[Note: All nine mixes from the ‘1981’ box set are now available to download here.]
From the ‘1981’ box set, the ‘Feet’ compilation is a rhythm-oriented collection that makes a nice introduction to the set and to the period. Featuring some well-known heavyweights of the post-punk milieu–Gang of Four, Kraftwerk, OMD, Public Image Ltd.–it’s one of the more immediately accessible discs from the box. But it also has a features a few artists who get less general recognition, like Dome (post-Wire); Family Fodder (possibly the anti-Joy Division for me, in terms of more accurately capturing wildly expansive ethos of post-punk); Massacre (Fred Frith’s most bracing, prog-less stab); Dif Juz (post-rock what?); Trio (great band, misfiled as novelty one-hitters); British Electronic Foundation and Heaven 17 (post-Human League); and Goat that Went Om (courtesy of Phil at No Night Sweats, I gather they only recorded this one track). A good mix to pass on to friends. Tracklist, notes and download after the break.
The ‘1981’ box set was a 10-disc compilation of music from (surprisingly) the year 1981, which eventually featured (after three editions) over 440 different bands/artists. I compiled, “released” and revised it over almost eight months during 2004-2005. It started out as a single-disc compilation: the mix at hand in this post. It grew to three discs, then five, and so on, as I realised there was just too much I wanted to share, too much good stuff I loved, too many new discoveries I found as I compiled. I spent thousands of dollars on music, hundreds of hours culling, sequencing, and aiming for uniform sound quality (even removing hundreds of pops and clicks from vinyl rips “by hand”). Even after all that, I still planned simply to push it on a few friends, and that was to be that.
Instead it took on a bit of a life of its own, as I posted it to a few forums after encouragement from friends, and I found myself spending hours a day, every day after work cobbling together copies–each one taking (my math told me) about 30 minutes total to produce, including burning, folding, stapling, assembling. . . It was tedious labor, but in the end the “results” exceeded anything I had imagined. I ended up talking with hundreds of people, from six continents, both those who were “there” in 1981 sharing memories, and youngsters and neophytes (my originally intended audiences). I also heard from media outlets (whose attention I tried to decline, mostly successfully) and even from a number of the artists and labels whose music was used (all were positive and supportive). The music has all become so familiar to me that I forget any of it could be new to anyone–yet even today, years later, I still periodically get requests for copies (a backlog of several hundred exists that I’ll unfortunately never get to) and hear kind words from people saying they found a new favorite artist through the set. I certainly hope I caused some people to atone for the sin of this loving act of “piracy” by spending a good chunk of change supporting the artists.
I started the mix as a response to the sense I had that post-punk–a massively sprawling, chaotic, free-form joyful mess of musical abandon–was being hyped and defined as a mostly po-faced, earnestly sombre and self-serious form of music oriented around gloomy echo and ponderous vocals. Not that I don’t enjoy Joy Division in their way, but for me, that just wasn’t what it was all about. The “post-punk revival” of the early 2000s seemed mostly to center on these qualities, sometimes adding a “dance-punk” quality that livened things up a little, but it all still seemed to me to be lacking the daring, the silliness, the artsiness, the unafraid pretentiousness, the politicism of the post-punk period. While the “greats” of the period usually deserve the attention they get, what continued to thrill me was how great music was being made from a post-punk basis all over the world–there seemed to be no bottom of the barrel to scrape. And in the years since I put together the mix, I’ve continued to stumble across more and more great stuff from 1981, even though I no longer actively seek it out–it never ends. So it’s not the big names, the “important stuff” separating from the chaff as the years go by. Rather, its the depth and breadth of quality that has been revealed by time. Maybe we can only see just how broad and deep the music ran from the distance of 20-odd years–though from the sound of it all, I imagine many people already felt it at the time.
More mixes from the original box will follow on ‘Musicophilia,’ left in their 2005 form. I will also try to revisit the year, for mixes of things I’ve discovered since, and also possibly branching into non-post-punk territory. Please–if you like what you hear, buy whatever is in print, support the artists.
01 British Electronic Foundation – Rise of the East (1981) (2:50)
02 Bush Tetras – You Can’t Be Funky (1981) (2:42)
03 Heaven 17 – We’re Going To Live (Edit) (1981) (2:50)
04 Foxx, John – Europe After the Rain (1981) (4:01)
05 Dome – D-D-Bo (1981) (3:50)
06 23 Skidoo – Last Words (1981) (3:38)
07 ESG – UFO (1981) (2:55)
08 Gang of Four – What We All Want (1981) (4:58)
09 Rip Rig Panic – How Caged Bird (1981) (3:32)
10 Logic, Lora – Wonderful Offer (1981) (3:07)
11 Mekons – St Patrick’s Day (1981) (2:36)
12 Newman, Colin – Alone (1981) (3:57)
13 Kraftwerk – Numbers (1981) (3:25)
14 Liquid Liquid – Zero Leg (1981) (2:31)
15 Massacre – Gate (1981) (2:37)
16 Family Fodder – Film Music (1981) (4:09)
17 Goat that Went Om – The Pirate Song (1981) (1:50)
18 Dif Juz – Diselt (1981) (2:39)
19 This Heat – Paper Hats (Edit) (1981) (5:24)
20 Trio – Danger Is (1981) (2:15)
21 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – The New Stone Age (1981) (3:22)
22 Pigbag – Sunny Day (Edit) (1981) (3:53)
23 Public Image Ltd – Flowers of Romance (1981) (2:51)
24 YMO – Light in Darkness (1981) (3:40)