From a personal standpoint, the summer of 1986 was, well, awful. I just graduated from high school, and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do from there. (Man, were we lucky in that regard; the kids today do not have that option.) My musical life was undergoing a similar transformation. I had always been a pop boy who dabbled in off-the-radar bands — which, in the early ’80s, meant Simple Minds and Icehouse — but after two seminal modern rock albums and a game-changing soundtrack appeared in the spring (Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration, the Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead, and the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink, for those keeping score at home), I could tell that a change was a-coming.
But a leopard doesn’t change his spots; while I was eagerly devouring this strange new music coming out of the UK, I was also still buying albums like Glass Tiger’s The Thin Red Line. Hey, like I said, I’m a pop boy, and today’s six-pack is a somewhat fond look back at when Pop Boy met Alterna-Boy.
Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
Never mind being one of the greatest singles acts of all time – the Pet Shop Boys are one of the best BANDS of all time. This single marks the first of many PSB songs to be mixed by the once-ubiquitous Shep Pettibone, and he’s not subtle about his intentions, taking the original version’s syncopated, slightly industrial drum track and replacing it with a fat-ass kick and snare, with an actual bass guitar playing the bass line. True story: I used the contact information on the back of this 12″ single to try and score an interview with Shep for a college paper. His manager told me Shep was too busy…but would I be interested in talking with Junior Vasquez? Yes. Yes, I would.
The Models – Out of Mind, Out of Sight
Nick Launay is a fabulous producer, but as a remixer, he seems fond of doing the one thing that you should never do with a dance track: strip out the bottom end. Listen to the album version of INXS’ “What You Need,” then listen to Launay’s interesting but punchless remix of the song. Not even playing the same sport, is it? The same goes here. The album version for the Models’ lone US hit sports a monster rhythm section. Not so, the remix. But man, did I love all that vocal sampling, even though it sounds pretty silly now. And it’s completely rhythmless.
Level 42 – Hot Water
Are you up for an endurance test? This puppy clocks in at just under ten and a half minutes. Was man meant to hear Mark King and his Lloyds of London-insured hands slappin’ the bass for ten minutes straight? That, dear readers, is for you to decide, though I’ll confess that whenever I put this song on a mix tape for people, I would edit it down to a more digestible length.
Love and Money – Candybar Express
Everybody say yeah, say thanks, that songs like this exist. Of course, I quote that line despite the fact that I can’t stand it when songs refer to themselves. The timing of this record was quite convenient, as it arrived weeks after the above mix for “Opportunities,” so when I saw Shep Pettibone had remixed this as well, it was a no-brainer purchase. It appears that Shep had gotten a new toy to play with too, as he goes absolutely bonkers with the vocal sampling.
Depeche Mode – Stripped (Highland Mix)
Truth be told, as much as I love Black Celebration – and man, do I love this record – I did not run out to buy the 12″ singles. Maybe it was because I had no money. Maybe it was because there were so many of them, I didn’t know where to start. But I do know that when Napster came along, these were some of the first tracks I sought. Even better is “Breathing in Fumes,” the sped-up dub mix of sorts to “Stripped” that has a vertigo-inducing train horn.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11
This must be the UK 12″ mix (got this from Napster too), because the vocal phrases are the same as my US 12″, but the recordings are different. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the phrases are pieces of dialogue from “Blade Runner” (“Let me tell you about my mother,” “It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response”), thereby beating Rob Zombie to the punch by nearly ten years and also serving as, to the best of my knowledge, the first remix that had trouble clearing samples. As for the song itself, it’s pretty awesome in its boneheaded simplicity. And I love that it was produced by disco king Giorgio Moroder.