the experience.

87. Little River Band - Playing To Win (1984)

No interest in LRB's glory era (or when everyone started suing each other), but you can't argue with the #1 song on the ARIA 80s Footy Highlights countdown. If you're lucky you might see brief snatches of Robbie Flower roaming the wing, but it's more likely to feature endless Essendon vs Hawthorn footage. In fact it may just have been this package (coming to you courtesy of National: The Big Entertainer) featuring Jacko squaring up to a nonplussed Danny Hughes. Meanwhile, could they not have given John Farnham a more flattering microphone? It looks like he's singing into a giant Pollywaffle.

86. Spiderbait - Monty (1995)

I never understood the national obsession with Spiderbait, and can't properly explain why this still appeals to me now. Maybe it's the memories of being 14 and seeing a video with two robots kicking shit out of each other.

85. Lynne Hamilton - On The Inside (1979)

Technically TV themes shouldn't qualify, but a) it was released as a single and went to #4, and b) is from my favourite Australian TV of all time so cram it with walnuts detractors. Evokes memories of my top five inmates - 1) Rita Connors, 2) Bea Smith, 3) Sandy Edwards, 4) Helen Smart and 5) Queenie "Hello chickens!" Marshall

84. The Birthday Party - The Friend Catcher (1981)

By the time Murder Ballads came around Nick Cave could sing a song about killing somebody and you knew it was an act, but at this abrasive stage it sounded like all he wanted in the world was for the opportunity to knife somebody in a dark alley. Christ only knows what it was all meant to mean, but it's like taking a wrong turn and accidentally walking into the house from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

83. Weddings, Parties, Anything - Monday's Experts (1993)

Reputedly a 'Melbourne thing', but perfectly nails the worldwide phenomenon of arseholes who don't have any solutions before something happens and know how it should have been done after.

82. The Whitlams - Melbourne (1997)

"In love with this girl, and with her town as well" is such a great line. I loved this song, and the album, at the time. Have cooled on both but it's still a worthy contender.

81. AC/DC - Jailbreak (1976)

This one's for you Bon fans. And the next one isn't.

80. AC/DC - Who Made Who (1986)

Your views may differ, especially if you were around at the time, but I prefer the post-Bon version of AC/DC. This track correctly identified a dystopian future where artificial intelligence goes rogue and fucks us all up years before Terminator 2: Judgement Day. You can have Bon if that's what you want, but to be it's all about a Geordie in an Andy Capp style cloth hat screeching as if his larynx has been crushed in an industrial accident.

79. Custard - Apartment (1995)

As lo-fi as all buggery, but gives me warm nostalgic feelings. Best listened to without the video, you couldn't expect them to put on a Spielberg production with a rock bottom budget, but it is so cheap and nasty that it makes me angry.

78. The Sports - Who Listens To The Radio (1978)

Not nearly as many people as 40 years ago. The performance on this one is crucial, there's another version and I wouldn't rate it anywhere near my top 100. From the same lead singer who later brought you the "I feel better, so much better now" Medibank jingle.

77. INXS - Baby Don't Cry (1992)

Of everyone in this countdown INXS wouldn't be my #1 act, but they had the most singles that were in contention. There was the hits, but also plenty that did rock all on the charts and have all but been forgotten. My familiarity with their obscure releases came too late to be of any benefit to Michael Hutchence, when he died Rage played every INXS video they had on file and I taped it to watch again and again, discovering a new appreciation for different tracks every time.

This was nowhere near their best received song, only reaching #30 on the charts and totally passing me by at the time, but now I rate it amongst their best. Meanwhile in reference to the video, even when he's wearing a suit that looks like the David Jones logo how desirable is Michael Hutchence? It would be awkward if I went back in time and retrospectively turned for him given that I was 16 when he died, but still...

76. The Choirboys - Run To Paradise (1987)

There was a very brief time in the mid 2000s where I'd be seen 'out', and gee whizz didn't pissed people love singing along to this? They'd go off for the opening and the first few lines like the crowd at a wedding when Loveshack comes on, hush up on the bits about rampant drug addiction, then come back in for the chorus. Now I just stay home and compile obscure top 100 lists.

75. Mark Of Cain - LMA (1995)
This will officially mark the only time in your life where you'll read a countdown that has Tina Arena in the same half of the draw as rough as guts shouty rock produced by Henry Rollins. You can only assume I got this off Triple J, where in god's name else would I have heard it?

74. The Easybeats - Friday On My Mind (1965)

The earliest song to qualify for the list, and the only one of two contenders from the 60s. You can have your Billy Thorpes and Daddy Cools, they don't do a cracker for me. At the risk of having my house fire-bombed, when it comes to Vanda and Young I prefer Flash and the Pan, but it's impossible to deny that this stands up to anything the British or Americans were doing at the same time.

73. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Into My Arms (1997)

There's something to be said for music to throw yourself into the sea to, even if you're not currently considering filling your pockets with rocks and jumping in. Starting with the funeral of Michael Hutchence (shortly after the surprise intervention of 'serial pest' Peter Hore from an upstairs balcony), it's become the key song to not hear playing because you're the one in the box.

72. Cruel Sea - Better Get A Lawyer (1993)

Even though this only went to #29 on the charts I do remember it coming out. Even at an age where you don't yet fully understand why people would need a good lawyer you knew somebody had done something they shouldn't have.

71. The Loved Ones - The Loved One (1966)

Not sure if they achieved the complete musical turducken by also calling their album The Loved One(s), but that's not important right now. I suspect in the 60s this was the sort of gritty, sleazy vocal that would have caused parents to throw their kids' records out the window like a discus.

70. INXS - Bitter Tears (1991)
Another of the 90s INXS collection discovered via late night VHS recording, and again one that was practically ignored by the punters at the time. It barely scraped into the top 40 but is ripe for re-evaluation now. Unlike Custard they had no excuse for releasing such a low budget community television quality music video in support.

69. Silverchair - The Greatest View (2002)

By this point the Chair had money to sink into ritzy production, but the bloom was off the rose. Nevertheless this was a great lead single from an otherwise meh album.

68. The Whitlams - I Make Hamburgers (1994)

At the risk of going a bit Cory, you'd get hauled over the coals for releasing this now. Good luck getting Triple J to play something about a guy shagging everything that moves, complete with the sort of bouncing bed spring noises that used to come from the flat above us when I was old enough to know what that meant. There would be petitions.

67. Hoodoo Gurus - What's My Scene (1987)

Another one that you don't think much about because you've heard it played everywhere from pubs, to NRL ads for more than 25 years. Not even my favourite Hoodoo Gurus track, but the iconic chorus deserves to be more than background music

66. Boom Crash Opera - Dancing In The Storm (1989)
This completely passed me by at the time, presumably because I was busy buying Cassingles of the Technotronic Megamix and Ride On Time by Black Box. It wasn't until a good 15 years later when a politician got in trouble for using it without permission that I heard it for the first time. Singalong chorus surprisingly not a favourite of shithouse pub cover bands.

