The 1980s: A Decade That Classic Rock Forgot

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From 1960-1990 rock and roll music went through a wave of different styles, attitudes, sounds, and overall quality. Every generation produced music that was characteristic of the years with which they were from.  However, the decades that receive an overwhelming amount of attention are the sixties and seventies.  Yes, those decades contained some of the most wonderful music that anyone had heard until that time. Yes, the musicians within those generations could be characterized as some of the most polarizing figures in the history of music, but there is a ten year span between 1970-1990 that is frequently left out of the discussion. Now, I am not trying to take remove any jewels from the crowns of the kings and queens; what I am trying to do is shine just a sliver of light on the red-headed stepchild of the lot, the 1980s.

During the eighties something happened in the United States that was almost as though LSD had been dropped into the water supply of every major city.  Fashion began to take a turn into some futuristic style.  Clothes started to have shiny leather parts for no reason, twenty zippers that had no function, sunglasses with one slit straight through the middle that was impossible to see out of.  The hair of the younger generation was getting punked out and Flock of Seagulled up.  Hot pinks and neon blues, acid wash jeans, skinny piano ties, and the overwhelming desire to wear just one sparkly glove on our hands (ok, that part was awesome). 

The musical government of the 1970s was overthrown by synthesizers and keyboards that sounded as though they were playing sounds from a different planet.  Bands dressed up with flower pots on their heads, wore big suits, and used weird new videos on this new thing called MTV.  Glam rockers spread like wildfire as men everywhere quickly learned to ask if the four people that looked like hot girls on the album cover were, in fact, actually girls-Look What The Cat Dragged In taught us all a valuable lesson in cross-dressing.

These are the strange and ridiculous facts that can cast a dark shadow over the 1980s, but there are golden pieces of rock and roll that should not be overlooked.  Every time I hear Billy Idol sing “White Wedding,” I still try to make my lip sneer up like his; even though a girl saw me doing it once and said that it looked really creepy. 

The Talking Heads were way ahead of their time; if that music was to be played for someone without any introduction, some would think it was something from today. Depeche Mode and The Cure are still selling out concerts today.  Now, are people going to the show trying to impersonate Boy George like back in the day? Hopefully not, but you never know.

Then there is Michael Jackson, how can there be a discussion about the 1980s without Michael Jackson.  That name causes so many to grumble, curse, or they have already stopped reading.  The generation that followed those that grew up in the 1980s will never know what Michael Jackson used to be.  For me to try and put into words what his popularity during that time equaled, no matter the estimation, it would fall short.  Everybody on the planet wanted to be like Michael Jackson.  The video for “Thriller” was the most incredible and terrifying thing that I had ever seen, it was a revolutionary piece in what music videos would become. Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” is still one of my favorite song’s of all time.

The sixties and seventies produced tremendous music that was written by some of the most brilliant and fascinating musicians we have known to this point.  Those decades will continue to get attention because subjects in those time periods remain intriguing.  That being said, right here, for the few seconds or minutes taken to read this article, a small part of the spotlight was cast upon a forgotten treasure, the 1980s.

Chris McDonald

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