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the incredible variety of ’80’s music!

July 30, 2011


Let’s go back to the ’80’s shall we? Let’s have Sherman set the wayback machine for Mr. Peabody..

The ’80’s were an interesting time for music.. and that’s a massive understatement! Some genres didn’t survive for long, some reigned for a decade, and at least one has, sadly, become an American institution.

But I won’t start with that one specifically. Actually, music spazzed out in the ’80’s, so it can be tough to figure out which bands were part of a genre, which were sort of .. hmm..

Let’s start with interesting rock music..

New Wave/alternative/whatever.. before the ’80’s, really. David Bowie was doing his thing earlier, and The Cars.. not considered a New Wave band, more classic rock, as time went on, but listen to their first album.. And Genesis.. with both Peter Gabriel and then Phil Collins at the helm. Both of the former Genesis lead singers re-emerged in the ’80’s.

Phil Collins.. pop, but with a variety of sounds. “Sussudio.” Don’t know if I’m spelling that right, and never did figure out what that word meant.

And then there was Collins’ song.. the one that goes.. “I can feel it in the air tonight.. oh lord..oh lord…” The tune Mike Tyson was singing in “The Hangover.” It’s a rather dark song. I never totally understood it.

Another dark song that is still more than popular.. “Every Breath You Take.” People misinterpret this song.. even play it at weddings. Most listeners think this song is a ballad about commitment and enduring love.

Uh, no.

Listen to the words, it’s about love, yes, but an obsessive, potentially dangerous love.. that of a stalker.. “Every breath you take.. I’ll be watching you.

Yes, that song was by The Police. On their last album, “Sychronicity,” a term coined by Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology.. much more imaginative than Freud, and saner, perhaps too. Sychronicity has something to do with that classic little whatever about a butterfly flapping its wings and this causes a tidal wave to wash away coastal cities on another continent (“many miles away..”)

Rock did get interesting in the ’80’s.

I earlier mentioned not only Phil Collins (but I forgot to say his breakout solo album was called “No Jacket Required). The other, earlier Genesis frontman, Peter Gabriel was a massive success as well. (And to make things confusing, Genesis reformed – with Phil Collins singing, and they made pop tunes in the ’80’s, so did a guitarist from Genesis, who formed the band “Mike and the Mechanics.”)

Let’s discuss the first, and strangest singer from Genesis.. Mr. Gabriel.

I was an 11 year old from a conservative Christian family, and was not ready to see a rock video starting out with flowing sperm. Thank you very little, Mr. Gabriel. The rest of the video was extraordinary, though, I have to say. The song: “Sledgehammer.”

And then. John Cusack as LLoyd Dibbler, holding up the boombox, playing the Gabriel hit, which I still consider magical: “In Your Eyes.” That scene was from the movie “Say Anything.”

Moving on..

U2.. got started before ’80’s, but their first album, “Boy,” was released in 1980. Then, “October,” 1981, “War,” 1983, “The Unforgettable Fire,” 1984, then their bestselling album in their entire career (correct me if I’m wrong) “The Joshua Tree, (1987) and the live album from The Joshua Tree tour, “Rattle and Hum,” with corresponding doc. film of the same name.

In the videos from the Joshua Tree, and in the Rattle and Hum film, why were U2 dressed up in outfits resembling Amish people and the characters in “The Grapes of Wrath?” I don’t know, but..

With the exception of very few songs, I don’t think U2’s music was worth a damn after the 1980’s.

Other interesting groups that can’t really be categorized. R.E.M.! The Outfield, Tears for Fears, hmm.. don’t quite want to throw Simple Minds in here because they were noticeably inspired by U2, in my opinion, but did do their own thing somewhat, and their hit from “The Breakfast Club,” (yes, that’s a movie, watch it!) keeps showing up, most recently in the amazing beyond words first season of “Community,” one of the best sitcoms ever (season two being re-broadcast these days).

Let’s see.. then there were New Wave groups.. a British thing mostly.. and yeah, started before the ’80’s.. I already mentioned that.. who were influences of the New Wave movement..

Here were some of the followers… Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, The Cure (maybe they were just too odd to be considered New Wave?), Depeche Mode, Erasure, Big Country (although I think those guys were from Australia) Roxy Music, I could keep going with this list, but I don’t feel like it.

Then there was Cyndi Lauper. Where the hell did she fit in? Nowhere really.. unclassified, which was a big part of her charm.

And Weird Al Yankovic.. whose parodies were often better than the songs he was making fun of! And, his career lasted much longer than the groups he spoofs! Gotta mention Weird Al!

Sure, yes, I of course have to mention Michael Jackson (who was famous back even to the late ’60’s? as singer for the Jackson 5, when he was still a little kid).. R&B, pop.. who cares what genre.. point is, the dude.. biggest star of the ’80’s, period.

