As Underground turned 40 this year, we thought there was no better way to commemorate this on the Subculture and Arts blog than by counting down the music that has defined Underground as a brand since its inception. With music having transformed and coalesced since its birth into what it is today, we take a look at 40 years of music that has either been pivotal within the UK or informed Underground and the mindset we carry.
1981 – Ceremony by New Order
A song from Manchester, Ceremony is an anthem from our city of birth. Manchester was a melting pot of subcultures that at the time was a perfect inspiration for the brand.
1982 – Slow Dive by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Perhaps the most renowned female figure in the goth subculture, there was no way we could leave the band out of the list. This song also served as the inspiration behind the iconic shoegaze band ‘Slowdive’.
1983 – Gimme All your Lovin’ by ZZ Top
With Billy Gibbons being a constant wearer of the Apollo Creeper, we have huge love for this Blues-Rock anthem, which happened to be a breakthrough for the band.
1984 – Nelson Mandela by The Specials
Inspired by the campaign behind the imprisonment of the late Nelson Mandela, this song is a great tune for a great cause.
1985 – Never Understand by The Jesus and Marychain
One of the most iconic bands of the New Romantic movement, this song was the first single released by the Scottish brothers’ debut album ‘Psychocandy’
1986 – Evol by Sonic Youth
We are going for the full album here. EVOL was a transitional album for the Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, becoming pivotal in the band’s career. The album was a breakthrough for the band, transitioning from the underground rock scene in America to the powerhouse that they are known as.
1987 – Hit the North by The Fall
Being believed as a message to Manchester’s underground community against the brutal Police force of the time, ‘Hit the North’ is regarded as the Fall’s best single.
1988 – Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald
Moss Side Manchester’s Gerald Rydel Simpson created this Manchester Acid House anthem that was first spun at the Hacienda in 1988, a club that was at the heart of Manchester’s infamous rave scene.
1989 – She Bangs the Drum by The Stone Roses
Staying in Manchester for this hit by the stone roses, ‘She Bangs the Drum’. The song is considered a love song and has gone on to be the band’s most famous track. “I can feel the earth begin to move; I hear my needle hit the groove”.
1990 – Step on by Happy Mondays
Twistin’ our melon in Manchester with Shaun and Bez for this funk infused dance track. Originally being a song written about the racial oppression of South Africans, it turned into a psychedelic track about how drugs can break down the divides of race, gender, and sexuality.
1991 – Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Serving as the face of the grunge era, Nirvana and their number one hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was an anthem that embodied the whole nature of the grunge movement, a time of steel cap boots and flannel shirts.
1992 – Sheela Na Gig by PJ Harvey
Described as “a collection of different moments between lovers” according to PJ Harvey. The song which has deep sexual undertones, describes the rejection and degradation of women because of their bodies and the stereotype of female innocence. The song was a blatant middle finger up towards the censorship of the rock music scene.
1993 – Go West by The Pet Shop Boys
One of the best versions of Go West was performed at the 1994 Brit Awards. Neil And Chris was joined by a mass Choir of Welsh Miners, the pits in the valleys might have closed but their pride was awesome.
1994 – Parklife by Blur
The title track from their breakthrough album, ‘Parklife’ tells of the cynical outlook of the UK’s working class in the mid-90s. This sarcastic track is a criticism on the Americanisation of British society all while being viewed from the eyes of an unemployed working-class Brit.
1995 – Common People by Pulp
I wanna live like common people. I wanna do whatever common people do. This iconic song by Pulp tells the story of two individuals from very different lifestyles, wanting what the other has. Through this song that is nothing but original, it cleverly comments on the class gap within the UK.
1996 – Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis
Back to Manchester and one of the best from Oasis. Back in the eighties Noel and Liam had been customers at the Underground store hoping for rare Adidas trainers. The 1996 Maine Road performance of the track one of the great moments of rock. It was a hard choice for 1996, this one or ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls (they did wear Underground boots!)
1997 – Into My Arms by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Slowing down the list, is this thoughtful ballad written by Nick Cave. The Australian singer -songwriter and the leading member of and The Bad Seeds wrote this song about loss and sorrow was written while he was in rehab.
1998 – If you Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next by Manic Street Preachers
Inspired heavily by George Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’, and the Spanish Civil War, this anthem is about finding the courage to change the world around you. With such a strong message behind it, of making a better future, it still holds up today.
1999 – You get what you give by New Radicals
An inspiring song for our brand ideals, ‘You Get What You Give’, is all about perseverance, self-belief, and staying true to yourself no matter what. This message is one that not only applies to our mindset but anyone reading this, be true and authentic to yourself at all times and good things will come from it.
2000 – Yellow by Coldplay
Perhaps Coldplay’s most popular song to date, ‘Yellow’ is about being devoted to someone, whether romantically or not, and doing anything for them. The post-Britpop song’s title refers to the mood of the band, one of brightness and hope that they bring to their listeners.
2001 – The Modern Age by The Strokes
A band that harks back to the 60s rock scene of the Velvet Underground, ‘The Modern Age’ serves as the debut single and EP for the Strokes. The track is an observation and comment of human behaviour in the modern times at the turn of the 21st century.
2002 – There Goes The Fear by Doves
A song that tells the tale of living in regret, should this be a warning that life is something that should be lived as true to oneself. Despite this, there is a positive message to the song, being that of taking life in your stride.
2003 – Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
Serving as the opening track of ‘Elephant’, ‘Seven Nation Army’ has one of the catchiest riffs in rock music history. The song juxtaposes its militaristic musical tone with lyricism inspiration that tells a tale of gossip and loneliness.
2004 – I predict a Riot by Kaiser Chiefs
Perhaps the most iconic release in the Kaiser Chiefs’ discography, I predict a riot is an anthemic commentary of 21st century Britain. The song tells of the drunken sights of Leeds’ night life, that drummer Nick Hodgson and frontman Ricky Wilson witnessed on the way home from playing a DJ set in the city centre.
2005 – Do you Want to by Franz Ferdinand
Another song inspired by drunken encounters, this anthem by Franz Ferdinand is one that lyrically was inspired by real profane things yelled to frontman Alex Kapranos at a party. The song was written as somewhat of a joke, but what may not be known to many is that we made an official collaboration t-shirt with them.
2006 – Sheena is a Parasite by The Horrors
Serving as the debut single by The Horrors, Sheena is a Parasite is a direct response to the Ramone’s ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’, and the American punk scene, which at the time was seen as being artificial compared to the socio-political punk rock movement in Britain.
2007 – Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
Known for her mix of rhythm, blues, and jazz inspiration, the late Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black is perhaps her most famous song. The poignant song, like most of Winehouse’s work came from a deeply personal place, with this song being about her own heartbreak.
2008 – Paper Planes by M.I.A.
Being fuelled by her frustration against US immigration -policy, ‘Paper Planes’ is a satirical commentary on America’s view of immigrants from war-torn countries. Despite being a left field pick for this list, an anthem this powerful and relevant should not be forgotten.
2009 – Fire by Kasabian
A song which has now become synonymous with British summer and festival season. Kasabian’s fusion of rock and roll with dace music is something that took the UK by storm. A song that is about obsession, whether over someone or something, this brit pop tune is a feel-good anthem.
2010 – Telephone by Lady Gaga
Despite the dance pop nature of this renowned anthem, Telephone is a metaphor for Lady Gaga’s fear of suffocation by the press. The Pop-Queen, known for her controversial nature, truly embodies all that it means to be inexplicably yourself, with Gaga being an artist who has undeniably broken out of the box of the cliché popular music world.
2011 – If you Wanna by The Vaccines
One of the most renowned anthems of the indie rock movement of the 2010s, ‘If You Wanna’ appeared on the London rocker’s debut album. A song telling of broken love and wanting someone back was originally a joke by the band which went on to fuel their direction and career.
2012 – Best of Friends by Palma Violets
Another ballad exploring the relationships of friendship and love, ‘Best of Friends’ by Palma Violets. Despite the now disbanded band being embarrassed of the song at the time of release, the song was voted NME’s song of the year in 2012
2013 – Where are we Now by David Bowie
Nearing the end of the late singer’s legendary career, ‘Where are we now’ is a thoughtful ballad that tells of Bowie reminiscing over his time spent in Berlin. The song shows Bowie and his contemplator outlook on his own mortality, released only a few years before his death. May the late artist never be forgotten.
2014 – Give Up by FKA Twigs
Real name Tahliah Barnett, Give Up by FKA Twigs tells a tender story of love on the edge of being lost and the betterment that is needed on her part to fix this. The British born singer is one who is fearless in taking the risks that she has throughout her music, with her 2014 debut album ‘LP1’beng proof of this.
2015 – Shutdown by Skepta
The Grime movement is one that had many similarities to Punk. The nature of the DIY culture of recording on phones, makeshift studios, and second-hand vintage cameras is something that reflects the tones of the original punk movement in the late 70s.
2016 – Bassline Bitch by Nova Twins
Bringing the pure mantra of punk to the modern age, The Nova Twins as a duo are ones who have embraced all that it is to break away from the mainstream and in the process destroy female stereotypes. These fierce women in music played an exclusive gig on our store-rooftop back in 2016.
2017 – King Charles by Yungblud
Staying with the idea of bringing punk to the modern age, this politically charged anthem by Yungblud is the alt-pop’s debut single. The song is a commentary on the current political climate and the accompanying music video he wore the Original Apollo Creepers before turning to his statement blue suede Wulfrun.
2018 – Television Romance by Pale Waves
Staying up North with the Manchester hailing Pale Waves, their debut single ‘Television Romance’ saw lead singer Heather Baron Gracie wear Underground Creepers. The glittery and sytnhy goth-pop band are ones who have adopted Underground creepers throughout their career.
2019 – Scream by Saint PHNX
This electrifying single from Saint PHNX was released in the runup to their debut album ‘DDMN’. Since the early days of the band, to touring with modern music legends, the Glaswegian brothers have been ones to wear the Underground Original Creepers on stage as their go to.
2020 – I’m only going to hurt you by The Ninth Wave
Another fine example of modern Glaswegian talent, and perhaps the face of the modern post-punk scene, The Ninth Wave have reinvigorated the subculture-inspired genre of music for a new generation, much as we serve the alternative culture of today.
2021 – Dear Goth by Cassyette
The first artist to kick off our Soundwave Sessions, Dear Goth by Cassyette serves as the female alternative artist’s debut in the UK alternative scene. Being a big fan of the Gripper boot, Cassyette’s ‘Dear Goth’ carries the same punk-minded attitude that can be seen throughout her work and her Underground Soundwave Session
Underground Soundwave presents an ongoing series of reports on emerging and established bands with close-up Q&As, new release reviews and gig reports with a special emphasis on supporting diversity in music, women in music, independent labels and venues and the local music scene.
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