This album needs no introduction, but I will try anyway. NME’s C86 (1986) tape was an album that you had to send away for via mail order in an advert somewhere in the pages of NME. You know, like Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Specs. Instead of getting the greatest powder-based life form/friend ever, you got a little cassette tape that launched a barrel of bands that defined a genre for the next 30 years. Look at this tracklisting!
Primal Scream – “Velocity Girl”
The Mighty Lemon Drops – “Happy Head”
The Soup Dragons – “Pleasantly Surprised”
The Wolfhounds – “Feeling So Strange Again”
The Bodines – “Therese”
Mighty Mighty – “Law”
Stump – “Buffalo”
Bogshed – “Run to the Temple”
A Witness – “Sharpened Sticks”
The Pastels – “Breaking Lines”
Age of Chance – “From Now On, This Will Be Your God”
The Shop Assistants – “It’s Up to You”
Close Lobsters – “Firestation Towers”
Miaow – “Sport Most Royal”
Half Man Half Biscuit – “I Hate Nerys Hughes (From The Heart)”
The Servants – “Transparent”
The Mackenzies – “Big Jim (There’s no pubs in Heaven)”
Big Flame – “New Way (Quick Wash And Brush Up With Liberation Theology)”
Fuzzbox – “Console Me”
McCarthy – “Celestial City”
The Shrubs – “Bullfighter’s Bones”
The Wedding Present – “This Boy Can Wait”
Yeah, I know. Incred! So the good people at Rough Trade, saw how popular it was becoming and released it properly in 1987 and the rest is history. An instant classic, which means alot of people loved it, but of course there were haters. Now I’m going to cut and paste some stuff from Wikipedia so you can see what I mean…
Ex-NME staffer Andrew Collins summed up C86 by dubbing it “the most indie thing to have ever existed”. Bob Stanley, a Melody Maker journalist in the late 1980s and founding member of pop band Saint Etienne, similarly said in a 2006 interview that C86 represented the:
“beginning of indie music . . . It’s hard to remember how underground guitar music and fanzines were in the mid-’80s; DIY ethics and any residual punk attitudes were in isolated pockets around the country and the C86 comp and gigs brought them together in an explosion of new groups.”
Martin Whitehead, who ran the Subway label in the late 1980s, develops on this line of thinking to suggest that C86 had a political influence: “Before C86, women could only be eye-candy in a band; I think C86 changed that – there were women promoting gigs, writing fanzines and running labels.”
Some are more ambivalent about the tape’s influence. Everett True, a writer for NME in 1986 under the name “The Legend!”, called it “unrepresentative of its times . . . and even unrepresentative of the small narrow strata of music it thought it was representing.” Alastair Fitchett, editor of the music site Tangents (and a fan of many of the bands on the tape), takes a polemical line: “(The NME) laid the foundations for the desolate wastelands of what we came to know by that vile term ‘Indie’. What more reason do you need to hate it?”
Now, I haven’t read NME since my boy Conor left, so I don’t know how many sub-genres they’ve made-up and painfully tried to shoehorn into their pages recently, but this was one of my faves.
(That reminds me, at some point I’m going to write a little story about how Melody Maker paid some friends of mine to fake being a band so they could justify a genre they just invented – including multiple photoshoots, interviews and fake song names – I shit you not)
C86 has influenced countless thousands of bands across the world and that leads me to Cherry Red Records, who are one of the best record label I know of, re-releasing C86 on CD. Not only that, its a 3 CD spectacular with 2 extra CDs of bands and songs inspired by the original album. Read all about it (and I think you can preorder it) here: http://www.cherryred.co.uk/shopexd.asp?id=4616
Cherry Red asked me if I could re-issue the original tape for them and I said “YES I LOVE YOU CHERRY RED” which is a happy coincidence. Here’s the catch, and its a big one… You won’t be able to buy the C86 re-issue on tape, as they are only being used for promo purposes. If you are a music hack, you might get one in the post from Cherry Red (email them and ask!) but I am gonna make a few extra to give to some Tapeheads (who will chop my hands off for this!), one to the British Library, and every now and then, throw one in with an order of 4 tapes or more (while stocks last, and obvs they wont).
This is the most limited tape I will probably ever do, so apologies in advance if you don’t get one, but please please please buy the CD boxset from Cherry Red because they truly are KINGS.
I know this is a bit of a tease, but POST/POP completists will want to know this exists 🙂 Sticking the POST/POP logo on this record felt like I was drawing a beard on the Mona Lisa, but everyone loves beards.
Read more about the album and watch videos from all the bands: http://nmecassettes.wordpress.com/nme-022-c86-1986/
You can listen to the whole thing on youtube too:
UPDATE: Here are the tapes!!
p.s. I adore the NME Cassettes. I want to reissue ALL of them.