“David Bowie hits the 1980s in powerful form with Scary Monsters, blows minds and fuses across all known dimensions. But then that’s pretty much it. He’ll sell piles of records through the decade, make the cover of TIME magazine, and everything else for that matter… but he’ll never be truly monstrous or scary again. Which is either A. damned sad, or B. whatever. I mean, it’s not as if he hadn’t already given us way more than enough through the 1970s, from collapsing the hippie dream to unleashing his own personal alien glam supernova, onward unto cocaine bullshit, decadence, everything. But he always kept his cool even as he lost his mind. Did any other single artist come even close? Definitely no game.” (Philip Random)
The forced marriage in 1980 of prog-rock dinosaurs Yes and earworm popsters The Buggles was a strange thing that should not have worked. And maybe it didn’t, because they only ever released one album (which was credited to Yes, but they should’ve called themselves something else, because any band called Yes without Jon Anderson involved just feels very wrong, like a Beatles without John Lennon). But all that said, Drama (the album) can’t just be dismissed, if only for the possible future it speaks of that never happened – a musical decade that managed to both embrace the cool new synthetic pop options and the recent powerhouse progressive past. Like an odd sci-fi movie that only you remember, seen just once late at night on one of those scrambled Pay TV channels. Maybe Tuesday Weld was in it.
“The memory is of seeing Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark perform Statues live, Commodore Ballroom, 1981. The song comes across nice and moody on record but in that big room, packed with every serious art-weirdo-scenester in town, it was powerful stuff, it shut everybody up, it put us all in a trance that was both transcendent and foreboding. It was official. The 1980s were going to be that kind of movie.” (Philip Random)
“Peter Gabriel’s first three solo albums were all called Peter Gabriel, so we fans (and I was definitely a fan) tended to refer to them as The Weird Eyes (the first), Nails On The Blackboard (the second), and Melting Face (the third). Melting Face was the one that mattered most, both then and now, the one where Gabriel finally figured out how to refine the best of his so-called prog-rock tendencies, fuse them with punk and new wave’s rawer, sharper edges, and thus kick things way into the future. And it all started with Intruder, a creepy hit of atonal menace that really was like nothing anybody had ever heard. Still is.” (Philip Random)
“Fashion victims, we called them. Also sophistos, or simply haircuts. But the correct term was New Romantic. And we could make all the fun we wanted, they had some of the best tunes for a while, with Fade To Grey particularly notable, because it was Visage, Steve Strange‘s group, the guy who’d started it all, shrugged off the ugly extremes of punk and replaced them with a more alluring and androgynous aesthetic – equal parts beautiful and absurd. Glam retro-fitted for the 1980s. And Fade To Grey was definitely beautiful.” (Philip Random)
“Back in the very early 1980s, before they became huge, absurd and even stupider than their name implied, Simple Minds were pretty darned cool. Smart modern beats and grooves that weren’t afraid to be dance-able. Lots of pumped up sonics, often machine driven, but hinting at an inner light. And they were strong live. I’m guessing I Travel was about being on the road, not that I ever bothered to study it. Just did what it was telling me, which was hit the dance floor, shake off the ghosts, be glad I was alive in interesting times.” (Philip Random)
“1986, I think. I finally got to see Bob Dylan in concert. Which was hardly a high point career wise. And the venue didn’t help. Football stadium, bad sound, mid summer hot. Fortunately, he had Tom Petty and his crowd keeping things rock solid, and four powerful women singing gospel style back up. But even so, the life tended to suck out of things whenever Bob opened his mouth. Sad but true. Until one of the encores. A song called In The Garden that I’d never heard before, obviously from his Christian phase, because it was clearly about Christ and his betrayal. And every word rang true, and glowed like burning coal. I guess he still believed. That night anyway. And I guess I did, too. In the music anyway. ” (Philip Random)
Known as the English Beat in the Americas, the British Beat in the Australia, The Beat were a big part of the groovy side of the so-called post-punk/new wave era, certainly at home in Britain, with the dub mix of Mirror in the Bathroom a nifty little number that was effective on the dance floor, in the background at parties, in the car whilst negotiating traffic. Which has always been the special appeal of dub to me – music which is mostly absent words, yet moving in a particular direction anyway. Something to do with sound-tracking the ongoing corrosion of the so-called Western World. And it’s fun.
It’s 1980 and even for the hippest of hippies, the 1960s are long over. And Daevid Allen was definitely one of those: founding member of both Gong and Soft Machine and before that, beat collaborator with the likes of William Burroughs and Terry Riley. And oh yeah, he was in Paris in May 1968, threw his hand in with the insurrection that almost brought the whole of Western Europe to the ground. But jump ahead twelve years and it wasn’t about big movements anymore, it was just you and me, eye to eye, and “… when we have killed each other, then we can the subject.”