From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Compilation album by
various artists
ReleasedMay 1986
GenreIndie pop, post-punk, indie rock, jangle pop, alternative rock
LabelRough Trade, NME
CompilerNeil Taylor, Adrian Thrills, Roy Carr
Various artists chronology
Pogo A Go Go!
Holiday Romance

C86 is a cassette compilation released by the British music magazine NME in 1986, featuring new bands licensed from British independent record labels of the time.[1] As a term, C86 quickly evolved into shorthand for a guitar-based music genre characterized by jangling guitars and melodic power pop song structures, although other musical styles were represented on the tape. In its time, it became a pejorative term for its associations with so-called "shambling" (a John Peel-coined description celebrating the self-conscious primitive approach of some of the music[2]) and underachievement. The C86 scene is now recognized as a pivotal moment for independent music in the UK,[3] as was recognized in the subtitle of the compilation's 2006 CD issue: CD86: 48 Tracks from the Birth of Indie Pop. 2014 saw the original compilation reissued in a 3CD expanded edition from Cherry Red Records;[4] the 2014 box-set came with an 11,500-word book of sleevenotes by one of the tape's original curators, former NME journalist Neil Taylor.

The C86 name was a play on the labelling and length of blank compact cassette, commonly C60, C90 and C120, combined with 1986.

The C86 cassette[edit]

The tape was a belated follow-up to C81, a more eclectic collection of new bands, released by the NME in 1981 in conjunction with Rough Trade. C86 was similarly designed to reflect the new music scene of the time. It was compiled by NME writers Roy Carr, Neil Taylor and Adrian Thrills, who licensed tracks from labels including Creation, Subway, Probe Plus, Dan Treacy's Dreamworld Records, Jeff Barrett's Head Records, Pink, and Ron Johnson. Readers had to pay for the tape via mail order, although an LP was subsequently released on Rough Trade on 24 November 1986.[5] The UK music press was in this period highly competitive, with four weekly papers documenting new bands and trends. There was a tendency to create and "discover" new musical subgenres artificially in order to heighten reader interest. NME journalists of the period subsequently agreed that C86 was an example of this, but also a byproduct of NME's "hip hop wars"[6] - a schism in the paper (and among readers) between enthusiasts of contemporary progressive black music (for example, by Public Enemy and Mantronix), and fans of guitar-based music, as represented on C86.

NME promoted the tape in conjunction with London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, who staged a week of gigs,[7] in July 1986 which featured most of the acts on the compilation.

The tape included tracks by some more abrasive bands atypical of the perceived C86 jangle pop aesthetic: Stump, Bogshed, A Witness, The Mackenzies, Big Flame and The Shrubs.

C86 was the twenty-third NME tape, although its catalogue number was NME022 (C81 had been dubbed COPY001). The rest of the tapes were compilations promoting labels' back catalogues and dedicated to R&B, Northern soul, jazz or reggae. C86 was followed up with a Billie Holiday compilation, Holiday Romance.[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Drowned in Sound(9/10)[10]
Stewart Lee(favourable)[11]
The Line of Best Fit(8/10)[12]
The Quietus(positive)[15]

Ex-NME writer Andrew Collins summed up C86 by dubbing it "the most indie thing to have ever existed".[16] Bob Stanley, a Melody Maker journalist in the late 1980s and founding member of pop band Saint Etienne, similarly said in a 2006 interview that C86 represented:

[the] beginning of indie music… It's hard to remember how underground guitar music and fanzines were in the mid-'80s; DIY ethics and any residual punk attitudes were in isolated pockets around the country and the C86 comp and gigs brought them together in an explosion of new groups.[17]

Martin Whitehead, who ran Subway in the late 1980s, added a new political dimension to the importance of C86."Before C86, women could only be eye-candy in a band; I think C86 changed that - there were women promoting gigs, writing fanzines and running labels."[18]

Some are more ambivalent about the tape's influence. Everett True, a writer for NME in 1986 under the name "The Legend!",[19] called it "unrepresentative of its times . . . and even unrepresentative of the small narrow strata of music it thought it was representing." Alastair Fitchett, editor of the music site Tangents (and a fan of many of the bands on the tape), takes a polemical line: "(The NME) laid the foundations for the desolate wastelands of what we came to know by that vile term 'Indie'. What more reason do you need to hate it?"[20] The Guardian published an article in 2014 debunking some of the negative myths about the cassette.[21]

In 2022, journalist Nige Tassell published the book Whatever Happened to the C86 Kids?: An Indie Odyssey, based on interviews with members of all 22 bands that had appeared on the cassette. It outlines the "many and varied paths through life" these musicians took over a period of more than three decades.[22]


In 1996, NME continued the tradition of compiling a new band album (this time a CD) by releasing C96. This had little impact, with Mogwai and Broadcast being the only acts on the compilation to subsequently enjoy mainstream success.[23] Three other bands on the compilation - Babybird, The Delgados and Urusei Yatsura - had brief success in the United Kingdom after the compilation's release.

