Rock & Roll: Why The 80's Pretty Much Sucked

 

As I remember it, the 1980s was a decade in which the genre known as basic meat & potatoes rock & roll began to be undergo a myriad of changes.  The punk rock revolution was underway but didn't really become a worldwide "thing" like Beatlemania in the 60s.  Most suburban listeners weren't lining up at record stores to buy albums by punk outfits like the Ramones and The Clash.  Instead, their musical tastes gave rise to a style of rock called "New Wave".  New Wave acts, such as Elvis Costello & The Attractions and Squeeze, were making records that reflected an AM radio pop musical style.  With the advent of MTV, New Wave seemed to overpower punk rock and, as time went on, the genre known as rock & roll would begin to fragment into many different styles.

“The 80s decade was one of great upheaval and innovation, and the seeds it planted continue to flourish. It was a time when disco and punk were in tatters, its artists rebuilding from the rubble with new innovations to birth hardcore and new wave. Rock was getting more ridiculous, with Aqua-Net to spare, but it was also paring back into the thoughtful nexus that would someday be called indie rock—or it was throwing up pentagrams, getting dirtier and meaner, and turning into metal. Jazz and ambient were pushing their experimental borders by getting cinematic and free.” (Pitchfork Magazine)

 

"New wave moved away from traditional blues and rock and roll sounds to create rock music (early new wave) or pop music (later) that incorporated disco, mod, and electronic music. Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming a distinct genre. It subsequently engendered sub-genres and fusions, including synth-pop." (Wikipedia)

 

Another element that defined rock & roll in the 80s reminded me of of the early sixties.  The 80's hit parade featured a lot One Hit Wonders that captured the ears of the public but many of these artists never made much of an impact with regards to album sales but many of the songs had me buying singles once again.  Some of the One Hit Wonders of which I speak were songs like Haircut One Hundred (Love Plus One), Men Without Hats (Safety Dance), The Vapors (Turning Japanese), Boomtown Rats (I Don't Like Mondays), Soft Cell (Tainted Love), After The Fire (Der Kommisar), A Flock Of Seagulls (I Ran So Far Away), Talk Talk (It's My Life) and Till Tuesday (Voices Carry). It's also interesting to note that today's music charts are once again filled with One Hit Wonders.

 

"The '80s were, above all, a time of international corporatization, as one major after another gave it up to media moguls in Europe and Japan. By 1990, only two of the six dominant American record companies were headquartered in the U.S....After a feisty start, independent labels accepted farm-team status that could lead to killings with the big labels. Cross-promotional hoo-hah became the rule—the soundtrack album, the sponsored tour, the golden-oldie commercial, the T-shirt franchise, the video as song ad and pay-for-play programming and commodity fetish. Record executives became less impresarios than arbitragers, speculating in abstract bundles of rights whose physical characteristics meant little or nothing to them. Rock was mere music no longer. It was conceived as intellectual property, as a form of capital itself." (Robert Christgau / 1980's Christgau Record Guide)

"The music industry in the 1980’s was subject to major advancements in technology in both the instruments that were played, plus the methods of recording in the studios. With all of the progress that had been made within the different genres in previous decades the acts of the 1980s were able to take their music into different areas and refine certain ideas.  This was certainly the case with a number of bands that had started out in the punk era yet during the new decade were able to evolve into something a little more different… The music videos had a real impact on the industry during this time and the artists that were able to adapt the better were the ones who achieved the greatest success." (The Bay Are Take Over website)

 

