330. incubus [blue suit]

“I don’t know why I never really dove in and listened to Tuxedomoon. Maybe the records were just too hard to find. As it is, Incubus found me in the early 80s via Best of Ralph, a compilation that went a long way toward turning essential parts of my brain and soul inside-out and sideways, all in the interest of driving home the point that the world wasn’t just stranger than I imagined, it was stranger than I could even begin to imagine imagining. Thanks, Ralph.” (Philip Random)

tuxedomoon-1981-live

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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)

Clash-1981-backstage

399. hard times

Wherein the Human League pound home the point (with big beat and propulsive groove) that the times are always hard. It just depends where you’re sitting, or in this case, dancing. A track that never got released on an album but all the club DJs found it anyway. Do You Want Me Baby? may have been the big deal hit at the time, but it took Hard Times to burn down the house (and perhaps the Empire).

HumanLeague-1981

 

408. thela hun gingeet

It’s 1981 and King Crimson main man Robert Fripp has reformed the band (after better part of seven years in the wilderness) with a whole new sound and Discipline, and the result is thundering (to put it mildly). Thela Hun Gingeet translates as Heat In The Jungle and it concerns an experience that Adrian Belew (the new guy) had while out for a walk with a tape recorder in the still rather mean streets of NYC. Word is, it actually caused stereo systems to catch fire back in the day.

KingCrimson-1981-liveEDIT

426. telephone + rubber band

“It’s true. We dropped our share of LSD in the 1980s, often as not up on mountaintops, miles from any electrical outlets. So we’d drag a blaster with us, because you had to have a soundtrack for all the strangeness and multiplicity. But what happened when we ran into normal folks? That’s where the Penguin Café Orchestra cassette came in handy. Right at the point where their faces were twisting to baleful scowls of judgment and disgust, we’d let drop easy acoustic textures incorporating fiddles, banjos, harmoniums, all manner of wooden gear that nevertheless floated strangely on the subliminal breeze. Although that Telephone + Rubber Band song did seem to confuse.” (Philip Random)

PenguinCafe-MASK

452. streets of Laredo

John Cale being one of those artists who has never felt compelled to repeat himself. This version of the old cowboy song comes from 1981’s Honi Soit, which may not be anyone’s definition a pop item but it was his biggest seller. Which means there are likely still many copies of it floating around, which makes me feel very good somehow. Curious young minds stumbling onto Streets of Laredo gone discordantly into the ditch, dumping all the sunshine and melodrama, leaving only drama and the stink of death. I’d love to see this movie.” (Philip Random)

JohnCale-honisoit-crop

471. statues

“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)

OMD-Organization

531. tse tse fly

The album’s called Dark Continent, and the song’s called Tse Tse Fly (both references to Africa) but Wall of Voodoo‘s first (and best) long player is really about America. The jangly guitars, cheap drum machines, scrapyard percussion bits and tips into noise. And the stories being told, equal parts noir and surreal. What could be more American?

WallofVoodoo-1981

554. too drunk to f***

“Nasty rip of Dead Kennedy genius from 1981, assholism not just on the rise in Ronald Reagan‘s America, boiling over. Fortunately, we had the best west coast hardcore to help us focus our rage, antipathy, spite. Not at anybody in particular – just the general, clean-cut crowd. The so-called good kids, all dressing the same, looking the same, drinking the same shitty beer, getting too drunk to stand, let alone f***, puking their repressed, conservative, neo-fascist guts.” (Philip Random)

DeadKennedys-1981-live