Magazine: Live in Boston (August 4, 1979)

This is a customized remix of one of the best live documents of the classic Magazine lineup that included guitarist/composer/occasional-sax-player John McGeoch. By the time they toured in 1980, and recorded their live album “Play,” McGeoch was gone.

In addition to McGeoch’s presence, what I like about this recording/show is the aggressive crunch, which is lacking in nearly all of the (scant) other 1978-1979 recordings that exist in good fidelity. Instead of coming across as a mannered post-punk/proto-synth-band, they hit with the punch of punk - bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, and Howard Devoto all coming for your ears in equal measure. 

The Boston ’79 recording is probably not a complete set list, but it’s close. I’m guessing the ultimate source was an FM broadcast.

The proximate source of the version presented here is the early 1980s vinyl bootleg “Back to Nature,” which I believe remains the only source for the show. The raw LP contains quite a bit of distortion, but when I scrutinized it, I discovered that it was a mono recording, and that the distortion was almost entirely in one channel. 

The customized version presented here is therefore the clean vinyl channel doubled to two-channel mono for the digital rip, with some mild EQ applied. Without the noisy channel, the recording really stands up.

51-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • My Tulpa
  • Give Me Everything
  • Definitive Gaze
  • Back to Nature
  • Parade
  • Boredom
  • Permafrost
  • The Light Pours Out of Me
  • I Love You Big Dummy
  • Thank You
  • My Mind Ain’t So Open 

For the curious, I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of 1978-1979 live performances of songs that do not appear on the Boston ’79 tape. The first three - released as 12-inch b-sides in 1980 (but recorded earlier) - are the sonic peak of available McGeogh-era recordings, including the definitive version of “20 Years Ago.” The additional tracks come from the other official sources, all of which I find less compelling than the Boston tape - but great to hear the extra songs live.

Joy Division: The Rarest Studio Outtakes

As far as I can tell, the four tracks provided here continue to be the hardest Joy Division studio outtakes to find. While certainly not essential for the casual/moderate fan, they will scratch the completist's itch.

You will need these four tracks to complete the studio recording jigsaw puzzle, all the other pieces of which are provided by:

  • The releases from the band’s active period (proper albums, “Still,” singles/b-sides)
  • The semi-official bootleg, “Warsaw”
  • The official boxed set, “Heart and Soul” 
  • The official BBC Sessions

Four tracks zipped up here

  • Atrocity Exhibition (June 4, 1979 - Piccadilly Radio Session)
  • Digital (March 4, 1979 - Eden Studios, Genetic Records demo)
  • Novelty (mid-July, 1979 - Central Sound Studios)
  • Transmission (mid-July, 1979 - Central Sound Studios)

If you’re looking for curated live Joy Division, try this collection.

Echo & The Bunnymen: The Happy Loss (alts, 1982-1983)

This is an LP-length, Spotify mix that curates non-album material from the period of “Heaven Up Here” and “Porcupine.” The idea is to create a concise companion to those albums – the best b-sides and the most interesting alternate versions of album songs. 

This was the period when the young Bunnymen quartet was peaking at doing what came naturally, ahead of the greater circumspection/confection/long-term-template of “Ocean Rain” (1984) and beyond. It’s hard not to love the moment when a fixed group of musicians figures out how far it can take doing what comes naturally.

Though produced under very different biographical/developmental circumstances, the second and third Bunnymen albums fell together at the time and still do. This mix blurs their alternative edges into one trip.

Forty years on, the attempted, at-the-time, critical anatomization of Bunnymen music into psychedelic, proto-goth, post-punk-Doors, etc., categories makes sense and isn’t relevant anymore. There was nothing like the original Bunnymen recipe, nor will there ever be. 

Spotify Playlist

Jon Hassell: Actual Musics (Live 1981-2006)

I discovered Jon Hassell’s music in the Fall of 1983, soon after I arrived in Ann Arbor for college. Schoolkids Records had all the EG label “ambient” albums in their cut-out bin for three or four bucks each. In addition to finding out what Eno and Fripp were doing outside of rock and roll, I heard Harold Budd and Jon Hassell for the first time. 

This short mix draws from several of the live Hassell bootlegs I happen to have. It’s my audio argument in support of an expansive, official, live release program.

