Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

In Defense of 80s Music (part two)

Like the 60s, the first three years of the 80s were really just an extension of the decade that preceded it, and for fans of more traditional rock and roll, these years alone might justify the entire decade.  During the first half of 1980 the albums from late 1979 dominated radio playlists: Pink Floyd – The Wall; Led Zeppelin – In through the Outdoor; The Charlie Daniel’s Band – “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” (but without the “son of a bitch” on AM).  But I distinctly remember hearing “Spirit of Radio” by Rush in the car one day along with “The Cradle Will Rock” by Van Halen – both 1980 releases – and you could do a hell of a lot worse than starting off a decade with those two.

In no particular order, allow me to rattle off a few albums that brought in the 80s not with a whimper, but with a bang (and yes, I fully admit up front that my white, suburban upbringing is the lens through which I view music).  You might not like all of these albums (I don’t) but there’s got to be something in this list that appeals to you.  These are all releases from 1980 to 1982.

The Cars – Panorama

Steely Dan – Gaucho

Bruce Springsteen – The River, Nebraska

Van Halen – Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down

Rush – Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals

Cheap Trick – All Shook Up

Peter Gabriel – Peter Grabriel III (or Melt)

John Lennon – Double Fantasy

Tom Petty – Hard Promises, Long After Dark

Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates

Talking Heads – Remain in Light

Journey – Departure, Escape

King Crimson – Discipline, Beat

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly

Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You

Elvis Costello – Get Happy!!, Trust, Imperial Bedroom

Joe Jackson – Beat Crazy, Jumpin’ Jive, Night and Day

Yes – Drama

Roxy Music  - Avalon

Paul Simon – Hearts and Bones

AC/DC – Back in Black, For Those About it Rock

Dire Straits – Making Movies, Love Over Gold

Prince – Dirty Mind, 1999

Michael Jackson – Thriller

The Police – Zeynatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine

Genesis – Duke, Abacab

Fleetwood Mac - Mirage

Heart – Bebe Le Strange

Pretenders – Pretenders I, Pretenders II

Billy Joel – Glass Houses, The Nylon Curtain

Don’t forget Devo also put out three albums to start off the 80s, Graham Parker kept up his prolific output, Supertramp released one album (Famous Last Words…), Squeeze put out three albums as did The Cure, The Replacements made their stunning debut, and oh, there was a little band from Ireland making a splash with the albums Boy and October.  Hell, even Paul McCartney put out one of his best albums, Tug of War, during this time period. 

Not a bad start to a decade. 

“Now wait a minute,” you might say.  “Let’s get to the heart of the decade.  You know, thin ties, bad hair, synth pop, pseudo-metal bands with big hair.  Surely, nothing good came out during this period.”

Or so our memories might have us believe.  One reader of my last blog entry commented that because the 80s included the start of MTV, the images planted in our brains from this time period are often visual.  I think that’s right on.  When I think 80s, I have a visual image of a thin-tied, feathered haired guy playing a keyboard.  But these years have so much more to offer.

Without further ado, here again in no particular order are just some of the many albums released from 1983 to 1989.  These might not be the albums that we think of when we think of the 1980s, but maybe they should be.

Paul Simon – Graceland

U2 – Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum

REM – holy crap.  Get a load of this output: Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant, Document, Green

John (Cougar) Mellencamp – Uh-Huh, Scarecrow, The Lonesome Jubilee, Big Daddy

The Replacements – Let It Be, Tim, Pleased to Meet Me, Don’t Tell a Soul

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe, Blind Man’s Zoo, Our Time in Eden

BoDeans – Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams

Tinita Tikaram – Ancient Heart

Simple Mind – Once Upon a Time (perhaps my vote for album of the decade)

The Police – Synchronicity

XTC – Skylarking, Oranges and Lemons

Rickie Lee Jones – The Magazine, Flying Cowboys

Big Country – The Crossing, The Seer, Peace in our Time

Joe Jackson – Big World, Blaze of Glory

They Might Be Giants – They Might Be Giants, Lincoln

Randy Newman – Trouble in Paradise, Land of Dreams

Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues, Little Creatures, Naked

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA, Tunnel of Love

King Crimson – Three of a Perfect Pair

Yes – 90125 (I’ll skip Big Generator)

Prince – Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Sign o’ the Times

Tom Petty – Southern Accents, Full Moon Fever

Van Halen – 1984, 5150, OU812

The Bears – The Bears, Rise and Shine

Graham Parker – The Mona Lisa’s Sister

Genesis – Genesis

Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson

The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration

James Taylor – That’s Why I’m Here, Never Die Young

The Pursuit of Happiness – Love Junk

Elvis Costello – Punch the Clock, King of America, Blood & Chocolate, Spike

Sting – Dream of the Blue Turtles, Nothing like the Sun

Paul McCartney – Flowers in the Dirt

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel IV (or Security), So

Bruce Hornsby – The Way it Is, Scenes from the Southside

Rush – Grace Under Pressure, Power Windows, Hold Your Fire, Presto

After I compiled this list, mostly from memory, I looked up the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s by Rolling Stone Magazine.  I think I mention 40 of the albums they put on their list, but you might want to scan what they consider the best of the decade (two of which came out in ’79.  What’s with that?).  They include artists that fall under synth pop and big hair bands that I purposely avoided, only because they already define the decade.

I’ve no doubt left off some great albums.  You might have noticed a dearth of female and African American artists.  An injustice, no doubt.  Set me straight.  Comment below and mention some of the artists and albums that I overlooked, and together, we can defend the 80s!

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved