"When they kick on your front door, how you gonna come?" - The Clash's most palatable, punch-drunk track, Guns Of Brixton, still full of absurd backs-against-the-wallisms but slung along on an insistently rolling bassline. And after all, those were bad times - 1979, a new Tory government, racism and poverty and paranoia. Ten years or so later times were barely better and the same bassline sidles back into the charts, but now surrounded by pastiche radio chatter, a heatstruck diva vocal, bouncing house piano chords and the woozy sound of spinning turntables. Altered state, indeed.
Listening to Norman Cook's first dancefloor breakthrough hit, it's a wonder Fatboy Slim didn't happen sooner. Put simply, Dub Be Good To Me is the Wild Bunch/Massive Attack dub-dance Bristol sound, commercialised before it had even come close to breaking through. The record shuffles the nineties in, sweating atmosphere and hooks - Cook knows how to keep a still pop-oriented mass audience happy by doing something different every half minute while holding the beat rocksteady (the langourous trumpet break is predictable, but what sounds like a duck imitating scratching is classic Cook). And once you hear it, it never quite leaves your head - ten years on, Dub Be Good To Me comes onto a jukebox and the bass still hushes people, nodding their heads for them. In one way it is very dated, though - try leaving that bassline uncredited today and you'd be making Paul Simenon's lawyer a disgracefully rich man...
The first song on the list that I still listen to regularly, and I don't see a lot wrong with the enthusiastic write-up either, for all that "Dub Be Good To Me" hardly needs the reached-for 'significance' of being a forerunner to the Bristol sound. Norman Cook's finest moment? Quite possibly. Last winter I played it at the office christmas party and my boss, who pretty much gave up on pop in the early 80s, ran up and demanded to know what it was and then took the CD home with her. (I still haven't got it back.) (But it was a CD-R anyway).
(A couple of quibbles, naturally - there are better Clash songs than "Guns of Brixton", and I should have put "rock steady" rather than "rocksteady" which it isn't.)