We could have gone for dystopian Neil Diamond all day, but there were plenty of others we thought worth a listen…

Jolene (Slowed)

Dolly Parton

Slowed down Jolene is one thing, but pitch shifting Dolly’s voice back in gives it a bit more class.

Safe & Sound


From their third studio album, 2016’s Woman.

Ciao ciao

Petula Clark

Tony Hatch was rightly famous for his Emerdale Farm and Crossroads themes, but he also worked with a few special artists like Bowie, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, Bruce Forsyth and Petula Clark. Downtown was inspired by a trip to New York and this fantastic Italiano version was written by Hatch with the help of Italian lyricist Vito Pallavicini.

Prime (2012 unfinished)

Daft Punk

…but first, a clip from Tracking The Lincolnshire Poacher, a look at the world of secret radio messages from the cold war. Then time to get the robots in, proving their unfinished tracks are as good as most human efforts.


Nova Twins

“These girls could light up Sheffield. They are just phenomenal, the way their videos look. It reminds me of Rick James a bit, Larry Graham of Central Station, Sly and the Family Stone, it’s got that kind of… Bootsy Collins [vibe]. Nova Twins, I love you to death and they’re going to storm Glastonbury. If they come on stage and it’s a sunny day, they could steal the whole thing.”

Elton John approved.

Immigrant Song

Led Zepellin

That song, from that film, by that band.


Adriano Celentano

First brought to our attention by the tv show QI, it was recently used as an example by wordsmith/marketing guru David McGuire in a talk about ChatGPT generated copy. Expect it to be in the charts again soon.

Heroes / Helden

David Bowie

Already a little partial to the French-language version of Heroes, but German is more dystopian, right? Notably recorded during Bowie’s Berlin period, the couple kissing by the wall were in fact producer, Tony Visconti, married at the time to singer Mary Hopkins, and singer Antonia Maass. Not sure Mary thought those were the days my friend.

dumb dumb


…but first a clip of our inspirational sales guru, Fabio Bernieri, explaining why operators are not always aware of the weight of the loads they are carrying. Everybody is indeed, dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb… Mazie’s song gained more than 250 million global streams and 1 million TikTok creates, after featuring in Netflix’s original film, Do Revenge. Many of those plays are no doubt on my daughter’s headphones when I’m telling her to tidy her room.


Rage Against The Machine

A recommendation from Andy, Human Built’s patient sales director, and very much on the nail as the blueprint for Bau-mania.

Kill or Be Killed (Felsmann + Tiley Reinterpretation)


German-British electronic duo, Felsmann + Tiley, made a laid-back version of a Muse song about murder. Obviously it had to go in the playlist.

Figure It Out

Royal Blood

How just two people make this much noise is beyond me.

Red Light Spells Danger

Billy Ocean

Billy Ocean is the biggest black recording star Britain has ever produced, having sold over 30 million records in his lifetime to date. This epic reached number two in the UK charts in 1977, and thanks to the comedian Peter Kay’s Car Share, it was given a second wind 40 years later. He’s still touring. Just sayin’.

Right Here Right Now

Fatboy Slim

This version features uber-truant schoolkid Greta Thunberg at the UN: “People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money… You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you.” Blimey. For good measure there was also a bit of Banny overlaid on the track, repeating the word ‘particular’ just to lighten the mood a touch.

Fake Tales of San Francisco

Arctic Monkeys

Chosen as they’d played in the very building and they know people that aren’t from New York City, they’re from Rov’rum. If Alex is interested, the distance from Magna to Hunter’s Bar: 7.8 miles

Cracklin’ Rosie

Neil Diamond

The unofficial theme tune for our launch, prompted by a conversation of what exactly would be the ideal music playing at the Department of CoRrections? ‘Find me a dream but ask no questions’ sounds like the Dept’s perfect motto, whilst Andy’s use of Midjourney to visualise dystopian Neil turned out to be, well, Neil in a leather jacket.

Rock El Casbah

Rachid Taha

Algerian singer Rachid, rocked his way through the Clash’s classic. Taha died from a heart attack in his sleep on 12 September 2018, six days before his 60th birthday.


Beastie Boys

One of Mark’s faves and forever linked in my mind with 1. Fighting Talk and 2. Mark’s mental Tesla demo drive. Bleurgh!

My Silver Lining

First Aid Kit

As heard in the Dept. approved TV series The Umbrella Academy, video game Tales from the Borderlands and TV adverts in the UK for American Express, Mercedes Benz and Renault.



Saw Beck live once. Had tiny Marionettes on stage. Enough said.

