Some amazing things were stirring in the American underground music scene of the early 80's, a fact to which this mix means to testify. I made the first version of American Beat several years back strictly for my own enjoyment, but I've revised and tightened it up quite a bit for this post. So what you are getting here is the extra strength version, stronger than dirt, as both Ajax and the Doors were fond of saying. My hope is that the whole thing flows in a way that illustrates both the diversity and common threads among the many great groups that were flowering all over America in the aftermath of punk. We got the East Coast, the West Coast, the North and the South all represented, even a bit of the midwest with the Violent Femmes.
Americans seem to excel at guitar based pop/rock, it's our heritage I guess- best to leave the synths and futurism to Europe. There's an interesting contrast here to the so called shambling English guitar pop of the 1980's, which although it became a stylistic marker of its own was originally the result of English bands not having a very sure sense of rhythm. American bands usually have stronger rhythm sections that prevent such "shambling"- probably due to our more heterogeneous national make up. We've all had that backbeat drummed into us the past 60 years or so. One could argue that the difference was also due to Americans having greater access to instruments, lessons and places to play regularly, as well as being a few years older than their English counterparts.
Visually these American bands bring to mind thrift store clothes when they were still interesting and cheap (lots of paisley shirts from the 60's, and plaid and checked shirts from the 50's and early 60's) hair grown out long in front and shorter in back and on the sides, button up shirts often buttoned up all the way in an aggressively nerdy fashion- uptight in a good sharp mid-60's way-and of course beautiful Rickenbacker guitars. I've done my best to try and equalize the levels on the various tracks but there is still some contrast to the volume from one to the other depending on how recent the mastering is, such is the nature of the beast. Please download and follow up on investigating and buying the full releases of your favorite bands contained herein. I'm real happy with this one kids, it's a humdinger! Hope you like it too.
1. Academy Fight Song- Mission of Burma- This might just be the greatest song of the 1980's. I refuse to shy away from such hyperbole. But regardless of whether you agree with that or not, it's a great opening shot. Mission of Burma formed in Boston, MA.
2. Black and White- The Db's- The first three songs here survive in order from the original version I made of this mix, and I'm still really happy with the flow and the energy level that's maintained. The Db's were from North Carolina originally.
3. Telephoto Lens- The Bongos- The Bongos Drums Along the Hudson is a seminal release from this era I urge you to buy it, its an amazing record! The Bongos were from Hoboken, New Jersey! Poor guys.
4. Help You Ann- The Lyres- Jesus what a sound! This song sounds like it could have been teleported straight from some obscure 1965 45 RPM. The Lyres called Boston home.
5. 1,000,000- R.E.M.- Chronic Town is probably my favorite R.E.M. release there's just so much mystery and intrigue to it and it's perfect from the songs all the way down to the cover. These guys of course formed in Athens, Georgia. Athens is a great town, I visited once in the 90's and really loved it, it reminded me a bit of Austin but smaller, less crowded, and sans all the commercialization and computer industry. Georgia is a beautiful state all around. The second clip below is the oldest existing video of an R.E.M. show, it's from October of 1982.
6. Stop Fooling Around- The Fleshtones- The Fleshtones, from Queens New York, have a lot of records, many of them are worthwhile, but if you have to pick one to start with I recommend Roman Gods from 1982. Their singer Peter Zaremba was the host for IRS records MTV show the Cutting Edge, I always kind of dug his style and manner of hosting. The second video below is from a special The Cutting Edge did in 1985 on the Austin Music scene, in this clip Zarimba is interviewing the King of White Trash, Dino Lee. Dino loves all women!
7. Sex Beat- The Gun Club- Jeffrey Lee Pierce, former head of the West Coast Blondie fan club, formed the Gun Club in Los Angeles. "We can fuck forever, but you will never get my soul!" Below the Gun Club bring their sex beat to Madrid in 1984.
8. Prove My Love- Violent Femmes- I've mentioned before that this debut got played into the ground in the 80's, so much so that for a while I just didn't want to hear it, but its been long enough now that it sounds mighty fine to me again. I like their neo-beatnik vibe. There's a deluxe reissue of it that's been released with extra stuff. The Violent Femmes originated in Milwaukee, just like Laverne and Shirley. Sclemeel, schlimazel!
9. How Much More- The Go-Go's- What a great pop song! It comes complete with a nice quote from Elvis's "Marie's the Name (His Latest Flame)" written by the songwriting team of Pomus and Shuman. This album, Beauty and the Beat, was huge when I was in Jr. High reminds me of the surf shop in the mall, girls wearing Jellies and plastic bracelets, pastels and swatches. Two performances below. L.A. all the way baby!
10. Garbage Man- The Cramps- "You ain't no punk, you punk, you want to talk about the real junk". Do you understand? And finally a song with a video! And it's a a good un, the Cramps rockin' in the graveyard, natch. "The hottest thing from the North to come out of the South" one half hillbilly and one half punk. Ivy and Lux met in California moved to Ohio, and then to New York and came full circle back to Cali.
11. Because I Do- X- Video below is from the essential 1986 documentary on X The Unheard Music, it's on DVD and I strongly recommend you buy it! X of course formed in and personified L.A., or at least the darker side of L.A..
12. Raised Eyebrows- The Feelies- In many ways these guys set the template for both the look and the sound that filtered into a lot of the bands in this mix. Jersey boyz!
|Alpha males, the Feelies|
13. And She Rides- The Long Ryders- From their first EP 10-5-60, my favorite record of theirs. The Long Ryders hailed from Los Angeles.
14. Look Both Ways- The Rain Parade- I tried not to stick all the Paisley Underground stuff together in the mix but it just tends to flow together nicely. Once again a Los Angeles band.
15. Stupid Einstein- The Three O'Clock- I could listen to that organ all day. Michael Quercio of the Three O'Clock coined the term Paisley Underground not expecting it to stick, and it stuck. Need I say, L.A.. The band performing on MV3 in 1983 below.
16. Man on a Window Ledge- The Judy's- Pearland Texas! But hell that's close enough to Houston for me to claim them. I think the Judy's played at my high school a couple of years before I arrived there. Great pop band, super catchy and very gay.
17. Taking Too Long- Wipers- From Portland Oregon, an amazing band you should get all their records.
18. Definitely Clean- The Dream Syndicate- Ok, so I am partial to Los Angeles. Cool early footage below of the band playing in a Tower Records with maybe one person paying attention, and it looks like that guy has a rat tail! Yikes!
19. The Real World- The Bangles- And guess where these gals are from? Looks like someone told Susanna to smile and shake her head a lot in this video, its always looks weird to me when people smile while they are singing. But mmm Susanna Hoffs! Let's take a closer look at her, shall we!?
|Here she is looking cute and sweet.|
|Here she is looking a little wild and sexy, like she needs to be tamed, heh, I can dig it. I can still see you under all that hair girl!|
|And finally here she is taking a closer look at herself. Someone is in bad need of a spanking!|
20. How Long Will It Take- The Plimsouls- Oh, are you still here? Ahem, okay, got distracted, where were we? The Plimsouls then. It's hard convey in this day and age, with such easy access to all kinds of bands and info from photos to footage via the internet, how meaningful it was in 1983 to see glimpses of the Plimsouls playing a club in Valley Girl, a movie which was in regular rotation on cable at the time. Even if the Plimsouls occasionally ventured perilously close to sounding like a bar band, they had some great moments, and seeing them perform a bit of "A Million Miles Away" was incredibly exciting for me as a young kid stranded in suburbia with limited access to music not played regularly on the radio or MTV. The movie is goofy fun as well.
21. Stop It- Pylon- In this song Pylon are giving me mixed messages, am I supposed to rock or not, then again sometimes it is hard to figure out when to rock n' roll and when not to- embrace the contradictions. Athen GA Inside Out clips below.
22. Brother- Oh-OK- Michael Stipe's sister's band, you can see the family resemblance in the pic below. Is this song about young Michael? Sounds like it. Oh-OK were straight out of beautiful Athens, GA. The B-52's really should be in this mix somewhere as well, but I ran out of room. Well they are in the Athens GA Inside Out clip above. Couldn't find an upload of "Brother"on youtube, so I've included "Lilting" which is another song that almost made the cut but had to be deleted for reasons of space.
23. Hey Hey Nadine- R.E.M.- Early R.E.M. before they had found their sound. At the time they were more of a trashy garage pop band, not as grand as what they were to become but still fun with an appeal of its own, very danceable. Stipe singing somewhat cliched pop lyrics is interesting too.
|R.E.M. the life of your party!|
24. Glow in the Dark- The Bongos- You really need to own a copy of Drums Along the Hudson! So nice they made it in the mix twice.
25. Big Brown Eyes- The Db's- This here is what they used to call power pop. Footage from the Old Grey Whistle Test below of the Db's performing "Big Brown Eyes".
26. What's She Done To Your Mind- Rain Parade- You can hear the 12 string guitar just dying to drift off into a Byrds' riff. Another great Paisley Underground band, with another great pop song.
27. Fall To the Ground- The Three O'Clock- Michael Quercio's voice takes a little getting used to, he really does sound like a girl. Does that make you uncomfortable? Their first EP and the album Sixteen Tambourines are both essential.
28. That's When I Reach For My Revolver- Mission of Burma- Burma both open and close our show with a bang! The title of this song originates from the supposed Hermann Goering quote that goes something like "when I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver". Crazy Nazis!