Stuff I Love - New Rose
It starts with a question. 'Is she really going out with him?' Then a furious tattoo of drums. Then a distorted guitar. Then the whole band come in. Then its a frantic race to the end of the song which is just over two minutes away.
What am I talking about? Only the first and greatest punk single. 'New Rose' by the Damned.
I know that its pretty dull listening to people talk about music that's nearly 40 years old. I've heard plenty of such stuff about the Beatles and to be honest punk has equally been done to death.
Still we are talking about a classic song that is up there in the top 40 songs in my head.
Actually I don't really have a top 40 favourite songs. But there are certain songs that are dear to me and this is certainly one. (In case you are interested some of the others are: 'Whole of the Moon' - the Waterboys; 'Complete Control' - The Clash; 'Eight Miles High' - The Byrds; 'Good Vibrations' - The Beach Boys; 'In Dreams' - Roy Orbison; 'I am trying to Break your heart' - Wilco)
My allegiance to the Damned is that they played a key part in waking me up to the wider world outside my bedroom and my natural tendency to be introspective. They weren't the first punk band that interested me but they were the first that I went to see live. For a while I guess they were my favourite band in the world. But in those days I doubt that 'New Rose' was one of my favourite songs. I was familiar with it and I understood its significance both in their history and in the wider history of punk but at the time it seemed like ancient history. I was more interested in the band's later albums which were much more part of their live set.
However with more experience and a better understanding of what I like in music I began to see what a great song it is. Its the sheer combination of exuberance, rawness and energy that really makes it for me. I think it also helps if you can hear it in context. I think to most people who are used to listening to all manner of music these days it probably sounds quite tame.
When I was young I felt the same about old music. Something like Eddie Cochran or Roy Orbison wasn't as quick and agressive as the Clash or Killing Joke and so I couldn't hear the merit. But now I listen back with a much stronger sense of the context these songs were recorded in. Now I can hear the same rawness & exuberance in Eddie Cochran that I can hear in the Damned. And I can hear those same properties in more modern music as well.
I think if you listen to 'New Rose' it holds up very well in comparison to the other punk band's early singles. Both 'White Riot' by the Clash and 'Boredom' by the Buzzcocks have a thinner tinnier sound which has its own merits but doesn't hit you in the same way. 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols made with exactly the same set up (guitarist, drummer, bassist and vocalist) as 'New Rose' is much more traditional in style - much slower and lacking the sort of propulsion that the Damned provided. Without getting too technical I think the Damned were lucky to have Nick Lowe producing them. He managed to capture a 'live' feel to it all.
So if you are a fan of rock 'n' roll its time to step back in time and give this great single a listen.