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The early 1990s were a good time to be an Anglophile. Even more so than during the whole Britpop thing, if you can believe that.

Allow me to explain. Modern rock radio was exploding, but as eager as they were to crown new kings, the format still had great respect for the bands that blazed the trail before a clear path existed. And the programmers didn’t look down their noses at a band if they had commercial success, either; Tears for Fears were just as welcome on the dial as The The. There were no subgenres under the British pop umbrella, either; British pop was British pop, with no separation of the “cool” from the “uncool.” And everyone had a shot at scoring a hit. It was a beautiful time.

Few compilations from the era demonstrate this all-for-one approach better than Ruby Trax, a three-disc compilation assembled by rock mag (or is it rag?) NME as a benefit to the Spastics Society. The magazine had turned the big 4-0, and to celebrate, they asked a bunch of bands – forty of them, natch – to cover a Number One single from the rock era. Many bands played to their strengths and covered material that was similar to their own; others went completely off the rails. Sometimes this was a good thing. Other times, not.

Disc One is, by this writer’s estimate, the weakest of the three. It starts out strongly enough with the Wonder Stuff’s fiddle-happy take on Slade’s “Coz I Luv You,” and Billy Bragg unleashes his inner disco dancer on, of all things, the Three Degrees’ ballad “When Will I See You Again.” The Jesus and Mary Chain – surprise! – get lost in feedback on a cover of Howling Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster” (the Stones took it to the top), and then the Mission goes absolutely supernova on their cover of Blondie’s “Atomic.” I still put the Mission and Stuffies covers on mix discs.