[1981] – ‘Computer’ Mix (2005)


As exciting as it must have felt if you were in the right place with the right people in 1981, my guess is that within a couple years it was evident that 1981 was a high-water mark for arty weirdo fusion un-rock rock music, and things had moved on.  Most of the music on the ‘1981’ box set represents this climax, and it doesn’t sound much like what your average person on the street thinks of when they think of “80s music”.  And not just because some of it was obscure even in its day; but rather because although it would inspire a small minority, a lot of music on the ‘1981’ set is actually the sound of the end of something, not a beginning.  By contrast, the music on ‘Computer,’ the seventh disc of the 1981 set, presents the birth of what most would identify as “80s music”.  This is “Electropop,” this is “New Wave,” this is “New Pop,” with a little bit of “New Romantic” for good measure–unabashed pop melodiousness, accompanied by synths and lead by keyboards, informed by the beginnings of an obsession with chorus, delay, and reverbed drums.  But–this is still 1981, so it all feels a little innocent, a little rough around the edges; the art-school diplomas and the bedsit squats and the situationist screeds still peek out from behind the bigger hairdos and the pleated trousers and the faux-corporate rhetoric about band-as-brand and taking on the system through the system.  ‘Computer‘ is the sound of turning at a crossroads.  But I would say it’s far from a lamentation of something lost–this music is above all else about smiling in the face of uncertainty.

This isn’t electro-disco or Italo or Hi-NRG.  This is electronic-based pop and some of it was quite popular: Depeche Mode, Devo, Human League, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Soft Cell and the Cars you’ll recognise from the radio even if you were in diapers in 1981.  And most will most likely know Thomas Dolby (at least by way of John Hughes), Annie Lennox’s Eurythmics (with half of Can), Cybotron, OMD, The Buggles and of course the godfathers, Kraftwerk (here with probably one of my top 5 tracks of 1981).  But the trick is, this isn’t quite these bands as you might best recognise them, though depending on your proclivities, it might be these bands as you best enjoy them.  These staples are joined by the darker or slightly odder likes of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, The Associates, Heaven 17 (ex-Human League), the Plastics, Yello, the lovely New Musik, Manuel Gottsching quietly “inventing” House, Tuxedomoon, Chris & Cosey (the softer side of Throbbing Gristle), Moev, Classix Nouveaux, and the wonderful Blue Nile with a song of pure unadulterated joy.  Full tracklist and download link are after the “more…” link.  And keep on the lookout of the next couple months for the final two mixes from the ‘1981’ box.

1 9 8 1  |  Computer

01  Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough  [3:39]
02  Devo – Working In a Coal Mine  [2:49]
03  Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft – Der Mussolini (Edit)  [2:26]
04  Thomas Dolby – Europa & The Pirate Twins  [3:21]
05  Associates – White Car in Germany (Edit)  [3:28]
06  Eurythmics – Take Me To Your Heart  [3:35]
07  Heaven 17 – The Height of the Fighting  [3:00]
08  Plastics – Diamond Head  [3:18]
09  Yello – Bostich (Edit)  [2:11]
10  New Musik – Areas  [1:02]
11  Human League – The Things that Dreams Are Made Of (Edit)  [3:39]
12  Manuel Gottsching – E2 E4 (Excerpt) [1:50]
13  Duran Duran – Girls on Film  [3:27]
14  Tuxedomoon – Incubus (Blue Suit)  [3:46]
15  Gary Numan – Stories  [3:10]
16  The Blue Nile – I Love This Life  [3:46]
17  Chris & Cosey – This Is Me  [2:55]
18  Moev – Cracked Mirror (Edit)  [3:34]
19  Cybotron – Alleys Of Your Mind  [3:32]
20  The Buggles – Blue Nylon  [2:26]
21  Soft Cell – Tainted Love  [2:38]
22  Cars – Shake It Up (Edit)  [2:54]
23  Classix Nouveaux – 623  [2:25]
24  Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Sacred Heart  [3:30]
25  Kraftwerk – Computer Love (Edit)  [4:16]

[Total time: 79:30]

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11 thoughts on “[1981] – ‘Computer’ Mix (2005)

  1. Hi . . . the jpg of the album cover that you provided doesn’t show up on my iTunes . . . it actually appears as a transparent square. Could you post/email a working jpg of the 1981 – computer cover. Thanks very much! This project is exactly the kind of thing that makes the internet wonderful, also a brilliantly curated set.

  2. Hi Richard–

    I don’t use iTunes, so I’m not sure what the problem could be–the jpgs are simple files, at medium compression, made in Photoshop. . . There are embedded thumbnails of the cover in the mp3 files themselves–but do the large- and small-sized individual jpgs also enclosed in the zip file with the mp3 file not open on your computer? If they work, you might try re-embedding them with whatever program you use, or conversely, you could try re-saving them in MS Paint or the Mac equivalent, which might simplify the files even further, and might fix whatever the problem is. Sorry I’m not much of a tech guy : \

    Thanks for listening, and thanks for your very kind words. ‘1981’ was a very fun project, and I’m really enjoying making similarly “curated” mixes for the blog.

    Anyone else encountering similar problems?

  3. I am re downloading the file as it wouldn’t let me open the compressed file – probably a problem at my end!

    Have thoroughly enjoyed the 1981 project.

    I remember seeing a copy posted by Woebot back in the early days of Dissessus and being green with envy!

  4. Sorry
    I am still having trouble – it now tells me there are no files in the zipped folder.

    Wonder if i am alone in this, or if anyone knows of a solution?

  5. I’m going to download the file myself to make sure it’s not a systemic problem–but around 100 people have downloaded the mix, so hopefully everyone isn’t just staying quiet! Hope we can figure it out. . . Check the size of the downloaded zip file, maybe it’s incomplete–it should be 92.5MB.

    Glad you’re enjoying it in general, though. Woebot had some interesting things to say about the mix–interesting to be “reviewed”. I remember he was pretty sure I’d been inspired by another project I hadn’t heard of–I think maybe people were surprised I was an outsider to the seemingly pretty close-knit coterie of journalist/blogger-types. But he was surprisingly effusive about the packaging design, which was surprising but flattering, since I work with minimal means in sort of a simple “do what’s needed” way as far as graphic design goes.

  6. Were you able to download it?

    Mediafire seems to have been hiccuping for a minute–I was getting an error message for a couple of attempted downloads, but now it seems to be working again. . .

    Thanks for letting me know–if you still have no luck, I’ll try a re-upload. . .

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