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More 80's Music Madness!

Dave Danglis wins the 'Best Title for a Post' category with Beneath the Looming Grunge...I love that one. It's a happy sounding post, eh? Seriously, Dave’s posts below this one, on the later 80’s and early 90’s, are good reading, give them a chance! He makes some good points and it appears he's educated. We always wonder ‘what if?’ but in the case of grunge, it’s a question that’s very valid and one that’s been considered by many. The world will never know.

My problem with a post like this on the 80's is that I could go on forever. I always remember all the great albums and bands I forgot to mention the day before. I forgot to mention two of my all time favorite bands from that time period, The Tubes and King Crimson.

The TubesLove Bomb

The Tubes put out some great records…four of them in my opinion…Remote Control, The Completion Backwards Principle, Outside/Inside and Love Bomb. My favorite by far is Love Bomb. It’s the most artistic and adventurous. It is true that Todd Rundgren has a heavy hand as a producer on this one, he is actually pictured and listed as a band member! While not as successful as their others, and easily one of the most overlooked and underrated records of the 80’s, it’s their best. It seems critics and fans couldn’t get past Rundgren’s role and so they wrote this one off…and that’s too bad, because it’s a brilliant record. Love Bomb is definitely not as commercial as the previous 2, and that didn’t help. Songs that run together, weird themes and quirkiness are the main elements here. It’s available on CD as an import and is well worth it.

King CrimsonDiscipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair

I’ll admit it right now, and be chastised for it, but I don’t like the King Crimson albums from the 70’s. I’m going to catch some flak for that from my eclectic prog friends, and I’ve never admitted that publicly, but I can’t get through any of those records. In the 80’s, they reformed with a new line up, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin and Bill Bruford joined Robert Fripp for what are easily their best records. Released between 1981 and 1984, these three albums are fun and listenable in a way that no other Crimson record was or is. I give all credit for this to Adrian Belew, who brought his Beatle-esque pop sensibility along with his quirky guitar and lyrics to a band that was wallowing in dark murky music. It's the songwriting and melodies along with any semblance of a hook that is hard to find on other Crimson albums. These albums have a quirk to them that the other ones don't. Unfortunately, they've never been able  to reach the artistic peak of these three releases since then, even with Adrian. Though they did come close on the brilliantly dark Thrak.

Beneath the Looming Grunge

Guest post by Dave Danglis

Since we're in a "looking back" mode at the moment, let's consider another musical period, one that's been on my mind lately: the years 1986 through 1993. (Tony's write-up covers part of this period, of course.)

I suggest that this was a fertile time, and wonder how things might have progressed if that little band called Nirvana hadn't come on the scene. These years are littered with awesome albums. Look at this list and then consider: what might have come after this if grunge hadn't gotten in the way?

ELO: Balance of Power (better than what most people think)

Jeff Lynne: Armchair Theatre

XTC: Skylarking, Oranges & Lemons, Nonsuch and the Dukes albums

David Byrne: Sounds from True Stories (the soundtrack album from the movie of the same name) and Uh-Oh (if you can ignore the sacrilege. It could almost qualify as a Talking Heads album, and it's better than Naked.)

They Might Be Giants: Their classic era - anything from "pink" (their first) through Apollo 18.

Midnight Oil: Diesel and Dust, Earth and Sun and Moon

The Call: Reconciled and Let The Day Begin

Crowded House: Temple of Low Men, Woodface, Together Alone

Elvis Costello: Spike

Jellyfish: Spilt Milk

Even the Christian scene was fruitful. This may one day be called the golden era of the genre:

Tonio K: Notes from the Lost Civilization

Sam Phillips: The Indescribable Wow

Daniel Amos: Fearful Symmetry, Darn Floor - Big Bite, Kalhoun, Motor Cycle

Terry Taylor: Knowledge & Innocence, A Briefing for the Ascent

Swirling Eddies: already mentioned

The Lost Dogs: Little Red Riding Hood

Mark Heard: Ideola

Innocence Mission: their first self-titled album and Umbrella

Phil Keaggy: Sunday's Child

The Choir: Chase the Kangaroo

The 77s: Sticks and Stones, Pray Naked

Steve Taylor: I Predict 1990, Squint

By 1994, things had changed dramatically. Jeff Lynne seemed to be hiding, except for his work on the Beatles Anthologies. XTC disappeared through a contractual dispute; their recent output falls short of where they had left off. David Byrne became more like David Byrne, I guess, but less enjoyable overall. They Might Be Giants put together a band and made a rock album (even so, in my opinion John Henry ranks with their best. But I may be in the minority about that). Michael Been of The Call made that noisy, difficult solo album. Crowded House dwindled to a halt. Jellyfish split. Daniel Amos made an angry, noisy little album called Bibleland (still good, but a real departure in form); the Swirling Eddies lost their pseudonyms and put out the odd jam-based Zoom Daddy (also good but also a departure). Terry Taylor's brilliant John Wayne wouldn't move enough units so it was denied release for a couple of years. Tonio K got trapped in the can and was practically invisible. Steve Taylor decided to make a movie which should be finished any day now. U2 lost their way and finally returned with the flawed Pop album.

One could argue that a lot of the music from 1986 to 1993 was derivative - incorporating sounds and styles of music that were becoming nostalgic by then. The years prior were more turbulent and inventive. Even so, would it be fair to say we haven't seen a musical period as lush since then? Or am I just getting old?

An Older Look at the 1980s

Guest post by Dave Danglis

As Tony says in his previous post, musical tastes are formed largely during high school and college years, but we're also imprinted, like a chick coming out of its egg, by the music we heard around the house as little kids. Hence my liking of Combustible Edison, surf, and guys named Neil. Diamond and Finn, among others.

For me, the high school and college music years began in 1975; they were suddenly ended in 1980 by a certain form of Christianity that was rampant at the time. In 1980, my cultural involvement pretty much ceased, my albums were burned, and all of my musical "threads" were broken. I experienced a five-year phase where I listened primarily to contemporary Christian music; the phase began to wane when I took a "secular" job where the radio was always on. (Godley & Crème's song "Cry" was a hit at this time.) I gradually "opened up," musically speaking, and by 1990 I was almost back to where I'd left off ten years earlier. I have some regrets over those broken threads, but I must admit that had it not been for my Christian adventure, I would not have heard of Daniel Amos and some of the other great artists seemingly relegated to the Christian music pond. So I do have something to be thankful for.

One thing I find interesting about Tony's list is that he includes albums that us "older kids" wrote off at the time - our thinking was that all those formerly great bands had "sold out" by then. Sparks, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra, Devo...We embraced those guys in the mid 1970s and let go of them before the decade was over. But our "little brothers" glommed onto them and enthusiastically took our places in the audience.

Even so, years of perspective have helped me see the merit in Tony's list. We agree far more than we disagree. Daniel Amos, The Alarma Chronicles? Definitely. The Cars, Candy-O and Panorama? Definitely! Talking Heads, Little Creatures? A classic, perhaps their best; although their earlier material is essential. Split Enz, Time and Tide? Their peak. The Swirling Eddies? My gosh! The B-52s? For sure, although their classic era ended with Wild Planet, which came out in 1980, so some might argue that they were primarily a '70s phenomenon with a flukey resurgence in popularity after a change in style.

My "older brother" reaction kicks in about some of his other selections. Devo, Freedom of Choice and New Traditionalists?  Hmm. I find Are We Not Men? We Are Devo! far superior to anything else the band did, but that one falls outside the parameters that Tony has set up. Duty Now for the Future fits, though, and in my opinion tops anything that they did thereafter. Steve Taylor, I Want to be a Clone? Ooh, that one hasn't aged gracefully. In fact, I could say the same for most of Steve's work. It's Squint for me, with I Predict 1990 in second place. I find Clone a painful listen.

