Yes, we’ve reached C on the long journey to Frank Zappa and Zerfas, and I can’t make up my mind whether to go for The Clash, or Johnny Cash, or Leonard Cohen, so I’ll attempt to say something about all three, in less than a thousand words.

Leonard Cohen’s voice has a soothing, bedtime-story quality to it, one which instantly transports me back to the late 1960s, and a number of parties I attended to which he provided the reassuring soundtrack for a dazed and confused five-year-old. Fast forward a couple of decades to the mass hysterical age of the CD when fellow film school alumnus Andy Lambert presented me with his entire collection of Leonard Cohen vinyl because it was taking up too much space in his Belsize Park pied-a-terre and he was going over to the evil Compact Disc. Nowadays you can’t give the things away – CDs, that is. Except to me. In fact, another friend (stand up, Miguel Charte) just offloaded his ENTIRE collection of jazz CDs on me. I win again. Except that now I have to start yet ANOTHER strand of post, which I will probably call From the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Lester Young: Every Jazz CD I Just Inherited.

Forced to choose between Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash, I’d plump for The Man in Black. How do I like Johnny Cash? Let me count the ways… my maternal grandfather, John Storey, dug him, even if the past participle of dig is a word he would only have used in reference to gardening; I like (love) J Cash because his voice lulls me into a nostalgic comfort zone where it is the early to mid-1970s and every day is a summer holiday or Christmas; I like (love, respect) him because in spite of, or perhaps because of, his faults – the infidelities, the drug abuse, the obsession with rapists and murderers, the Christian thing – he was A Good Guy, and he emanates goodness. On the live At San Quentin album he has the humility to tell his audience of rapists and murderers that “I try to put myself in your place and I believe this is how I would feel…” He then plays the song San Quentin twice in succession, and they keep it that way on the album (“one more time?”) even promising to play it a third time later in the concert. I love the inter-song banter and the announcements on At Fulsom Prison (including one for a prisoner apparently called Batshelter). At Fulsom Prison also has the best version of Fulsom Prison Blues (logically enough) and the line I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die gets a massive, discombobulating cheer. Yes, it’s all macho bollocks, but it sure beats Nick Cave. The two prison albums, plus the slew of albums known as the American Recordings which he made at the end of his career, when he covered everyone from Nine Inch Nails and “Bonnie” Prince Billy to U2 and Bob Marley, are the main reasons I love Johnny Cash, but this duet with Bob Dylan on The Girl From The North Country is another good reason (although I think they’re miming):

 And so to The Clash. Let’s not waste time on Give ‘Em Enough Rope (“so old-fashioned,” in the words of Julian Cope, “that it could’ve been a Blue Oyster Cult record… bloated American FM brain-rot” – tell us what you really think, Julian!) Even London Calling is a bit crap, to be honest, but it’s redeemed by the “hidden” track Train in Vain (Mick Jones’ love song to Viv Albertine of the Slits, whose autobiography is well-worth reading). No, the best Clash album by a country mile is Sandinista. It’s certainly the longest, and the only triple album in my collection. No All Things Must Pass, no Yessongs.  I’m going to stick my neck out here. I don’t think there’s a wasted moment on Sandinista. Sure, it would have made a perfect double album if they’d exercised some restraint. Then again, the whole point of punk is to reject perfection, isn’t it? It’s that devil-may-care, two-fingers-to-you-buddy attitude which makes The White Album and Physical Graffiti punk as well. Sandinista is like the film career of Rainer Werner Fassbinder  spread over six sides of vinyl: churn ‘em out, chuck ‘em on the album, publish and be damned. It’s like posting risqué comments on Facebook and not caring if feminists hate you. Feminists hate everyone anyway. They’d rather have a Dory Previn album than a copy of Sandinista. Whereas I have both. I even forgive my former flatmate Adam Tysoe for swapping his scuffed, scratched copy with my less scuffed, less scratched copy because that’s punk as well. I have the CD now anyway.

The rest of the Cs in my record collection:

Cabaret Voltaire, 2×45 (why not just 1xLP?)

JA Caesar, Kokkyou Junreika (I’d call this Japanese proto-punk, like a male Yoko Ono. It’s certainly full-on, and probably not to everyone’s tastes)

John Cale, Fear/Slow Dazzle/Helen of Troy (Lou who?)

Captain Beefheart, Safe As Milk (file under B for Beefheart?)

Can, Can (not quite their worst album but certainly no Tago Mago or Ege Bamyasi – I thought they were too predictable to buy. Keeping it punk, that’s me…)

Caravan, Cunning Stunts (& clever puns!)

Caston & Majors (Motown songwriters record a pretty cool album dismissed by some as more Broadway than soul – pah!)

Certain Ratio, A Live in Groningen 26.10.1980 (file under A for A Certain Ratio?)

Chaka Khan, Chaka (K for Khan?)

Chaka Khan, What Cha Gonna Do For Me? (file you under K?)

Chambers Brothers, The Time Has Come (psychedelic soul – my favourite kind)

Bob Chance, It’s Broken (private pressing – the best kind)

Change (the one with The Glow of Love AND An Angel In My Pocket – keeps you dancing for over ten minutes!)

Michael Chapman, Rainmaker/Fully Qualified Survivor (Mick Ronson on guitar – but apart from that, quite good)

Susan Christie, Paint A Lady (it remained unreleased for a reason)

Gene Clark, No Other (sublime, mystical country-rock)

Clark-Hutchinson, A=MH2, Retribution, Gestalt (three radically different albums, the first guitar instrumentals, the second stoner genius, the third more conceptual but brilliant)

Merry Clayton (one of soul/rock’s great “lost” voices – check out her version of Gimme Shelter, the song she backed Mick Jagger on, then watch 20 Feet From Stardom)

George Clinton, Computer Games/You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish (no comment needed)

Lyn Collins, Check Me Out If You Don’t Know Me By Now

Comus, Song of Comus (scary acid-folk!)

David Crosby, If I Could Only Remember My Name (it’s David!)

The Crystal Mansion (featuring Northern Soul cult figure Jimmy Caswell, on a quality soulful rock album)

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