The Clash (“Brand New Cadillac”)

Now this is how you turn a late ’50s blues tune into raw punk rock! Pure energy!! Their concerts were just absolutely stunning, especially when playing smaller venues (I never went to see them in a stadium…).

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The Clash (“Drug Stabbing Time”) [Live]

OK, for me this is not only one The Clash’s greatest songs, it is (IMHO) the defining masterpiece of first-generation punk (along with The Clash’s “Janie Jones”). Mick Jones is superb on this piece with his backup vocals (I especially like his “paying off the big fine,” with “fine” drawn out like that). And you expect the song to just end around 2:15 (in this live version timing), then again at 2:45. But no, it takes off again at 2:45ish with a new twist and invigoration. The studio cut on the album makes it even clearer. But this live version is raw and as real as it gets. Truly dynamic song and band!! Obviously, that’s why they’re known as “the only band that mattered.”

REM (“Radio Free Europe”)

REM’s first release, “Radio Free Europe” (1981), which would later appear on their first LP, Murmur (1983). I remember hearing this on my college radio station that year and falling in love with the song, and also thinking, “what the hell is he even saying?” When their first album came out with the title Murmur, I had to laugh, thinking it a perfect title for this amazing band’s vibe and lyrical unintelligibility. Remember, there was no internet to look up lyrics, you just made do with whatever you could make up and piece together sometimes. I saw them a couple times in San Francisco, including their “Murmur Tour.” They were totally badass in concert back then. I remember that around 2008 or so (??) my babysitter went to see Modest Mouse and had to “sit through all these old farts listening to the opening band, REM, who sucked.” I didn’t even have a response…