You can support that goal by contributing to this official fund dedicated to preserving and releasing Jon Hassell's archives. I hope you'll donate, if you enjoy this sampler of unreleased music.

I started with the intention of including one excerpt from every tape I had, but I ended up pruning and adding tracks in pursuit of a more aesthetically satisfying double-LP experience.

The mix's mp3 song title tags provide details in this format:

Charm (Live 1981-11-13 Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario (Hassell, Eno, Brook, Dieng))

92-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Nice 3 (1998)
  • Nice 1 (1998)
  • Berlin 8 (1988)
  • Nice 5 (1998)
  • Missing You (2006)
  • Charm (1981)
  • Courage > Dream Theory (1982)
  • The Elephant and the Orchid (1985)

Rolling Stones: Some People Tell Me (R&B rehearsals 1977-1979)

The Rolling Stones’ late-1970s studio sessions were packed with casual demonstrations of the band's core competency as a rhythm & blues outfit. Nearly all of it must have been about limbering up and just having some fun, though there are a few tracks suitable for b-sides. Regardless, the relaxed, spontaneous character of the performances is one of the most appealing features.

The death of Charlie Watts caused me to pull this mix out, because I remembered being impressed with how many different blues and R&B modes he dropped into effortlessly, from extremely subtle, almost jazz-like minimalism to propulsive thumping. It’s his drums that give shape and drama to many of these tracks.

76-minute mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Petrol Gang
  • Some People Tell Me
  • My First Plea
  • Little Cocksucker (inst.)
  • Blues with a Feeling
  • After Hours Blues (instr.)
  • I Ain’t Superstitious
  • Jimmy Reed Jam (instr.)
  • What Am I Living For
  • Armpit Blues (instr.)
  • When You’re Gone (Red Eyes)
  • Sweet Little Rock’n Roller (instr.)
  • The Fat Man
  • Shame Shame Shame
  • Broken Head Blues (instr.)
  • Up Against the Wall (instr.)
  • Sweet Home Chicago 1
  • Sweet Home Chicago 2
  • You Don’t Have to Go

Sidetrips: Summer Evening (an eighties mixtape)

Since we’re heading into the season of the long, slow sunset, here’s a mix I created for that scenario 35 years ago. I was a prematurely sentimental-romantic-nostalgic type of person, about the finish college in Ann Arbor. The places I lived had exceptional views of the sunset. 

Started in 1985, the mix steadily expanded from one cassette to two-and-a-half-hours, then, around 2000, I sub-curated it into a single CD that I could burn. This is that version.

I and this mix are a mutually-reinforcing seasonal loop at this point. Is there an actual, coherent vibe that could work for anyone else in 2021? I have no idea. I make no excuses or apologies for this musical message from a different time (of me and the world). 

Try this for your own golden hour on some summer evening, and then make your own mixtape and share it back.

CD-length mp3 mix here

  • Spanish Moon (live): Little Feat
  • Fun to Be Happy: Love Tractor
  • Warm & Soothing: Kate Bush
  • Lions: Dire Straits
  • Orchid Girl: Aztec Camera
  • Wild Kingdom: Alex Chilton
  • The Ink in the Well: David Sylvian
  • Prisoners: The Rain Parade
  • North Star: Robert Fripp & Daryl Hall
  • In Your House: The Cure
  • Les Amoureux: Bill Nelson
  • Horizons: Genesis
  • Flesh #1: Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians
  • Thrasher: Neil Young
  • The Birth of the True: Aztec Camera
  • Evaporation: Shriekback
  • The Chauffeur: Duran Duran
  • Follow Me Home: Dire Straits
  • California: Joni Mitchell
  • The Charm of Transit: Bill Nelson

Cover: John Hilgart collage for the first cassette iteration of this mix, 1985.

The Dream Syndicate: Live 1982-1983

This mind-melting curation of early live recordings by The Dream Syndicate is testimony from a witness: Los Angeles writer Matthew Specktor. He has created three live albums that carry you from the band’s first show, through “The Days of Wine and Roses,” and into a full live preview of “The Medicine Show.”

