Sunday, January 31, 2021

The NME cassette release that changed everything


On January 31, 1981, NME joined Rough Trade in releasing  C-81, a cassette made up of songs by a variety of artists... from well known at the time ( The Specials, Buzzcocks, The Beat, Ian Dury) to well known within a year or two ( Scritti Politti, Aztec Camera ). Only two songs from the 24 track collection had been previously available ( Orange Juice's "Blue Boy" and James Blood Ulmer's "Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher"). An inexpensive way to discover new bands, all you had to do was clip this week's coupon and the one from next week's NME and send them with one pound fifty. More than 25,000 were sold.

In May of 1981 C-81 went on general sale but some labels refused to re-license the tracks.

Who could possible complain? British music writer Simon Reynolds could. He called it "post punk's swan song", noting the appearance of three acts from Scottish independent label Postcard Records (Aztec Camera, Josef K and Orange Juice),  the emerging new pop tendency of bands such as Linx and Scritti Politti,  and that NME stopped publishing the Garageland column in the very same month that C81 went on general sale, an acknowledgement that the DIY cassette culture movement was on the wane.

In the years that followed many music mags gave away cassettes or CDs as incentives to buy the magazines. Some still do. 

Looking at you, MOJO.

Track listing
A1 Scritti Politti - The "Sweetest Girl"6:09 
A2 The Beat - Twist and Crawl Dub4:58 
A3 Pere Ubu - Misery Goats2:26 
A4 Wah! Heat - 7,000 Names of Wah!3:57 
A5 Orange Juice - Blue Boy2:52 
A6 Cabaret Voltaire - Raising the Count3:32 
A7 D.A.F. - Kebabträume [Live]3:50 
A8 Furious Pig - Bare Pork1:28 
A9 The Specials - Raquel1:56 
A10 Buzzcocks - I Look Alone3:00 
A11 Essential Logic - Fanfare in the Garden3:00 
A12 Robert Wyatt - Born Again Cretin3:07 

B1 The Raincoats - Shouting Out Loud3:19 
B2 Josef K - Endless Soul2:27 
B3 Blue Orchids - Low Profile3:47 
B4 Virgin Prunes - Red Nettle2:13 
B5 Aztec Camera - We Could Send Letters4:57 
B6 Red Crayola - Milkmaid2:01 
B7 Linx - Don't Get in My Way5:15 
B8 The Massed Carnaby St. John Cooper Clarkes - The Day My Pad Went Mad1:46 
B9 James Blood Ulmer - Jazz Is the Teacher, Funk Is the Preacher4:03 
B10 Ian Dury - Close to Home4:13 
B11 The Gist - Greener Grass2:32 
B12 Vic Godard & Subway Sect - Parallel Lines2:38 
B13 John Cooper Clarke - 81 Minutes0:13

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