“The Cocteau Twins are like the new wave Kate Bush. I can still see the idiot who said this to me, one of those music biz types who was still doing the feathered hair thing well into the 1980s. Not that there was anything at all wrong with Kate Bush. It was the timing of it, 1984. So-called New Wave had peaked at least five years earlier, and it was never a proper genre anyway, just a way of marketing fresh sounding stuff that was easier to listen to than punk and whatever. Which gets us back to the Cocteau Twins who were exquisitely easy to listen to, a million miles from punk, a welcome shade of beauty and mystery at a time when everything just seemed to be getting more and more obvious, strident, aggressive. Even the good stuff. Pandora and the album it came from (the aptly named Treasure) gave us something to listen to when we got home from various gigs and warehouse situations. Smoke a little dope, sip a little wine, get luxuriantly lost. Part of me still is. Lost, that is, like Pandora.” (Philip Random)
Erotic City delivers as its title suggests. One of the dirtiest b-sides to ever make it onto a mega million selling single, and being the 1980s, that meant there was an extended option, almost eight minutes of groove and horniness and all night f***ing. The A-side was Let’s Go Crazy (all hail the Lord God in Heaven) making perhaps for the single release that encapsulates all that was transcendent, rude, euphoric, essential of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince.
This is Husker Du as they broke through, defining that zeitgeistmoment when punk finally embraced the psychedelic, became eternal. But Pink Turns To Blue is also Husker Du hinting at their inevitable demise. Or more to the point, Grant Hart, the drummer, the guy who wrote and sang it. A song about heroin and what happens when that person you love is changing colour on you, turning the wrong shade of blue. F***ing junkies. They ruin everything.
Public Image Ltd‘s fourth album, 1984’s This is What you Want … This is What you Get was a mess, the end result of a major reconfiguration of what had been one of the essential post-punk units. Main man John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was still on board, but previous compadres Jah Wobble and Keith Levine were both very much gone amid much drug and alcohol messing around and perhaps absconding with various P.I.L. master tapes for … reasons. But This is What you Want … This is What you Get was not a complete write-off if only for its lead off track, The Order of Death, which was just a chant basically, the album’s title repeated and repeated to ultimately powerful effect. Or as Philip Random puts it, “… key theme music for the movie I seemed to be stuck in at the time, the one concerning an entire culture going down in the sewage and bile of its own corrupt desires. Or something like that.”
“Vancouver, 1984. REM finally made it town and a sold out Commodore was waiting for them, including at least one member from every at least half-cool band in town. They opened with Radio Free Europe as I recall, which killed, but equally notable was Michael Stipe’s hair. It was long, uncut for at least a year, hippie long. Which just wasn’t done in those days in cool culture. Punk had accomplished that much, hadn’t it? Guys with long hair and cool no longer belonged in the same sentence, or the same nightclub. Jump ahead a year to 1985 and REM were back, playing to yet another sold out Commodore, and now there were all manner of long haired guys in the audience. Except now Michael Stipe had his cut short, and dyed blonde. People were confused, feeling out of synch. Until the band kicked into their first song, Gravity’s Pull from the new album Reconstruction Of The Fables – strong and dark, and heavy without being obvious about it. Everybody quickly forgot about the hair.” (Philip Random)
“DOA saved my life any number of times in the 1980s, mainly through their live shows. From the back of auto body shops to abandoned youth clubs to at least one high school gym to the Arts Club on Seymour (still the best damned live venue the Terminal City has ever had) to at least two sold out Commodore Ballrooms, to some impromptu acoustic messing around off the edge of a movie set – it was never pretty, always somehow beautiful. And I’m pretty sure they did War In The East every time, their only reggae song, because it slowed things a touch, clarified a few key points. Fighting one another – killing for big brother. Same as it ever was.” (Philip Random)
“This one came our way in 1979 (c/o London Calling, arguably the greatest album of any and all time), but it never had more currency for me than the summer of 1984. We dropped a lot of LSD that summer, in our mid-twenties by then. Old enough to know better, of course, or maybe just go further, higher, deeper through the absurdities of the ever corroding western world whose edges and holes and voids we felt compelled to explore. This meant going public with acid in our veins, taking it to malls, video arcades, strip joints, crowded downtown streets, fair grounds, everywhere, every weird and ugly thing. Getting lost in the supermarket, we called it.” (Philip Random)
“Fad Gadget’s Ad Nauseum is 1984 in a nutshell. A bitter gagging bile finally coalescing as full-on meltdown into noise … and yet it’s fun and artful, musical even. And it will forever remind me of old friend Carl who never failed to be in ownership of a rusting boat of a car (always GM product), which he’d recklessly plow through traffic, the music cranked loud, his hatred of all other drivers voiced even louder. Yet he never hit anything … until that one time he side-swiped a fire truck, and he was drunk. That didn’t go over well. In fact, I’m guessing it all sounded like the end of Ad Nauseum.”
“As the story goes, David Bowie’s first post-Ziggy Stardust album was supposed to be a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, but he couldn’t secure the rights, so it morphed into Diamond Dogs which was its own weird, extreme thing with a few explicitly 1984 songs included in the mix, including the climactic Big Brother, which manages to get quite epic before things get deeply off kilter with the Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family. Which is not just some b-grade horror stuff. It’s real. I’ve heard that infernal family, while deep inside the wrong kind of acid trip, the ‘I’m Dead’ kind, the kind you just want to end, but it goes on for millions of years, with all these wraithlike forms howling at you forever, because you’re dead, you died, this is what comes next. Which I suppose is relevant to 1984. What it feels like to get stomped in the face with a boot. Forever. Great music though.” (Philip Random)