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July 25, 2005



Not that it's necessary to put the mentioned bands together under a label or term but neither you or ET offer an alternative to the c86, anorak, twee terms. What was it called in the eighties? Or it should simply be indiepop?



We (as in me and my friends) simply called it Pop at the time. No-one talked about 'indie' in those days and i still don't like using it much. It's just Pop music, and that's why i loved it and is why i love it still. It shouldnt need to pretend to be anything else...


You're right, it should just be Pop really. Though I must confess I don't mind the c86 term when searching for singles on ebay :)


I get the impression that today, C-86 is usually used to describe the melodious, jangly, often 60s-inspired, "poppy" side of the era, as exemplified by the bands mentioned in question two, and yeah, I agree that Pop is as good a term as any for those. The label best represented on the original cassette though, Ron Johnson, had bands playing a very different (Beefheartian) noise altogether, to my ears anyway. Do the likes of The Shrubs, A Witness etc. fall into your definition of Pop?


The C86 era was a very exciting time to be into music and could definitely be described as a 'scene' as a lot of the same people went to the gigs and connections were made all around the UK.Having listened again to the tape though I don't think it is a true representation of what I would call Pure Pop! which I believe to be great bands playing music which should be played on daytime radio without becoming corporate sell outs like Keane,Coldplay etc.


C86 is as useful or useless as any genre definition. It's shorthand that defines a few perameters, most importantly excluding some stuff, but there's still a big area for disagreement. So, looking at 1986 from 19 years in the future, Whitney Houston was clearly NOT C86, but The Pastels clearly WERE, and the Jesus & Mary Chain... hmm, dunno, let's have a drunken argument about it.

I think Alistair's principled resistance to it is partly because it was a label imposed by the NME, not an organic "scene". I do understand his point of view, but most genres have been constructions either of record companies or of journalists or DJs. Even "Northern soul", in many ways the blueprint from a bottom-up, fan-driven genre, was a phrase coined by Dave Godin. Madchester? Britpop? Grunge? Merseybeat? Rock 'n' roll?

As Daniel points out, if you don't like the phrase, please think of a better one because, unfortunately, discourse and intelligent debate needs some form of classification. For further ramblings on the matter, see my article in CTCL, Jan 03 (it's also on if you're a member).


Well if it quacks like a duck...I liked pop in 1986 too but that was bananarama not the bloomin shop assistants
.. as fantastic as they were..cos they er, weren't popular and didn't trouble the top 75.
For something apparently so hard to nail down as a category its surprising how most of us seem to understand the nomenclature. Both you and ET, despite your protestations that a and b weren't part of it, and x and y got the wrong end of the stick, and c and d misunderstood it all, still seem to have little trouble understanding what we're referring to here and your answers and the bands you refer to are surprisingly aligned for such a "slippery" concept.. Just cos it threw up some pretty ropey facsimiles (and still does) doesn't mean its wrong as a label nearly 20 years on. As you all admit its serving a function on ebay. Clearly now reclaimed as a bottom up tag, folksonomy and all that.
I'm with Tim. You need the label to understand the discussion however tarnished and misunderstood that label has become.


Were there any venues or clubs that were central to C-86?

In Edinburgh, the Onion Cellar. I was a regular.

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