But then there's ELO, Time and Secret Messages. I have Tony to thank for turning me on to these. And believe me, it took some effort to get me to like Time. Now I love it. Mind you, I was of the group that thought the band had sold out with Out of the Blue; Discovery was the final nail in the coffin. I still think Eldorado, Face the Music and A New World Record are brilliant -- and essential.

Then there's U2. Wow, this is a tough one. Wouldn't most people think Joshua Tree is their best? I even like Achtung Baby more than October or War.

Some other albums from 1979 to 1985 worth considering:

Godley & Crème: anything from Freeze Frame through The History Mix. This was the duo's peak era.

Talking Heads: Fear of Music

XTC: Drums & Wires, Black Sea

The Tubes: Remote Control (their pre-Rundgren output is also worth hearing again, and might be considered superior to Remote Control - except for Now - but again, these albums fall outside of Tony's parameters)

Simple Minds: Once Upon a Time

Why I Love the Early 80’s

I could have also titled this post: 'Why Brandon Ebel questions my musical tastes,' but that’s probably too inside. Most music fans have a certain period of time when music really influenced them. Where it helped form their overall tastes. In general, this usually happens during your high school years. For those that were in high school during the early 70’s, the music that was coming out at that time is usually a favorite for them and influences their current tastes. For many people in my age bracket it was the 80’s. For me it was the early 80’s in particular. Now, I won’t deny that if we are really talking about true root influence on my music tastes it begins with my mom’s 45’s of Beatles and Beach Boys tunes. But the period I love and often find myself going back to is the early 80’s.

Many people like to write off the 80’s as a musical wasteland, especially from an artistic standpoint. That’s too bad because they’re missing out on some great music. They throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. For me, one of the greatest decades for new music was 1979 thru 1989, and really, the first five years of that.

So what was great about 1979 and the early 80’s?  Well, this is where I got my love of quirky pop. This is the era and dawn of truly quirky, new wave music. 1979 thru about 1985 covers the best of that. I’m not saying there was nothing like it before or since, but this is when the greatest output of it happened, and where it really came into it’s own as a music form. Sparks were probably doing quirky new wave before almost anyone, even though I didn’t discover them until after 1979. New Wave really kicked off in 1979. I guess it was the official death of Disco, finally, and the more artistic and pop versions of punk.

There are certain musical elements that became prominent during that time that I absolutely love, and these are the things I still look for in music. The joy I get from finding new bands incorporating these elements is second to none. The primary elements of which I speak are staccato guitar (early Cars albums, DA, etc.), quirky keyboards (Devo, Cars, etc.), rolling bass lines (The Buggles, Suburban Lawns, DA, etc.), wavering vocals (Ric Ocasek of The Cars), and most importantly, pop hooks. Not all of my favorites from the 80’s had these elements but most had at least some of them.

The Best of 1979 thru 1989

Suburban LawnsSuburban Lawns and Baby

This IS new wave. You hear it here perfectly. The musical elements found in early Devo, Cars, B-52’s etc. are all here for your enjoyment. Love it! Flying Saucer Safari is excellent. This is one of my favorite bands from the early 80’s, and they’ve never been released on CD. What gives?!

Daniel AmosThe Alarma Chronicles (all 4 albums)

This is one of the those bands, these 4 albums specifically, that encompass and incorporate everything that I like about that early 80’s sound. This is my favorite band of all time, so I won’t go on and on, but the interesting note is that three of the 4 albums in the Alarma Chronicles are pure new wave at it’s finest…Alarma, Doppelganger and Vox Humana. If you’re a fan of early 80’s new wave ala Cars, Talking Heads, etc. do yourself a favor and track down these three albums.

The CarsCandy-O and Panorama

If I had to pick one band to define new wave, the best example is without a doubt, The Cars and the albums would be Candy-O and Panorama. Fans and critics alike have dismissed the often over-looked Panorama, but fans of new wave know it’s a classic. Give it another listen.

