Howdy folks! It’s been over a month since my last “Ten Cuts” piece, so I thought it was about time to focus on the music again. As I did in my last piece, I’ve compiled a playlist of ten songs that I felt like listening to, and I’ve posted that playlist at 8Tracks, (with a hopefully playable insert that I’m going to try to add below!) My criteria for picking songs was pretty simple today: I needed some positive energy, so I picked fun, mostly up-beat cuts, primarily OLDIES because I’m old. (When I’m in a funk, NOTHING picks me up like NEW WAVE and dance music…and early punk…and Two-Tone ska…) Enough prattle, let’s get to the CUTS!
TEN CUTS – 02 by Richard F. Yates
1. “Mr. Pink Eyes” by The Cure
The Cure was probably the first band that I ever truly OBSESSED over. I discovered them somewhere around 1986, when I saw a video for “Boys Don’t Cry” on MTV, and I instantly started buying their tapes and vinyl singles and VHS releases and posters, and I ratted my hair up and wore eyeliner and button-down shirts with cardigan sweaters, and (naturally) I listened to the music, constantly! (This behavior would go on from about 1986 until around 1992 or 1993, although I STILL consider The Cure to be in my top five favorite bands of all time!) “Mr. Pink Eyes” originally appeared in 1983 as a B-Side to the 12” of “The Love Cats,” although I didn’t hear it until I bought a cassette copy of the Standing on a Beach hits collection (which was AWESOME, and included a whole album’s worth of B-Sides and rarities on side two of the tape, which for some reason were removed for the CD release.) “Mr. Pink Eyes” is a nervous and frantic and strange and nonsensical song. Nearly perfect, really. It combines a buzzy, loose guitar with a sloppy, jazzy-blues piano, a spaced-out harmonica with too much echo effect on it, and Robert Smith’s tortured vocals, moaning and pleading and making a mess all over the place. The song is beyond words and will probably make some people feel a bit sea-sick, but I LOVE it! Just what I needed to start the day right.
2. “Kiss Me (1985 ‘Cosmic Force’ Remix)” by Tin Tin
Here’s a hard to find cut by Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, one of the original members of Duran Duran!!! For some reason, although “Kiss Me” is available on several compilations and for digital download on different sites, THIS version, from the 1985 Caroline Records 12” single, just ISN’T out there. (I had to rip it off the 12” to get it into the digital world.) “Kiss Me” is pure new wave, synth-pop perfection, with electronic drums and percussion, fuzzy synth lines, and Duffy’s sugary-sweet vocals pushing the song forward. THIS version of the cut is a bit leaner, a bit “tougher,” than the original, with a stompier, harsher beat, and weird little samples and vocal snippets throughout. The opening “Cosmic Force” chant from some robotic female is where I got the nickname for this version of the song. (I think it was just called the “1985 Vocal Version” on the record, or something similar to that.) It’s a great, 80’s dance cut, with a classic synth-pop / new wave feel, and it’s a much stronger, much spacy-er version than the one that seems to be everywhere… In my opinion, anyway.
3. “M.D.A.” by a;GRUMH…
The first time I heard this song, on a mix-tape given to me by a friend in high school (I think around 1988???), I thought it was Alien Sex Fiend! Little did I know that there was a whole WORLD of weird music out there (mostly in Europe) called E.B.M. (Electronic Body Music.) I would soon be introduced, however, to groups like The Neon Judgement, Front 242, A Split Second, and a;GRUMH… when a little record store would open in my hometown called 13th Avenue Music, which stocked all these bands on vinyl! I was lucky enough to grab a copy the a;GRUMH… album, Bloody Side (1988), on Play It Again Sam Records, before it went out of print and became impossible to find, even as a digital download. (Again, like “Kiss Me,” I had to rip this song off the LP to get it onto the computer.) “M.D.A.” (referring, I assume, to the hallucinogenic drug) starts as a slow growler, but quickly builds into a stomping E.B.M. dance track with clicking percussion, guitar stabs, and sweeping synths. The vocals are half growled, half sung, and wonderful, with lines like “Meanness is my religion, and lie is my truth!” I wish the band had made more of an impact here in the States, because I’ve liked just about everything I’ve heard by them (they had a great sense of humor!), and it would be nice if their tunes were easier to find. Regardless, THIS cut is my favorite by the band, hands down. It’s fun and dancey and menacing—and it just makes me feel good!