"Because all of the major turmoils from the 1960s and the 1970s — the counterculture movement, the Vietnam war, the Watergate scandal and the domestic economic crisis — many Americans were left frustrated. Their confidence towards their fellow citizens and the government were severely undermined. By the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the idealistic dreams of many Americans were destroyed by inflation, foreign policy troubles and escalating crime. To cope with the turmoil, Americans adopted a new conservatism in social, political and economic way of living, under the Reagan administration. The 1980's as also a decade known for its materialism and consumerism, not to mention the rise of the “yuppie” culture. Many young, highly-educated people who were enjoying good pay got to also enjoy the benefits from it, of course. Having disposable income at hand, they were able to indulge their pleasures such as hitting the bars, watching box-office films, spending on designer apparel, records, fancy cars, as well as the latest in technology back then. They were also able to imitate the latest fashions of their movie and pop music idols.  But by the mid-1980s, the whole thing changed when pop music stars such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper became popular. They introduced an entirely new style that most people associate with the 1980s to the present day. Bright colors, spandex, bangles, hoop earrings, teased hair, loud makeup and neon clothing were the order of 80s fashion for women. For the guys, activewear such as sweatpants and sweatshirts, denim jeans and jackets, wild-colored thick, itchy sweaters and athletic shoes were “in” during the decade…. The music scene in this decade was pretty much about image — and with the arrival of the Music Television (MTV) in 1981, the images that accompanied the artist mattered much more than ever. By 1983 MTV was available on over 2,000 cable channels (from a mere 300 on its maiden launch). Another music channel VH1 was launched in 1984 and introduced a more classic rock format. Simply put, the predominance of these music videos as around-the-clock marketing tool was effective and influential in bringing several new artists as well as new genres into the mainstream. Speaking of genres, the 1980s introduced (or re-introduced) many of them such as the resurgence of heavy metal, the advent of new wave, hip-hop, rap music, hair metal, all of which influenced music in the present. The music scene in this decade was pretty much about image — and with the arrival of the Music Television (MTV) in 1981, the images that accompanied the artist mattered much more than ever. By 1983 MTV was available on over 2,000 cable channels (from a mere 300 on its maiden launch). Another music channel VH1 was launched in 1984 and introduced a more classic rock format. Simply put, the predominance of these music videos as around-the-clock marketing tool was effective and influential in bringing several new artists as well as new genres into the mainstream. Speaking of genres, the 1980s introduced (or re-introduced) many of them such as the resurgence of heavy metal, the advent of new wave, hip-hop, rap music, hair metal, all of which influenced music in the present.”  (mental itch website)

 

"More than anything, eighties music was heavily produced. Everyone knows the classic 80s sound: huge reverby snare drums, lots of delay on the vocals, electronic rhythms and synthesizers.  For the first time ever, musicians were regularly paying with a click track, or metronome. Because many 80s instruments were synced via MIDI, it was very important that the backing tracks (typically rhythm) were recorded in perfect tempo. While this change improved music in some ways, others may argue that music lost it’s humanity because of this. Before the 80s, many bands recorded live together, or depended on the drummer to keep the tempo. Music engineers and songwriters had more tools at their disposal than ever before. That’s why a lot of music sounds like people playing (“experimenting”) with toys. Especially compared to the music of today, much of the early digital technology was 8-bit and the tonal quality just wasn’t that great. But it was a lively time for experimentation.  Analog synth sounds from the 1980s were really great and guitarists like The Edge (from U2, with a little help from producer Brian Eno) showed us all what could be done to a guitar with delay and reverb. Unfortunately, the digital synthesizer took over for the analog synth in the early 80's and in my opinion a lot of good quality synths disappeared because of this. The music industry in the 1980s was driven mostly by the success of a wildly popular new music cable channel called MTV. For the first time in history, image was just as important as the music. A good music video could instantly catapult a new act to stardom. Cyndi Lauper was almost an overnight sensation due to her quirky looks as much as her quirky tunes. Some artists were huge for most of the decade. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Def Leppard to name a few. Cher made a comeback and Guns N’ Roses made a grand introduction. The eighties also witnessed the infancy and eventual growth of hip hop. While not too many acts from the 80s stand up well against today’s artists, they laid the groundwork for what would later be achieved by thousands of modern hip hop artists in the future."  (retrowaste.com)

 

I have to say, I never really liked MTV at all.  To me, it seemed to indicate that people were becoming more into watching music rather than listening to it.

