1983 Mix

Thirty-five years later, it is easy to forget that 1983 was an awful year. In the UK the far-right Thatcher government won re-election. Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and then invaded Grenada seven months later. A suicide bomber in Beirut killed more than 300 people, including 241 US troops. Saddam Hussein deployed chemical weapons in Iraq’s ongoing war with Iran. A Soviet fighter shot down a Korean Airlines jet, causing the death of all 269 passengers and crew. The possibility of nuclear war was a real concern; when ABC broadcast a TV film, The Day After, about the aftermath of Soviet nuclear strikes in Kansas and Missouri, more than 100 million people watched.

Given this atmosphere, it is no surprise that a lot of the music from 1983 reflects anger, tension, and dread. In a song like “My City Was Gone” or “Pills and Soap” the anger is unmistakable, but “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages” is just as angry, just more subtle and cloaked in pastoral music. “In a Big Country” sounds anthemic and gains energy from guitars manipulated to sound like bagpipes, but the lyrics portray a narrator looking desperately for something to hold onto in the face of disappointment and betrayal. “Making Flippy Floppy” has a goofy title, but the lyrics are about as dark and cynical as Talking Heads ever got: “Business and pleasure lie right to your face.” A cruel summer, for sure.

Even in a lousy year, bands continue to grow and evolve. Some performers seem to emerge fully formed from the beginning of their career. Examples of this include Ramones, Billy Bragg, and, to a degree, R.E.M. Others struggle early in their career to find their own voice, perhaps copying their heroes or experimenting with different styles until they find something that clicks for them. In retrospect, I see three important bands that fully came into their own in 1983. New Order had an amazing 1983, releasing their finest album, Power Corruption & Lies as well as two iconic singles, “Blue Monday” and “Confusion”. U2 released their third album, War (note the title!), which first exhibited the combination of political activism and stadium-ready sound that would make them superstars. Finally Hüsker Dü released the Metal Circus EP, which solidified their identity, both from a songwriting and sonic perspective. 


Part 1: I’m Not Expecting to Grow Flowers in a Desert

  1. My City Was Gone – The Pretenders
  2. In a Big Country – Big Country
  3. Racist Friend – The Special AKA
  4. Pills and Soap – The Imposter (Elvis Costello)
  5. Love on a Farmboy’s Wages – XTC
  6. This is Not a Love Song – Public Image Ltd.
  7. 25 Reasons – Red House
  8. A New England – Billy Bragg
  9. Time Wounds All Heels – Nick Lowe
  10. Cruel Summer – Bananarama
  11. Bedward the Flying Preacher – Prince Far I
  12. Your Silent Face – New Order
  13. Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs – Minutemen
  14. Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies
  15. Real World – Hüsker Dü
  16. Color Me Impressed – The Replacements
  17. She’s in Parties – Bauhaus
  18. Talk About the Passion – R.E.M.
  19. Genetic Engineering – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  20. Going Home – Mark Knopfler


Part 2: We Sing in the Darkness

  1. Making Flippy Floppy – Talking Heads
  2. Electric Avenue – Eddy Grant
  3. Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  4. (Keep Feeling) Fascination – The Human League
  5. Borderline – Madonna
  6. New York, New York – Nina Hagen
  7. Tour De France – Kraftwerk
  8. Two Hearts Beat as One – U2
  9. Rockit – Herbie Hancock
  10. Here Comes the Rain Again – Eurythmics
  11. Moody (Spaced Out) – ESG
  12. 99 Luftballons – Nena
  13. Living My Life – Grace Jones
  14. An Ending (Ascent) – Brian Eno

Posted by Paul in Mix, Music

1982 Mix

MTV (Music Television, youngsters) first went on the air in August 1981. Hungry for “content”, MTV would show videos from bands that had no chance of getting play on mainstream radio. My impression is that beginning in 1982, MTV helped to begin the process of mainstreaming “underground” or “alternative” music. 

1982 was also the year when several significant groups called it quits. The Jam, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, and Richard & Linda Thompson all released their final albums in 1982. Shoot Out the Lights, the final Richard & Linda Thompson album, is a stunning snapshot of a dissolving relationship and probably their best album. The Jam’s last album, The Gift,  shows that the band was exiting at the top of their game, but also shows how far Paul Weller’s musical interests had drifted. Stiff Little Fingers’ last releases moved away from their punk sound, alienating many fans. The Clash’s Combat Rock seemed at first like a bit of a disappointment, but my appreciation for it has grown over the years.

