August 16, 2011

1980s Rock

1980s rock music is rather looked down upon these days, but it seemed pretty good at the time and seems not too bad in retrospect. Here's a reader's poll from electric guitar maker Gibsons of 1980s songs. (There's no requirement that they feature electric guitars, but, given the site, not surprisingly, they almost all do). One thing I would note is that this was still the long era, beginning with the Beatles, when the general superiority in stylishness of British rock music was taken for granted. Of the 25 tracks, 12 are American and 13 from the British Commonwealth / British Isles. 

Gibson.com Readers Poll – Greatest Song of the ’80s

1. AC/DC, “Back in Black” (1981)
2. Iron Maiden, “The Number of the Beast” (1982)
3. AC/DC, “Shoot to Thrill” (1980)
4. Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing” (1984)
5. Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (1985)
6. Roxy Music, “More Than This” (1982)
7. Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987)
8. R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987)
9. Van Halen, “Jump” (1984)
10. Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (1988)
11. Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House” (1983) 
12. Neil Young, “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989)
13. Pixies, “Monkey Gone to Heaven” (1989)
14. John Hiatt, “Slow Turning” (1988)
15. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1983)
16. Bruce Springsteen, “I’m on Fire” (1985)
17. Guns N’ Roses, “Paradise City” (1988)
18. Fine Young Cannibals, “She Drives Me Crazy” (1989)
19. John Lennon, “(Just Like) Starting Over” (1980)
20. U2, “Where the Streets Have No Name” (1987)
21. Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Pride and Joy” (1983)
22. Rush, “Tom Sawyer” (1981)
23. Split Enz, “I Got You” (1980)
24. Modern English, “I Melt with You” (1982)
25. U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (1984)

The Gibsons critics' poll is decent, too, although their #1 choice, "London Calling" by The Clash seems curious. "London Calling" has always struck me as about the 17th best Clash song ever. It's monumental in style, but seems underwritten, as if it needs another hook of some sort. I believe somebody could take the catchy bass line from The Pretenders' "Mystery Achievement," which was released the same week in December 1979, and add it to "London Calling," and you'd have a better song. The critics poll:

1. The Clash, “London Calling” (1980)
2. Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (1988)
3. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1983)
4. Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987)
5. Public Enemy, “Fight the Power” (1989)
6. AC/DC, “You Shook Me All Night Long (1980)
7. Prince, “When Doves Cry” (1984)
8. Def Leppard, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (1987)
9. Van Halen, “Jump” (1984)
10. Duran Duran, “Hungry Like The Wolf” (1982)
11. Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure” (1981)
12. U2, “With or Without You” (1987)
13. Bruce Springsteen, “The River” (1981)
14. Bon Jovi , “Livin’ on a Prayer” (1986)
15. New Order, “Blue Monday” (1983)
16. Prince, “1999” (1982)
17. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “I Love Rock ’n Roll” (1981)
18. U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (1984)
19. Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” (1981)
20. Joy Division, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980)
21. The Police, “Every Breath You Take” (1983)
22. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message” (1982)
23. Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House” (1983)
24. The Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up” (1981)
25. Van Halen, “Hot for Teacher” (1984)
26. Squeeze, “Tempted” (1981)
27. Run-D.M.C., “Walk This Way” (1986)
28. Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing” (1984)
29. The Smiths, “How Soon is Now?” (1985)
30. Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981)
31. R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987)
32. U2, “Where the Streets Have No Name” (1987)
33. Motörhead, “Ace of Spades” (1980)
34. R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe (1981)
35. Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train” (1980)
36. Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again” (1987)
37. Madonna, “Like a Prayer” (1989)
38. Mötley Crüe, “Dr. Feelgood” (1989)
39. Beastie Boys, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” (1987)
40. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Come on Eileen” (1982)
41. Michael Jackson, “Beat It” (1983)
42. Devo, “Whip It” (1980)
43. Guns N’ Roses, “Paradise City” (1988)
44. Big Country, “In a Big Country” (1983)
45. Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight” (1981)
46. AC/DC, “Back in Black” (1981)
47. Madonna, “Like a Virgin” (1984)
48. The Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian” (1986)
49. Sonic Youth, “Teen Age Riot” (1988)
50. The B-52’s, “Love Shack” (1989)

The fan choices are less diverse demographically than the critic choices. The fans picked overwhelmingly male groups (Pixies and Talking Heads had one woman each). The critics choices had two Madonna songs, a Bangles, and a Joan Jett, plus gender mixed groups Sonic Youth, B-52s, and Talking Heads.

Racially, the fans put Michael Jackson's Billie Jean at #15 (kind of a hard song to avoid for a 1980s list), but no Prince or any rappers. Fan favorites Guns n Roses have a half-black guitarist in Slash and the Van Halen brothers are a little Indonesian. Fine Young Cannibals was a mixed race offshoot of the mixed race band the English Beat.

The critics were somewhat more open to black artists, putting not just "Billie Jean" but also "Beat It" (with Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo) on their Top 50. They also chose two Prince songs, and three rap songs by blacks. Not surprisingly, they are exactly the three you'd expect white critics to come up with: Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," Run-D.M.C.'s remake with the two guys from Aerosmith of "Walk this Way" (which helped relaunch Aerosmith, who had seemed washed up, but they turned out to be so much better than the fat black guys on that track), and Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" from Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing." (And Journey had Randy from American Idol as their bass player.)

It seems like music culture got more racially segregated over time. If you were conducting a poll not in 2011 but in 1981 of fans and critics interested in guitars of the best recordings of the 1950s, certainly Chuck Berry would have been heavily represented, plus Muddy Waters and some other blues musicians.

Offhand, I don't notice any Asians or Hispanics on the list, although Los Lobos's 1987 remake of Richie Valens "La Bamba" might have featured some of the more thrillingly precise guitar playing of the decade.

Most of these artists had short careers at the top, with obvious exceptions such as U2, Springsteen, Madonna, AC/DC, Ossy Osbourne, and REM. I don't know why 1980s artists tended to have short careers relative to 1960s-70s artists. Worse drugs? More competition?

I suspect fewer careers started quite as young as previously. The British Invasion bands were very young when they made a splash in 1964-65, but they were kicking in an open door. There was nobody ahead of them with a similar sound, so they could become stars when they were musically immature and then dazzle everybody by maturing into their peaks in their late 20s. With the Beatles, say, "Hey Jude" was a whole lot better than "Love Me Do." They got a lot of credit not just for being as great as they were on "Hey Jude" but also for not being as bad anymore as they had been on "Love Me Do."

In contrast, by the 1980s, outside of rap most of the obvious niches were already occupied. Artists were expected to be pretty mature musically by the time a lot of money was invested in a music video for them. By the 1980s, nobody was going to notice a "Love Me Do." You needed to be up to at least a "Daytripper" level to get noticed. So, that left less time at the top.

Let me try a baseball analogy. It's easier to get to 300 wins or 3000 hits if you can start in the majors at age 19 or 20. But if the competition gets tougher and the learning demands get higher so now you are expected to do, say, 3 years in college and 2 years in the minors so you don't get to start until, say, 23, it's just harder to pile up huge career numbers.

Can't tell you how many of these musicians were gay. Freddie Mercury and one of the guys in the B-52s died of AIDS. Morrisey of The Smiths and Michael Stipe of REM are, presumably, gay. Joan Jett is, presumably, a lesbian. Michael Jackson was weird.

Lots of guys who seemed kind of gay turned out not to be: Bowie, Jagger, Prince. Elegant Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music has four kids. In general, guitar rock is pretty straight.

One of the genres I always liked was the Brideshead Revisited style of Brit Fop Rock where, typically, working class kids like Ferry pretended to be all genteel.  I was amused to learn that Ferry, the son of a pit pony driver (in a coal mine?) but now a Tory country gentleman, is the father of Otis Ferry, who is perhaps Britain's most often arrested crusader for the defense of foxhunters' rights -- a character out of Evelyn Waugh. (In contrast, Joe Strummer of the Clash was a boarding school boy whose father, a diplomat who held the secret codes at various British embassies, was a good friend of Kim Philby).

Combining the the readers and critics lists:

6. Roxy Music, “More Than This” (1982)
24. Modern English, “I Melt with You” (1982)
10. Duran Duran, “Hungry Like The Wolf” (1982) (or "Rio"?)
11. Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure” (1981)
15. New Order, “Blue Monday” (1983) (or "Temptation" from 1981, where the real hook -- "Oh, you've got green eyes ..." -- doesn't emerge for many minutes)
20. Joy Division, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1980)
29. The Smiths, “How Soon is Now?” (1985)

I'd add The Cure's "In Between Days" as another 1980s classic of jangly toff rock.

If you add together the 50 songs on the critics list and the 25 songs on the readers list, you get 46 from 1980-1984 and 29 from 1985-1989, which accords with my general perception that rock was losing momentum in the 1980s. Of course, I was losing momentum as I was getting older, too, but now I have statistical proof that my late 1980s complaint ("Rock music just isn't as awesome anymore as it was in December 1979, and get off my lawn!") was right.

236 comments:

1 – 200 of 236   Newer›   Newest»
Truth said...

Tom Sawyer, under Welcome to the Jungle, and In The Air Tonight nowhere to be found, are they Fucking insane?!?!

Steve Sailer said...

Both Tom Sawyer and In the Air Tonight make the Critics' Top 50.

Claverhouse said...

America's not part of the British Commonwealth anymore ?


Damme, I must have missed the memo...

Paul Mendez said...

Why so many 80's songs about unemployment/de-industrialization (Springsteen, Mellancamp, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Sawyer Brown, Gary US Bonds, et al) and nothing today?

U.S. 80's-90's said...

I rush to agree that "London Calling" is a mostly atmospheric song that's aged poorly. #4 Dire Straits--that's a deliberate parody-homage of post-Eliminator ZZ Top of course, however it does have a certain Brit art-school sensibility. p.s. the persistence of the Pixies is puzzling.

hbd chick said...

what, no devo? or the cars?! (^_^)

temptation is a great song. well, great in a catchy, synthesizer sort-of way.

i saw new order @the aragon ballroom in, oh my gosh, 1986. they were pretty good live, too. sounded just like the album tracks. (omg, maybe they were just lip synching!) (^_^)

anony-mouse said...

No ZZ?

No Superfreak (not the sampling and copying, I mean the original)

Anonymous said...

Of the 25 tracks, 12 are American and 13 from the British Commonwealth.

Ireland (U2) is not and was not part of the Commonwealth

Anonymous said...

Funny how all of that British neo-soul music is absent. No Culture Club,Wham! or Yaz/Allison Moyet?

Where are all the serious lyricists? The Jam and Paul Weller. The Specials, Elvis Costello, The Housemartins. All political all really brilliant lyricists.

They got replaced by pretty models like Duran Duran etc..

Metal was the music of the jocks and stoners- I never really acquired a taste for it. By 1988 with bands like Cinderella and Motley Crue dominating LA I hated it.

If you love Brideshead Revisited foppery at it's best you must hear The Divine Comedy * "Assume the Perpindiculur" is especially brilliant

David said...

>America's not part of the British Commonwealth anymore ?<

We still are. What do you think the Libor rate is all about?

Steve Sailer said...

The Aragon Ballroom in Chicago -- I used to get my dry cleaning done across the street. All these great bands played there -- I think I saw U2 and the Clash there.

But, the acoustics were always lousy there. The funny thing is that they were always like that. I was once Googling my late father-in-law's name and came upon a book about the history of dancehalls in Chicago (the author interviewed him for the book). It turned out that within two weeks of the Aragon opening in the 1920s, it had a reputation for bad acoustics, which endured in the 21st Century, judging by the last concert I went to there in 2000.

Steve Sailer said...

British neo-soul: "Tempted" by Squeeze (1980) makes the critics' list. I thought it was a new Stevie Wonder song when I first heard it.

hbd chick said...

i spent more time @the cabaret metro than the aragon. but my father still talks about how the sound was lousy @the aragon. and he always likes to remind me that he saw bill haley & the comets there -- and that that was good music. (^_^)

Anonymous said...

"America's not part of the British Commonwealth anymore ?


Damme, I must have missed the memo..."

Welcome to 1776-present, Rip.

kurt9 said...

British pop is popular in the U.S. during the feel good times (early to mid 60's and 80's), but is not popular at all during the angst-driven times (70's, early 90's, 00's). This is because Brit pop has a softer sound to it than most American music.

Anonymous said...

No Journey, no Foreigner?

well

ok.

Wes said...

