“Propaganda are mostly forgotten now, but trust me, this is what 1985 sounded like. Big, majestic, mysterious, not afraid to explore the darker side of things – a dream within a dream indeed. All credit to the band themselves, who I know nothing about except I think the woman doing the singing was German (maybe they all were). But don’t overlook the guy in the control room, twiddling the dials, pulling it all together – one Trevor Horn who was rather a big deal at the time working with the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC, Grace Jones, Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock, not to forget Yes and The Buggles (he was in both of them). Pop sonic artist of the decade? There are worse arguments.” (Philip Random)
“DOA, original Vancouver punks, deliver the theme song to the great general strike of the mid 1980s, wherein the people finally just got so disgusted, they all rose up simultaneously and shut the whole stupid system down. The asylums were emptied, the schools burned, the banks blown to smithereens, the various politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders strangled with each others intestines. Or maybe it was just a dream.” (Philip Random)
In which Ralph Schuckett, Richard Butler, Bob Dorough, Ellen Shipley and John Petersen take on a Kurt Weill song made famous by the Doors, sort of. But it really ought to be the other way around, Kurt Weill being one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century (oft working with Bertolt Brecht), and the degree to which so many are ignorant of this is the degree to which we continue to be ignorant of what makes this f***ed up world continue to spin and wobble and crash and burn. Fortunately, producer, arranger, lover-of-cool-stuff Hal Willner set a bunch of us straight in the mid-80s sometime with Lost In The Stars an all-star tribute if ever there was one. Beyond the five names already listed, it had Todd Rundgren, Van Dyke Parks, Dagmar Krause, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull, even Sting (not sucking) all throwing in, paying homage, telling the truth.
“I stumbled onto Tom Waits through the movies (the songs he did for Francis Coppola’s One From the Heart mess, the beat hipster he played in Coppola’s Rumblefish, the idiot on the run in Down By Law) so I guess it makes sense that I think of him more as a showbiz guy than the essential musical force that some seem to. Yeah, he can lay down the gravely depths, but how much of that is just acting, pretending, NOT real blues, soul, whatever. But then you hear something like Hang Down Your Head, which is the kind of song Bruce Springsteen only wishes he could write, and you realize you’re probably wrong.”
“When Einsturzende Neubauten recorded Sand, the Berlin Wall was still dividing their home town, a fact of geo-political nature if there ever was one. So yeah, here was a raw slab of pure, impossible to ignore Cold War soul. Little did I realize it was a Lee Hazelwood cover until a certain backyard BBQ maybe a decade later. The Wall was gone by then and even eight thousand miles away you could feel the overall decompression. Or maybe it was all the marijuana and tequila. Anyway, I was lying in a hammock counting the clouds or whatever and suddenly there was Nancy Sinatra doing an Einsturzende cover. It made perfect sense.” (Philip Random)
“The Singing Fools were from Toronto, I think. But the whole world was doing the Apocalypso by the mid 1980s, what with the doomsday clock edging closer and closer to midnight, the ice caps officially melting, the ozone layer officially depleting, chemical spills wiping out entire towns, nuclear reactors melting down, and the President of the USA well on his way to dementia. What else were you going to do?” (Philip Random)
“The special beauty underlying all the ugliness of the Butthole Surfers comes from the fact that they were the manifestation of everything any good, god fearing parent ever feared about rock and roll. They were impossibly loud, and ugly, and committed unspeakable crimes onstage and off. In other words, they were exactly what the mid-1980s needed.” (Philip Random)
The so-called sound art project known as Nocturnal Emissions take a few bland self-help samples, lay down a simple groove and deliver an anthem of sorts on the theme of healing. Because by the time 1985 hit, everyone knew someone who was dying of the big disease with a little name (as Prince put it), even if we didn’t actually know they had it yet. Such was the AIDS crisis of the mid-80s — a death sentence all the way. And yet we’re human, so we never give up. Some of us anyway.