The Formative Years
Compilations that left a mark pt. 1
What makes a good compilation album for you?
The main factors during my formative years was “bang for your buck”, listening pleasure and ideally a musical education and exposure to bands and sounds that would send me down new rabbit holes.
A defining compilation that I have referred to quite a few times is the P.E.A.C.E. compilation as it ticks both boxes: Being a double LP, this benefit compilation, which was originally released by MDC’s R Radical Records, there is quite a bit of territory covered by the array of bands, many of which went on to leave their indelible mark and coined punk and hardcore to create the foundation for what is became widely known for. If not the fact alone that this compilation introduced me to G.I.S.M. for the first time, the calibre of the other bands, e.g. Cause For Alarm, The Dicks, Crass, Conflict (UK), D.O.A., D.R.I., Mob 47, Septic Death, Dead Kennedys, Subhumans (UK), Reagan Youth, Butthole Surfers and, of course, MDC should have you throw up your hands in despair if the original or the reissue with bonus tracks released by New Red Archive records is not part of your collection.
A lesser known but nonetheless potent compilation of the early eighties was the We Got Power: Party Or Go Home LP, which was in essence a collaboration between the We Got Power fanzine and Mystic Records. Given that forty-one bands seal the deal within the confines of a mere forty minutes, should give an indication of what is the name of the game here, i.e. fast and frenetic hardcore by bands that should again become classics. Doug Moody’s Mystic Records was the pre-eminent force in the Southern California punk rock music scene and not only a launchpad for the bands that should infuse the local sound with the nuances of their idiosyncratic sounds but also a record collector’s nightmare with its limited edition records.
Welcome to Venice is a telling name as this masterpiece introduced me to local Venice Beach crossover thrash bands, of which I had only known Suicidal Tendencies before, whose frontman Mike Muir released it on his Suicidal Records label. A compilation that became the blueprint for many bands, both in terms of musical style and aesthetics, and one that within the punk and hardcore category does not have many competitors when it comes to boldly establishing a local scene on the wider map of underground music, that is if it were not for Dischord Records’ Flex Your Head, which was released around the same time.
What Welcome to Venice did for California, Flex Your Head did for hardcore punk bands from the Washington, D.C. area. Ostensibly taken from Minor Threat’s tribute to Wire, this one is essentially a vehicle for almost all of the bands releasing their first songs on vinyl, some having already broken up by the time it was released, e.g. The Teen Idles, The Untouchables, State of Alert and Minor Threat, with quite a few of the protagonists’ respective new bands also being included with their new endeavours.
One of the compilations that I spent quite a bit of dough for to own all pressings with a total of five different front covers, including the CD editions, which allowed to use all different cover variations interchangeably.
Apart from being a testament to the importance of the never not inspiring and boundary D.C. scene and the extended Dischord family of bands, this is one of the fundamental cornerstones of American hardcore.