Madonna, another huge influence on the music world. Not exactly a positive influence.. Madonna did empower women a great deal, but how many girls got knocked up because Madonna promoted sexuality the way men had for decades.. Madonna was the most sexually intense and explicit artist since Janis Joplin, and Janis, though truly amazing, was not sexy. Madonna.. for awhile.. was arguably the most sexy of all famous women on the planet!

But, perhaps not the best influence.. guys don’t get pregnant, so can be much more sexually irresponsible, without serious consequences..

Anyway.. what’s good (or bad) for the goose is good for the gander, and vice versa..

In case you are under the age of 25 or so, and think Lady Gaga is oh so original..

Uh no.. she blatantly has ripped off Madonna over and over. It’s amazing Madonna didn’t sue Gaga.. over and over, but then, Madonna has more than enough money, and probably doesn’t want to appear much in public anymore.. because she’s gotten older, and would prefer to be remembered as younger and incredibly sexy.. and this might sound terrible, but it is tough for many, if not most women over 50 to look very sexy, although Tina Turner, another ’80’s musical icon, managed to do this.

If you wanted sexuality that was more bizarre than what Madonna was singing about early in her career, you were probably into Prince. Depraved yes. A genius? That too. His music.. a mixture of R&B, rock, and LOTS of sexual weirdness. I never totally understood Prince’s appeal, but that’s alright.. I was too young for it. And I’ve never got kinky as an adult. I must say though.. some of Prince’s songs were catchy.. especially “Raspberry Beret.” That’s the one that jumps into my head most, even though it is arguably not his best…

Let’s dive into Christian rock for a moment, shall we? The best Christian rock groups were hugely popular (in the Christian music scene) in the ’80’s. Amy Grant.. squeaky clean singer (who much later cheated on her husband with singer Vince Gill, who I think might also have been married at the time.. to somebody else, I mean).

Then there was Petra.. first concert I ever went to. Awesome! Pyrotechnics and all that dry ice wafting across the stage.. Petra was really an original band! No so after they let go their first singer, or he quit.. and Petra got a new singer, and their music immediately sucked.

Steve Taylor.. always a more than strange musical maverick. Dude even sang about blowing up an abortion clinic, and he got away with it.

Daniel Amos, a band not a name. Very strange New Wave and beyond group.. check out their album Vox Humana, if you can ever find it.

And then there was Rez, formerly called Rez Band, which was earlier called Resurrection Band.. don’t know why they kept changing their name.. trying to stay hip I suppose? Odd. Their music, except for a few tunes on their “Hostage” album, really didn’t fit any genre.. I doubt Rez tried much at all to be hip. They much rather just were themselves. Really heavy blues rock, but so much beyond that. Rez was one of my favorite bands from the ’80’s.

There was a band that some thought was a Christian rock band, but was more a secular group, made up of what were at the time.. three Christians.

This band.. King’s X.

15 albums, more than two decades, and still they haven’t gotten all the respect they reserved. But they are still one of my favorite bands.

Eventually not remotely Christian though, if you pay attention to the lyrics in some of their later albums. And the lead singer turned out to be queer. Came out a few years back, I think. I don’t care, still one of my favorite singers.

The dude is the first guy I’ve ever seen wear a large cross around his neck, and a noticeable upside-down pentagram (the most well-known Satanic symbol) on his belt buckle. He wasn’t sporting that look in the ’80’s though.. but anyway..

Two other genres I want to mention. One ruled for a decade, and one is still popular today. Which really really really sucks.

Hair metal I liked a lot. I stopped listening to it for over ten years after the ’80’s passed, but got into that stuff again these past few years. By 1986, hair metal was just about all I listened to, and I listened to it for just about all of the ’80’s, starting with Stryper, since I was a Christian..

Well, no.. even before Styper..

Hmm.. before Stryper, I got into Van Halen, even though I was not allowed to buy their albums.. parents said I could listen to secular radio (so I recorded songs off the radio) but could only buy Christian cassettes. Yes, CD’s were starting to be sold in the ’80’s, but for most of that decade, most folks could not or would not put up the money for CD players.

Let’s see.. summer camp, 1985, I think.. (why do Christian parents send their kids to Christian summer camp? Don’t the parents remember what happens at these camps? Some of the children of some of these Christian parents were conceived at Christian summer camps!)

Alright, where was I? Yes, it was at camp where I met the first dude who considered himself a metalhead. He brought along tapes with not only Van Halen tunes, but Motley Crue and Ozzy as well. It was Crue that most made an impression on me that summer. “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” – which was not even a Crue original (and yes, they spelled the word c-r-u-e on purpose. This is not a typo.) First time I’d heard them.. or Ozzy. Ozzy I got into later. And liked Ozzy’s music tons more than Motley.. I still listen to Ozzy.

First secular metal band I heard was back in ’83. Quiet Riot. I didn’t like them at the time, at all. They never were in the top tier of ’80’s metal bands.. but did make some waves. Well.. I guess they were a big deal for awhile.. so was Judas Priest, but I never got much into them either. I think the S&M gear Halford was wearing (and not just for show, it turned out) really turned me off, although, at the time, I did not know it was S&M gear, just that the leather and spikes and all that looked too dark and violent.

