College Countdown: CMJ Top 1000, 1979 – 1989 — #467 to #465

who quad

467. Various Artists, Quadrophenia (Music From The Soundtrack Of The Who Film) (1979)

“The problem with a film like Quadrophenia is that it’s exploited something that’s already there,” Pete Townshend noted of the film based on the Who’s 1973 album of the same name, adding, “I suppose the responsibility lies is direct proportion to everybody who makes money off it.”

Townshend certainly made money off of it. Initially resistant to the clear opportunities to adapt his rock operas to other media, the prickly rock auteur came around, first allowing Tommy to be made into a phantasmagorical wild ride by director Ken Russell, and then turning over Quadrophenia to Franc Roddam, a seasoned television creator who made his feature film directorial debut with the property. In Townshend’s estimate, the song cycle he wrote was, at its core, an exploration of “spiritual desperation,” but Roddam took the mod culture setting of the story and ramped up the brawling and drug-fueled decadence, figuring it created a more involving viewing experience. And it was all set to a steady stream of the songs from the original record.

Knowing that no opportunity for additional commerce should go untapped, the original recording were remixed by John Entwhistle, mostly with minor adjustments. “The Real Me” is arguably the track with the most significant changes, and that amounts to little more than a new bass track and a clear ending rather than a fade out. Three previously unreleased songs show up on the third side. “Four Faces” was recorded at the same time as the original Quadrophenia, and it has a slicked-up, offhand edginess that is further fuel to the vocal but convincing subset of music aficionados who contend the Who were ahead of the curve on new wave music. “Get Out and Stay Out” and “Joker James,” notable as the first official Who tracks to feature Kenney Jones on drums, both feel like songwriting notions Townshend previously gave up on and dug out of a drawer because the album needed something new. Added to the disjointedness of the record, after three sides of Who songs, the fourth side is comprised entirely of scattered oldies from the likes of the Kingsmen and the Chiffons.

Like other Townshend-touched projects, the film version of Quadrophenia has had an interesting afterlife. Peter Meadows wrote a novel called To Be Someone, published in 2011, that traces the further adventures of the film’s main character and several of his cohorts. Ray Burdis subsequently directed a film version featuring several of the actors from the 1979 feature reprising their roles. Once targeted for a spring 2020 release, the film now exists with countless others in a COVID-era limbo.

 

barbed wire

466. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Barbed Wire Kisses (1988)

The Jesus and Mary Chain had only two full-length albums to their name when they released their first collection of stray material. There was still plenty in the vaults for the band to draw on, largely because they launched their career in a U.K. pop culture that had an endless craving for singles and EPs, most of which didn’t make the journey across the Atlantic to North American, where the band had a modest but deeply devoted following. Barbed Wire Kisses fulfilled an intense craving among fans, delivering a sumptuous sampling of inspired pop with a heavy industrial aura.

Immediately asserting their dark sense of humor, “Kill Surf City” opens the album. A reworking of classic surf rock elements into a waterfall of acidic molasses with lyrics that are partially about, as William Reid explained, “a guy fucking his girl to death while being fucked to death by another guy.” With his brother and bandmate, Jim Reid, William slices and snarls through a cornucopia of additional songs in the dark vein. Proving that had been their modus operandi from the jump, the collection includes “Upside Down,” the beautifully abrasive first single from the band. It’s echoed in disturbance by the scraping metal sounds “Head” and the thudding menace of “Sidewalking.” The irony is occasionally as thick as the bass lines, whether is the perverse pleasure of one of the gloomiest bands in college radio performing a song called “Happy Place” or the deployment of unlikely covers of songs by Bo Diddley and the Beach Boys.

Likely because Barbed Wire Kisses draws from all sort of weird avenues, there are also signs of greater refinement to come from the Jesus and Mary Chain, most notably the comparatively gentle “Don’t Ever Change,” which suggests a great Ramones record played on the wrong speed, and the lovely acoustic version of Psychocandy standout “Taste of Cindy,” forecasting the stripped-down 1993 album Stoned & Dethroned. They could make pretty music, after all. At this point, though, they were more interested in setting souls on edge, wonderfully so.

 

cope world

465. Julian Cope, World Shut Your Mouth (EP) (1986)

As if cementing the phrase as his credo, Julian Cope followed his 1984 solo debut, World Shut Your Mouth, with the 1986 single “World Shut Your Mouth,” which was released by Island records as an EP leading up to his first full-length outing with the label. Featuring big, sleek production by Ed Stasium, the song could have been cooked up in a lab to specifically speak to disaffected youth, many of whom soothed their societal disgruntlement with hours logged in college radio broadcast booths.

The rest of the EP is essentially a primer on Cope’s warped sensibility, presumably to prep student programmers for the big push Island planned to give their new artist. Cope bonds himself to fellow oddballs with a snarling-psychedelic cover of the 13th Floor Elevators song “(I’ve Got) Levitation” and some post-punk edginess on a pass at Pere Ubu’s “Non Alignment Pact.” He matches those with the delightful delirium of his own compositions. “Umpteenth Unnatural Blues” puts a Bo Diddley beat to zippy Brit pop, and “Transporting” is a juicy exercise in careening weirdness. For the unschooled, the EP doesn’t make for a gentle introduction, but it’s hard to argue against it as an effective one.

 

To learn more about this gigantic endeavor, head over to the introduction. Other entries can be found at the CMJ Top 1000 tag. Most of the images in these posts come straight from the invaluable Discogs

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