Rock seems to be dead, replaced by dance and pop. Is this a consequence of White demographic and cultural decline in the US (and especially the emasculation of White males)? As far as I can tell, it has been at least 15 years since anyone cared who was in a band the way people used to from the 60s through the 80s.

The cultural assertiveness of bands like Led Zeppelin through AC/DC to 80s metal seem like something from another age.

Steve Sailer said...

Journey's Don't Stop Believing, another song with the hook at the end, is on the critics' list.

I point these examples out because I'm kind of interested in how there's a rough consensus.

Glaivester said...

Someone mentioned British neo-soul and didn't mention ABC?

I must say that I am surprised that Split Enz is widely enough remembered to be on the list.

"Blue Monday" is, to me, one of those annoying songs where the beat is wonderful and the song sounds great, but the refusal to adhere to the obvious rhyming scheme makes the song disonant - it's not like they subverted a rhyme in a clever way, they just had areas that obvious should have rhymed and they didn't bother. A lot of songs do that nowadays.

Steve Sailer said...

People who liked Split Enz really liked Split Enz. I have a hard time telling them apart from a lot of other new wave bands with linear guitar strumming and synth on the chorus. Maybe it was a Kiwi nationalist thing or maybe I was missing something.

Anonymous said...

Loved Johnny Marr, Neil Finn, Elvis Costello. No Joe Jackson or Prefab Sprout?

slumber_j said...

Elvis Costello was like Jesus to me back then, but it's hard to think of a well-known 80s song of his that would make it into a list like these. Although Guns N' Roses were much less my style, I've gotta say that nowadays I would elevate their stuff a little more--certainly above Iron Maiden, say. And Mr. Sailer's right about "London Calling," much though I loved it at the time.

But as to all that: so what?

A few years ago I found myself in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria sitting across a coffee table from Elvis Costello at what I guess you'd describe as the after-party following a benefit in the ballroom there. Nobody was talking to him, and I wasn't talking to anybody...and I just couldn't bring myself to say a word to him. It's remarkable how the awestruck teenager you once were can still control you sometimes.

Anonymous said...

The cultural assertiveness of bands like Led Zeppelin through AC/DC to 80s metal seem like something from another age.

I don't know, I think it's that the musical audience is a lot more fragmented than it used to be. Back in the day every young white man listened to Zep to some extent. You don't have that uniformity any more.

I dropped off the musical grid several years back but they were still making good rock at that point.

Anonymous said...

No ZZ Top? "Afterburner" was awesome.

"Journey's Don't Stop Believing, another song with the hook at the end, is on the critics' list.

I point these examples out because I'm kind of interested in how there's a rough consensus."

Is there really a consensus? Music is such a personal thing. I imagine some song can float to the top of a poll like this if it gets 9%. Also, to the degree there is a consensus, perhaps it depends on what's in the rotation of Clear Channel's nationwide oldies station clones at the time of the poll.

O.T. (70's music), what happened to Stairway to Heaven? I used to hear it on my car radio at least once a week from the early 80's to the late 90's. Now I come across it on the dial maybe once a year, at most.

Steve Sailer said...

Many years after he became a star, Costello made himself a much technically better singer. I remember seeing him sing on the Larry Sanders Show in the 1990s, and being struck by how lovely his tone was by now.

Anonymous said...

No ZZ Top? "Afterburner" was awesome.

"Journey's Don't Stop Believing, another song with the hook at the end, is on the critics' list.

I point these examples out because I'm kind of interested in how there's a rough consensus."

Is there really a consensus? Music is such a personal thing. I imagine some song can float to the top of a poll like this if it gets 9%. Also, to the degree there is a consensus, perhaps it depends on what's in the rotation of Clear Channel's nationwide oldies station clones at the time of the poll.

O.T. (70's music), what happened to Stairway to Heaven? I used to hear it on my car radio at least once a week from the early 80's to the late 90's. Now I come across it on the dial maybe once a year, at most.

slumber_j said...

Absolutely right about Costello's development as a singer. Later that night, he favored those of us left in that hotel living room with an a capella rendition of some recent composition of his, and it was really beautiful.

Steve Sailer said...

I'm as sick as everybody my age of Stairway to Heaven but I posted a link a couple of months ago to the great mid-1990s Page-Plant live version of Kashmir with the Egyptian band.

That's kind of an interesting phenomenon: Zeppelin was both overrated at the time and really that good. Stairway to Heaven was a fad, but then they came back and topped it with Kashmir.

That's not all that uncommon among the all time greats. Why is everybody nuts over the Mona Lisa? On the other hand, Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine doesn't have a cult but deserves one. So, while there's a lot of randomness in which individual work of art becomes a huge whoop tee doo, there's less randomness in which artists.

FF said...

*Maybe it was a Kiwi nationalist thing or maybe I was missing something.*

Perhaps Enz spin-off, Crowded House is a better contender.

From '87 the haunting "Don't Dream It's Over" and the great freeway song,"Something So Strong".

Anonymous said...

"O.T. (70's music), what happened to Stairway to Heaven? I used to hear it on my car radio at least once a week from the early 80's to the late 90's. Now I come across it on the dial maybe once a year, at most."

WMGK here in Philly plays three Zep songs at 7 PM every day. I heard Stairway last week.

Sorry?

Steve Sailer said...

"I dropped off the musical grid several years back but they were still making good rock at that point."

I hear new stuff on the radio not infrequently that would be a legend if it had been released in 1969 or 1979.

I think a lot of the rock age was driven by exploration of the possibilities of the electric guitar. That took a long time to work through but eventually you reach diminishing returns.

Perhaps the synthesizer is a little like free verse: too much is possible, so it's hard to tell where to begin. You can do anything with it now, so what do you do? Maybe the synth was more inspiring when it was extremely technically limited, like on the Who's 1971 Won't Get Fooled Again.

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly almost all the guitar-heavy songs on the list feature Gibson guitars:

1. AC/DC, “Back in Black” (1981)
--Gibson SG--
2. Iron Maiden, “The Number of the Beast” (1982)
--Gibson Les Paul--
3. AC/DC, “Shoot to Thrill” (1980)
--Angus Young again on the SG--
4. Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing” (1984)
--Mark Knopfler on Les Paul. This oneis remarkable because he had played Fender Stratocasters for years and was definitely one of the best Strat players ever. His Les Paul work is not nearly as good.
5. Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (1985)
--not a guitar song and I have no idea what they played--
6. Roxy Music, “More Than This” (1982)
--soft rock, I have no idea, their guitarist played all sorts of guitars over the years--
7. Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987)
--Slash on Gibson Les Paul--
8. R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987)
--not positive, but I think this was Rickenbacker which gives that "jangly" guitar sound--
9. Van Halen, “Jump” (1984)
--I think Eddie Van Halen was playing Kramer guitars but for all intents and purposes, he created his own guitars. He's one of the unique technicians, like Brian May of Queen who did this--
10. Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (1988)
--Slash again on Les Paul--
11. Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House” (1983)
--not a guitar song--
12. Neil Young, “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989)
--I think Neil was using one of the Gibson hollow body models for this--
13. Pixies, “Monkey Gone to Heaven” (1989)
--Gibson Les Paul, and for the person who asked why the Pixies are on the list is because they were hugely influential on the grunge movement that followed in the '90s--
14. John Hiatt, “Slow Turning” (1988)
--dunno--
15. Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean” (1983)
--disco--
16. Bruce Springsteen, “I’m on Fire” (1985)
--The Boss has always played Fender Telecasters but this song is one of the softest he ever recorded--
17. Guns N’ Roses, “Paradise City” (1988)
--see above--
18. Fine Young Cannibals, “She Drives Me Crazy” (1989)
--Not guitar music, but the guitarist was in the band The English Beat before this--
19. John Lennon, “(Just Like) Starting Over” (1980)
--dunno, but Lennon tended to like Gibsons after the Beatles gave up their Rickenbachers, blame Yoko--
20. U2, “Where the Streets Have No Name” (1987)
--The Edge on Gibson Explorer--
21. Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Pride and Joy” (1983)
--This is a noteable exception. SRV played Fender Strat and stuck with it to his death---
22. Rush, “Tom Sawyer” (1981)
--Alex Lifeson on Gibson Les Paul, I love these guys and I am such a nerd--
23. Split Enz, “I Got You” (1980)
--dunno--
24. Modern English, “I Melt with You” (1982)
--dunno, but I would guess Gibson hollow body--
25. U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (1984)
--The Edge, I think his name is Paul Mullins, again on Gibson Explorer--

Sorry for such a long post. Hope you find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

NO Smiths???

eh said...

Doobie Brothers - Real Love

Funky beginning. Took me a while to appreciate the song. Underrated.

Anonymous said...

I not sure I follow your Brideshead allusion. I do recall the 'New Romantic' movement where the boys wore makeup and effeminate outfits (following Bowie). I suppose you could say there was a touch of Sebastian Flyte about them; high camp and all that. But I hope you're not suggesting that Charles Ryder was some kind of social climber or arriviste. He was a thorough gentleman; certainly no aristocrat but from a respectable background; son of an Army Colonel, good school, Oxford, etc.
Gilbert Pinfold.

Anonymous said...

I'll say this much for bands back then - the stuff you heard on the radio was (almost) always written by the people performing it.

But modern music is much more "artificially produced". Look up the songwriters on some of the big hits you hear today and you see that they were created by teams of professional songwriters, with the performing artist sometimes given nominal writing credit to make things look respectable.

Brent Lane said...

Funny how musical memory works. Joe Jackson is a great example of someone who used his musicianship to break into the business in a genre he felt was beneath him, namely edgy Brit punk-pop, just so he could parley his early commercial success into a career playing the jazz-influenced Muzak he loved.

The News Of The World scandal reminded me of Jackson's early hit "Sunday Papers"' a live performance of which I linked here a few weeks ago. Hearing it again after 30+ years prompted me to dig up the entire Look Sharp album and listen to it with my now middle-aged sensibilities.

Even knowing that Jackson himself didn't take it seriously, it's still f'cking brilliant.

As far as the list is concerned, meh. I didn't much care for most of those songs when they were still relevant. But I will state for the record that, for all it's aforementioned shortcomings, London Calling is still more memorable than anything by dozens of more popular artists of the day. And I doubt it's even the 17th best Clash tune.

Steve Sailer said...

Joe Jackson -- very talented guy. I always grouped him mentally with Costello, Graham Parker, and John Hiatt.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks for all the guitar info. Perhaps Gibson's lists are biased, consciously or unconsciously toward artists that played their guitars?

Jeff said...

Guns N' Roses all the way; they were a real deal rock n' roll band. Not many of those.

I think Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns (1989) by Mother Love Bone is about as close to perfection as a song can get; Pearl Jam also has a few cover versions that are mind-blowingly epic to anyone half-depressed. Certainly worth the Youtube search for anyone unfamiliar with song but a fan of rock or grunge.

How songs like Whip It can make the list but Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns doesn't reveals the weakness in these polls: not a lot of consideration is given by the voters to the myriad of choices. Seriously, Love Shack is on the list, but no Journey tracks or Bon Jovi, Wanted Dead or Alive or Metallica?. Poppycock.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Gibson's lists are biased, consciously or unconsciously toward artists that played their guitars?

I was actually a little surprised that a Gibson list doesn't have more guitar greats on it. No Joe Satriani, or Steve Vai, or Eric Johnson?

eh said...

Joe Jackson - Is She Really Going Out With Him

Another great song. Also underrated.

Kevin Michael Grace said...

Bryan Ferry's upward mobility is even more impressive than Steve asserts. First, he is a Geordie, and thus had one of the most unintelligible accents in England. (As Alan Partridge said to Michael, "That was just a noise.") Second, his father didn't work in a factory; he managed pit ponies.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for all the guitar info. Perhaps Gibson's lists are biased, consciously or unconsciously toward artists that played their guitars?"

It's probably biased, but I think that any list of 80's hard rock would mostly feature Gibson guitars. Jimi Hendrix made the Fender Stratocaster the most famous guitar of the 60's, but as heavy, clearer distortion became the norm, Gibson's with their humbucker pickups become standard. The Les Paul especially is good for the smooth burning low end and high singing leads, which is the stuff that power ballads are made of. Journey and Boston aren't on the list, but easily could be. They both used Gibson Les Pauls.

Anonymous said...

No Tom Verlaine/Television? No Captain Beefheart/Magic Band? No Adrian Belew?

