Our Top 10 The The Songs list presents the best of Matt Johnson’s The The including the songs “Dogs of Lust” “Heartland” and many more. Before Matt Johnson founded the English punk band, The The, he first recorded and sold a demo album in 1978 via the underground music scene that would lead him to a 1979 recording of his first album, Spirits. It was never released, however, but this did lead to the formation of The The. During the spring of 1979, The made its debut, featuring Johnson and Keith Laws. It was Laws who made the suggestion to Johnson to give the band the name it has now. The The’s start saw musical experimentations of synth-pop sounds, which included contributions made by Peter Ashworth, Tom Johnson, and Colin Lloyd-Tucker to bring forth the band’s debut singles, “Controversial Subject” and “Black and White.”
In 1981, The The signed a recording contract with Some Bizzare Records after a musical contribution to one of its albums earlier in the year. At this point, Matt Johnson was on his own as Keith Laws opted out to continue with his post-secondary education. After recording and releasing the single, “Cold Spell Ahead,” Johnson signed up with 4AD Records to record the album, Burning Blue Soul. Although he was a soloist at this time, The was the name he stuck with as a stage name. Before 1981 was over, Colin Lloyd-Tucker and Simon Fisher-Turner teamed up with Matt Johnson as they toured London, England as a band. Although the trio toured together, Johnson was still the only certified member of The The. Once the tour was over, Tucker and Turner went back to pursue their own projects.
Still on his own and still credited as The, Johnson often collaborated with a number of different musical artists, swapping between talents in order to best accommodate his needs as a performer. Come 1982, The finished recording of what was supposed to be a debut album was finished but never released. The Pornography of Despair, to this day, shares the same fate as Spirits, as an unissued album, the public audience has yet to become privy to. Like Spirits, material from The Pornography of Despair has been released to the public but the album itself has not. What became The The’s official debut album was Soul Mining, which was released in 1983.
From 1983 until 1997, Matt Johnson was mainly on his own as The The as a recording artist and stage performer. He did exercise the luxury of hiring musicians during his recording sessions and tours that were included in his 1986 album, Infected. The controversial artwork first featured on the album before it was pulled from the shelves was done by Matt Johnson’s brother, Andrew.
The album would be issued again after its cover was modified with less offensive material. In addition to the release of this album, as well as its title track, there was also a full-length film that was shot at three different locations. Infected: The Movie featured songs that were shot between the locations of Bolivia, New York, and Peru. Instead of performing live concerts, these movies were played between 1986 and 1987. Although Johnson did perform live as The The, he mainly did this on his own until he was inspired to upgrade The The from a solo act to one that has a full-time band roster.
Starting in 1988, The The became a band that saw James Eller, Johnny Marr, and David Palmer join Matt Johnson in this new lineup. For the album, Mind Bomb, Sinead O’Conner also served as a guest vocalist whose contribution to the single, “The Beat(en) Generation,” became the most successful so far in Johnson’s career as a recording artist. Originally, “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)” was supposed to be released as the album’s first single but there was lyrical content in that song that put its release date on hold. In 1989, D.C. Collard joined Johnson just in time for The The’s concert tour and was part of the lineup in 1990 after Shades of Blue was released as an extended play (EP).
In 1993, Dis-infected was another EP release that featured remixes of previously recorded material, along with a 1993 album, Dusk. This album produced three singles that became top forty hits in the UK and was later followed by a 1994 album, Solitude. Solitude was an album designed for the North American audience as this group’s popularity began to spike after collaborating with Tim Pope and the production of 1993’s From Dusk Til Dawn. During this time frame, The The embarked on another concert tour that led to additional lineup changes before Johnson took it upon himself to relocate The The’s base of operations to the United States.
As a permanent resident of New York, The The produced a 1995 album, Hanky Panky, a studio recording that featured mostly Hank Williams material that was covered by Matt Johnson and his bandmates. Their cover version of “I Saw the Light” became a hit in the UK. After this, 1997’s Gun Sluts, was an album featuring experimental material that was rejected by Sony as they felt it wasn’t commercially appealing enough for the label. Since there was a refusal to release the album, The The ended their working relationship with the major recording label in favor of Interscope. 2000’s NakedSelf was the final studio recording produced by The The before it would dedicate itself to a series of compilation albums and soundtracks.
The The Legacy
In total, there are six recorded and released studio albums to The The’s credit. The first two albums, Soul Mind and Infected, each became certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). There are also four known unreleased studio recordings, four released soundtracks, three compilation albums, and a live album. There are twenty-six singles officially released by The The and the most successful among them were released between 1982 to 1995.
Top 10 Songs From The The
#10 – Infected
“Infected” was a single released from the album, Infected, which peaked as high as number twenty-four on Australia’s ARIA chart, at number twenty-nine on the Irish Singles Chart, and at number forty-eight on the UK Singles Chart. As an album and a single, Infected is a Matt Johnson gem. During a time when the HIV virus was dominating the headlines, “Infected” seemed to deliver a sense of danger as it sensuously played out as a soulful number that made excellent use of the bass and Johnson’s distorted vocals.
#9 – Uncertain Smile
Previously recorded as “Cold Spell Ahead,” 1982’s “Uncertain Smile” was an altered version from what was recorded on The The’s album., Soul Mining. On the UK Singles Chart, this mix of flute and saxophone version became a number sixty-eight hit, as well as a number forty-three hit in Australia.
From the 1983 album, this single was re-issued, this time charting at number one hundred on the UK Singles Chart and at number thirty-one on the Dutch Single Top 100 chart from the Netherlands. For Matt Johnson, “Uncertain Smile” served as his big commercial breakthrough, especially as a songwriter. This served as a source of inspiration for pop songs that influenced the music scene throughout much of the 1980s, as well as leading into the 1990s.
# 8 – This Is the Day
On the UK Singles Chart, “This Is the Day” became a number seventy-one hit after it was released in 1983 from the album, Soul Mining. It was the original recording that officially became a hit before it was retitled “This Was the Day” as the leading track for the EP, Dis-Infected, a decade later. The EP version reached number seventeen on the same chart, and also peaked at number twenty-eight on the Irish Singles Chart. For Matt Johnson, the bluesy “This Is the Day” was inspired by his fondness of BB King’s musical material. Although this song started off as a gloomy number, it shuffled into an optimistic piece, thanks to the mix of accordion and fiddle that made it a fan-favoring standout. In the lyrics, the narrator made the decision to put the past behind him and use this as a day to move forward.
#7 – Jealous of Youth
From the album, Solitude, “Jealous of Youth” became a number seven hit on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart after it was released in 1990. At this point, the popularity of The The began to reach new heights as the North American audience found themselves attached to the band’s music style. When the desire to live like a young person is met with the realities of growing up and growing old, even the narrator found himself a bit miffed the aging process gave other ideas.
#6 – Heartland
On the UK Singles Chart, “Heartland” became a number twenty-nine hit from the 1986 album, Infected, as well as a number twenty-twenty-six hit on the Irish Singles Chart. The beautiful piano play met with Matt Johnson’s vocals served as a timeless classic for its easy-listening style. “Heartland” boasted the highs and lows of a nation through the narrative of a rather cynical narrator as he used this song as a socio-political statement. For The The, the artistic style was heavily influenced by current events and the lyrical opinions that were shared about it.
#5 – Gravitate to Me
“Gravitate to Me” would become the second single for The The to achieve global success, at least as far as official chart rankings go. On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, it was a number fifteen hit. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number sixty-three. The appeal of the single was also greater in New Zealand and Ireland as opposed to the UK as it charted as high as number twenty-seven and twenty-eight, respectively. From the album, Mind Bomb, “Gravitate to Me” served as the second of four hit singles that would come from it. As a darkly pop dance number, “Gravitate to Me” served as a seductive number that focused more on enjoying the moment and simply taking in an opportunity for a bit of romance.
#4 – I Saw the Light
“I Saw the Light” was a Hank Williams original that was released in 1948. For The The, their 1995 version of this hit peaked at number thirty-one on the UK Singles Chart. It was also a number twenty-four hit on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. “I Saw the Light” would be the final single released by The The that would appear on any of the official music charts. For Williams, the inspiration behind “I Saw the Light” came from a quote his mother made when the two were approaching the city limits of Montgomery, Alabama. For Johnson, the album paying homage to Hank Williams, featured “I Saw the Light” as an electrified pop version of this all-time classic.
#3 – Love Is Stronger Than Death
From the 1993 album, Dusk, “Love Is Stronger Than Death” was a song Matt Johnson wrote after the death of his brother affected him in such a profound manner that it served as a therapeutic means to cope with the loss. It was also featured on the soundtrack to the movie, Nowhere. On the UK Singles Chart, it was a number thirty-nine hit and charted as high as number fourteen on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. This remarkable ballad saw The The at its best as a musical tale of how love truly is the strongest element there is not even death can conquer.
#2 – The Beat(en) Generation (featuring Sinead O’Connor)
When Sinead O’Connor collaborated with The The for the 1988 album, Mind Bomb, “The Beat(en) Generation” was released as the most successful single credited to Matt Johnson at that point as it peaked as high as number eighteen on the UK Singles Chart. It was also the first time The The experienced a hit on the US Billboard as it peaked at number thirteen on its Alternative Airplay chart. It was also a number four hit in New Zealand, a number eight hit in Ireland, and a number fifty hit in Australia.
In Germany, “The Beat(en) Generation” also became a number eighty-two hit. On a global scale, this was the single that earned the best rankings on the official music charts overall. Between the powerhouse vocals behind Sinead O’Connor and Johnson’s knack to play on words, this song became something of a cult favorite. “The Beat(en) Generation” remains a political and social favorite among fans and activists who are just as disgusted with today’s events as they were over thirty years ago.
#1 – Dogs of Lust
From the album, Dusk, “Dogs of Lust” peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart and at number twenty-five on the UK Singles Chart when it was released in 1993. For The The, this single was the most successful release in North America. In Norway, “Dogs of Lust” was a number seven hit while in New Zealand it peaked as high as number sixteen. On the Irish Singles Chart, it peaked at number eighteen and was a number seventy hit in Australia.
This was the song featured in the movie and its soundtrack, From Dusk till Dawn, which was released in 1996. “Dogs of Lust” became a cult favorite, along with “Love Is Stronger Than Death.” Straight from the opening harmonica, the listener of “Dogs of Lust” has already been introduced to a musical experience that sets a certain mood that arguably makes this an easy favorite among fans of The The and the movie that heightened the popularity of a single that deservedly earned its place as a song worth listening to.
Top 10 The The Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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