"For many young people the most significant events (in terms of their day-to-day lives) in the 1980s were the technological advancements developed by the music industry. Music Television (MTV) was born in 1981 along with the inventions of the Walkman, the VCR, and boom box. These inventions are what reshaped the music of this era, and between MTV and the development of video games, the electronic world became far more visual. MTV gave musical artists a new medium to promote their music with and to express themselves further. MTV gave New Wave musicians from Europe such as the Eurythmics and the Police the opportunity to enter the U.S. market without embarking on risky, expensive tours. The fans often emulated the images found in the music videos. Madonna bracelets stacked to the elbows were in as was teased hair, and tons of makeup.  The technology of the 1980s also created a global effect on music, allowing it to reach into parts of the world that were impenetrable before..Technology was used to increase the volume of the music to a deafening level and to distort the sound and lyrics to a barely discernible point. Boom boxes became walking radio stations and turntables became instruments. The 80s can be best described as a time of rich musical exploration through its globalization given by the development of technology. New styles evolved from earlier ones, and entirely new genres of Rock were invented." (ohiostate.pressbooks.pub)

 

"Digital recording became huge in the ‘80s, and the possibilities it offered allowed pop music to grow even more. Suddenly, synthesizers and electronic sounds could be put into pop music, and as this kind of dance-pop developed, so did genres like techno. And the artists who emerged in these years were revolutionary for pop—Michael Jackson’s Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time. Jackson was becoming the biggest pop star of the decade, followed closely by Prince, who had his own pop stardom to claim. His music, which pulled from pop, rock, funk, and so much more, coupled with his extravagant and flamboyant presence catapulted him into a spotlight never truly faded away. Female pop powerhouses were also coming into play, like Whitney Houston and Madonna. The latter became the most successful female artist of the decade, with songs like Like A Virgin. The ‘80s was creating a pop-music culture like no other decade had before it, a culture that would carry through in the decades to come." (theculturetrip.com)

 

Along with the rise of videos in the world of rock & pop music, a major change began to happen the 80s with regard to how music was listened to. The Phillips  conglomerate had finally developed a serviceable version of the compact disc in 1982. "The new technology would go on sale in Japan later that year, and in other markets around the world the following March.  Though CD players at the time cost hundreds of dollars—up to $1,000 when TIME reported on their introduction to the U.S. market, though competition was expected to more than halve their cost quickly—manufacturers were confident they’d be a hit. (CDs themselves sold for about $17 at the time, which is the same as about $40 in today’s dollars.) One of their big advantages was the sound quality they promised..." (wildsounds.com)

 

It seemed immediately obvious that compact discs definitely influenced the way music sounded.  Everything sounded much cleaner and that didn't necessarily mean that the music was better sounding.  As I started to purchase cds, I noticed how the sound of compact discs lacked warmth.  There was one absurd moment when I was at a party and a person put on the CD version of the Ramones 1977 live album, It's Alive.  Hearing the raw sound of the Ramones sounding so polished caused me to turn to the person who put that CD on and say, "This is a joke, right?"  Another factor that made me dislike compact discs was when I later learned that compact discs cost less to manufacture than vinyl albums and yet the music labels charged twice as much for the CD version of an album thereby ripping off music fans to a great degree.

 

"Every generation likes to complain about how musical creativity peaked when we were young and has died a slow death ever since, but according to a new computer algorithm, we’re all wrong. Mainstream music in the US has actually remained stylistically diverse over the past 50 years, with the exception of one decade, the 1980's." (sciencealert.com)

 

