John RobbWell somehow I made it to 54.

I kind of like this being old business.

Veteran is what i now get called in articles.

The only problem is compiling an insane list like this.

I’ve heard so much music that I can’t boil it down to a quick list.

Instead of a list of hip new stuff to listen to I wallowed in the past – that’s what birthdays are for I suppose.

Usually on my birthday I’m on the road somewhere. Last year I was with the Membranes in Cork and we played a great gig in a music hall. Oddly this year I’m not anywhere. Stranded in Manchester on a bank holiday so I spewed out this list off the top of my head. It’s a mix up of mainly old stuff. Dusty relics of youth. That’s what birthdays are before. tomorrow I will be back out forging and foraging into the future…

Tomorrow it will all change again.

These are not in order…



1. Sex Pistols ‘God Save The Queen’

Still as visceral and thrilling as ever.

2. Swans ‘Screen Shot’

Swans new album, To Be Kind, saw the noiseniks come as close to the Doors long strange trip as is possible in the 21st century. And that’s a good thing.

3. The Saints ‘Know Your Product’

Punk is littered with great lost moments. The Saints should have been massive but they had the wrong hair. That mattered then. They left behind a clutch of brilliant songs. One day some will cover this and take it to number one.

3 and a bit the Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields forever’

Still the most psychedelic song ever. We tested them all whilst in another chemical place and this dark and eerie piece wrapped its tentacles around the subconscious better than anything.

4. Vince Taylor ‘Jet Black Machine’

Pure rock n roll from the writer of Brand new Cadillac – a  special mention to sweet Gene Vincent as well.

5. Rolling Stones ‘Paint It Black’

As spectral and eerie as ever and Brian Jones proving that it’s what you add to A song that creates  the magic dust.

6. The Stranglers ‘Down In The Sewer’

Prog punk psyche genius. Brilliant song from perhaps the greatest band from the punk era. Or any era.

7. The Fall ‘Totally Wired’

Where do you start? Alan Holmes gave us his top 424 Fall songs. Today we have space for just one. Waspish and thrilling and stripped down to the bass assault and snarling vocal and somehow still pure pop.

8. The Damned ‘New Rose’

One of the most thrilling rides in rock n roll ever.

9. Stone Roses ‘Made Of Stone’

Still gives you a shiver down your spine with its insolent crystalline pop rush – see also Jesus And Mary Chain.

10. Jarboe ‘Lavender Girl’

Off kilter genius from Jarbie. See also Danielle De Picciotto for individuality and vision.

11. Big Black ‘Kerosene’

Genuinely malevolent but musically imaginative grinding metal machine music from Albini.

12. Einstuerzende Neubauten ‘Lament’

The whole album – total genius that you can’t take one track from

13. Crass ‘Nagasaki Nightmare’

British event garde at its best

14. Bahuaus ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’

Dark dub genius from one of the most underrated bands ever.

15. George Formby ‘Stick Of Blackpool Rock’

It’s a Blackpool thing

16. X Ray Spex ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’

Lyrcal genius from the charismatic late Poly Styrene tied to one of the great punk anthems…

17. Siouxsie And The banshees ‘Switch’

Ice cold genius from one of the great UK music icons…

18. Ulver ‘Let there Be Light’

Black metal band morph into Miles Davis territory with this drone spook magic

19. The Clash ‘Complete Control’

The most perfect rock n roll song ever-  a song to start riots with.

20. Nirvana ‘Don’t Serve the Sevreants’

Brilliantly recorded by Steve Albini and heartbreakingly stripped down rock.

21. Captain Beefheart ‘Electricity’

Hypnotic angular blues gnarl

22. Jimi Hendrix ‘Voodoo Chile’

Still sounds effortless.

23. Godspeed You Black Emperor ‘Mladic’

Swooping atmsoperic orchestral spook

24. Parliament Funkadelic

Anything from that weird funk planet

25. Buzzcocks ‘Everybody’s Kappy Nowadays’

Manic pop genius, off kilter and insane and yet still dripping honey pop melody

26. Dead Kennedys ‘Colifornia Uber alles’

hilarious political punk brilliance and also skewed rollercoaster ride of bass driven surf guitar madness…

27. Desmond Dekker ‘The Israelties’

Still one of my favourite all time songs – clattering garden shed production only adds to its biblical mystery

28. Generation X ‘King Rocker’

Still one of the great bands from the punk era- one day everyone will realise!