4. “Don’t Talk to Me” by GG Allin
Most people who have heard of GG Allin know about his disgusting stage antics and early death (from a heroin overdose, of course), but I’m not sure how many people have actually LISTENED to his music. Like the Sex Pistols, who caused riots when they played live, Allin’s reputation was larger than life, but his music was actually pretty listenable. “Don’t Talk to Me” comes from the 1980 album, Always Was, Is and Always Shall Be, and it’s a quick, buzzy, punky, fun, and rather melodic cut. It sounds more like Buzzcocks or The Vibrators than American Hardcore punk, to me—but to be fair, Allin didn’t stick to this sound for very long, and his later music is much sloppier and more gross sounding. However, “Don’t Talk to Me” is great. It’s fragile, shrill, buzzy, humorous, and fun! (I should probably mention, he does cuss a tiny bit in this one—not too much… Just one or two little words, here and there. It’s worth it, though!)
5. “Little Bitch” by The Specials
Terry Hall is a genius. With The Specials, he reintroduced SKA to the world and started the 2-Tone Revolution (which only lasted a few years, but gave us some brilliant music—even making a massive resurgence in the 1990s…) before moving on from the Specials to form The Fun Boy Three and then The Colour Field… Anyway, “Little Bitch” first came to my attention when I heard the song in a scene from John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles! (Hughes always had great soundtracks…) It took me a few years to figure out who the song was by, but once I did and purchased the self-titled Specials CD (from 1979), I was HOOKED! The album is great! The band is great! If you don’t know them, go find ANYTHING by them, immediately. This song, “Little Bitch,” is a bouncey, ska-a-rama, with an irresistibly dancey rhythm, horns, skittering percussion, organ notes, and Hall’s punk-influenced vocals. It’s a powerhouse of a cut, and really just the tip of the iceberg if you’re just learning about Terry Hall and his creative work. Go now. Find. Absorb. You won’t regret it.
6. “Strawberry Fields Forever” by Candy Flip
I can appreciate a good cover tune, and this cut by Candy Flip is particularly interesting. It takes the psychedelic sound of The Beatles classic and drops an acid-house/proto-techno rhythm over the top of it, playing up the percussion and giving the song some dance-floor respectability, but somehow keeping the oozy, psychedelic mood. The vocals are sung in a sugar-pop falsetto, and the music itself is fairly minimal, just some electronic strings and percussion, with what sounds like an occasional harpsichord flourish. I took this cut from the 1990 CD single, and there are a few alternate remixes that are also pretty good, but I prefer the big kick-drum and skittery rhythms of this version. There is ALSO a woefully cringe-worth music video available for this song, but I’d probably avoid that if I were you, and just enjoy the psychedelic dance vibe of the tune itself!
7. “Radio Waves” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
O.M.D. made quite a splash in the 1980s with synth-pop and new wave cuts, like “So in Love” and “Forever (Live and Die)” and “If You Leave” and so on. If you saw a movie made in the 1980s, you heard O.M.D. However!!! There is a side to these two fellows that most people probably HAVEN’T heard, and that’s their experimental material. McCluskey and Humphreys, who were influenced by seeing Kraftwerk in concert, used cutting edge technology when writing their songs, and they had a WILD side that liked to see how weird the electronic could get. Their wildest album, Dazzle Ships (1983), includes creepy noises, clanks, sonar blips, and experimental concepts throughout, (and subsequently, it dropped them off the pop charts for the first time since their debut album!) “Radio Waves” starts with weird, electronic chirping sounds, before bursting into a rough, almost punky, stomping cut, with shrill, dirty keyboards, a bouncy rhythm guitar line, and fuzzy hand-claps. The vocals are still recognizably O.M.D., but the overall tone is more aggressive and scary than most of their pop hits. It’s a very cool song (from a very interesting album.) If you know the Kraftwerk connection, this type of experimentation makes sense, and to be fair, there are some pretty strange songs EVEN on their early albums, but this cut—almost a post-punk track worthy of a band like Joy Division, if it were instrumental—is a breath of strange air! Odd and interesting, but still dancey!