No One Loves Me Neither Do I

Them Crooked Vultures


London Calling

The Clash

Our second appearance on our list for Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, this one has all the hallmarks of a Dystopian classic. The title alludes to the BBC World Service’s station identification: “This is London calling …”, which was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries. The lyrics reflect the concern felt by Strummer about world events with the reference to “a nuclear error” – the incident at Three Mile Island, which occurred earlier in 1979. Joe Strummer has said: “We felt that we were struggling about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails. And there was no one there to help us.” The line “London is drowning / And I live by the river” comes from concerns that if the River Thames flooded, most of central London would drown… Strummer’s concern for police brutality is referenced in “We ain’t got no swing / Except for the ring of that truncheon thing” as the Metropolitan Police at the time had a truncheon as standard issued equipment. Social criticism also features through references to the effects of casual drug taking: “We ain’t got no high / Except for that one with the yellowy eyes”

Def. Con. One.

Pop Will Eat Itself

Andy said if we didn’t do a list, it would all be PWEI and Shed Seven. All PWEI songs were credited to Vestan Pance. It was a pseudonym for the band as a whole. Although the songs were mainly Graham Crabb or Clint Mansell who of course went on to do the theme for Requiem for a Dream, or as you probably know it, that music from Lord of the Rings, you heathen. DEFCON1, by the way, meant war is imminent.

Mr Blue Sky


A favourite of JJ, who couldn’t make it on the day.

Personal Jesus

Jonny Cash

According to Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore, this one is about Priscilla Presley. Really?

Was Cash friends with Priscilla’s dad? Maybe, but legend has it he was crucial to the writing of one of the Pelvis’ biggest hits. According to Cash: “I told Carl [Perkins] about C. V. White and the blue suede shoes. C. V. White was a Black airman from Virginia I’d known in Landsberg — he told us the initials stood for ‘Champagne Velvet,’ but none of us ever knew the truth — and one night he said this one thing that really struck me.

“When we got a three-day pass we’d get out our best uniforms, polish our brass, and spit-shine our shoes. C.V. would come by and say, ‘How do I look, man?’ ‘Like a million dollars,’ I’d tell him, and it was true.”

“One night he laid the line on me at that point. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘just don’t step on my blue suede shoes!’ ‘They’re not blue suede, C.V. They’re air force black, like everyone else’s.’ ‘No, man. Tonight they’re blue suede. Don’t step on’ em’”.

If it weren’t for that conversation with Cash, Perkins wouldn’t have written the definitive song of his career, and Elvis would also be without one of his most worshipped tracks.



More French pop, or as the magazines call it Retrofuturism. Perfect for the Department’s playlist. Kavinsky is a character made by Vincent Belorgey that has a “striking resemblance to Vincent himself” but the backstory does not follow anything in Belorgey’s history. Kavinsky’s story is that after crashing his Testarossa in 1986, he reappeared as a zombie in 2006 to make his own electronic music.

Se Decidi Cosi

Jimmy Ruffin

This Italian version of What Becomes of The Broken-hearted translates literally as “If You Decide So”. Jimmy was a bona fide legend. In the 1980s, he moved to the UK where he continued to perform. In December 1984 he collaborated with Paul Weller for his benefit single “Soul Deep”, produced to raise money for the families of striking miners affected by the miners’ strike. Jimmy appeared with Paul on Radio 1 to say he is involved because his father worked down the mines and “he understands the suffering.” In 1986 he also collaborated with Sheffield group Heaven 17, singing “A Foolish Thing to Do” and “My Sensitivity” on a 12″ EP record.

Love Is The Law

The Seahorses

Another Mark fave. Written by ex-Stone Roses guitarist John Squire. Band member, Chris Helme, was spotted by a friend of Squire’s guitar tech busking outside Woolworths in York. Following several auditions and the prompting of his manager, Squire eventually recruited Helme, despite being hesitant because he “closed his eyes when he sang and only folk singers do that”

Down The Road


Over 30m YouTube plays and you’d think this track by C2C was pretty commonplace, but not according to our stilt walker, who performed with the French musical group in Paris. He reckoned no one in the UK plays it! Well the 4 C2C DJs: Atom and pFeL from Beat Torrent and 20Syl and Greem from Hocus Pocus will no doubt be happy with the Department.

Radio Gaga

Electric Six

Once told the band I loved the bit that goes ‘Stop! – Plays cover – Continue!’ only to be told they weren’t doing that anymore.

Live & Let Die

Paul McCartney & Wings

Only the band The Beatles could have been.

Go With The Flow

Queens of The Stone Age

Josh Homme qualifies by the fact he has been involved with acts such as Royal Blood, Foo Fighters, Run the Jewels, and Arctic Monkeys.

I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

The White Stripes

Dusty Springfield was not the first artist to record this one. Her 1964 hit was a full 2 years after Chuck Jackson first sang on the Bacharach and David song, but his version was shelved and remained unreleased until it appeared on a 1984 compilation. The black-and-white music video to accompany the White Stripes 2003 version was directed by Sofia Coppola and features Kate Moss pole dancing in black underwear.

