what about the eighties?
Getting clearer now, less faint:
The seventies were dreadful; stop talking about them! You're harshing my mellow!
Honing in on the signal now:
Please, god, I wasn't born yet. No more Lulu!
OK, OK, what about the eighties? Was the music any fun?
Why yes, it was. But it takes more rooting around in it to find good stuff left over from the eighties. The most poplular song in the eighties, ten weeks at number one, was Physical by Olivia Newton John. Or as we used to call her in our little LA combo back then: Olivia Neutron Bomb, referring to her ability to clear a room, leaving only the furniture.
Land sakes, look how bad the most popular music was in the eighties:
Michael Jackson, post nose
Madonna before pitch correction equipment, still looking a little doughy
Sorry. I'm not channeling Howard Dean; it's just that I got to that last one-- whom I renamed DOA Meatwagon -- and I felt the urge to plunge a number two pencil into my eardrums.
The first thing I ever wrote was twenty-five years ago or so, a review of the DOA Meatwagon show at the Providence Civic Center. I've never met a more loathesome bunch of people than those guys and their entourage. My friend Steve LaBadessa was a photographer, and got a superb photo of the security guards dragging some drug addled schlub out of the arena, none too gently, either. When the guards got done tharashing him, they turned towards us, saw the cameras, then decided perhaps the photos of the proceedings would be best if unpublished -- and came after us. We fled like footpads, them in hot pursuit, our press credentials waving behind us like a Sopwith Camel pilot's scarf.
Look, this isn't going well. It wasn't that bad. Let me show you the best of it, the encapsulation of the zeitgeist in pop music, and still damn good fun: XTC
The eighties were a time when the world was waking up from a kind of torpor, or stasis. New possibilities were opening up. The shooting wars had calmed down a bit. And the ideas from the technology and commerce side of the aisle were ascendant, and things got downright hopeful compared to the enuui mixed with depression the seventies encapsulated. My high school yearbook in 1976 had a two page spread that simply had the word APATHY in big letters across it. Hey, when you're taking a beating, sometimes it's best to curl up and wait for the blows to stop raining down.
Anyway, XTC encapsulates the marvelous and clever hive of activity that eighties music was, if you scratched the chrome off the arena rock edifice and looked a little deeper. They embodied the ideal of a few talented guys writing quirky, pleasant, tuneful ditties for our --and their own -- amusement. It was nice to see people look like they were having fun, and not taking themselves too seriously for a change. To paraphrase Jeff Lebowski- God, I hate the Eagles.
XTC look like dweebs, and they are. The lead singer and one of the founders, Andy Partridge, canceled a whole tour because his wife hid his valium, and he was terrified to go on stage without it. He really belonged in a cubicle somewhere, or a library or something. He wrote songs about his comic book collection. His sort of Star Wars action figure collector comic book guy ugly guitar buyer home studio recorder computer geek TV Guide obsessed Avengers wannabe persona didn't exist yet then in pop culture. Everybody's like him now.
We dragged poor Andy out onto the stage he feared so, to distill the intellectual and the artisitic and the pop culture wag "vibe" into those toe-tapping songs. My, they were clever.
Enjoy it. I did. You've worn out your Talking Heads records anyway.