DevoFreedom of Choice and New Traditionalists

I don’t think I need to write much about this band, except that the often-overlooked “New Traditionalist” album is my favorite. Best song: Beautiful World. It’s dripping with sarcasm. Can’t hear it without laughing. Their song ‘Whip It’ pretty much defines the new wave genre and is considered by many to be one of the quintessential new wave songs.

Talking HeadsLittle Creatures

What a great band! Most of their output falls into this time frame, although they were going a bit before the curve. This one is their best and that’s really saying something. I love it. And She Was! They only had one bad record, ‘Naked’, but it was really a David Byrne solo album, so we’ll forgive them for that one.

Oingo BoingoDead Man’s Party

This is another one of the great bands of the 80’s. Best known for their hit Weird Science from the movie of the same name, they had much better songs than that on all their records, from Only A Lad to Boingo. In my opinion, their brand of odd, quirky new wave worked best on the Dead Man’s Party which is musically fun yet lyrically dark. Their first CD Only A Lad is a great place to start, and their final masterpiece Boingo is also a must.

YesDrama and 90125

Their two best albums came out in the early 80’s…surprise, surprise. Drama was Yes and the Buggles combined, so it’s like the best of both worlds for me. Although I would have loved to have heard Jon singing on this one. But hey, that’s why those of you that don’t like Yes because of Jon’s high tenor voice should love this Drama. Then there's 90125. Released in 1983, my senior year of high school. It went on to become my favorite record of all time and still is. Great songs, great production. I love it. It's not new wave, it's not power pop, it's not really even prog rock or arena rock...but some mix of prog-pop that worked perfectly. Most bands that tried to emmulate it sucked. One of the more successful attempts at capturing the 90125 sound was another great album of the 80's, 'Tales of Wonder' by Whiteheart. The only album of theirs that I can still listen to.

Split EnzTrue Colours and Time and Tide

The song ‘I Got You’ is an 80’s new wave staple, as it should be. But the band peaked with the more lush Time and Tide album.

Swirling EddiesOutdoor Elvis and Let’s Spin

This is really another incarnation Terry Taylor and Daniel Amos. Outdoor Elvis is one of my top ten albums of all time. It slips into this category with a 1989 release. Let’s Spin has more of an 80’s sound, but the songs are better on Outdoor Elvis. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s all good.

SuburbsCredit In Heaven

This local Minneapolis band almost made it big. They got signed to A&M and their major label debut with the semi-hit 'Life is Like' bombed. This earlier double album on Twin Tone is so much better anyway. Very new wave, from the vocals to the guitars. This is one of my favorite album titles of all time.

BugglesPlastic Age and Adventures in Modern Recording

Two great albums from two great guys…Trevor Horn and Geoffrey Downes. God Bless ‘em. These are two of my all-time favorite records. Keyboard heavy quirky new wave with hooky pop and rolling bass lines.

After The FireATF

The US compilation that sported the Falco cover hit ‘Der Kommisar.’ The rest of the album is even better in my opinion. Very keyboard driven. If you like ATF, you should hear 'Decent Beat' by the group "Quickflight." A very obscure release from the mid 80's that sounds a lot like ATF, but sadly never released on CD.

Steve Taylor - I Want To Be A Clone

This is the only truly new wave album Steve did, and I still think it’s his best, though most give the nod to his 90's release 'Squint.'

ELOTime and Secret Messages

I would have included Out of the Blue, because that’s one of their best as well, but it still had more of that 70’s sound, while these two albums were pure early 80’s with quirky new wave influences. Cool! I love ELO and I love Jeff Lynne, so imagine them doing synth-heavy new wave influenced records with lyrics that sound like the script for Blade Runner. Sounds lik Heaven!

Sparks - Angst In My Pants

Actually, the best new wave albums that Sparks ever did were easily 'Kimono My House', 'Propaganda' and 'Indiscreet'. However, these albums were really pre-80's and before 'new wave'. How they did that, I'll never know. The term "ahead of their time" doesn't even begin to describe it. Thanks to Dave Danglis I redescovered these incredible albums which I had somehow overlooked. They came out a bit before I got into Sparks.  They still managed one of the best new wave albums of the early 80's with Angst In My Pants. Another one of my all-time favorite album titles!

