December 1, 2013

Various Artists - CD86: 48 Tracks from the Birth of Indie Pop (2006)

"We [tried] to invent an alternative scene – our own version of punk you could say – by forcing a coterie of new bands onto a cassette called C86. It’s not entirely convincing and you should get out more if you remember The Shop Assistants – but it nails our colours to the mast. We, it said, for better or worse, are indie." -NME

One of the biggest misnomers about the UK music scene of the mid-to late 1980s is that nothing of interest was happening. Post-punk had gone pop, bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths were beginning to disintegrate due, at least in part, to the realities of major-label patronage, and the baggy beats of the Madchester scene were still a few years away. Reverberations of the punk revolution ten years earlier, though still audible, had been reduced to a murmur as D.I.Y. ideals had been replaced by glossy imitation. This was deep into the Thatcher era, meaning the deregulation of markets under the euphemistic title "economic liberalization", massive unemployment and social unrest. In the midst of all this, NME (New Musical Express), something like the UK equivalent to Rolling Stone, perhaps to stem its own slow descent into cultural obsolescence, made a fateful decision. NME journalist Roger Carr: "During the mid 80s, a few of us at the paper were starting to hear and see a load of bands coming through with a different sound to that which had dominated the independent scene for much of the earlier part of the decade. You got the feeling that something was happening, like the ground was shifting slightly." In an era long before the conspicuous consumption of digital music files, NME's issuing of a mail-order only mix-tape served as both an efficient way to expose new indie music to a larger audience and to resuscitate the publication's flagging indie credibility. Roger Carr: "We thought we'd do one of these for what was happening in indie music at the time. I'd done it for the paper before in 1981- the imaginatively titled C81- and that had been quite popular. So a few of us got together and started picking the bands we wanted to go on the tape." What this unassuming cassette tape would end up doing is become the catalyst for the rise of a new indie-pop scene whose influence would be as controversial as it was far-reaching.

The bands that Carr and his cohorts had begun to notice emanating from places such as Bristol, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow exemplified a disorienting conflation of classic sixties guitar-pop with the D.I.Y. ethos of the punk revolution in its purest form. In terms of sound, the obvious touchstones for many of these bands were The Byrds, Love, Phil Spector, Ramones, Buzzcocks, Orange Juice, Undertones, Television Personalities and Jonathan Richman. As many of the bands took the "shambling" label that had been affixed to some of their post-punk forefathers to a new level, musicianship was not at a premium; however, what was at a premium in bands such as Primal Scream, The Soup Dragons, The Pastels, Shop Assistants and The Close Lobsters was a complete rejection of punk's tendency to embrace and celebrate male-centered aggression. Phil Wilson of London indie band The June Brides: ""If you like popular music there's pop and there's rock [....] And if you're a little bit sensitive then a lot of rock music feels a little bit ridiculous- all that feet up on the monitors stuff. I approve of not being macho." As such, this burgeoning indie-pop scene was open to the participation of women on an unprecedented level. Amelia Fletcher of Oxford's Talulah Gosh: "The political aspect has been neglected [....] It was very, very open to women. Although it wasn't overtly political, women felt involved because musicianship wasn't at a premium: you could make the music you wanted to the extent you were able." Martin Whitehead of The Flatmates: "Before C86, women could only be eye-candy in a band, I think C86 changed that- there were women promoting gigs, writing fanzines and running labels." In addition, the look adopted by fans and bands alike reinforced a sense of cultivated uncoolness: bowl-cuts and bobs were de rigueur, as were stripey t-shirts and anoraks. All of which prompted the following commentary on an indie mag called i-D: “Childlike innocence and assumed naivety permeate the Cutie scene – their clothes are asexual, their haircuts are fringes, their colours are pastel. Cuties like Penguin modern classics, sweets, ginger beer, vegetables and anoraks. Heroes include Christopher Robin, Buzzcocks and The Undertones.”

Upon its release, C86 exceeded all expectations, selling thousands of copies through mail order practically overnight, which led to Rough Trade's decision to take advantage of the shifting musical terrain and issue it as an LP. Significantly, all of the bands chosen for inclusion on the tape were independent and in many cases were running their own indie record labels. Sean Dickson of the Soup Dragons: "The tape was the key to the whole C86 thing taking off [....] Aside from its impact on our profile, which was big, its release threw a spotlight on everything. I think what you can say is that it made what was underground suddenly over-ground. It took all these little scenes from around the country and pushed them together into the limelight- scenes like mine in Glasgow, where bands like us and Primal Scream had been knocking around for a few years; going to the same gigs, enjoying the same taste in music and sharing a similar attitude in the way that we made music."