65. Divinyls - Boys In Town (1981)

The sound of a country town where many dubious things are going on but everyone (including the police, because they're involved in most of it) is turning a blind eye. Outsiders not welcome. Possible cousin marriage. Not to be underrated - the fluorescent light tube mic stand in the video.

64. Midnight Oil - Hercules (1985)

With a hundred songs to get through, I'm comfortable in just saying that the highlight of this is how he sings "SAAAAAAAAAABMARINES!" The lowlight is the epilepsy inducing video - you have been warned.

63. Skyhooks - Women In Uniform (1978)

Skyhooks never did it for me - perhaps it's residual anger after they released the rock bottom Jukebox In Siberia right in the middle of my most productive Cassingle purchasing period - but this is undeniably good. It achieved to such a high level that Iron Maiden (with some shitbox early lead singer) covered it really badly two years later.

62. Hoodoo Gurus - Death Defying (1986)

Nothing promises a good time like the lines "all my friends are dead, or they're dying". Video also features a guy in an LA Dodgers cap, which is great news if I can ever be bothered updating my long abandoned Sports merchandise in music videos blog. That would see Hoodoo Gurus go into the Dodgers section alongside Dr Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube.

61. Mr Floppy - Get A Dog Up Ya (1993)

The greatest Australian phrase. In music form. Seemingly exists only to taunt 'Billy'. Like TISM with additional soundbytes from infomercials.

60. TISM - 40 Years - Then Death (1987)

Speaking of TISM, there are strict instructions that this is to be played at my funeral if I die anywhere around 40. If I defy expectations and go longer I'll have to take another look at the playlist.

59. The Birthday Party - Dead Joe (1982)

The suggestion is that this is a tribute (of sorts) to Nick Cave's father Joe who died a few years earlier. It sounds more to me like the narrator has come across the horribly mutilated body of an automobile accident victim. Did his father die in a car accident? I'm not reading the autobiography to find out.

58. You Am I - Heavy Heart (1988)

Like Karl throwing Homer an umbrella back when The Simpsons was good (post idea: rate all Simpsons episodes from the start until it became unwatchable) this gets me right there every time.

57. Australian Crawl - Errol (1981)

To be fair this is bogan stuff, but enough time has passed that the slop of today would have no idea who Errol Flynn was so it's ok to like it again. Aspiring to be like one of this country's maddest international rooters is a noble enough pursuit (if you ignore all that), but it's just such a joyful track that they could be singing about anything. Double that with a music video that is just "the lads pissfart around in Surfers Paradise" and it's a winner all round. You suspect fornication may have taken place in or around the video shoot.

56. Kylie Minogue - Did It Again (1997)

She's had bigger sellers, but hands down the best song and video Kylie has ever done. The Minogue multiplier gimmick in the video is also a winner. For the record #1 Sex Kylie (isn't that right Michael Hutchence? Michael, open this door right now and answer me), #2 Indie Kylie, #3 Cute Kylie.

55. Australian Crawl - Things Don't Seem (1981)

Proof that the lyrics of a song need not be in any way comprehensible to make it a success. Popular music's first interactive experiment, where you could make up your own words and it didn't detract from the experience.

The very first thing I ever searched for on the internet was the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit, but for many years I never even bothered to work out what was going on here. It felt better not to know, and to just assume James Reyne had a medical emergency mid-recording. Apparently Australian Crawl was massive in Brazil, presumably because they thought he was singing in an obscure local dialect.

53. Hunters and Collectors - Do You See What I See (1988)

Maybe the connection with the AFL Grand Final ruined it for me, but I can't stand Holy Grail. This, on the other hand, delivers the goods from start to finish and couldn't be ruined by heavy association with sporting events my team will never participate in.

52. Baby Animals - Early Warning (1991)

I failed to properly appreciate this in 1991. Until the mid 2000s when it came on at the arse end of a Music Max Top 100 Songs To Mow Your Lawn To (or something similar) countdown and I realised it was a fair belter. Unless I imagined it there's also a rancid US market version of the video that should be avoided at all costs.

51. Ian Moss - Tucker's Daughter (1989)

More divisive than the date of Australia Day, but I'm into it and it's my countdown so there. I'm not surprised Mr. Tucker would be antsy about the relationship, she appears to be about half Mossy's age. Video also contains barely covered norgs, which would have been welcomed on television in the late 80s.

50. Grinspoon - Just Ace (1997)

Triple J's commitment to playing music that sounds like it was recorded in a basement occasionally delivers something worth listening to. About once every five years by my calculation. At 1.46 this never wears out its welcome. Shockingly it was only when searching for the clip to embed above that I discovered he says he "had a go kart" not "had a good day". Which makes significantly less sense. If I was going back 20 years there are myriad other things I'd want to tell myself aged 16, but Jesus H Christ I wish I'd listened closely enough to pick that up sometime since.

49. Something With Numbers - Apple of the Eye (Lay Me Down) (2006)

For a time in the mid 2000s I'd tape the Rage play-through of the Triple J Hottest 100 and scan it to confirm my suspicions that 95 of the songs were actually piss. This was a notable exception, and I played the bejesus out of it for a couple of years before completely forgetting it existed until now. Don't be put off by the lead singer looking like Ben Brown and dancing like he's just stuck a fork in the socket. The top YouTube comment also suggest it was the Big Brother eviction song in 2007, but none of us are perfect. Bonus feature in the music video - the lady from the Ford ads getting it on.

49. The Ferrets - Don't Fall In Love (1977)
I have no explanation as to why I like this so much, I suspect it's because of the way the guy says "NO TIES!?" Part of the charm is that it sounds as if it was dashed off carelessly in an afternoon, and in researching this post (no really) it turns out they recorded it in three hours for a B-Side. Fun fact - Molly Meldrum took a year to produce the album before the band gave up and finished it themselves. Then when it was time to release it he hadn't organised an album cover. If that saga was covered in that Molly mini-series I might go back and watch it.

48. Tumbleweed - Hang Around (1995)

A rare success from the unsuccessful "Adam listens to Triple J" era, as I tried to convert from giant nerdlinger to being on the pulse of what the other kids were into. Didn't work, and when Bullet With Butterfly Wings by the Smashing Pumpkins lost to Wonderwall in the Hottest 100 I gave up and went back to listening to Gold 104. Also, the video has a low budget giant chicken so they knew exactly what I liked.

47. Divinyls - Pleasure and Pain (1985)

Nobody does facial expressions in music videos like this now, because everyone would unmercifully rip the piss out of them for it. I don't know why, even if she is dressed like a student at Maritime Secondary College it's still a spectacular performance. It's all about how the performers sell it. This track drips with sleaze in a way that doesn't force it down your throat (as it were) or heavily wink to the camera about how great it is to be controversial. Which is quiet the achievement given that at one point she's upskirted while crossing a walkway.

46. Australian Crawl - The Boys Light Up (1980)

The sound of drunken Australian anarchy. I can appreciate that connection having missed the early 80s due to being a toddler, but simultaneously understand how to some this would trigger bad memories. Like when people say they can't take Chisel because all the local fuckwits used to sing Khe Sanh, this is the soundtrack to an era where even ordinary men were probably committing sexual assault at a rate now only seen amongst Hollywood producers, and the locals headed out for a spot of minority bashing after a night on the turps. Still, taken in isolation it's a fantastic track. The lyrics are practically meaningless, but it thumps along like a night that's likely to take in several dozen drinks and a reading of the riot act.

