“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)
“I remember getting pinned to the wall by Self Pity one night at the Arts Club on Seymour, 1986 sometime, and loving it, taking strength from the force field known as NoMeansNo, three guys from Victoria who could rock their punk as hard and bloodthirsty as any band on the planet ever, but they also had this whole other universe of depth and invention going on. Call it epic and I wouldn’t argue, progressive even. Just Give Me My Drugs.” (Philip Random)
Alternately known as St. Che or merely Che, this outfit was basically just Tackhead anyway, which is confusing, because Tackhead was also Fats Comet and/or Mark Stewart’s Maffia and/or Little Axe (though that came later) and/or Keith Leblanc working solo. He was the drummer, the other key three players being bassist Doug Wimbish, guitarist Skip MacDonald and producer, mixmaster extraordinaire Adrian Sherwood. The first three originally connected as the house band for Sugarhill Records but it took colliding with Mr. Sherwood to truly unleash the kind of outfit that defines zeitgeists. Big fat beats, funky grooves, charged samples all toward the kind of soundtrack that a proper apocalypse needs, and the 1980s were nothing if not a rolling apocalypse (if you had the right kind of eyes). As for Che, little is known beyond this single and then, a few years after the fact, an album that hardly anyone heard. Which is pretty much par for the whole Tackhead story. Essential but you’ve got to go looking for it.
“In which the Screaming Blue Messiahs remind us that, lest there be any doubt, the rock of the mainstream 1980s sucked. All those Power Stations, Duran Durans, Huey Lewises, hair metal catastrophes – proof that malevolent criminals sat at the controls of the music biz. Because we most definitely had other options. We had the Messiahs who were everything their name promised: loud, angry as hell, and damned good. But nah, Mister Mister was somehow more necessary.” (Philip Random)
“True fact. Though The Band may have been Bob Dylan’s favourite band, they didn’t do much actual studio work together. Whatever they had, it was mostly a live thing, which is certainly how Please Crawl Out Your Window feels: just plug in and go for it. Released as a single in late 1965, it mostly missed the charts at the time, thus freeing it up to land freshly with me maybe twenty years later (again via the Biograph box set). Like a postcard from some past cool scene I only wish I could’ve known. The light itself must’ve been different in those days. And it probably was, given all the speed those guys were doing.” (Philip Random)
“Back in 1999, I recall somebody somewhere putting forth the argument that Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna was the single greatest record of the twentieth century. Something to do with the line about the ghost of ‘lectricity howling in the bones of her face, or maybe it was the part about infinity going up on trial. Either way, he was talking about the studio version that showed up on Blonde on Blonde, which is weird, because that’s not even the best version, which is the 1966 live take that did the rounds on bootlegs for years, then finally showed up on the Biograph box set. Something about it being pared down to just Bob, guitar, harmonica, voice – nothing else getting in the way of his accelerated brain and the amphetamine precision of the impossible images it was putting forth. Which is entirely the point, I think. Young genius stepping up to his confusion, surfing its twists and convolutions, letting it take him places he could never have imagined existed … and then finding a way to channel it all to into breath and voice and words. Call it a song. A damned fine one. Yet not beyond parody.” (Philip Random)
Not to be confused with the 1984 album of the same name, this Julian Cope world stomper spoke a truth that was rather impossible to ignore in 1986. Anger, bile, spite were all officially virtues now if you wanted to survive. It was the Winter of Hate after all. Everybody who was even half alert was shouting down the world, demanding it shut the f*** up. Not that the world was listening. But that just meant we could shout louder, louder, louder. No limit. Which made for some great music if nothing else.
“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)