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BAMM In-Depth: Back To The 80s

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Here’s a welcome return to our occasional series of in-depth articles on issues within the music industry from our London correspondent Zakia Uddin. This time, Zakia takes a look at the ever-present phenomenon of eighties revivalism …

If the 1970s is the decade that ‘style forgot’, the 1980s more than compensated by never quite going away. It’s been vilified, mythologized and dismissed at turns for its power chords and bombast. Whatever you think about that era – and you don’t have to grown up then to have an opinion – it continues informing music, fashion and film. What is it about the decade that keeps artists coming back for more – and when will they stop plundering it?

One of the major artists of this year has been Jessie Ware, whose Devotion album cover picture consciously echoes 1980s singer Sade’s distinctive look. Ware’s hair is slicked back in the same tight bun and we see her in profile, like her predecessor. The MOBO-nominated singer wears her influences on her sleeve, saying that she asked video director Kate Morross to consider Sade’s previous artwork. Ware herself was born in 1984 – the same year Sade released her hugely successful debut album Diamond Life.

Above: hits from Jessie Ware and Sade

The revival continues in the form of comebacks from epoch-defining bands – the most recent memorial celebration was that of the Stone Roses, who released their first album Fool’s Gold in 1989. The band’s return even inspired comment from politicians willing to own up to their Madchester years. This month Dexy’s Midnight Runners released their humbly titled One Day I’m Going to Soar after 27 years of musical ignominy (largely based on this terrible terrible album cover). At the other end of the scale, the hair-rock musical Rock of Ages celebrates all the Elnett cans and power chords which were quietly put into the dressing up box with the advent of grunge.

Is the stultifying effect of the 1980s revival worth fretting over, when artists such as Ware stand up on their own and the reformation of the Stone Roses is considered more exciting than a new Madonna tour? In 2010, critic Simon Reynolds asked in The Guardian whether it’s when ostensibly cool bands start imitating Then Jerico and Robert Palmer that the 1980s revival would end, as though our cultural obsession would fade when we’d found all the good records in the bargain bin.

Above: is ‘Rock Of Ages’ as far as a revival can go?

If the revival goes on, that might be because the decade offers endless musical riches. Synthesisers, samples and Simmons’ electric drums ushered in a recognisably ‘pop’ sound, distinct from the saccharine melodies and the tinnily produced songs of the 1970s and 1960s. And like science fiction tropes cemented in the 1960s, 1980s synths still feel ‘futuristic’. The rise of MTV also gave birth to a more visual culture, making the decade a rich source of pop graphics and iconic imagery. There’s nothing that sums up the initial perceived impact of MTV on music than this panel exchange in 1984 between the future queen of pop Madonna and grizzled old John Oates. Oates angrily states that MTV is forcing musicians to become actors, while Madonna points out the obvious – isn’t a live show all about acting?

Many current commentators think the fascination with the period is deeply unhealthy. How much is that to do it with its flashiness and celebratory disposable aesthetic? Reynolds’ book Retromania argues that the obsession with the past bodes badly for the future of music. In an interview with Salon, he lamented: “No one can quite picture a future that seems positive or exciting. At one time the future seemed to suggest grand projects.” This mindset is even more evident with music, given the huge popularity of bands such as Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes whose music he describes as “bewildering” with its lack of engagement with any music of the past thirty years.

Above: Mumford and Foxes – ignoring the 80s?

The internet has been blamed for this cultural scavenging. What’s fashionable is no longer about scarcity – there’s so much material on the internet. There’s no point of any music or trend being so obscure you can’t read about it or find it online. Critics of Reynolds’ generation have fetishised waiting around for records to release and having to hunt out all the good bands. But was it really fair for everyone? For the suburban teenager it would have been a case of filling in a mail order catalogue and waiting near the letterbox for a few weeks, for a record they were buying mostly on faith. If you couldn’t get to a gig, you’d have to hope for a performance on either MTV or on a music show with a graveyard slot.

