Network TV used to sell summer reruns with the zingy catchphrase, “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.” Swap in the word “heard” and a short stack of semi-recent reissues will take you back to the Eighties for the very first time. Not to be confused with POPDOSE’s recent list of Most Awesome 80’s New Wave Comebacks Ever column where we reveal the iconic artists of that era who are releasing some of their best-ever music here in the present — nor should we lump in the hundreds of recent vault raid cash in deluxe editions where you can hear inessential outakes like “Rock Me Amadeus Version 16 With Alt. Vocal”.
No my friend, these box sets are the audio equivalent of a Nebraskan barn filled with unsold Chevys from the 50’s and 60’s. If you think you know the 80’s, you don’t know Jack (Hues… of Wang Chung… who incidentally appears on none of the following records).
Scared To Get Happy: The Story of Indie Pop (1980-1989)
Cherry Red Records, the Rhino of the UK, is the reigning champion of lovingly curated, impeccably produced reissues. Their recent and upcoming release calendar boasts a record collector’s fever dream of expanded sets from the likes of Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, Alice Cooper, Rachel Sweet and Suzi Quatro. 2013 saw phase one of their obsessive re-documentation of the 1980’s UK Indie Rock scene. Whereas new wave has already gotten the Nuggets treatment (Living in Oblivion, Just Can’t Get Enough) as has punk (Burning Ambitions, No Thanks!), the 5CD set, Scared to Get Happy, documents the rise of jangly indie guitar pop that bridged new wave and post punk early in the era to the Madchester, Shoegaze and Brit Pop scenes in the early to mid 90’s.
Don’t scan the 134 tracks in this set and say, “gah, I only know 30 or so of these bands, and where the hell are the Smiths?” — look at it and say, “I already have everything by the Smiths, here are more than 100 new bands to discover!” With that well chuffed attitude, this set will be the sonic adventure of a lifetime. What? You just Googled and found these files on bit torrent? Shame on you! And be warned, without the box set’s gorgeous, full-color 56-page book to guide you, you’re missing out on the essential part of this experience.
Scared to Get Happy is a thrilling journey into indie rock Narnia. The labels — Cherry Red, Rough Trade, Sarah, Factory, Creation, etc. and the people who ran them are just as vital characters in these stories as the bands themselves. Musicians meet up, record some songs, release a 7-inch single or EP, breakup and intermix to form new bands with reckless abandon throughout Scared’s almost chronological 6 and 1/2 hour journey. Walk with Tracy Thorn from her first single with Marine Girls, to her debut with Everything But The Girl and trace ex Marine Girl Jane Fox as she gives a lift to Trixie’s Red Motorbike. I had no idea Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie was the drummer in Jesus and Mary Chain (whose radically different ‘Just Like Honey’ 1984 demo makes an appearance here right before Primal Scream’s iconic ‘Velocity Girl’).
You could fill a white board linking musicians, producers and labels together — most every band you never heard of eventually mutates to form one you adore (speaking of which, the Stone Roses kick off disc 5). Impress perhaps one of your friends with such trivia morsels as “did you know Thomas Dolby played synths for Girls at Our Best! and that band’s lead singer Judy (Jo) Evans later appeared on The Golden Age of Wireless?”
Jangle pop, synth pop, psychedelia, twee — the music here is all over sonic map, just as the bands hail from all around the UK map (Glasgow, Dublin, London, Manchester, Leeds and hundreds of exploding music scenes). Cherry Red mixes up the “before they were famous” singles with the breakthroughs. Witty, detailed and up-to-date stories track each band from formation to fame (or lack thereof) to break-up and in many cases, modern day resurrection. Cash in your Amazon gift cards to get Scared (great deals abound on new copies in the marketplace). It will take you most of 2014 to fully absorb it all, and long after the book as been shelved, you’ll be playing it on repeat for the rest of your life. Buy some extra jewel cases while you’re at it. The only downside of the set is how they socked the discs into the case — so maddeningly tight they needed to create a YouTube video to show you how to snap out the discs without snapping them in half.
Summer 2014 promises the sequel without equal. NME’s landmark C86 cassette (longtime ownership of which has never gotten me laid), gets its long overdue CD issue with a set that is seemingly expanding by the day. Follow the progress as bands sign on with bonus tracks by friending C86 on facebook.
Through my post Scared research, I also subsequently learned that one of my all-time favorite artists, Mark Burgess and his Chameleons/Sun and the Moon cohorts have been quietly releasing new albums for a decade under the name Black Swan Lane. A delicious Sun & The Moon rarity, “Adam’s Song (Pour Fenella)” is represented on disc 5 of Scared.
