I’ve been getting more and more into early 1980s electronic weirdness, and as soon as I saw the cover of Rupert Hine’s Immunity over at my local vinyl digging hole, Vortex, I figured I had a potential winner. What I didn’t realize at the time is that Rupert Hine is legit. He’s been making music since the 1960s and made a serious name for himself as a producer working with some artists you’ve probably heard of like, you know, Tina Turner, Thompson Twins, The Fixx, Rush… that’s a pretty elite list. He’s been involved in a number of bands as a musician as well – you can read a pretty detailed bio of him on Wikipedia which I won’t reprint here.
Did I mention he did the music for the movie Better Off Dead??? While I won’t pretend to remember much about the soundtrack, that’s one of the cornerstone movies of the early to mid 1980s teen comedy genre, the fare that a lot of us 40-somethings came of age with. Major bonus points to Hine for that.
As for 1981s Immunity… this is an interesting record. There’s certainly an electronic vibe, sort of dark, dystopian pop from a not so distant future as viewed through the lens of the early 1980s. Whether it’s the synth matching the vocals syllable-by-syllable on the verses of “Surface Tension” or the tortured music and the painful directness and abruptness of the lyrics on “I Think a Man Will Hang Soon,” Hine is not going to let the listener get comfortable. In fact “I Think a Man Will Hang Soon” is almost industrial in nature, not necessarily relying on mechanical sounds, but in its use of traditional instruments in a disjointed way that only resembles machinery, with hammer-like drums and guitar/synths like some twisted computer processing information and spitting out punch cards. It’s actually startling. And if you want to talk super unusual, there’s “Psycho Surrender,” with it’s percussion sounds that include everything up to and probably including the kitchen sink. And those lyrics… those lyrics…
No you to
Remind me of
Things I should do.
— “Psycho Surrender”
Hine scored a minor hit with “Misplaced Love,” which almost cracked the Top 10 in Australia. I’ll confess I wasn’t sure about this song in the opening moments, but when the chorus and hook kick in… pure 1980s goodness, right down to the melancholy segue by Marianne Faithfull, making a guest appearance. And Faithfull isn’t the only well-known rocker to make an appearance on Immunity – Phil Collins does the percussion on “Immunity” and “Another Stranger” on side B. Lesser known but still well respected musicians like guitarist Phil Palmer and drummer Trevor Morais also join in to fill out the sound. Hine obviously had experience working with some of the top session players, and he made a point of bringing some of them to this record.
Side A is the more mainstream of the two. Normally on a record like this I say that of side B, as much because I’ve just gotten used to the artist’s sound as much as anything else. But in this case, side B is the much more experimental and unusual of the two. Immunity represents the kind of record that seemed to disappear from the store shelves for a long, long time, something experimental and unusual and unlikely to achieve mainstream success. The kind of thing that record companies don’t like to take a chance on. But as for me, I’m glad they did, because Hine put together an interesting and personal musical statement, one worth investing your time to explore.