Top 10 songs from Birmingham
To commemorate Louder Than War boss John Robb hosting the LibDem Party pop quiz in Birmingham we give you the scientifically researched Top 10 songs from the city, and the surrounding midlands… It’s a list that’s decided by importance/influence or just how much we like the sodding song…
Much maligned in pop culture circles Birmingham is arguably the most influential musical city in the UK with Black Sabbath and half of Led Zeppelin making it a real heavyweight in the music stakes. Black Sabbath have to be one of the most influential UK bands of all time, internationally dwarfing many other trendier outfits and they are in good company with many highly regarded yet oddly unheralded band’s coming from the city…
Black Sabbath ‘Paranoid’
Pure gonzoid genius and one song that could well be argued was the inventor of metal, punk, grunge and a thousand other splinter movements of noisy action. Arguably one of the most influential UK bands of all time, this is not even their best song but is one of the great unlikely hit singles and a door opener into a darker and heavier world of music.
Roy Wood is one of the great unsung geniuses of British pop, his songwriting in the Move, early ELO and Wizard was ambitiously brilliant and, oddly, unacknowledged. The Move were prime sixties bubblegum pop with a whiff of tripped out genius.
The Specials ‘Gangsters’
They may have come from Coventry but we are stretching the boundaries here…I remember when this came out it was a real slow burner, week by week more people picked up on it till it spawned two tone, a fully fledged movement in the wake of punk. The Specials have ended up being one of the most loved bands in the UK and their recent reformation tours have been a real triumph.
Dexys Midnight Runners ‘Geno’
When punk meets soul all nighters with a dose of attitude, the pure genius of the song shines through the decades and it arrived with such a clear vision from frontman Kevin Rowland whose plaintive vocals still cut through decades later over the propulsive jabs of the brass section.
Napalm Death ‘scum’
Napalm Death were also massively influential, altering the attack and noise of metal with a series of brilliant releases. I still have their earlier demo tapes at home when they were a noisy version of Crass, when they went into a deeper, darker and faster musical world they , like so many of their noisy neighbours in the midlands, changed music.
ELO ‘Mr Blue Sky’
It’s easy to scoff at the preposterous nature of ELO but their Beatle pop had some great overblown moments, ‘Mr Blue Sky’ like, ‘Livin’ Thing’ is a stunningly thought out piece of pop which goes beyond silly ideas of guilty pleasures.
Slade ‘Come On Feel The Noize’
Other British cities beat themselves up over being cool, But the Midlands just gets on with great raucous noize. Slade were one of the great British pop band’s and it was a real joy to grow up with them in the seventies. Like a good time belch of pop brilliance they ran amok from Wolverhampton with one of the greatest runs of singles by any British band ever. Frontman Noddy Holder has one of the best voices ever heard in the UK and the band easily filled in a gap left by the Beatles in the early seventies and were what many hoped John Lennon would sound like instead of getting all grown up…
I love that mural at Wolverhampton station where the history of the city includes the band’s grinning, gunning faces!
The Beat ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’
Such a great piece of music, that loping weird baseline, the off kilter dynamics and the pure pop psychosis…a very cover piece of songwriting and very much at the heart of the multi racial, two tone/ ska scene that was so politically important in the UK at the time. Ranking Roger still tours the Beat now and they sound even better…
The Nightingales ‘Urban Ospreys’
Obviously, compared to the influence and importance of the other bands on the list the Nightingales are a very small pinprick but this was a great song with frantic collision course guitars and colliding riffs that are the keys to it’s genius.
Steel Pulse ‘Handsworth Revolution’
Birmingham always had a great reggae scene which eventually spawned UB40, whose first album stands the test of time with it’s haunting, political, UK roots reggae. Steel Pulse are in the list because they were somehow swampier and even more unique sounding, with a dread heavy sound their haunting music sounds timeless with such a strange atmosphere that made them really stand out.
GBH ‘City Baby Attacked By Rats’
Yet another hugely influential Birmingham band who remain unsung, what is it about Birmingham groups and lack of recognition? Metallica were massive fans of GBH and a whole mass of metal and punk bands love GBH’s melodic road drill, road kill punk rock, the band are even better now than they were years ago.
Au Pairs ‘It’s Obvious’
Birmingham always had a small yet vibrant post punk community that percolated through the decades. The Au Pairs were in at the beginning with their clipped, taut angular sound.