Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Praise of HC Tape Compilations.

    One would be hard pressed, while sifting through the detritus of 20th century culture, to find a more rewarding experience than listening to a HC tape compilation from the genre's golden years. The pleasure in discovering a private universe of "known" bands alongside hopelessly obscure ones was immeasurable, I write this list as a tribute to those humble 'lil plastic vehicles of analog technology that were my gateway to the US/World HC scenes. This inexpensive medium, generally costing no more than $4 a pop, along with the ability to cram as many bands within a 60-90 minute time-frame; fed my ever growing teenage habit of listening to loud/fast music from all corners of the world.
     This is by all means not an exclusive list, those of you that are well versed in this music will no doubt point out some glaring omissions. I am writing this more for the neophyte or someone that at best, has vague knowledge of these gems. I've listed mostly US compilation tapes, some of them included foreign HC with a special mention to the legendary tape label BCT, who deserve an article all by themselves.
     Due to the wonderful web, I've posted links to the actual tapes, so you can download them & let the contents speak for themselves & if that wasn't an option, then a link for obtaining the reissue. I've managed to hang to a lot my tapes throughout the years, someone should showcase all these beauties a la Nuggets-type reissue before the passing of time inevitably take its toll. Maybe I will.

CHARRED REMAINS-  Hands down my all-time favorite comp tape. How can you go wrong with this line-up: Void, Articles Of Faith, Husker Du, Die Kreuzen, Toxic Reasons, the great Personality Crisis from Canada & others. A lot of these versions were demo/live material, some of them unreleased; like the AOF tracks that never made it onto their records. I scored major Punk points with friends like Sam from Born Against, a fellow AOF fanatic, by taping them these exclusive songs long before they were officially reissued. This came out on Version Sound records, who also did the first 7"s by the above mentioned bands. I remember picking this up in '86 & even then, it was spoken of in reverential tones. I later copied the full page/band booklet layout for a comp tape that I did in the late 80's.


NO CORE- A classic slice of '82 era southern-fried HC by way of North Carolina featuring only 4 bands: COC, No Labels, Colcor & No Rock Stars. The COC tracks always get name-checked by virtue of including their 1st 15 song demo in its entirety. As much as I love those blistering songs, I've always preferred the No Rock Stars tunes on it; blazing mid-tempo Black Flag-like trash. A prime example of why I love these time capsules, if it wasn't for their appearance on this, NRS would be lost to the dustbins of history. I love the image of the Confederate flag burning on the cover, I can only imagine what it must have been it like to look outside the norm around those parts. Between rednecks/jocks & the general population out to get you; the all-too real threats are reflected on the gut-wrenching music found inside.

LIMA ESTA HELADA- I mail-ordered this Peruvian comp in '85 from Europe. The amazing world-wide HC network back in those pre-internet days allowed me to learn about my native country's scene via a tape compiled by a guy in Germany. There are some amazing bands from the '83-'85 explosion in Lima, anyone of them could easily match any of the Italian/Scandinavian trash contingents for sheer power & aggression. Too bad there's scant vinyl documentation of these early years, so a document such as this fills in key gaps. The German who did this, Burkhard Jarisch, later went on to write the exhaustive Flex! series/discography of USHC. I've never seen any download, much less info, on this comp. I will have to digitize my copy & make it available, until then here's another Peruvian comp from '89 that features a lot of the original Peruvian groups like Ataque Frontal, Kaos, G-3.


AMERICA'S DAIRYLAND-  There must have been something in the water in Wisconsin in '83, as most of the bands featured on this snapshot of Madison, WI & its surroundings are one weird & unique experience. Groups like Die Kruezen, Mecht Mensch, Tar Babies, Bloody Mattresses offer an off-kilter take on HC's standard 1-2 structure. The off the beat sounds are somehow straight forward & disjointed at the same time, giving one a twisted view of the nation's heartland. I also love the generic lo-fi trash of the the other bands like Suburban Mutilation, GNP: Music played by people that were stuck in the middle of nowhere, hated by parents & peers, destined to a life of dead-end jobs & trailer trash-dom. What's more, they don't care, they'll just bash away at simple 2-chord structures blissfully content on the futile nature of it all.

I TRASH, THEREFORE I AM-  This tape was my gateway to the joys of European HC, especially of the Scandinavian & Italian variety. Mob 47 from Sweden kicks it off with 9 songs that are pure perfection in their economy of delivery. Kudos to Anti-Cimex, also Swedish, for being one of the first (& best) disciples in the now all-too common D-beat style. I remember seeing Raw Power in '85 & then picking up this tape a couple of months later. Their songs on it match the insanity of their live show & made me a fan of HC 'a lo Italiano' for life. I couldn't understand a word of what the other bands from Denmark, Germany, Norway said but the universal language of trash shone through. This classic release on BCT tapes was their biggest seller, they must have made thousands of copies, helping to spread the loud & fast gospel irregardless of national origins. There are blogs where you can download this, but I plead you to acquire if you can, the official reissue that came out several years go. Pick it up  here:

MUSIC ON FIRE- After listening to Raw Power, I had to check out more Italian HC so I got this '83 sampler also on BCT. There's something about the Italian language that lends itself beautifully to the demands of high-octane trash; words that look poetic, like Dante's writings on paper, become these out of control-violent, almost inhuman screeches that defy the excesses a human puts on his larynx. Case in point is the singer for Wretched & every other band on the tape, are they gargling with drano before recording their parts? It's painful & exhilarating to listen to the vocal gymnastics of these tunes. After finding out about Italy's turbulent history during those years with leftist guerillas, national strikes, entrenched criminal enterprises; I can see why kids that chose to play HC back then exhibited a total nihilist approach. The future was not bright & the present meant living as explicitly as possible. Like the BCT catalog said about Italian-core: "mama mia, that's a spicy piece of plastic".
Incredibly enough, you can pick up the original tape from the guy that put it out at the same price it was in the 80's, $4 ppd.

NEW YORK TRASH- The first HC tape comp I ever bought & a sentimental favorite by virtue of growing up in NY. Bands like Bad Brains, False Prophets, Beastie Boys define the sound I fell in love with in '84. Seeing a band like Kraut from my home borough of Queens on it was a real ego boost. Pretty funny that with all this star power on the comp, the one track people always remember is AOD's "Paul's not home" skit, their smart-aleck approach was completely indicative of their suburban jersey roots & it made me search out more bands of their ilk. This came out on the tapes-only (back then) label ROIR, a company that stubbornly refused to convert to digital once CD's were introduced, a fact that made them all the more endearing to me. They eventually relented & you can now find this classic slice of the big apple on their site, the reissue tags on the Stimulators proto-HC "Loud, Fast Rules" 7", with a pre-pubescent Harley Flanagan on drums.

FRESNO HC 84-  A comp like this makes a strong argument for preserving the format. Besides       Capital Punishment, the only band that anyone outside of Fresno in '84, would be aware of. Have you ever heard of Kyos or Primer Grey? How about Burnin Bob & the Big Boys? Didn't think so, the fact all these obscure groups churn out solid performances, while nothing ground-breaking; they still document a particular time & place. How many cities across America had groups like these, basically an 80's version of unknown garage bands, that never made it onto vinyl. If it wasn't for this platter, we would never be able to enjoy the lo-fi charm of some solid bands that who knows, maybe in a more "popular" scene would have gotten the chance to document their music more extensively. There is a myspace page for the comp here:
Dale from Capital Punishment also did some CD's for sale available here:


 A genius-themed comp with bands representing both sides of the great divide, 2 tapes altogether. There are almost 100-plus songs in total! My favorite being the Southern portion with some truly unique bands like Born Without a Face, Power of the Spoken Word, Beef People & Like A Horse. Bands that only a very few know about these days & appreciate. The North side is no slouch either with some great tracks by Verbal Assault, Insanity Defense, GG Allin & Urge Overkill yes, the same bad that was on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. The guys who did this, Wally & The Beaver, went on to release the 1st HC record by a band from Alaska, but this is what their legacy is built on: A virtual encyclopedia of unknown HC from 1985.


              I could go on as this article only covers tapes from '82-'85, there are so many more from the latter half of the '80's, not to mention European/South American & Japanese comps. Honorable mentions: Empty Skulls, Barefoot & Pregnant, Skate Rock Comps Vol 1-7, Last White X-Mas, Punx Japanese Comp.. The list is endless. Speaking of lists, the Kill From The Heart website has an exhaustive one of just about any comp I can think of here:

Cool '80s Tape Comp group on Facebook:

Ok, what the hell, here's one more comp that in itself is a present day comp of older comps:

Killed By Tapes indeed! Thanks for reading- Freddy Alva


  1. Great stuff here Freddy. Really takes me back. I remember getting that BCT Italian compilation that had Wretched, Raw Power, Indigesti, and a bunch of other bands. That was definitely big shit in Walla Walla in 1984 or whenever it was. I really miss the whole tape trading aspect of punk. It's probably easier to get things around what with filesharing and such these days, but back in those days the compilation tape was a real artifact.

  2. Thanks for the kudos John. I think you're thinking of the "Last White X-mas" Italian comp huh? BCT & other tape labels rocked my world back then, it's amazing how well all my tapes have held up, no malfunctions so far. It's cool that you can find them online now, but nothing beats popping those babies on the tape-deck & watching the reels go by....

  3. Yer right John about a tape bein' a real artifact and, as you know, the only real way besides vinyl to share music at the time. I've decided Last White Christmas vol 2 w/ CCM, IRI! and Traumatic is my favorite release so far this life. Glad u fella's liked the music on BCT. So did we. We love(d) sharing it.

  4. How can I get a copy of the Fresno tape from you...been searching for it for years. ..interested in the PTL club recordings all three songs..