To celebrate the release of Tony Christie’s fantastic new album, Made In Sheffield, we’ve chosen our Top 30 favourite songs from the City of Steel. So join us on a journey through the South Yorkshire industrial town, sound tracked by synth-pop, soul tunes, shagging, soft rock, classy crooners and indie classics. Let us know which ones we have missed.
1- Dave Berry – The Crying Game
What is it about Sheffield sons and swooning ballads? Long before Tony Christie, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker and Alex Turner were immortalising the sad sound of the City of Steel, ’60s teen idol, Dave
Berry, scored a Top 5 hit with this ‘64 weepie and, let’s face it, ever so slightly creepy, pop ballad, The Crying Game. We love the strange melancholy guitar sound and the mournful arrangement. Can you imagine Hawley doing it – it would be fantastic. Boy George and The Pet Shop Boys later covered it in that film about the IRA and a girl with a penis. Oh, it’s a bloke. Thanks for pointing that out – so to speak.
2– The Human League – Being Boiled
Before Phil Oakey met waitresses in cocktail bars, he was making experimental and edgy avant-garde electronica in the original line-up of The Human League. Never mind together in electric dreams, this piece of brilliantly bonkers, synth-heavy drone-rock about Buddhism and, err, the slaughter of silk worms, is the stuff of nightmares.
3– Pulp – Sheffield: Sex City
There we were thinking that Sheffield was known for its steel making, but according to this astonishing track by Pulp, it’s more famous for, err, love making. One of several Jarvis Cocker tunes to mention shagging and Sheffield, this nocturnal travelogue is a dark, depraved and dirty tale that clocks in at almost nine minutes, mixes House beats with council house estates, and sounds like The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds if it had been recorded in a concrete bus shelter in South Yorkshire.
4 –Richard Hawley – Coles Corner
Sheffield’s answer to Roy Orbison, all of Hawley’s albums mention his home city and are steeped in nostalgia – harking back to a time of Brylcreem, dance halls and drape coats. The gorgeous, string-soaked title track from his fourth album is named after a place in the city where lovers used to meet. So sublime, Sinatra could have sung it.
5 – ABC – The Look of Love
Time to whip out your gold lame suit for this classic piece of bombastic New Romantic Sheffield soul-pop from 1982’s Lexicon of Love album.
By the way, did you know it contains the finest moment in any song ever? It’s the bit at 2 minutes 41, where front-man Martin Fry starts speaking: ‘And all my friends just might ask me – they say, ‘Martin, maybe one day you’ll find true love…’ Simply stunning – Trevor Horn’s production still sounds brilliant today.
6) All Seeing I (featuring Tony Christie) – Walk Like A Panther
Long before Richard Hawley reinvented Tony Christie – or indeed Peter Kay made him a laughing stock, Sheffield electro duo All Seeing I recruited the cult crooner to sing vocals on this great pop curio – a slinky, camp indie dancefloor anthem that was co-written by Jarvis Cocker. We can imagine throwing some great animal-based shapes to this tune down at the local disco.
7 – Arctic Monkeys – The Only Ones
Hell, we could have picked any one of the Arctic Monkeys’ tunes, but this one is our favourite, largely because it’s the most beautiful song Alex Turner has ever written. Influenced by fellow Sheffielder, Richard Hawley, it’s a heartfelt, haunting ’50s style ballad that can be found on their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare. Veteran crooner Tony Christie has covered it on Made in Sheffield – and, yes, his version is even better than the original. So much so, that Turner was prompted to tell Christie that his version was the way they should have originally recorded it, only they ran out of studio time.
8 – Tony Christie – Born To Cry
And talking of Tony Christie, we return to his Made In Sheffield album for this towering version of a little-known Pulp song originally from the soundtrack to Notting Hill. Produced by Richard Hawley, Christie’s take on it transforms what was previously an OK-ish indie tune into an almighty Roy Orbison-style epic – all booming Phil Spector drums, soaring strings and echo-laden guitars. Awesome.
9 – Slow Down Tallahassee – Never Be Lonely Again
Slow Down Tallahassee are Sheffield’s answer to Camera Obscura or Belle and Sebastian. Taken from the album The Beautiful Light, we defy you not to love this highly infectious helping of classic jangly indie-pop with a side order of ’60s girl group cool and a sprinkling of Americana.
10 – Babybird – Bad Old Man
Sheffield’s lo-fi pop genius Stephen Jones (aka Babybird) will always be known for his freak number 3 1996 single You’re Gorgeous – a twisted little tune about soft porn which ignorant couples adopted as ‘their song’. Pah – you’re gormless, more like. Here at Pop Junkie, we prefer Bad Old Man – from ’98’s There’s Something Going On album. Over what sounds like John Barry doing trip-hop, Jones sings about wife beating, wet dreams, paedophiles and razor blades in ice cream. Try getting all doe-eyed to that, you clueless romantic fools.