The Brits may have a certain smooth stylishness down pat, but when it comes to pure artistic boldness the Yanks tend to dominate out of sheer gusto, fearlessness and nuttiness. Eno and Fripp represent the Union Jack well in the sheer aesthetic ballsiness category, but the real red-hot innovation tends to come from the Yanks. I don't think there's a Brit equivalent to the sheer nerve of a thing like "Trout Mask Replica" or "Shiny Beast/Bat Chain Puller" or "Marquee Moon" or "EVOL," "Sister" or "Daydream Nation."
To say nothing of "Maggotbrain," "New Day Rising," or "Double Nickels on the Dime."

Polly Jean Harvey is awesome (esp on "Rid of Me" and "Stories from the City") but she's following the Captain's lead, not innovating.
She is easier to digest than Don Van Vliet though.

kurt9 said...

How about Herb Alpert's "Rise"?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5RJ-GlMsW8

Anonymous said...

Best Clash song of ths 80s was Rock the Casbah, but it was a hit and too 'conventional'; critics like to be 'alternative', 'different', and 'radical'. They don't wanna like what most people like. You can always spot a critic from a mile away. They act this way out of vanity. They get thrills out of esoterica, obscurica, alternatitis, radicalisis, etc.

80s was indeed a great decade for rock music. It started out horribly with Olivia Newton's John's Physical, Knack's Masharona(though Steve Dahl's parody Ayatollah was hilarious), Journey crap, Air Supply crap, Toto crap, Christopher Cross crap, Styx crap, etc. But then a whole bunch of fresh new songs came out of nowhere. Most of the acts were short-lived, but a whole bunch of one-hit wonders piled up by decade's end.
There were major acts: U2, REM, Springsteen, and etc.
But even the major acts of the 80s were not as consistent as the great 60s.
Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garf, and others cranked out great music to the end of the decade, but most of the big acts of 80s sputtered out after mid 80s. Springsteen lost his muse after BORN IN USA. Prince soon lost his way too. Madonna was really only good for two albums. Michael Jackson has a smash with Thriller but Bad was bad and later stuff awful. U2 and REM did better.

But the hell with big names, cool names, hip names, alternative acts, intellectual conceits, or popularity or whatever. It's the songs that matter, and 80s produced a whole bunch of great ones. And I like them more in retrospect. A 60s fan, I preferred the organic personal back-to-nature sounds of 60s rock(especially folk rock) over the slick, synthesizer-heavy, polished sound of the 80s, but two decades later, 80s seem like a legendary and wonderful time.

80s was the last decade where uniqueness mattered in songs and acts. By late 80s, with the rise of rap and techno, most of the acts and music fell into a kind of formula. Who can tell Beyonce from Shakira from Skankura from Assluscia from Biatchassho?

Anonymous said...

What were some of the great songs of the 80s whatever their style, popularity, fanbase, etc? Here are some:

Edge of Seventeen, Stand Back, I Can't Wait,and Talk to Me by Stevie Nicks; Love is a Battlefield, Shadows of the Night, We Belong, and Invincible by Pat Benatar; Drive, Round and Round, You Might Think, and Tonight She Comes by Cars; King of Pain and I'll be Wrapped Around Finger and Every Breath by Police, To Live and Die in LA by Wang Chung, I Died In Your Arms Tonight and Been In love Before by Cutting Crew, Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me and Time by Culture Club, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Time after Time by Cyndi Lauper, Our House by Madness, Big Country(and few others)by Big Country, every song on U2's Boy and New Yrs Day from War; Woman and Watching the Wheels by Lennon; Take it Away and No More Lonely Nights by McCartney, Jokerman and several others songs on Infidels and Empire Burlesque by Dylan, Welcome to the Boom Town by David and David, Supergirl by XTC; Boys Don't Cry, Charlotte Sometimes, Friday, and several others by Cure; And We Danced by Hooters, Captain of the Heart by Double, Take Me Home Tonight by Eddie Rabbit; Against All Odds, Invisible Touch, Throwing It All Away by Collins/Genesis; In Your Eyes and Red Rain by Gabriel, Let's Dance and Chinagirl by Bowie, All the Love in the World and Your Love by the Outfield, Take on Me on Aha, Back on the Chaingang by Pretenders, Airscape by Robin Hitchcock, Queen is Dead by Smiths, Life in a Northern Town by Dream Academy, Freedom by Wham, Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer, Gypsy and Little Lies by Fleetwood Mac, Downstream by Rainmakers, Shame by Motels; Fire and Ice, Missing You, and Every Step of the Way by John Waite; Cuts like a Knife, This Time, Straight From the Heart, and Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams; Wild Wild Life and Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads, Boys of Summer and End of the Innocence by Don Henley, Just the Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby, Lady in Red by Chris Deburgh, Maneater by Hall and Oates, Come Dancing by Kinks, Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and Waves, Take Your Breath Away by Berlin, Someone to Dance with by Michael Penn, Major Tom by Peter Schilling, Under the Milky Way Tonight by Church, Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House, West End Girls and several others by Pet Shop Boys, Facination by Human League, Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Queers for Tears, Our Lips are Sealed and Vacation by Go Go's, SExual healing by Marvin GAye, She's the One by Bodeans, Legs by ZZ Top, Promise by Inside Out, Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes, Luka by Suzanne Vega, Rhythm of the Night by Debarge, I ran by flock of seagulls, and many many others.

Anonymous said...

Where's Wild Thing?

stari_momak said...

Where's LA/SoCal? Where's X (Los Angeles released April, 1980, so sez wiki)? Social D, Agent Orange, Circle Jerks, Black Flag? Los Lobos?

As for the synth, how can one ignore Kraftwerk--Electric Cafe is pretty seminal. Plus all those great gay Synth bands .. "Tell me WHYYYYYY." Kraftwerk, of course, was instrumental in the development of rap

Which leads to a tangent. I was brought up with the continual 'the white man ripped off the black man's music' narrative. But Led Zepplin's "Gallows Pole" comes from...Europe, though yes via Led Belly. Likewise, I was surprised to find that Ray Charles didn't write 'Georgia on my Mind" -- white Hoosier Hoagy Carmichael did, and he wrote 'Nat King Cole's" Stardust.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, this is an 80s rock masterpiece.

ELVISNIXON.com said...

Jani Lane of 80's hair band Warrant died yesterday.'Cherry Pie' and 'Heaven' were his bands mega hits, and one must assume they figure somewhere on these lists,but most interesting is the fact that the 47 year old's real name was John Kennedy Oswald.

Strange but true

Geoff Matthews said...

Anon 10:12
You forgot "Easy Lover". don't care if Phil Collins is considered passe', that song is great.

And, as much as i like Chris DeBurgh, "Lady in Red" is a pretty crappy song (Spanish Train will always be in my top 10).

Anonymous said...

Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like points out that "White people cannot get enough of 80s music, partially out of nostalgia, and partially since it was the last time that pop music wasn’t infused with hip-hop or R n’ B stylings..."

Anonymous said...

Ireland (U2) is not and was not part of the Commonwealth

3 out of 4 members of U2 are English born protestants though.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Page's wrote and recorded the song Tangerine during his time in the Yardbirds and later revamped it with Led Zeppelin. It was written about Jackie DeShannon (Page and DeShannon wrote at least four songs together (including In My Time of Sorrow)

Seeing as how Tangerine is on Zeppelin 3 and it is their best album I would contend that the Stairway to Heaven fad was more an indication of the bands decline than it's rise.

Interestingly Stairways slow/fast/slow formula was aped by the Pixies who were ripped off by Nirvana- who killed off all those 80's hair metal bands

Steve Sailer said...

Not much LA representation is right. For sheer guitar playing, Los Lobos's remake of Richie Valens' "La Bamba" was thrilling.

Anonymous said...

Who can tell Beyonce from Shakira from Skankura from Assluscia from Biatchassho?

Lol, you really had me going there, I though those were real singers for a minute. I mean, Beyonce, I ask you.

Wes said...

I agree that fragmentation is somewhat responsible for the death of rock, but isn't that itself a largely demographic effect? Kids tend to flock together, so if we still had a dominant White culture, they would rally around the same groups. But they don't, because there are now so many ethnic subgroups in the under 20 age group.

In addition, there is something about the old style "kick ass" rock n' roll that doesn't fit American anymore. I have a feeling the death of America is going to happen faster than we thought.

Ray Sawhill said...

What about Billy Ocean's great "Get Out of my Dreams, Get Into My Car"? I can listen to that song just about any time. Sexy, goofy and rousing is a nice combo. The original vid for the song was pretty fabulous too. "Beep, beep -- yeah!" Silly, happy music!

BILLY OCEAN LINK

Couldn't find the original vid, sorry.

And why not Delbert McClinton's "Givin' It Up For Your Love"? Texas soul, baby. Or do we assume that when Gibson says "song" they aren't including countryish stuff?

DELBERT LINK

Anonymous said...

There still is good metal being produced in the vein of Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Manowar, etc. The difference now is that it gets absolutely no radio play. You have to be a music nerd and seek it out -- it won't come to you like it did in the 1980s.

And god how I hate Phil Collins! He's the only 80s artist that leads me to flip the dial immediately. Even cheesy and lame stuff like Wham can be fun, but Collins just produces an "UGH" reaction.

Anonymous said...

"the 47 year old's real name was John Kennedy Oswald."

He didn't commit suicide, did he?

Elvis Costello peaked in the late 70's with Armed Forces and True, though it took a while for the songs to work their way into radio airplay.

Peter Buck of REM famously played a Rickenbacker.

Anonymous said...

Terrific song by Brian Setzer

Chief Seattle said...

Def Leppard made the top 10 - I thought I was the only one that liked that stuff and blame it on being 10 at the time.

No Men at Work? Really?

Putting Rush/Tom Sawyer into a list of eighties music is like putting good scotch in a list of things that get you s**tfaced. Yes it's true, but it kind of misses the point.

Church/Under the Milky Way is missing.

The kid across the street who's home from college is blasting Zeplin, Hendrix, and Doors out the window in between playing drums and getting stoned with his friends. Rock music peaked in 1973 and there's no hiding it. I blame Nixon going off the gold standard.

Anonymous said...

"I hear new stuff on the radio not infrequently that would be a legend if it had been released in 1969 or 1979. "

Yeah, I've had the same thought. Back in the prog/folk rock era of the 70's, classical music drop outs played an important role in developing the cadences and musical syntax of modern rock. Probably a lot of this has been formalized by now at places like the Berklee College of Music, which cranks out ultra skilled pop composers and musicians like Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

These days, guitar shredders make up the frayed end of the rock and roll double helix. It was by random chance that I decided to look up an obscure reference in the South Park episode "Guitar Queero" and discovered some Aspergery guitarist named Buckethead.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8akmP6Sjv2o

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVB-qcLQWas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiGoFc_HHrE

Just when I thought I had gotten too old to care.

Anonymous said...

R.H. Classic. Great lyrics

"...The tide recedes upon the bones of something beautiful and drowned
In coral and in jade..."

http://www.lyricstime.com/robyn-hitchcock-airscape-lyrics.html

Ray Sawhill said...

No one else has mentioned Marshall Crenshaw? Hard to believe. I stopped following pop music in the mid-'80s, but up to that point he struck me as the best pure pop songwriter of the era. He churned out one darned catchy song after another.

MARSHALL CRENSHAW

Ray Sawhill said...

MORE MARSHALL CRENSHAW

Anonymous said...

I have two points to make. The first is that there are two glaring omissions from the lists: Oingo Boingo and Peter Gabriel.

The second point is something I was reminded of by another poster's comments on LA bands. Obviously, Jane's Addiction deserves a mention here. But, I want to talk about something else. There was a band (they still play) called Fishbone from South Central. To my knowledge they were the only black artists that KROQ played for the entire decade ("Party at Ground Zero" was the song). Me and my friends were *crazy* about this band. They were an incredible live band. Unfortunately, they never were able to cash in despite making a couple really good records ("Truth and Soul" and "The Reality of my Surroundings"). I bet Steve Sailor would have a field day disecting "The Reality of My Surroundings" as it touches on many issues of black culture, and refreshingly, it is neither rap nor R&B. Fishbone were a black band that played to white audiences and I have it on good authority that this disappointed and eventually depressed them. Black fans weren't interested in them, and white radio wasn't interested in them. There was another black rock band that had moderate success in the 80's called Living Colour. And one of the best and most influential punk bands of all time is Bad Brains. Living Colour were from NY and Bad Brains were from D.C. They both had awesome guitarists who could shred as good, or better, than any white guy.

Anonymous said...

OT: Is Gladwell gone or what happened with that?

I really miss his saying stupid things and your refuting them.

Anonymous said...

I would have put a Metallica song on there. This one is from their first studio album and is pretty good, but not their best: http://grooveshark.com/s/The+Four+Horsemen/2DCX3B

eh said...