Buy Scared to Get Happy directly from Cherry Red Records in the UK, through the Amazon Marketplace in the US or Amazon UK. See videos, learn about related gigs and much more by friending Scared on facebook.
The Woodentops • Before, During, After: Remasters, Remixes and Rarities 1982 to 2992
As you countdown to the C86 CD, you will likely be inspired to track down full-lengths from your favorite Scared to Get Happy acts. I was floored to discover the Woodentops 52-track, gorgeously remastered 3 disc set, Before During and After is only $5.94 on Amazon MP3 — are you freakin’ kidding me? Hop on that shit right now! The Woodentops were WAY ahead of their time and sound as fresh and vibrant today as every plucky guitar band on the radio (Mumford & Sons, the Lone Bellow, etc.). All the hits are here, “Good Thing’, ‘Love Train’, ‘Hear Me James’ — if you have (and love) their essential releases, Giant and the Well, Well, Well EP, this set captures just about everything else you may be missing from their peak era.
12″ 80’s Club Classics
Universal UK’s stellar 12″ 80’s series releases edition #10 with club classics. With new wave already well-covered, they turn their attention to the clubs. Old School hip hop, funk, electro, house and soul are represented among the 33 extended remixes spread across three discs. As with Scared to Get Happy, the real treasure lies in the tracks you’ve never heard — of you think you’ve never heard of. Skipworth & Turner (‘Thinking About Your Love’), Steve Arrington (set highlight ‘Feel so Real’) and Rockers Revenge (‘Walking on Sunshine’ — NOT a Katrina & the Waves cover) shine just as bright as mega hits from Chaka Kahn (more than 7 minutes of ‘I Feel 4 U’ nirvana), Kurtis Blow (‘The Breaks’), Nu Shooz (the Long Dutch remix of ‘I Can’t Wait’), Inner City (an 8-minute remix of ‘Good Life’).
This funky, nearly four hour party, reminds me of the Summer of ’82 in Cleveland, Ohio. For a few glorious months, a commercial radio station, WRQC 92-FM, broadcast new wave & post-punk — the turf primarily peed on to the far left of the dial by WRUW (Case Western Reserve University) and WCSB (Cleveland State). Next door on the dial was urban station, WZAK (93-FM), led by DJ legend Lynn Tolliver. Long before the Internet, these two stations opened up an entire new world of music to Northeast Ohioans. Dance tracks from OMD, Human League and Depeche Mode on WRQK flowed seamlessly into Grandmaster Flash, Newcleus and the S.O.S. Band on WZAK. Thanks to 12″ 80’s Club Classics, the heyday sound of WZAK has finally returned to my iPod. Biggest surprise: Carly Simon’s appearance with an 8-minute club version of ‘Why’ soars while album kickoff, ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel’ flops. The latter was probably very impressive back in the day, but the abrupt jumps between Blondie, Queen, Chic and other hits now sounds like your iPod is malfunctioning — too bad Universal didn’t land rights to a remix of ‘The Message’).
The Motels • Apocalypso plus Paper Sleeve Catalog Reissues
17 Tracks (Apocalypso) • 50 Tracks (Catalog)
As time goes by, the five original Motels albums — owned and operated by the eternally breathtaking Martha Davis — have been leveled and replaced by condo towers of New Wave Hits of the Eighties singles compilations. Fans of the era will be pleased to discover a vast archive of amazing Motels album cuts that ‘Only The Lonely’, ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ and ‘Take The L’ merely hint at.
Apocalypso is the album the band intended to follow buzz building early albums The Motels and Careful. You see kids, before the Soundscan era, record labels used to give artists time to develop and grow their fanbases across many albums (Prince’s breakthrough, 1999, was his fifth LP). Part of the development process was telling the band to “try harder” — unlike today where just about anyone with a Macbook can record a “single” and inflict it on the populace. Capitol shelved the album, the Motels went back to the drawing board, and the resulting album, All Four One, made them superstars. In 2011, Apocalypso, finally saw the light of day thanks to Omnivore Recordings. Alongside early versions of ‘Only the Lonely’, ‘Mission of Mercy’ and ‘Art Fails’, you get great unheard songs like Schneekin’, ‘Who Could Resist that Face?’ and ‘Sweet Destiny’ that are as dark, romantic, noirish and lush as their classic deep album cuts.
