In which Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) and the ever revolving crowd at Public Image Ltd remind us that the very idea of a love song was problematic come the 1980s, Ian Curtis having slain the beast with Love Will Tear Us Apart (and then he hung himself to emphasize his point). Which didn’t mean that love didn’t exist anymore. It had just become a heavier, more complex and dangerous thing. And take note. This is the original single version, vastly superior to overproduced mess that eventually showed up on album.
“Bauhaus were one of those rare bands who were so confident in the songwriting and performing categories that they could casually release something as raw and nasty and good as Lagartija Nick and not even bother to include it on an album. Which isn’t to say it didn’t make it onto my obligatory Bauhaus mixtape, essential soundtrack to many an mid-early 80s trip to the fun part of the dark side (or was it the dark part of the fun side).” (Philip Random)
1983’s Dazzle Ships was the last Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album that felt necessary. Smart pop that wasn’t afraid to get experimental, and it worked (for the most part anyway – it actually rated as a commercial disaster at the time). “Radio Waves stood out because I was just getting started on my own radio adventures at the time. From the transmitter to the receiver. Sounds simple until you get profoundly high and suddenly you realize, it’s not just the machines that are transmitting and receiving, it’s human beings, human hearts, human souls. It’s all one big cosmic pop extravaganza, and you can dance to it.” (Philip Random)
“Birdsongs of the Mesozoic had a simple enough formula. Turn on a drum machine and then get serious with various keyboards, horns, other devices. And man, did it work on their debut EP! Five genuinely deep and wild yet coherent improvisations that were exactly what the world seemed to need at the moment. My world anyway, particularly when driving crosstown so late it was getting early, trying to get home before rush hour hit.” (Philip Random)
“JJ Cale speaks the truth. JJ Cale who’s cooler than I’ll ever be, or Eric Clapton for that matter. In fact, I’m cooler than Eric Clapton, because no one ever confused with me God, except myself, of course, but that didn’t survive my twenty-seventh birthday. But enough about me. How cool was JJ Cale? He was mucking around with drum machines as early as 1971, yet so deep into his dirt poor sort of lazy rolling boogie, blues, country stylings that nobody bothered to take note. But Money Talks came twelve years later, sounding like it may have been thirty years earlier. Nothing cooler than fooling time.” (Philip Random)
If the summer of 1983 had an official soundtrack album, New Order were on it. Or perhaps Power Corruption + Lies (and the non album monster single that preceded it, Blue Monday) was that soundtrack. Because power, corruption and lies were all the rage that summer – Ronald Raygun in the White House, the wicked witch of the west Maggie Thatcher running things in the UK, the Cold War in full acceleration mode, nuclear winter in all the forecasts even if the sun was shining. Your Silent Face seemed to be a love song, except if you actually listened to the lyrics, you realized it was packing as much bile as anything else. It was that kind of summer.
“The Call stuck around for a good while, and always told the truth. But for me they’re forever 1983, saying what had to be said. Which is basically, hey America, remember those Romans who conquered the whole known world only to have their empire crumble under the weight of their corruption, hubris, decadence, stupid triumphalism? Looked in the mirror recently?” (Philip Random)
“Wall of Voodoo at Vancouver’s Luv-A-Fair in 1983 remains one of the greatest live shows I’ve ever seen. I walked in knowing maybe two of their songs (including the Johnny Cash cover) and walked out a convert. But then lead guy Stan Ridgway quit, and though both he and the band would continue to release stuff, none of it would ever touch the electricity of what they had together. At least I still had the records, except they weren’t as good as the live item, with Call of the West a case in point. Whereas live it was an epic sort of west coast surf rawk film noir (with an Ennio Morricone edge), on record it was merely very good. Oh well.” (Philip Random)
“As the story goes, when Keith Levene split Public Image Ltd, he did so with a few recent master recordings under his arm. Which is a good thing. Else we probably would never have heard the likes of Blue Water, which first showed up as a b-side in 1983. Deep and weird and exactly the kind of thing you wanted cranked to the nines on your ghetto blaster when the drugs were all kicking in and you had an abandoned house to explore up the seashore a ways. Nobody was afraid of ghosts in the 80s. The real world was putting them all to shame.” (Philip Random)