@Ray Sawhill

Thanks for the Marshall Crenshaw links. It's true I had pretty much forgotten about him...

Nick Lowe -- Cruel To Be Kind. OK, 1979 is not the '80s, but close enough.

Anonymous said...

When I think of 80's music I think of how much time I spent during that era discovering bands from the 70's which I would have been too young to know about when they were making great music. I got heavily into the 2nd wave Ska bands: The Specials, The English Beat, The Selector; The Jam, and Elvis Costello. I wasn't terribly interested in the bland synth rock or stupid metal hair music that dominated the airwaves. Among the uber-popular bands, I think The Police were the best, followed by U2. Sting's "Dream of the Blue Turtles" was also fantastic. There was a great movie made about it called "Bring on the Night," filmed by the documentarian Michael Apted (who also filmed the sociological "Up" series, check that out Steve). Sting consciously chose to surround himself with black jazz/fusion musicians and I think he was trying to make a statement about the lack of integration on the airwaves. He chose a fantastic band with Wynton Marsalis on horns, among others. The music from the 80's that I still return to time and again was made by Peter Gabriel, Oingo Boingo, and XTC. Peter Gabriel's duet with Kate Bush on "Don't Give Up" is probably the greatest rock song ever written about the hardship of losing one's identity because of unemployment. Gabriel was another musician (as was Paul Simon with "Graceland") who made a statement by reaching across the continent to Africa for inspiration and integration in his music. Gabriel somehow managed to make "world music" that seemed both universal and at the same time deeply personal. Oingo Boingo were in a class all their own. Partly this was owed to the creativity of Danny Elfman, who has proven to be one of the best film composers of our time. They were basically jazz musicians, who were doing a kind of comedy/cabaret type performance. When New Wave hit, they fused their immense talents with the angular and edgy style of New Wave. Danny Elfman's lyrics are just off the charts in terms of dark humor and social commentary. He's written the only rock song I know of that is specifically a criticism of whiny liberals ("Capitalism"). Elfman obviously takes a dark view of humanity. And then there is XTC, whose frontman suffered from such severe stage fright that they gave up playing live and turned into strictly a studio band. They aren't the most accessible band aside from a few immensely catchy songs ("Generals and Majors", "Senses Working Overtime," "Dear God") but time and again they have something meaningful to say beside being a flat out awesome band. The guitar and bass are particularly outstanding and unique in style. So, that's my three cents on the 80's. (by the way I put Boston down as an 80's band in a prior post, when they are actually 70's)

Anonymous said...

Part of the decline in rock has got to be due to cultural and demographic shifts as people noted above, and I think part of it is also because the style has been so thoroughly and exhaustively explored.

But two other causes I'd mention:
1. The existence of the internet has diverted a lot of white youth creativity and pent-up rock-type energy into tech and the web etc etc. There's a sense in which the internet is the new rock and roll.

2. "All the white kids went to college." Nowadays any white kid with two brain cells to rub together can figure out a way to go to college, so the pent-up class energies of a guy with say the class background of John Fogerty or Johnny Ramone doesn't need to pick up a guitar to break free. Guys like that now have lots of other options, and fewer class boundaries holding them back.

There's still good rock-ish music being made (think The Decemberists, Neko Case) but the matrix in which it exists is to my eye less compelling. Personally I find the present rock matrix sort of enervated and worn down, and I find the hip-hop/r and b/pop diva matrix sort of absurd. The internet is the cultural matrix where all the good energy is. Even vidgames have more cultural momentum than the movies, which are mostly bloated and dull. The whole thing is just changing, and I'm just sort of too old to keep up or to stay interested in forms which are clearly aimed at cohorts different from my own. It's just the world, rollin' on to the next thing and leavin' me behind...

What did Vonnegut say about it? "I'm just an old fart with his memories and his Pall Malls."

Steve Sailer said...

Sting was this annoying guy who was so much better at professional songwriting craftsmanship than most of his contemporaries.

Ron Mexico said...

Well, Sailer, you've finally succumbed; let's enjoy it!

Steve: if you like "In Between Days," and early/mid-period the Cure in general, you may also enjoy the crop of new bands on the Bklyn label Captured Tracks; in particular, Wild Nothing, Minks, and Craft Spells.

'Nonymous: yes, let's raise a glass to Andy Partridge and XTC. It's true: they are, in one way, extremely ridiculous and embarrassing; but it's not the kind of embarrassing that you grow out of, but the kind you grow into.

Gc said...

Somehow Metallica has not stood time as well as say AC/DC. That first album is the best, though. And I like a lot Kirk Hammet`s guitar playing (he also has some black blood in him). Technicality is not IMO the point in rock/metal and I never liked Progressive Rock.
What was really good about 80`s is that it had it`s own style no matter how ugly it was:) Also TV shows and movies had better music. Now they seem to compose very little new music to them.

Ray Sawhill said...

Just because y'all have me spending too much time on YouTube ... Am I alone in loving Morris Day and the Time?

JUNGLE LOVE

JERK OUT

I do love comic, sexy, jump r&b ...

Anonymous said...

3 out of 4 members of U2 are English born protestants though.

I'm amused by the importance so many of you atheists attach to whether somebody is born Protestant or Catholic! I seem to have missed the deep theological discussions around here.

As it happens, David Evans (The Edge) is Welsh. Bono and Mullin were both born in Dublin, an interesting feat for people allegedly "English born". Only Adam Clayton is "English born" - his family moved to Ireland when he was five.

Anonymous said...

"Ireland (U2) is not and was not part of the Commonwealth"

But it's part of the British Isles, whether they like it or not.

Anonymous said...

Spanish Train will always be in my top 10

Yup. If they make a list of "Top Albums Which Have Flown Under The Radar", that would be on it.

Anonymous said...

What do the Police, FBI, CIA, and IRS have in common?

Stewart Copeland.

Stewart Copeland was the drummer for The Police and besides being regarded as one of the top drummers of all time, he comes from quite a family. His father, Miles Copeland Jr. was a founder of the CIA. His brother Ian was a Vietnam vet and was one of the key promoters in New Wave. The name of Ian's booking agency was Frontier Booking International...get it? They represented a huge list of key 80's acts (The Cure, R.E.M., The Go-Gos, etc). His other brother Miles III founded I.R.S. records (which was a subsidiary of A&M Records, the "A" being for Alpert which is the trumpeteer mentioned in another post above).

Gc said...

"And I like a lot Kirk Hammet`s guitar playing (he also has some black blood in him)."

Sorry, it`s Hammett with two t`s and his mother is from Philippines. So no black blood, I guess. Wow, I used to know this stuff. My favorite Metallica song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUHFfR8hWcA
Tell`s about the singer`s experience with Christian Scientists.

Ray Sawhill said...

Was "Jerk Out" not released till 1990? That's still the '80s, right?

wren said...

My favorite concert in the eighties was Oingo Boingo. Great show.

Recently, I've been listening to a lot of Sparks.

Wikipedia tells me that Oingo Boingo started as a brotherly project, and of course Sparks is Sparks.

Both out of LA, so perhaps Steve has some insights on these guys as well...

Steve Sailer said...

Before The Police had formed, I read a number of memorable articles by the drummer's dad Miles Copeland, an old CIA operative, in National Review in the mid-1970s about what the CIA was really like.

Steve Sailer said...

"John Kennedy Oswald"

He was born in early 1964, so the name was not an accident.

Anonymous said...

Certainly power ballads deserve at least one representative song on the list. I nominate this one by Jim Steinman, who seemed to have multiple hits with what was basically the same song.

Anonymous said...

Why is Steve posting about 80's rock and roll? The source material for this post probably came from the magazine rack in his endodontist's waiting room.

"Offhand, I don't notice any Asians or Hispanics on the list, although Los Lobos's 1987 remake of Richie Valens "La Bamba" might have featured some of the more thrillingly precise guitar playing of the decade."

I prefer silence to Latin and Asian pop music. By the way, Mo Collins nailed Shakira on Mad TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlVwBDPvi6A&playnext=1&list=PLA7634D82839E1E64

Wes said...

1. The existence of the internet has diverted a lot of white youth creativity and pent-up rock-type energy into tech and the web etc etc. There's a sense in which the internet is the new rock and roll.

2. "All the white kids went to college." Nowadays any white kid with two brain cells to rub together can figure out a way to go to college, so the pent-up class energies of a guy with say the class background of John Fogerty or Johnny Ramone doesn't need to pick up a guitar to break free.


Interesting ideas, but here is my critique: None of those things get guys tons of girls and fame, which is what motivates them, more than expressing their creativity. Running an awesome website, or even making billions on the internet, won't get you 1% of the fame, worship and raw sex that being a rock star does. The guys that want the later would still pursue musical fame. I can't see John Lennon or Eric Clapton being hardcore programmers and I can't see Zuckerberg or Bill Gates fronting a band that fills a stadium. I think these are different categories of people.

And guys(?) like Justin Timperlake still do music, but not as rock stars. And as someone mentioned, there is still good metal being made, but it simply doesn't ripple out across the culture very far. And it probably won't ever again.

Anonymous said...

"Stewart Copeland was the drummer for The Police and besides being regarded as one of the top drummers of all time, he comes from quite a family. His father, Miles Copeland Jr. was a founder of the CIA."

Wow, sounds like the CIA favor bank can help your music career, too.

Anonymous said...

And as someone mentioned, there is still good metal being made, but it simply doesn't ripple out across the culture very far

Metal is one fragment of what old-fashioned "rock and roll" fragmented into. It's always been a musical niche and not the mainstream.

Anonymous said...

London Calling should not be counted as an 1980s song (or album). It was released in the United Kingdom in December 1979, so it was written, performed and recorded in the 1970s and should be treated as 1970s music. It's cheating to put it in a 1980s list.

Anonymous said...

"Seeing as how Tangerine is on Zeppelin 3 and it is their best album I would contend that the Stairway to Heaven fad was more an indication of the bands decline than it's rise."

A one year rise and a ten year decline? Interesting theory. Then again, I thought the early Beatles albums far superior to their AOR garbage, post Revolver. Heresy?

Fred said...

"Sting was this annoying guy who was so much better at professional songwriting craftsmanship than most of his contemporaries."

Sure. You don't hear much about his solo '80s stuff today, but some of it was brilliant (Fragile for example.

There was also a lot of professional songwriting craftsmanship in the UK that never got a lot of airplay in the US during the '80s. Someone above mentioned The House Martins. Paul Heaton from that band could crank out catchy songs.

Anonymous said...

Just one more Buckethead video. This guy's talent and accomplishment is cosmic! He makes all other 80's musicians look pitiful and weak.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRLmFjn6JFQ

BrokenSymmetry said...

"Which leads to a tangent. I was brought up with the continual 'the white man ripped off the black man's music' narrative. But Led Zepplin's "Gallows Pole" comes from...Europe, though yes via Led Belly"

Gallow's Pole's origins can be traced back to the Welsh-English border region, coincidentally (?) a stones throw from Bron-Yr-Aur where much of LZIII was created.

One of the major influences in the development of the blues was 19th century parlour guitar music. The smaller-sized parlour guitar was deemed a genteel ladies instrument and was popular in wealthy to upper middle-class circles in the east coast. Two of the most popular pieces in the repertoire were "Spanish Fandango" and "Sebastopol", (in honour of the British victory in the Crimean War in 1855). The songs were for open tuned guitars (G- and D- respectively) and somehow percolated down to the deep south where the compositional structure of the pieces and the alternate tunings mutated into Delta blues. The early bluesmen referred to the open-D tuning as "Vestapol" tuning which would otherwise seem a nonsense word. Similarly, you can hear the young Muddy Waters run through the strings of a G-tuned guitar and pronounce it a "Spanish" tuning on the Plantation Recordings.

Not to take away the credit for the creation of the blues, but both pieces were composed by Liverpool-born Henry Worrall, so remember this the next time someone starts gassing about how the whites stole the black mans music. Real life/history is infinitely surprising and unpredictable.

BTW, unfortunately "The Wall" was released in late 1979 otherwise "Confortably Numb" would have blown away everything else on the list.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Sting, among certain professional comedy writers there used to be a popular "room bit" called "How to Address Sting In Countries All Around the World." So there were lists of calling him "Senor Sting," "Herr Sting," "Monsieur Sting," "Stingu-san," "Sting-tzu," "Ras Sting," etc etc, all delivered in a highly serious NPR-style deadpan.

nooffensebut said...

