Gentle mix recipient,
Enclosed is the mix I have made for the Coachella board mix exchange. Through some process, random or otherwise (who can really say?) you have been selected to receive my mix. I am writing this before I know who you are, and I am doing that on purpose, because I didn’t want my mix or my comments to be tainted by some foreknowledge of your personality or your musical taste.
The theme of this mix is songs from the year 1980. That’s why the mix is titled “1980”. It’s a bit of a long mix, because there was so much I wanted to include. In fact, I couldn’t fit all of the songs I wanted, so I made a second disc of leftover songs. Do with it as you see fit; I hope you will give it a try.
I know what you’re thinking. “Did you really just send me 29 songs – a 19-song mix plus a 10-song ‘bonus disc’ – from 32 years ago? What sort of retro-revisionist crap is this? Is this nothing more than simple nostalgia? Are you stuck in the past, living a cold, empty life of nothing but frustrated plans and bittersweet memories?” Well, you’re partly right. This is, in fact, a 19-song mix of songs all from the year 1980; and, yes, I did include a 10-song bonus disc as a throw-in because I thought it would be fun and besides I really like that Psychedelic Furs song and I hope that you do to. But no, I don’t think this is nostalgia, or at least not purely nostalgic. Rather, the songs on this mix form the baseline for everything I have listened to or experienced musically ever since. From REM to the Replacements to Nirvana to Uncle Tupelo to Radiohead to the Flaming Lips to LCD Soundsystem to Titus Andronicus to Beirut and EMA and the rest of Coachella 2012, my journey started with the music on this mix.
I have been tempted to claim that 1980 was the greatest year in rock and roll history. But that would just make me sound like one of those hippie idiots who is still stuck in the 60s, which is stupid, and stupid is not an image I like to cultivate for myself. So I will say this instead: 1980 was one of my personal favorite years in music. I read once, somewhere, that there is a point in a young person’s life when they stop being a child and start really seeing things as an adult for the first time. And when that happens, the art they experience at that time strikes them as incredibly powerful, more powerful than anything they have experienced before or will experience after – because they are seeing and actually understanding and appreciating for the first time the real depth and strength of well-made art. This happened to me when I was 17 and 18, and I turned 18 in 1980. These songs may not be ‘art’ (who cares?) but the same concept applies.
In early January 1980 I had just returned to college for 2nd semester freshman year. It was still a couple days before classes started. The campus radio station, KTRU, was going to play a newly released album on Saturday night at 10 pm. The album was London Calling by the Clash. I knew a little bit about the Clash, knew a few songs, but not really a whole lot. Me and my friend RB got some beer and sat in his room and listened. Now, London Calling had been released in the UK in December 1979 but wasn’t out in the US yet (before the internet, that sort of thing actually mattered). So anyway we sat there drinking and listening and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was so fucking good, I had never heard anything like it before, it was like the scales fell from my eyes and for the first time I could see what music could actually do and be. When it was all done I told RB “that will go down as one of the greatest albums of all time”. RB wisely said that it was probably too early to tell, but in the long run I was of course right. (At the time, “Death or Glory” was my favorite song on the album, which is why I’ve chosen it for this mix). You might say, well technically London Calling was released in 1979, so it doesn’t belong here, but like I said it didn’t come out in the US til January, and also it’s sort of the whole reason for making this mix to begin with, so quit being so pedantic.
In March 1980 I turned 18 and could legally vote and drink. In April I was on the rail for the Ramones. The Ramones were past their prime then, but still they put on a great show. By August I had my own 3 hour weekly show on KTRU, which I kept doing til I graduated in 1983. In September I saw the B-52s, and in November I saw both Bruce Springsteen and Talking Heads for the first time. Talking Heads were touring in their expanded version in support of Remain in Light including Busta Jones on bass and Adrian Belew on guitar – this may have been the single greatest concert I have ever seen. So, yeah, it was a very good year for me in music. (I also voted in my first presidential election that year, beginning a streak of consecutive elected presidents whom I voted against. Believe it or not, Barack Obama was the first president I ever voted for who actually won. By the way, did you recognize him on the CD jewel box cover? That picture was taken in, you guessed it, 1980).
Why should you care about any of this? I don’t know that you should. Maybe you can relate to some of it. Or maybe you just find some songs on here that you don’t know, but that you think you might like. Or something. But know this: I don’t think I’ve ever made a mix quite as personal as this one, ever.
Anyway. 29 songs? Did I go a little overboard? Well maybe. But in my view 1980 was an exceptionally rich year, not only for the stuff at the top of the Best Of lists, but also for the number of really great records in the lower reaches as well. I cut the main mix off at 75 minutes because beyond that it’s tough to get them all on one disc (and the first song I would have added, “India”, is over six minutes long – you do the math). So then just for kicks I made the bonus track disc, which isn’t mixed or equalized or anything. I got to 10 on that one and then just decided, man, 30 songs would be way too many. So yeah. 29.
Which means I left off entirely: Killing Joke, Captain Beefheart, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kurtis Blow, The Teardrop Explodes, Joe Ely, the Feelies, the Police (who were still pretty good at this point), the Cure, Young Marble Giants, Bauhaus, Buzzcocks (who put out no album but 3 excellent singles that year), the Soft Boys, Kate Bush, Japan, Circle Jerks, UB40, Lucinda Williams, the Cramps, the Fall, Adam and the Ants, Cabaret Voltaire, the Damned, Gary Numan, Tom Waits, the Residents, Burning Spear, Magazine, and the Ramones. And anything metal, of which there was quite a bit in 1980 (Back in Black! Ace of Spades! Heaven and Hell! Blizzard of Ozz!) And Stevie Wonder, who released his last truly great album that year. All worthy in their own way, but will have to wait for another day.
In my mind this music constitutes the roots of Coachella. Goldenvoice started about this same time, so I think that makes sense.
TomAz, May 2012.