[1981] – ‘Amplifier’ Mix (2005)

This is the fourth posted mix from the 10-disc, 400+ band ‘1981’ Box Set I put together in 2004-2005.  (For more information regarding the set as a whole and the impetus behind it, check the first mix, ‘Feet’.)  1981 probably wasn’t the peak year for any sort of “pure” cultural or musical strain of what defined “post-punk” as an ethos or as a sound (I’d give that title to 1979).  But I chose to focus on 1981 in such depth because it seemed to me the year that that sound and way of looking at music had spread farthest without diminishing in intensity (few would argue, no matter how much they love the music of 1982, that even in that one year later there was not a bit of a come-down, or at least a diffusion into more disparate strains).  The heroes of the first wave of post-punk were about to retire (like Wire, Buzzcocks, first-run Pere Ubu) but still hadn’t lost a step, and so many others were at their peak (and still many more greats just getting started).  So this mix, ‘Amplifier,’ exemplifies the breadth of post-punk in ’81, when set next to any other mix from the set.  While much of the rest of the set might attest the ascent of the art school or art house over the arena in rock, the artists on ‘Amplifier’ are less artsy, more visceral, less equivocal about the guitar, and probably the punk-est of the post-punk.

But while riffs and chops still had cache amongst the nascent hard-core punks and plain-out rockers found here (not much Oi here, as to my ears it’s usually too reactionary and conservative to qualify as post-punk in any way) there’s still an undeniable artiness creeping between the fuzz boxes that qualifies it as more than simply temporally “post-punk”.  This might be the last mix I think of when I think about the ‘1981’ box set, but when I listen to it again, it always surprises me how much I enjoy it—it’s certainly not “least” of the set.  Looking past the omnipresent guitar, there’s a surprising variety here: drama, irony, silliness, melodicism, anger. And it’s a lot of fun, and it’s what you can play for your little siblings or nieces and nephews who just picked up their first studded belt and got their first faux-hawk, to start them on a journey to wider waters.  Plenty of the names you’d expect are here: the Minutemen, Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, Dead Kennedys, X, Buzzcocks (with their triumphant final single from the original phase), Agent Orange, The Cramps, Mission of Burma, Stiff Little Fingers, The Replacements and Bad Brains.  Also along for the ride are less-knowns like The Gordons, Au Pairs, MX-80, Empire, Josef K, the Zoomers (with thanks to Hyped 2 Death), and Portland’s beloved Wipers.  Toss in a few voodoo oddballs like Flipper, the Flesh Eaters, 100 Flowers, Swimming Pool Q’s, Gun Club, and the early Virgin Prunes, and you’re read to turn it to 11.  Full tracklist and download link after “more…”.

1 9 8 1  |  Amplifier

01  The Embarrassment – Celebrity Art Party  [3:06]
02  Minutemen – Straight Jacket  [0:57]
03  The Replacements – Johnny’s Gonna Die  [3:24]
04  Flesh Eaters – Pray Til You Sweat  [2:36]
05  Black Flag – Louie Louie  [1:19]
06  Stiff Little Fingers – The Only One  [4:18]
07  Mx-80 – Cover To Cover  [2:42]
08  Meat Puppets – Big House  [1:06]
09  Agent Orange – Too Young To Die  [2:04]
10  The Saints – Paradise [Edit]  [2:56]
11  Buzzcocks – I Look Alone  [3:01]
12  Empire – All These Things  [3:15]
13  Secret Hate – New Routines-Suicide  [1:26]
14  The Gordons – Coalminers Song  [5:43]
15  Virgin Prunes – Twenty Tens  [2:27]
16  The Cramps – Green Fuz  [2:06]
17  Minor Threat – Straight Edge  [0:45]
18  100 Flowers – Reject Yourself  [2:34]
19  The Undertones – Julie Ocean  [1:46]
20  Bad Brains – Pay To Cum  [1:30]
21  Flipper – Ha Ha Ha  [2:13]
22  Mission of Burma – Fame and Fortune  [3:35]
23  Gun Club – Goodbye Johnny  [3:45]
24  Josef K – Crazy To Exist  [2:57]
25  Swimming Pool Q’s – Rat Bait  [2:21]
26  Dead Kennedys – Nazi Punks Fuck Off  [0:59]
27  Au Pairs – Love Song  [2:52]
28  Wipers – When It’s Over  [6:36]
29  X – Adult Books  [3:19]
30  Zoomers – Give Your Heart  [2:13]

[Total Time: 79:51]

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

  1. Hello,

    A friend just referred me to your blog today, and I was surprised to recognize your 1981 mix. I’d read a mention of it in a Pitchfork post, googled “1981 box” and came across your published tracklist, circa 2005ish. So I downloaded the tracks, one by one, from Soulseek. It took a while, but I found all but two or three. Great stuff!

    Do you have a contact link on the blog page to email you directly? Or send me an email. I’d love to send you a few mixes.


  2. Here’s a mix I put together for some friends last year, centered on demo or early recordings of favorite artists. Definitely a late night-melancholy-reading-a-novel type mood.

    Cluster ‘Hollywood’ 1974

    Kraftwerk ‘Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie’ 12″ 1973
    Early version of ‘Kometenmelodie’, very different than the one recorded for the 1974 Autobahn LP.

    Throbbing Gristle ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’ 1978

    Duet Emmo ‘Or So It Seems’ 1982
    Experimental track from Bruce Gilbert, Graham Lewis (Wire) and Daniel Miller (The Normal, Mute Records).

    Robert Rental ‘Double Heart’ 12″ 1980

    Thomas Leer ‘Private Plane’

    Xymox No Words (Demo) 1984
    (Superb gloom-pop from a band who had yet to record its first LP.)

    Young Marble Giants ‘Choci Loni’ (Demo)

    Depeche Mode Reason Man (Bridgehouse, London 1980)
    Ghost of Modern Time/Addiction (St. Nicholas School, Basildon, 1980)
    (pre-Speak and Spell Vince Clarke compositions, no studio recordings exist.)

    New Order ‘Decades’ instrumental soundcheck (Heaven Ultradisco, London 9.02.81)

    Robert Rental and Daniel Miller as the Normal Live at the West Runton Pavilion 6.03.79 (excerpt; harsh, dissonant, deeply beautiful)

    Jane It’s a Fine Day (Cherry Red 7″, 1982)
    A demo in spirit


  3. Thanks for your kind words on the Musicophilia blog. Downloaded every track? Holy cow, that’s labor intensive! Sorry I wasn’t able to get a physical copy to you back then. Might still be worth downloading the mixes now, as I spent a lot of time back then getting the levels to match and cleaning up rougher vinyl selections.

    Thanks for posting your comp. Some old faves on there, for sure.

    I’m curious whether I’m getting two audiences for the blog–people who like the early 70s, and people who like post-punk. . . or whether many people are checking out a variety. Give one of the ‘Le Tour du Monde’ mixes a download, I’ll be interested what you think of that stuff.

  4. Awesome! I’m excited to listen to these. When will the rest of the series be posted? Give me a sense b/c I do NOT want to miss any of these! Thanks again. Great blog!

  5. Thanks a lot, Emmett–and yes, I will be posting the whole series, eventually. To make sure you don’t miss any, you might think about subscribing with Google Reader or another RSS serve program, but hopefully they’ll all remain online for a long while.

  6. Oh man, if you don’t yet know Kansas’ finest, The Embarrassment–seek out their complete-oeuvre compilation. I doubt it’s still in print–but it’s worth a good price, if need be.

    Reminds me, I need to get to the “hinterland post-punk” mix I’ve thought of now and again for years. . .

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