“Have I raved enough yet about how indispensably, imperfectly essential the Clash’s Sandinista is? Probably not. Three slabs of vinyl, thirty-six songs, jams, dubs, meltdowns, whatever you want to call them. Not World Music so much as what the world actually sounded like in 1980-81, including war, here-there-everywhere, young men being called up, sent off to do and die. Which is what The Call-Up‘s about (from about halfway through Side Four). Don’t go, young man. Don’t fall for the patriotic bullsh** of old men whose blood won’t be doing the spilling. Remember that rose you want to live for.” (Philip Random)
“In which David Byrne and Brian Eno step outside of the Talking Heads for a bit and, to no surprise, end up changing music forever. No, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts didn’t invent sampling (Holger Czukay was already messing around with disembodied voices inside and out of Can), but it did rather open the gates, with Mea Culpa proving ideal for heroic doses of LSD, assuming you were up to it. I wasn’t always. I recall once hearing it at a gloomy, January dusk, a riverbank, a cold wind blowing. We were in the flight path of the local airport. I became convinced an incoming plane was crashing. But it wasn’t the plane. It was me.” (Philip Random)
The Au Pairs didn’t stick around for long, and they never exactly cracked the charts, but they definitely had something for their time. And a darned interesting time it was, the early 1980s, when white punks and other related fringe dwellers were discovering funk and politics in more or less equal measure, messing around with them, not being remotely pure, and the culture was all the better for it.
“Listening to Abba is like having a bath, then going to bed with freshly cleaned sheets. Or so I heard it put way back when, the 1970s. But by the time the 1980s hit, the culture no longer required such luxuriant cleanliness. So Abba effected a change, got darker, deeper, paranoid even. Which worked for me, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard The Visitors popping up at a wedding.” (Philip Random)
The genius of Todd Rundgren is that he can do anything – pop, soul, rock, prog, abstract avant whatever. The worst thing about Todd Rundgren is that’s exactly what he does way too often — anything and everything all at the same time, and it all just ends up getting in the way of itself. But not so the title track of Healing (which takes up all of side two). It’s 1981 and drum machines and synths and sequencers are the cool new toys of the moment, and, genius that he is, Todd knows exactly how to play with them, to genuine therapeutic effect.
“It says 1974 on the cover but Brian Eno‘s second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (by strategy) will always be pure 1981 for me. Weird and oft times jagged pop was pretty much perfectly in synch with the times and thus not at all afraid to just dissolve into abstraction if necessary. Which was fine by me given all the acid I was taking. I needed those dissolutions, like at the end of The Great Pretender when the crickets (or whatever they are) just take over, suck us into the insect realm, alien and strange.” (Philip Random)
In which Rupert Hine (better known as producer than performer) reminds us that the best music of the early 1980s generally wasn’t that nice at all deep down inside, but rather deep with shadow, strange eruptions, queasy feelings of madness, suspicion, and vertigo. The album Immunity is a rare gem, full of such stuff. Nothing remotely normal about any of it.
“I cannot tell a lie. The first time I heard the name Dead Kennedys, it kind of took my breath away. I didn’t say anything out loud or anything, but I liked the Kennedys, was old enough to remember the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. And now here was this punk band exploiting them. Not that I really even listened to the music really. It was just trash and exploitation, right? With a name like that! It took 1981’s In God We Trust EP to set me straight, particularly We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now (which I later discovered was a reworking of California Uber Alles from their first album). It was the lounge bit at the beginning that hooked me, the part about happy hour being enforced by law, and a jar of Hitler’s brain juice in the back, and Emperor Ronald Reagan born again with fascist cravings. Welcome to the future. Ready or not.” (Philip Random)
“The whole of Holger Czukay‘s third solo album, On The Way to the Peak of Normal, is a weird and mysterious and wonderful gem, with Ode to Perfume (the full version of which inhabits the entire second of side of vinyl) particularly notable because of that haunting melody at the beginning – actual chunks of somebody else’s song that I vaguely recognized but could never place (sampling before they called it sampling), until finally, just a few years ago, I finally did place it, but only because a friend’s mp3 shuffle randomly threw the two of them on pretty much one after another. It’s Suspicion made famous by Jimmy Stafford, a genius piece of paranoid pop if there ever was one.” (Philip Random)