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