NME have also collaborated with Rough Trade Records to release C09 in 2009 for Record Store Day[24] and with Bose Corporation to release C23 in 2023 for South by Southwest.[25]

The significance of C86 was recognized by several events marking the 20th anniversary of the compilation's release in 2006:

Cherry Red's 2014 expanded reissue was marked by an NME C86 show on 14 June 2014 at Venue 229, London W1; acts from the original compilation included The Wedding Present, David Westlake of The Servants, The Wolfhounds and A Witness.[28]

The 30-year anniversary of C86 saw the original compilation issued in a deluxe gatefold sleeved double-LP edition for Record Store Day 2016.[29]

Cherry Red Records issued an imagined sequel compilation titled C87 in 2016, followed by C88, C89, C90, C91 and the prequel C85.[30]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleContributing artistLength
1."Velocity Girl"Primal Scream1:21
2."Happy Head"The Mighty Lemon Drops2:43
3."Pleasantly Surprised"The Soup Dragons2:05
4."Feeling So Strange Again"The Wolfhounds1:42
5."Therese"The Bodines3:03
6."Law"Mighty Mighty3:39
8."Run to the Temple"Bogshed3:30
9."Sharpened Sticks"A Witness2:30
10."Breaking Lines"The Pastels2:58
11."From Now On, This Will Be Your God"Age of Chance3:17
Side two
No.TitleContributing artistLength
12."It's Up to You"Shop Assistants2:36
13."Firestation Towers"Close Lobsters1:46
14."Sport Most Royal"Miaow2:55
15."I Hate Nerys Hughes (From the Heart)"Half Man Half Biscuit3:43
16."Transparent"The Servants2:33
17."Big Jim (There's No Pubs in Heaven)"The Mackenzies2:36
18."New Way (Quick Wash and Brush Up with Liberation Theology)"Big Flame1:38
19."Console Me"We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It1:25
20."Celestial City"McCarthy3:00
21."Bullfighter's Bones"The Shrubs3:45
22."This Boy Can Wait"The Wedding Present3:59

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hann, Michael (14 June 2011). "NME releases a cassette that codifies music". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  2. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2006-10-23). "The C86 indie scene is back!". Timeout.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-02. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  3. ^ Bob Stanley, sleevenotes to CD86
  4. ^ Sean Michaels (14 March 2014). "NME's C86 compilation to be reissued with previously unheard tracks | Music". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  5. ^ "Record News". NME. IPC Media: 43. 15 November 1986.
  6. ^ "MUSIC | NME: Still rocking at 50". News.bbc.co.uk. 2002-02-24. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  7. ^ "Indie music and festivals - C86 review of c86 week". Indie-mp3.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2015-09-08. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "C86 - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  10. ^ Gourlay, Dom (2014-06-13). "Album Review: Various - C86: Deluxe Edition / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". Drownedinsound.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  11. ^ "Various Artists – C86 Deluxe 3 CD Edition : Stewart Lee - 41st Best Standup Ever!".
  12. ^ "Album Review: Various Artists -C86". Thelineofbestfit.com. 2014-06-16. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  13. ^ Heller, Jason (10 June 2014). "Various Artists: C86". Pitchfork Media.
  14. ^ "Various Artists: C86 (Deluxe 3CD Edition)". PopMatters.com. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  15. ^ "Reviews | Various Artists". Thequietus.com. 2014-07-15. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  16. ^ Andrew Collins, Wan Love, Indie RIP; Word Magazine, October 2006
  17. ^ Bob Stanley, Uncut magazine, February 2006.
  18. ^ [2] Archived July 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ [3] Archived May 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Tangents fun'n'frenzy filled web site". Tangents.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  21. ^ Michael Hann (14 March 2014). "C86: The myths about the NME's indie cassette debunked". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  22. ^ Nige Tassell (8 August 2022). "Reel lives: how I tracked down the class of NME's C86 album". The Guardian. Retrieved 2023-04-30.
  23. ^ "Tangents fun'n'frenzy filled web site". Tangents.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  24. ^ "Jarvis Cocker, Jeffrey Lewis give away new tracks on Record Store Day release". NME. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 2023-03-23.
  25. ^ "Bose X NME C23". NME. Retrieved 2023-03-23.
  26. ^ "Featured Content on Myspace". Myspace.com. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  27. ^ "Home | Institute of Contemporary Arts". Ica.org.uk. 2015-04-22. Archived from the original on 2006-12-03. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  28. ^ "NME C86: The Wedding Present + more". Timeout.com. 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  29. ^ "Various Artists (26) - C86". BBC Music. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-05-13. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  30. ^ "C (4) Label". Discogs. Retrieved 2023-03-23.

External sources[edit]