Critics miss the old tribalism of music fans forced to gather around ‘hubs’ such as the NME and the defunct Melody Maker. Outlets for talking and discovering music have proliferated. The internet has now democratised the process of music discovery, so that if you want to know what’s cool, you can instantly listen to it and decide whether it’s worth the hype. There’s no waiting around for your cool friend to validate or veto a record. Youtube, and blogs offer the opportunity of discovering music in a haphazard fashion where everything is made equivalent by simply being online at the same time. It also means anyone can be fashionable, technically making no-one fashionable – unless they ‘discover’ the coolest thing ahead of everyone else.

Above: the internet of the 1980s …

In a Guardian interview with Dorian Lynsky, Mojo editor Andrew Male commented on the endless obsession with the past: “There’s a sense that this stuff has kind of lain dormant. You can rediscover it in a way that you can’t rediscover the stuff that was always considered cool. With CD reissues, you’ve got the freedom to indulge yourself in areas that would have previously been seen as off-limits.” The only jarring note here is mention of the CD reissues. Male perfectly understands the cache of ‘finding’ and re-discovering great music at a time when there’s such an avalanche of material, good and bad, available on blogs, Youtube and music sites.

One of the most popular critical exercises is to identify cultural influences and designate a revival of sorts. The 1980s has so far given birth to several micro-trends including witch house, electroclash, and what’s been termed ‘maximilism’ – music that layers on sound and effects and is impossible to categorise in any genre. But should we suspend the need to label and instead ask why it matters if a musician or band’s musical influences split and did reissues before they were even born? Will the next generation of artists even distinguish between their musically formative decade and that of their parents?

Above: witchhouse, electroclash and maximalism in action

The BBC recently went to a London school to test whether teenagers would recognise the Beatles ‘Love Me Do’ on the 50th anniversary of the single release. Only a few did, causing rock music journalists on Twitter to be mildly flustered about the priorities of young people today. On Drowned in Sound, a blogger spoke of his irritation with Radio 1’s commissioner for complaining about ‘festival dads’ skewing the station’s demographics. It’s easy to accuse young people of listening unimaginatively to old music and buying new music that sounds like old music, but maybe phenomena like Mumford and Sons can be explained by the increased age of the music-buying and festival-going music audience.

Critics should also take some responsibility for the never-ending revival. Underlying assumptions about what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music have been shone in the spotlight and seen to favour certain types of artists – those with a long back catalogue who play their own instruments. The 1980s had some of the most unashamed pop and the quickest burn-outs, as well as having pop stars with cross-generational appeal who could sell out stadiums. New York Times critic Kelefa Sanneh said in 2003 that we have to “stop pretending that serious rock songs will last forever, as if anything could, and that shiny pop songs are inherently disposable, as if that were necessarily a bad thing. Van Morrison’s “Into the Music” was released the same year as the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”; which do you hear more often?”

Above: which makes your party playlist most often?

Carly Rae Jepsen and Britney Spears are now as likely to get serious reviews in Rolling Stone as Radiohead. Soundtracks of hipster films such as 100 Days of Summer bring together The Smiths and Hall & Oates, two bands whose fans were unlikely to be in the same place, let alone sharing a dance-floor. It’s okay to like what you like and own up to it. That’s not a bad legacy for any decade, let alone one which gave us synths and studio-shot music videos.

The most disturbing fact is that we’ll all end up listening to the same music, unable to place it. As in a dystopian scenario we’ll vaguely remember hearing it before but not know whether we were around for it the first time…


Here’s a taste of some of our acts who have taken an 80s aesthetic and made it their own. Remember – you can find all these acts and more on our amazing new iPad app!

Birds and Batteries – ‘Out in the Woods’

This Bay Area trio wear their influences on their t-shirt sleeves. Leader singer and musical director Mike Sempert describes the band to BAMM: ‘Randy Newman meets Gary Numan. Funky and dancy, but also really focused around songcraft and arrangement.Future music.” You can also hear some early INXS and Talking Heads in the sounds of Jill Heinke’s synths. There’s something so distinctively 1980s in their brand of warm upbeat and musically intricate pop which isn’t afraid to make people move onto the dancefloor.

