“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.”
“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)
“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)
“Fred Frith being one of those geniuses who pretty much always let his playing do the talking, Gravity being an album that dates back to 1980, but it was deep into the 1990s before I gave it a proper listen. Music that stood the test, no doubt about that. Or more to the point, music that had confidently showed the way to the cool future we were then having. Rock and jazz and folk and all manner of exotic elements all humming along very nicely together, not world music per say, but what the world actually sounded like, with Hands of the Juggler a delirious standout, particularly once it shifts gears around the three-minute point.” (Philip Random)
“See Emily Play is one of those tracks that was a big hit in the UK, but missed pretty much completely in the Americas, the upside being, I never got overexposed. In fact, I never even heard it until at least 1980 when I stumbled across a cassette copy of Relics (a 1971 compilation). And fine it was. Because what better time and place than a bleak Canadian midwinter, almost thirteen years after the fact, to finally catch the peak of London’s psychedelic spring via Emily and the free games she dared playe? It still feels like sunshine, every time I hear it. Shine on, Mr. Barrett.” (Philip Random)
An early single provides strong evidence that Bauhaus were far more than just a goth outfit (the term didn’t even exist until after they’d split up). What they were was smart, innovative, never remotely boring, with Terror Couple Kill Colonel working all manner of studio exploration to get seductively under the skin, into the blood.
“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)