Friday, April 17, 2009

86 - Esoteric Champions of Atlanta Postpunk

Here is the download:
86 - Part One (Incl. Closely Guarded Secret and Minutes In A Day)
86 - Part Two (Incl. Provocation)
86 - Part Three (Incl. Way To Go and Singles/Comp. Tracks)
86 - Part Four (Incl. Live at the Metroplex - 1987)

Here is the listing:
1-7: Closely Guarded Secret
8-13: Minutes In A Day
14-25: Provocation
26-34: Way To Go (Live at the Metroplex in 1986)
35-36: "Useless/Behind My Back" 1983 Single
37: "Man Overhead" from Twilight Records Compilation
38: "Inside" from Youth Culture Single
39-49: Live at the Metroplex in 1987

This post has been a long time coming, but I like to be as complete as possible in my coverage of bands on this blog, so I spent a long time connecting the gaps of their discography in my collection, and then procrastinating based on the amount of workload involved in a post such as this. I would like to graciously thank Rob Easterday for the Closely Guarded Secret and Way To Go albums, and Kim from Pineal Ventana for the soundboard recording of the show from 1987, and a certain unnamed friend of the band for some other bits and pieces included here. My intention is for this blog to really be a central gathering point for all these bands and their music (which has been out of print for years or decades) to be available for everyone to enjoy, and people like Kim and Rob really help so much in achieving this. Many thanks.

I only knew of 86 as a classic Atlanta postpunk band from the 688/Metroplex era circa 1983-1988, and would always see their Closely Guarded Secret and Minutes In A Day albums in record bins around town, but otherwise had no knowledge of them. Eventually I purchased Provocation and Minutes In A Day so I could hear what they were all about, but for some reason by that time the Closely Guarded Secret album all of a sudden became difficult to find. I never even made the connection that Mac McNeilly was the same drummer for The Jesus Lizard, among so many others, was also the drummer for 86. Yet another story of a local drummer taking the world by storm ala Kyle Spence and Gerhard Fuchs.

Listening to their music, they seem to be great guys and a great band of the era, in a family along with Honor Role or even a Mission of Burma. Definitely knew what they were doing, and some really professional drumming. I can see how Mac helped made Jesus Lizard what they were. I also liked how every member sang in the band, and seemed very democratic and diverse in their approach. Personally I lean towards the "Way To Go" Live album as my favorite of their recordings, as their music seems to translate better in a live setting and you can get a better picture of what they were about. I'm sure they played some amazing shows, but you really don't hear much about them outside the people in Atlanta who were around at the time. There is hardly anything on the interweb about them, and only a Myspace page and some Youtube videos to give any further glimpses into who they were. I did find this article about them in Trouser Press:

Like Honor Role, 86 was one of the few mid-'80s Southern indie bands immune to jangle-pop obsessions. Melodrama and juvenilia plagued its records, but, for the time and place, the Atlanta trio was worth noting.

Firmly rooted in collegiate post-punk, Closely Guarded Secret contains lots of new wave fallout and youthful squirreliness. Well-played but anonymous, the seven-song mini-LP is simple but enjoyable. Despite lame vocals, Ken Schenck's choppy, early-U2-ish guitar playing saves the ship. And is that a Police influence on "No Answer"?
The artier Minutes in a Day is less redolent of the rehearsal room. Mac McNeilly has matured into a tricky, hard-hitting drummer. Schenck loosens the reigns and cranks up the squawk. The dark title track is a guilty pleasure of edgy rhythms and reverb.
The final studio album dispenses with some of the amateurish tendencies of prior work. Max Koshewa's newly fattened bass thickens the previously anemic bottom end. Confident, louder compositions allow Schenck to squiggle all over the place. His solos weave a crooked, luminous path as the rhythm section locks into position. Still, the album suffers from whiny, Anglo-fixated vocals, clich├ęd lyrics (advice: don't print 'em) and overt politeness.
86 was reportedly one hell of a live act. To capitalize on that, its label issued Way to Go, a limited, farewell attempt to capture the onstage experience.
After 86 bit the dust, McNeilly picked up a bass and played in Phantom 309, who split an EP with Shenck's next project, the Sun Also Rises. Mac later reclaimed his drum throne for a long stint with the Jesus Lizard, netting his original group some posthumous notoriety.

Here is a video from their Myspace page, just to give you an idea what it was all about, or maybe give you a nice rush of nostalgia for those good old days:

Ken Schenck

Max Koshewa

Mac McNeilly


  1. Mac, along with Greg Psomas (DDT), was a huge influence on me as a wee drummer. I tried to hit as hard as Mac and as fast as Greg and failed miserably.

    86 was a tornado of psych-pop live, and I'll never forget watching Ken and Mac and Max go at it in vivo. Great, great band.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

  2. I though that the 1986 Metroplex show was the last for them? Can you shed a little light on that 1987 recording? Thanks!

  3. I am definitely not the expert on 86, but maybe someone can give us the full story. Several songs from their last show are posted on Youtube, so we can hopefully get to the bottom of this.

  4. Actually the last show was Metroplx march 88, recorded in full 24 trck molile. Youtube has lots of new posts of audio from the metal tapes made for us after the show synched with video and effects. I give you guys the full story later. Ken

  5. Hey Ken - thanks for clearing it up. I hope that last show can somehow see the light of day, maybe a limited CD/DVD release perhaps?