Crafts Spells – ‘Party Talk’

Craft Spells specialise in that gorgeous echoing pop sensibility that underlay so many of the greatest British indie bands of the 1980s. But singer Justin Paul Vallesteros and his fellow band members Andy Lum, Jack Doyle Smith and Javier Suarez are West Coast natives, who continue to live in California. You can hear strains of Morrissey, and a distinct melancholy imported from the drizzly northern city of Manchester whose musical influence far exceeds that of London. Vallesteros is really just following in the footsteps of his 1980s jangle pop-loving counterparts who were influenced by the thriving UK indie scene.

Crashfaster – ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’

Morgan Tucker a.k.a. Crashfaster’s melds the old and the new in this cover of The Smiths’ (them again!) classic ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. He strips away the guitar and replaces it with a sparse electropop synth backing. Definitively a child of the 1980s, the Monobomb signed chiptune artist’s music is as much informed by the futuristic bleeps and crashes of old console games as it is by the electro beats of the decade.

The Frail – ‘Count on This’

This San Francisco band do a more soulful take on 1980s indie pop. Daniel Lannon’s intensely emotional vocals contrast with a slightly heat-dazed spaced out summery backing from guitarist Rob Pera and bassist Izzy Chavarin. This intimate performance was recorded at SXSW. While their influences are firmly from the noughties – they cite TV on the Radio, the Flaming Lips and The Postal Service as influences – their spectral dreaminess recalls the bands of the jangle pop counter-movement in the 1980s.

Trash80 – ‘Icarus’

If it was a 1980s movie, Timothy Lamb would be the popular brash older brother to Crashfaster’s sensitive soul. Trash80, as he’s known, creates huge bombastic structures that remind you of late night journeys, motorways, light shows and all the things that visually evoke huge complicated synth structures of the 1980s. He’s like a Jean Michel Jarre of the computer console. ‘Icarus’ is about as close to make-out music (and making-out) that chiptune is ever likely to get.



One of the best-named trends of the 1980s. Named after Smokey Robinson’s mid-1970s album, it ushered in the slow jam. Characterised by deceptively low-key verses and ‘stormy’ choruses, it’s music for adults. R&B ballads may be a single and album staple for the serious pop star now, but the form really developed in the 1980s. The influence of Teena Marie, Sade and other soul stars can be seen in musicians as diverse as Jessie Ware, Miguel and indie R&B influenced star How to Dress Well. The Quiet Storm never been away, but arguably it’s at its healthiest yet.


The 1980s made pop what it recognisably is – and for such a disposable pop form, its major figures had careers that outstripped some of their ‘serious’ technically accomplished counterparts. The best example of pitch perfect pop recently is Carly Rae Jepsen with her huge, guilty and catchy as an STD pop classic ‘Call Me Maybe’. Pop and soul really merged in the 1980s, with the success of Madonna and Michael Jackson. It’s now impossible to imagine a time before synth-based R&B, which is as much informed by 1980s pop as it is by disco.


The 1980s DC punk revival could just be an excuse for skinny jeans and body contoured t-shirts, but it’s become a staple of late night clubs and bars in places like Dalston. Record labels like Dischord (above) and Touch & Go were seminal in creating and establishing a thriving DIY music culture, whose legacy can be seen in club promotion and blogs online now. The thriving US hardcore scene of the 1980s gave way to the commercially popular grunge era, which changed the mainstream viability of punk forever. But recent acts like Times New Viking and the late Jay Reatard heralded a noise revival in the mid-noughties.


Witch house – the genre where bands were so ostensibly cool that they had unpronounceable names printed in the Wingdings font. Bands like Mater Suspiria and Salem harked back to goth, taking on the Germanic aesthetic of heavy doomy bass, and reverb associated with bands like Bauhaus (above) and Sisters of Mercy. Witch house by way of goth also made death metal mainstream. Hipsters started wearing Wolves in the Throne Room t-shirts and pretending to love Black Sabbath.


