‘Spillyear 1986

Who watched Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie on BBC4? It was good, I thought, and not as well-worn as some music narratives – although it could easily have followed many different pathways.

So, 1986. I think my teenage self would have felt at home in the C86 scene, but unfortunately I was only 8 at the time. What were you listening to/wearing/doing?

Listen to the playlist

Add your top 3 tracks

54 thoughts on “‘Spillyear 1986

  1. 1. Paul Simon – Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

    Though it could be pretty much any track off Gracelands. My dad bought the album: we listened to it lots then, and I still do now.

    2. REM – Flowers of Guatemala

    Though it could be pretty much any track off Lifes Rich Pageant

    3. The Smiths – I Know It’s Over

    Though it etc. etc. The Queen Is Dead.

    This means The Go-Betweens (Spring Rain, probabably…) get pushed out of my top 3 for once.

  2. 1986?

    Well, I’d turned 30 at the end of 1985 but I am pretty sure that I didn’t feel like I was growing up, even though I was doing some grown up things, like having a proper full-on relationship and being heavily involved in Labour party politics.

    There was a big live music and club scene in Bristol in those days and I spent a lot of time out and about in places like Western Star Domino Club, the Tropic Club and the legendary Dug Out on Park Row, which was closed down in 1986 after the police opposed the renewal of its licence.

    Weirdly though, what I was listening to at home was different to what I partied to around town.

    I know that I bought some good things in 1986 – Graceland by Paul Simon, Rapture by Anita Baker, Peter Gabriel‘s So, Back in the High Life by Steve Winwood and some less good ones, like The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby And The Range, which I bought for the title track but never really played apart from that one song. One great single I bought was Don’t Leave Me This Way By The Communards and that is my first pick.

    The Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way
    Paul Simon – Graceland
    Steve Winwood – Freedom Overspill

    • Oddly enough, i worked the reception for a Bruce Hornsby gig the other night, it was just a relatively small arts center fundraiser in a wealthy Massachusetts town. All i can figure was that it was a gig for hire, he’s not from here so i can’t see what a connection otherwise would be. I loved Mandolin Rain off that album though. Totally forgot how involved with the Dead he was.

      • He was playing with the Dead when I saw them in 1990, as was Vince Welnick, who recently succumbed to the Grateful Dead Keyboard Player’s Curse.

  3. Well, I really can’t NOT play with this year on offer. What with my reputation!

    I’ve managed to whittle it down to three from an initial list of about five thousand…

    Therese – The Bodines
    Twin Layers Of Lightning – The Go Betweens
    Red Sleeping Beauty – McCarthy

      • I considered The Railway Children and I love A Gentle Sound but Brighter’s the one – and I think that must have been 1985…

        Therese is one of those timeless classics – you know, the sort that no one else has ever heard of!

  4. Anita Baker’s Rapture! Real Roxanne’s Bang Zoom! The Smiths’ Queen Is Dead! Janet Jackson’s Control! It’s all too much………..

    I’m going to take a deep breath and go with these which I think may have been my top three at the time.

    Prince – Kiss
    Betty Wright – Pain
    Billy Bragg – Levi Stubbs’ Tears

    I was falling out of love with most rock including indie to be honest. A few honourable exceptions. I was 28 and living in Clapham. I think this was the year I started working for the London Borough of Lambeth back when Ted Knight was still our leader.

  5. As always compiled with a lot of help from hindsight

    Killing Joke – Adorations

    The Very Things – This Is Motortown

    Stone The Crowz – Suffer Little Children

    At the time my favourite singles were Joe Strummer – Love Kills and Jesus & Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking. I heard the latter recently and don’t get why I liked it so much, but that’s the way it goes.
    I did like Adorations at the time. I guess they were looking for another proper hit in the vein of Love Like Blood, and in the end just annoyed their own following. I still rate this as one of my favourites though. I also heard the This Is Motortown but it didn’t do anything for me at the time. I can’t quite understand why, it sounds like the sort of thing I would have liked.
    Stone The Crowz was a later discovery obviously, although I did stumble across Conflict on John Peel and Stone The Crowz clearly wanted to be them!
    I did my O-levels that year which went ok and then went on to be an angsty, oversensitive sixth former. I probably would have fitted in quite well with the c86 scene, except I couldn’t stand the music.

