1988. A very significant year for me. I've written quite a bit about this period in my life, but worth repeating is how much my taste in music evolved around this time. I left school in the summer of 1987 and went to college in the autumn. It was here a long and fruitful voyage of musical discovery began thanks to the people I met. One guy in particular, Simon Greetham, got me into indie music. If you're interested, you can read about that epiphany moment here.
Over the previous few years, a series of double-albums had been put out summarising the best records released on independent labels. The 'Indie Top 20' series, particularly the early ones, remain something of a treasure. But in 1988, the first five volumes were themselves summarised for CD release - yes, a compilation of compilations! Up to that point, these comps were available only on vinyl or cassette (oh, those were the days...). CD88 took a few songs from each of them, added a few more and voila, the perfect introduction to indie music for the teenage novice.
Ironically, I bought CD88 on vinyl. It was a record I returned to frequently over the next two or three years. The amount of music it helped me discover was phenomenal. I already knew a few of the songs and artists - The Wedding Present, the Soup Dragons, All About Eve and Half Man Half Biscuit - but this was the record that introduced me to Cardiacs, Danielle Dax, The Rose Of Avalanche, Wire, The Shamen and Pop Will Eat Itself. The latter two of these would go on to have major commercial success in the early 90s as indie music went dance, but it's fair to say that while the tracks contained on CD88 were transitional for the bands concerned, they sounded nothing like the songs they would go on to have hits with. The Poppies track in particular remains a longstanding fave of mine, and the version on 'CD88' is the 12" extended mix.
Of course, I'm not going to blether on about the Cardiacs track as any fool can see what Is This The Life means to me, a song that I will never, ever tire of. But CD88 was responsible for it entering my life in the first place. Danielle Dax was another name I had not heard before. Subsequent investigation revealed her to be a bit of an oddball in terms of her music. Some very strange, arty, perplexing stuff in her back catalogue, particularly her early solo work. The track on CD88, Cat-House, was a bit more straightforward and marked a point when her music became much more accessible. She was an artist I enjoyed investigating for a couple years - and by golly did I fancy her! - but nowadays the occasional blast of Cat-House is all I really need.
- Cat-House - Danielle Dax (from 'CD88')
|l-r: Pop Will Eat Itself; Danielle Dax; The Rose Of Avalanche; Wire|
- Velveteen - The Rose Of Avalanche (from 'CD88')
And then came Wire. At the time, Wire were in their 'second-phase', having reformed in the mid-80s. Kidney Bingos was the first Wire track I ever heard and it undoubtedly appealed to my pop sensibilities. Over time, I became familiar with the band's early work which has remained the most influential, but listening to Wire's recent material, there's more of their late-80s sound in there than the stuff that everyone else seems to have mined. Kidney Bingos is still a song I enjoy, along with Eardrum Buzz which followed shortly after.
- Kidney Bingos - Wire (from 'CD88')
There were, of course, a few one-offs on CD88 too. I never ventured into the Chesterfields' catalogue beyond Ask Johnny Dee, despite it being such a great tune (as extolled further by Martin at New Amusements recently). Baby Turpentine was by far Crazyhead's best song, and Michelle Shocked, whose Fog Town intrigued me, briefly shone with her second album but later became a horrid right-wing nutjob. But one I still really love is this:
- Skin Storm - Bradford (from 'CD88')
CD88 was huge for me, make no bones about it. I place it in my top 10 most influential records in my life. As a footnote though, having watched the vids to the Poppies, Danielle Dax and Wire tracks I can confirm the videos of this period were truly awful. Go on - I dare you to seek them out.