Matthew Specktor:

If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles as a visitor you know how hard it is to estimate distances. Like any city, perhaps, LA is small only to those of us who live here, whether because we’ve hacked the shortcuts to avoid traffic or because we’ve constricted our private map of it enough to make it feel convenient, but when I was a boy, growing up in Santa Monica, Hollywood was the back of the moon. Punk rock, which happened to hit just as I reached puberty, was hardly accessible. The Starwood, the Vex, the Whisky—places where bands like X or The Germs were playing on the regular—felt far away, never mind that it was only a matter of a handful of miles, and so those bands were alive on my turntable but no more present to me as “local” than the ones I was listening to from England. 

But there was a club on Pico Boulevard called the Music Machine, which happened to be reachable by bus. It was almost in Santa Monica, in a liminal zone that bleeds closer to Westwood and Mar Vista, and if it wasn’t a punk venue exactly, it was likewise punk-adjacent. The Gun Club played there, and paisley-revivalist bands like The Three O’Clock. And also one, erroneously lumped in sometimes with a scene called the Paisley Underground (which was probably an erroneous category to begin with; the bands involved sure didn’t sound alike, and seemed to share in common only a more affectionate awareness of rock history), called The Dream Syndicate.

There’s really no way to explain what it was like to walk into the Music Machine on a fall evening in 1982 and hear the Dream Syndicate live for the first time. I’d read about them—an article in the LA Weekly had alerted me that they may have sounded a bit like the Velvet Underground—and I think I’d purchased an EP at Rhino Records in Westwood by then too, but to be confronted by the band’s full-on trebly, howling, feedbacking glory in the flesh was a whole other matter. It’s difficult to explain because it wasn’t just the music, or even the presentation (sure, they were cool as hell, and they looked it, but there was some other factor involved here, a gestalt that meant they weren’t trying to look that way at all, the way other bands did). 

It was a cohesion expressing itself as an argument: four musicians who absolutely belonged together, but who also (in musical terms, I’m talking; I have no idea what the interpersonal dynamic was like) cannot possibly agree. It gave the music a force, a vitality, a second-to-second spontaneity like nothing I’d ever then witnessed. I fell in love on the spot.

I’ve gone searching for that feeling everywhere ever since, and so I was shocked when I discovered recently that there are dozens of early Dream Syndicate shows that were recorded, whether by audience member with a Walkman or posterity-aware sound engineer or radio station, available on What shocked me isn’t so much that the shows were recorded—of course they were recorded; anyone who heard them for thirty seconds knew this was something to be preserved—but that the quality I describe above is absolutely legible in the recordings. 

David Bowie: The Late White Duke (1999-2016)

Someone asked me if I thought it was possible to assemble a 21st Century Bowie album that could stand with his late-Seventies albums. This mix is how I answered yes.

In addition to album tracks (well-known & deep cuts), the mix includes b-sides, off-to-the-side recordings, and remixes that are currently unavailable for purchase or to stream. Some of these “lost” recordings are peak tracks to me – “Nature Boy,” “Bring Me the Disco King” (Lohner mix), “Sunday” (Visconti mix) – as are the deep cuts "5:15" and "She Will Drive the Big Car."

21st Century Bowie has two really interesting and pleasurable plots (within the whole of the period):

  • Strange and ambitious compositions and vocal performances, rendered magically in the mix – my favorites of which are featured on this compilation. 
  • A charming, crooning David Jones throwback mode, initiated by the attitude of “Hours.” This angle featured here and there on album songs, but it was focused around the turn of the century and was supposed to be represented by an album named “Toy.” Bowie eventually leaked that album, and additional tracks showed up as b-sides. (Another good candidate for a future mix.)

I’m going out on a limb sharing commercially available tracks, but as there’s no official compilation that touches more than a few songs from Bowie’s final 15 years – and because most of the albums were greeted as returns-to-form, only to be mostly filed-and-forgotten again – consider me an earnest A&R man, arguing that the final 15 years deserve sustained love (purchases, streams, rarity-laden reissues, etc.).

I’ll be surprised if the mix doesn’t make you dig deeper into 21st Century Bowie.

Cover photo by Jimmy King, 2014.

