1980s countdown

This morning I found about half of the people I pay regularly attention to on Twitter had been involved in some sort of discussion of 1984 vs 1985 as years in music. Each has its pros and cons, of course. There’s good music every year, and every year a lot of it goes unnoticed. But I got to thinking about the years in song.

Like a lot of McCartney’s songs, the music is good and the lyrics are silly. I think it works though. Written in 1973 and released in 1974 as the B-side to “Band on the Run,” it’s basically a filler tune built out of the opening line. If it was by someone else, or if it wasn’t next to other big hits (Jet and Band on the Run) we probably wouldn’t even know about it.

Coming from the same ‘73-’74 time frame is David Bowie’s 1984. The album, Diamond Dogs, was a hit, but the song wasn’t, which is kind of surprising. Maybe it made it onto FM radio classic rock playlists. Or maybe I played the record a lot. Or both. The wah-wah Shaft guitar is cool, but the strings are a bit much. Nice little nod to Dylan in there too

The times they are a-telling,
and the changing isn’t free

Which is better? I’d probably take 1984 over 1985 most of the time, but I go back and forth depending on which I listened to last and which is stuck in my head.

That’s not all people had to say about the 80s though.

I think I was in ninth grade when I bought Electric Ladyland, Hendix’s 1968 double LP. It had some hits, but this is the song that drew me in. I think I was a bit proggish in those days, and into extended and arty tunes. We had to write about a favorite song for English class, so I used this one. Mike Bianchi read my paper and accused me of being a pothead. In looking at the lyrics, I’m not sure what he’s talking about. I’m not sure I ever looked at them before. I like the little anti-techno-utopianism in the lines

“the machine
that we built
would never save us”

and the sea and sand imagery. Reminds me of Quadrophenia.

Step one year back and three decades forward to find The Quitters’ classic song, 1982, from the album of the same name. This is one of the many bands from my former hometown. Somewhere along the line I realized that the bands playing their own songs in the little dives around town for a five dollar cover were just as good as the big name acts playing in sports stadiums for crazy high-priced admission charges, and generally a lot more fun. And it’s not like I lived in a big town – it was a metropolitan area, but nowhere close to major league size. I figure there’s good music all over the place that never gets major media attention, whether it’s 1984 or 1985. But 1982 is better. It’s all downhill from there, to 1981, and the less said about 1980 the better.

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