"C86? Is that a band?
Nope, C86 is a term used to describe Britain's mid-Eighties indie-pop climate when haircuts were round, major labels taboo and anoraks obligatory. The actual term hails from the title of a series of free NME compilation tapes documenting the mood of Britain's indie scene at the time. Featured were early incarnations of The Wedding Present, The Pastels, and Primal Scream (when they had Sixties bowl-cuts and thought they were the Byrds). "C86" was released as an LP on Strange Fruit in 1990.
Probably the most definitive representation of the C86 sound were Talulah Gosh. Although punk-rock in attitude, they were purveyors of a light, Rickenbacker-jangly, highly melodic pop sound. They named themselves after Clare Grogan's (Altered Images and, more recently, Father Ted and Eastenders) nickname for herself, sang about boy/girl relationships, and recorded songs for fanzine flexi-discs. Talulah Gosh went on to release material on Sarah Records, their spiritual home. After their split in 1988, original members Amelia and Mathew Fletcher and Robert Pursey went on to form Heavenly, a slightly less twee, tighter affair, but still a million miles from mainstream rock.
C86 was a subculture and a fanzine culture (Kvatch, Sha-la-la and Are You Scared To Get Happy?). It spoke to alienated teenagers bored with mainstream culture and hooked on DIY lo-fi sensibilities, an almost asexual child-like affectation, Sixties pop and girl groups, seven-inch singles, bedsit socialism and a romantic, pastoral, holding-hands vision of England.
So who else were C86?
The Pastels, The Field Mice, Another Sunny Day, McCarthy (Stereolab's Tim Gane's first band) and early Creation bands like Felt, The Bodines and The Razorcuts. Pretty much everything released on Sarah Records (most of whom had female vocalists), Cherry Red Records and Postcard Records. Across the Atlantic, the scene was mirrored by labels and bands from the US pop underground, most notably Calvin Johnson's Beat Happening and his K Records imprint. In the early Nineties, the spirit of C86 was refreshed by movements such as Riot Grrl and numerous Mod-Pop revivals.
C86 icons and influences?
The influences are basically classic, melodic pop music from any era. The most obvious ones are The Go-Betweens, Aztec Camera, The Smiths and Orange Juice. Other icons include fanzine writers Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd (who set up Sarah) and Mathew Fletcher (the Talulah/Heavenly drummer who tragically committed suicide in 1996). Alan McGee would have been an icon if he hadn't committed so many crimes against pop music since.
What are the key albums?
Obviously the actual "C86" album on Strange Fruit (if you see it, buy it), "Feral Pop Frenzy" (Sarah) by awesome Australian band Even As We Speak, "Le Gardin Du Heavenly" (Sarah) by Heavenly, Felt's "Bubblegum Perfume" (Creation) and Talulah Gosh's "Rock Legends Volume 69" (Constrictor).
Any C86 anthems?
Anthems is probably the wrong word but now that you mention it... Another Sunny Day's "Anorak City" (Sarah) for the title alone, Primal Scream's "Velocity Girl" (Creation), The Pastels' "Breaking Lines" (Creation) and Talulah's "Testcard Girl" (Constrictor).
Is it the spirit of C86 still alive?
Glasgow scenesters Belle and Sebastian, Bis, Camera Obscura, Gentle Waves and V-Twin all possess copious C86 credentials. Reclusive indie-icon Momus has carried the spirit East to the flourishing Jap-Pop scene while veterans such as The Pastels (now with Domino Records) and the Trash Can Sinatras are still growing strong. Colm O'Callaghan even calls it C00! "
"C86? Is that a band?