  6. I have lots to choose from 1986 too, but some I just can’t leave out
    1. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Cities in Dust
    2. Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust
    3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Carny

    well I didn’t like all these artists in 1986, to be honest, I was into T Rex and Bowie, but they were around and I loved them shortly afterwards, so I think that’s fair 🙂

  7. I was unemployed in 1986, having decided I’d never be able to enjoy teaching – it was the following year that I was forced into ’employment’ on a Community Programme (which turned out all right for me in the end). Being unemployed was OK – I walked everywhere, so I got very fit, and we ate an awful lot of lentils. I managed to scrape together enough dosh to send Matt to Tanzania on a school exchange and I was very glad I did, because I never heard a peep from him after that about his friends having better stuff than him.

    I’m a big fan of Graceland too, but I’ll choose You Can Call Me Al because my brother’s name is Al and I decorated a T shirt for his birthday that year with some of the lyrics on it. Bruce Springsteen has always been a great help to me in my times of trouble and his Live 1975-85 boxed set came out in ’86, though I don’t suppose I bought it then. My love for his version of Jersey Girl is probably why Tom Waits has never really caught on with me. And Daring Adventures came out that year too, and RT played MK on Matt;s birthday, so we went and we heard him sing Al Bowlly’s In Heaven.

  8. I spent most Friday evenings in 86 in the best pub in the world listening to the best dance music in the world, great times

    1) Word Up – Cameo
    2) Small World – Hindsight
    3) You and Me Tonight – Aurra

  9. Wedding Present – You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends
    Colourbox – Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse
    Talk Talk – Time It’s Time

    The year of implausibly fast guitaring, dub westerns & , erm, small children playing recorders.

    • Ooh, so many good tracks in there, I have much love for Rose of Avalanche, Clan of Xymox and Chameleons and must admit a grudging nostalgia for Mish and Mighty Lemon Drops. Lovely list.

      • and there’s more you could add, smiths, rem, the the, Mary chain, the fall, cvb. for me at least 1986 > the whole of 1990’s ‘britpop’

      • The Chameleons’ Swamp Thing. Brilliant intro and the Mighty Lemon Drops’ Like an Angel, CoX’s Louise. Perfect examples of songs that would’ve found a larger audience in 94/95 but remained stuck in the narrow indie world of 86.

        I have to agree with vanwolf that 86 was better than Britpop. C86 would’ve benefited from better production to match the tunes but very few seemed to find a sympathetic producer. Few bands – The Housemartins, The Triffids, Throwing Muses and The Smiths – got producers that were on their wavelength or had the skills to match the ambition of the records. Most people seemed to like clear sounds and all the friction and weirdness smoothed out of their music and that made a lot of radio listening dull.. and couldn’t handle the rawness of the underground. The underground seemed to delight in rubbing up the majority the wrong way.

        I’d love to nominate songs from different genres. Love Can’t Turn Around by Darryl Pandy; Troublefunk: Good to Go; Julian Cope’s World Shut Your Mouth; Baby I Love You So by Colourbox; Anita Baker singing Rapture; The Woodentops’ beautiful Good Thing; FIREHOSE’s Brave Captain; Big Black; Swans; Gwen Guthrie; Mantronix; Scoolly D; Salt’n’Pepa; Steinski/Coldcut; The Shop Assistants; but my faves In 1986 were:

        Throwing Muses: Soul Soldier
        Sonic Youth: Expressway to Your Skull
        The Triffids: Stolen Property