"It was during the ’80s that radio stations began to tighten their playlists all to the happy applause of corporate music execs. The rapid creativity of the 1970s radio stations died, to be replaced by preplanned and survey-tested radio formats. The most significant of these were the songs stations received from the radio syndication company Drake-Chenault. No longer were program and music directors left to their own knowledge and gut as to what made a hit. They deferred to the “experts.” It was a disaster. The same songs were played and replayed to the point of monotony. Music and then radio began to lose its audience, and the music that was created for just this purpose suffered. In a significant way, it all began to sound the same. The 1980s represented the creeping destruction of musical creativity. The few shining moments in this decade were achieved by those acts allowed by their corporate producers to test the boundaries of acceptable on-air material—Michael Jackson’s Thriller falls into this category....When the record labels merged and clamped down on musical talent, they froze out the bands that would have carried their creative market into the next decade. Those who wanted to remain a signed act were forced into the company playlist with company producers and company song writers. Many bands before the explosion of the internet and independent labels were sadly never to find broad fame and marketability they deserved because music executives really did not have the expertise they thought they had...The pressure the industry put on artists in the ’80s led to the present musical explosion we are now witnessing. Suffocated by the music industry’s grip on what was acceptable, bands started to go on their own. The best songs of the ’80s were not created in that decade, but long after...It was not just pop that stunk in the nostrils of the musicians and smart disc jockeys of the day. Country also suffered from the same stagnation. The slow rolling creation of an entirely new genre (alt-country) that came out of the Byrds (via Gram Parsons and Scott Hillman) would not reach its breakout moment until the 1990s. This is a legacy even the Beatles do not have. The Byrds were the most influential band in American music for what they unleashed and created, but it took time because of the resistance from the major labels that wanted to kill music not created in their hot-house market tested image. The tight grip of elite music producers and writers caused Robbie Fulks to pen this irreverent tune to corporate execs. But he was not the only one who did so. The indie and alt-country movements were born out of the putrification of a decade. When people like Jack White of the White Stripes lent his support behind not only recreating the minimalist sound, but also independent record companies to put the power of music back in the hands of the creators and the fans, new radio stations under the new influence began to fill the void and thousands of fans left the preplanned and predictable sounds of the major labels." (amgreatness.com)

"Say, what's your beef with the music of the 80s anyhow??"

Here's an article from the NPR site that inspired me to write this blog post: 

Computer Scientists Prove 80s Pop Music Is Boring

Pop music is dead...You’ve heard the refrain dropped by nostalgic music lovers at backyard barbecues. And it’s no surprise. Everyone thinks the tunes of their generation marked a sort of cultural pinnacle and that music has since become bland.  The researchers relied on Billboard’s Hot-100 list, the music industry’s tome that ranks the most popular singles by radio plays, online streaming and record sales. (They define pop music as any song that makes that list, regardless of genre.) The team downloaded nearly every song on this chart dating back to 1960 –- close to 17,000 total tracks.  The computer program scanned each tune for two features: harmony and timbre. Harmonies are the musical chords that define a song’s melody. Timbre describes the character of music, the quality of tone. For instance, a piano and a guitar can play the same chord, but they sound different to the ear. Timbre is the word for that audio difference. 

Next, after deciphering the harmonic and timbre qualities, the team built a fossil record of pop music, defined by when certain chords and timbre styles became fashionable or disappeared from our cultural consciousness.  On the timbre side of evolution, energetic, loud guitar peaked in 1966, and again in 1985 as hair bands like Motley Crue topped the charts and then once more in recent years. Another example: music laden with pianos and orchestras dipped in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but this style returned at the turn of the millenium.  Next, the songs were sorted into sub-genres via tags created by the 50 million users of Last.fm, a UK-based music discovery website.  The team then tracked how diversity – the number of styles within pop music – changed over time. They found that pop music mimicked how life evolved on Earth. 

Original formulations by Charles Darwin assumed a constant rate of evolution, where everything changes in small steps. That turned out to be slightly false, as 20th century biologists recognized that life on Earth is punctuated by bursts of very fast rates of evolution…Pop music follows the same pattern. The team highlights three years that represent musical revolutions — that is, years that sparked a boon of innovative styles and variety: 1964, 1983 and 1993. 

Of the three revolutions, 1964 was the most complex, enriching the styles of soul and rock, before ultimately spawning the dance crazes of funk and disco. The trends seems to have come at the expense of Doo Wop, which dropped off the charts.  Music historians attribute this wholesale change to the British Invasion of the early 1960s, when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones arrived in America and were followed by dozens of other Brit bands. Computer analysis paints a different picture. The signature features of this era — such as loud guitar, major chords with no changes and bright, energetic melodies — predated the arrival of Brit bands.  This theme makes sense; when we think of styles, the prototypes are often not the earliest examples.  Based on the Billboard charts, other domestic acts like Bobby Vinton were already capitalizing on these musical traits and rising in the charts during the early 1960s. But even though the Beatles and the Rolling Stones didn’t initiate the revolution, the study argues that they “fanned the flames” by exploiting the genre — both bands had 66 hits on the Hot-100 before 1968.  