Where to begin? Like the waking dream-state it’s named after, hypnagogic pop is ambiguous, and layered and mashed-up so its impossible to place any of its influences. James Ferraro’s records sound like he’s been watching John Hughes movies, and listening non-stop to the intros of 1980s high school dramas before they were soundtracked by the Shins. LA artist Ariel Pink (above) has only just found mainstream pop success but his recent championing and collaboration with R.Stevie Moore suggests his aesthetic springs from the 1980s DIY pop scene. Pink also creates all the fragments which sound like samples in his music. Instagrammed pop, anyone?



This is a difficult one. The melodies and the wailing still choke us up but it’s hard to empathise with the unreconstructed sexual politics and the wistful paeans to wife-beating. Saying that, it’s one of the seminal eras in rock for badass women musicians – even if Vixen, and mid-1980s Heart (above) are as dated as pixie boots and puffy shouldered cocktail dresses.


Jive Bunny (above). Ironically, the 1980s itself saw a huge trend for 1950s pastiche pop inspired by the Beach Boys and Elvis. The megamix jammed all of these different cultural obsessions together, uniting sound samples and 1950s style production together into three minutes of ADD-styled hell.


This might have been only been a UK and Australian phenomenon, thankfully. For a short period of time, the British pop charts were dominated by the enthusiastic pop efforts of Aussie soap opera stars. The most famous is Kylie Minogue (above), who managed to turn kitsch into gold. British soap stars opted for cod-reggae instead of high-NRG Stock, Aitken and Waterman-produced numbers. It might be over now (mostly because the charts are over), but one of last year’s surprise covers was Kindness’s electro-pop take on ‘Anyone Can Fall in Love’. And yes, that is the famous song by Anita Dobson, Brian May’s wife, who sang it over the Eastenders theme tune (Eastenders is a grim British national institution, like Dallas with milky tea and market stalls instead of champagne and oil companies).

What do you think of the 80s revival that just won’t go away? Share your thoughts in the comment box below …

BAMM In-Depth: The Music Of The Olympics

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Olympic spirit

On a still summer’s day you would have no idea that the world’s biggest circus is landing in this part of town. But the past five years has all led up to this point, and whether you have tickets to the main event or not, there is a strong sense of anticipation. Since the announcement of the 2012 Olympics, millions have been plunged into places like Dalston, and amidst dilapidated buildings such as the Chinese on the corner, next to the station, there are shiny new ones with empty windows and draped pictures of model nuclear families. While the developers want to attract new blood, the cultural drive of the area hasn’t changed. E8 has the biggest concentration of music venues in East London,and every night of the week sees check-shirted Converse-wearing queues and crowds blocking up the area’s narrow pavements. Music lovers who want to escape the official pomp and hardline commercialism of the Olympics could find this place a refuge. On the other hand, London is the self-declared home of live music and there is no better time for the music industry to showcase this. So has it been able to benefit from Olympics funding? The world’s biggest temporary tourist attraction provides a great test case of how musicians and bands interact with promoters, brands and old-school arts funders.

Despite the tangible gains in terms of development, there is a distinct air of a wedding that no-one wants to go to. You might have a good time in spite of yourself, but there’s a pervading sense of doom. Funding cuts have hit culture the hardest, but the Olympics offered the chance of a possible recoup, with money being allocated to unique, large-scale projects.

On the Olympics website, the official angle is: “The Olympic and Paralympic brands are incredibly powerful. They evoke the emotion, excitement and values of the Games. The London 2012 brand is fundamental to the Games. It is how we identify the Games, how we communicate our ambition, and how we drive excitement and enthusiasm for the Games.” Most of the run-up to the Olympics have been marred with stories about planned lockdowns and deployment of police to prevent the unauthorised use of the Olympics logo, or related mentions. Companies are not allowed to use any combination of ‘London’, ‘Olympic’ or ‘Games’ in conjunction or separately, meaning that numerous companies including Easy Jet and Mercedes have been forced to pull new advertising campaigns.

The impact of the branding exercise has been felt by those not traditionally associated with balaclavas and placards. The Musicians Union (MU) has been one of the most vocal about how the protective policy is affecting their work. More professional musicians have found themselves being approached for free work, according to the organisation. The rules of organising an event next to the Olympics is that it cannot be affiliated with anyone but official sponsors of the sporting event. With most professional music events being funded to the hilt (in the absence of government funding), it’s nearly impossible for professional music organisers to affiliate their events to the Olympics because of branding clashes. Horace Trubridge,of the MU, says that the Olympics have not given any tangible returns to musicians – and is unlikely to leave a legacy.