45. Madison Avenue - Reminiscing (2001)

The four single, one album Madison Avenue glory era is probably best remembered now for the singer trying desperately trying to drink water while performing a Rock Eisteddfod style medley of hits in her underwear at the ARIA Awards. They should be remembered for this instead, a rare example of a cover slaughtering the original. It was their lowest charting single (albeit at #9, which still represents an impressive career strike rate of 100% top 10 hits), the only one that didn't chart overseas, and the last thing they ever released. Not sure we needed any more Don't Call Me Baby but this was good.

44. The Go-Betweens - Cattle and Cane (1983)

The subtle art house movie of Australian music. The first time I didn't like it, but knew there was something there that meant it deserved repeat listens. Every time another bit of the puzzle unlocked until I really appreciated it, even though it meanders around and never really gets anywhere. Maybe you have to live in the bush to properly understand it? That's not going to happen, so #44 will have to do.

43 .Silverchair - Tomorrow (1995)

Part of my fascination with this was how Daniel Johns and The Other Guys were barely older than me and producing stuff that sounded like the apocalypse was coming. And what was I doing, trying to visualise Year 8 homeroom teacher Miss King in the buff. A'la Smells Like Teen Spirit the lyrics are completely meaningless and only there to complement the sound, but what a sound it is. Two years later at the same age the 'Chair were when this was released my greatest achievement was using PKZIP DOS commands to span a game across several floppy disks for sharing with classmates. Haven't done all that much more since. The countdown will now take a short break while I suffer a midlife crisis.

I think 23 years later I'm safe to admit 'buying' this album with a Target gift card thieved out of somebody's letterbox. It's not big, it's not clever, and if that person tracks me down I will gladly buy them any ARIA Top 40 album of their choice.

42. The Hitmen - I Don't Mind (1981)

In the complicated family tree of Australian music I'm lead to believe that The Hitmen were an off-shoot from Radio Birdman, and you can see the connection in this track. As what I suppose you'd call "surf rock" it's worth 2.39 of your time. The video is also required viewing for a) the mystified butcher holding up a steak, b) the kid crying over a birthday cake and c) the blue whale dress.

41. AC/DC - Big Balls (1976)

When it comes to the Bon era some may prefer Long Way To The Top or Jailbreak. Not me, I want the single-entendre song about testicles. Shows where my life is at.

40. Regurgitator - Blubber Boy (1996)

I absolutely could not take anything else they released, but this is a beauty. There's nothing complicated about it, just one of those songs that actually benefits from sounding like it was recorded in somebody's garden shed.

39. Radio Birdman - Aloha Steve and Danno (1978)

It's certainly apt to call this surf rock, given that it's about Hawaii 5-0. One of those tracks that you can appreciate as a good tune 30 years later, but which must have levelled people when it came out. But not many, the album it was on did nothing and they split up shortly after.

38. INXS - Suicide Blonde (1990)

80s INXS is more popular and commercially successful, but I have a sneaky love for their 1990 - hotel debacle catalogue. This is the confident sound of a frontman at his peak, with anything (and I mean ANYTHING) he wants at his fingertips. It would later go tits up, but for now Hutchence can do no wrong.

37. You Am I - Purple Sneakers (1995)

There are generally two reasons to feel a twinge of embarrassment when listening to a song. One is because it's so god damn awful that you feel bad for everyone involved, the other is because the narrative tells a perfect story about somebody feeling miserable. This is most assuredly the latter.

36. TISM - Let's Club It To Death (1990)

The adage "funny don't draw money" is usually correct, and indeed it's not like this stormed the top of the singles charts but nobody mixed comedy and songs that were actually worth listening to like TISM. If it was Who Farted? by The Vaughns you would ask for every remaining copy to be melted and poured down the throat of the person who wrote it, but they kept the balance of gags and music subtle enough to be at least critically successful. Well, #86 on the album charts successful anyway.

35. Living End - All Torn Down (1999)

The first wave of Green Day-lite Living End songs didn't do a cracker for me, and to be fair nothing after this has either. Which makes this wistful (!?) track about new developments replacing old buildings even better. Impressively it came just two years after they were doing videos causing chaos in schools, but nothing of its ilk has followed in the 19 years since.

34. Disco Montego featuring Katie Underwood - Beautiful (2002)

Where one of the members of TV pop fly-by-nighters Bardot runs in the top 35 of an all-time Australian songs list. With good reason, this is the best Australian pop tune of the 2000s. And for the record the 1999 version of me has just called in to point out that Katie was the top act in Bardot by so far it wasn't funny.

33. The Go-Betweens - Spring Rain (1986)

The Go-Betweens are like The Fall, a band who I discovered a handful of great songs from, expected to fall in love with the entire back catalogue, and was left non-plussed by most of it. This - one of only two charting singles, reaching the lofty heights of #92 - is one of the best, nothing over the top about it, just a nice pop song. As an added bonus enjoy The Go-Betweens and Andrew Denton in a syrup, doing one of the worst segments in Australian TV history.

32. The Hitmen - Pay Up Or Shut Up (1982)

Criminally not even a single off their second (and last under that incarnation of the band) album. This may be the only time it's ever considered in the conversation about great Australian tracks but I will go to war to argue that deserves a place.

31. Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls - To Her Door (1987)

In recent years there has been a movement to be ironic about Christmas things. Die Hard is suddenly the greatest Chrimbo movie ever, and everyone falls about for How To Make Gravy on December 21. What rubbish, this is the heartfelt Paul Kelly reunion song you want. Even if the song is non-committal on whether Jack pulls it off and gets the family back together but you'd like to assume he does - especially after spending a year in rehab. That's some ring-a-ding-ding commitment to getting clean, let's hope the first time the kids start screaming for money to play the pinnies he didn't get depressed and hit the piss again.

30. Redgum - I Was Only Nineteen (1983)

Ever since I can remember Khe Sanh has been the popular pisshead selection war song, but at least for all the problems the narrator of that track has he's not still wandering the jungle waiting to be blown to buggery by a Viet Cong booby trap. He's guy is off to Hong Kong for a spot of relaxing sex tourism, this is the legitimately affecting masterpiece of the genre. It was only years later that I discovered Mick Molloy's "Channel 7 chopper" gag on The Late Show was a reference to this.

29. Midnight Oil - Short Memory (1982)
I'm open to either side of politics if they can successfully answer the eternal question "what's in it for me?", but this is the sort of anger that a right-wing artist could never manage to pull off without going over the top and making a Rex Hunt of themselves. See for example any 'patriotic' country track released in the wake of 9/11. As with all Midnight Oil songs, if you don't like the politics turn your brain off and enjoy it for the tune.

