“The Three Johns being three guys named John (except one of them was actually Philip) and a drum machine – their general mood being loud and, in the case of Death of the European, somewhat psychedelic. My friend James couldn’t get enough of it for a while in the mid-80s. The yuppie apocalypse, he called it, tragedy of a soulless man having the wrong kind of epiphany as he realizes he’s been feeding a malevolent beast his entire working life, every dollar earned an investment in his own death. The 80s were full of such epiphanies, but they were seldom backed by such a strong soundtrack.” (Philip Random)
“They did this at Expo 86. A free show at the infamous Xerox Theatre. It was June sometime, or maybe July. I remember it was raining. I remember the NOISE erupting out into the plaza, like a palpable monster. I remember two little girls crying, their mother in a rage. ‘Music like that does things to people.’ But her rage was impotent. Einsturzende Neubauten just kept raging, even setting the stage on fire toward the end, oil rags carelessly tossed, fire extinguishers hustled to the scene. This wasn’t staged. I remember thinking, yes, this is true heavy metal because they’re actually hitting, grinding, hammering chunks of metal. I remember a bomb going off on the McBarge (the world’s first floating McDonald’s) or maybe it was just a grease fire gone horribly wrong. I remember watching it sink into False Creek, no survivors, just blood and oil fouling the water, drawing hundreds maybe thousands of sharks. But the concert carried on. The cops were afraid to stop it. Eventually, the military was called in. Actually, that last part was probably the acid.” (Philip Random)
“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)
“Love and Rockets definitely felt fresh when they first hit in around 1985. Ex-Bauhaus players lightening up some, laying down solid psyche infused rock and pop at a time when pretty much nobody else was thinking that way. But by the time their third album hit, Earth Sun Moon, I guess I was looking elsewhere, because I didn’t really notice No New Tale To Tell until years after its release. In fact, it was the flute solo that hooked me via somebody else’s mixtape. Not since Jethro Tull …” (Philip Random)
“I said my piece already on why there’s probably not enough Tom Waits on the list. Basically, I think of him as a character actor working a particular role (blue and boozy and nicotine infused), whereas in real life, he just mows his lawn and reads his morning paper and shouts at his kids like the guy next door, and the guy on the other side as well. But it is a strong act, I’ll give it that, and it really had me with Rain Dogs, in fact that whole prolonged mid-eighties moment he had. Like it’s 3am and you’re miles from home, polluted drunk, getting rained on. Except it’s not real rain, is it? It’s Hollywood rain, and Hollywood lights, too. Probably wasn’t even real whiskey. Am I allowed to say that? Clap Hands is great whatever the real story.” (Philip Random)
In which Shriekback give us airstrikes, poison kisses, Tinkerbell and Jack the Ripper, centaurs, monkeys, Greeks, Romans, big fat nemesis, parthenogenesis — there’s a lot going on here, even a little Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness by way of Apocalypse Now and Marlon Brando, his head shaved, gone mad in the primordial jungles of Cambodia, a man broken from himself (on the extended version anyway). So what’s it all mean other than we’re all gonna die, and asexual reproduction (which is what parthenogenesis means)? It’s a cool rhyme for nemesis. You gotta give it that. And otherwise, well, it’s from 1985. That’s how things were in those days. Full of looming horror and unlikely rhymes.
“Vancouver’s fabled York Theatre, 1985. Husker Du are in town, the hot ticket of the season. The joint’s packed and wild, like some hack Hollywood screenwriter’s fever dream of a punk rock show gone horribly wrong (in a good way). I’m pretty sure this is the night that somebody actually dove off the balcony. Or maybe that’s just how the drugs remember it. I was definitely quite high, ripped on some of the best LSD of the decade. Anyway, the evening ends up being like high school sex. It peaks way early with warm up act NoMeansNo more or less destroying the headliners. Dad is the encore, the first time I’ve ever heard it. I remember it moving me to tears. The sheer horror of it, and empathy, I guess. I remember thinking, punk rock isn’t supposed to do this. I remember throwing myself off the balcony. Well, maybe not that part.” (Philip Random)
King of the Hill was the Minutemen‘s version of consciously selling out. It said so on the cover, Project: Mersh. Record company big-wigs, pouring over the data, brainstorming how to shift more units, having a eureka moment. “I got it! We’ll have them write hit songs!” Good for a laugh. But then the word hit that D. Boon, the big guy that played guitar and sang and wrote most of their songs, was dead, killed in a van crash in Arizona. A brutal end to what had been a damned fine story.
“In which Aztec Camera take the much loved Van Halen hit that I always loathed and render it first palatable by straining out all the annoying rec-room gymnastics, working a smooth soft rock groove, but then, just as things would normally fade out, everything erupts, tears a hole in stratosphere, leaves all memory of the Van Halen original flopping miserably around in a pile of spilled cocaine and brown M+Ms.” (Philip Random)