The main beneficiaries so far have been local acts who are able to adopt the ‘Inspired By’ slogan. The protectiveness over the use of this has frustrated professional musicians, who have lost out on potential income from not being able to stage events with the Olympics brand, the union claims.

Another issue has been the decision to stage the opening and closing ceremonies with pre-recorded music. The MU believe that this element has not been left to chance, because the organisers have instead focused their energies on the other elements of the spectacle. Trubridge described the decision as “pure laziness”. He said the biggest gains had gone to professional musicians who ironically are recording music to use for the live ceremonies – because of the policy against live music.

The Olympics may even have hastened the death of the festival scene. Trubridge said: “The festival scene is suffering a double hit and taken a lot of interest away from the festival scene – Hopdown and Sonisphere – a lot of the smaller festivals have been pulled this year. It’s really hard to see a balancing side, when you don’t see any return.”

The very event itself is unlikely to bolster the actual music it does showcase, given that it’s not live. For the Musicians Union, that sums up the failures of the cultural policy of 2012’s Olympics. Trubridge said: “Live music should have been the most important aspect of opening and closing. That’s what this country is famous for, but it’s been ignored to accommodate what’s considered most important. People in the UK don’t like recorded music in any event – we like reality shows because they feature live bands. We’re going to see a spectacular show without live music so we’re struggling to see any benefit.” Most recently, it was claimed that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has an official policy of not paying musicians as they benefit from “exposure” by playing at the events (even though they’re not playing live).

It appears there’s a dark cloud over the events already, given the difficulties in coming to mutually satisfying agreements with many of its non-sporting performers. For many musicians, it could be difficult to forget the way they’ve been treated at a time when there should have been more than enough work to go around.

Returning to East London

And what does it mean for musicians in the epicentre of the city’s musical scene? It’s business as usual for most. Dalston’s music scene is busy, with the attention given to its venues balanced by a steady and loyal flow of regulars. Cafe Oto has been one of the most feted venues, with its strikingly leftfield roster which has seen it host artists from all over the world. Newspapers and magazines such The Guardian and Italian Vogue have described it as among the most culturally relevant music venues in the country. Despite the international praise,the cafe situates some of its ethos in the immediate community, and has fostered links with local projects such as radio station NTS. Its new clientele haven’t changed its goal or its vision of itself. John from Cafe Oto said, tongue-in-cheek: “We do get people who look cool coming in. But we don’t turn them away. They get bored easily and usually leave anyway.”

NTS interestingly features archival pictures of Dalston as the backdrop on the site, showing a side to the place that many of its listeners might not know. It features shows from local tastemakers and established DJs, covering a huge range of genres, possibly creating as much musical diversity as most of Dalston’s venues put together. More new venues are opening up replacing the makeshift ones which disappear, while Turkish bar owners are opening up venues in their basement to host more low-key nights.

For some, the changes in Hackney and Newham have only impacted in the most superficial way. The entrepreneurial spirit which made grime take off in the first place isn’t that far removed from that spirit which is behind the burgeoning digital industry of the so-called Silicon Roundabout. Elijah Butterz, owner of the grime label Butterz and Rinse FM DJ, told us how the perception of this East End-born music has changed radically since some of its musicians have become national award nominated. “We used to be seen as criminals, not entrepreneurs,” he said. But the landscape has changed, especially given the need to branch out into different mediums – and the cheapness and ease of exploring those with the rise of mobile technologies.

But the Olympics, he adds, is something that’s just there in the background when he’s near his home, rather than something that’s impacted on his life. He added: “I have two friends who lost their jobs this week. I don’t think it’s a priority for them. I don’t think I know anyone who has gained anything out of it.”

He also concludes that the exposure of the music had actually taken it out of its postcode, to other parts of the country, so now it’s impossible to tell where the music is from – whereas previously it was all about locale. So East London’s looking outwards, suitably, at a time when millions of people across the world will be paying attention to it.