  6. P.S. - I hope you liked the post I did. If you have any additions, corrections, or other please send me an email and I will follow-up.

  7. The post is amazing and thanks. Sent you an email too. Those involved in the CD/DVD construction hope to have it for public consumption soon.

  8. Great article! Sorry I'm so late to the party, though--woulda been nice to give a shout-out to the infamous Kenneth Brim Schenck!

    If you ever get this, I miss yas, old friend.


  9. Thank you for posting this. I was ripping all my 86 records to mp3 and came across this looking for cover images. You saved me a lot of time! I agree with what was said above. In the south in the mid-80s, 86 stood out from all the R.E.M. wannabes. I got to see them a couple of times and they were a hot live band.

  10. Hey Thomas - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I wish I had been able to see 86, and thought that they were possibly involved in the Metroplex reunion that happened a little while back at the Masquerade, but I wasn't in town for the show. Maybe if Mac is winding down his work with Jesus Lizard, he can do a quick 86 show somewhere. That would be excellent.

  11. Saw them on the Student center @ G.T. IN 80 something. Many times @ 688, Plex..
    Thanks for putting those albums for down load..

  12. Thanks Robert - supposedly there is rumor of a CD reissue (box set?) of all the albums, which would be awesome. I would love to get pristine recordings of these.

  13. Holy shit, I remembered "Behind My Back" from my childhood. Now I'm a musician too, and that haunting guitar playing a nonstop open-second is one of those instances of an unspoken influence having a major ripple effect. Thanks for this.

  14. Hey anonymous sender - I'm glad you were able to find this music here, as it can be pretty difficult to find these days in stores. 86 was one of those bands whose legacy is not widely known, which is really a shame in Atlanta because they were one of the greatest bands this town has ever produced. Hopefully the word will spread as time goes on, especially if the albums get reissued one day.

  15. Thanks so much for the post. I loved 86. They were loud and arty and rockin and just perfect. A great band and great guys.
    Hey Ken - I hope life is treating you well.

    Tara from Morgantown, then RVA, now Oregon!

  16. I first saw 86 perform on the steps of Ga Tech student center in 1985 and was transfixed (and missed the class I was headed to). Never missed a show at the Metroplex, White Star, Dugout... after that. Went to see them in Greenville, SC at the start of the Provocation tour. Saw the final show at the Metroplex - where the hell were all those people at the previous shows?

    Amazing band. They were really cool people as well as incredible musicians. I really miss 86 playing live. So glad I got see so many times.

  17. I saw them in 88 or 89 opening for the Fluid who were out supporting their newly released "Clear Black Paper" on Sub Pop.

  18. Amazing live band, they were a huge favorite every time they played in Richmond. Thanks for the post.

  19. I saw 86 at a little basement club in Raleigh, NC called the Fallout Shelter probably around 1985 or 1986? Completely blown away. Scrape my jaw off the floor stunned. I had never heard of them before. A friend afterwards bought Minutes In A Day, and that got plenty of turntable time. I've always wanted my own copy, and on a whim searched for them on Youtube, and found the song Minutes In A Day. I posted it on facebook, and a (different) friend responded with the link to this page. Very cool stuff.

  20. Thanks Geoff - I wish I was old enough to see them myself. Maybe they'll do a one off show in Atlanta one day.

  21. I sure hope we do a one off show-Mac and Max are up fer it-Jim and Brian-you're both right. The Hagstrom Impala was prewired for a 3rd pickup, so I put one in. Thus making a Corvette. Thanks all y'all for writing in. Love to hear about that 3 disc compilation. Running out of royalty $$$ hanging with the Kardashians. Ha ha. Later-K

  22. Geoff- I remember seeing 86 in Raleigh also...I have an extra copy of Minutes in a Day if you still want a copy and in Raleigh...

  23. I had a friend from Raleigh who asked me to rip Closely and Minutes and I definitely fell for the band pretty quick. Thanks for quick access--I snagged the vinyl when I could find it, but this is way easier and won't degrade the stuff more from excess playing!

    1. I saw them for the first time at the Metroplex. Went to Wax n Facts the next day and waited for them to unlock the door. I bought "Minutes In A Day" and commenced to play it 4 million times. I wore that vinyl out. I believe to this day that 86 might very well be the best product to come out of Atlanta and I am aware that there is quite a list of eligibles for that honor.

  24. ...from Atlanta. Shouldn't have posted that while so tired.

  25. on a separate note, can anyone tell me: "That makes mankind seem like/???"
    What on earth that next line is?

  26. My first 86 show was also the Ga Tech one in 85. It was a life-changing experience. I had a big crush on Mac McNeilly.

  27. Hey FangsFirst - I finally got a copy of Closely Guarded Secret recently, so I can cross that off the list. I thought I heard talk from Mac that they would play a show sometime, but nothing more than that.

  28. I saw 86 several times in Greensboro an they were the loudest band in the world.

  29. I saw 86 live at a club I can't remember the name in something like 1986-87. It changed my life and I've been looking for their music since. I had them on vinyl once a long time ago. If any members of 86 ever read this, your music was, and is, everything to me. Thanks for making for a memorable youth!

  30. This is an awesome post. I have been looking for downloads for 86 forever.
    I saw them for the first time in 80something at the Metroplex. I was floored by them. I thought I played drums until I saw Mac playing this little kit. He beat it into submission. changed me forever.