I updated a bunch of playlists!
First, I did some semi-major surgery on my ‘imaginary SF trilogy’ closer, ‘Now They Are Dreams‘.
It had always a little underpowered to me. The second half was great, a steadily building extraterrestrial experience, but the first half didn’t quite sell the fiction. Also, as much as I love ‘Everybody’s Gotta Mutate’, it wasn’t quite working as an opening hook (especially when the first version dropped off Youtube and a glitchy one with dropouts was the only backup).
So I’ve done a bit of tweaking and now the first side is much punchier and more dramatic, and much more explicit on the fact that the theme is space and extraterrestrial life. (I definitely think of at least these three core ‘trilogy’ playlists as two-act ‘albums’ with separate ‘sides’.)
The changes: ‘Everybody’s Gotta Mutate’, ‘Mattachin’ and ‘You Don’t Know’ are gone, replaced with a little reordering (but not much) with ‘Satellite Dream’, ‘Believe In Aliens’ and ‘Escape From The Citadel’.
01. Synthi and Gert – Sister Susie’s Synthesizer (1978, Germany)
The song: A novelty song maybe, but I love it. Now the ‘opening hook’, where it grabs right from the beginning, a bit chunkier than the wispier ‘Everybody’s Gotta Mutate’. I’m pretty sure that the ‘Sister Susie’ the song is about is the legendary electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani, who was indeed achieving commercial fame in the late 1970s.
Memories: I remember hearing both this and ‘Ghostman’ in the 1980s! I’m sure I do.
02. Fair Fax – Satellite Dream (The Capricorn Disaster Mix) (1986, Germany)
“As the ministry of space research announced, scout-satellite ‘CAPRICORN 1’ left orbit to check an unusual asteroid movement they had observed this morning. A satellite computer calculation discovered an increasing number of asteroids of unknown origin and gigantic dimensions heading directly towards earth!”
The song: Glorious cheese. Bombastic and melancholy, a spoken-word science-fiction story of a ‘scout satellite’ encountering ‘green… humanoid… mutations… coming at the speed of light!’, while the lyrics seem to be about a rock star having a communications breakup with his estranged girlfriend.
Here (in the revamped Now They Are Dreams) it does two things: sets the ‘space’ theme, hints that extraterrestrials have been detected, and introduces our B-protagonist (a New Wave singer/protestor from the previous album, and one of the Novas, but with memory loss). He’s now definitely pining for Suzanne ZN-102 but is not yet fully awakened.
Memories: Definitely heard this one in the 80s, I’m sure. I remember loving the sci-fi story and then finding a version which only had the song and being much disappointed. But the Capricorn Disaster lives on!
03. Blondie – Fade Away and Radiate (1978, USA)
The song: This Blondie oddity caught my eye purely because of its title, but I love it. It leans heavily into the film nostalgia and proto-VR imagery of the late 70s/early-80s, linking to songs like ‘Elstree’ and ‘Videotheque’, and echoes the idea established earlier that our protagonist(s) have been living in some kind of simulated reality. Here it acts as the pivot as Suzanne (our main protagonist since at least ‘Echo Beach’, or ‘Danseparc’ if we’re counting the original ‘Tomorrow’) begins searching through the Simulacrum with her fully awakened Nova powers.
Memories: None before this year.
04. Freur – Doot-Doot (1983, Wales)
The song: A weird gem I’ve covered previously on this blog , and I was very glad to find that I could slip it in here as part of the ‘dream sequence’. Its tone of gentle sadness and nostalgia fits well with Fade Away and Human Arcade. The B-protagonist is regretting the failed revolution.
Memories: As on the blog, I think 80s.
05. Daemion – Human Arcade (1982, England)
The song: Another gem and it links well, I think, to the dream sequence. Every time I hear this song I think it’s masterfully written and deserves an afterlife. The fears of a robot takeover and ‘the image brigade’ resonate even stronger with audiences in 2017 than they did in 1982. In the fiction, Suzanne locates B-protagonist and jacks him out of the Simulacrum, as he comes to the realisation (again) that he’s living in a simulation. It’s an action scene!
Memories: As on the blog, I think 90s.
06. Eurythmics – It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back) (1985, England)
The song: I was so glad to remember this as this was one of the songs that got me started on trawling Youtube for cyberpunk themes in New Wave music. The song is perfect as is the video, and unlike many Eurythmics songs the emotion it expresses feels sincere and not ironic.