29. Leadbelly ‘In The Pines’

Spooked blues folk weirdness with foggy atmosphere and glowering instant.

30. Lee Scratch Perry – anything

Every song is touched by his genius…

31. King Tubby ‘Badness Dub’

More genius dub. Could be anything- mystical dub magic…

32. Black Flag ‘Six pack’

Rollins joins the Flag and makes their comedy punk anthem sound psychotic and dangerous

33. The Ramones ‘Rockaway beach’

The innocence of youth channelled through the purest of rock n roll . Perfection.

34. The Cramps ‘Strychnine’

The Cramps take Strychnine literally and poison the original with their kooky genius. Poison Ivy is still one of the greatest guitar players in history.

35. Mott The Hoople ‘All the Way From Memphis’

My favourite pre punk song still resounds with a poetic genius

36. Ennio Morricone ‘Few Dollars More’

Only Clint Mansell can match Morricone for film music atmosphere.

37. Magazine ‘Shot By Both Sides’

Unnervingly brilliant ode to political confusion with a thrilling joyride of a riff.

38. Adam And the Ants ‘Whip In My Valise’

38 and a bit Fela Kuti

revolutionary fervour! And a bit of Gnawa as well!

Perfect sex pop and one of the best choruses of all time- dark and strange.

39. Birthday Party ‘Big Jesus Trash Can’

Intellectual switchblade violence distilled into a barely hanging danger riff with blood stained poetry…

40. Can ‘Paperhouse’

A magic mushroom favourite from the late seventies

41. Joy Division ‘Isolation’

Sometimes life just feels like this

42. Section 25 Dirty Disco’

Fellow Blackpool band who were Joy Division’s creative equals but never got the credit.

43. Pink Floyd ‘Vegetable Man’

Syd’s psychotic meltdown was hell for him but before he left there was one last flurry of song writing brilliance before he disappeared.

44. The Slits ‘Typical Girls’

One of the most important band from the punk era. it’s been great conducting in conversations with Viv Albertine this year.

45. Public Image ‘Poptones’

A song to get lost in. It was  a real pleasure to sing this onstage with Wobble and Levene a couple of years ago…

46. Patti Smith ‘Gloria  (“In Excelsis Deo)’

Poetic and thrilling  – the last gasp of the sixties or the first scream of the seventies – the debate continues

47. Kate Bush ‘Wuthering heights’

Still majestically mysterious after all this time.

48. Nik Colk Void ‘Gold E’

Takes you on a trip.

49. Grouper ‘one note’

The power of the drone – one note stretching into the distance – hypnotic

50. Yma Sumac ‘Bo mambo’

The Mambo stretched into shapes you could not imagine with an astonishing voice

52. Missy Elliot ‘Get UR Freak On’

Some of the kookiest pop music ever with video to match

53. Public Enemy ‘Fight the Power’

Still one of the greatest rock bands ever…

54. Shellac ‘Riding Bikes’

From the most perfectly produced rock album ever


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. You’re obviously on a pub making lists on your birthday. I’m 54 next month and resolve to go exactly the same. Astonishing how we will share at least 10. Great list John thanks for sharing.

  2. Happy birthday John! Excellent list – certainly would make an epic playlist for my own birthday in 10 days’ time… :)

  3. Totally agree with your comments on Strychnine John – a fantastic version. 52 soon – might be tempted to make my own list.

  4. Belated ‘Happy Birthday’ and greetings from Warsaw!
    Fantastic list – I’m especially grateful – apart from the Blackpool stuff :) – for so many almost forgotten bands and songs. (Piotr – 49)

      • As UK in this very moment in fact :) Poles will enjoy presidential elections on Sunday. 10 or 11 candidates – one more bizarre from another – with one musican, sort of a local rock-star :)


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