28. TISM - The TISM Boat Hire Offer (1990)

Another Hot Dogma album track, with more where that came from. What an album it was, and this is a perfect opener. Key line - "Bon Scott would be alive this week if he just went fishing from Mordialloc Creek"

27. Dragon - April Sun In Cuba (1977)

I'm still not comfortable with a native New Zealand band that later relocated to Sydney getting a start, but who am I to argue with the Australian Recording Industry Association? Substances may have played a part in the production of this track and/or video.

26. Painters and Dockers - Nude School (1987)

I don't recall being aware of any music in 1987, but this seems like another example of something other capital cities would have looked down on Melbourne for. Which is fine, especially for the magic visual of a drum kit with the word PORK written across it. It got to #29 nationally so somebody interstate must have supported it.

YouTube also tells me they performed it on the 1988 Good Friday Appeal telecast. Given that the song compares the map of Tasmania to a muff (in the grandest Australian tradition), amongst other crimes against decency it probably led to the switchboards melting down with people complaining rather than offering to donate. In the interests of the family audience they kept their clothes on this time, though if they'd gone starkers we might have got Good Friday footy a lot earlier.

25. INXS - Need You Tonight (1987)

Considering how many of their songs I had to cull from the shortlist on the five artist rule, it's a surprise that this is (*spoiler alert*) the highest charting INXS song. If you'd asked me to do this 15 years ago I suspect it would have been #1, but I've cooled off on it since. Still a great track, and a video where Hutcho's sex god credentials are boosted by the rest of the band coming off like the biggest nerds in music since Cliff Richard. Maybe that was the point? Didn't stop at least one of them getting it on with a supermodel later, so there was obviously no lasting damage.

24. Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over (1986)

Not in any way a song about Australia, but in 2001 it was ranked the second best New Zealand and seventh best Australian song, so I guess while it qualifies for the top 25 here it can't sit in the Senate. It's a great track, but I'm not entirely sure how it made it to #2 on the US singles chart, because it's not nearly bombastic enough for that market. Maybe because it's one of the few successful music videos to feature ironing.

23. Flash and the Pan - Hey St. Peter (1977)

The least attractive band in Australian history, but we won't hold that against them. Unlike some of the songs in this list that have a beauty in being stagnant for a couple of minutes, this is all go from beginning to end. From the spoken word verses, to chorus, piano solo and a bloke playing the drums dressed as a bishop Flash and the Pan (or Flash 'n The Pan depending on who you were listening to) did it all.

22. Divinyls - Science Fiction (1983)

In which the only thing likely to get in the way of a leg-over is the threat of coming nuclear oblivion.

21. The Birthday Party - Release The Bats (1981)

Rattles along for 2.5 minutes without a second wasted. The terrifying sound of being chased down a dark alleyway by roaming mutant thugs in an apocalyptic post-nuclear wasteland.

20. Beasts of Bourbon - Chase The Dragon (1991)

The violent sensation of a being punched in the back of the head while simultaneously undergoing a surprise fully body cavity search.

19. AC/DC - Back In Black

The title track of an album that went boffo despite the perceived handicap of a replacement lead singer. 22 million purchasers could be wrong, but not in this case. The opening sounds like bad news is about to occur, before shifting to iconic vocals that have become an entrance song classic across all mediums of entertainment. Bon who?

18. Divinyls - In My Life (1984)

Not their strongest track musically or lyrically (says me, whose greatest musical achievement was dropping the thing you hit the bass drum with during the Grade 6 school production and having to improvise by hitting it with my hand. Nobody noticed) but it escalates to greatness purely based on Chrissy's balls-and-all manic performance, especially the last 50 seconds when she goes right off. You don't need the video to get the effect, but it certainly helps.

17. Cold Chisel - Bow River (Live) (1982)

It's rare that the live version is ever better, but if somebody gives you the studio version of this as a gift ask them if they've kept the receipt. The band themselves know the truth, labelling the live performance as the 'official' music video. Like most of the great Chisel songs the vocals are a joint effort between Ian Moss and Jimmy Barnes, leading to a frantic finale when Barnesey declares he'll "piss all my money up against the damn wall". Also features class leading harmonica, an instrument that in the wrong hands is almost as offensive as bagpipes.

16. Midnight Oil - King of the Mountain (1990)

This is a great track, but the best thing about it is reading the various kooky theories people have about what it means. Enjoy this page, where somebody goes to a ridiculous level to analyse every single line as if songwriters don't just often put things in that sound good and mean fuck all. After his ridiculous theory that it's about the crowds at Bathurst and/or Peter Brock (as if Garrett would give a rats about them) somebody offers a far more realistic claim about a footrace up a mountain in rural Queensland.

15. TISM - Greg! The Stop Sign (1995)

From never having heard of TISM (and really, as a kid why would you have?) to ravenously trying to collect their entire back catalogue within a couple of years this was the song that started my most rewarding musical relationship. (He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River opened the door to the mass market, but if this hadn't followed straight after I might have put that down as a novelty song on the same level as The Reefer Song and moved on.

I couldn't agree more with this review that refers to it as "thrillingly bizarre". I've got no idea where I first became aware of it, it only made #59 on the singles charts, so it's not like the weekly top 40 was forced to play it under sufferance. And I suspect if it was on Video Hits it would have been an edited version that didn't show a dog lapping away at vom. However I found it, what an eye opener to hear a song referring to classic Victorian topics like TAC ads and the Dandenong line (sure, that's not even a real line but you know...) It inspired me to spend my limited finances on a copy of Machiavelli and the Four Seasons and the rest is history.

14. Cold Chisel - Saturday Night (1984)

Like Collingwood, Cold Chisel are probably the greatest unit in their field since Federation but have been dragged through the mud by dickhead fans. Now that a new generation has updated their three slabs at a BBQ singalong from Khe Sanh to Horses (*spit*) there may be some hope for rescuing Chisel's reputation yet.

From the snatched pisswreck conversations at the start ("Well if you don't like it what are you just standing there for 20 minutes for?"), to the startlingly unusual mention of "l'esclavage d'amour" and Barnsey casually joining the Mardi Gras parade like he's Ferris Bueller - what more do you need to understand the magic of Chisel? Even if the music doesn't float your boat you'd have to be wilfully obtuse to still want to debate their bogan status after listening to this.

13. The Go-Betweens - Streets of Your Town (1988)

Songs can achieve greatness in many ways, but in this case it's the way you're plugging along like it's the jolliest thing recorded since Shiny Happy People until a casual mention of "battered wives" temporarily takes you aback. Then it goes back to being a cute love song as if nothing had ever happened. As a single it couldn't draw money with paper and a box of crayons, but has been quite rightly rehabilitated as theme or background music for practically everything made since.

12. Dragon - Rain
Underrated track with one of the great instrumental intros and a killer chorus. I always thought for reasons unknown that this was about somebody with anorexia, of which there is absolutely no proof at all in the lyrics. Tell your friends that's the actual song meaning and see if you can poison the well to the point where my point of view is considered correct.

11. Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mine (1990)

The other half of the big two from the Blue Sky Mining album, and proof that you can in fact write a heavy handed political song (complete with randomly appearing SLOGANS in the video) that is a bona fide musical classic too. Purists will disagree, but to me this is their best work.