I think a lot of whites like 80s music because it was mostly light and fun, and people can reference it now to break the ice almost like sports talk. I have also noticed intra-decade eras, and my favorite by far was just following the 80s on the cusp of “alternative music” when some serious bands made heavy, serious, and brooding works:

- Depeche Mode – Violator (It caused a white riot in LA)
- The Cure – Disintegration
- Skinny Puppy – Last Rights
- Living Colour – Time’s Up

It was like the photo negative of the 80s just before “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Anonymous said...

Why is everybody nuts over the Mona Lisa?

I was wondering exactly this recently and did some i-research. It's mainly due to it having been stolen in the early 20th century and the associated press exposure.

It's hard to imagine that it represents any aesthetic watermark. How tragic that a middling portrait of a some unattractive Italian broad became the face of painting.

Anonymous said...

The top 10 could,should be all Squeeze.But at no.1 it has to be Split Enz.

Glorious.

Svigor said...

Joe Satriani, never understood the attraction. I kept hearing his name brought up so I got a bunch of his stuff. Now it just sits there. None of it sounds like a song to me, just a bunch of riffing.

Guns and Roses may get lumped in with the other late hair bands like Cinderella and Poison but they were a big cut above the others.

Tom Sawyer is one of those songs that make you want to go out and buy the album, then you realize you could've stuck with the single. Less true of In The Air Tonight, but still applicable.

U2 gets so much shit from the real music fans. But they made so many good, catchy songs with an edge. Funny how I hate their politics but like their music when so many that hate their music seem to ape their politics. Probably just my experience, though. Also funny how much of it sounds like war music.

There probably should be a couple Journey & Foreigner tracks on that list. Maybe everybody did stop believin'.

Bon Jovi is another of those groups I was too cool to give a chance back in the day, but really had some good tracks looking back. Maybe a bit too earnest, too much believin'.

Obviously, Jane's Addiction deserves a mention here. But, I want to talk about something else.

Is there any sin in not mentioning Jane's Addiction? I didn't discover them until just after the 80s were over, and I played that album (their second, I think - the one with Ocean Size) to death, but were they the kind of band you just have to mention, in retrospect?

Metallica, one of the few bands I was listening to in the 80s that I'm still listening to now. NWA, not so much.

Somehow Metallica has not stood time as well as say AC/DC.

True, but they changed so much over time, and produced such volume, that you can still make several albums of their good stuff and they'll still have tracks from most of the original albums. The more they moved away from speed metal the more I liked them. I'm always amused by all their former fans turned to haters who have the opposite view.

His father, Miles Copeland Jr. was a founder of the CIA.

Speaking of the Man Zack "Delaroca" or whatever he calls himself is the son of a federal judge.

"John Kennedy Oswald"

He was born in early 1964, so the name was not an accident.


Probably a sure bet that "perverse" was among the namer's personal qualities.

WMarkW said...

Dire Straits' album Brothers in Arms (Money for Nothing and Walk of Life) was my Top 40 swan song. After that, I was classic rock.

Surprised "99 Luftballons" didn't make the top 100. Maybe the list makers don't remember how large a cultural ifluence the Cold War was at the time.

Svigor said...

Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks. I went back through FM's stuff to see what I liked and most of it involved Stevie Nicks.

The Chain, Edge of Seventeen, Seven Wonders, You Make Loving Fun,
Everywhere, Beautiful Child, Say You Love Me, Little Lies, Gypsy, Rhiannon, Go Your Own Way, Gold Dust Woman, Dreams, Stand Back.

calling ton petty said...

How on earth can there be no mention of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? He wasn't hard rock but neither are a lot of the other examples. He's still one of the top grossing shows, or was a couple years ago. In my mind he's the last of the 60s type.

Unemployed White Guy said...

No Judas Priest? Rob Halford is gay so that would give you the much sought after diversity.

No Yngwie Malmsteen? Well Yngwie literally made his own guitars so I could see where Gibson would not like him.

Carol said...

I thought 80s music was rather dark..remember the Motels' "Only the Lonely"? or Bruce Hornsby's "That's Just the Way it Is"? I know, dreary anti-establishment lyrics, like "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and the other Tears for Fears hits, the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang" and "Middle of the Road." The rockers were all so sure Reagan and Thatcher were going to blow up the world...lol.

Even though I'm an aging Boomer, I took to the 80s sounds right away, even while taking exception to the lefty lyrics. I always thought the plethora of new bands was due to all that air time MTV had to fill.

Londoner said...

There was plenty of good rock music in the 1980s. Unfortunately it was a) the decade in which the great rockers of the sixties and seventies entered their forties and completely forgot how to write good songs (1986 has been triangulated by mega-prolific Russian reviewer George Starostin as the "peak" year for this phenomenon); b) the decade where the music video and MTV took over, leaving horrors such as KISS's "Who Wants To Be Lonely" and Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls" seared into our memories; c) the decade where synthesizers became common - rock musicians' natural and commendable desire to innovate led to many records being contaminated with synthetic sounds that didn't belong there; and d) for the first time genuinely competitive genres went mainstream, eating into the market that guitar-based rock had hitherto dominated (disco had been huge in the mid-70s but burnt out relatively quickly).

But the new wave of British heavy metal in the early 1980s (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Diamond Head) and then especially the advent of thrash metal in California (Metallica, Slayer, Exodus) took guitar rock to new levels. Thrash metal is a thing of immense power and beauty, and Metallica's 1980s albums are like sacred texts.

In short, I guess the bad rock music of the 1980s was probably slightly qualitatively worse than that of earlier or later decades - and made more memorable by video and mass media - but the good rock music was still of a high standard, if less plentiful in absolute terms. It being a decade of decline for many/most great stars can make it a painful period to revisit.

Random observations: "Back In Black" and "Shoot to Thrill" receive way too much attention - the best songs on Back in Black are "Let Me Put My Love Into You" and "Hell's Bells". Same for the crappy "Like A Virgin" (album and song) - Madonna's first and third LPs were vastly superior. The Cure weren't toffs - they were rather more upper-lower-middle class, to use a good Orwellism. They have a strong claim to be the best guitar rock band of the last 30 years IMO - I've heard them described as the successors to The Beatles in terms of sustained genius in writing pop songs and reinventing their sound, and I don't think I disagree. In the 1980s they were awesome, with "Disintegration" their crowning glory.

Lastly, an honourable mention for Motorhead, the indefatigable footsoldiers of heavy, loud, fast rock music who are pumping out high quality albums and incendiary live shows at a seemingly quickening rate, some 35 years into their career and 50 years into that of their legendary leader Lemmy. They prospered in the 80s, and in every decade they've graced.

Anonymous said...

Pick up The Best Of Marshall Crenshaw: This Is Easy (2000) if you're not familiar with him. Great stuff.

Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen is a classic. Beta male sophisti-pop...

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/10562-steve-mcqueen-deluxe-edition/

In another time, in another place, Paddy McAloon might have been happily productive somewhere between the Algonquin and Broadway in 1930s New York ("I want to be," he once crooned, hopefully, "the Fred Astaire of words.") Or beavering away in an office in the Brill Building in the 50s. Or maybe some place on that off-kilter middle of the road between Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb in the 60s. Almost anywhere, you might have thought, other than Britain in the mid-80s...

Marlowe said...

I noticed while recently watching a lot of 70s & 80s music videos on a British TV channel the astonishing explosion of queer boy bands during the 80s in England. From the start of the decade a noticeable upswing can be seen of openly gay men appearing in videos aimed clearly at the queer community without any real regard for heterosexual appeal. Most of these bands didn't seem to cross the Atlantic - the American acts remained resolutely straight in manner if closeted. Any conservative (barring a lisping exquisite stately homo) would no doubt have experienced alarm upon turning on the TV and watching a music program full of cavorting queers. The contrast with the red blooded American music business at the same time is striking. The hegemony of rap seems to have largely suppressed it by projecting a hyper-masculine if not blatantly misogynistic & anti-gay image. In the UK during the 90s it was Jamaican reggae stars such as Shabba Ranks who spoke out against the homos and although condemned managed to escape the kind of career terminating censure a white guy would no doubt have experienced. Black guys are different.

poolside said...

I missed most of the music made in the '80s because I was still listening to music from the '70s.

Lara said...

I think the critics were right in picking Springsteen's "The River" as his best song. The version of Bruce and Sting singing it in concert is really good.

Let's said...

Steve said:
"Offhand, I don't notice any Asians or Hispanics on the list, although Los Lobos's 1987 remake of Richie Valens 'La Bamba' might have featured some of the more thrillingly precise guitar playing of the decade."

And of course REM, um, paid tribute to the song's opening guitar hook for the melody of "stand in the place where yew've beeeen..."

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked at how often, in picking a song from a big act with many songs, they picked the wrong song.

The best Bruce Springsteen song of the 80s was pretty easily Glory Days.

Like a Virgin is almost unlistenably bad, which is why you never, ever hear it today. Material Girl is much better.

Let's Go Crazy is a better song than 1999, by leaps and bounds, though a lot of Prince is really quite good.

Almost every other song off License to Ill is better than Fight for Your Right.

Were these just supposed to be songs that were hits at the time or songs that have lasting merit because they all seem to come from the first category.

Anonymous said...

1. To whomever dismissed Duran Duran as "models". Give "Rio" a listen one time, and try tell me they couldn't play. John Taylor was out-of-his-skull-awesome on that track (and the whole album). To this day, he's the most criminally underrated bass player of that entire decade.

2. What the hell happened to the UK, musically? There were so many incredible bands and wonderful one-hit wonders spawned on that isle. How is it possible that the nation who gave us The Beatles, The Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard (sheesh, these days I'd settle for a Psychedelic Furs or a Kajagoogoo) has produced nothing relevant other than the meh-inspiring Oasis since late 80's?

3. Nobody considers speed metal 80's music, but it was. All the landmark albums (Master of Puppets, Peace Sells, Reign In Blood, Among The Living) were released before 1990. Those were hugely influential and continue to inspire all of the incredible metal being made internationally.

4. The best thing about 80's music: anything could happen. Devo, Prince, SLAYER.... kripes, man, even GERMAN bands had pop hits during the 80's. Falco (Austrian) was rappin' auf Deutsch about "Der Kommisar" back in '82 and that was a top-40 hit! That could never have happend in the '90's, '00's or now.

5. There were too many great bands/songs to appreciate at the time. I took me until 1999-2002 to discover insanely talented bands like The Plimsouls, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds or Shriekback. Sure, they had minor hits at best, cult classics at worst, but their stuff is head and shoulders above what's passed for "pop" the past 15 years.

The 80's are dead. Long live the 80's.

Anonymous said...

I suggest not bothering to rank music and simply enjoy it all. The 80's was the greatest music decade ever. It was the perfect storm of culture, technology, and money: middle class affluence, MTV, synths, and cassette tapes (that allowed pirating/sharing on a rather micro scale).

Compare music streams on iTunes, Shoutcast, or satellite - the 70's, 90's and last decade's choices pale in comparison.

I have a 4 hour+ playlist of 80's one-hit wonders, and another one that's 2 hours+ for many of those rock songs listed.

Anonymous said...

I realize that everyone has their own pet favorites, but honestly... critics have had 20+ years to reflect on this and The Sisters of Mercy didn't make the list?!? Where's "Dominion", "Lucretia, My Reflection" or "This Corrosion"? Humanity may have deserved a savior, but we never deserved an album as good as "Floodland".

Anonymous said...

Steve, I don't think the problem with synth is deciding what to do, it's more that that Vangelis, Jarre, Kraftwerk et al got there before anyone else did. Most of the time, the early adopters are the smart ones. They search out the fields that have the most promise and the least competition. Is it any wonder that their masterpieces are going to trump those who attempt to mine the tailings they left behind?

Jarre is interesting and shows the power of genetics. His father composed the magnificent Lawrence of Arabia theme, but he had very little to do with his son, who turned out well in spite of his father.

Anonymous said...

RE U2 - they may not be English born but three of them are of British (protestant) origin. That makes them quite unusual in Irish terms.

Everyone is quite happy to see the Pogues as an Irish band though many many of them were born in raised in the UK.

Anonymous said...

...sigh another inane comment thread about a shallow form of music.. a clear indicator how effeminized and trite our culture has become... it reminds me of the elaborate wikpedia biographies of unimportant indi rock bands..

How old are all you? and you spend your time not only listening to this crap but discussing and analyzing it? What you listen to, what you 'entertain' yourself with, has a profound impact on who you become..

perhaps that's why the average 40 year old in the west has less maturity than the average 17 year old a 100 years ago.

Truth said...