BT River of Music is a massive showcase of free music from both established and emerging talent. It takes place the weekend before the opening ceremony, so could be a good way of saving your account balance beforehand. The best thing about this is that it takes place across London so visitors don’t have to schlep across the capital for entertainment. Given the branding restrictions, there’s less likelihood of seeing professional musicians playing, but there is a chance to check out more idiosyncratic local groups and see how grassroots music develops.

Alternatively, it might be easier to stay at home and watch the musical events from your hotel or rented accommodation television. The BBC has – at time of severe cuts to other public services – spent millions on televising concerts celebrating the Olympics. Interestingly, one of the films commissioned is by Julien Temple, the director of The Great Rock and Rock Swindle which features ‘God Save the The Queen’-singing Sex Pistols. As well as staging the annual British proms, it will also be televising several concerts including Radio One’s Hackney Weekend 2012. Ironically, the television may be the only place where people get to see live music. The BBC has described it as the biggest ever free-ticketed live music festival it has ever hosted.

Residents of the Olympic boroughs saw one tangible return in the form of the the later concert. The curation here is probably the most contemporary and fun of all the events – Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna and Azealia Banks feature in the extensive list of credible acts. Those lucky enough to get free tickets are probably saving hundreds on seeing the acts perform on tour.

The most heavily branded of all the events taking place around the Olympics is Coca-Cola’s Olympic Torch Relay. Coca-Cola has organised a series of concerts marking the delivery of the Olympic torch to the borough, starting from Land’s End. The Olympics seems to cause musicians to abandon any credibility they once had. Katy B and Mark Ronson are teaming up for a Coca-Cola song created especially for Olympics titled ‘Anywhere in the World’.

Blur’s fixation with Britishness has paid off, as the band will be headlining the closing ceremony in Hyde Park – the site of their last major reunion in 2009. Let’s ignore the fact that it looks like Britain hasn’t had any era-defining bands in the past ten years, and that they are irrevocably associated with the more plentiful Labour government years. Despite their early battles with Oasis, they’re now a non-controversial crowd-pleaser (and credible with it).

Lead singer Damon Albarn is also reconvening his Africa Express through the Barbican and taking it on a tour around the UK, hitting up the other musical cities in the country such as Manchester and Leeds. It’s easy to forget about the nationwide impact of the Olympics funding on arts events – and how much more innovative or daring these can be, away from the cultural capital. The contemporary arts centre received a huge injection of funding to hold events because of its location within the City of London. It has already hosted a number of landmark shows including a staging of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. The area itself is a great place to experience the juxtapositions of this part of London. Walking around, it’s like a who’s who of the news – visitors can walk from the former grounds of Occupy St Pauls up to the banks and then finally arrive at the famed Silicon Roundabout.

The Olympics is often used to highlight world events, and this year’s celebrations are not any different. One of the major musical celebrations will start off in the former danger zone of Londonderry. The Peace One Day concert in London is a culmination of events organised across the world, called Global Truce which countdown to what it describes as the biggest reduction of global violence across the world. Singers at the event will include Pixie Lott and Newton Faulkner.

The New Music 20×12 Weekend might appeal to anyone with more experimental taste in music. Organised by the PRS for Music Foundation, the event brings together new and rising talent performing specially commissioned pieces. It’s also cross-platform, incorporating dance and film.


Olympics music occupies that strange place – unlikely to be in the most ardent sports-lovers record collection, it nevertheless remains culturally resonant for years. We know it when we hear it, but would otherwise be stumped to name our favourite. For your benefit, we’ve put together some of the anthems and songs inspired by the world’s greatest show of strength.

1. Koreana ‘Hand in Hand’/1988 Seoul Games

Possibly has had one of the longer lifespans of any Olympics song in its home country. The video is quite something, and sums up why Korean pop has such a cult following abroad. It’s impossible not to feel lifted by this ridiculously anthemic number – despite being horrified by the 1980s hairstyles. The spectacle in it has to be seen to be believed, which is the Olympics’ mandate. Hundreds of dancers in red costumes swirl around each other in perfect co-ordination.

