“The gods must have had me in mind with America is Waiting, side one track one of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Brian Eno and David Byrne messing with African beats and rhythms, disembodied voices, all manner of weird noises, everything coming together to call down the venal soullessness of Ronald Reagan’s America, like the atmosphere itself was speaking to my concerns. How could all this not go well with the copious quantities of LSD that were bubbling around at the time? But the drugs wore off eventually. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts didn’t, never has. Others may have used samples before, merged noise and rhythm and all manner of exotic tangents and textures. But once Misters Eno and Byrne had done their bit, this sort of stuff was emphatically here to stay, part of the firmament.” (Philip Random)
“Though I was aware of the fabulous strangeness of George Clinton and Funkadelic and/or Parliament as far back as 1976 (having caught him/them on TV one late and lonely teenage night), I never really dove in until You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish crossed my path in 1984. It was just so utterly what I needed — completely concerned with the apocalyptic mess that we, the species, were very much IN as the 1980s stumbled toward their midpoint, all our nuclear fishin’ fuelling the cold war arms race, the Doomsday Clock ticking every closer to midnight … with the old man in Washington DC whose finger was on the trigger slipping into dementia. No better time for a funk that was spaced way out, and resolutely strange.” (Philip Random)
“The release date of Berlin based Einsturzende Neubauten‘s fifth album Haus Der Luge was 4-September-1989, roughly two months before The Wall finally fell. So yes, all that rage and delirium you’re feeling, it’s the real thing, the house is indeed full of lies, the new buildings are all coming down, Neubauten being one of those bands who absolutely sounded like the history they were riding, the sum result of forty-odd years of two opposed worlds grinding up against each other, something/everything finally giving. Historians now seem to give Ronald Reagan the credit. F*** that sh**. It was Neubauten all the way. Music that dissolved concrete, melted barbed wire, changed everything forever. At least, that’s what it felt like at the time.” (Philip Random)
“If you think you ‘get’ the music of the mid-1980s but you don’t know Tupelo Chain Sex, you’re wrong. The cover of 1984’s Spot the Difference may suggest a hardcore outfit, but it’s not remotely as simple as that. Because what hardcore band includes fiddle (c/o Don Sugarcane Harris) and saxophone in its weaponry, not to mention reggae, jazz and other unbound tendencies? And man, did they kill it live! True, some of the lyrics were rather dumb (the stuff about the Jews roaming around murdering blacks – seriously?). Welcome to 1984, I guess. Passion and rage as big as the world, and about as rational.” (Philip Random)
3 Teens Kill 4 only ever released one album, but it was a good one, very much in synch with the temper of the increasingly nasty times. In the case of Tell Me Something Good, that meant grabbing some audio from the TV coverage of John Hinkley‘s attempted 1981 assassination of Ronald Reagan, laying it over some mutated funk and turning it into a cover of that Rufus song. And nobody complained really. Homeland Security were not called. Nobody got stuck on a no-fly list. Welcome to the 1980s when such a thing as an art underground actually existed, a dark and mysterious place that was genuinely hard to get to, and once there, get out of.
“Believe it or not, it was actually half-way normal in certain circles to hate the Beatles at a certain point in the later 1980s, mainly due to twenty plus years of over-adulation, overexposure, over-everything. I remember one guy in particular, Ray, who had it narrowed down to only one song, the only Beatles track he could abide anymore, and he didn’t even know the title, just ‘from the White album, I think, the one about Sir Walter Raleigh being a stupid git for bringing tobacco to England.’ Ray was trying to quit smoking at the time, suffering insomnia as a result, so he was miles past pleasantries. The Winter of Hate, we called it – those bile filled seasons of righteous aggravation and antipathy. The polar opposite of the Summer of Love. Ronald Reagan was also to blame.” (Philip Random)
In which first wave American punk band X (straight out of LA) rein in the intensity of their attack a touch and rather brilliantly nail down the zeitgeist circa 1983. Which was that, come year three of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, humanoid reptiles were in full ascendancy. Look no further than the radio dial. Where was any band that mattered? Nothing left to do but tell the truth.
“I cannot tell a lie. The first time I heard the name Dead Kennedys, it kind of took my breath away. I didn’t say anything out loud or anything, but I liked the Kennedys, was old enough to remember the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. And now here was this punk band exploiting them. Not that I really even listened to the music really. It was just trash and exploitation, right? With a name like that! It took 1981’s In God We Trust EP to set me straight, particularly We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now (which I later discovered was a reworking of California Uber Alles from their first album). It was the lounge bit at the beginning that hooked me, the part about happy hour being enforced by law, and a jar of Hitler’s brain juice in the back, and Emperor Ronald Reagan born again with fascist cravings. Welcome to the future. Ready or not.” (Philip Random)
“The The (aka Matt Johnson) being the last word in ‘The’ bands, Infected being their second (or perhaps third) album, and though not as overwhelmingly soulful and melodic and relevant as its predecessor, Soul Mining, it was still pretty darned strong. Sweet Bird of Truth was the lead off single, and sweet it wasn’t, because it was 1986, and if you were reading the papers, it was pretty clear we were all gonna die, and soon, what with the arms race out of control, Ronald Reagan slipping into dementia, the Doomsday Clock ticking closer and closer to midnight. And if that wasn’t keeping you up at night, there were all those angry folks in the Middle East and beyond seen often on TV, jamming city streets, shaking their fists, Death To The Infidels and all that, and we deserved it. Sweet Bird of Truth captured all of this rather nicely.”