Kinda sorry this came out so long! This is what happens when I have like, more than half a year to build a playlist… If anyone’s interested I can make a condensed version, just say the word.
- Emil Beauliu – That Velvet Touch
SKIP THIS TRACK, AND THE NEXT, AND THE LAST, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR LOUD OFFPUTTING NOISE. But I encourage you to check it out! This is the track that made me appreciate noise music. There’s an evident thoughtful compositional logic at work here; it is, in fact, music. There’s a lot of intricacy to the sounds and the production, all of which is also intriguingly alien.
- Hijohaidan – Beyond
For contrast, here’s a track that’s basically what I expected noise music to be. Just a sheer cliff of impenetrable aggression and monotonous screaming for way too long. Extreme noise is probably way better an experience live, there’s a whole communal performance-art aspect!
- Merzbow – Uluk Constitution
And here’s 80s Merzbow, not doing that but instead sound collage. This is actually the point to jump in on the playlist if you want something easier to listen to. Apparently Emil Beauliu was instrumental in introducing Merzbow to America, and you can really hear how they’re kindred spirits.
- Christian Marclay – 1930
- Memphis 10SC – Bebop, Naken Mix
- Nicolas Collins – Devil’s Music B
More than anyone else, Nicolas Collins (student of Alvien Lucier) was the guy who took musique concrete and such into the early digital era.
- Michele Musser – 100% Bridal Illusion
- Gigi Masin – Tears Of A Clown
Gigi Masin like 30 years later is a key sample source for Cloud Rap, especially this record. His heavy and heavily-treated (EQ’d, compressed) synth sound holds up very well. I think I may be laboring under a similar unfair misconception of “ambient” as I once did with “noise music”, thinking of it as instead of an impenetrable cliff of placid near-silence when really those are only the most extreme cases, when most cases have more of a pulse and more dynamics.
- JD Emmanuel – Evening Devotional
- Hajime Mizoguchi – Laughing South Bound Islands
- Karin Krog – Just Holding On
- Enya – I Want Tomorrow
- Heart To Heart – Three Mountains
This track is extremely Disco Elysium, what with the distant horn section and all.
- Jun Fukamachi – Urban Square
- T.A.G.C – Dog Star
- Chakk – Years I Worked
- You – Can You Tell Where I Am?
This album is the most “1980s” thing I’ve ever heard from the actual 1980s. This is what people who think that 2010s Synthwave is just 1980s recreation are thinking of.
- Marek Bilinski – Kosmiczne Opowiadania
- Android – Aliens
- Arthur Russell – Let’s Go Swimming (Coastal Dub) [prod. Walter Gibbons]
- Indian Ocean – School Bell/Treehouse [prod. Arthur Russell & Walter Gibbons]
I could tag every producer, but that would be a lot of work. Instead, I’m going to tag them pretty arbitrarily, trying to illustrate what creatives I want to emphasize here.
- C Cat Trance – Shake The Mind
- Uncle Ian – Fly
This is so far ahead of its time that it’s mindblowing. This is like drum and bass from 1996 or something, though it does sound technologically possible for 1986. It’s hard to even pin down what kind of music Uncle Ian even thinks they’re making here! Rock music? And as a composition, it absolutely soars.
- Micro Chip League – Satellite (Original Mix)
- Channel One – Technicolor [prod. Juan Atkins]
It’s hard to hear through all the semi-sophisticated austerity, but Baby Got Back is actually built on top of this track somehow.
- Modern Mechanical Music – Persia (Dub)
- Virgo – Free Yourself (Digital Version) [prod. Virgo and Adonis]
- Mr. Fingers – Can You Feel It [prod. Larry Heard]
- Steve Silk Hurley – Jack Your Body (Club Your Body)
You can start to hear the first inklings of Jock Jams in here.
- Eddie “Flashin” Fowlkes – Goodbye Kiss [prod. Juan Atkins]
- Wired – To The Beat Of The Drum (Burn Mix)
- Libra Libra – I Like It (Club Mix)
- J.M. Silk – I Can’t Turn Around (House Mix) [prod. Steve Silk Hurley]
This reached #1 on the US club charts. The song “Love Can’t Turn Around”, directly inspired by this one and coming out in the same year, would reach #1 on the UK singles chart. House music went from basically nonexistent and fringe to an international mainstream sensation probably way too quickly for its own health.
- Man Friday – Love Honey, Love Heartache (Larry Levan Demo Mix)
- Arrogance – Crazy
- Dhar Braxton – Jump Back (Set Me Free) (Club Mix) [edited by Chep Nunez]
- Chip E – If You Only Knew
Weird to hear Chip E, the guy who was doing the deliberately barebones house that had nothing in common with disco last year, doing really disco-y house/
- Master Plan – Electric Baile
- Kasso – One More Round (Frankie Knuckles ’86 House Mix)
- Willie Colón – Set Fire To Me
Hey, remember Willie Colón from 1983’s “Vigilante”, that big centerpiece cinematic latin jazz-funk epic with strings and all? Well, here he is applying those same principles to a house track! Well, likely he’s thinking of it as disco still, which makes this sort of thing way more precedented. Either way this rules.
- Matt Warren – The Way To My Heart (Jazz Mix)
- Sweet D – Thank Ya
- Marshall Jefferson – Move Your Body (The House Music Anthem) [prod. Virgo, which includes Marshall Jefferson]
The definitive early work of “Piano House.” So uplifting. Love how the raggedness of the live piano and vocals play against the steadiness of the sequenced piano and drums.
- Sleeque – One For The Money
- Blaze – Whatcha Gonna Do
- Billie – Nobody’s Business (Original Mix)
A house version of the jazz standard “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do”, with an artist name almost certainly specifically meant to recall Billie Holiday’s definitive 1949 take. It seems strange to pull that deep into the past, but then, we in 2022 are only one year closer to this track than this track was to Holiday’s Nobody’s Business. Musical genres moved and shifted so fast in the middle of the 20th century, but the 1940s was still living memory in the 1980s. The mastering engineer who was actually out there pressing wax for Trax was a 50s jazz orchestra guy called Buddy Pressner. The sentiment of “going to church on Sunday and the cabaret on Monday” and such is still very appropriate to house, also.
- Raww – Don’t You Try It
- Hotline – Rock This House
- Simphonia – You And Me
- Mason – Pour It On
- Ernesto De Pascale & Roberto Terzani – Message Through The Rhythm
- Jerry Blackshear – Defected (From Your Love)
- Code Red – Virginia Gone Go Go
- Junkyard Band – Sardines [prod. Rick Rubin]
This is all about that bassline.
- The Shuffle Demons – Spadina Bus
So very catchy and fun. And so extremely Canadian. Check out that video of mid-1980s Toronto! It looks so vibrant and colorful and characterful. I’m used to the more austere and contemporary visions of Toronto, City Of Glass.
