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#BsideBrum: Now That's What I Call West Midlands Music Volume 1?

Ever made a mixtape, a compilation CD or online playlist? Written out the tracks carefully on the inlay? Got lost picking the right songs in the right order?

Selecting from the vast global library of music out there is not always the easiest task. Yes, it’s an amazing feeling once you reach the finish line, but it’s a mission to get there. And sometimes that journey causes tears.

It’s taken me close to two years to get near to a final version of my top 100 songs of all time playlist and I’m still not sure whether to include that Pitbull song or not.*

Is that sinking feeling of indecision returning already? Steel yourself, it’s about to get tougher.



The B-side Brum campaign, being delivered by Visit Birmingham, is inviting the public to contribute their choices towards a virtual 20-track album which reflects and celebrates the diversity of music that originates from the West Midlands region.

To take part, we need to choose our one favourite Birmingham or West Midlands track by Wednesday 30 June. Simple, right?

Once you’ve picked your choice, you can add it to the vote via a selfie using the hashtag #bsidebrum or the Visit Birmingham website.

Soon after the closing date, a panel made up of artists, media, promoters and academics will sit down at Town Hall to decide the final 20 from the public’s suggestions.

So where do we start? There are the obvious choices. Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ with its mighty opening riff and classic ‘crazy’ Ozzy has to be on the list, surely. Duran Duran’s pastel-tastic ‘Rio’ with that bassline certainly deserves a mention, as do Dexys Midnight Runners’ bar-room sing-a-long of ‘Come On Eileen’ and ELO’s bouncy pop-rock tune ‘Mr Blue Sky’ – both Brummie anthems-in-waiting. What about Laura Mvula’s opulently arranged ‘Green Garden’ or The Specials’ eerie No 1 ska hit ‘Ghost Town’ too?



Then there’s The Spencer Davis Group, Led Zeppelin, The Beat, The Selecter, DCS, Apna Sangeet, Bally Sagoo, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene …this really is the list that keeps on giving.

Newer, obscure or less popular songs are no different, and should be in the running on their musical merit alone – like Nick Drake’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Free Ride’, Andy Hamilton’s calypso-jazz number ‘Silvershine’, The Traps’ slab of stomping indie-rock ‘Triumph’s Cornerstone’ or Free School’s motorik meets Balearic loveliness of ‘Iberico’ – all amazing music made right here in the West Midlands.

Not forgetting Scott Matthews’ acoustic masterpiece ‘Jagged Melodies’, The Au Pairs’ post-punk classic ‘It’s Obvious’, Broadcast’s lo-fi electro ‘Tender Buttons’, Juice Aleem’s thundering BC hip hop on ‘Higher Higher’, or the sludge metal blast of God Damn’s cover of ‘In Heaven’. There are literally months worth of tracks that deserve a listen, then another listen, then another listen…



If it helps, choices of colleagues here at THSH include The Move’s Beatles inspired semi-psychedelic pop song ‘Lightning Never Strikes Twice’ (Martin – Box Office), Duran Duran’s spectacular pop hit ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ (Rosie – Front of House), another vote for ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ (Fiona – Communications), a Steel Pulse selection in ‘Handsworth Revolution’ (Emma N – Education & Community) and Troumaca’s blissful, tribal electro tune ‘The Grace’ (Andy – Marketing).



As for me, I’m going for an underrated classic by a band who I feel very much embody Birmingham as a city, as a cultural force and ultimately as a source of inspiration from the days of the Triennial Festivals in 1768 right through to the sound of now, 2014.

The track is ‘Prediction’ by Steel Pulse; an immense song writing and musical accomplishment that opens (a bit surprisingly) with a flamenco guitar intro before dropping into five minutes of the sweetest bass-driven roots reggae you ever did hear. The song contains serious messages within that reach out beyond the Biblical references, and is as outstanding a representation of music from this city as you’ll ever get. The album Handsworth Revolution – a prediction in itself – was a game changer for the global reggae movement and its influence can still be felt today.

Of course, as with all other art forms, music is subjective. One man’s ‘Prediction’ is another man’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’. Regardless of what makes the top 20 and even No 1, this is already a great debate that has got us talking about how Birmingham’s music – past and present – is rich, lively, creative and entertaining.

Whats your #BsideBrum choice? Here’s our (provisional) Top 20 to get you started.

– Lyle Bignon (Communications)

*Timber, obvs