It was perhaps the album that most influenced my musical tastes, the one that opened up a whole new world—new wave, pub rock, power pop and old-school punk. And it’s all on one soundtrack from an obscure movie that I doubt anyone—including myself—has ever seen.
The movie is That Summer, a 1979 British flick starring Ray Winstone and Tony London (who? Exactly). But the real star is the music. Take a listen with me.
Track one: “Sex & Drugs and Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. Distinctively British but with a very accessible rhythm section—already I knew something was up.
Track two: “Spanish Stroll” by Mink Deville. The ultimate expression of cool.
Track three: “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” by Elvis Costello. Literate rock and the best backing band in rock history.
Track four: “She’s So Modern” by The Boomtown Rats. Sir Bob may be best known for trying to save the world and for “I Don’t Like Mondays,” but for me, this is the Rats’ finest moment.
Track five: “New Life” by Zones. I’ve never heard another song by this band. But who needs to? It’s the perfect power pop song, filled with just the right amount of teenage angst.
Track six: “Another Girl, Another Planet” by The Only Ones. The ultimate one-hit wonder band. My favorite line: “Space travel’s in my blood and there ain’t nothing I can do about it. Long journeys wear me out, but I can’t live without it.” Only later did I learn the song was an ode to heroin.
Track seven: “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric. One of my top 10 favorite songs ever. Great lyrics and an understated vocal performance. And he went on to marry Amy Rigby. The song also appears in another soundtrack, “Stranger Than Fiction.”
Track eight: “Because the Night” by The Patti Smith Group. I was never a huge Patti Smith fan, but this is one of the rare moments when someone out-Bruces Bruce.
Track one: “Kicks” by The Boomtown Rats. You know it’s a good album when this is the weakest song.
Track two: “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones. Gabba Gabba Hey. Who needs more than three chords? Sparse but perfect.
Track three: “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones. Influential DJ John Peel calls this his favorite track of all time. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. Plus, who can dislike a band whose lead singer is named Feargal Sharkey? It’s one of rock’s great names and one of the best riffs of the punk era.
Track four: “Do Anything You Wanna Do” by Eddie & The Hot Rods. Great pub rock and a song that would be my personal anthem for my twenties. “Tired of doing day jobs with no thanks for what I do, I know I must be something, now I’m gonna find out who.”
Track five: “What a Waste” by Ian Drury and the Blockheads. More evidence that the cockney rebel was a great songwriter—even if he’s not a great singer.
Track six: “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” by Nick Lowe. I knew “Cruel to Be Kind” was a great song, but this track made me investigate the Jesus of Cool in greater depth. I never regretted that decision.
Track seven: “Watching the Detectives” By Elvis Costello. Hands-down my favorite Elvis song. Elements of reggae combined with one of the great writers of the rock/punk era. Again, The Attractions shine.
Track eight: “Blank Generation” by Richard Hell & The Voidoids. The song that introduced me to American punk. Richard Hell was a poet, who unfortunately never got attention from the mainstream. But then again, would he have been as cool had he reached a larger audience?
Taken together, the songs on this album paint a rich tapestry of late ‘70s/early ‘80s music. For me, it opened up possibilities and was the origin of many a mix tape—and Friday evening mixes. Maybe one day I’ll even see the movie.