- Brother Resistance – Star Warz Rapso
Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t a fun quasi-novelty track like Spadina Bus. But it is just about as catchy with its relentless sloganeering, it’s just politically-conscious sloganeering. (It’s more about Reagan’s Star Wars than the movie.) I should check out more rapso.
- Tenor Saw – Golden Hen
The sexual metaphor here is so obtuse and coded it’s impenetrable to the likes of me.
- David M. Bowie & Heartbeat – Blackfoot
- Esa – A Muto
- Rick Asikpo – Beat Jam
- Moneystone – Crack
- James Brown – Living In America
James Brown had a surprisingly big year in 1986 for someone who seemed basically washed-up and irrelevant. Not only did he notch his only real mainstream pop hit since I Got You (I Feel Good) — and certainly not for lack of trying in the intervening 21 years, a timespan that includes almost all of his classic and influential material — but there was also a 1986 compilation album released that revitalized interest in that classic material, In The Jungle Groove, containing The Funky Drummer and a separate track where its breakbeat is looped. We’re going to hear a LOT of James Brown samples in rap for the next couple of years, to the point where James Brown and funk becomes a fundamental part of hip-hop’s DNA, even somehow cascading back into time and the era we just passed through, of Disco Rap, Electro, and Def Beat, look more James Brown-ish.
- Trouble Funk – Still Smokin’
- Eko Kunago – Na Mawaso
- Mahoud Ahmed with The Roha Band – Hebo Lale Gere (Guragina)
- Fela Kuti & The Egypt 80 – Look And Laugh
I usually don’t put Fela Kuti on these playlists because all of his tracks are like, 16 minutes long minimum, with this one being almost twice that. But this time the playlist is already so long that I don’t mind. Listening to Fela Kuti’s entire 70s discography was one of the best decisions I ever made: after Roforofo Fight, the best song anyone’s ever made, he was super consistent and didn’t release anything shy of 3.5-star material, with the exception of misogynist screeds like Mattress. (He was an intensely political artist, a radical often in conflict with the oppressive government, but for the most part I feel like I’m so divorced from his Nigerian context that I can’t fairly evaluate most of his political stances… except the misogyny and AIDS denial, which are pretty clear-cut.)
- Mr. Z’oob – Zawsze Gdy Pukam Do Drwzi
- Jonas Hellborg – Money Talk
- Perspico Acumine (Holdings) – [Unknown track(s?) off A Perfect Action]
This is what some of the people who did the Triangle Man single that wasn’t They Might Be Giants’ did.
- Lech Jankerka – Epidemia Epilepsji
- CCCP Fedeli Alla Linea – Lo Sto Bene
- Tools You Can Trust – Binge And Purge
- Bogshed – Run To The Temple ††
One of the other important compilations that came out this year was NME (New Music Express) magazine’s “C86” (Cassette ’86). Rate Your Music goes so far as to call C86 a “genre”; Wikipedia, a “scene”; either is a real stretch. It gets pointed at as a crystallization point for the concept of capital-letters “Indie Rock” in the UK. And yet… it’s way too aesthetically diverse to conceptually cohere. Sure, I’ve got 4 C86 artists grouped together here. († on this list denotes an artist from the C86 compilation, †† denotes that exact song.) The first three are doing that now-familiar kind of scratchy funk rock downstream from Gang Of Four and Minutemen (though often more atonal and disjointed than either of those two reference points.) You’ll notice that this has sufficiently little in common, sonically, with the rest of C86 that it’s going to be a long time before you see more †s.
- bIG*fLAME – New Way (Quick Wash And Brush Up With Liberation Theology) ††
- Mackenzies – New Breed †
- Stump – Buffalo ††
This is the obvious odd man out of the C86 cassette. This feels like they deliberately tried to write the worst, most annoying, stupidest song they could. You gotta appreciate that.
- Nikolay Kopernik – Highlanders
- I Start Counting – My Translucent Hands
- Hula – Freeze Out
- Los Electrodomesticos – No Estás Viviendo Bien
Again, I don’t hope to parse the foreign politics partially in a foreign language, but I can tell that this is very My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts what with the preacher sampling.
- Trans-X – Monkey Dance
- The Residents – Kaw-Liga
Billie Jean always feels like it’s missing the riff from this song after you hear it. Handily the most accessible thing The Residents ever did, and its financial success as a danceclub tune was enough to tide them through a bit of a financial drought.
- Swing Out Sister – Dirty Money
- Martha + The Muffins – The World Is A Ball
- Soda Stereo – Profugos
- Wire – A Serious Of Snakes
Wire is back! They made 3 great, acclaimed albums in 77, 78, and 79, each increasingly artsy and arch, then broke up (leaving their really outre 1980 stuff on the cutting room floor) and did side projects until reforming, with what many regard as disappointing returns. To me, their best stuff from this period (like this) does seem to follow on from their immaculate pop songs on the 79 record, so… I’m satisfied.
- David Byrne – Report From L.A.
Hey, David Byrne is also back! I mean, we all know he didn’t… actually go anywhere and was indeed way more pervasive a cultural figure in the 80s than the 70s, racking up bonafide pop hits on a pretty regular basis, but like any True Talking Heads Head I am sickened by almost half of their career output. This kind of stuff here (an excerpt from the TV high-art program Two Moon July also featuring the likes of Laurie Anderson and Bruce Connor) is far more to my liking, a kind of path not taken for Byrne that wouldn’t have pleased very many people besides myself. Very New York City for something with LA in the name.
- Paul Sturm – Times Are Bad
- Ted Chippington – Comedian By Trade
Ted Chippington just goes up there and tells the lamest, squarest jokes he can think of in an offhanded cadence then overexplains the joke afterwards and that’s it, that’s the routine. It’s brilliant. It got crowds so riled up, which you can hear on this track. Even when he has the crowd on his side enough to do a “knock knock” routine with him, he deliberately screws it up twice just to make people angry. There’s also a YouTube videos out there where you can hear an audience member yell-whimpering “give us a punchline” in agony.
- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Live At Union Square, November 1986
Will “The Fresh Prince” Smith here is probably the first ever rapper to style themselves as a retro throwback. “How many of y’all remember that? Y’all remember that?” In part, this is probably because here, he’s a Philadelphia rapper (though as far away from Schoolly D as can be imagined in the mid-80s) doing a show in New York City. He’s recreating the likes of Live Convention ’80 and bootleg tapes of block parties: classic disco and funk breaks spun by an impressive DJ who keeps getting shouted out, with a conversational style of rapping that floats between sloganeering and crowd work that wraps the crowd around his little finger. Like retro throwbacks tend to be, though, it’s tellingly streamlined: This team has condensed what would have been like a 22 minute routine with like 5 rappers into 4 concentrated minutes of the material most unlike then-present-day material. There’s no verses to speak of, it’s just focused on the call and response party-man showman act. And he does that probably better than anyone of the era he’s harkening back to, just listen to that crowd! Already, the consummate showman. Exact opposite of a Ted Chippington.
Heads-up for some light homophobia, also. This is, I believe, the first and only direct mention of AIDS in this playlist, though it and crack loom glowering around much of the material.
- DJ Hollywood – To Whom It May Concern
DJ Hollywood isn’t doing a retro throwback. He’s just old-fashioned.
- Roxanne Shante feat. Biz Markie – The Def Fresh Crew [prod. Marley Marl]
- Stetsasonic – Go Stetsa I (12” Mix)
A sign of how much hip-hop has changed in the 1980s is that it’s become a notable gimmick to have an actual band, with like, multiple rappers, and a live drummer playing on your records. People will even call them the first hip-hop band, like Sugarhill records didn’t have musicians.
- Just-Ice – Cold Gettin’ Dumb [prod. Mantronix]
This beat is so absolutely wild and noisy, and it deserves to be so much louder than the rapper. The guitar stabs just come in whenever they feel like it and hold for different amounts of time, and the bells… it goes so, so hard. Wild that Mantronix mainly just did electro when he could do this.
- Whistle – Damn Thing
- Doctor J.R. Kool – That’s Deep
- Super Kids – The Tragedy (Don’t Do It) [prod. Marley Marl]
- Steinski – The Motorcade Sped On
Hip-hop remix of the news coverage JFK’s assassination.
- Schoolly D – Saturday Night
Another heads-up for light homo/transphobia. I can’t promise to catch all the homophobia in all the songs I link, though: I’m just not attentive enough to lyrics, I can listen to and even sing along to songs a dozen times before actually processing most of its semantic content.
- Run-DMC – Peter Piper [prod. Rick Rubin or Russell Simmons]
- T La Rock – Breaking Bells (Dub) [prod. Mantronix, edited by Omar Santana & Chep Nunez]
Omar Santana and The Latin Rascals were on fire through this era. Brainmeltingly frenetic cuts. I know Breaking Bells (Dub) by heart.
- The Masterdon Committee – Get Off My Tip! [prod. Duke Bootee, edited by The Latin Rascals]
- K-Rob & DJ Cheese – I’m A Homeboy [prod. Duke Bootee, edited by The Latin Rascals]
- (Kid) Seville feat. Jazzy Jay – Envious [edited by Omar Santana]
- Emanon – Lady L Meets Emanon
- The Real Roxanne with Hitman Howie Tee – Let’s Go Go (Bang Zoom) [prod. Howie Tee]
Really interesting sample choice here! (John McLaughlin’s Honky-Tonk Haven.) In 1986, we’re standing on the cusp of hip-hop’s “golden age,” and these sorts of off-kilter deep-cut sample choices are key to that.
- The Beastie Boys – The New Style [prod. Rick Rubin]
Man, I still don’t know how the early Beastie Boys got as much of a pass as they did. People say it was because they were “being themselves,” but they really weren’t except in a “we must be careful what we pretend to be” sense! They were playing full-on cartoons of boorish frat boys, to the point that their first video was straight up a Looney Tunes tribute. It’s not like they’re making a joke out of rap, I suppose, they’re just doing rap and also the other stuff. And they had good lines and beats, with a novel trade-off structure one step beyond their friends Run-DMC. They undoubtedly sold more copies and had broader national appeal from being white, but then again, Run-DMC’s 1986 album sold like 3 times as much as theirs. This whole “authenticity in rap” discourse sure gets dicey fast, glad it’ll never come up again.
Mike D’s line “If I played guitar I’d be Jimmy Page/The girlies I like, are underage” is exceptionally brave and funny. Especially considering they sampled Led Zeppelin and Mike D does in fact play guitar.
- Real Chill & Peppy J – Rockin’ It
Real Chill is K-Rino, which means this is the first Houston rap I know of. His comparatively sleepier delivery accentuates what makes the Beasties so exciting.
- MCs Of Rap – Domination
This is from Miami, so it’s got a booming bass drum and 808 clap, but the MCs Of Rap (also the producers) are clearly interested in the more hardcore guitar-bit beats and technical rapping coming out of New York City by this time, so you get to hear what that crossover sounds like. Turns out pretty good!
- Salt N Pepa – I’ll Take Your Man
- Supreme Force – You Gotta Come Out Fresh
Freddie Foxxx is in this group. Guy has the worst luck with records… apparently, he was supposed to team up with Eric B below and Rakim only got a chance because for whatever reason he didn’t show up. (Though he’d have hardly set the world on fire like Rakim with his 1986 skills, as this demonstrates.) In the 90s, his second LP will get rejected by the label, sending him back to the drawing board so that he can get rejected AGAIN. It’s amazing he keeps on rapping into the 2000s and beyond.
- Baby D – Def Defying
- Duice Of Juice – Poetically Put
- Todd 1 – The Jam
- President BPM – Mass Communication Breakdown
Tokyo, Japan. Hip-hop’s spread worldwide was a little slower than house music’s, even within the USA itself it always had to start with a small beachhead enclave and then expand out from there.
- Raheem The Dream – Eliminator
- Deuces Wild – Hard Is Hard
- E-Vette Money – E-Vette’s Revenge
- J.D. Krush – Krush Style
- Pimp Pretty Royal Ron & DJ M.A.$ – Rock The B-Boy Stance [prod. Schoolly D]
- B. Fat – Woppit
- DBL Crew – Bust It
- High Potential – HP Gets Busy
This is Jay-Z’s first appearance on a record.
- Jewel T and L.T.C – Believe It Or Not (Club Mix)
- Active Boyz – Hey Yo DJ
- A-Tack – That’s Right
- Cool Will – On The One
- Out Cold Crew – Bustin’ Fresh
- The Move – Greedy Girls
- MC New York & The Smokin’ Commission – Good Morning Mr. Phelps [prod. Aaron Fuchs]
This is not Tupac. Tupac did go by MC New York at this time, and he would have been about 15, old enough to sound like this. It even sounds plausible if you listen to his earliest confirmed stuff that his voice could have grown from this, through that, to his adult voice. But he lived in Baltimore at the time, and the producer and record label owner here (which the “Smokin’ Commission” is in reference to) was based in NYC. Also, Tupac’s early demos are just nowhere near as good as Good Morning Mr. Phelps.
- D Bros feat. DJ Pipe – Illegal Car Driving
- Hashim – Primrose Path
- Cli-N-Tel – 2030
- Level 4 – “Are We On The Air?” (In The Mix)
- The Showboys – Drag Rap [AKA Triggerman]
Electro is very much on its way out in New York City, but before it goes it gives us one more record that’s going to fire the imaginations of people who live somewhere totally different. Drag Rap, a goofy electro take on Dragnet, somehow becomes legendary party music in New Orleans. For all the non-goofy parts, mainly — that synth arpeggiation that starts the record (and backs the surprisingly violent verses) are what constantly get reiterated in New Orleans Bounce music, along with the specific once-every-other-measure clave of the 808 bells.
- Original Concept – Knowledge Me [prod. Rick Rubin & Concept]
- Too Short – Playboy $hort II
Too Short of Oakland California had actually been making tunes since the early 80s already, its just none of those ones were good enough to include.
- King Tre – Take A Pause
- Trow The D & Ghetto Style – Ghetto Bass [prod. Luke Skyywalker]
- Lady L. – Ice Cream Dreams
- Worse ‘Em – Triple M Bass
- 2 Live Crew – Get It Girl (Remix) [prod. Luke Skyywalker]
The stuttering bongo beat and the sequencer-abuse chrous are what it’s all about. Probably 2 Live Crew’s best ever song, and the actual 2 Live Crew only serve to weigh down what Luke Skyywalker can do all by himself.
- The Third Degree feat. D.X.J – Bass It Baby
- Rodney O & Joe Cooley – Everlasting Bass
There’s a bit of a spread on sources for when this came out. The album named after it came out in 1988, but the single came out earlier, probably 1987, but possibly as early as here in 1986, where I feel like it fits my playlist so I went for it. Anyway, this is a Los Angeles classic, though thanks to the shout-out to “Miami Florida, where they film the Vice” ensured it made impact in the South too. If you squint, between the high-pitched fake horns (that I initially hated then grew to love) playing the part of chorus and Rodney O’s laid-back delivery, you can sorta see the shape of G-Funk to come on the horizon, but not really. Also, practically every single line here is quotable, even the call-and-response with his DJ.
- Eric B & Rakim – My Melody [original 12” version, prod. Marley Marl & MC Shan, maybe Eric B]
My Melody ALSO is stuffed with quotables with a high-pitched extremely-fake-sounding melody at its center, though its chorus is Get It Girl (Remix)-style sequencer abuse. I cannot emphasize enough, though, the prestige gap between this song and the ones immediately preceding it. I’ve mentioned before that in 1986 we are standing at the cusp of hip-hop’s fabled golden age, and pretty consistently, it’s this single — A-Side Eric B Is President, B-Side My Melody — which is singled out as the most definitive starting point for that whole era. People who were there at the time (thinking especially here of Chuck D) talk about it as a revelation, the thing that inspired them to step their game up. Why? Rakim.
It’s the way he strings together rhymes inside a single line, the way he speeds up and slows down so flexibly, the way he’ll put emphasis on a word like “as” in an odd part of the verse, but also his laid-back conversational tone that’ll only get more bassy and deadpan as he develops. Try counting along beats 2 and 4, where the snares are, with your hands, remembering The B-Boy’s Girls from last year (“I knew a chick named MILLIE, who was so SILLY,” and so on.) Pay attention to what Rakim does on the 2s and 4s, the way he plays with it, sometimes hitting it, sometimes hitting juuust past it, sometimes passing over it in a kind of hocket. Sometimes he rhymes on the 2 and 4, but rhymes can show up anywhere, even right up against one another. None of this is totally unprecedented, between LL Cool J, Silver Fox, and Kool Moe Dee… but Rakim basically invented or at least popularized “flow” and a technical approach to rapping, which would have enormous ramifications. To this day, people will bring up Rakim in “greatest rapper of all time” debates, and for a reason! (Well, maybe not right up to this day… I stopped paying attention to those kinds of talks like a decade ago.)
- Ice-T – 6 In The Morning
Ice-T never gets brought up in “greatest rapper of all time” debates, but he should be. I’ll get more into that subject later. Suffice to say, this is a really ambitious storytelling record, that has an actual narrative from beginning to end, and also one of the formative moments
- Ultramagnetic MCs – Ego Trippin’ [prod. Ced Gee]
Speaking of technical lyricism… this is a diss claiming the aesthetic high ground over Run-DMC’s Peter Piper. “They use a simple back-and-forth, the same old rhythms, that a baby can pick up and do right with ’em,” then going on to rhyme words like “approximate”.
- Kool G Rap – I’m Fly
- MC Shan – The Bridge (full 6 minute single version) [prod. Marley Marl]
This is the record where Marley Marl realized that he could make a beat by sampling drum hits off records (from Impeach The President in this case) and resequencing them in his sequencer, instead of using a drum machine or using turntables to juggle a loop. The playlist sequencing here probably makes that sound like no big deal — this is a much less elaborate work than Cold Gettin’ Dumb — but go back and check ’85 and notice how it’s wall-to-wall drum machines and beatboxing, with the only exceptions being a turntable beat juggle and Double Dee & Steinski’s uniquely painstaking tape-editing process. This is the historical crucial first step out of this world and into the world where things like Bang-Zoom (Let’s Go Go) get made, the world of sample-heavy hip-hop that’s going to arrive next year and define the early goings of the Golden Age.
- Boogie Down Productions – South Bronx
KRS-One of BDP thought that The Bridge was a claim that hip-hop started in Queensbridge, so they shot back with this parodic song about how it actually started where they come from in the South Bronx, and thus began “The Bridge Wars.” Note the horn stab from James Brown’s Get Up Offa That Thing, and his “hit it” from somewhere, the riff from Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved, and Clyde Stubblefield’s drums from Funkly Drummer. This song has about as much James Brown in it as 85’s James Brown Mix.
- Divine Sounds – Me & My Posse
- Frick & Frack – You Shouldn’t Have Done It [prod. Marley Marl]
- Smitty D & Rock Squad – Kic Kac
- Freddy B & The Mighty Mic Masters – The Main Event (Word!) [prod. Aaron Fuchs]
- Biz Markie – Make The Music With Your Mouth Biz [prod. Marley Marl]
- Funkmaster Wizard Wiz – Crack It Up [prod. Aaron Fuchs]
This is, on the surface, a loudly pro-crack song. An anthem to advertise smoking crack.
- General Kane – Crack Killed Applejack
- Connoisseurs Of Groove – Free-base City
- The Kid – Chains On Me (Part 1)
- Junior Gee – The Truth
Worth noting that for as much as electro is usually dumb fun party music, it was also the genre that contained The Message. That tradition of socially-conscious electro stayed around, especially in LA. It’s not as if the more hardcore sounds are MORE likely to be lyrically-substantial than the, I guess, softcore sounds? If anything it’s the opposite way around.
- Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew – Play This Only At Night (Truth Mix, The Whole Story)
Doug E. Fresh’s album is extremely vocally Christian, by the by. This creeping, gliding horror movie-derived beat is put into service of, I believe, a vague message about going to heaven? He has an anti-abortion song where the chorus was just “abortion.”
- Lovebug Starski – Say What You Wanna Say
I wish I knew who was responsible for this song, it’s a total abberation on the album.
- Whodini – One Love [single version]
This could just as easily go in the pop music section below, and I don’t say that to intimate that Whodini or sell-outs or posers or whatever. No, Whodini (with the help of producer Larry Smith) have honed in on their own glittering synth-driven aesthetic even as the rest of hip-hop music gets more and more hard-edged, and they’ve paired it here with a finely-crafted pop song format in a time when few of their peers were taking more than the most perfunctory recourse to such a structure. And lyrically, it’s also remarkably mature. Like, it’s literally textually about becoming a more mature person with a more nuanced and considerate attitude towards romance.
- Tinnie Punx – 東京ブロンクス [machine-translated: Tokyo Bronx?)
Funny and pretty appropritate that Tokyo hit upon the idea of putting jazz in hip-hop before New York City did.
- Jayne Cortez [feat. Ornette Coleman] – Maintain Control
- Jayne Cortez [feat. Ornette Coleman] – Economic Love Song 1
These two tracks were uploaded together on YouTube, so… enjoy them together?
- Steve Coleman & Five Elements – On The Edge Of Tomorrow
- Brian Melvin [feat. Jaco Pastorius] – May Day
- OCQ – Muñeco
- John Scofield – Techno
- Copernicus – In Terms Of Money
- Fred Lane – Car Radio Jerome
When we last heard from Fred Lane, he was doing a ramshackle, nonsensical parody of old-time jazz appropriate for Dr. Demento. On his second go around, he pulls things together a bit. His sensibility hasn’t changed, he’s still gross and funny, but now he doesn’t seem like he’s attacking jazz, just… doing jazz. He’s carefully weaved a dark, moody, perverse story with a plotline and everything. He’s even got a hook, though one that bears no obvious relationship to the story. And he keeps up with a cavalcade of witty, catchy lines: “His life, sucks twice. Looks real good, but it stinks on ice.” “With a world like this, who needs a hell?” “Touch me dad, I’ll stick you, cop, kill my dog, I’ll waste you, pop!” “The maggot in the mirror just looks back at me.” Essentially, he’s worked his way backwards into dark cabaret ala Tom Waits.
- Mulgrew Miller – Powell’s Prances
- Kenny Barron – Dexterity
- The Cedar Walton Trio – Ground Work
- Orchestra National De Jazz – Fantaisie Be Bop
- Luc Le Manse – Locomotive (Uncut)
- Courtney Pine – Miss Interpret
- Club Foot Orchestra – Wild Beasts
If I just say “80s jazz,” there’s no strong assosciation of that with any particular styles, in the way that jazz fusion is strongly assosciated with the 70s, or post-bop is with the 60s. Maybe smooth jazz, but that’s assosciated with the whole span of the 70s through the 90s. (Maybe specifically Japanese city pop adjacent smooth jazz, these days? Maybe the bleedthrough between minimalist classical and jazz can be considered especially 1980s?) Jazz in the 1980s is not only fractured, but bitterly entrenched in factions that either ignore or squabble with one another. Because there’s no master narrative out there of unified progress for people to default back to, there’s a stagnancy in the air, a notion that jazz or real jazz paused during or after the 70s and everyone is just recycling older forms even if good music still gets made. And yet… in this section here, I taste something that seems… new. I can’t quite articulate it. It’s a certain full-bodied sound, with a deep orchestration, tight soaring compositions, and hard-hitting snares.
Oh, and apparently Snakefinger of The Residents was involved in this Club Foot Orchestra, though there’s nothing Residential about its sound.
- McCoy Tyner – Latino Suite
- João Donato – Leila II
- Camarón De La Isla – Te Lo Dice Camarón (Rumba)
- Super Duo – Głuche Krokodyle
- Ulisses Rocha – Volta Rapidinho
- Paulinho Nogueira – Reflexões Em 2 Por 4
- Marco Bosco – Fragmentos
- Kip Hanrahan – Two (Still In Half Light)
- Toshifumi Hinata – Atarashii Yuhbokumin
- Ishihonana – Delta
- F.O.E – In My Jungle
- Toshinori Kondo & IMA – Tea Girl
I’m surprised there’s not more of this kind of digital, synth-driven jazz that’s not particularly smooth in the 1980s. That seems like the obvious thing to try…
- Atsuo Fujimoto – Beat March
- Tuxedomoon – Break The Rules
- Ichiko Hashimoto – D.P.
- Egberto Gismonti – Infância
- Offering – Love In The Darkness
What a great song. I think I’m getting into Magma backwards, by accidentally grooving very very hard with their post-breakup remnants first.
- Wim Mertins – You See
- Pascal Comelade – Opérette De 2 Notes
- Steve Reich – Sextet (2nd Movement)
Sextet is actually pretty Reich-by-numbers, except this movement, which is interestingly and compellingly open and unsteady.
- Arnold Dreybaltt & The Orchestra Of Excited Strings – Odd & Even
- Terry Riley – The Orchestra Of Tao
Terry Riley gets big into microtonalism and alternative tuning methods (like Just Intonation) throughout the 70s and 80s, and it manifests in a splash of orientalism (see: the title of this track.) But the title of this album is Harp Of New Albion. New Albion is… just a fancy European colonist name for California, where Riley was born and raised and went to school. It’s a return from a long soujourn in ragas and synths and such to the familiar and old-fashioned ground of traditionally-arranged classical acoustic music, but a return having changed and become more estranged. That is to say, every track on this album uses some unusual tuning of the piano or another.
What makes this particularly Californian? Well, I think it has to do with computers. I had a piece by Wendy Carlos right here on the playlist earlier, Song for Bali, that I had to remove because there’s no Wendy Carlos music online because she doesn’t want there to be and she’s very litigous about that fact. Suffice to say, she was treading this exact same groundbreaking territory in microtonalism, except she did it with synths. Microtonalism is an ancient idea that anyone can achieve with their voice alone. But computers, by the 80s at the earliest, allow for a finer grain of musical tuning, dicing up the harmonic spectrum into more precise and custom-defined steps.
- Ştefan Niculescu – Sincronie II (Hommage à Enesco et Bartók)
When I realized that idea above, that’s when I suddenly and immediately “got” spectralism. Reading about it, it sounded so alien and mechanical and avant-garde, but all the music I heard from it felt very natural and inviting and even at times conventional, and I didn’t understand how. That’s when it clicked: It’s all inspired by computerized analysis of the harmonic frequency spectrum, yes, but what falls out of the harmonic frequency spectrum are things like “second harmonic, third harmonic,” etc, and from there, things like the “perfect fifth,” now re-derived from first principles.
This can be dated back to 1981, but I’ve also seen a source that says it was started in 1981 and finished in 1986 and it wasn’t recorded and released until 1987. If you want a Bartok rec: Check out Bluebeard’s Castle. Fourth and Fifth Door knocked my socks off.
- Hajime Mizoguchi – Parallel World
- Hilary Tann – Winter Sun, Summer Rain
- Iannis Xenakis – Akéa
- Magnus Lindberg – Ur
- Nicolae Brânduş – Soliloque IV (Reverberations)
The composition dates back to 1984, but the actual recording was released in 1986. I know at other times I’ve gone the other way on this sort of judgement call, but firstly, as an in-part musique concrete work it’s very tied to the recording, and secondly, it’s my indulgent playlist and I’m going to be capricious.
- Current 93 – To Feed The Moon
“Industrial” is such an expansive aesthetic in music. Back in the early 80s, we saw it suddenly pivot from something adjacent to noise music into relentless and dark-mooded synthpop and electronic dance music, but that’s not the core of it. The core of it is more… amorphous. It’s the dark mood and the revelling in being strange, I think? Current 93’s release In Menstrual Night is a little beautiful, a work of sound collage that, to my intepretation, seems to primarily be in conversation with the long history of classical music. It’s a constant cascade of voices, among them almost always new recordings of old extended liturgical chants, the kind that stretch out the word “Kyrie” and split it across 4 voices so it lasts like 5 minutes and is completely unintelligible. It blends these with many other kinds of voices found from many kinds of sources, blending together and losing all coherent meaning, becoming just sound.
- The Death And Beauty Foundation – Starhead
- Derek Bailey & Han Bennink – Melancholy Babes, Part 1
This is the most accessible free improvisation I’ve ever heard. It’s never dangerous, it’s always in motion and grooving, sometimes the guitarrist or percussionist even drops into a beat or a riff. And, importantly, it’s culled from live concert recordings, so there’s legitimately a laugh track that lets you in on the fact that this is all a very fun performance.
- Boredoms – God From Anal
- Ween – Go
- Napalm Death – You Suffer
- Ruins – Outburn
- Killdozer – Hamburger Martyr
- Saint Vitus – Clear Windowpane
- Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?
- Victim’s Family – Friends
- Samhain – In My Grip
- The Melvins – Scared
Besides C86 and In The Jungle Groove, there’s one other historically important compilation in 1986: Deep Six. This is the release where the sound of so-called “grunge” becomes clear. This time, it is like-minded, similar sounding bands from the same scene, constituting a genre. Typical traits: Sludgy guitars, unique and often wacky vocals with extra fries, songs that go back and forth between slow parts and fast parts, a little metal influence in the guitar lines. Selections up through Heretic are all from Deep Six.
- Green River – 10000 Things
- Skin Yard – Throb
- The U-Men – They
- Soundgarden – Heretic
I think this is the best of the batch. It’s the way it suddenly turns into a big melodic chorus and the flanger on the guitar.
- Bomb – I’m Not Restless
The YouTube video hosting this song has the cover image cropped because otherwise you could see that someone scrawled on the only cover art for this on the internet “THIS RECORD MADE ME INSANE AND THIS BAND RUINED MY LIFE. BUY AT YOUR OWN RISK”. I haven’t a clue why you would want to crop that out.
- Rhythm Pigs – Six
- The Anti Troppau Council – In The City
- Egg Hunt – We All Fall Down
Egg Hunt is half of Minor Threat, right before Fugazi formed.
- Concrete Blonde – Your Haunted Head
- The Ex – They Shall Not Pass
- False Prophets – Blind Obedience
Dead Kennedys disciples. Lots of varied stuff going on on their album.
- Lärm – No One Can Be That Dumb
- Frightwig – Booby Prize (Dedicated To Linda Lovelace)
- Gash – Because You Are A Woman
- Fecal Matter – Laminated Effect
Aaand here’s what Kurt Cobain was up to while all those bands that got on Deep Six defined the grunge sound. A snotty sloppy little queer punk provocation. I swear I hear a little bit of Devo in this! We know he was a fan, and specifically a fan of 1) their ability to get into the mainstream and be subversive and 2) the song “Turnaround,” Nirvana’s cover of which shares a family resemblance with this song. The lyrics here flirt with offense and satire in the same way as Devo’s edgiest material, like Mongoloid.
- Dayglo Abortions – Argh Fuck Kill
Ran into something weird while making this playlist. Before my very eyes, “Dayglo Abortions – Topic” turned into “Sports Hub”. “Dag Nasty – Topic” turned into “GodsProperties”. “Connie – Topic” turned into “พงษ์ศักดิ์ คงมงคล”. The videos were there, but in all but the last case the official playlists were gone. The official YouTube musical artist channels, unmanned and unsupervised, are suddenly getting hacked a lot.
- Gang Green – Alcohol
- Adrenalin O.D. – Answer
- Dag Nasty – Circles
- Husker Du – Crystal
- We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It!! – Alive †
- Volcano Suns – Dot On The Map
- The Eastern Dark – Walking
I can only guess how they got the kick drum to make that hollow, high-pitched quiet “fwoomp”, but it’s very sonically interesting.
- Guided By Voices – Land Of Danger
- Alpaca Brothers – The Lie
- The Bodines – Paradise †
- The Wedding Present – This Boy Can Wait (A Bit Longer) ††
I think if the C86 compilation circles around one particular like, core constituency, it’s this stream of scratchy uptempo plaintive pop-rock represented by this song?
- The Apostles – Breaking Barriers
- The Surf Trio – Girl Ain’t Good For Me
- Brighton 64 – La Casa De La Bomba
- The Neighborhoods – Arrogance
- Mood Six – The Life That Jack Built
- Makin’ Time – Feels Like It’s Love
- The United States Of Existence – Anything Goes! [feat. The Association]
And this is it, folks: the ultimate endpoint of all the blatant 60s nostalgia floating around in 80s alternative rock. A studious and complete recreation or fabrication of a totally convincing 1967 garage psychedelic pop rock group, on vintage equipment, complete with intricate harmony work courtesy of special guest vocalists who were all doing that kind of music in the actual 1960s. This is the end of the line, this is as far as you can possibly take it. And you know what? It’s good, actually. Because the songwriting is very much up to snuff.
Still, it’s interesting how, in contrast to “Industrial,” the aesthetic of “Psychedelic” seems to be very sharply limited here in 1986. You’d think it would be, by its very nature, constantly-expansive, but if I’m denoting some rock music as “psychedelic” everyone knows I mean it is harkening back to some specific traits that were in vogue for like 3 years in the 60s.
- The Servants – Transparent ††
- Steve Kilbey – Guilty
I didn’t know Steve Kilbey was just one of the guys from The Church until after I finalized the playlist order.
- The Church – Columbus
- The Mighty Lemon Drops – My Biggest Thrill †
- The Housemartins – Happy Hour
Fatboy Slim is the bassist of this band.
- Camper Van Beethoven – We Saw Jerry’s Daughter
I think the titular Jerry is Jerry Garcia? This song is great, wish it didn’t suddenly cut off.
- Camper Van Beethoven – Abundance
This time they’re not just two songs that are inconveniently stuck together in a YouTube video, but rather I’ve decided that if you can sit through free improv I can put two Camper Van Beethoven songs on this list. They did two albums! Big year for them!
- Yo – Wish Away
- Eton Crop – A Billy Bobo Funeral
- The Len Bright Combo – The Golden Hour Of Harry Secombe
- Breaking Circus – Gun Shy
- Lives Of Angels – Imperial Motors
I think this might actually be from like 1983 but only saw wide release in 1986? Indeed it sounds the part. Nobody is making hypnotic Krautrock tributes anymore! Look, it’s fine, I think I screwed up and put Vicious Pink in the 1983 playlist when their song actually came out here in 1986.
- Eleven Pond – Portugal
- Alien Sex Fiend – I Walk The Line
- The Mission – Wasteland
- Ekatarina Velika – Budi Sam Na Ulici
- The Trial – Crimson Retrospect/Chant 4501
- Stan Ridgway – Drive, She Said
- It’s Immaterial – Happy Talk
- The Tempest – Didn’t We Have A Nice Time?
- Saccharine Trust – Longing For Ether
- No Trend – Without Me
- A Witness – Smelt Like A Pedestrian †
- Stitched-Back Foot Airman – Fashion Scum
- Ring – Operation Apricot
- Sarasvati – Mono-Drama
- The Turncoats – Wishing Well
- Nomeansno – Dead Bob
Nomeansno shows up like, fully formed with all their stop and start zaniness. Love the cheeky quote of Smoke On The Water towards the end.
- The Shrubs – Bullfighter’s Bones ††
- Vee VV – Don’t Get Down
- Christmas – Big Plans
- Algebra Suicide – Little Dead Bodies
- McCarthy – From The Damned †
Tim Gane from Stereolab plays for this group.
- Tactics – Edge Of My Seat
- Philip Boa & The Voodooclub – Clean Eyes For Dirty Faces
- Butthole Surfers – Creep In The Cellar
- On A Friday – The Girl In The Purple Dress
This is just Radiohead with a sax player instead of Johnny Greenwood. They’re actually very close already to the basic principles of songcraft they eventually settle in with around the time of In Rainbows for a band that would famously go through a lot of sound changes over that time period. Also, Phil Selway is right away the band MVP (except on the songs where he’s completely off-time, there are a couple on this tape) and he will stay that way.
- Rain Gods – Insect Sun
- Miriodor – Checkmate
- The Camberwell Now – Sitcom
- News From Babel – A Dragon At The Core
- Skeleton Crew – Bingo
- Thinking Plague – Warheads
- Throwing Muses – Hate My Way
Great band. Always full of interesting structures, from the song to the chord level. And some very emotionally-effecting lyrics on this track.
- New Model Army – The Hunt
- Giant Sand – Thin Line Man
- Elvis Costello & The Attractions – I Want You
Elvis Costello gets back together with the backing band he had on his second and third albums and decides that he’s going to go back to the second album’s ironic exploration of misogyny and really, really go deep on how creepy and violent the possessive psychology of misogyny is.
- Died Pretty – Life To Go (Landsakes)
- Chumbawamba – How To Get Your Band On TV
I had heard Chumbawamba were an anarcho-punk group at first, but on their first album they’re big on the “anarcho-” but don’t hew even a little bit to the “punk” sound of, say, Dayglo Abortions. Instead we have an intricately-produced multi-part epic slagging off Live-Aid and We Are The World for all its phony charity and celebrity-peddling.
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jack’s Shadow
- Coil – Ostia (The Death Of Pasolini)
Case file #2 in the broadness of “industrial.” Coil’s Horse Rotorvator has one song that fits the electro-industrial mode, “Anal Staircase,” and then most of the rest of it is chamber jazz, plus this which is closer to chamber folk. I have a hunch there’s some kind of reactive counter-reformation pushing back on electro-industrial’s dominance here, or maybe it’s just a bunch of people doing their own thing getting lumped together.
- Momus – Lucky Like St. Sebastian
I don’t usually go in for this sort of thing, but I do like the sacreligious lyrics and arrangement to this one a lot. The rest of the album is good, but not as good as its first track.
- Louis Philippe – When I’m An Astronaut
- A.C. Marias – Just Talk
- Cocteau Twins – Whales Tails
- Claire Hamill – Tides
- Area – All About Money
- Colin Newman – I Can Hear Your…
Apart from Wire, lead vocalist Colin Newman did his last of several solo albums, consisting of a bunch of songs much like this one, real sparse and gloomy affairs that seem like they’re gonna build to something bigger and fuller. I can’t help but think the “I can hear your heartbeat” in this song is a callback to Wire’s Heartbeat, which is the same way except it does build up.
- Vazz – Your Final Word
- Breathless – Sense Of Purpose
- Akina Nakamori – Okibi
Nakamori’s Fushigi is the best album of 1986, easily. Utterly entrancing and unique gothic dream pop that never gets repetitive. Do yourself a favor if you don’t recognize the name and listen to the name with no context on who she is or her career, then look that up.
- A Primary Industry – Cicatrice
- A.R. Kane – Haunting
And shoegaze was properly born.
- DUSTdevils – False Dawn
- Shop Assistants – Before I Wake †
- Spacemen 3 – Hey Man
- Loop – 16 Dreams
People have called Loop a Spacemen 3 ripoff, and I think that’s unfair. For one thing, the Spacemen 3 formula is so simple that there’s not that much there to rip off!
- The Fizzbombs – Sign On The Line
- My Dad Is Dead – Black Cloud
…And He’s Not Gonna Take It Anymore feels like a dress rehearsal for the next album.
- 14 Iced Bears – Inside
- Swans – Time Is Money (Bastard)
Swans largely continued to slow down in 1986. Well, not in the sense of releasing less material, they released a lot more. I meant their songs really plodded in doom. This song, a single-only release, is the outlier — it’s way fast, maybe the fastest thing they ever released.
- Big Black – Kerosene
Kerosene basically single-handedly justifies the entire Big Black sound.
- Age Of Chance – Be Fast, Be Clean, Be Cheap †
This song is so full of hooks! It’s been getting stuck in my head for months.
- The Fall – US 80s-90s
- Hunters Club – Talking Terror
- Screaming Trees – Orange Airplane
- King Of The Slums – Spider Psychiatry
- Slaughter Joe – The Lonesome Death Of Thurston Moore
- Sonic Youth – Star Power
- Ciccone Youth – Burnin’ Up (Mike Watt Original Demo)
- Sudden Sway – Ah Metal Blossom
- They Might Be Giants – Nothing’s Gonna Change My Clothes
Their first album is my favorite. I really like the way that the songs and the album as a whole constantly switches genre and is overstuffed with little details that don’t naturally fit, which is something they really didn’t do again besides on Flood. This is a good example, those post-chorus metallic hammers shouldn’t “work” with the synthpop and jazzy ride cymbal, but not only do they they’re how we ride out the song.
- Spinetta/Paez – Folly Berghet
- The The – Out Of The Blue (Into The Fire)
Can’t think of any other pop song so purely about getting laid that operates like this one.
- Obywatel G.C. – Przyznaję Się Do Winy
- Los Encargados – Ni Un Minuto Más
- Depeche Mode – New Dress
- Infant Bonds Of Joy – A Reaction
- Exotic Birds – Dancing On The Airwaves [feat. Trent Reznor]
- Zwei Maenner – Don’t Go [prod. Bobby O]
- Lana Pellay – Pistol In My Pocket
Very weird that the people who wrote and produced this and You Spin Me Right Round (different people,) both super amped-up queer dance ragers, would all shortly be working with Rick Astley, the memetic definition of milquetoast.
- Strawberry Switchblade – I Can Feel
- Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle
- Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off
Growing up I always thought this was like, an intensely cringe song, an advertisement for Reaganite sexual prudishness. Turns out it’s a little more complicated than that, and most definitely not Reaganite. Jermaine Stewart was gay, and this is widely read as a discreet AIDS song. Still a plea for abstinence, but not one coming from a place of prudishness but community safety in the face of a deadly disease.
- Prince – Kiss
And just to underline how sex-soaked culture could get at this time… Prince!
- Octavia – 2 The Limit
This sounds really, really good. The drums especially. If you just played me this and My Body And Soul below and asked me which of these two producers was going to be the one to start racking up #1 hits and remake the face of R&B very soon, I would pick this one.
- Candi Staton – You Got The Love [original 1986 version, NOT the Frankie Knuckles mash-up]
- Tabala – Tabala Mouv
- Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait
- Condry Ziqubut – Gorilla Man
- Michael McDonald – Sweet Freedom
Look, if you can stomach Gorilla Man and Iannis Xenaxis, you can stomach a little bit of Micheal McDonald on cheesy autopilot mailing in a movie tie-in. It’s good if you let yourself get into it! The little rhythm that undergirds the thing, the big key changes, the chorus interplay.
- Prudence Liew – Subtropical Boy
- Nocera – Summertime, Summertime (Soft Summer Dub) [prod. Mantronix, edits by Chep Nunez]
- Connie – Laughter In The Rain
- Delicious – My Body And Soul [prod. Teddy Riley]
- Clara Capri – Maudit Dee Jay
- Cherrelle – Saturday Love
Since I heard this song, it’s replaced however I used to remember the order of the days of the week to the point I can’t remember how I used to. What, was it the “Tuesdays is yous-days, Wednesdays is friends-days” verse?
- Tashan – Read My Mind
- Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
This firmly belongs in October 1985, but by the time I realized the single came out so far in advance of the 1986 album I had made it a lynchpin of this section and fallen in love with it, like Careless Whisper in the 1985 list.
- David Garland – I Am With You
This song didn’t reach its full potential and poignancy until its 2019 remix, which I urge you to check out. But it’s still a very remarkable song. The liner notes there also finally revealed to me how the vocal effect of this song was achieved. I thought it was somehow automated with a computer and struggled to think of how, but no, it was done manually, like, with razor blades.
- Ahmed Mounib – Moshataeen [machine-translated: I Miss You]
- Alceu Valença – Amor Covarde [machine-translated: Cowardly Love]
- Zenit – Play The Game Of Life
- Anita Baker – Sweet Love
- David Bowie – Absolute Beginners (the full 8 minute version)
And out of nowhere, David Bowie hits a fluke home run masterpiece right at the same time he’s at his washed-up musical nadir! Micheal McDonald, eat your heart out: THIS is how you do a cheesy sentimental movie tie-in. He seems to focus all his creative energy in this era on the big long epics like this and Loving The Alien. This song is like a magic trick, it makes you a believer. You don’t even realize that the verses are like 40 lines long and the chorus doesn’t kick in until 2 and a half minutes in until someone tells you.
- Simon F – Dr. Christi
While it doesn’t sound much like the prior track, I can’t help but feel Simon F is channeling his inner David Bowie here, in vocals and in spirit.
- Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11 [prod. Giorgio Moroder]
This song caught a lot of off-handed snark at the time for being a transparently manufactured smorgasbord of empty calories. All style, no substance. All sound effects, no song. The lyrics had some stuff about missiles and hunger but it didn’t mean a thing. That’s all true, it’s just weird that people thought they had the remit to stand up against this semantically-empty pop collage. What, because they dressed like Visual Kei rockstars you thought that meant they were somehow more accountable to you scruffy indie-rock magazine grumps? No, it’s just that its phoniness hits home as an insult and you wanna strike back.
- Until December – No Gift Refused
- Bronski Beat – Hit That Perfect Beat
- Psyche – Unveiling The Secret
- Jesus Couldn’t Drum – I Am A Train
- Slab! – Mars On Ice
- The Cassandra Complex – March
- KMFDM – Me I Funk
KMFDM very clearly want to make some kind of industrial rock epic here and succeed. They also quote T-Rex’s The Slider a lot!
- Ministry – Just Like You
- The Invincible Spirit – Push
- Smersh – Herman
- Ganzheit – Independence
- The Klinik – Power Of Passion
- A;Grumh… – Diffamavi Thebarum Potentes
- A Split Second – Flesh (played at 33 RPM +8 Pitch)
The 33 RPM +8 thing is actually historically significant! It was played this way at Belgian clubs, and that’s what inspired Belgian New Beat and set industrial dance music on the first step down the road that will, I’m told, eventually result in trance music, that most ethereal and fluffy of the major EDM branches. Odd!
- Signal Aout 42 – Pleasure And Crime
- Die Nitzer Ebb – Fitness To Purpose
These guys are British, by the by. They just like the aesthetic of a German name, red, and screaming angry commands into the crowd for very normal reasons. It’s fine. Almost all of their symbols are, if anything, associated with communism, not fascism. I mean, they do associate with dictatorship and brutality either way. But like… As a mood. As a vibe. It’s fine!
- Adonis – No Way Back
This, to me, has always been the essence of house. I think I’m probably wrong about that because overall the brief trend of sinister, minimal house is but a blip in its history, which is largely one of happiness and melody. Even acid house isn’t all like this!
- Denise Motto – IMNXTC
- X-Ray – Let’s Go [prod. Juan Atkins]
There’s like four or five Juan Atkins productions on this playlist… this is the best one, and also the least typical.
- Cultural Vibe – Ma Foom Bey
- Hercules – 7 Ways [prod. Virgo]
- Robert Owens – Bring Down The Walls [prod. Larry Heard]
- The Housemaster Boyz And The Rude Boy – House Nation
- House People – Jack Me Frankie (Power House) (Chip E Mix)
I can’t help it, I straight-up love sequencer abuse. Just repeat the same things over and over again, stuttering syncopated across the beat. I’m a sucker for it. Jack Me, Chip E!
- Willie Wonka – What Is House?
- Jungle Wonz – The Jungle [prod. Marshall Jefferson]
- Farm Boy – Jackin’ Me Around (Farm Mix)
- E.S.P – It’s You
- Raze – Jack The Groove
- The It – Donnie (Radio Mix) [prod. Chip E, Robert Owens vocals, Larry Heard also pitched in]
I worked for a guy named Donnie and this song was always getting stuck in my head.
- Frankie Knuckles – You Can’t Hide From Yourself (Clubhouse Mix)
- Sleezy D – I’ve Lost Control [prod. Virgo]
- Model 500 – Bang The Beat [prod. Juan Atkins]
Model 500 would become a primary alias for Juan Atkins.
- No Name – Jason’s Revenge
- Blackhouse – Numerology
Absolutely ridiculous that I included a track by obscure and evangelizing Christian noise artist Blackhouse before I included one by Whitehouse, who they’re clearly referencing.