At least we still had Bowie. And of course, new groups rose to prominence in 1982 even as old favorites were calling it quits. Culture Club had a huge hit with their first album. Groups like Bow Wow Wow and Missing Persons emerged from relative obscurity and scored big hits (both of these bands, by the way, were highly telegenic). The album 1999 helped Prince move from being a well regarded niche act to an international superstar. Go watch the video for “Little Red Corvette” and you’ll understand why.

Huang Chung were not yet a big name in 1982. In 1983 they would switch record labels, change the spelling of their name and re-record “Dance Hall Days”. The re-recorded version became a big hit, but I think I prefer this earlier, looser version.

Meanwhile, punk rock continued to thrive in its own world, and middle American rock acts (like Marshall Crenshaw, Tommy Keene, and most notably, R.E.M.) continued to make earnest guitar-focused music. 

The Gang of Four song “To Hell with Poverty!” has always been a favorite. In my college years it became something of a personal anthem. That was when I was young and stupid enough to confuse actual poverty with not having a lot of cash (but always being just a phone call away from Mom and Dad’s help).


Part 1: I’m Probably Not the Kind of Girl You Think You Want

  1. Always Unknowing – Roxy Music
  2. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me – Culture Club
  3. Hurt – New Order
  4. Dance Hall Days – Huang Chung
  5. Blue Hotel – Lene Lovich
  6. Destination Unknown – Missing Persons
  7. From the Air – Laurie Anderson
  8. I Fell in Love – The Roches
  9. I Melt With You – Modern English
  10. Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – David Bowie
  11. Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst) – Peter Schilling
  12. Delirious – Prince
  13. Black Coffee in Bed – Squeeze
  14. Go – The Replacements
  15. I Have the Touch – Peter Gabriel
  16. Did She Jump or Was She Pushed? – Richard & Linda Thompson


Part 2: You Tasted Mustard When She Painted Your Face

  1. Know Your Rights – The Clash
  2. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow
  3. Talking to a Stranger – Hunters & Collectors
  4. Read About It – Midnight Oil
  5. Shabby Doll – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  6. Save it for Later – The English Beat
  7. Back to Zero Now – Tommy Keene
  8. You’re My Favorite Waste of Time – Marshall Crenshaw
  9. Lesson in Love – Paul Carrack
  10. The Hanging Garden – The Cure
  11. 1,000,000 – R.E.M.
  12. Talkback – Stiff Little Fingers
  13. Raining Raining – Nick Lowe
  14. Tears in Rain – Vangelis
  15. Ghosts – The Jam
  16. Situation – Yazoo
  17. T.V. Party – Black Flag
  18. Reason for Existence – Subhumans
  19. To Hell with Poverty – Gang of Four
  20. Mad World – Tears for Fears
  21. True Romance at the World’s Fair – Algebra Suicide
  22. Looking for the Next Best Thing – Warren Zevon
Posted by Paul in Mix, Music

1981 Mix

My self-indulgent tour of the music of the early 80s continues.

1981 saw “rock” fully embracing new technologies: synthesizers, sampling and rap. Check out, for instance, the rapping Austrian…

These new technologies played a role in many transformational and evolutionary changes. Pete Shelley, lead singer for pioneering punk band The Buzzcocks, surprised everyone with the synth-led, danceable, transcendent “Homosapien”. The Human League evolved from a quirky experimental synth band to a pop band prominently featuring female vocalists. Track down “Circus of Death” on YouTube sometime if you want to hear how much a band can change in two years. The evolution of The Human League also spun off Heaven 17. New Order arose from the ashes of Joy Division like a Phoenix brandishing a sequencer. Robert Fripp decided, for Robert Fripp reasons, to start a new version of King Crimson after almost seven years of dormancy.

Then there’s Talking Heads, which spawned three separate projects in 1981. What I hear in these records is that David Byrne wanted to be Brian Eno, Jerry Harrison wanted to be David Byrne, and Tina Weymouth is an under-appreciated genius. 

Meanwhile, back in the USA, good old guitar/bass/drums rock ’n’ roll was alive and well. 1981 saw the first single from R.E.M. and first albums from Go-Go’s and The Replacements. In addition, Mission of Burma released the EP that would make them college radio station staples.