11 – Last Shadow Puppets – My Mistakes Were Made For You
This is the best song by Alex Turner’s Scott Walker influenced side project. Steeped in ’60s cinematic cool, it sounds like Noel Harrison’ Windmills of Your Mind, which, as anyone who is passionate about pop knows, is one of the finest film soundtrack tunes ever.
12 – Speedy – Boy Wonder
Remember Sheffield Britpoppers Speedy? Er, you don’t. Actually, we’re not surprised. They made a handful of
singles, but were ditched by their record label before their debut album ever came out. Thankfully, they left behind this great 1996 single – a trumpet-tastic pop romp about a teeenage girl creating her perfect magazine pin-up – “Jason’s hair, Liam’s lips, Damon’s eyes, Jarvis’ clothes, Peter’s chest.” Sounds like The Supernaturals and Dexys making out in a Northern Soul club. Yep – that good.
13 – The Longpigs – On and On
Richard Hawley crops up again on this epic indie ballad from the now defunct Sheffield Britrockers.
It was the staple ingredient of any indie compilation tapes made by blokes for girls in the late ’90s.
In fact, a girl I know once had a bloke sing this song to her down the phone. I told her she should have married him. She didn’t.
14 – Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement
More Sheffield synth-pop. This time around it’s from Heaven 17 – love those squelching, cheesy keyboard lines, the slap bass (yikes) and camp soul backing vocals. Would not sound out of place on Alan Partridge’s stereo.
15 – Comsat Angels – Independence Day
Pure ’80s post-punk indie gloom from this Sheffield four-piece. Without them, we wouldn’t have had Editors. Cheers then.
16 – Cabaret Voltaire – Sensoria
It’s no surprise that a city as industrial as Sheffield spawned the musical genre of ‘industrial rock’. This chugging, synth-led classic conjures up images of robots dancing in the shadows of gasometers. Sheffield’s answer to Kraftwerk.
17 – Long Blondes – Once and Never Again
Sadly, this spiky, girl-fronted Sheffield band has decided to call it a day. This cautionary kitchen sink drama harks back to the classic noisy, jangly indie-pop of the ’80s – “You’re only 19 for God’s sake – you
don’t need a boyfriend.” Quite.
18 – Moloko – Pure Pleasure Seeker
Forget Sheffield trip-poppers Moloko’s dodgy Ibiza-friendly moments and, instead, listen to Pure Pleasure Seeker. It’s like Shirley Bassey doing a song for a ’60s sci-fi sex B movie – all big brass, Hammond
and spy film guitar.
19 – Sabres of Paradise – Smokebelch 1
Sheffield is home to the pioneering electronic music label Warp Records. Here at PopJunkie, we’re not really big fans of bleep and bass or ambient electronica, but we do have a soft spot for this classic ’93 Warp release from Andy Weatherall’s outfit Sabres of Paradise – dark, deadly techno from the future. Scary stuff.
20 – Reverend and The Makers – Heavyweight Champion of the World
They could have been a contender – they could have been a someone. Only trouble is, they’re quitting the music biz after their next album.
21 – The Supernaturals – Sheffield Song
The long-forgotten Scotpop ‘B’ list band named this perky little tune from their debut album after the city. Christ knows why, though –it’s all about loving a new girlfriend more than your old one. Maybe they wrote it backstage at The Leadmill.
22 – Little Man Tate – Sexy In Latin
Yet another Sheffield sex song. It sounds like a cross between Arctic Monkeys and Pulp, and, it that’s not enough; it rhymes ‘university’ with ‘virginity’.
23 – Milburn – What Will You Do (When The Money Goes)?
Who’d have guessed this sub-Arctic Monkeys outfit (now no more) would have predicted the credit crunch?
24- Blameless – Breathe (A Little Deeper)
Back to ’93, for this soaring, atmospheric indie anthem that never was. It would sound good on Hollyoaks – tearful girl, moody bloke, etc, etc, etc, yawn, blah blah blah.
25 – Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me
It wasn’t just Jarvis who wrote about shagging in Sheffield. These poodle-permed local boys did too. This is more cock rock than Cocker, mind
26 – Joe Cocker – Unchain My Heart
It’s that other dirty old bloke from Sheffield with the surname of Cocker. Unchain My Heart? If it’s made from Sheffield steel, you’ll have a bloody hard job, mate.
27 – The Lovers – La Le
They’re real life French lovers from Sheffield and they write electronic pop songs about sex and food. What’s not to like?
28 – Hoggboy – Believe
Quite possibly Sheffield’s answer to The Strokes, but with a Hammond organ. Cool.
29 – The Gentlemen – Something You Can’t Regret
Ignore the fact that this hotly-tipped Sheffield indie act have a nasty habit of sounding like The Red Hot Chili Peppers at times. This snippet of a song on their MySpace site stands out thanks to its
rolling piano and theatrical poise. We like.
30 – The Clash – This Is England
Ok, we know The Clash aren’t from Sheffield, but they did play their first ever gig at the city’s Black Swan venue (now known as The Boardwalk) – and their song This Is England features the lyric: This is England / This knife of Sheffield steel / This is England / This is how we feel.”