Shop Assistants
Martin Whitehead: "It was a fairly small but well connected scene [....] Bands would play in Bristol on Thursdays at my place, after doing Jeff Barrett's club in Plymouth on Wednesday, and go on to do gigs for Roger Cowell in London on the Friday. Everybody was doing everything because we were all so into the music and the scene, and we'd all end up dossing at each others' houses when we went out and played gigs. There was an incredible level of collaboration and cooperation going on." While most of the so-called C86 bands were not built to last, as they were anything but music careerists, instead staying true the D.I.Y. ideal that served as their original inspiration, a few managed to land contracts with major labels; however, as is often the case, major label demands did not mix with the mercurial and idealistic nature of a music scene such as C86; as a result, the major label rush to jump on the C86 bandwagon was as short-lived as many of the bands themselves. Whitehead: "It wasn't an album scene, it was singles scene. A band was good as its last single on seven-inch. But if you sign to major you've got to have an album in you." The influence of the C86 scene on modern indie music is undeniable; nevertheless, it is all too easy, and all too common to characterize the scene to nothing more than a brief jangle-pop revival in the mid-1980s, peopled by a bunch of twee bands with a limited musical vocabulary. What such reductive descriptions overlook is the diversity of the music and the political inspiration behind it all. One could even go so far as to that in spirit, C86 had more in common with punk than any of the other post-punk movements/scenes that preceded it. John Robb: "The thing about music round then is that the people making it were drawing their influences from so many different places [....] Yes, there were bands that were heavily into the Velvet Underground and producing jangly pop, but there were others who were taking ideas from punk, blues, jazz, funk, rock & roll, ska, dub and anything else they could get their hands on and then twisting it all into something new."

Close Lobsters
CD86: 48 Tracks from the Birth of Indie Pop (2006)
Disc I-
 1. Primal Scream- Velocity Girl
 2. The Servants- The Sun a Small Star
 3. Hurrah!- Around and Around
 4. The Loft- Why Does the Rain
 5. East Village- Vibrato
 6. The Sea Urchins- Pristine Chrisrine
 7. The Siddeleys- What Went Wrong This Time
 8. Another Sunny Day- Anorak City
 9. The Clouds- Get Out of My Dream
10. The Boy Hairdressers- Golden Shower
11. The Chesterfields- Ask Johnny Dee
12. The Raw Herbs- He Blows In
13. Laugh- Paul McCartney
14. The Hit Parade- You Didn't Love Me Then
15. The Weather Prophets- Like Frankie Lymon
16. The June Brides- Sunday to Saturday
17. The Dentists- I Had an Excellent Dream
18. Mighty Mighty- Everybody Knows the Monkey
19. BMX Bandits- E102
20. Talulah Gosh- Talulah Gosh
21. Jasmine Minks- Cut Me Deep
22. Razorcuts- I'll Still Be There
23. Bodines- Therese
24. TV Personalities- Paradise Estate

Links in Comments

Primal Scream

Disc II-
 1. The Jesus and Mary Chain- Upside Down
 2. Primitives- Really Stupid
 3. The Groove Farm- It Always Rains on Sunday
 4. Pop Will Eat Itself- Black Country Chainsaw Massacre 
 5. 14 Iced Bears- Come Get Me
 6. Fizzbombs- Sign on the Line
 7. The Wolfhounds- Anti Midas Touch
 8. The Wedding Present- This Boy Can Wait
 9. Age of Chance- Bible of the Beats
10. Shop Assistants- Safety Net
11. Close Lobsters- Just Too Bloody Stupid
12. Half Man Half Biscuit- Dukla Prague Away Kit
13. Meat Whiplash- Don't Slip Up
14. The Flatmates- I Could Be in Heaven
15. The Darling Buds- If I Said
16. This Poison- Poised Over the Pause Button 
17. The Bachelor Pad- Jack and Julian
18. The Pooh Sticks- On Tape
19. Revolving Paint Dream- Flowers Are in the Sky
20. The Soup Dragons- Whole Wide World
21. McCarthy- Frans Hals
22.  The Mighty Lemon Drops- Like an Angel
23. Big Flame- Why Popstars Can't Dance
24. The Pastels- Baby Honey

Release History:  #1  #2 

Links in Comments

The Pastels


  1. mp3v0



    Disc 1


    Disc 2


  2. Hey, great post - it's embarrassing but I never knew where the tag C-86 came from. Wrong continent. Many thanks.

  3. Hey voix! Very happy to see back. Just found out about it. Saludos.

    1. AH, my old friend. so so good to hear from you again. I hope things are well with you. Yes, I'm back and really glad I am :)

  4. Great to have you back Voixautre! You have been missed!

  5. outstanding blog, it's a new find for me.

    been looking for C-86 tracks for ages!!

  6. Thanks verry much for this :)

  7. Great to find you back !!! and thanks for this one

  8. Thank you voixautre for share!! but I cant download the disc 1... I think the link is not workings

  9. Thanks, I want this jewel.