10. The Whitlams - No Aphrodisiac (1997)

Not even remotely to everyone's taste, but certainly their most successful period. It led to an ARIA award or two, and if I recall correctly Gough Whitlam presented one of them, surely alerting the other nominees in advance that they were going to lose in the biggest awards night fiasco until Madison Avenue.

This is a song that rewards patience, it's only in the last 90 seconds when the narrator gets the horn and goes off on one about sexual shenanigans and his "video set-up" that it escalates from reasonably good to magnificent. Never before has an Australian song sounded more like a middle-aged suburban swingers party organised through the classified ads. Which is how I assume people used to set that sort of thing up before the internet came along and kicked things up a notch.

9. Cold Chisel - When The War Is Over (1982)

Further proof that despite what people in singlets who drove utes thought, Chisel were so much more than what they've been stereotyped as. It is made by the duelling vocals of Ian Moss and Jimmy Barnes, and has a genuine emotional impact on me. So there.

8. Boys Next Door - Shivers (1979)

25 years later they'd have had to battle accusations of being emos, and would probably have been chased down the steps of Flinders Street Station by a baying mob, but by 1979 standards it's remarkable. Sometimes the opening line is just there to get you to the good bits, in this case he just comes right out and says "I've been contemplating suicide" and everyone goes "Pardon? What what was that?" Rowland S Howard wrote this at 16 - and though he reportedly meant for it to be played for laughs - it's significantly more clever than what I was doing at that age, mostly playing Championship Manager 96/97.

As a kid I only knew the Screaming Jets version, where the opening line is delivered in the fashion of a pub rock cover band from Rowville and things don't get any better from there. It wasn't until years later - surprise, surprise during a random late night viewing of Rage - that I saw this definitive version and understood that it was a great track which had been mangled beyond recognition.

7. Max Sharam - Coma (1995)

She came, she dropped one popular album and I seem to remember appeared in one kooky interview on Martin/Molloy then was off. This is the best of what was left behind, all sitars and ethereal Kate Bush style weirdness. In 1995 I was packed off to Norfolk Island for a holiday with my aunt, and fully intended to buy Max's album with the provided spending money. Of course what I didn't take into account was that islands in the middle of the ocean didn't tend to have a Brashs. Instead I bought a watch that could also control televisions with and tormented the piss out of my geography teacher.

6. AC/DC - Hells Bells (1980)

Lead singers are not like footy team coaches or Pippa from Home and Away, changing them very rarely ever ends well. As discussed earlier, hardcore AC/DC fanatics may have passionate/violent views about the merits of Brian Johnson vs Bon Scott, but imagine going out and finding a replacement for an iconic singer who's just carked it, then recording what is still the second biggest selling album ever at the first. Talk about setting yourself up for the future.

This is the first track on the album, and unless you were desperately clinging to the past you could not have asked for anything better. It doesn't go straight in full hard rock mode, noodling away with actual bells and slow moving tension for 90 seconds before really kicking off. After all that time the opening lyrics shouldn't have any impact, but the lines "I'm a rolling thunder, powering rain, I'm coming on like a hurricane" are the perfect bridge between that ominous opening and the actual screeching to follow.

5. Crowded House - Mean To Me

Lucky the ARIA Hall of Fame committee got Crowded House in, because it would have been criminal to have to exclude this on international eligibility rules - even if it is about somebody going from America to New Zealand and having a shit time, with no discernible connection to Australia. The whole thing is brilliant, but the best bit is the cold opening where it just goes straight into the lyrics without any warm-up.

4. The Saints - (I'm) Stranded (1976)
Never before has a singer sounded so bored in front of a wall of sound and it has come off so well. Given its lofty ranking this is obviously in no way a criticism, and in fact it makes the song so good. By the time I got around to hearing this practically everything had been done, but it must have blown the hats off people's heads when it came out. Meanwhile, you can't beat a music video where the singer has to finish his ciggy before stepping forward to the microphone.

3. TISM - Life Kills (1990)

For enthusiasts only. An album track buried deep at the end of Hot Dogma, an album that the band hated the production on. It was so unpopular internally that they later pissed about with the running order and track listing for their box set album collection. I don't know why, it's always been my clear favourite. Especially this, which I first heard in the late 90s after going on a post-Machiavelli and the Four Seasons TISM back catalogue binge. For many years its lyrics guided my life philosophies, which is probably why I was so deadset on dying alone and childless until I was 30. The line 'life's just death made retrospective' still affects me in strange ways now.

2. You Am I - Berlin Chair (1994)

The musical equivalent of a film that nobody watches in cinemas (it reached a grand #73 on the singles chart on release) but becomes appreciated as a classic years later. It's also a mainstay of these sorts of lists (though I bet Cory didn't rate it), and why not?

The shaky legged bloke in a disco suit at the start of the video has become an icon (has he ever been tracked down for comment?) but even if it didn't sell squat on initial release there's a tragic gulf in class between the clip - seemingly shot in a high school gym with the basketball ring just out of shot - and the quality of clip. There is a US version, unfortunately it features some bullshit Beatles gimmick and a semi-interested Tim Rogers so shaky disco man comes out on top by default. Meanwhile, between the release of this song and the advent of mass-market internet how many people knew a Berlin Chair was a real thing?

1. Cold Chisel - Choir Girl (1979)

The French bit in Saturday Night might by the prime evidence against Chisel being a purely bogan enterprise, but this is the exclamation mark on the last page of the brief. Don Walker set out to write a hit single about abortion and managed to slip it all the way to #14 on the singles charts, via airplay on two Sydney radio stations owned by the Catholic Church. Not until The Shamen got kids across the country singing "E's are good! E's are good!" would anyone pull off such a heist on the Australian listening audience.

Once you know what the subject is there's no hiding it in the lyrics. In fact it's so blindingly obvious that it really must have been a simpler time if people didn't notice. But the lyrics are secondary - especially to the person who wrote the YouTube comment "this whole time I thought it was quiet girl" - to the production. From the piano at the start, to the backing vocals it all just hangs together perfectly.

It's also hard not to enjoy the video, with Jimmy Barnes dressed like the pilot for Miami Vice, breaking into a broad grin when he delivers the serious line "one nurse to hold her", as Steve Prestwich plugs away on drums in a blue singlet like he's just ducked off from the wharf to participate. Later the video switches to the entire band singing in a defensive 2-2-1 formation, with Don Walker and Ian Moss at the back, Prestwich and Phil Small in the midfield and Barnesy leading the line as the target man up front.

There is not a finer Australian track, and in the spirit of this country's most cherished tradition I'll punch on to defend it.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 tweets of the year

... ironically being announced for once on a completely different medium. It was the year Twitter lost its mind and doubled the character the limit, instantly turning it into the sort of tedious slog that you used Twitter to get away from. As such any tweet of longer than 140 was disqualified from contention.

