Friday, 18 January 2013

Living in the Material World

Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of the 80's provided a lot less fodder for argument than I expected.

The 80’s began badly.  After a big tease by Elvis Costello, The Cars and other New Wave arrivals, John Lennon got shot, synth players began wearing strap-ons, the guitars disappeared, and everyone began wearing makeup and stuff.

Rolling Stone notes that there were no big musical revolutions like there had been in previous decades.  Nope, just a bizarre retreat into glam, disco, and Broadway silliness.  So I expected a rather moribund scan over a list filled with the likes of Culture Club, George Michael and The Human League.

To be sure, they are all there, but they don’t dominate as much as I had feared.  Here’s the Top 10:

The Clash – London Calling
What’s-his-name – Purple Rain
U2 – Joshua Tree
Talking Heads – Remain In Light
Paul Simon – Graceland
Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.
Michael Jackson – Thriller
R.E.M. – Murmur
Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out the Lights
Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

Pretty good.  And the rest of the list didn’t give me too much of the creeps.  It’s got Midnight Oil, The Pretenders, more Bruce, Tom Petty (though not near high enough), AC/DC, Lennon, Peter Gabriel, Squeeze, Travelling Wilburys, and Pete Townshend.

Lots of artists get on more than once: Springsteen, Gabriel, U2, The Stones, R.E.M., Talking Heads.  Some should have: Petty, Def Leppard, Townshend.  But overall the synth, dance stuff does not dominate, and much of what was selected actually ages well.

As with most such lists, you get the feeling that there’s an arbitrary pick of some album or other just to include some of the big names.  Take Freedom by Neil Young (#85) for example.  Then as now, Neil put out an album every 9 months or so.  Why that one?  I mean, why not, but …

Biggest surprise: Captain Beefheart was still around in the 80’s?

Disappointing that neither August nor Behind the Sun from Clapton made the list.  Speaking of omissions, no Phil Collins, with or without Genesis?  I was lukewarm on him, but Collins was everywhere that decade.  He was inescapable.  Singing, playing, producing …  Not finding him on the list seems to be against all odds.

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