One-hour proof-of-concept mp3 mix zipped up here

  • Blackstar (2nd half, from Blackstar)
  • 5:15 the Angels Have Come (from Heathen)
  • We Shall Go to Town (b-side)
  • Sunday (Visconti mix of Heathen track)
  • Nature Boy (non-album track)
  • Where Are We Now? (from The Next Day)
  • Bring Me the Disco King (Lohner mix of Reality track)
  • Slow Burn (from Heathen)
  • The Stars (Are Out Tonight) (from The Next Day)
  • Brilliant Adventure (from Hours)
  • Heathen (The Rays) (from Heathen)
  • She’ll Drive the Big Car (from Reality)
  • Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) (from Blackstar)
  • No One Calls (b-side)

Howard Devoto: We Simply May Be Evil (1983-1990)

This mix curates Howard Devoto’s music in the period between Buzzcocks/Magazine (1976-1981) and his 1990s hiatus. 

I’m not going to brief anyone on who Devoto is. For those who don’t know, this mix is not the place to start. (Try this Spotify mix.) For those who already bow to Devoto, but who don’t remember his 1980s records, this is for you.

I rank Devoto as one of rock’s great lyricists and one of its most ambitious, unorthodox singers. His 1980s work is an excellent, organic extension of the path he was charting with Magazine. Odd compositional structures, big arrangements, dramatic storytelling, and riffs and phrases that worm their way into you.

You can sing-speak along with contemporary conviction or koan bemusement to pretty much every line Devoto ever uttered. He’s been scripting challenging one-liners for you to spin through your brain since forever. 

Devoto was an unlikely candidate for 1980s music success and failed to make a living at it. He and his collaborators didn’t run from the  aesthetic tendencies of the decade, but they made them their own. In retrospect, Devoto’s arch, erudite, baroque, contrary, take-no-idiots angle on everything resulted in ‘80s music that isn’t facile in 2021. 

Devoto released three albums in the 1980s (supported by at least two tours) and collaborated with other artists here and there. The first of the three albums, “Jerky Versions of the Dream” (1983), was developed with Magazine’s Dave Formula. Devoto and multi-instrumentalist Noko (Norman Fisher-Jones) then teamed up as Luxuria and released two albums (1988, 1990).   

This mix combines studio tracks from those albums, their b-sides, and outlying collaborations. The second “disc” presents a short collection of bootleg-derived live tracks.

90-minute mp3 mixtape zipped up here.

Disc One (studio, 64-minutes):

  • Some Will Pay (for what others pay to avoid)
  • Our Curious Leader
  • Ticket
  • Beast Box
  • Public Highway
  • Pound
  • Redneck
  • Lady 21
  • Jezebel
  • Out of Shape with Me
  • Taking Over Heaven
  • She’s Your Lover Now (parts 1 & 2)
  • Railings (w/Mansun)
  • Holocaust (w/This Mortal Coil)

Disc Two (live, 25-minutes):

  • Mlle (live)
  • Parade (live)
  • Rubbish (live)
  • The Light Pours Out of Me (live)
  • Luxuria (live)

KISS 1976-1977 (Spotify playlist)

My 12-year-old-self was right about at least this much of KISS. In 1976, I was listening only to the Beatles. By 1978, I was listening to Sex Pistols and DEVO. 

In 1976-1977, the turgid early KISS was becoming skilled and snappy enough to occupy the elaborate glam space they always aspired to. At the same time, the attempt to produce them into a crisp, pop, AM-radio-friendly sound was dovetailing with the trebly sound of punk/new wave. 

“Love Gun’s” sonics are closer to “Marquee Moon” than an ELO or Fleetwood Mac record, or the Ted Nugent and Nazareth albums of the day. It sounds like it was recorded ingeniously on a four-track in a garage, the drums especially bad and excellent.

It’s accidental punk – cock-rock Ramones, who are pulling it off. Pretend this was the only music they ever made - a lost band from the Max's Kansas City scene. Or, embrace the fact that KISS had become a major label success, and think of this material as their "Some Girls" moment – a lucky convergence of ironic manly camp, crunchy songs, and the zeitgeist. 

The songwriters are hitting their stride, while still trapped within the distinctive fingerprints of their creative limitations. The band can't jam, and they want hits, so they cram a lot of ingredients into their 3-3.5 minute tunes.

A minute later, KISS would become entirely fake, but for a hot second, they checked in as a fully-realized concept.

Spotify Playlist Here