MONDAY, JULY 27, 2015
WEEK 30: INDEPENDENT & INDIE
If punk was year zero, when established musical tradition was jerked out of its complacency by the shock of the new, then DIY was the real Cultural Revolution. Tearing down the walls of rock’n’roll, its means of production and the sound of the music itself, the sudden realisation that you could make your own record and create your own music had a far reaching effect on a generation raised on punks energy and aspirations.
In the early days, the increasing number of independent records threw up a gaggle of exciting mavericks exploring the spaces between punk, post punk and the emerging goth scene, ambitiously cross pollinating music of every type to create their own unique styles. The newly established independent charts were overrun with a vast assortment of wastrels and brigands. Ironically, the most successful records were often the most traditional, so the really good stuff tended to happen on the fringes.
From the ramshackle psychedelia of the Blue Orchids to the clattering oddball reality of The Nightingales; from the highly charged diatribes of The Redskins and New Model Army to the dark humoured, northern rockabilly of The Three Johns; from the noisnik apocalypse of the The Membranes to the unlikely beauty of Felt; they were all vastly different to each other yet bound together by the belief that it was possible to exist far outside the mainstream and still change the world. But by 1985 it seemed like all that old post punk energy had gone forever.
Live Aid was undoubtedly the tipping point and caused irrevocable damage to the musical landscape, but what was really depressing wasn’t so much that dissolute spectacle as the apathetic nature of the independent scene. With every possible trajectory seemingly exhausted, groups began to sound tired, bored and boring with nothing left to say. Even John Peel, that well-known supporter of all things independent admitted, ‘I don’t even like the records I like’. With the heroic phase well and truly over there began to be a shift from ‘Independent’ to ‘Indie’, from the present to the past. For the first time there was an impulse to go back for a future.
In 1986, set within the confined space of the UK indie movement and known variously as cutie, twee, shambling or C86 (after the NME cassette of the same name), a new retro fixated indie pop scene emerged built on a self-serving network of underground guitar music and fanzines. A head in the sandpit revolt against the glossy, black influenced, dance hits of the day, it made a fetish of exclusively white sources, undanceable rhythms, lo-fi production and a definable sixties slant. While some of it was great, much of it was not.
By the late eighties, this ever decreasing circle and the subsequent decline in sales led to the slow, painful collapse of Rough Trade and the independent distribution network. There was a desperate need for change as the hankering for a present, shaped and molded by the past faded. When acid house, rave and dance culture began to inform a completely different mentality even Primal Scream, the indie popsters shining light, had ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ reworked into ‘Loaded’. And for the next couple of years everyone was.
01 SWELL MAPS ‘Let’s Build A Car’ (A Side January 1980)
02 THE CRAVATS ‘Precinct’ (A Side October 1980)
03 BLUE ORCHIDS ‘Work’ (A Side February 1981)
04 THE NIGHTINGALES ‘Paraffin Brain’ (A Side April 1982)
05 THE REDSKINS ‘Lev Bronstein’ (A Side July 1982)
06 THE THREE JOHNS ‘AWOL’ (A Side November 1983)
07 NEW MODEL ARMY ‘Christian Militia’ (Vengeance Mini LP April 1984)
08 BIG FLAME ‘Sink’ (A Side April 1984)
09 THE MEMBRANES ‘Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’ (A Side July 1984)
10 JESUS AND MARY CHAIN ‘Upside Down’ (A Side November 1984)
11 THE WOODENTOPS ‘Well Well Well’ (A Side August 1985)
12 THAT PETROL EMOTION ‘It’s A Good Thing’ (A Side April 1986)
13 FELT ‘Ballad Of The Band’ (A Side May 1986)
14 THE WEATHER PROPHETS ‘Almost Prayed’ (A Side June 1986)
15 THE RAILWAY CHILDREN ‘Gentle Sound’ (A Side July 1986)
16 THE WOLFHOUNDS ‘Anti Midas Touch’ (A Side September 1986)
17 THE PRIMITIVES ‘Really Stupid’ (A Side October 1986)
18 THE WEDDING PRESENT ‘My Favourite Dress’ (A Side February 1987)
19 THE PASTELS ‘Baby Honey’ (Up For A Bit With The Pastels LP February 1987)
20 THE CHILLS ‘I Love My Leather Jacket’ (A Side March 1987)
21 THE VASELINES ‘Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam’ (B Side March 1988)
22 HOUSE OF LOVE ‘Christine’ (A Side April 1988)
23 MY BLOODY VALENTINE ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ (A Side November 1988)
24 THE FIELD MICE ‘Sensitive’ (A Side February 1989)
25 PRIMAL SCREAM ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ (Primal Scream LP September 1989)