8. “I Believe” by Buzzcocks
One of the most famous punk bands, the Buzzcocks were fantastic! I found this song back in the late 1980s at a GARAGE SALE in the tiny logging town of Longview, WA. (How this a Buzzcocks tape ended up at a garage sale in a small town like Longview, I will never know. The MUSIC GODS must have left it there for me…) “I Believe” comes from the brilliant album, A Different Kind of Tension (1979), and the track runs just over seven minutes long! (That’s three times longer than your average punk song—but the Buzzcocks were anything but average.) The cut sound like a piece of pure pop, with Pete Shelley’s high-pitched vocals declaiming all the things he supposedly believes in—followed by the howled chorus: “THERE—IS—NO—LOVE—IN—THIS—WORLD—ANYMOOOOOOORE!” It’s unsettling…and the song just keeps going and going and going…. The guitar, drums, and bass propel the cut forward, but it’s Shelley who really carries the tune. It’s brilliant and sad and dancey and strange and a little bit scary—like almost everything the Buzzcocks have done. There is a reason this band is legendary, and “I Believe” is a perfect example of how good they could be!
9. “Ain’t Goin’ to Goa (Long Version)” by A3
The Alabama 3 (my CD only calls them A3, but I guess that was for legal reasons) have become pretty well known in the U.S., mostly for their song “Woke Up This Morning,” which was used as the theme song for The Sopranos t.v. show. “Ain’t Goin’ to Goa” comes from the CD, Exile on Coldharbor Lane, and I prefer the “Long Version,” which was included on the second “bonus” disk of the set that I bought. The song mixes techno rhythms and percussion with a bluesy / gospel feel. I love the vocals, delivered in a deep croon, which seem to be critiquing rave culture, but doing so within the stylistic apparatus of the very culture they’re denouncing. It’s crystal clear from the lyrics that these folks are intimate with rave party goings on and the psychedelic, higher-consciousness culture that grew up around the rave world, but the song suggests instead a return to that GOOD old-fashioned religion instead of the NEW AGE spirituality of the rave gurus. I suspect that it’s more satire than serious, but it doesn’t really matter. The song is funny and dancey (in a downtempo, swaying-to-the-groove sort of way), and just damn good.
10. “Looking for a U.F.O.” by Adrian Belew
Adrian Belew might not be a name that everyone knows, but he’s been an important part of “alternative” music since the 1970s, having worked and recorded with Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and others. Belew is an imaginative guitarist and all around quirky oddball, and his sense of humor comes through quite nicely on “Looking for a U.F.O.,” which comes from the 1990 album, Young Lions (which, incidentally, has not one but TWO songs with David Bowie on vocals.) This cut has a fun, bouncey feel, similar to E.L.O.’s “My Blue Sky,” with piano lines and little guitar fills. The lyrics are all about how we need a U.F.O. to land on Earth and teach everyone how to be nice to each other, which is pretty funny. It’s an up-beat, fun, positive, melodic song—about alien contact. A perfect end note for a playlist designed to help me feel happier. It worked!
And, that’s it for this episode of TEN CUTS! Tune in whenever I get around to writing another one! Hopefully there was a cut of two in the list that you’ll find enjoyable. If not, then you probably need REPROGRAMMING!!! (We can help, for a small fee of course. Contact me, if you need this service…)
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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