Kiss, after being one of the biggest bands.. well, maybe the biggest.. of the ’70’s, took off their makeup, and still remained popular in the ’80’s.

So many hair metal bands.. Ratt, Poison, Extreme, Dokken, Stryper, White Lion, Warrant, Winger, Steelheart, Guns N’ Roses, but GNR were really doing their own thing.. much heavier and darker than the others, and they didn’t try to look like women either. Which was an excellent way to stand out.

The first video from GNR was “Welcome to the Jungle.” Axl Rose decided to only have his hair all freaked out like the other ’80’s metal dudes for that one video, then never look like that again. GNR had the grunge look before the word “grunge” was used to describe a genre in the ’90’s. But I am writing about ’80’s music here.

Music got heavier and heavier in the ’80’s too.. Metallica, and the always also-ran Megadeth (Dave Mustaine, the singer from Megadeth, was in Metallica, before Metallica released their first album.. or something like that), and Iron Maiden.. Bruce Dickinson brought a crazily operatic sound to metal, along with gory artwork, some satanic lyrics, and so forth..

And if you wanted some seriously satanic music, you could listen to Slayer. Not me though, bleah.

One satanic-type dude who never did get super-famous, but who has remained influential is Glenn Danzig. I never got much into his music, but I still want one of his t-shirts. A bit to evil for me, but damn cool! The shirt, not the guy, most of his music.. sorry Glenn.. I think sucks.. Danzig never could quite figure out that he was not the reincarnation of Jim Morrison.

Some influential underground groups that eventually blew up big.. to say the least.. Jane’s Addiction, and Red Hot Chili Peppers..

And Faith No More.. still one of my favorites.. music really got interesting!

The last genre I want to mention is .. hip hop/rap.

Rap cannot be officially classified as music. In order for music to be music, there has to be present both rhythm and melody. No melody in rap, so the term “rap music” is a misnomer.

A lot of the rap music was innocuous in those days.. or at least some of it.. especially compared to later groups..

Early rap pioneers.. Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool Jay (who was more innocent then.. I think, and who stuck around far too long) Kool Moe D. Sugarhill Gang, (ok, so part of their track “Rapper’s Delight,” or whatever it was called, did have some rather raunchy lyrics, which I will not type out here).. later on.. MC Hammer.

But.. the biggest rap group ever..Run DMC! Legends. Nothing more need be said about those guys.

Then.. Public Enemy.. rap got crazily amusing if Flavor Flav was at the mic, but otherwise.. rather serious, political, even militant. Very controversial to some folks, who were actually paying attention. The Public Enemy guys were Black Muslims (not to be confused with regular Muslims, of either the Shiite or Sunni persuasion).

And then.. another rap group.. NWA (Niggas With Attitude) which made rap evil.. which it has mostly been since (with the exception of some whimsical groups like 3rd Bass, Beastie Boys (nutty white guys who went far beyond rap) Dela Soul, Sir Mix-a-lot and Dj Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.. the Fresh Prince being Will Smith.. I assume you’ve heard of him)..

Ok, so not all rap groups after NWA were evil (and I forgot to mention Cypress Hill in the evil category, but NWA were 100 times more popular and influential)..

But NWA has left more of a legacy than any other rap group.

Gangster rap.. horrible, violent, misogynistic lyrics..

Eventually made a thousand times worse by a truly devilish invention.. those massive sub-woofers that are one of the most heinous things ever made.. seriously!

I lived in California most of my life.. the noise of these speakers.. beyond sickening! Words cannot express!

I’ve been living in Idaho for some months now, and am starting to hear the booming sickening bass here!!

I don’t usually advocate violence, but it is terribly unfortunate that NWA didn’t stay in Compton, and get murdered there, instead of becoming famous world wide, and spawning thousands of other microphone wielding psychotics who also deserve to be shot.. and some were. Tupac went down.. Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G, but if I remember right, Biggie was less into the gangster thing, and more into the wealth and ladies thing.. but anyway.. He still took a bullet, or several.

Tupac.. hmm.. Death Row records, right? That label.. the name says it all.

Some music from the ’80’s continues to inspire.. the innovative rock groups.. those who were doing their own thing, as well as those from the New Wave and even Hair Metal genres..

The pop superstars..

These were all a blessing (ok, sometimes a mixed blessing) to humankind..

Then there’s rap.. not entirely a curse and plague upon the human race, but.. mostly… yeah.

Alright then..

If you were born in the ’70’s, like me, or earlier, this entry has been a trip down a musical memory lane. If you were born in the ’80’s, or later, then you just got schooled.

You young folks might want to ask your parents about these groups, and do some exploring on your favorite download site, as long as you pay for your downloads!

Ok.. that’s enough from me, for now.

Hope you enjoyed this post.


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