Part 1: Pull Up to the Bumper, Baby

  1. You Can’t be Funky – Bush Tetras
  2. Bustin’ Out – Material with Nona Hendryx
  3. (We Don’t Need this) Fascist Groove Thang – Heaven 17
  4. Der Mussolini – D.A.F.
  5. Der Kommissar – Falco
  6. The Jezebel Spirit – Brian Eno & David Byrne
  7. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club
  8. Worlds in Collision – Jerry Harrison
  9. This is Radio Clash – The Clash
  10. Pull Up to the Bumper – Grace Jones
  11. Don’t You Want Me – The Human League
  12. Controversy – Prince
  13. Everything’s Gone Green – New Order
  14. Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go – Soft Cell
  15. The Art of Parties – Japan


Part 2: We are on Our Own and the Only Thing Known is Our Love

  1. Takin’ a Ride – The Replacements
  2. Our Lips are Sealed – Go-Go’s
  3. That’s When I Reach for My Revolver – Mission of Burma
  4. Absolute Beginners – The Jam
  5. Message of Love – The Pretenders
  6. Homosapien – Pete Shelley
  7. Discipline – King Crimson
  8. Radio Free Europe – R.E.M.
  9. Afterimage – Afterimage
  10. We’re Desperate – X
  11. Cheeseburger – Gang of Four
  12. The Punch Line – Minutemen
  13. Raindance – The Past Seven Days
  14. Tickets are Free – Norman Salant
  15. Tempted – Squeeze
  16. Do Me Lover – Carlene Carter with Paul Carrack
  17. From a Whisper to a Scream – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  18. Torchlight – Ellen Foley
  19. Respectable Street – XTC
  20. Safe as Houses – Stiff Little Fingers
  21. Re – Dif Juz
Posted by Paul in Mix, Music

1980 Mix

For me, the early 1980s was one of the greatest eras in popular “rock” music. It was as if the great tidal wave that was punk rock swept away all the rules about who could make music and what that music had to sound like. Once the flood waters receded a million flowers bloomed.

I write this with full awareness that everyone probably thinks that the music of their college-age era is the best. In spite of this obvious bias, I think I can make the case that the early 80s were pretty special. My intention is to create song mixes for each year of the early 80s to hopefully convince myself that the music was as good as I remember.

This first mix (in two parts) includes music released in 1980, which was by any measure an exceptional year. For example, this mix includes tracks from eight bands that released their debut albums in 1980: U2, The Suburbs, Rockpile, The English Beat, Bauhaus, The Pretenders, UB40, and X (as well as the debut singles from Hüsker Dü and Minutemen). Several veterans released music in 1980 that was as good as anything they ever put out, including David Bowie (Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)), Peter Gabriel (Peter Gabriel 3 aka “Melt”), Pete Townshend (Empty Glass), Joy Division (Closer), Rush (Permanent Waves), Tonio K (Amerika), and Talking Heads (Remain in Light).

And maybe best of all are the wonderful tracks from bands that never really hit it big, or lingered in obscurity for all of their (often short) careers. The Petticoats released one single. Manicured Noise released two singles. Stiff Little Fingers were a terrific band that never achieved anything like the prominence of their peers (especially in the US). 


Part 1: All Them Tiny Insects Look Like You

  1. Gotta Gettaway – Stiff Little Fingers
  2. Fashion – David Bowie
  3. Double Dare – Bauhaus
  4. A Forest – The Cure
  5. Delta Rain Dream – Jon Hassell & Brian Eno
  6. Final Day – Young Marble Giants
  7. When I Write the Book – Rockpile
  8. If I Didn’t Love You – Squeeze
  9. Kingdom of Love – The Soft Boys
  10. High Fidelity – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  11. Girl Crazy – Tonio K
  12. Mirror in the Bathroom – The English Beat
  13. Cig Machine – The Suburbs
  14. Ace of Spades – Motörhead
  15. The Wait – The Pretenders
  16. Private Life – Grace Jones
  17. King – UB40
  18. Paranoid Chant – Minute Men
  19. Wardance – Killing Joke
  20. Komakino – Joy Division
  21. Crosseyed and Painless – Talking Heads


Part 2: Someday You’ll Meet Your Rocking Chair

  1. Are You Glad to be in America? – James “Blood” Ulmer
  2. The Man in the Dark Sedan – Snakefinger
  3. Lawnchairs – My Daughters Wedding
  4. Statues – Hüsker Dü
  5. Going Underground – The Jam
  6. I Don’t Remember – Peter Gabriel
  7. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School – Ramones
  8. Bad Reputation – Joan Jett
  9. Johny Hit and Run Paulene – X
  10. Interlude No. 2/Bill Lee – Warren Zevon
  11. It’s Her Factory – Gang of Four
  12. Dub – Pylon
  13. Bandrobber – The Clash
  14. Towers of London – XTC
  15. Another Day – U2
  16. When You Were Mine – Prince
  17. Power of Love – T-Bone Burnett
  18. Faith – Manicured Noise
  19. Dancing in the Street/My Enemy is a Bad Man – Fred Frith
  20. Normal – The Petticoats
Posted by Paul in Mix, Music