2. Celine Dion ‘The Power of the Dream’/1996 Atlanta Games

Celine dedicated all the money for this saccharine power ballad to Canadian athletes. The global star has been known for her left-wing gestures and her fierce loyalty to the French-speaking Canadian cause. The song extols the power of the collective imagination.

3. Gloria Estefan ‘Reach’/1996 Atlanta Games

The Latino singers contribution may have been inspired by her own experience of paralysis and her fight against it. The song was nominated for a Grammy. It’s a slow-burn song.

4. Tina Arena ‘The Flame’/2000 Sydney Games

Tina Arena was a huge star in her native Australia, and her presence with this song was a testimony to the country’s many home-grown but internationally undervalued stars. Interesting, the composer of The Flame went on to become the musical director of ‘Australian Idol’. It builds up to an epic second half following an average start.

5. Bjork ‘Oceania’/2004 Athens Olympics

Bjork was an unexpected choice – but if there’s an artist who is good at providing spectacle, then it’s the Icelandic singer. Her dress folded out into a 100,000 ft map of the world, which billowed like a giant cloud on the aerial view of the stadium. She was forced to sing to a backing track after the track without her voice was damaged, but refused to mime on stage. Despite that, the performance was one of the rare ones where there was a sense of intimacy, created by the fragile delicate voice. If only more cities had the same sense of adventure when it came to choosing performers.

6. ‘You and Me’ Liu Han/2008 Beijing Olympics

The Chinese anthem was sung by Huan and British opera star Sarah Brightman, both hugely established and popular in their native countries. It’s typically saccharine but that’s a minor point next to the city’s spectacular opening ceremony for the event.

7. ‘Barcelona’/1992 Barcelona Games

This was originally composed and sung by Freddie Mercury, who died shortly afterwards. The song also became somewhat of a national anthem which seems to be rare among these Olympic efforts. It was also played at UEFA games for several years after its release.

8. ‘Spinnin’’ Tinchy Stryder & Dionne Bromfield/2012 London Games

The 2012 Olympic anthem for London marks a departure from the traditional ballad aimed at older record-buyers. Stryder and soul singer Bromfield collaborate on this upbeat number, which still carries the traditional Olympic message of unity and goodwill.

9. Amigos Para Siempre/Sarah Brightman and Jose Carreras/1992 Barcelona

This song was performed at the Spanish premier’s funeral. Composed by the most British of composers Andrew Lloyd Webber, it was sung by operatic stars Sarah Brightman and Carreras. Like the other Barcelona anthem, it proved popular beyond the event.

10.Church Bell Music/ Martin Creed – 2012 London

This harks back to the art competitions that were held within the Olympics before the second world war. Conceptual artist Martin Creed (responsible for the on-off light switch which won the Turner Prize in 2001) proposes that bells everywhere in the country – from churches, to bikes, to that of town criers – are rung simultaneously on the first morning of the Olympics.


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The BAMM Alternative Jubilee Soundtrack

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Readers in the UK – and those who keep an eye on current events upon that rainy island – will know that the ‘Diamond Jubilee’ is underway: a long weekend in which everyone pretends to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne when infact they’re just happy to get a few days off work, whatever the reason.

Still – whatever one may think of the Royal Family (yep, we’re adopting a regal tone now), it’s hard to deny that the constant fawning media coverage can be a bit of a drag. Any aliens watching TV right now (not sure why they would be, but just play along) would think that everyone is Britain is constantly bowing in deference to the Royal overlords. This isn’t the case, however – as evidenced by our alternative Jubilee soundtrack from acts who take an … erm … less than complimentary approach to the monarchy.

God Save The Queen – The Sex Pistols

The original anti-Jubilee song. Ironically the Queen has aged better than all the remaining Sex Pistols combined.

The Queen Is Dead – The Smiths

Possibly their finest hour – the amazing opening track to the classic album of the same name.

Elizabeth My Dear – The Stone Roses

“Tear me apart and boil my bones / I’ll not rest ’til she’s lost her throne.” Not a fan, then, chaps?

Storm The Palace – Catatonia

The sort of rallying call that would have seen people beheaded not so long ago.

