A year-defining tune, in 1985 ‘19’ reached No.1 in at least a dozen countries. It topped the local (NZ) charts for four weeks. As an anti-war statement it did much to expose the perils of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to a wider public who otherwise wouldn’t have had much of a clue. It was also a standalone groundbreaking piece of music; something akin to the full horror of Apocolypse Now gate-crashing the global pop charts, its bleak “futility of war” documentary narrative given extra weight by the cut and paste feel of the sample-based electro underpinning it.
14 versions of one track may seem like an awful lot of very little, but a cross pollination of styles means that very little often goes an awfully long way. It’s a no-skip deal, from unrepentantly hard-edged electro remixes, to softer more reflective mixes like the very soulful ‘Inner Changes’ remix. The best thing here is the sublime ‘Nua’ remix, which mashes up Hardcastle’s work with Marvin Gaye’s 1971 anti-war anthem ‘What’s Going On’. The spit and polish job applied to the ever popular ‘Destruction Mix’ is another obvious highlight, while perhaps the biggest curiosity in the set is Hardcastle’s earliest home-produced demo version.
Despite having had a long career as a musician and producer, as a master of all things “chill”, and a big-selling purveyor of smooth jazz albums, Hardcastle hasn’t always been given enough credit for just how much of a game-changer ‘19’ was. While it’s never been talked about in the hushed tones of a ‘Blue Monday’, or a ‘Planet Rock’, or given chops for its wider sonic influence, ‘19’ remains an important artefact for innovative sample-based music simply because of the worldwide reach it achieved at the time.
The samples on ‘19’ are taken from an ABC television documentary called Vietnam Requiem, which was narrated by one Peter Thomas, who eventually received his fair share of the track’s royalties. I doubt the same can be said for the returned Vietnam vets whose interview dialogue was sequenced out of context. It’s great to see that proceeds from the sale of this latest release have been pledged to PTSD charity Talking2Minds.
Here’s that Marvin Gaye mash …