Where Is My Mind?

The Pixies

Black Francis’ “stop” at the beginning of the song triggers certain Google phones to switch off their alarms.

The 2nd Law: Unsustainable


All natural and technological processes proceed in such a way that the availability of the remaining energy decreases. In all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves an isolated system, the entropy of that system incre,cre,cre,cre,c,c,creases. Energy continuously flows from being concentrated, to becoming dispersed, spread out, wasted and useless. New energy cannot be created and high grade energy is being destroyed. An economy based on endless growth is…



Another Andy recommendation but a regular listen during Tony’s college years.


Seu Jorge

Brazilian Seu Jorge covers this one and appears singing it in the 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Bowie commented “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese, I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.”

Bowie and the Spiders recorded their iconic Top Of The Pops Starman performance in 1972. The quartet were augmented for the performance by ex-Tucky Buzzard keyboard player Nicky Graham, who went on to write such ‘classics’ as I Owe You Nothing for Bros and Let’s Get Ready To Rumble for PJ & Duncan (Ant and Dec). Robert Smith (The Cure), Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunny Men), Gary Newman, Siouxsie (without the Banshees) and Clint Mansell (PWEI – hey, callback!) all said the appearance kickstarted their interests in music.

X-Ray Visions


Clutch’s eleventh studio album (Psychic Warfare) was released in 2015. Beardy frontman Neil Fallon said the album is influenced by science fiction author Philip K. Dick. “His general philosophy and questions have always crept into my lyrics, because I share an interest in it… On this record, ‘X-Ray Visions’ certainly is.”

What’s Up?

4 Non Blondes

So, it’s called What’s Up? Not, What’s Going On? – that’s Marvin. 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry said about the song: “It’s like, ‘Why does it always seem like either I’m struggling, or there’s some f–king political mess happening? Why is this all happening in the world?'”

Back In Black


AC/DC’s tribute to their former singer Bon Scott. Singer Brian Johnson said: “I just wrote what came into my head, which at the time seemed like mumbo, jumbo. ‘Nine lives. Cats eyes. Abusing every one of them and running wild.’ The boys got it though. They saw Bon’s life in that lyric.”


Dean Martin

“To Fly”

Pleasure x Newjack x Civilization


Second appearance by French rock/poppers Justice. From the WWW remix album that comprises reworks of songs from their back catalogue. On 18 March 2021, Rolling Stone reported that the duo band sent a cease and desist letter to Justin Bieber over the album, Justice, citing willful trademark infringement over the “cross” logo.


CeeLo Green

Crazy with CeeLo & Prince

Virtual Insanity


More craziness, with fluffy hats and computers


Urban Dance Squad

Dutch rap rock band who appears on the soundtrack of the 1995 film Hackers, and the band has a cameo appearance in the film.

Sail (Awolnation Rework)


Meute are a techno marching band – eleven drummers and horn players from Hamburg/Germany who fulfil the job of a DJ with their acoustic instruments. Right up our street.

In Love With A Psycho


Gentlemen. Medication time.

Frontier Psychiatrist

The Avalanches

That boy needs therapy! The Avalanches have been described as pioneers of plunderphonics, with one reviewer referring to them as the “legendary plunderphonics powerhouse”. The process of sampling other sources is found in various genres (notably hip-hop and especially turntablism), but in plunderphonic works, the sampled material is often the only sound used. These samples are usually uncleared and sometimes result in legal action being taken due to copyright infringement.

Mad Hatter

Melanie Martinez

More crazy stuff… Former The Voice star, Melanie Martinez, earned a huge fan base during the peak of Tumblr… 24 of her 26 music videos were self-directed.

Daddy Come & Get Me

Dolly Parton

Dolly was originally bookending the playlist with a nice song from a mental institution, until a little extra madness was added at the end.

Dolly revealed the primary inspiration came from her own family, where her aunt had a nervous breakdown after being cheated on by her husband, who subsequently had her committed. “She was begging her daddy, trying to get a message to her daddy to come and get her out of the insane asylum,” she said.

Dolly noted in her 2020 book, Songteller: “We thought, how sad it must be to have to reach out to your father to say, ‘I’m in this mental institution looking out through these iron bars. How could he put me in here? How could he go that far?’ She couldn’t call on her husband, obviously. You can always count on your parents, although in the song, you can’t tell if the daddy will rescue her or not.”

“Shia LaBeouf” Live

Rob Cantor


After a friend began “dramatically whispering” the name of actor Shia LaBeouf, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Rob Cantor wrote “Shia LaBeouf” in 2011, inspired by “nothing but the sheer silliness of imagining Shia LaBeouf, face and clothes smeared with half-dried blood, terrorizing helpless victims in a dark wood.

Robert Loomes (Baumann UK tech supremo) has a love/hate relationship with the song. Rob Cantor is the singer in Tally Hall.