C86 (album)

C86 (album)
Compilation album
Released 1986
Recorded 1985/86
Genre Indie pop, post-punk, indie rock
Label Rough Trade
New Musical Express
Compiler Neil Taylor, Adrian Thrills, Roy Carr
Pogo A Go Go
Holiday Romance
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

C86 is a cassette compilation released by the British music magazine NME in 1986, featuring new bands licensed from independent labels of the time. As a phrase, C86 quickly evolved into shorthand for a guitar-based musical genre characterised by "jangly" guitars and fey melodies, although other musical styles were represented on the tape. It became a term of abuse for its associations with tweeness and underachievement, although some now argue that its release represents a pivotal moment for independent music in the UK [2]

The C86 name was a play on the labelling and length of blank compact cassettes - commonly C60, C90 and C120 - combined with 1986.


The C86 Cassette

The tape was a belated follow-up to C81, a more diverse collection of new bands, released by the NME in 1981 in conjunction with Rough Trade. C86 was similarly designed to reflect the new music scene of the time. It was compiled by NME writers Roy Carr, Neil Taylor and Adrian Thrills, who licenced tracks from labels such as Creation, Pink, and Ron Johnson. Readers had to pay for the tape via mail order although an LP was subsequently released on Rough Trade in 1987. The UK music press, in this period, was extremely competitive, with four weekly papers documenting new bands and trends. There was a tendency to artificially create and "discover" new musical sub-genres in order to heighten reader interest. NME journalists of the period now agree that C86 was a typical example of this, but also a byproduct of NME's "hip hop wars";[3] a schism in the paper (and amongst readers) between enthusiasts of the contemporary progressive black music such as Public Enemy and Mantronix, and the fans of guitar-based music, which was the superabundant genre represented on C86.

It was the 23rd NME tape, although its catalogue number was NME022 (C81 had been dubbed COPY001). The rest of the tapes were compilations promoting labels' back catalogues and dedicated to either R&B, Northern Soul, Jazz or Reggae. C86 was followed up with a Billie Holiday compilation, "Holiday Romance".[4]

The C86 line-up featured early tracks from Stump, Bogshed, The Shrubs, A Witness, Big Flame and The Mackenzies. Their loud quirkiness was completely at odds with the Byrds-style guitars and fey melodies of what came to be known as C86 bands.

NME promoted the tape in conjunction with London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, who staged a week of gigs in July 1986 which featured most of the acts on the compilation.


Ex-NME staffer Andrew Collins summed up C86 by dubbing it "the most indie thing to have ever existed".[5] Bob Stanley, a Melody Maker journalist in the late 1980s and founding member of pop band Saint Etienne, similarly claimed in a 2006 interview[6] that C86 represented the:

"beginning of indie music...It's hard to remember how underground guitar music and fanzines were in the mid 80s; DIY ethics and any residual punk attitudes were in isolated pockets around the country and the C86 comp and gigs brought them together in an explosion of new groups".

Martin Whitehead, who ran the Subway label in the late 80s, was of this view[7] believing it to have had a political influence. "Before C86, women could only be eye-candy in a band, I think C86 changed that - there were women promoting gigs, writing fanzines and running labels".

Some writers however regret the influence the tape had over the music scene of the time and subsequently. Everett True, a writer for NME in 1986 under the name "The Legend!"[8] called it "unrepresentative of its times (as opposed to the brilliant C81 comp) and even unrepresentative of the small narrow strata of music it thought it was representing." Alastair Fitchett, editor of the long-running music site Tangents goes further, despite being a fan of many of the bands on the tape.[9]

'"(The NME) laid the foundations for the desolate wastelands of what we came to know by that vile term 'Indie'. What more reason do you need to hate it?"'


In 1996, NME continued the tradition of compiling a new band album (this time a CD) by releasing C96. This had little impact, with Mogwai being the only artist on the compilation who enjoyed wide mainstream success.[10] Three other bands on the compilation, Babybird, The Delgados and Urusei Yatsura, had brief success in the United Kingdom after the compilation's release.

The 20th anniversary of the tape, in 2006, saw several tributes. A download-only compilation, C06, of contemporary bands inspired by those on the original C86 cassette was put together by the indie-mp3 site in July 2006. A double-CD compilation; CD86,[11] compiled by Bob Stanley, was released by Sanctuary Records and the ICA hosted "C86 - Still Doing It For Fun",[12] an exhibition and 2 nights of gigs celebrating the rise of British Independent music. The Rough Trade label released their own tribute/parody, C09, as a limited-run cassette available in independent record stores for the 2009 Record Store Day. It featured Jarvis Cocker, the Super Furry Animals, and other artists.

A documentary film marking the period, Hungry Beat, is in production directed by Paul Kelly.[13]

Track listing

Side one

  1. Primal Scream - "Velocity Girl"
  2. The Mighty Lemon Drops - "Happy Head"
  3. The Soup Dragons - "Pleasantly Surprised"
  4. The Wolfhounds - "Feeling So Strange Again"
  5. The Bodines - "Therese"
  6. Mighty Mighty - "Law"
  7. Stump - "Buffalo"
  8. Bogshed - "Run to the Temple"
  9. A Witness - "Sharpened Sticks"
  10. The Pastels - "Breaking Lines"
  11. Age of Chance - "From Now On, This Will Be Your God"

Side two

  1. The Shop Assistants - "It's Up to You"
  2. Close Lobsters - "Firestation Towers"
  3. Miaow - "Sport Most Royal"
  4. Half Man Half Biscuit - "I Hate Nerys Hughes (From The Heart)"
  5. The Servants - "Transparent"
  6. The Mackenzies - "Big Jim (There's no pubs in Heaven)"
  7. Big Flame - "New Way (Quick Wash And Brush Up With Liberation Theology)"
  8. Fuzzbox - "Console Me"
  9. McCarthy - "Celestial City"
  10. The Shrubs - "Bullfighter's Bones"
  11. The Wedding Present - "This Boy Can Wait"

The C86 genre

For more information on C86 as a genre, see Indie pop

See also


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Stanley, Bob Sleevenotes to CD86
  3. ^ NME: Still Rocking at 50, BBC News, 24 February 2002 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/1836411.stm
  4. ^ I Love Everything Forum http://ilx.p3r.net/thread.php?msgid=2077178
  5. ^ Andrew Collins, Wan Love, Indie RIP; Word Magazine, October 2006
  6. ^ Bob Stanley, Uncut Magazine, February 2006
  7. ^ Hann, Michael Fey City Rollers http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,11710,1325674,00.html
  8. ^ Everett True, Plan B blog http://planbmag.com/blogs/staff/2005/07/22/friday-22-july/
  9. ^ Alastair Fitchett, C86, Tangents, http://www.tangents.co.uk/tangents/main/2002/nov/c86.html
  10. ^ Tim Footman, Tangents blog, 2002, http://www.tangents.co.uk/tangents/main/2002/dec/c96.html
  11. ^ Press Release, CD86 Myspace Profile, http://www.myspace.com/cd86sanctuaryrecords
  12. ^ ICA website, C86 - Still Doing It For Fun, October 2006, http://www.ica.org.uk/?lid=12257
  13. ^ Tangents blog; Hungry Beat, The Sun Is Shining, July 27, 2006, http://unpopular.typepad.com/unpopular/2006/07/hungry_beat_the.html


External links

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