"I'm amused by the importance so many of you atheists attach to whether somebody is born Protestant or Catholic!"

They call it WASP, not WASC

Joseph said...

I'm sorry that this is off topic - it's about a 60's/early 70's folk-rocker named Fred Neil. Like many people I had never heard of him til I watched JUST LAST NIGHT(!) an episode from Season 6 of the Sopranos. The audio commentary tract noted that a song played was The Dolphins by Fred Neil. A wonderful youtube video has this and other cuts from him. He left the music business very disappointed and integrate dolphins into society till he died in FLA in 2001. I'm amazed I never heard of him before as covers of his stuff were done by Harry Nilsson (Everybody's Talking) and Linda Ronstadt. Kind of sad.

Kylie said...

"Not to take away the credit for the creation of the blues, but both pieces were composed by Liverpool-born Henry Worrall, so remember this the next time someone starts gassing about how the whites stole the black mans music. Real life/history is infinitely surprising and unpredictable."

I wouldn't mind the gassing about the white man's theft of black music quite so much if blacks would just quit singing "Amazing Grace".

Anonymous said...

The Documentary "Electric Purgatory" focuses on bands "of Color" like Fishbone, Living Color and Kings X.

Black rock groups who are embraced by white audiences and rejected by hip hop loving Blacks.

It wheels out all the "Elvis ripped of Leadbelly" tropes but has some pretty interesting footage of these bands performing at various LA venues in the heyday of the Pay to Play Sunset Strip 80's

Barry wood said...

What about the elephant in the room here?

Bachman Turner Overdrive!

elvisd said...

I grew up in the 80's and you could already feel that rock was going underground. For me it was all those obscure bands on SST and Placebo records. It was very American, and in some ways, reactionary against Brit stuff. You had to really have your ear to the ground to find out about those bands (BLack Flag, Minutemen, Sonic Youth, etc) to know where they were playing. A lot of it had to do with the rejection of the whole industry-having managers and the attendant BS. Shows would be in people's back yards, in rented empty buildings, etc. I was lucky to see any of that stuff, since I lived in a farm town. Just finding the fliers for those shows seemed to be a big deal. Black Flag would play in a kid's park, Jane's Addiction in somebody's yard. Looking back, I'm surprised how so many of those bands toured relentlessly and would play in some pretty obscure places.

Duncan said...

"Seven Chinese Brothers"

stillhoopin' said...

Back in the day every young white man listened to Zep to some extent.

No, I never listened to "Zep." I listened to Air Supply, Journey, Johnny Lee, Paul Davis, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Stevie Nicks and Belinda Carlisle, and I had better looking chicks than you and the rest of the dorks on this board who felt that melody didn't fit their conception of masculinity.

Anonymous said...

One of the genres I always liked was the Brideshead Revisited style of Brit Fop Rock where, typically, working class kids like Ferry pretended to be all genteel. I was amused to learn that Ferry, the son of a pit pony driver (in a coal mine?) but now a Tory country gentleman, is the father of Otis Ferry, who is perhaps Britain's most often arrested crusader for the defense of foxhunters' rights -- a character out of Evelyn Waugh. (In contrast, Joe Strummer of the Clash was a boarding school boy whose father, a diplomat who held the secret codes at various British embassies, was a good friend of Kim Philby).

Hilarious! I knew none of this.

Cennbeorc

greenrivervalleyman said...

A fun, free-wheeling thread. 80's music is more appreciated in hindsight than during its own time (at least by critics, both of the professional and armchair variety) I think mainly b/c greatness was so spotty- often limited to 1 song rather than 1 album, let alone 1 act. I like watching old 80's TV in addition to listening to old 80's music, and while watching an episode of Simon & Simon (Hottest Ticket in Town) I was reminded of how godawful most of the stuff "in the air that night" was. The episode in question centers on the musical "talents" of Joey Travolta (John's older brother), and while it's unfair to make this amateur/wanna-be representative of the professional music of an entire decade, I do distinctly remember how much of the stuff on the radio, on TV, and in the movies stunk about as bad (think of Stan Bush's The Touch, hilariously parodied in Boogie Nights).

Basically it's picking out a single grain in a football field of chaff. But, oh, what great kernels you sometimes get ("One Night in Bangkok", "One Thing Leads to Another", "My Sharona"). If you want to get a taste of quintessentially great 80's pop music, unmediated by hindsight or nostalgia, try watching some episodes of Miami Vice. Russ Ballard is not going to make any Top 20 list, but tell me if anything by Guns N' Roses or Talking Heads is as cool as these two.

KevinM said...

suicidal tendancies
X
black flag
captain beefheart
zappa
art of noise
rough trade / two-tone
public image
fabulous thunderbirds
ministry
metallica
new order

a different decade for me

Anonymous said...

Interestingly Stairways slow/fast/slow formula was aped by the Pixies who were ripped off by Nirvana- who killed off all those 80's hair metal bands

Yeah, it's a bit of a formula.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5Cnc7wm-dg

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

These lists are pointless and stupid. Anything after 1979 bites with only a few exceptions. Sure Stevie Ray Vaughn and AC/DC but the rest?

Maybe the Skorps' but the rest is simply clever junk. Michael Jackson is not rock, B-52's are not rock, why not include Pat Boone? I am not saying people didn't listen to it, I am just saying it is not rock.

The 80's were a long decline dragging good music through the mud.

Okay, rant over.

The list is okay but much of the 'critics' list is simply not rock. It tells me two things. One, these PC dumbasses are simply including some of this for 'diversity'. Two, the critics wouldn't know rock if it hit them square in the nuts.

Don
P.S. Steve, you've obviously found your audience's interests. Ninety nine comments in a few hours? You must be getting some decent traffic.

tasteisinyourmouth said...

Greatest '80's songs, no particular order:

Money For Nothing
Heaven is a Place on Earth
Mad About You
Easy Lover
End of The Innocence
All Out of Love
Who's Crying Now?
Edge of Seventeen
Into The Groove
Lookin' For Love
Take Me Home Tonight
Any Way You Want It
Down Under

Anonymous said...

What I think is interesting about art is that a forgery is worth millions until it is discovered that it is a forgery.

Did it suddenly become that much worse? If it is not good on its own merits then what does make it great?

It is weird.

Anonymous said...

"It seems like music culture got more racially segregated over time."

No, it got less segregated over time. Before rap/hip-hop/Christina Aguilera(who specializes in the black singing style that sounds like a constipated woman having an anal orgasm while taking an epic dump), there was white rock for whites and black soul for blacks. Generally, blacks didn't go for white stuff--though I recall lots of blacks liking Bee Gees--, and whites went for some cross-over black stuff--Lionel Richie--, but white was white, black was black. But black music was generally less blatantly youth-oriented, which is why black singers had a hard time getting on MTV. MTV in the 80s was mostly white with some cross-over black stuff--but then Prince was light skinned and Michel was getting whiter all the time. It was with rap and hiphop that blacks began to take over MTV. (I wonder why country, mariachi, and polka people never complained about underrepresenation on MTV).

But since the advent of hiphop and new music of late 80s and 90s, white female singers try to sing and sound just like blacks. People like Stevie Nicks, Dusty Springfield, Pat Benatar, and CaroleKing were certainly influenced by black sounds, but they fashioned their own unique styles. But the American Idol style of singing is white people simply trying to sound black. And some singers are racially ambiguous, light-skinned blacks. White girls listen to that stuff and want to be part-black and wanna give birth to Obama-babies or Obabies.
Though there is still white rock, majority of white kids are into black stuff. 70% of all rap records are bought by whites. Huge white sensations like Eminem are into rap. Majority of white kids have gone 'whigga'.

So, it's not that music culture got more segregated. It's that white rock--what remains of it-- got more ghetto-ized and underground.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned the Housemartins - London 0 Hull 4, and The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death are both awesome albums that should have warranted a mention.

Song? Me and the farmer is my fave

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...

"Most of these artists had short careers at the top, with obvious exceptions such as U2, Springsteen, Madonna, AC/DC, Ossy Osbourne, and REM. I don't know why 1980s artists tended to have short careers relative to 1960s-70s artists. Worse drugs? More competition?"

60s and 70s were full of one-hit, two-hit, or three-hit wonders too. 80s were no different. The bigger surprise is that even major acts--mentioned above--had such short artistic peaks. Madonna was really good for two albums and kept her career going through outrage than talent. Springteen was no good after his biggest success Born in USA, but to be fair, he had a good run since the mid 70s.
In contrast, Beatles were amazing from 62 to 70. Who from 65 to 74. Stones from 64 to 81. Neil Young from 68 to 79.
Maybe 60s were special cuz there was the zeitgeist of counter-culture. It wasn't just about celebrity and hits but about meaning, significance, searching. This may have given compass to rock stars--unless they dropped dead like Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin or lost their minds like Brian Wilson and Syd barrett.

80s, on the other hand, was purely about marketing, popularity, who's hot who's not, etc. Movie culture was also about box office lists than great auteurs. So, even artists who continued to do good work were shunted aside for the next big thing. In this climate of hyper-marketing, it was difficult for 'artists' to make a statement and hold people's attention like acts of the 60s who had special meaning to the generation. Dylan and beatles were considered spokesmen of their generation. Who fit that bill in the 80s?
Andy Warholism took over rock culture by 80s. Hype became an art in itself.

Anonymous said...

"Offhand, I don't notice any Asians or Hispanics on the list, although Los Lobos's 1987 remake of Richie Valens "La Bamba" might have featured some of the more thrillingly precise guitar playing of the decade."

This is indeed interesting. Film culture means interest in world cinema, but rock/pop culture means interest mainly in American pop music, some British stuff, and some Afro-Latin and Afro-pop stuff. This is odd given the rock community is always blabbering about 'diversity', 'inclusiveness', 'tolerance', 'open-mindedness', etc. But as in NFL, 'diversity' simply means more blacks. When on occasion non-blacks and non-whites are accepted, its' for acting black.
Otoh, the entire world seems to be pretty much imitating the 'hot ho' music culture though Euro-variation and Asian-variation tend to be different than the American kind.

Still, cinephiles love Hollywood but also indie and foreign cinema. But most musicphiles are just into english-language and/or afro-american stuff.

Anonymous said...

Good to see so many people remember these music and times. I am 42 and recall these days - and the music - like they were yesterday.

Anonymous said...

How did they overlook this immortal classic?

Anonymous said...

Anna Vissi had some great songs in the 80s before she turned into skank

Anonymous said...

"Offhand, I don't notice any Asians or Hispanics on the list, although Los Lobos's 1987 remake of Richie Valens "La Bamba" might have featured some of the more thrillingly precise guitar playing of the decade."

"I prefer silence to Latin and Asian pop music."

You have a point. 80s J-rock is like imitation crab meat of American stuff

But this is a great song

Anonymous said...

3 out of 4 members of U2 are English born protestants though.

Leaving aside the "English born" business, let me point out that the Church of England is not, strictly speaking, Protestant. It's origins predate the Reformation and it is nowdays located somewhere between Catholicism and Protestantism on the religious spectrum.

When the real Protestants appeared on the scene post Martin Luther they were dubbed "Dissenters" - those who dissented from the Anglican Church which they viewed as much too catholic. These Calvinists, Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians etc were not trusted by the British Crown, and were "encouraged" to move abroad, first to Ireland and later to America.

So it's deeply ironic to hear the American descendents of those Protestant Dissenters extolling the supposed "Protestantism" of the Church of England.

S.Anonyia said...

"Rock seems to be dead, replaced by dance and pop. Is this a consequence of White demographic and cultural decline in the US (and especially the emasculation of White males)? As far as I can tell, it has been at least 15 years since anyone cared who was in a band the way people used to from the 60s through the 80s."

Most certainly. Even worse than dance-pop is that crappy Caribbean sounding dance-pop-rap fusion....I don't know what you call it, but it's all over the radios and seems to play at every pool in town. Yech. It seems dystopian almost, like it was deliberately engineered to placate people and make them think "happy upbeat thoughts"....Maybe I'm reaching but still!

Anonymous said...

Great topic. Came of age in the 80's - I still am a huge Smiths/Morrissey fan. Saw him last year in Ann Arbor and he was great. One band that has not been mentioned - Tears for Fears. I know. But the music has actually held up very nicely. They make the other 80's synth bands sound tinny and weak. I bought some TFF off ITunes a while ago and was blown away by how layered and thick the music is. Great lyrics, too.

FWIW, I think London Calling is and was brilliant. Almost as good as Brand New Cadillac in Clash pantheon.

MQ said...