Insect Royalty – Primal Scream

Hold on – the monarchy are insects? But David Icke told us they were lizards. Which is it?

Listen to the new Damon Albarn album – streaming now

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Damon Albarn has certainly had an interesting career. There have been highs (late nineties Blur stuff, ‘Demon Days’-era Gorillaz) and lows (that point in the mid nineties when he adopted a cockney accent and took to dancing around like a chimney sweep, despite being a privately-educated art student). With the recent announcement that the upcoming Olympics ceremony would be Blur’s last gig – plus the revelation that there would likely be no new Gorillaz material, ever – many have been wondering what Albarn will get up to next.

The answer is anything but predictable: he has unleashed ‘Dr. Dee’, a ’16th-century folk opera’ focusing on the life of John Dee, mathematician, polymath and advisor to Elizabeth I. Needless to say this is almost certain to divide critical opinion – some are going to label it a bold new artistic direction, others are going to pull the Emperor’s New Clothes card. Luckily, you’ve got the chance to formulate your own opinion, because The Guardian are providing a free stream of the whole thing.

Take a listen and tell us what you think – good, bad, or crushingly indifferent?

Record Store Day 2012: London

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‘Dust off your vinyl’ implores one particular headline, and – to this writer, at least – ‘dusting off’ seems a particularly apt turn of phrase. Aside from professional DJs and enthusiastic collectors, vinyl – hell, the physical music format in general – is a dead prospect; at best a novelty release designed to be deliberately retroactive, at worst a mish-mash of old 45s thrown into a box and flogged at a yard sale.

So: Record Store Day. What exactly is this all about? Enough musicians are taking part in the promotional scheme for it to warrant mainstream media coverage. The NME provides a succinct rundown:

Over 300 artists have offered up new vinyl releases for today’s celebrations, with new material, cover versions, rare tracks and studio outtakes all set to be released.

Arctic Monkeys’ new single ‘R U Mine?’ is available on special purple vinyl, while Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘Acoustic EP’ boasts acoustic versions of their tracks ‘Something Good Can Work’ and ‘Undercover Martyn’.

Kasabian have released their covers of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ and Gwen Stefani’s ‘Sweet Escape’ on 7” vinyl and The Clash have a newly digitally remastered version of ‘London Calling’ on vinyl, while Arcade Fire are offering remixes of their track ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) and Noel Gallagher has dropped a new EP titled ‘Songs From The Great White North’.

All very nice, but – again – what exactly is Record Store Day? Are people treating this as a bit of nostalgic fun for a dying form of consumer interaction (it’s all too easy to imagine a ‘video rental day’ taking off in the future, during which we all venture down to the few remaining Blockbusters and relive the glory of taking an empty box to the counter)? Or does the industry genuinely hope that this will encourage people to rekindle their love for physical music formats?

If it’s the latter, then a lot of people are going to be very disappointed.

Vinyl still has a place in the specialist market, but to view Record Store Day as anything other than a nice day out is madness. Infact, the whole thing just highlights how digital music has become the norm, and that anything outside that paradigm merits a special occasion. Put it this way: people will occasionally take up the novelty of having a street artist sketch their portrait. It’s kind of fun. Most of the time, though – if they want an image of themselves frozen in time – they’ll just take a quick snap on their iPhone. Sure, digital music hasn’t yet established the concept of ‘owning an artifact’ that physical formats hold … but it soon will.

Record Stores hold a great deal of sentimental baggage for a certain generation, but – to deploy blunt reality – that generation isn’t going to be around forever. Try asking a 16-year-old if they know what a video cassette is, never mind a vinyl LP. And this points to the reason that Record Store Day might actually be more of a hindrance than a help: rather than looking at how the Record Store can evolve in a changing market, we’re being told to celebrate the concept as though nothing is wrong with it. To use a well-trodden musical analogy, this is the epitome of fiddling while Rome burns.

By all means – treat this as a bit of fun, and get a kick out of unwrapping those rare new records. But don’t pretend this is going to change anything regarding the state of music consumption. The needle is scratching a new groove, and no-one can stop it now.