First, the ongoing achievement award to @Jizzlobberz for the animated GIF of the season. Dear Americans, I hate to be the one to say but you may have elected a terracotta fuckwit:

And now the top 10:

10. A tweet for all seasons

9. A sensible, sane and rational reaction to beating West Coast at Subiaco

8. The first of a surprise ham double


6. A rare appearance from a celebrity. Bonus points for the moral outrage in the replies.

5. Now see, did this need more characters? No, it's perfect as it is.
4. Enough said
3. The most watched Twitter video of the year

2. Pure genius
1. And once again, @Super70sSports captures the title. This time with a late breaking classic tweet. Thank you and goodnight twitterists.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Revisiting the David Lee Roth Medal (2005-2014)

If like me you suspect you're on all sorts of spectrums (and unlike Don Burke have not used this as an excuse for rogue touching), you'll appreciate the joy of making lists. Give me the topic, let's rank shit. 

From 2005 to 2014 I enjoyed a decade long interest in discovering new music, before realising that there's so much quality old stuff I've never heard that it makes no sense to wade through the slop to try and find the gold. This has no doubt caused me to miss hundreds of solid gold classics, but stiff shit me.

Anyway, at this time of the year when the DLR Medal was traditionally handed out I thought it worthy to review each countdown and see where we went wrong, and where god help us all I got it right.

2005 (top 30)
1. Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot
2. Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure
3. Goldfrapp - Ooh La La
4. The Killers - Somebody Told Me
5. Bloc Party - Helicopter

What the top five looks like now: Solid - and heavily influenced by a trip to England that year. Goldfrapp's gone far too high here, and while there was early support for The Killers it was hardly the start of a beautiful friendship because I quite seriously never heard anyone sing Mr. Brightside except in a pub until Grand Final Day. The rest of the countdown falls off a cliff not long after though...

Top five today (selected only from the songs in the countdown, bad luck if I discovered a belter later):

1. The Killers - Somebody Told Me (originally #4)
2. Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure (#2)
3. Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot (#1)
4. Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For (#17)
5. Bloc Party - Two More Years (#10)

2006 (top 30)
1. The Young Knives - Here Comes The Rumor Mill
2. Giant Drag - This Isn’t It
3. Silvia Night - Congratulations
4. Lily Allen - LDN
5. Joey Negro - Make A Move On Me

What the top five looks like now: All winners. The #1 stands up as a solid track even if the band went south immediately after. Silvia Night still the unluckiest artist ever in Eurovision history, and added the phrase "congratulations, I have arrived", and while the shine rapidly went off Lily Allen her first album had all the good songs.

Top five today:

1. The Young Knives - Here Comes The Rumor Mill (#1)
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Gold Lion (#11)
3. Silvia Night - Congratulations (#3)
4. Joey Negro - Make A Move On Me (#5)
5. Giant Drag - This Isn't It (#2)

2007 (top 100)
1. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!
2. New Young Pony Club - Ice Cream
3. The Teenagers - Homecoming
4. Arctic Monkeys - Fluorescent Adolescent
5. Jack Penate - Spit At Stars

What the top five looks like now: Up and down - a year when I went absolutely boffo and forced a top 100 and now don't remember about 60 tracks. 10 years later that Teenagers song isn't nearly as funny, the Arctic Monkeys track would have been forgotten by January 1 and what's a Jack Penate? (though that is still a decent song). There's some really good stuff from 30 down though. And a lot of shite.

P.S - The artist called Santogold in the top 100 is sadly not this guy. I've got no idea who they are in retrospect.

Top five today:

1. New Young Pony Club - Ice Cream (#2)
2. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy! (#1)
3. Smashing Pumpkins - Doomsday Clock (#28)
4. The Cribs - Men's Needs (#6)
5. CSS - Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex (#12)

2008 (top 50)
1. Lethal Bizzle - The Come Up
2. Neon Neon - Luxury Pool
3. MGMT - Electric Feel
4. Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream
5. Fryars - Olive Eyes

What the top five looks like now: Solid as a rock - that Empire of the Sun track hasn't aged well but the rest are all worth listening to again. Back to a top 50, and for the first time links to YouTube clips.

Top five today:
1. Lethal Bizzle - The Come Up (#1)
2. Neon Neon - Luxury Pool (#2)
3. Jaguar Love - The Man With The Plastic Suns (#38)
4. MGMT - Electric Feel (#3)
5. Black Kids - Look At Me (When I Rock Witchoo)

2009 (top 50)
1. N.A.S.A - Spacious Thoughts (featuring Tom Waits and Kool Keith)
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
3. Boy Crisis - The Fountain of Youth
4. Bat For Lashes - Daniel
5. Low Fidelity All Stars - The Good Times

What the top five looks like now: Diabolical - the first two were good, #3 was ok, the other two wouldn't have cracked the top 20 in 2008.

Top five today:

1. The Virgins - Teen Lovers (#14)
2. N.A.S.A - Spacious Thoughts (featuring Tom Waits and Kool Keith) (#1)
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll (#2)
4. Deadmau5 featuring Rob Swire - Ghosts 'n Stuff (#6)
5. Cerys Matthews - Arlington Way (#10)

2010 (top 50)
1. My Chemical Romance - Bulletproof Heart
2. Goldfrapp - Rocket
3. Lena - Satellite
4. Keane - Stop For A Minute (featuring K'naan)
5. Paul Heaton - Even A Palm Tree

What the top five looks like now: Average, but not because of the #1. Go fuck yourself, that was a modern power ballad masterstroke. Meanwhile Lena endures to this day. I'm sure Eurovision brings up some more golden songs these days, but since they turned it into a three day endurance event I've lost interest. It's all another appearance for Goldfrapp - who I think had more entries in the history of the DLR than anyone, and would probably win Eurovision - appears again, and this time she was only moderately overrated. Not much for music fans in the rest of the countdown though.

Top five today:

1. Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (#9)
2. Lena - Satellite (#2)
3. My Chemical Romance - Bulletproof Heart (#1)
4. Goldfrapp - Rocker (#2)
5. Keane - Stop For A Minute (featuring K'naan) (#4)

2011 (top 50)
1. REM - Discoverer
2. MEN - Credit Card Babies (Stereogamous Remix)
3. The Strokes - Taken For A Fool
4. Dutch Uncles - The Ink
5. Calvin Harris and Kelis - Bounce

What the top five looks like now: Average - but believe me it's better than about 40 of the other 50 songs in the countdown. A disastrous year, and the point where I started flagging in the quest to discover new tracks. I'd forgotten that Calvin Harris track existed until now, so even though I've listened again and it is modern pop gold I can't honestly keep it in the updated top five.

Top five today:

1. The Strokes - Taken For A Fool (#3)
2. Luke Haines - Inside The Restless Mind of Rollerball Rocco (#9)
3. REM - Discoverer (#1)
4. MEN - Credit Card Babies (Stereogamous Remix) (#2)
5. Justice - Civilization (#14)

2012 (top 50)
1. Loreen - Euphoria
2. Escort - Cocaine Blues
3. Plan B - Deepest Shame
4. Jim Noir - Ping Pong Time Tennis
5. Elton John vs PNAU - Icy Black Stare

What the top five looks like now: Solid - all worth listening to again, and headed by the greatest Eurovision track ever and one of the great pop songs of the 21st century.

