Exposure is a song (for lack of a better word) that Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp conceived for Gabriel’s rather unsettled second album. Bleak, abrasive, creepy, prophetic – it was determined (it seems) to drive a wedge between what each had been up to in the past with their previous outfits, and the brave new future on the verge of boiling over as the 1980s dawned. Then, to drive the point home, Fripp made it the title track of his 1979 debut solo album, although now a different singer (a woman named Terre Roche) was tearing up the atmosphere, taking things to the point of genuine pain. Because, to quote Mr. Fripp, ” … the old world, characterized by large, unwieldy and vampiric organizations, was dead.” And what did the new one sound like? Small, independent, mobile, intelligent. And up for a fight, no question.
It’s 1979. The 1960s are over already. Long gone. Get over it. Unless you’re Embryo (German hippies with hot musical chops), in which case, you pile into a bus with a film crew and a load of recording gear and go further, go east, across Persia, Afghanistan, down the sub-continent into India, mix it up with masters and untouchables, deliver the ancient news. There’s even a movie about it.
In which Severed Heads remind us that there’s joy in repetition, or maybe just madness; and truth in the notion that many of the so-called Industrial artists of the 1980s only got worse as they got better at figuring out their instruments and related technology, got to sounding more and more like normal musicians. In Severed Heads case, that means they’d peaked long before I ever heard them via any number of cassette only releases. But fortunately, that truth eventually found me via Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live In The Past, a double vinyl compilation full of delightfully strange and, if needs be, antagonistic excursions.
Marianne Faithfull from Broken English, one of the best albums of 1979 (or any other year for that matter). “This song made no sense to me at first. I thought she was saying she felt ‘good’. Why so gloomy then? Was it some twisted junkie thing I needed heroin in my veins to figure out? Then I finally bought the album and read the title, and there it was: guilt. Which suddenly made all kinds of sense. And reminds me of sage wisdom c/o old friend Jill. Guilt is easy to avoid. Just don’t do that thing that you know you’ll end up feeling guilty about. Words to live by.” (Philip Random)
“Second of two in a row from London Calling, the greatest rock and roll album ever (arguably). Released at the very end of the 1970s, that at least makes it the first indispensably great rock and roll album of the 1980s, maybe the last. Commercial radio, of course, only played two tracks but all four sides were nigh on brilliant – the power and rage of full-on punk tempered only enough to allow everything else to burst on through. With The Card Cheat, that meant widescreen rock all brassed up and gunning for the promised land, which is again miles beyond anything Bruce Springsteen could have hoped for at the time, who I’m only mentioning here because his 1980 double album The River had no problem getting played all over the radio. And it was at least two sides too long.” (Philip Random)
“Is there a bad track on London Calling? Is there an average track on London Calling? Brand New Cadillac is neither, of course. Brand New Cadillac is The Clash tearing through an old Vince Taylor b-side, unleashing the kind of old school rock and roll fervor that Bruce Springsteen could only dream of.” (Philip Random)
“It took me three albums before I finally got Talking Heads, the aptly named Fear of Music being one of those long players that absolutely does not have a weak moment (even the radio ad was a killer). From ballads to groovers to psyche outs to the powerhouse doom of Memories Can’t Wait, it was so good it was scary. But good luck hearing anything but the one song on the commercial rock radio of 1979 (and even that was mostly scarce). No doubt about it – the music industry was scared to f***ing death by stuff of the depth and quality of Fear of Music. So if you wanted to hear it, you had to go out and actually buy it, or tape a friend’s copy, kill the whole stupid industry. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it.” (Philip Random)
“I was just starting to take Bob Marley seriously when he died in 1981. So a comparatively obscure album cut like Babylon System didn’t find me until the 1990s sometime. Which was as good a time as any for an outside opinion on the evils inherent in the vampiric empire I was inextricably part of, by the very nature of where and when I was born, not to mention the pale shade of my skin. Sucking the blood of the children and the sufferers day by day.” (Philip Random)
“Premonition was the first Simple Minds track I ever heard, and it came via mixtape – the follow up to an argument I’d had with a friend about so-called New Wave music. Simplistic and annoying (my opinion) versus the cool sound of the future (his opinion). I was wrong. The proof was on that tape, Premonition sealing the deal with its big, dark groove. So much so that I was quick to grab the album, embrace the future, even if Simple Minds themselves would eventually come to truly, unironically earn their name, but that took at least five or six albums, so who’s really complaining?” (Philip Random)