The reason we bring this album up two years after its reissue — the entire Motels catalog has now been remixed and re-released in limited edition replicas of the original vinyl versions of the aforementioned LP’s, plus Little Robbers and Shock. Audiophiles are complaining about the loudness of these remasters, but I wonder if the casual listener will notice — I’d much prefer an album to sound crisp than hissy or muted. They are all on my Christmas wish list, if I get any instead of socks and underwear (not that I don’t need plenty of those), I will report back.
Get Apocalypso (caution, the Amazon MP3 listing is incorrect and NOT the full length CD), plus vinyl replicas of The Motels, Careful, All Four One, Little Robbers, Shock and the Martha Davis solo debut, Policy, on Amazon.
You can also get Apocalypso (and other holiday sale albums) direct from Omnivore.
Omnivore is about to do it again with the January, 14, 2014 release of The Vaught Tapes (that’s not a typo) from Lone Justice circa 1983. Oh Maria McKee, I adore you.
Full Track Listing: Scared to Get Happy (click to expand):
Full Track Listing, 12″ 80s’s Club Classics:
DISC 101 GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE THE ADVENTURES OF GRANDMASTER FLASH ON THE WHEELS OF STEEL (LONG VERSION) 02 CHAKA KHAN I FEEL FOR YOU (REMIX) 03 CARLY SIMON WHY (EXTENDED VERSION) 04 BOHANNON FEAT. DR. PERRI JOHNSON LET’S START II DANCE AGAIN (12” VERSION) 05 KURTIS BLOW THE BREAKS (VOCAL) 06 DAVID JOSEPH YOU CAN’T HIDE (YOUR LOVE FROM ME) (ORIGINAL 12” MIX) 07 ROCKERS REVENGE FEAT. DONNIE CALVIN WALKING ON SUNSHINE (ORIGINAL 12” VERSION) 08 GWEN GUTHRIE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU (US REMIX) 09 TEENA MARIE BEHIND THE GROOVE/NEVER GIVE YOU UP (12” VERSION) 10 S.O.S. BAND JUST BE GOOD TO ME (12” VERSION) DISC 2 01 SOUL II SOUL FEAT. CARON WHEELER BACK TO LIFE (CLUB MIX) 02 LOOSE ENDS HANGING ON A STRING (EXTENDED DANCE MIX) 03 ALEXANDER O’NEAL CRITICIZE (REMIX) 04 SKIPWORTH & TURNER THINKING ABOUT YOUR LOVE (EXTENDED) 05 STEVE ARRINGTON FEEL SO REAL (EXTENDED VERSION) 06 NU SHOOZ I CAN’T WAIT (LONG DUTCH MIX) 07 THELMA HOUSTON YOU USED TO HOLD ME SO TIGHT (12” VERSION) 08 CAMEO SHE’S STRANGE (CLUB MIX) 09 COLONEL ABRAMS I’M NOT GOING TO LET (EXTENDED VERSION) 10 ROCHELLE MY MAGIC MAN (MAGIC MIX) 11 JOYCE SIMMS ALL AND ALL (CLUB VERSION – TAKE TWELVE) 12 NENEH CHERRY BUFFALO STANCE (12” MIX) DISC 3 01 MANTRONIX FEAT. WONDRESS GOT TO HAVE YOUR LOVE (CLUB WITH BONUS BEATS) 02 N.W.A. EXPRESS YOURSELF (EXTENDED MIX) 03 ERIC B. & RAKIM I KNOW YOU GOT SOUL (THE DOUBLE TROUBLE REMIX) 04 BOMB THE BASS BEAT DIS (GANGSTER BOOGIE INC REMIX) 05 FARLEY JACKMASTER FUNK & JESSIE SAUNDERS FEAT. DARRYL PANDY LOVE CAN’T TURN AROUND (CLUB MIX) 06 MARSHALL JEFFERSON THE HOUSE MUSIC ANTHEM – MOVE YOUR BODY 07 STEVE ‘SILK’ HURLEY JACK YOUR BODY (CLUB YOUR BODY) 08 INNER CITY GOOD LIFE (MAGIC JUAN’S MIX) 09 SYDNEY YOUNGBLOOD IF ONLY I COULD (EXTENDED VERSION) 10 TEN CITY THAT’S THE WAY LOVE IS (ACIEED MIX/EXTENDED VERSION) 11 S’EXPRESS HEY MUSIC LOVER (SPATIAL EXPANSION MIX)