Top five today:

1. Loreen - Euphoria (#1)
2. Bobby Womack - Stupid (#10)
3. Escort - Cocaine Blues (#2)
4. Haim - Don't Save Me (#9)
5. Elton John vs PNAU - Icy Black Stare (#5)

2013 (top 50)
1. Franz Ferdinand - Right Action
2. Daft Punk - Get Lucky
3. Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance
4. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
5. Cold War Kids - Jailbirds

What the top five looks like now: Reasonably good - I've got NFI what that Arcade Fire song is now, and it's odd to have two tracks from the same artist in one top five but how could you argue with Daft Punk in 2013? I sorely underestimated that Cold War Kids song, they have never done anything I like but this otherwise throwaway album track is magic and makes me strangely emotional every time I hear it.

Top five today:
1. Cold War Kids - Jailbirds (#5)
2. Neon Neon - The Jaguar (#7)
3. Franz Ferdinand - Right Action (#1)
4. Daft Punk - Get Lucky (#2)
5. Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance (#3)

2014 (top 35)
1. Jungle - Busy Earnin'
2. Syn Cole - Miami 82 (Vocal Mix)
3. Future Islands - Seasons (Waiting On You)
4. Graham Parker and the Rumour - Stop Crying About The Rain
5. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - In The Heat Of The Moment

What the top five looks like now: A cry for help - what's that Noel Gallagher slop? No wonder I was so disillusioned with new tracks that I could only find 35 to choose from. It was a horrible year for it, hence why I gave up. Wait until you see what I replaced Noel with...

Top five today:
1. Jungle - Busy Earnin' (#1)
2. Syn Cole - Miami 82 (Vocal Mix) (#2)
3. Future Islands - Seasons (Waiting On You) (#3)
4. Graham Parker and the Rumour - Stop Crying About The Rain (#4)
5. Taylor Swift - Shake It Off (#8)

And that's it. See you in 2018 for a top 0.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

TSP's top 10 tennis players

From Christmas until just after the Australia Day fireworks give somebody the shits in the middle of their service it's time to pay close attention to a sport that we give chuff all to the other 46 weeks a year.

I could have been a tennis player, if not for the fact that I was completely shit at it. Like cricket where trying to hit every single ball for six always seemed to backfire I just wasn't made for a sport where concentration and precision was required - and wasn't going to practise a killer serve to compensate. Roped into playing some rock bottom level of junior competition I was roughly 0-20 in singles and 1-19 in doubles over two seasons - and even the doubles win was because my partner did all the work.

Eventually on a morning where health and safety regulations hadn't yet been invented we were told to keep playing in 40 degree temperatures at 10am, and finally realising that wasn't going to be the sport for me I smashed my racquet around the net pole and walked off. Surely no 15-year-old has ever enjoyed a better exit to their sporting dreams. If you double those two fruitless seasons with my competition table tennis career 15 years later my overall singles record was about 2-50. It's enough to give you a complex.

So hail then to these legends of the court, who controlled themselves long enough to win a motza in prize money.

Apologies: Michael Chang for the underarm serves in that French Open, Yannick Noah for the hair, to all of Jaime Yzaga, Anna Smashnova and Ludmilla Richterova for their names, Firey Fred Stolle for the commentary and to Pam Shriver for her epic acting in an 80s Kraft Singles ad that has regrettably been removed from YouTube.

Contemporary female winner: Andrea Petkovic
Basically these days grit and success won't do, it's a case of give me gimmicks or GTFO.

Honourable mention: Damir Dokic
Not a player, but what a titanic figure in the early 90s. Did lots of suspect things and cracked the shits over the quality of catering at Flushing Meadow but he provided a proper villain for the world to rally around - and tennis has rarely been more exciting. At least appearing on this list doesn't earn him a sweet pay day, unlike say Kia making him the face of their ads. For all the good 'social media' has provided us (e.g. the chance to instantly comment on how shit ads are) it also means the fear of backlash will stop companies from ever appointing such a wacky spokesman ever again.

10. Nick Kyrgios

Speaking of villains I was initially aghast at this guy's over the top behaviour and tantrums. Then I realised that he's not playing the tour to represent Australia and that it matters not a jot to me whether his natural talent is "wasted" or not and started to enjoy his provocative gimmick. Let's stop carrying on like we're the All England Club and are trying to protect the sanctity of tennis, his on and off tag team with Bernard Tomic has been the only thing keeping up interest in this sport outside of December. We should embrace it.

If you were writing it as a wrestling storyline (and if you think about everything that happens in the world like a sports entertainment angle your life will be enhanced) he'd have a bust up with Tomic and agree to become Lleyton Hewitt's protege. For a while things would be nice, and Bernie would seen as the bad guy while people gushed over Nick's reformation under Lleyton's wing. Then they'd both be picked for a Davis Cup tie, the other members of the team would be injured during the weekend and force them to play doubles together. Then just before the match starts they'd have a tense 'strategy' session with the coach which would lead to them both turning on him, wrapping a racquet in a flag before smashing it and walking off laughing as Australia loses by default to the Central African Republic. This inspires Hewitt to launch a comeback, and after a few months of vigorous training and taunting from the dynamic duo they play the greatest exhibition match since Bobby Riggs vs Billie Jean King in the middle of the MCG in front of 100,000 people.

Or he could just go to a sports psychologist and emerge dancing down the street like a Hare Krishna. But if he does he won't still be on this list in a year.

9. Petr Korda

As a thin, weedy, pale child there was something thrilling about watching a man of similar stature (but with the added bonus of being fit and healthy) make millions of dollars as a sportsman. There was also an element of this to Wayne Ferreria and Wayne Arthurs as well, but at least both of them looked healthy - this guy appeared as if he was battling malaria.

It was even more impressive that he'd do well in Australia given that he a) looked likely to die at any minute and b) would often wear one of those hats with a flap at the back that's mandatory for primary school children. If you believe Marcelo Rios he may have had some assistance in battling through the oppressive January heat.

8. Patty Schnyder

I was a big fan of her large, charismatic hair and she fit right into my world view of players who might make the semi final of the French Open but would need their opponent to die on court if they were any chance of going further.

She was also quite angry, cracking the shits in an email to the WTA Tour comparing the list of players given preferential treatment despite being outside the top 20 to handing wildcards to Michael Jackson and Donald Duck (neither of whom we think would have qualified for the women's tour, especially Donald and his controversial views on the wearing of pants). A further blowup came when she refused to shake Conchita Martinez's hand, and when asked about it in the press conference said:

I just wanted to look at her. I just wanted to stare into her eyes what I wanted to say to her and so I have to have the hand before and then I took it away.

What a legend. No wonder she was so angry, an 'alternative medicine practioner' who she'd fallen in love with convinced her to turn vegan and drink three litres of orange juice a day. Her parents later hired a private detective who specialised in deprogramming cult members to rescue him from Dr. Tennis. This worked so well that he not only rescued her but took his place - presumably with less orange juice. In 2011 the pair was reported to be 400,000 Euros in debt and they split in 2013 but at least she'll always her spot on this list.