        More tunes Eric B & Rakim; Maxi Priest: In the Springtime; Sweet tee and Jazzy Joyce: It’s My Beat; Jazz Butcher’s Conspiracy; Felt; Martin Stephenson & the Daintees; The Happy Mondays’ Freaky Dancing; Pogues: Body of an American; Youssou N*dour; Marshall Jefferson: Move Your Body…

      • excellent. you must know I love all of strange times, like an angel and louise. stolen property and tender is the night – my favourite ending to an album I think. I haven’t actually picked 3 as I don’t think I could.

        anyway, here’s a question – around this time I heard a track in a record shop – could have been an acoustic. the vocalist was male but maybe slightly effeminate sounding and the lyric I recall was “because you are my bastard son”. I know it must have been around then as I bought a shrubs ep/album the day I heard it. any ideas?

  10. This is just so difficult to narrow down. Would like to include yet another song from Graceland, namely the Boy in the Bubble, which seemed so pertinent at the time and still does, but there are at least two already nominated. True, Billy Bragg’s also been nominated but just once so far maybe one more from him will be ok. Then Oysterband with another political song, and finally Cyndi Lauper with one I picked for RR Songs to your teenage self.

    Billy Bragg – Help Save the Youth Of America
    Oysterband – Another Quiet Night In England
    Cyndi Lauper – True Colors

    Regretfully also left out, Suzanne Vega’s Marlene on the Wall and Tom’s Diner, Madonna’s Live to Tell, Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, Status Quo’s In the Army Now, and several others.
    Donds for all Paul Simon noms and for RT’s Al Bowlly’s in Heaven

    • Must have been in a bit of a political mood last night! But 1986 was when I started to question whether ‘our side’ were always the good guys (bit of a late realisation I know). The year was also memorable for the Graceland tour which I caught at the NEC. The tour was criticised by some, as was the album, but in bringing SA musicians to the UK I think Paul Simon did nothing but good. Had been in our present house for a year – now it’s 30 years.

  11. I was 27, still living in a very chilly flat and working in Bristol.

    Steve Winwood, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon already feature heavily and they are probably the standouts that I recall from the time. So I’m mentally going through my then boyfriend’s albums, instead of mine – he was very into Robert Cray and I remember “Right Next Door” (… ‘she was just another notch on my guitar”…) which reminds me very much of his flat in Totterdown with the green and yellow ’70s wallpaper, the cerise bedspread, the roll-ups and the obligatory flagon of Weston’s cider. Then there was Talk Talk, “Life’s What You Make It” – that got played a lot. And finally Jackson Browne, “Lives in the Balance” – many good tracks but I’ll go for “In the Shape of a Heart”.

    • Yes, Robert Cray! Definite donds there. I got Strong Persuader right at the end of 1986, as a Christmas present.

      I’ve not owned any of his stuff since I sold off my vinyl about a decade or so ago.

      • I found an old cassette of him in concert at Glastonbury, sadly the sound quality was very poor so I’ve binned it, but it did remind me about him. We listened to “Strong Persuader” a lot at the time.

  12. I was just back from 2 years VSO work in Sri Lanka and moved to Lancaster to do my Masters. These stick out during a cold winter in an underheated garret:

    Beastie Boys – Fight for the Right to Party
    Talking Heads – City of Dreams
    The Fall – Mr Pharmacist

    Big donds for Talk Talk and Cameo.

    Not sure if it counts, but E=MC2 by BAD was recorded in 1985, but was then released in 1986, and it’s so brill I’d like to add it to my 3.

  13. So many albums you could pick a song at random from this week; Smiths, Beastie Boys, Jackson Browne, Lauper, R.E.M., Graceland, Prince, Nick Cave, Communards, Anita Baker already mentioned above … plus a few that I’m sure will be mentioned before long.

