1985 MAY BE remembered for Boris Becker winning Wimbledon for the first time or Back To The Future making a Delorean travel through time, but on the fringes of American rock’n’roll it was definitively “the year noise broke”.
Imperceptible to mainstream media at the time, but aided by a network of fanzines, indie labels and the UK touring scene, US alternative and hardcore bands collectively discovered Black Sabbath, art rock and the influence of the ’60s Underground, edging their music towards something new and dynamic which proved to be the foundation of a sound that would come to dominate rock in the 1990s and beyond.
In our current issue (October ’15/ #263) we mark this groundswell of creativity by celebrating the musicians and the essential records that were at the crest of this wave.
“It was the most exciting time,” Thurston Moore tells MOJO. “The records coming in 1985, and the years that followed, found an audience. These were the ‘cool’ records – Black Flag and the hardcore bands, and then the interesting weirdo records by Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth.”
Get the latest MOJO now for our full appraisal of the scene and its record, through interviews with the prime movers, but here we present 10 essential songs that led 1985’s noise revolution. A version of this playlist is also available via Apple Music.
1. Scratch Acid – She Said
MOJO SAYS: America's backwoods primal fear made manifest and urgent.
2. Meat Puppets – Lake Of Fire
MOJO SAYS: So you can dig Black Flag and George Jones.
3. Big Black – Deep Six
MOJO SAYS: F-cking things up with malevolent first-person noir. And Machines.
4. Minutemen – Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing
MOJO SAYS: The politics of hardcore precision, jazz-math rhythm and lyrical surrealism.
5. Squirrel Bait – Sun God
MOJO SAYS: Kentucky teenagers invent that Nirvana sound.
6. Dinosaur – Forget The Swan
MOJO SAYS: A yearning-for-girls soundtrack of rule-breaking melody and noise.
7. Green River – Swallow My Pride
MOJO SAYS: Poisoning the communal well of hippy rock idealism.
8. Hüsker Dü – Makes No Sense At All
MOJO SAYS: In which Bob Mould and co. admit euphoria and melancholy to their emotional palette.
9. Butthole Surfers – Moving to Florida
MOJO SAYS: Something foul and wicked this way comes.
10. Sonic Youth – Death Valley 69
MOJO SAYS: Focused fury, controlled feedback: a battle plan.
Get MOJO #263 for the full 1985: A Noise Revolution
PHOTO: Amanda de Cadenet