Memories: None before a couple of years ago
07. Full Moon Tan – Believe In Aliens (1983, USA)
The song: An awesomely weird little song, which exists in two separate versions – the other one being by Full Moon Tan’s prior incarnation, Mannequin (via comments on : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQEigHsQ3mY – Discogs hasn’t caught up with this yet). A and B protagonists exchange notes and drama occurs.
Memories: As for most of these, I want to say 1980s, but I don’t know how; some kind of cassette tape, I think? I’m sure I have a memory of confusing it with The Police because of that reggae sound.
09. Tandy Morgan Band – Escape from the Citadel (1983, England)
The song: A weird little transitional number on David Morgan’s wonderful ‘Earthrise’ album (which I covered previously in 2015). Here it’s the end-of-side marker: a clear transition from Earth to Space, the blast-off scene. I love it because now the album has a clear switch in styles to ‘zero-gravity’ feel. It also gives me a name for our A-protagonist: ZN-102, or Suzanne.
Memories: As for the Earthrise page.
09. Donna Summer – I Feel Love (1977, USA)
The song: I was shying away from overt disco but I Feel Love is the track that put Georgio Moroder on the map and is to Italo-Disco as Kraftwerk was to the German stream of techno. So it seemed like a natural echo of Radioactivity. And Donna Summer’s beautiful voice doesn’t hurt at all.
Memories: It was probably everywhere in the 1980s but I can’t say it made a huge impression on me.
10. The Techno Orchestra – Mechanical Ballet (1982, England)
The song: Another truly odd little anthem/ballad with space and esoteric/millennial Christian overtones from the 1980s due of Bev Sage and Steve Fairnie, who were very active in the early British techno scene and variously played as The Techno Twins, The Technos, The Techno Orchestra.
Memories: Sometime in the 1990s, I think?
11. Monsoon – Wings of the Dawn (Prem Kravita) (1982, England)
The song: If there were an alien space probe in the imaginary fictional narrative, this would be its theme song. With the meditative Indian tones here we move into the third movement, contact and transformation.
Memories: Not sure. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before, but can’t place when.
12. Planetary Peace – Medicine Wheel (1980, USA)
The song: There’s a whole story (and a free download) – as well as an upcoming album rerelease – to this amazing little piece of DIY New Age / Christian psychodelia, but I like it for its warm tones and its weirdly alien yet homegrown feel. This would play over the mothership landing. And now the metaphor of ‘circles’ pops into full view.
Memories: Not just this song – after downloading the ‘Synthesis’ album I feel as if I’ve met several of the tracks, and the cover image. But at this point I don’t even know. It just feels familiar.
13. Telepathic – We Are Telepathique (1982, France)
The song: After the contact experience comes the heightened sensation. Everything changes for humanity from this point. Or you could just say it’s a nice little romantic ballad. Either way, it’s a beautiful little song.
Memories: I want to say yes, 1980s? I seem to have a memory of being confused as to why the name of the band was the same as the name of the song, and why it was partly in French. Even Discogs doesn’t seem to know who ‘Telepathic’ were at this point, but I hope we find out soon! Were they a famous name doing a side project, or a tiny one-off?
14. Suzanne Ciani – System 55 (2015, USA)
The song: As soon as I learned about Suzanne Ciani I knew I NEEDED one of her tracks to pay off ‘Sister Susie’s Synthesizer’ and this is it. A promotion for the resurrected Moog company, but it’s the warm analog tones of the Moog as well as the link from past to present that sold it for me. I feel like this track is the musical soul of the playlist.
15. Peter Schilling – Major Tom (Coming Home) (1982, Germany)
The song: There’s like an entire library of Major Tom musical fanfiction by now but Peter Schilling’s ‘Major Tom (Coming Home)’ is everything I wanted in an album ender. An MTV-friendly piece of classic 80s-ian kitsch that also somehow is sincere in its wide-eyed awe about both space travel and the possibility of something far beyond. And Space Oddity is itself a reference to 2001, which was from an earlier short story, so it’s all references in the end.
Someone or something has finally achieved transcendence. It might well be David Bowie.
Memories: You couldn’t get away from this song in the 80s, but somehow we forgot.
16. Katrina and the Waves – Love Shine A Light (1997, England)
The song: It won the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest but if I read correctly the song itself was written in 1983 as a thirty-year anniversary anthem for the Samaritans organisation, so it really is a New Wave era song. If Suzanne Ciani is the musical soul of the list then this one is the lyrical soul. It’s the ‘end credits song’, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the future we’re aiming for.
Memories: Yeah I probably heard it on the TV in the late 90s, but it completely slipped from my head. I’m so glad I found it again.