January 28, 1986. The Space Shuttle Challenger and all on board explode across the consciousness of the world, America in particular. Before the year’s out, Keith Leblanc (drummer, mad scientist, co-inventor of the various grooves that pretty much set hip hop free), will release an album called Major Malfunction, the title of track of which is driven by all manner of relevant audio samples from the day. No sad piano, no violins. Just evidence. Welcome to the future, it seems to be saying. Like a disaster movie with human error the cause.
“Where the f*** is all the Nick Cave on your list? This from my neighbour, Motron. The easy answer is, well, I only have one album on vinyl, and that’s rule one of this thing. Because all my Nick Cave and/or Birthday Party vinyl was stolen back in 1988, and ever since it’s been CDs or cassettes or just mp3s. The more difficult answer had to do with issues I had concerned Mr. Cave’s tendency toward assholism and romanticizing cooler than death junkiedom. The key word there being ‘had’, because I was wrong on that. And even if I was right, I was still wrong, because a man’s music is often as not the best thing we’ll ever get from him, and thus it should never be shrugged off or denied because of alleged sins. I mean, f*** that kind of judgment. We’re all sinners in our way and doomed to perdition, yadda-yadda-yadda. So here’s to taking the opposite tack. Here’s to embracing the kickass genius of Mr. Cave’s take on the Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties which is still known to cause earthquakes whenever it is heard.” (Philip Random)
“Wherein I apologize for not including any other Cramps offerings on this list. I guess, for me, they were first and foremost a live phenomenon, an ongoing mayhem of so-called Psychobilly and whatever atrocities Lux Interior, Poison Ivy and company felt compelled to commit on any given night. So I never got around to owning any of their albums. In fact, I only have Surfin Dead because it shows up on the soundtrack for Return of the Living Dead the best damned zombie movie of all time. Equal parts scary and hilarious. Rather like the Cramps.” (Philip Random)
“The mid 1980s were actually one of the coolest times ever on planet earth. It just didn’t make the papers much. You had to do some digging, listen to the right radio stations, go to the right movies. And few movies have ever got it more right than Return of the Living Dead – the one that doesn’t take anything remotely seriously and ends up being fiercer, wilder, better than than pretty much every other zombie movie ever made before or since. And the soundtrack album’s a definite keeper. Look no further than Roky Erickson‘s Burn The Flames, work of a certifiable madman, completely concerned with luxuriating in the very flames of hell. All for the love of brains.” (Philip Random)
“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)