95. just like honey

“If you want to know what the mid-1980s really sounded like, slap on The Jesus And Mary Chain‘ s Psycho Candy and it’s all there in the (sort of) Phil Spector melodies channeled through not a wall of sound, but a god damned holocaust of it. And yet there’s a sweetness you can’t ignore, perhaps more obvious in Just Like Honey than most of the rest of the album. But be careful, it’s a dangerous sweetness, because this is an outfit that call themselves The Jesus and Mary Chain, more than just suggesting a pure and fierce and superlative purpose that will destroy the unrighteous. And many were destroyed in 1985, the battle lines being drawn in what would come to be known as the Winter of Hate (by a few of us anyway). And you could even sing along.” (Philip Random)

100. this is the sea

“Because sometimes the music just needs to be BIG. And who better to lay it all down than the band that put a name to such stuff, The Waterboys, who yes, as a matter of fact, were more relevant than U2 in the power and passion realm come the mid-1980s. Because in main man Mike Scott, they had a proper a poet on board, and thus more colours, clearer visions, greater incision. At least that was the argument a few months ago. This Is The Sea (album and song) versus The Unforgettable Fire (album and song), both high water marks, no doubt, but Waterboys had more of it, whatever it is, because water beats fire every time. I guess. What I can easily say now, many years after the fact, is that the album (and band) that still speaks to me is the outfit that Mr. Scott put together way back when, because unlike U2, he found a way to haul on the reins at just the right moment, stopped the whole mad and beautiful thing from charging off into the abyss of fame and ridiculousness which, I figure, mainly meant not losing focus, making sure the music and poetry that infused it remained bigger than all other concerns. Or something like that. Because like the song says, this ain’t no brook, no creek, no river even, this is this, as big as it gets. Bigger than words anyway.” (Philip Random)

101. the impossible dream

“A friend of mine wrote a movie around this one that never got made (like all the best movies). Sort of Goin Down The Road, the mid-80s post-punk version, two smartass losers stumbling around big and small town Canada, having shambolic adventures. Toward the end, they find themselves drinking their sorrows in a low rent piano bar, some guy doing half-assed lounge takes on various standards in the background. Until one of our heroes decides f*** it, he slips the guy his last twenty bucks, requests his favourite song, The Impossible Dream. And it turns out the piano guy is no less than Scott Walker himself, in all of his strange and obtuse mid-80s glory, so of course, he nails the song with all due power and nuance, the big dream never being more impossible than it was in say, 1985, and thus all the more reason to dream itto right the unrightable wrong, to reach the unreachable star, no matter how hopeless, how far … because we’re humans with souls, it’s our duty. I think. Anyway, it would’ve been a great scene in a great movie.” (Philip Random)

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142. big sky [meteorological mix]

“I think of remixes as mostly a 1980s thing. Certainly, that’s when I first started noticing them. And the meteorological remix of Kate Bush‘s Big Sky has to rate as one of the very best, from any decade. A perfectly fine track from a perfectly excellent album, expanded, explored, ultimately rendered into a true force of nature by the time the big drums come thundering in toward the end. I don’t know if I ever heard this in a club, but I sure as hell drove my car to it a lot – real open highway stuff, early morning, no traffic, just the speed of life, with big clouds in the distance, threatening.” (Philip Random)

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166. perfect kiss

“I saw New Order twice in what was supposed to be their early 80s prime and they tanked both times. As near as I could tell, it was tech issues, all those drum machines and sequencers NOT synching up with the various human factors (the singer, the songs). But man, did they hit sublime heights in the recording studio! Proof, I guess, that sometimes a new form is best before it’s fully formed, the various clichés established – the form in question here being techno (or whatever you want to call it) when it was still allowed to have genuine human factors in the mix, pushing the machines in directions they might otherwise have chosen not to go. In terms of world breaking singles, Blue Monday‘s the obvious example but everybody’s already heard that a lot. Perfect Kiss on the other hand has remained comparatively obscure, mainly I suspect because it’s never in a rush, but rather plays a long cool game (exquisitely captured in its official video), saving most of its glory for its second half. A sudden break and then a slow build to that bass guitar, that profoundly beautiful bass guitar (speaking of genuine human factors). No wonder there’s a car crash at the end.” (Philip Random)

NewOrder-1985-live

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178. celebrated summer

“The sorta punk thrash psychedelic power pop blast of Husker Du’s Celebrated Summer was exactly what my Universe needed in the mid-80s. One night in particular comes to mind. And it wasn’t even Husker Du playing, but an all all-girl band from California (wish I remembered their name) at the Arts Club on Seymour (best live venue this town ever had). 1986 I’m pretty sure, and summertime, which meant Expo was squatting in the near distance sucking all the light and love from things. And I’d just seen Skinny Puppy up at UBC, which was a terrorizing experience, because man, the acid was particularly FUN that night. So yeah, it all came around to the song not so much saving my soul (my soul was fairly intact in those days) as reigniting it with hope, fervour, blinding white light, which is to say, celebrated and wild, erupting with summer. And as soon as we got back to the car, New Day Rising got jammed into the cassette player. Once more unto eternity.” (Philip Random)

HuskerDu-1985-posing

213. dirty old town

“A Pogues song about London that isn’t actually a Pogues song or about London, but it might as well be. Because they certainly make it their own here and London’s a dump,  encrusted in grime that’s centuries old. I recall a jetlagged morning, first light and I can’t sleep so I’m wandering Camden Lock and rather bemused by all the filth floating in the still water. It gets worse when I realize there’s a dead swan in the middle of one particularly disgusting looking clump. Later, I’m back at my friend’s flat having breakfast and I mention what I saw. He shrugs, pulls out  the Pogues Rum Sodomy + the Lash and slaps it on.” (Philip Random)

Pogues-1985-promo

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222. price of paradise

“Being a necessary missive from the final Minutemen album, main man D Boon weighing in on that so-called lucky generation of young Americans who didn’t have to go fight in Vietnam, but had older brothers (or cousins or next door neighbours) who did, and so saw all too closely the damage done. But then a pointless van accident can get you any time, as it did D Boon in December 1985, somewhere in the desert. Rest in peace, man. The Minutemen are still the best f***ing band most people have never even heard of.” (Philip Random)

Minutemen-1985-promo

(photo: Naomi Petersen)

 

249. E=mc2

“Speaking of Performance (the movie), it features prominently in Big Audio Dynamite‘s sample rich E=mc2, along with other bits and pieces from various films directed by Nicholas Roeg. And what a cool track it was (and still is), promising so much from Mick Jones in the wake of the Clash‘s rather ridiculous crash and burn, except they never really got any better, which can only mean they got worse. Not that Big Audio Dynamite were ever really bad (even if they were definitely B.A.D.) – just lacking Joe Strummer‘s overall sandpaper edge, I guess. Rather like Paul McCartney operating without John Lennon post-Beatles. At least B.A.D. never did a Christmas song.” (Philip Random)

bigaudiodynamite-1985-promo