here, but now they’re gone

My favourite thing to do on a late Saturday morning is to make my wife brunch. My second favourite thing to do on a late Saturday morning is to play some really good music while making my wife brunch. Finishing cooking for her, sipping an espresso or cappucino, reading, and some sweet, sweet tunes playing. It’s the best. I tend to eschew Spotify shuffle pumped through the big stereo speakers during these moments in favour of good old physical media, whether it’s vinyl or CD.

Interestingly, in 2021 the compact disc made a tiny comeback, as more people started to notice that it’s becoming harder and harder for anyone who’s not Adele or Taylor Swift to press vinyl LPs. I still prefer the immersive experience that a big gatefold album cover brings, but I have never fully stopped buying CDs. Besides, an impeccably sequenced compilation CD is a very underappreciated art form. A well sequenced mix CD can take a listener on a plot-like arc from point A to point B that can work much better than hitting shuffle on a massive Spotify playlist, and every year I find one or two such releases that knock me out in that way.

I haven’t read Jon Savage’s 1991 history of punk rock England’s Dreaming, but I was tipped off to a new two-disc, two and a half hour CD compilation curated by Savage released by Ace Recordings, one of the finest reissue labels in the world. The theme of Jon Savage’s 1972-1976 – All Our Times Have Come struck me as immediately intriguing: using popular titles, deep cuts, and obscurities alike, Savage would chronicle rock music’s transition period between glam rock and punk, between 1972 and 1976. Crucially, there would be next to no glam rock and absolutely no punk rock. You were going to witness the momentum starting to accelerate, but the compilation would end right before the punk explosion. It’s a brilliant idea, and the effect is glorious.

The 44 tracks are universally excellent, starting in rather innocuous fashion with Little Feat’s “Easy to Slip” and moving through well known cuts by Alice Cooper (“School’s Out”, Big Star (“When My Baby’s Beside Me”), and Lou Reed (“Vicious) with a few pleasant surprises in the way by The Move, Free (I had forgotten how amazing “Wishing Well” is), and The Byrds (Stacey loves to mock Gene Clark’s line “Funny how the circle is a wheel” line, which in turn always makes me laugh). It gets more eclectic the deeper you go – Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang”, John Lennon’s “#9 Dream”, Sparks’ “Girl From Germany”, John Cale’s “The Man Who Couldn’t Afford to Orgy” – and while you’re trying to digest the craziness you start noticing a larger theme starting to coalesce. Roky Erickson gives way to Jonathan Richman, which leads into Murray Head (“Say it Ain’t So Joe” is an incredible statement of desperation that presages the rage the Sex Pistols would harness a year later. Near the end we’re well into Kraftwerk, Pere Ubu, Ramones, Runaways, Blondie Nick Lowe. Something would have to break, and the result would be UK punk.

Savage’s very extensive liner notes are wonderfully written, as he goes deep into explaining why he included each song. Admittedly it’s pretty neat to have a very rare single edit of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”; although it cuts out the crucial and ingenious bridge and solo, the crispness of the shorter single edit emphasizes the song’s apocalyptic Byrds vibe, as Savage is quick to point out. It’s such an unconventional idea for a mix CD, but its originality gives it surprising staying power. It’ll soundtrack many more Saturday and Sunday brunches to come, I’m certain.

You can learn more about Jon Savage’s 1972-1976 – All Our Times Have Come here. The Spotify playlist below is a good, albeit incomplete facsimile, but you’re far better off with the actual CD version. If you do try out the playlist, for the love of jebus, don’t hit shuffle.