No love for Husker Du or The Replacements? Great punk-influenced underground 80s American bands who were very influential (e.g. on Green Day, maybe the best mainstream U.S. rock band of the last decade). Bob Mould of Husker Du was gay (still is, I guess).

Anonymous said...

Ray Sawhill said...
MORE MARSHALL CRENSHAW

agreed cynical girl is the perfect pop song

Dan in Dc

S.Anonyia said...

"There still is good metal being produced in the vein of Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Manowar, etc. The difference now is that it gets absolutely no radio play. You have to be a music nerd and seek it out -- it won't come to you like it did in the 1980s."

Also the Finnish band Nightwish makes wonderful symphonic metal (it's not too hard either, it has "clean vocals"). It may not be up many people on here's alley though, I don't know. Their former lead singer Tarja split from them a few years back and also produces some pretty good songs.

Anonymous said...

I think we may be missing an important factor here: music education in public schools. The 1980's were the last decade before music and arts programs began to get cut (they are always the first to go when schools cut their budgets because they are seen as nonessential). I think this had a very bad impact on the quality of popular music because when you have had a musical education you learn to appreciate good songwriting, good melodies, good harmonies, and maybe most importantly REAL instruments played by REAL musicians. I can also tell you that I when I went through middle and high school, the student body was very diverse both racially and socioeconomically. Being white, there was a large cultural gap between myself and the black kids. But, I did have some black friends. You know what we had in common? MUSIC. We played music together, we were educated in music together, and we learned to appreciate REAL music. The tragedy of Hip-Hop (besides the negative message it often contains) is that it has escalated, to the peak of pop culture, synthetic music that has no melodic quality and no harmonic quality and totally lacks instrumental skill (there are a few minor exceptions, but guess what? those few artists are seen as "white"). Now, you may think I am arguing that black music lost its way because black kids lost programs. Nope, that's not what happened. Because there were very few black kids even interested in music programs, they weren't going to learn music whether the programs existed or not. They almost all wanted to play sports. What happened is that a lot of white kids lost their music education, thus losing their appreciation for REAL music. I am convinced that white kids would be far less likely to embrace Hip Hop if they had music education. How do I know? Because every white I grew up with that played music found most Hip Hop to be low quality and I can't think of an exception to that rule.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, I know public school teachers get a bad rap among conservatives. You ought to understand, however, that music teachers are often the *best* teachers at any given school. Why? because music is an entirely learn-by-doing activity. There's no way to fake teaching music, there's no grading papers or time spent dithering. It's all rehearsal, reheasal, rehearsal with a little bit of academic theory thrown in. They pour their souls into preparing for those concerts they give at the end of each term. This brings me to another point about the failure of immigration and the incredible downward effect it is having on public schools in SoCal. I have worked as a substitute teacher in a lot of different schools, and worked as a music teacher. What I saw from a large proportion of the mestizo students in music classes was *shocking*. They simply *do not* participate. I would have thought this impossible but it is true. They regard music class as free time and they only behave to the extent that they are not heavily punished for misbehavior. I think coming to this realization was one of the key factors in my understanding that the schools are only going to get worse as they Mexicanize.

Laban said...

"Peter Gabriel's duet with Kate Bush on "Don't Give Up" is probably the greatest rock song ever written about the hardship of losing one's identity because of unemployment."

Bush was a middle-class doctors daughter and Gabriel went to Charterhouse, one of England's most famous and expensive public (i.e. private) schools.

I like their music, but not on the subject of unemployment.

Steve, if you like jangly guitars, the only great jangly song of the 80s was by a bunch of young and ordinary kids, "There She Goes" by The La's. Great pop music, released in 1988 but only finally made the charts in 1990.

Laban said...

"Everyone is quite happy to see the Pogues as an Irish band though many many of them were born in raised in the UK."

I hope this won't come as too much of a shock across the pond, but Shane McGowan, who took the stereotype of the gap-toothed drunken Paddy, straight out of the bog, perhaps a bit too seriously, in fact attended Westminster public school, another of England's expensive and prestigious private schools. He was in the same year as Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party and currently Deputy Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

What? No Menudo?

Anonymous said...

"I think we may be missing an important factor here: music education in public schools. The 1980's were the last decade before music and arts programs began to get cut (they are always the first to go when schools cut their budgets because they are seen as nonessential). I think this had a very bad impact on the quality of popular music because when you have had a musical education you learn to appreciate good songwriting, good melodies, good harmonies, and maybe most importantly REAL instruments played by REAL musicians."

Haha, good one. My school had music education and everyone avoided it like a plague.

Laban said...

Steve - how about a post on white musicians whose hooks were adopted by black musicians? I confess I can only think of two - Sting's bass line on 'Bed's Too Big Without You', of which there were half a dozen reggae covers, and Queen's 'Another One Bites The Dust'.

Anonymous said...

"O.T. (70's music), what happened to Stairway to Heaven? I used to hear it on my car radio at least once a week from the early 80's to the late 90's."

Speaking of Stairway to Heaven

Anonymous said...

But the American Idol style of singing is white people simply trying to sound black. And some singers are racially ambiguous, light-skinned blacks. White girls listen to that stuff and want to be part-black and wanna give birth to Obama-babies or Obabies.
Though there is still white rock, majority of white kids are into black stuff.


It's not actually "black stuff", it's white stuff which is often sung by blacks.


Take Jordin Sparks, a light-skinned black woman who won American Idol. She's had a number of hits since, such as Tattoo. If you bother to investigate that song you'll see it was written by Amanda Ghost, Ian Dench, Tor Erik Hermansen, and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen.

If you're thinking "Those people sure sound white" then give yourself a prize.


Twenty years ago all these white songwriters would have been writing songs which would have been sung mostly by white singers. The change is partly just the latest musical fad - black and female singers are in vogue at the moment. The female singers practically never write their own stuff.

If this was the seventies then Hermansen and Eriksen would be establishing their own Abba-ish band. What sells these days is dance and soul music written by whites (often by white men) and performed by blacks and women.

Anonymous said...

"You ought to understand, however, that music teachers are often the *best* teachers at any given school."

Really? I remember Mr. Mawtowski(sic) of 5th and 6th grade who made us play lame showtunes all the time. Stuff like Exodus, Candy Man, etc.
And Ms. Santucci of 7th and 8th grade who just let us turn on pop music in class and dance.
And in highschool it was some gay whose choice of music was broadway.
They sure didn't instill any love of music in me. I found it on my own.

Anonymous said...

"Rock seems to be dead, replaced by dance and pop. Is this a consequence of White demographic and cultural decline in the US (and especially the emasculation of White males)?"

Rock is a huge tent. It can include dance and pop and rap.

Anonymous said...

"Most certainly. Even worse than dance-pop is that crappy Caribbean sounding dance-pop-rap fusion...."

But at least they have rhythm and beat and other stuff music is supposed to have. Stuff I really can't stand if most of punk, metal, and moron rap--and those songs where some black woman goes ahhhhhhhhhhhwooooooooooeeeeeeuuuuuuoooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaa.

Anonymous said...

No, I never listened to "Zep." I listened to Air Supply, Journey, Johnny Lee, Paul Davis, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Stevie Nicks and Belinda Carlisle

Sounds like you're a young pup who came along after Zep had broken up. Let us old-timers have our discussion in peace!

Anonymous said...

Roberto Duran should have beat up Duran Duran.

Five Daarstens said...

This guy, a Russian linguistics professor has some great music reviews of that period:

http://starling.rinet.ru/music/ratings.htm

Anonymous said...

RE U2 - they may not be English born but three of them are of British (protestant) origin. That makes them quite unusual in Irish terms.


Two of the four Beatles were raised Catholic and were of Irish origin, which makes them quite unusual in English terms. So? What point are you attempting to make here?

Your bizarro logic aside, you are mistaken about the facts. Bono's mother was Anglican (which is not "Protestant") and his father was Catholic. Yet you seem to be be shoving him into your Protestant pigeonhole.

I don't know what faith Davey Evans parents had, but his children are being raised Catholic!


Which means ..... what? Not much to me, but apparently it's of considerable importance to you for some reason. And what's even curiouser is that I very much doubt that you've set foot in any sort of house of worship in the last ten years.

Anonymous said...

Bachman Turner Overdrive

The only Canadian artist anyone mentioned so far - and IIRC from the 70s not the 80s.

It seems like the 80s were a terrible decade for Canada, pop-music-wise. What happened, after the promising 70s?

the_alpha_male said...

"Not surprisingly almost all the guitar-heavy songs on the list feature Gibson guitars"

Don't forget Ozzy's Crazy Train is on that list and Randy Rhoads (the next big thing and my personal favourite guitar GOD), used a Gibson Les Paul when playing that tune.

Anonymous said...

The 80s were great, yet most rock didn't do much for me. Music from AC/DC or Motley Crue, I think, was/is just moronic. The British New Wave was much for to my taste.

My 80s list:
Prefab Sprout - Life of surprises
The Stone Roses - I wanna be adored
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence
Human League - Don't you want me?
Joy Division - Love will tear us apart
Yello - Lost again
New Order - 1963
The Clash - London Calling
The Smiths - Bigmouth Strikes Again

-- Maciano

Anonymous said...

"Give "Rio" a listen one time, and try tell me they couldn't play."

THEY COULDN'T PLAY AND SOUNDED GAY.

Anonymous said...

"Why so many 80's songs about unemployment/de-industrialization (Springsteen, Mellancamp, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Sawyer Brown, Gary US Bonds, et al) and nothing today?"

Cuz most rock fans are non-blue collar.

One funny thing about likes of Bruce and Bon Jovi bitching about unemployment. What kind of values do their songs promote? Skip school, fuc* homework, party all night long, forget tomorrow, risk your life and limb with motorcycle, etc.

And they wonder why American companies would rather hire workers in other countries.

Anonymous said...

Bourgeois Tag had a good song: I Don't Mind at All.

Anonymous said...

Come on Eileen is a great song.

And Dancing with Myself and Eyes without a Face by Billy Idol.

Thorn in My Side by Eurhythmics.

Small Town by Meloncamp.

Naked Eyes' Always Something There is one of the best covers ever

Anonymous said...

One funny thing about likes of Bruce and Bon Jovi bitching about unemployment. What kind of values do their songs promote? Skip school, fuc* homework, party all night long, forget tomorrow, risk your life and limb with motorcycle, etc.

Baby Boomer values.

Mind you, Generation X values are more like: Skip school etc. because nobody will hire a nerd without relatives in high places like you anyway and if you do get a Ph.D. you'll be "overqualified" and reduced to peonage from student loans.

Anonymous said...

One of the most pleasant 80s songs was a nostalgia piece about the 60s

I recall Greil Marcus resisted it with all his might--he hated the Moodies--but admitted he couldn't get the melody out of his mind

I also like Jackson Brown's Lawyers in Love.

Graham Parker's Break Them Down and Mighty Rivers are excellent

Great happy song from a time when LA was still lovable

Anonymous said...

Timbuk 3 hit that was on MTV all the time

Anonymous said...

My love runs cold, my memory's just been sold my angel is a...

Anonymous said...

AZTEC CAMERA

Best (seemingly unknown) band of the 1980's

Roddy Frame - Genius

Another MIA act in these comments is the Stone Roses.

They are sort of like the Sly and the Family Stone of another era in that they got so wasted that others got to enjoy their rightful career

Zapp (with Roger Troutman) ,Parliament/Funkadelic, The Dazz Band and so many others lifted Sylvester Stewart and Larry Graham's remarkably original template and became big stars because Sly was too high.

Oasis,Pulp,Blur and most BritPop acts of the 90's did the same to the Stone Roses.

Why Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera disappeared I would like to know.

Anonymous said...

Free Falling is a grea song

Petty did some good work with Nicks and Travel Wilburys too.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

You should close comments. This thread is cooked and done. 99% of the damn thing is some kids who were wearing diapers or weren't born in 1980 and limp-carrot grabbers (linking this to your next post). None of this gay circle-jerk needs to continue. Half of these groups are 100% not rock.

And to those posters who think music is more homogenous now, you're under thirty aren't you?

Anonymous said...

An international perspective:

Russian rock

French 80s pop

What happened to Gallic charm? Not here.

sung in English but by German band Alphaville

good ole Nikos

Anonymous said...

I think there was less of a black/white divide in UK than in US, at least until recently. US had a lot of blacks for much longer, so a separate black culture developed though there was back/forth between whites and blacks.

