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Sunday, 1 May 2011

The C86 era Super League

In 1986 the NME single-handedly invented independent music as we know it with the release of the groundbreaking cassette; C86. Long before MP3's, i-pods and even CD's were invented we cut out vouchers from the weekly music paper, and saved them up until we had enough to send away for our newfangled cassette tape. A week later we were rewarded with a compilation of some of the most influential bands ever, and some of the least influential bands ever as well. How happy did this little treat make us feel in the confines of mid 80's South Yorkshire? The simple answer is - very!

The bands on the cassette were rich and varied, they were quirky and shouty, and they were shy and shambling. Looking back it's hard to believe that the Wedding Present, the Age of Chance, McCarthy, Half Man Half Biscuit and Fuzzbox all stemmed from that humble cassette. It was the fey, jingle-jangley bands on the tape however that would define the genre and the era. Thatcherism tumbled to the sound of the Close Lobsters as the Iron Lady wept at the demise of Dire Straits.

But out of this genre that would grow to exemplify the sound of C86: just who was the best? Who was the most fragile? Who had the smartest anorak? Who was the pastiest complexion? Who has the floppiest fringe?

The following competition aims to clear up this issue once and for all. At 'Into the Valey...' we present the C86 era Super League based on the following stringent criteria:

Maximum of 10 points for fey, fragile male vocals somewhere between Pete Shelley and Softy Walter from the Beano. Extra point for Scottish twang.
Maximum of 10 points for slightly less fragile female vocals somewhere between Poly Styrene and the Velvelettes
Maximum of 10 points for jingley-jangley in the extreme guitar sound.
Maximum of 10 points for Monkee-esque tambourine action.
Maximum of 10 points for D.I.Y. production standards.
Maximum of 10 points for 'ba ba, ba, barpar' or 'la la la lala' vocal percussion.
5 bonus points for actually appearing on the C86 tape.

So here it is. In reverse order; the all time top 15 C86 era Super League!

15. 14 Iced Bears - Come Get Me (16 points)
I once went to a party in Leicester that was absolutely rocking to a 14 Iced Bears record. Never heard them in public before or since.

14. The Mighty Lemon Drops - Like an Angel (18 points)
Great band and song. Let down by decent production and somewhat beefy vocals and guitars compared to competition.

13. June Brides - Sunday to Saturday (19 points)
The June Brides passed me by at the time but they register pretty high on the jangle-ometer.

12. The Bodines - Therese (20 points)
'Played' is one of the greatest and most underrated records of the decade.

11. Talulah Gosh - Talulah Gosh (21 points)
Slightly later but had to be included for genre defining potential.

10. Mighty Mighty - Is there anyone out there (22 points)
Into the top ten, and Mighty Mighty seem to be the forgotten men of C86. A bit too much testosterone to go much higher in this chart.

9. The Pastels - Truck Train Tractor (23 points)
Disappointingly low position for a band with a satchel carrying librarian as a lead singer but it shows how hot the competition is.

8. The Chesterfields - Ask Johnny Dee (25 Points)
I once held the Chesterfields album but after much deliberation bought the Best of the Monkees instead, purely for no other reason than I didn't like the town of Chesterfield for footballing reasons at the time. With hindsight a mistake.

7. The Shop Assistants - Safety Net (26 points)
A surprise entry for the Shop Assistants, but scored highly on DIY production values.

6. Siddeleys - What went wrong this time? (27 points)
Ticks all the boxes and surprisingly stands the test of time.

5. Primal Scream - It Happens (28 points)
Impossible to find and still the best thing they've ever done. Should have been higher.

4. The Flatmates - I Could be in Heaven (29 points)
Well deserved top 5 entry for the Flatmates and they've got plenty of other great songs up their sleeves too. Brilliant live band too.

3. The Soupdragons - Whole Wide World (30 points)
Pre-competition  favourites just come up short. Nailed the Pete Shelley vocals but needed more jangle.

2. The Pooh Sticks - On Tape (31 points)
Almost a self-parody of the genre so no surprises here. So near but yet so far.

1. The Razorcuts - I'll still be there (33 points)
The Razorcuts come from nowhere to take top spot. The campest vocals, the jingliest guitars and the lowest production values. What's not to like? Should have been massive!

Enjoy several of these tracks and more on the excellent compilation CD86!

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