Revisiting the best pop music of the 80’s with Rubik’s Cube and The Song Sommelier

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The 80’s was a time of icons, innovation and upheaval. Musically the decade belonged to multiple enduring artists, but for puzzles there was only one – nothing could touch the explosive worldwide popularity of the ground-breaking Rubik’s Cube.

Hayley Woodward, Head Of Global Marketing at Rubik’s Brand, based in London, said, “Like so much music of the 80’s, the Rubik’s Cube has endured and been rediscovered by each new generation, and so it’s fitting that Rubik’s, the guardians of the unique cube, have teamed up with playlist curators The Song Sommelier on a new series of music collections showcasing the best songs of this classic decade.”

In honour of the Rubik’s Cube six-sided and six-colour conundrum, The Song Sommelier has created six colour themed playlists, each with Mick Clarke’s signature cover art and memoir-based sleeve notes by Song Sommelier’s curators:

Side Orange: The American Import Record Rack. Jules Gray was a Brit who largely eschewed the Linn-drum heavy electronic scene for more exotic sounds (like raw guitars, real drums) across the water in the USA. So that’s where we go first – into the American Import Record Racks of the Birmingham (England) record shops in which Jules spent a considerable part of his 80’s rummaging.

Side Green: American Dancefloor: Musique Non-Stop. The irony is, as Jules was crate digging for US imports, our American friends were doing everything they could to get hold of the latest British Electronica – and American clubs could not get enough – literally. Nick Rivers hunted it down through John Hughes films, the cooler us radio stations and the even cooler clubs, like New York’s Danceteria, or Medusa’s in Chicago. Here is his soundtrack.

Side Red: The New Romantics, is the soundtrack to growing up in a 2-bedroom tenement house in the outskirts of Glasgow during the early 80’s, when new romantics seemed to have been invented with the exact purpose of opening up life’s possibilities. Glasgow’s school discos were three steps ahead of the coolest clubs in NYC it seems. Visage, Duran Duran, Bronski Beat, Ultravox, Heaven 17 are included in a playlist of mostly banging hits and some corking album tracks from the time which still sounds great now.

Side Yellow: The Last Days Of Disco. The 1970’s provided us with the golden age of disco, but by 1980 the genre was showing signs of passing its sell-by date. Jostled off the floor by danceable pop and electronica, with punk, hip-hop and indie sharpening their elbows as well. Maybe, but we cast aside all those cheesy dance party playlists and go back to real disco, 80’s style. Gwen Guthrie leads out field of classy, fun and at times, brave disco hits of the 80’s.

Side Blue: The Alternative Movie Soundtrack. John Hughes’s seminal coming-of-age movies are a thing of 80’s pop culture legend. A triumvirate of undisputed classics The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off contain the usual hallmarks: a motley cast of teenage adolescents and the ups & downs of teenage life in American high schools. Those all-American movies were soundtracked with the British electronic pop and indie bands of the time: Simple Minds, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs. Taking our inspiration from one of the most powerful cultural contexts for music that decade, we’ve created our own alternative 80’s movie soundtrack.

Side White: The Spirit & Sound Of Hip Hop. Song Sommelier’s Eric Karsenty, born only a few months before the release of what is now considered as the first ever hip-hop track to be recorded, reflects on a genre he has studied through life, through multiple readings of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” by Jeff Chang and the opportunity to hang out with legendary hip-hop artists Q-Tip (ATCQ) and Maseo (De La Soul). Their nuggets about that era inform Eric’s unique playlist.

Hayley Woodward from Rubik’s Brand continued, “The 80’s was a decade full of tunes – whether those tunes came from teenagers who had just unboxed a Casio MT-68 synth a few days earlier and bashed out one-finger lines, or heavy metal bands (with better musicians) who’s songs frequently troubled the charts. It was the only decade you could wear a cravat around your wrist and look cool, Michael Stipe had hair and only the smartest people could solve the Rubik’s Cube.”