"They do this crazy thing – they write good songs! And it doesn’t sound dated!": My 80s Mixtape, by Clutch's Neil Fallon

Neil Fallon
(Image credit: Istockphoto)

"In January 1980 I was eight years old. At the end of 1989 I was eighteen. So the theme for my mixtape is puberty, pre- and post-," says Clutch's Neil Fallon. "Side A is whatever was on the radio, Side B is when you’re a bit older, finding your musical identity."


Devo - Whip It (1980)

“Like many people, I was introduced to this by the video – which I think is an important aspect of the 1980s. You could not make the Whip It video in this day and age. I was eight years old and I saw these guys in flowerpot hats with whips, then this kind of Spanish matriarch, slowly getting undressed. I remember, in all my eight years of wisdom, being completely focused on it.”

Blondie - Rapture (1980)

“My parents belonged to something called Columbia Records Clearing House, where you’d pay a penny and get twenty records. They let me pick one or two every once in a while, and I picked Autoamerican because of the video, which is insane. It’s got Debbie Harry dancing around in a tube top, and space aliens. Such a bizarre song to be a hit. It’s weird to think that Debbie Harry introduced the word ‘hip-hop’ to a good part of the world, because hip-hop was kind of still underground at that point.”

The Clash - Straight To Hell (1982)

“It was the last day of sixth grade, it was a beautiful day, and the bus driver was playing Combat Rock. A lot of my radio consumption was on the bus, because I wasn’t allowed to listen to that at home until I was a bit older. That bus driver was my algorithm. Rock The Casbah and Should I Stay Or Should I Go were massive hits, but my favourite song is Straight To Hell. There’s a kind of film-noir atmosphere to it. It’s a delicate creature.”

Def Leppard - Rock Of Ages (1983)

Pyromania was the first record I bought with my own money. I bought it at Sears, and I remember my mom being concerned because of the album cover – you had the backdrop of the PMRC and heavy metal ‘poisoning the youth of America’ or wherever. We did two shows with Def Leppard on this last run, and Joe Elliot sounds amazing. So many rock’n’roll songs about rock’n’roll! In middle school, one of my art class projects was to make an album cover, and I did one for Rock Of Ages [he shows us the actual piece, marked ‘Neil Fallon, Eighth Grade’].”

The Police - Synchronicity II (1983)

“I got that cassette for a Christmas gift from one of my aunts, and my main gift was a Sony Walkman. There was nothing more iconic in the 1980s than the Walkman. Synchronicity is a great album, and I listened to it incessantly because it was the only cassette I had. The Police were a dark horse, this art-school band that were punk, new wave, reggae and rock all at the same time. And everybody loved them.”

Cro-Mags - Show You No Mercy (1986)

“I was almost fifteen years old, and I remember a good friend of mine introducing me to this. We did a tour with the Cro-Mags not too long ago, and it’s weird because a lot of kids didn’t know who they were. They are a kind of a ‘band’s band’. Just astounding, relentless, brutal hardcore, that when you’re in the throes of puberty, particularly when you’re a boy, it really taps into aggression that you have – justified or not – at that age. And this provided sort of an outlet for that.”

Metallica - Battery (1986)

“One thing that was so ridiculous about the 1980s was this segregation between heavy metal and punk rock or hardcore. There’s these urban myths about, ‘if you show up with long hair at the hardcore show, you’ll get your ass kicked’, or vice versa. It was all just adolescent boys being dicks. But Master Of Puppets is by far my favourite metal album. I’ve listened to it so many times. They do this crazy thing – they write good songs! And it doesn’t sound dated.”

Eric B. & Rakim - Microphone Fiend (1988)

“In the 1980s, hard rock ruled the world. And then slowly, hip-hop kind of bubbled up. Hip-hop is another genre where it’s easy to sound dated, but Rakim does not. This whole album, along with NWA or Public Enemy, had a very punk rock sensibility. It was very rebellious. I could not get enough of Microphone Fiend. I think Rakim is probably the best MC of his generation. He has turns of phrase that are ridiculous.”

Nirvana - Mr. Moustache (1989)

“I got this at a record store in Rockville, Maryland, called Yesterday Today, and this was playing over the speakers. I’d gone in there to buy something else, and I bought Bleach instead. I can’t tell you how many copies of this I burned for friends on a record player with cassettes. Which brings me to the last song, because at that store one of the employees was [Fugazi frontman] Ian McKaye.”

Fugazi - Give Me The Cure (1989)

“I was too young to see bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag, but I was just the right age to see Fugazi. They burned down the house every single time in the weirdest places – community centres, churches, parks. They had no lights, no merchandise, there was no bar, we were lucky to get water, maybe somebody was selling popcorn. They just played their asses off, and the energy was so positive.”

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.