290. dreams of leaving

Before their absurdly huge pop success, Human League had two albums of just being a cool outfit mucking around with synthesizers, drum machines, other weird gear, exploring all the mysterious regions that the new technology was opening up. Dreams of Leaving, found on their second album Travelogue, gets downright epic before it’s done, something to do with closed borders, grudges, maybe just paranoia. It was 1980. There was a lot to worry about.

HumanLeague-1980

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291. Searching for Mr. Right

“I’m pretty sure the first time I heard the term Young Marble Giant was that night friend-of-a-friend Carl Johnson, wasted on alcohol and who knows what else, stepped onto a busy Seymour Street, threw his arms wide, and declared ‘I Am A Young Marble Giant’. Horns honked, tires squealed, people called him asshole, but nothing hit him. Jump ahead maybe twenty years and Carl had become an investment banker, gotten stupidly rich. Meanwhile, I’d gotten around to picking up Colossal Youth, the only album by the group known as Young Marble Giants. Call it monolithic in its subtlety, restraint, and ultimate timelessness. But worth dying for?” (Philip Random)

YoungMarbleGiants-1980

293. Spanish Bombs

“I liked Spanish Bombs from first listen, which would’ve been summer, 1980, bombing around suburbia in co-worker Gregory’s hot rod, London Calling being the only album I ever remember him playing. It was that kind of album. Still is, I guess. But Spanish Bombs wouldn’t truly land with me until about ten years later, a beach, a bonfire. Some girl I’d never met before grabbed an acoustic guitar and nailed it, nailed me. It was love at first sight, first chorus. Sort of. Because I’ve never seen her since. Except sometimes when Spanish Bombs comes on, like a ghost, I guess, lost in some mythical Andalusia.” (Philip Random)

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311. have you heard + the journey

“It was a summer party, a backyard thing, 1980 or thereabouts, the evening shifting sweetly into twilight, everybody else having gone inside leaving just me and the stillness, and the music, the stereo having been dragged outside earlier, various mixtapes coming and going, and now, miraculously, as though ordained from on high, the Moody Blues‘ epic and spacious finale to Threshold of a Dream, their third and best album — it suddenly seemed to contain everything, capture all the complexity of the moment in strange apprehension, like a painting, but not looking at it, being inside it. Definitely the threshold of something. The acid was kicking in.” (Philip Random)

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317. requiem

“I still remember the first time I heard Requiem, track one side one of Killing Joke‘s self-titled debut album.  It was 1981 sometime, a friend’s place. I walked in and he had it cranked LOUD. Like nothing I’d ever heard before. Intense, violent even, yet not in a particular hurry. Like a genuinely dangerous metal band had embodied the vehemence of punk. Or whatever. The best music is always beyond words. Call it the future, I guess, lobbing us a wake up call. I remember it was stormy that day, great black clouds forcing the horizon.” (Philip Random)

KillingJoke-1980-gatefold

321. Charlie Don’t Surf

“Come 1980, The Clash really had nothing left to prove to anyone, having delivered perhaps the greatest rock and roll album of all time in the waning days of 1979, the four-sided monster known as London Calling. So what to do next except everything, which gave us the six-sided mega-monster Sandinista. Charlie Don’t Surf shows up well into things, a song that takes a line from Apocalypse Now and extrapolates from there, all distant helicopters and dreamy if discordant keyboards. A friend of mine heard it once at a bar in Jamaica and it worked so well it didn’t even register until a few hours later that The Clash’s take on reggae had made it to a Jamaican mixtape! Were they really that good? Apparently so.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1980-backstage

333. numbers + computer world

“I first heard Kraftwerk‘s Computer World at Michael’s place. A sort of slimy guy that we used to buy dope from back in the late 70s, early 80s. He lived in a high rise near English Bay, always had the stereo on loud, usually playing shitty soft rock. Except this one time, a beautiful day, sun glowing in off the bay – it was this cool machine music. Kraftwerk, I would’ve guessed, except Kraftwerk weren’t around anymore, were they? A couple of gimmicky robot records back in the mid-70s and then back to Germany. I was right. It was indeed Kraftwerk, still cranking out the future. I was wrong. They were anything but a gimmick. Suddenly, I had a pile of exploring to do.”

Kraftwerk-1980-computerWorld

342. Summertime in England

“I discovered Summertime in England in springtime in Ireland, care of a cassette I’d randomly picked up because it was on sale in a kiosk at a bus station, and Van Morrison was Irish, of course, and it made sense to have some of his music with me as I wandered his homeland in my rent-a-car, drank Guinness, wondered what the hell I was actually doing there, which I eventually realized had something to do with finding myself at a place known as the Bloody Foreland, extreme north west of Donegal, so called because every now and then, at sunset, everything turned a fiery, almost unearthly red. And I caught one of those sunsets, with Summertime In England playing, of course, the last half in particular, where ole Van has to just go to Church, spill his soul out to the entirety of everything everywhere forever. One of those magical mystical moments that makes you shut up and not think about it anymore, you just know. God is real, God does exist, and she’s a Van Morrison fan.” (Philip Random)

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377. magnificent seven

“In retrospect, we realized that The Magnificent Seven was the Clash taking on hip-hop, but in early 1981 when Sandinista first arrived, nobody in suburban Canadian wherever had even heard the term yet. So for me, it felt more like a riff on Bob Dylan, subterranean and homesick — definitely New York City in all of its turn of the decade corrosion and despair, and yet madly fertile anyway, not unlike the world as a whole at the time. The acid helped in this regard. I feel I should I apologize for this, all the acid references that seem to pop up whenever some kind of broader cultural view is required as to what really went down in the 1980s (my angle on it anyway). But why should one apologize for telling the truth? The Clash never did. Even when they were wrong.” (Philip Random)

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