    I’ll toss these 3 into the mix:
    John Prine – Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (with Nanci Griffith in vid ’cause he’s not much of a singer on his own)
    Herbie Hancock & Bobby McFerrin – ‘Round Midnight
    Art Of Noise – Peter Gunn

  14. Life and work were quite time-consuming in 1986, so I didn’t investigate much music. Mainstream charts were full of over-produced, sentimental crap from Berlin, Chris De Burgh, Europe, etc, and the new pop (Madonna, Communards, PSB & co) didn’t move me. My negative opinion of Morrissey was formed early on (and has, I believe, been proved wholly accurate).
    We did have Spitting Image though…..

    Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love stays in the mind, and not just for the video;
    but David Byrne’s film, True Stories, provides probably the abiding memory, in which can be found Love For Sale. So:

    Spitting Image – The Chicken Song
    Robert Palmer – Addicted To Love
    Talking Heads – Love For Sale

  15. Lotta crap that year, and a lotta jewels. Big donds for Flowers of Guatemala, Fight for Your Right to Party, which would have made my top 3. Also Word Up, Robert Cray’s Smoking Gun.

    I’m the oddball who never took to Paul Simon solo. Nothing wrong with it at all, it’s just Artie’s pipes that do it for me. Never much liked Prince’s Kiss or the Heads’ Wild Wild Life either.

    Still spoiled a bit for choice though.

    Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants (could be a lot from that album)
    Janet Jackson – Control, Pleasure Principle
    Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
    Smiths – There is a Light That Never Goes Out
    Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes, but i’m spoiled for choice there too.
    Human League – Human
    Motorhead – Orgasmatron

    So i think i’ll narrow it down to The Cure, Peter Gabriel, Human League.

  16. 1986 in one word for me: Vacation

    Age 15 going on 16, I’d never actually been on a vacation to the beach, the mountains, a theme park or anywhere! Oh, we’d spent an overnight or a weekend with family for a wedding, but had never had an actual getaway just to relax. My father just didn’t really believe in them – growing up poor with nine siblings made such things unthinkable. I can still hear him now: “Just throwin’ away money! Work a whole year, save money fer months, plan fer weeks, and then it’s all over in days! And all ya got is the bills!”

    So at the end of every year he’d have his paid vacation weeks cashed out – one of the benefits of being in a union was that you could cash out vacation time – and we never went anywhere. 😦

    So after our family situation had settled down – new job, new neighbourhood, new school – my father’s family had finally coaxed him to join them on one of their extended family beach house vacations: Ocean City, Maryland – Summer of ’86. Sigh. The sun, the sand, the surf, the girls. This being my extended family, there was also the barbecuing, the endless Jimmy Buffett/Hank Jr. soundtrack, and the Hal Needham movies marathons on VHS, but still, those were the good old days.

    And on the radio there was:
    1) ELO – Calling America Always been a fan. A pretty audacious idea when you think about it: Classical strings, sci-fi synths, guitar rock, and 1950s doowop all in one. When it all came together, somehow it worked brilliantly. See also, Daryl Hall – Dreamtime, where the blue-eyed soulster comes on like a one man ELO

    2) George Michael – A Different Corner The song that made me realize, he was more than just some pretty boy your sister likes. This guy had some talent! Sounded like nothing quite else around. See also, aha – The Sun Always Shines On TV, where the two Scando pretty boys deliver one of the most incredible arena rockin’ productions and vocal performance ever

    3) OMD – Forever Live And DieJust loved the production on this one, and that outta nowhere sax solo. One of those artsy British bands I’d picked upon because I was originally trying to impress a girl in school. Alas, I’d always be Duckie to her Andie, but the band’s music still impresses me. See also, Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink, where…aw, you know what happened!

  17. Slightly off topic but worth a mention. I’ve just come in from seeing Bridge of Spies. I know it doesn’t show in UK for a fews weeks but definitely put it on your calendar.
    I won’t say ‘great’, but very satisfying, intelligent and always interesting, particularly if you lived through the ’60’s cold war. And see it in a real theater, full screen, don’t wait for DVD. Some great performances.

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