Sunday, December 7th, 2008

This Is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco

In what amounts to a history of the last twenty-five years of popular music, respected music journalist Garry Mulholland has compiled a list of the 500 greatest singles since The Sex Pistols’ seminal “Anarchy in the UK”. In incisive, outspoken and informative essays, Mulholland challenges the accepted standpoint of music journalism to produce an entertaining, nostalgic and provocative read. Incidentally, the title comes from a 1977 entry in the book by the Rezillos.

Purchase “This Is Uncool” on Amazon


22 Responses to “This Is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco”

Ward Mallon Says:

I laughed out loud when you wrote about mis-hearing the lyrics Rock Lobster (“That’s satanic butter!”)I have my own mis-heard lyrcis from that song. For years I thought he was saying “Everybody had magic towels!” Works for me!

Jon Says:

Has anybody ever collected the complete 500?

James Says:

I originally intended to send this email to the email address in the front of the book but it seems to be defunct, so I think I’m just going to have to be an embarrassing fan boy in public (luckily cloaked by anonymity).

This is uncool indeed.

Anyway, I originally meant to send this email back in 2004 when i first impulse-bought “This Is Uncool” in Sister Ray in Soho, took it home and quickly realised it was easily my favourite book on pop music ever.

I remember literally gobbling this book up at the time, because I loved your writing, your utter disregard for genres and rock snobbery, your deft but clear politics and most of all your obvious passion for pop music. I think you say in your intro how rare it is to read a book that treats British pop seriously, and I agree entirely. To misquote Bill Shankley, “pop isn’t a matter of life and death, its much more important than that”.

I suppose it didn’t hurt that I happen to agree with a lot of your tastes (we only wildly diverge on Suede, who are one of my favourite bands of all time, but I suppose it would feel a bit creepy if we agreed on absolutely everything), but what really excited me was the way you made me see songs I already loved from a new angle, so that i had to put down the book every three minutes to play each song you wrote about again.

I loved the way your writing was supple enough to be brutal (ie on Rhoda with the Special AKA), personal and funny (Bam Bam), sheer giggly enthusiastic (Janet Jackson “When I Think Of You”) and pointed (i loved your writing on Prince, The Smiths and the Pet Shop Boys in particular, you really put them in context for me) and sometimes all of the above.

And this is probably my favourite sentence ever written about pop: “You know, every time a Pet Shop Boys single turns up I just want to stand up and cheer.” That is IT, that is what loving music is about.

So I’m aware that I’m gushing a bit, but I got the impression you probably wouldn’t mind. A few last things. Hope you don’t mind that I’ve been using and abusing your Rule One ever since I read the book. Thank you for pushing me into the arms of Magazine and The Associates. And thanks for making me feel like I’m not the only person in the world who gets very over excited about this stuff!

Jon Says:

299 to date

Jon Says:

302 and counting…

Antony Bates Says:

I was born in March 1963, support Spurs, grew up with my mum playing Elvis in the background, and love Prince, Smiths, Pet Shop Boys, Cameo, Public Enemy etc. Separated at birth?

Jon Says:

303. Keith Sweat. Nice jumper.

Jon Says:

308. 192 to go

Jon Says:

315. Talking Heads.

Ian Luck Says:

I have been collecting records since 1976, and my brother started collecting in 1979. Between us, we own every record in ‘This Is Uncool’. We love the book, and were very excited that there was someone else other than us, with such eclectic taste. We, of course, used to listen to the mighty John Peel, who let us know about the ‘good stuff’. Oh, and we have 242 of the ‘Fear Of Music’ 261.

Jon Says:

Beastie Boys – Fight for your right

Jon Says:

324. 325 by year end?

Jon Says:

327 total. 250 seven inch singles. 173 to go.

Jon Says:

Picture This and Rapper’s Delight. Both 7″ singles. Best £2.49 spent ever.

Jon Says:

She’s strange – cameo. Less than fifty cents at music trader. One single closer to 500

Keef Strang Says:

Your Mullhollandness,

I bought This Is Uncool 12 years ago in a Soho bookshop and haven’t put it down since (except perhaps when I needed both hands to turn over a 45 on the turntable). I dip into it ALL the time and have had the equivalent of days of enjoyment from it. So, a 12″ disco mega-mix size thank you!

I have to admit that alot of the later rap the book talks about doesn’t make my own kettle boil, but the ’76 to ’85 selections are methinks pretty spot on and damn well written. Yes,1979 was a year as rare as a a smile from Kevin Rowlands Yes, Holidays In The Sun was the fab four’s best single. Yes, One Nation Under A Groove is indeed the dance record that can grind legs to stumps. And… The Scars – Horrorshow … Yes, yes, yes! (or maybe that should be Aye, aye, aye!)

Without going all slushy, I have to admit that I love the book. It makes me happy and sad at the same time which is bizarrely a kinda nice feeling. Happy, because I can picture myself back in my schoolkid bedroom on Dunwich’s Abbatoir Road playing the hell out of one of those great singles I bought at the chemists up the hill. Sad, because the chemists isn’t there anymore, because records like that don’t get made anymore and becasue I can’t make it up that hill today without having to lean on a wall now and again to get my breathe back.

Here’s to you then, Your Garryship. Thanks for the uplifting melancholy.

May your singles always have picture sleeves,

Keef Strang
(one trick, two-bit, third-rate rock hack)

Russ Dig Says:

I bought this book when I was at uni about 13 years ago. The personal stories behind the enthusiastic journey through music and life are unique. If you like music or life, buy it.

Simon Says:

Brother in law gave me this for Christmas years ago. Reading it on Christmas day, I realised Gary was the person my then wife had an affair with in the 80s, when he was an aspiring music journo working in a Camden town record shop. Ultimately, this guy did me a favour, as well as writing a not bad book. Cheers.

Jon Says:

Crusaders – Street Life. Every record store suddenly has a copy.

Cameo – Candy

300 and something. Lost count.

Jon Says:

Grace Jones.
Apex Twin.
The Cramps.

Closer to 500.

Jon Says:

Yeah. No good start the dance CD single.

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