7. Mats Wilander

First rose to world prominence by winning the 1982 French Open as an unseeded 18-year-old but didn't mean much to Australia until the Open moved to Flinders Park and the good players started to arrive. I first took interest in the sport in 1988, and my peak viewing years of Seven's Summer of Tennis (+ the Hopman Cup) coincided with his greatest successes on these shores. Many were distressed when he eclipsed Pat Cash 8-6 in the fifth set to win the championship, I said the best man won.

Even when I was that young he just looked like the kind of guy you'd like to hang out with. Compared to the more conservative, some may say boring Stefan Edberg, he was the rock and roll option in Swedish tennis just as their fans were riding the crest of a gigantic wave of public acclaim. Nothing says tennis in my youth more than Mats, a Ford sponsor sign and the sea green court that inspired Fremantle's 1995 playing strip.

In 1995 it was revealed that there were many splendid reasons to knock about with Mats as an adult, as he tested positive for cocaine. He had to return $290,000 worth of prize money after being busted, which makes it some of the most expensive gear ever consumed.

7. Boris Becker

Not only was he so elated at winning the 1991 Australian Open that he dashed straight through the carpark and on to Batman Avenue (risking being run over by the Route 70 tram in its pre-Citylink incarnation) before leaping in the Yarra, but years later found further fame by shagging a waitress in a broom closet. He later described the session as "just poom-bah-boom", but his luck ran out shortly after the boom and nine months later he found out by fax that there was a Boris Junior on the way. Now an email would drop and you'd know you were in trouble immediately, but imagine the look on BB's face as that piece of paper slowly made its way out of the machine while that awful clingy clangy telephone sound was adding to the confusion.

That was all good fun, but this is the real reason he's cracked the top 10. Welcome to the madhouse Boris. To top it all off he went to a game and we lost to the bottom placed side *thumbs up*.
5. Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva

This has nothing - I repeat nothing - to do with the time Zvereva celebrated victory at the Australian Open by flashing her bra to the crowd. They just seemed like an effortlessly cool combination, with Gigi playing the straight woman (as it were) to the Belarussian's wildcard antics as they pocketed 12 Grand Slam titles between 1992 and 1997. Both won slam doubles titles with other partners, but I can only induct them as a team.

Post-Gigi there was more in store for Natasha. Early in her career she narrowly kept Australia's own Nicole Provis out of a French Open final before losing 6-0, 6-0 to Steffi Graf in 34 minutes - and at the end she teamed with the significantly less interesting Anna Kournakova in a losing effort against the Williams sisters before sticking her arms in the air and flipping the crowd off.

4. Martina Hingis

A quick look through my sporting history shows that I'm unlikely to pick a winner. Of the many and varied teams that I follow the only major titles I've ever seen are the 1995 World Series and 2005 NRL. I expected that something exciting would happen in 2015, but no.

I'm not going to start claiming grand slam tennis tournaments in my collection but here's a success story I was backing right from the start. And let's not turn this into a "boo, sexism" incident where reporters are camping in my front yard but it had chuff all to do with tennis, and everything to do with being a horny 14-year-old who was madly in love. I managed to see her Grand Slam debut win against some jabroni called Jolene Watanabe, pretending to my mum that I wanted to watch for sporting reasons. Not long after she was off to centre court and off went any chance of her cracking onto some slightly younger munter from the crowd in glasses Elton John would have turned back for being too flamboyant.

What a low moment it was in my household when Switzerland were eliminated from the 1996 Hopman Cup after Marc Rosset broke his hand punching the wall. I may have cracked the shits and thrown things. By the time she started winning tournaments left, right and centre I was over tennis and onto silent teenage misery. Somehow I managed to miss the Grand Slam doubles tournament where she won in partnership with the aforementioned Natasha Zvereva, which was practically my dream combination.

In later years she turned out to be quite the party animal, becoming the third person on this list to have been nabbed for doping violations and the second who was alleged to have racked mad lines of coke. Also it seems that I may still be a chance.

3. Thomas Muster

Not only did he look like the tracksuit wearing villain in a tennis themed Die Hard movie, but the resume of my all-time second favourite male player speaks for itself:

- First Austrian to qualify for the ATP top 10
- Had to default a final in 1989 due to being run over by a pisswreck motorist shortly after the semi final
- Made a comeback courtesy of a special chair designed to let him keep practising while crocked
- Recovered to forge a grand career kicking the shit out of people on clay courts across the world
- Won the 1995 French Open
- Reached #1 in the world seven years after being run over
- Bonked the host of Australia's Funniest Home Videos
- Made a surprise comeback aged 43 and reached #847 in the world.

2. Gustavo Kuerten

How I wanted to be this guy in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. The lady friendly looks, the zany outfits and a hometown called Florianopolis which could be the biggest shithole in South America for all I know but always sounded like the sort of place a Brazilian version of Batman would live.

The French Open of the 1990s was great for random winners that you never otherwise heard of, and Guga's surprise run to the title while ranked 66th in the world in 1997 fired my imagination. Like the obscure victories of Andres Gomez and Sergei Bruguera before him the victory went unnoticed by most clay-phobic Australian fans (too many troubling memories of having to drag that device around the court at the end of every set while playing on that shithouse fake clay stuff they love here?), but I was in an era where I'd stay up all night watching any old shit then wonder why I was no good at school so I was right across it courtesy of Channel 9. Fred Stolle was definitely involved, Ken Sutcliffe may have been as well.

He was never any good in Australia - never getting past the third round - and was only a quarter finalist elsewhere but on clay he was king. In my dreams there's a French Open final where he plays Muster at their peak.

1. Brenda Schultz

The late 80s were a great time to discover sports, and just as I got into following Melbourne I also discovered another mid-range contender who often threatened great things before winning fuck all. There's nothing on record to explain why I had such a fascination with Holland's #1 sporting export. It certainly wasn't for the same reasons as the person who uploaded the above photo to Wikifeet (!) as Brenda-Schultz-McCarthy-Feet-1764541.jpg

I think what attracted me to her (in a sporting sense you foot worshipping perve) was that in an era before Venus and Serena showed up and started blasting everyone off the court with power Brenda was the biggest server on the women's tour. It was most likely the 1989 season where she made the final in Brisbane and the fourth round of the Australian Open that hooked me in. There was little reward, she never won anything on our shores and seemed to hold out for a tournament in Quebec City where she won twice and played in the final once.

 As with most sporting choices in my life there was an element of the underdog about it. If you decided your favourite players were Steffi Graf and Ivan Lendl they'd be on TV every 10 seconds, if you were in the Brenda Schultz fan club there was genuine glee when she'd randomly show up - usually being beaten senseless by a top seed but that was enough. Patty Fendick and Amanda Coetzer fans must have felt the same way.

My childhood memories of summer mostly revolve around being in this weird religious compound my grandmother would spend her days at where I'd first watch Open All Hours on Channel 7 and then whatever tennis tournament was on. What a rush you'd get when your favourite obscure players came on, and BS (later BSM after adding -McCarthy in a Dianne Fromholtz-Ballestrat style hyphenation by marriage) was my favourite.