Friday, 20 May 2016

My Top Ten 'We're All Going To Hell' Songs

Bowie. Prince. Frey. Haggard. Rickman. Lemmy. Wogan. Shandling. Paul. Martin. Corbett. etc. etc. etc.

All gone.

Trump. Boris. Cowell. Kanye. Cameron. McIntyre. 

Still alive and prospering.

Let's face it, these are the end times. But let's not be down. Let's celebrate instead with ten singers who know exactly where we're all going... and still plan on having a half decent time when they get there.

10. The Pretty Reckless - Going To Hell

We'll start off this week with a blast of contemporary American hard rock from former Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen and her band. It's wrong in so many ways, and for admitting to liking it... well, you know where I'm going.

9. The Long Blondes - I'm Going To Hell

I'm starting to think The Long Blondes were one of the last great British indie bands. Post Britpop, they never really made it as big as they should have, and their career was cut short when guitarist and songwriter Dorian Cox suffered a stroke in 2008. They're still missed. (Although lead singer Kate Jackson releases her debut solo album very soon.)

8. Kathleen Edwards - Going To Hell

I never grow tired of listening to Kathleen Edwards, one of Canada's finest musical exports... even though she appears to have put her glorious voice on ice for a while to concentrate on running a coffee shop. That's a sign of the times, right there...

7. Chris Rea - The Road To Hell Pts. 1 & 2

Ah, the 80s: so much to answer for. Chris Rea's biggest hit became synonymous with a particular type of uncool dadrock that Alan Partridge would have turned up to 9 1/2 in his Kia Optima and wound the windows down while cruising up the M6. But leave all that aside and this is still a wonderfully atmospheric slice of blues-rock aided greatly by Rea's gravelly growl, particularly if you listen to the full 7 minute version. 

6. My Chemical Romance - Mama

I do like Gerard Way. He's a proper pop star. He's nicked bits from Bowie, Freddie, Alice Cooper: he understands the theatrical nature of rock 'n' roll... this one even steals its rhythm from Susanna by The Art Company. He knows his stuff. Pity his solo record was a weak stab at Britpop (!) and he seems to be focussing his attention these days more on writing comics than dressing in silly black clothes and pogoing into the crowd. 

5. Robert Johnson - Me & The Devil Blues

If anyone was going to end up in Hell, Robert Johnson was a good bet... considering that deal he made at the crossroads to get him where he got (arguably creating popular music while he was there).

On this track, the devil comes calling for Robert. It was only a matter of time...

Because he was such an influential artist, I felt it important to own every single Robert Johnson recording. It's not hard to do - they fit comfortably on a double CD, including the alternative versions.

Me & The Devil Blues has been recorded by everyone from The Doors to Cowboy Junkies to Gil Scott Heron (and Clapton, obviously). But none of them ever tried to beat Bob...

4. Tom Waits - Everything Goes to Hell

As usual, Tom hits the nail on the head. What is he building in there?
Why be sweet, why be careful, why be kind?
A man has only one thing on his mind
Why ask politely, why go lightly, why say please?
They only want to get you on your knees
There's a few things that I never could believe

A woman when she weeps
A merchant when he swears
A thief who says he'll pay
A lawyer when he cares
A snake when he is sleeping
A drunkard when he prays
I don't believe you go to heaven when you're good
And everything goes to hell, anyway
3. Chris Isaak - Down In Flames

I was a big fan of Chris Isaak back in the early 90s, but he'd slipped off my radar somewhat until I heard him on Bob Harris a few weeks ago. This song in particular sold me on his latest album (2015's First Comes The Night), which turned out to be a terrific set of classic (original) rock 'n' roll songs. As on his most famous songs from back in the day (Wicked Game, Blue Hotel, San Francisco Days), he still owes a great debt to the Big O, but there's a wicked sense of humour at play amid the heartbreak: and Down In Flames is a song Elvis would have given his star spangled jumpsuit for in his latter days. (Well, except for that one line at the end of the second verse...)
James Dean bought it on the highway
Marilyn found it in a pill
Elvis died – or did he? – they're looking for him still

Some go soft and quiet
Some go out with a bang
Well it's way too late for the pearly gates I'm going down in flames

Down in flames
Down in flames
When the good times end and they count my sins
I'm going down in flames
Isaak claims to be a very bad boy in this song, but he seemed like a genuinely decent bloke when I heard him interviewed. Very funny and down-to-earth with a real passion for playing music live, even if he's no longer blessed with hits. But he'll be 60 this year and he doesn't look a day over 35... so maybe he did do a deal sometime in the early 90s that sealed his fate.

2. Morrissey - There's A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends

There are two distinct versions of this classic Morrissey tune. There's a typically jangly guitar-led live version which originally appeared on the Live at KROQ release and as the b-side to My Love Life. And then there's the mournful, piano-based torch original which closes the unfairly maligned Kill Uncle album, and still remains one of the most beautiful things Moz has ever recorded. Bizarrely, on Kill Uncle's 2013 re-issue ("repackage, repackage"), the latter was replaced with the former, which diminshed the whole album's impact greatly. Whoever was responsible for that switch... well, there's a warm place for you down below...

1. AC/DC - Highway To Hell

When songwriters die, we suddenly hear their lyrics in an entirely different way. That's been proved time and time again this year, from Bowie to Prince, Lemmy to Glenn Frey. But rarely was it more true than back in 1980 when Bon Scott drank himself to death in a Renault 5. Highway To Hell was Scott's last album, and many see the lyrics - particular those of the title track - as a great one-fingered salute to all those who were telling him to slow down.
Goin' down
Party time
My friends are gonna be there too
It's strange - but gratifying - the way AC/DC have become accepted by the masses over the last few years. You'll regularly hear tracks like Highway To Hell and Back In Black played on Radio 2 - a station that wouldn't have touched them 30 years ago. Bon Scott may be long gone... but he'll never be forgotten. I hope he's having a good time down there. 

Which one will you be listening to when you reach your final destination?


  1. No 'Straight to Hell' by The Clash? Also 'Go to Hell' by Alice Cooper, 'Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell' by The Stooges and 'Ain’t Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody' by Bob Dylan are worth a shout, though that last one is tricky to track down, if you catch my drift. I'm glad to see that you steered well clear of 'Bat Out of Hell' though!

    1. The first three were in contention for a while until I realised they were 'go to hell' songs, rather than 'we're going to hell' songs. There's another Top Ten for those guys... some day.

      If I had my way, Bat Out Of Hell would appear on this blog, one way or another, every three weeks.

  2. Red Star Belgrade do an american cover of Highway to Hell if you are thinking of a Footie top 10 or maybe even 11

    1. I had to go and listen to that just to prove it really wasn't the football team singing...

  3. I was hoping to get the Foo Fighters in with Hell, but it's them in hell rather than we're going...

    1. It's a subtle difference, but thank you for playing by the rules.

  4. I liked your 10, not sure which I would bump to get these 2 on my top 10. GRATEFUL DEAD "Hell in a Bucket" and DEAD SOUTH's "In Hell, I'll be in Good Company"


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