If I wanted to be extra-cynical I might be tempted to allocate about 30% of Scared's roster as "bands that influenced the Smiths," with the remaining 70% composed of "band's that were influenced by the Smiths." Unfortunately for me, a small-time music scribe, this collection of 134 artists isn't as conveniently monolithic as that, though the overarching tenor of the six+ hours of music featured here wouldn't be what it is without the shadows of such seminal antecedents like Aztec Camera, the Housemartins, and yes, The Smiths, looming so large overhead. Arguably the ground-zero year for UK indie-pop was 1986, which was literally codified in May of that year when a particular issue of NME magazine hit newsstands. Affixed to it was C86, a 22-track, gold-sleeved cassette issued in conjunction with Rough Trade Records of up and coming hopefuls, including on-deck indie luminaries Primal Scream, the Wedding Present, Mighty Lemon Drops, The Shop Assistants, McCarthy, the Pastels and the Soup Dragons among at least a dozen more. This veritable who's-who (to come, in many cases) wasn't merely representative of the year 1986, but a musical aesthetic virtually unto itself, typified by independent artists boasting a mid-fidelity penchant, often chockablock with jangly guitar chords, humble vocals, and relatable heart-on-sleeve prose, clearly bucking the far bolder, gaudier and frankly obnoxious Top-40 vendors that so dominated the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic. Scared to Get Happy contains selections (though not necessarily the same songs) from the brunt of the C86 tape roster, but goes 112 tunes better, thoroughly exploring what came before and after that seminal reel became so literally and metaphorically tangible.
Revisiting what I mentioned in the middle paragraph, not everyone here owes a sonic debt to Morrissey, Marr & Co, and in fact, you'll find some veritable departures from clangy guitar pop, evidenced by way of the comparatively avant leanings of We've Got a Fuzzbox..., Big Flame, Talulah Gosh, and Josef K. Virtually no significant sub-genre of UK indie pop (save for maybe shoegaze) is unrepresented here, and there are dozens of worthy unknown quantities that I didn't get to mention in this piece. A complete track list is depicted above, and as a side note, while the CD book-set incarnation of Scared to Get Happy has long sold out, 28 of its songs were condensed into a double LP vinyl set in 2017, not to mention another manageable, whittled down assemblage of 50 tunes that can be streamed at Amazon and Spotify. Links to the unabridged version are directly below, but I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that in 2013 I assembled a hypothetical sixth disk of what this box could have potentially contained. Feel free to dip into that one as well.