The second landmark movement in 1983 came with the adoption of aggressive, synthesized percussion — think Phil Collins and his pulsating drum machine — and loud, guitar-heavy Arena rock with lots of chord changes, such as with Mötley Crüe, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon, Queen, Kiss and Alice Cooper. These rock bands were joined by new wave acts — like the Police and Cyndi Lauper — plus a surge of metronomic dance-pop heroes like Madonna and the Pet Shop Boys. (Michael Jackson’s Thriller dropped in late-1982) Meantime, classic country and folk lost popularity and wouldn’t return until the early aughts.  But these sounds and styles of the Reagan era flooded the music scene, pushing out genres like country and folk to the point that mid-to-late 1980's became most humongous period in music over the last 50 years, based on the team’s computer analysis.  For instance, they spotted the death of dominant 7th chords, which were a staple of jazz in the 1960's. The use of these chords gave a shade of gritty tension to Blues music and were featured in tracks by Elvis Presley, such as I Feel So Bad.  But they’re wrong, according to a new computer program that has systematically charted the evolution of popular music. By treating each hit song like a fossil, the London-based research team found that America’s mainstream music has remained stylistically diverse over the last 50 years, with one decade as an exception: the 1980's...Overall, the study shows that musical diversity since the 1960s hasn’t dropped precipitously, even despite the lull in the 1980's."

 

While I know some folks reading this blog post might be offended by my overall perspective regarding the music of the 1980s, there was some credible music to be had but much of the time, mediocrity was the order of the day.  Here’s a list of some of the albums that got me through a decade whose music (at various times) reminded me of processed cheese:

 

Remain In Light (Talking Heads, 1980)

“A lot of people don't realize this, but Remain in Light was the worst-selling Talking Heads record ever, says drummer Chris Frantz.  Financially, we took a beating on that one, says David Byrne. At the time, it was a really hard sell. The reaction that we heard was that it sounded too black for white radio and too white for black radio.  Remain in Light may have been a commercial disappointment, but musically, the band's 1980 album — which combines funk, disco and African rhythms — was years ahead of its time." (Rolling Stone Magazine)

 

Imperial Bedroom (Elvis Costello & The Attractions, 1982)

Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom is a magnificent album in many ways.  Various elements such as Costello's brilliant songwriting and the crisp production by Geoff Emerick make this a must-listen album for sure.  While the album was not wildly popular, it has gained much respect from music lovers over the years.   "Having gotten country out of his system with Almost Blue, Elvis Costello returned to pop music with Imperial Bedroom -- and it was pop in the classic, Tin Pan Alley sense. Costello chose to hire Geoff Emerick, who engineered all of the Beatles' most ambitious records, to produce Imperial Bedroom, which indicates what it sounds like -- it's traditional pop with a post-Sgt. Pepper production. Essentially, the songs on Imperial Bedroom are an extension of Costello's jazz and pop infatuations on Trust. Costello's music is complex and intricate, yet it flows so smoothly, it's easy to miss the bitter, brutal lyrics. The interweaving layers of "Beyond Belief" and the whirlwind intro are the most overtly dark sounds on the record, with most of the album given over to the orchestrated, melancholy torch songs and pop singles. Never once do Costello & the Attractions deliver a rock & roll song -- the album is all about sonic detail, from the accordion on "The Long Honeymoon" to the lilting strings on "Town Cryer." Of course, the detail and the ornate arrangements immediately peg Imperial Bedroom as Costello's most ambitious album, but that doesn't mean it's his absolute masterpiece. Imperial Bedroom remains one of Costello's essential records because it is the culmination of his ambitions and desires -- it's where he proves that he can play with the big boys, both as a songwriter and a record-maker. It may not have been a commercial blockbuster, but it certainly earned the respect of legions of musicians and critics who would have previously disdained such a punk rocker." (All Music)

 

Let It Be (The Replacements, 1984)

In 1984, The Replacements were a band that reminded me that the true wild nature of rock & roll was still alive and well.  "From track one (I Will Dare) to track 11 (Answering Machine), The Replacements album Let It Be plays like an eclectic masterpiece of pop music. But, while Let It Be was, and remains, a darling of the critical elite—No. 241 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time—it was an absolute failure upon release, moving a mere few thousand copies...While Let It Be does contain its share of punk rock bombast with tracks like We’re Comin’ OutGary’s Got A Boner, and Seen Your Video, the best songs and truest statements are delivered in the most staid pop formats imaginable. Androgynous is, in essence, a piano ballad. The guitar-arpeggiated Sixteen Blue has more in common with the earliest manifestation of The Beatles than it does with The Buzzcocks. And then there’s the greatest punk rock sin of them all: a cover of Kiss’ Black Diamond...In the most literal sense, The Replacements adhered closer to the non-conformist ethos purveyed by their punk rock forbears than those who most loudly propagated it ever did. Even before they had a real career to sabotage they were sabotaging themselves. Even before they had a real audience to subvert, they were actively subversive. This extends to this record’s name itself, which Westerberg later explained was 'our way of saying that nothing is sacred, that The Beatles were just a fine rock ’n’ roll band. We were seriously gonna call the next record Let It Bleed.'  The modern day legacy of Let It Be is perhaps most closely aligned with that of another low-selling, now-iconic record released by the New York art-rock outfit, The Velvet Underground. In 1982, Musician magazine famously asked Brian Eno about the commercial flop that was The Velvets’ first release. He responded with the now-classic quote, 'I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.' That same sentiment can be applied to Let It Be. It is the ultimate bridge between what came before it and what followed in its wake.  

Larger musical movements aren’t created in a vacuum. In most cases they are simply manufactured by those looking to capitalize on the success of a singular entity. The British Invasion rode in on the coattails of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix made psychedelia acceptable, and everyone and their mother donned a flannel shirt in the wake of Nirvana’s success. The real sticking point of this process is that few artists or entities ever live up to the artistic truth of what came before them. That’s why we don’t celebrate Herman’s Hermits, Strawberry Alarm Clock, or Bush in the same sort of way. The best art isn’t accomplished when the artist is attempting to do something new just for the sake of doing something new or, conversely, trying something old because, hey, it worked once. The best art comes out of artists who are willing to take a chance because what they are creating is equally stimulating and rewarding. Ultimately, that’s just what The Replacements did with Let It Be." (From the AV Club website)

 

Rain Dogs (Tom Waits, 1985)

Tom Waits is one of my favorite songwriters.  In his early, Waits took on the persona of a beat generation hep cat but by the 80's he wisely deconstructed his approach to his art which deepened his songwriting in such a meaningful way.  “Waits had refreshed his sound on Swordfishtrombones two years earlier by moving beyond piano and guitar to dabble with a wider variety of instruments, and on Rain Dogs his repertoire continued to expand, with pump organs, accordions and bowed saws...The range of musical styles sprawled, too, and Rain Dogs contains cabaret numbers, country songs, gospel, polkas, ballads and sea shanties. Waits is a sucker for the theatrical, and the ragbag cast here is at the carnivalesque end of things, plus sad-eyed dames and a girl with tattooed tear – one for every year he's away, she said – at the late-night, romantically downbeat, Edward Hopper-ish end.  Waits can be extremely funny – I love the hilariously grotesque lineup of stingy senior relatives on Cemetery Polka – but he can also rein in his more bacchanalian impulses and write spare, heartbreaking beautiful songs, such as Hang Down Your Head, that always make me want to shush people so that they can experience it with the degree of reverence that I, with a convert's zeal, believe it deserves.” (The Gaurdian)

 

Skylarking (XTC, 1986)

Skylarking (XTC, 1986) – I’ve always been an XTC fan and this lush sounding album is perhaps their most realized effort.  “Arising from a series of difficult sessions with (producer) Todd Rundgren (‘As if there were any other kind of sessions with Todd,’ say the New York Dolls), Skylarking polishes up the group's sometimes thorny pop and creates a shimmering, technicolor gem that I'm pretty sure every critic everywhere has called pastoral—and for good reason. Not only does it sound wholly organic with its lush strings and instrumentation, but it also conveys an almost spiritual quality in its underlying wisdom, Dear God notwithstanding. Skylarking is so nearly perfect to my way of thinking that it's hard to actually pull it apart and turn it into words.” (Pop Matters)

 

Bring The Family (John Hiatt, 1987)

Bring the Family was John Hiatt's breakthrough album and it defintely added fuel to the growing Americana music genre.  Bring The Family (John Hiatt 1987) – “In 1987, John Hiatt, clean and sober and looking for an American record deal, was asked by an A&R man at a British label to name his dream band. After a little thought, Hiatt replied that if he had his druthers, he'd cut a record with Ry Cooder on guitar, Nick Lowe on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums. To Hiatt's surprise, he discovered all three were willing to work on his next album; Hiatt and his dream band went into an L.A. studio and knocked off Bring the Family in a mere four days, and the result was the best album of Hiatt's career. The musicians certainly make a difference here, generating a lean, smoky groove that's soulful and satisfying.  Ry Cooder's guitar work is especially impressive, leaving no doubt of his singular gifts without ever overstepping its boundaries...but the real triumph here is Hiatt's songwriting. Bring the Family was recorded after a period of great personal turmoil for him, and for the most part the archly witty phrase-maker of his earlier albums was replaced by an wiser and more cautious writer who had a great deal to say about where life and love can take you. Hiatt had never written anything as nakedly confessional as Tip of My Tongue or Learning How to Love You before, and even straight-ahead R&B-style rockers like Memphis in the Meantime and Thing Called Love possessed a weight and resonance he never managed before. But Bring the Family isn't an album about tragedy, it's about responsibility and belatedly growing up, and it's appropriate that it was a band of seasoned veterans with their own stories to tell about life who helped Hiatt bring it across; it's a rich and satisfying slice of grown-up rock & roll.” (AllMusic)

 

Sign O' The Times - Prince

“Sign O’ The Times (Prince, 1987) – Along with The White Album and Exile on Main Street, Sign O’ the Times is the template for the perfect double album. Take an artist at the peak of his powers, give him the space to work all his crazy ideas to their logical conclusion, and then edit the results into a varied four-sided collection. Club classics (Hot Thing, U Got the Look), ballads of epic rock (The Cross), sexy R&B (Adore), and flat-out amazing pop songs (I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man, If I Was Your Girlfriend) are all here in abundance. Oh yeah, he wrote, played, produced, and sang just about everything himself, too. Was he the greatest quadruple threat ever? Listen and decide for yourself.” (Pop Matters)

 

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2 comments

  • carol pascale

    carol pascale here

    Interesting take. but the 80's also had Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. , The Replacements 'Tim' was also a fave. I think you're a tad dismissive of Cyndi Lauper a solid song writer not just a quirky act. In fact the 80's may have been female artists best decade. Lucinda William's eponymous album. Bonnie Raitt's 1989 Nick of Time. Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics, Kate Bush and Kirsty MacColl, Chrissy Hynde all come to mind after male dominated 60's Brit Invasions and 70's rock bands led invariably by men the 80's brought a little change about , No?

    Interesting take. but the 80's also had Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. , The Replacements 'Tim' was also a fave. I think you're a tad dismissive of Cyndi Lauper a solid song writer not just a quirky act. In fact the 80's may have been female artists best decade. Lucinda William's eponymous album. Bonnie Raitt's 1989 Nick of Time. Annie Lennox and The Eurythmics, Kate Bush and Kirsty MacColl, Chrissy Hynde all come to mind after male dominated 60's Brit Invasions and 70's rock bands led invariably by men the 80's brought a little change about , No?

  • Mind Smoke Records

    Mind Smoke Records

    Hey Carol Pascale...thanks for your comment. I agree that the 80's provided an abundance of some great female artists but my overall perspective on the 80's is that there was way too much artifice in the music culture of that particular decade (much like there is today).

    Hey Carol Pascale...thanks for your comment. I agree that the 80's provided an abundance of some great female artists but my overall perspective on the 80's is that there was way too much artifice in the music culture of that particular decade (much like there is today).

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