Graham Reid | | 2 min read
If – and it is a very big “if” – the Sixties were Swinging and the Seventies was The Decade That Taste Forgot, what then of the Eighties?
The Decade Defined By Sound and Vision?
Linn drums, synthesizers, the key-tar, CD technology making everything brighter, cleaner and somehow more soulless, the Sony Discman . . .
And MTV which emerged as a white-bread commodification of pop music, until Michael Jackson (more correctly Sony Music and his appearance doing the moonwalk on a Motown anniversary show) kicked down the door for black artists to pour through.
The Eighties became the decade of visual music, of expensive or strange video clips.
There were great songs of course: A-Ha's Take On Me, some things by Duran Duran and Tina Turner, Eurythmics' Sisters Doin' It For Themselves, Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight . . .
And then there was plenty of truly awful stuff: Huey Lewis, Dire Straits' Twisting by the Pool, everything else by Phil Collins . . .
There were great albums too (Thriller, some Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Kate Bush etc), but that isn't saying much. Every decade after the Fifties has produced great albums.
On reflection though, the Eighties was probably a decade of singles. And videos.
It wasn't Bowie's best decade –it started well with Scary Monsters and Let's Dance but ended with Tin Machine – and it probably belonged to Madonna's three albums: Like a Virgin, True Blue and Like a Prayer. It didn't belong to ex-Beatles, one of whom didn't even make it beyond the beginning.
It was the decade which saw the rise of indie-rock (REM leading the way on US college radio, Flying Nun at student radio on home turf).
It was the decade of hip-hop's emergence and dominance, Guns N' Roses, big hair (New Romantics, New Wave, poodle rock, Madonna's acolytes and Boy George), American stadium rock, women coming through in groups like the Bangles and the Go-Go's or as solo artists (Whitney, Cyndi), the Police, Prince, the Jam, Queen, the Smiths, New Order, the Graceland controversy, U2, Band Aid/We Are the World/Live Aid, boy bands . . .
And right at the end Nirvana rising.
A lot to be nostalgic about?
Maybe, maybe not.
The final hour-long episode of the television series The Eighties which has looked at political, social events and technology in that decade (Prime, Tuesday March 20, 8.35pm) explores the music of the period.
Being American, it takes MTV as its first reference point (cue clips by the Second British Invasion of Duran Duran, Culture Club, Depeche Mode, the Cure etc) and deals with how black artists were shut out.
Attention then moves to the emergence of women artists, controversy (Madonna, Ozzy and metal, explicit language), hip-hop (Run-DMC, LL Kool J, Rakim, Public Enemy etc) . . .
Lots of snippets of music clips, quick quotes from key players and a bullet-point synopsis of a complex decade.
If you weren't there you'll enjoy the hair and clothes as much the music, if you were you'll probably wonder how come your favourite artist either isn't there or gets scant attention.
You'll also get to say, “Jeez, whatever happened to . . ?”
That's the nature of such television documentaries which sift, filter, reduce, distill and then presents the remaining droplets.
Tp paraphrase what they used to say about the Sixties, if you remember the Eighties . . . you've probably got a better wardrobe today.