But in UK, black numbers grew more gradually, and so blacks were more likely to socialize and become part of white community.
Take Culture Club, Big Country, Fine Young Hannibals, among others. (During the Hamburg days in late 50s and early 60s, one of the hottest Brit rock acts in the clubs had a black lead singer.) Blacks and whites are making music together. Whites borrow ideas from black music, blacks partake of white music.
But with growing numbers of blacks and rise of rap in UK, there has developed more of an we-black and they-white mentality, and so we are less likely to see stuff like Culture Shlub.

Also, because of smaller number of blacks in UK, I think it had more acceptable for whites to become steeped in black culture. In the US, it was one thing to borrow from black music. But to totally partake of black culture was seen as a kind of betrayal. If an Italian-American decided to take up blues music full time, his friends would have called him a moolie-wanna-be.

But in UK, blues and stuff like that were just another form of music, and it didn't necessarily mean the person was turning his back on his own race and going with the darkies.

White rock n rollers took something from rhythm & blues but not much from classic blues. British rockers, otoh, took much from blues, and maybe that explains why they had greater depth, gravity, and passion than American white rockers--at least until 1967.
Animals(of House of Rising Sun) were steeped in blues. So were Stones, Yardbirds(and later Zeppelin), and Eric Clapner. The one white American rocker who was very steeped in blues was Dylan.

Anonymous said...

Total Eclipse of the Heart is a pretty grand song.

one of the best duets

Anonymous said...

"Promise by Inside Out".

Don't you mean Promise by When in Rome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMZL9pd4Q8M

It was used in Napoleon Dynamite.

"Hate Me" by Blue October sounds similar.

jody said...

lol @ the greatest era of popular music in the history of mankind being "looked down upon". the decade was so stacked that they couldn't even fit metallica on the list despite them outselling the great majority of the artists in the poll. i like iron maiden and judas priest but they were no metallica. guns and roses can open for metallica, if they're lucky.

also the decade during which techno and rap were developed. rap was pretty interesting for about 20 years, but it's stagnated badly now. the same dumb shit over and over seems to be where it's been stuck for like 8 years.

techno developed more slowly but not only has it moved in a dozen different directions, it has taken over pop music production in the US. techno pop has been the dominant pop music for 3 or 4 years now. even rappers have some of their material produced in the format. i'm not sure this will last for a full decade but it's significant, considering 10 years ago the US was the only first world nation still resisting the proliferation of techno.

and there isn't a single black american musician today of the same stature as either prince or michael jackson. well, neither of those guys was completely black, prince being only half african and jackson being an alien from another planet. but still.

Anonymous said...

MEDIA CONGLOMERATION LEADS TO DUMBED DOWN MUSIC?

Up until 1972, Capital Records was run by...Capital Records. By 1976, Capital was run by EMI. Around 1989 EMI sucked up Chrysalis Records and Virgin Records. EMI is now owned by Citigroup.

Up until 1967, Atlantic Record was run by...Atlantic Records. Warner Bros bought them first, then in 1969 they were sucked up by Kinney along with Elektra Records. Kinney changed their name to Warner Communications. Warner merged with Time Inc. in 1990, then later split off. There's a lot more changing hands that has gone on since. Interestingly, Time Warner tried to distance themselves from Gangsta Rap in 1990 when they had Atlantic sell off their share of sub-label Interscope Records. Interscope is now part of the conglomeration Interscope-Geffen-A&M which is part of Universal.

There are basically four companies that control 81% of the music industry. Warner, Universal, EMI, and Sony. I don't know about you, but I suspect this explains why music seems so pre-packaged, test-marketed, and disposable. Once upon a time, test marketing was little more than the A&R rep going to a club to see the band play. Whether or not the band got promoted depended on how much the rep believed in the band's potential and how much the boss of the label believed in the rep's belief. This meant that record labels were willing to push artists who weren't instantly and immediately successful. The record labels trusted their own taste and knowledge more than they trusted the general public's immediate judgement. Nowadays, with all the test marketing that goes on, there is greater emphasis placed on pushing what tests well immediately. In some sense this puts the power of taste more in the music-buying public's hands, but if you ask me, the quality of the music being pushed has gotten a lot worse as the process has become less insular. Plus, it figures that the record labels themselves have less autonomy to make decisions. It seems like the less the decision-making power is concentrated in the offices of the record label, the worse the music gets, IMO. Why? Could it be that, archaic as the old fashioned A&R rep judgement mechanism seems, that it was actually a very good mechanism...and all the interference with that has only served to screw with a good thing? Maybe it's because music is mostly marketed to teens. Of course it was being marketed to teens in the 60's and 70's, too. But, the A&R rep was primarily using his/her judgement instead of primarily using the average judgement of a group of typical music-buying teenagers. I don't know about you, but I don't trust average teenagers with most decisions, including their immediate response to art. Would you agree that pop music today seems dumbed down? Maybe there's the reason.

Wes said...

S.Anonyia I agree, this reggae type music is basically meant to be enjoyed by passive potheads who never pose a threat to anyone. Governments must love it, and it now influences tons of music out there.

Someone said dance and pop could be included as Rock, but if we define rock so broadly, the category serves no purpose. There are distinctions between the rock music made by bands and the stuff Jay Z does -- cultural differences that show real changes.

I get the impression that a lot of aging White guys here don't want to admit that their culture is dead.

Anonymous said...

Naked Eyes' Always Something There is one of the best covers ever

Ah, yes, the Naked Nerds. The only thing missing is a pocket protector from Skolnick Electronics.

Anonymous said...

Too bad there wasn't a Canadian group called the Pogies (not the Pogues) singing about the joys of unemployment.

Anonymous said...

Wes, white culture is not dead, it has gone underground. Big difference. It is no more dead than black culture was in the days of Bing Crosby.

Because it is so easy to find the sorts of music you like through Amazon, forums and the like, genres like Metal 30 years later are as strong as they have been since the heyday of Metallica. And because none of it is promoted except by the fans, the classics are still revered.

Anonymous said...

Laban said: "how about a post on white musicians whose hooks were adopted by black musicians? I confess I can only think of two..."

Oh, yeah. Rap's breakthrough track -- Planet Rock" (1982) by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force -- is built around Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" (1977) and "Numbers" (1981), with influences from Gary Numan (UK) and Yellow Magic Orchestra (Japan).

-Jack

Anonymous said...

It seems like most of what I'd think of is already here, but I'd mention Stuart Adamson from the Skids and Big Country as one of the few guitarists in recent decades to achieve a unique tone and make it work within the context of a band. I was driving my uncle's old Buick on a long trip a few years ago and bought the first BC cassette at a thrift store, mostly as a joke even though I'd always loved their eponymous hit. I was really surprised to find that every song on there was solid to excellent, and later that they'd made several quality albums.

Adamson managed to combine traditional Scottish song structure with inventive, well written lyrics, an excellent rhythm section and an unearthly guitar tone that the Edge admitted was a big influence
on him. They seem to have run out of steam in the late 80's but I'd put songs like Wonderland, Steeltown, and The Crossing up with my favorites of the decade.

During their they time they were particularly famous as a live band, as you can see here at this 1986 NYC performance of one of their other big hits, Fields of Fire

(You might need to jigger with the resolution setting as it seems to effect the decibel level. Lowering it to 240 sounds better on my laptop speakers.)

still don't get the Pixies said...

Top drama-club band of the 80s, maybe. If you mean "influential among people who do documentaries about their bohemian friends or work A&R for an 'indie' label" I wouldn't disagree. Their pre-1989 college records ("Come On Pilgrim" and "Surfer Rosa") are half-assed, art-damaged, and a chore to listen to. I always take it for mere social signaling when someone name-checks them. Meanwhile Nirvana was essentially a stoner-metal group despite the late singer's daintier tendencies.

2. "Another One Bites the Dust" isn't the ideal example of black-on-white copying--even though it made him richer than Croesus the resemblance to the contemporary Chic song (ripped off for the Palin favorite "Rapper's Delight") was openly acknowledged by John Deacon.

Unlike the complex lineage of jazz the trajectory of delta blues and gospel is relatively clear back to 19th century white folk music (thus, descended from Protestant church hymns; this is detailed at surprising length in leftist academic Lawrence Levine's "Black Culture and Black Consciousness" which I love quoting at LAUSD conferences)

Anonymous said...

English music is like English boxing in the way that a lot of its stars are actually displaced Irishmen. Off the top of my head, I can think of Lennon and McCartney, Johnny Rotten, Elvis Costello, Shane McGowan, Billy Idol (first mention on an 80's music discussion?)and Gilbert O'Sullivan. Jimmy Page's full name is James Patrick Page which is also somewhat suspicious.

I remember hearing a story a while back that John Lennon was thumbing through The Big Book of Irish History (I forget its actual name, but it is a very common book in upper middle class Irish homes) and found a statement under the Lennon name reading something to the effect that "no one important has ever come from this family." Lennon wrote the editor an "Excuse me, sir, but.." letter and subsequent editions contain the statement "Jonh Lennon -musician" under the Lennon name.

Matra said...

Bono's mother was Anglican (which is not "Protestant")

It is considered Protestant in Ireland (often as a proxy for ethnicity). If it weren't then Catholics would be the majority in Northern Ireland.

What the hell happened to the UK, musically? There were so many incredible bands and wonderful one-hit wonders spawned on that isle. How is it possible that the nation who gave us The Beatles, The Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard (sheesh, these days I'd settle for a Psychedelic Furs or a Kajagoogoo) has produced nothing relevant other than the meh-inspiring Oasis since late 80's?

The UK produced a lot better music between the late 80s and late 90s than it did during the "second British invasion" starting in 1983. The Stone Roses, Charlatans, Blur, Kula Shaker, Happy Mondays, Cast, Manic Street Preachers, Primal Scream, Inspiral Carpets, the Verve, just to name a few. OK, they weren't Zeppelin and the Stones but they sure beat Wham and the Thompson Twins. Maybe they weren't relevant in the US but most are better remembered in the UK than The Damned or Psychedelic Furs.

Svigor: Tom Sawyer is one of those songs that make you want to go out and buy the album, then you realize you could've stuck with the single.

In Canada the album Moving Pictures is considered an all time classic. When I first moved to Canada half the teenagers in the country wore the Moving Pictures cover on their T-shirts. It meant you were really cool!

Truth said...

"Laban said: "how about a post on white musicians whose hooks were adopted by black musicians? I confess I can only think of two..."

Michael Viner is the erstwhile Godfather of early hip-hop, maybe the most underrated instrumental solo ever.

Anonymous said...

How can they be missing Oblivious by Aztec Camera?

Going Underground by The Jam ?

Happy Hour By the Housemartins?
Come On Eileen?

Love Plus One by Haircut 100?
Raising Hell by Run DMC?
(anything from) Paul's Boutique?!
1999? When Doves Cry?
Buffalo Gals by Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm MacLaren?
Or ANYTHING by Public Image Limited?

No Rock This Town?

Anonymous said...

The Clash always seemed to be saying to me "you thought the Sex Pistols were sloppy? Well listen to this!" In fairness, they were before my time, and I've only heard their big hits.

The Sex Pistols did at least have the most obnoxious, acidic front man in the history of rock and roll, regardless of how rough they were. I'm actually a much bigger fan of the first few albums of John Lydon and former Clash guitarist Keith Levine's subsequent band, PIL, which produced some very unique stuff before petering out into 80's pop music.

Matra said...

still don't get the pixies: Their pre-1989 college records ("Come On Pilgrim" and "Surfer Rosa") are half-assed, art-damaged, and a chore to listen to. I always take it for mere social signaling when someone name-checks them.

There's certainly an element of that. Surfer Rosa wasn't very good and Bossanova, their follow up to Doolittle, was a let down but Doolittle was such a breath of fresh air - it sounded like nothing else - that most of us who bought it still have fond memories of the time. Also they pretty much peaked then so they didn't go on to become a household name band that unfashionable people listened to and that original fans got sick of (eg REM). So the Pixies have both nostalgia and the alternative/underground element going for them.

Anonymous said...

Tom Sawyer is one of those songs that make you want to go out and buy the album, then you realize you could've stuck with the single.


Blasphemy! Tom Sawyer is perhaps the third or fourth best song on the album, after Limelight and Vital Signs and Red Barchetta.

Anonymous said...

It is considered Protestant in Ireland (often as a proxy for ethnicity). If it weren't then Catholics would be the majority in Northern Ireland.

Regardless of whether Anglicans are Protestant or not, Catholics would not be the majority in Northern Ireland. Anglicans could all be Muslims or Baptists or atheists and it would have zero effect on the relative size of the different populations.

And it's a petty dumb proxy for ethnicity.

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