The B-52’sThe B-52’s and Wild Planet

These two albums play like a 50’s sci-fi movie and are up there with Devo and The Cars as classic new wave.

Surf PunksMy Beach

Quirky new wave is the recipe for fun with the Surf Punks. Love it! Those who don’t appreciate humor and novelty in music can just skip this one though.

Barnes and BarnesSpazchow, Voobaha, Soak It Up, Amazing Adult Fantasy & Sicks

The most unusual group on the list, and that’s saying something considering the company. Written off by most as a novelty group, these two freaks churned out some of my favorites in the 80’s. There’s a certain genius in the song Fish Heads. Again, those who don’t appreciate humor and novelty in music can just skip this one.

U2October and War

These are easily their best. I know, I know…many will argue, none will convince. When is the last time you listened to these two records all the way through? Give them a chance, they’ll grab you and show you an energy that the band has never achieved since.

Roger WatersThe Wall, The Final Cut, Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking and Radio KAOS

Okay, so The Wall and Final Cut officially came out as Pink Floyd albums, but we all know that these are all Roger Waters records. I love them all. Where’s the new one Roger? The closest we get to new wave is probably Radio KAOS, but they’re all good, and all from this time period. I like to refer to Roger as “Mr. Happy.” I think Roger needs a hug.

Cheap TrickOne on One

Cheap Trick does a new wave Beatle-esque power pop rock record. What’s not to love? They’re a great American rock band, and the Beatle-esque hooks combine with an early 80’s vibe for their best record.

RushMoving Pictures and Signals

By far, and I mean FAR their best two albums. They never even came close before or after. Weird. But the planets aligned and these two albums are great. Heck, the track listing for Moving Pictures is pretty much a “Best of Rush.” Almost everyone agrees that it’s their best overall record. But you pretty much like them or you don’t. Have you heard Tom Sawyer on the radio? Did you like it? If so, you should own these two CD’s. If not, move on. Signals is the album where you can really hear that 80’s keyboard pop taking over, which is probably why I enjoy this one so much. But the lyrics on youth and peer pressure also hit home. Subdivisions may be their best song.

There were many more great albums and songs in the 80’s. Especially between 1979 and 1985. Bruce Cockburn released his best work with the song Wondering Where The Lions Are and the album The Trouble with Normal. There were many one hit wonders that I loved, songs like Pop Music by M, One Night in Bangkok by Murray Head, Cry by Godley & Creme and Turning Japanese by The Vapors.

Best TV of 2004

I don't watch a whole lot of television these days, but in the past few years, there are two shows that I rarely ever miss, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and 24. These are the only two shows that are must see TV for me. I also enjoy The Late Show with David Letterman, but with the family and work, I end up missing it quite a bit. I try to at least watch his opening monologue each night. Nothing else on TV has really captured my imagination, beyond these 3 shows. I used to love Spongebob, but now that I've seen every episode more than once, I'm over saturated with it. I have a 5 year old, and if it's not Spongebob it's Spider-Man. I don't think anything has ever been marketed as much as these two characters. But back to what's good about television...The Daily Show is now the most hard hitting new show...but it's fake you say! Well, the problems with politics and society that they're poking fun at are all too real, and the watered down so-called serious media are too busy reciting each party's talking points to actually question anything or get to the hard news. But what holds it all together is Jon Stewart. He's funny. He's REALLY funny. Oh yeah, and smart. He's not getting laughs by just telling Redneck jokes or with a catch phrase. Warning: Those who do not appreciate or understand sarcasm shouldn't bother watching. That leaves 24. The real-time thriller angle works for me. It's like a good mystery novel or spy thriller, it sucks you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Another key element of 24 is Keifer Sutherland. He is a great actor in a great role. Better than most on the small screen for sure.

New Wave New Years Eve

I love new wave music. As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of late seventies and early 80's music. Quirky new wave with staccato guitars and weird keyboard sounds thrown into the mix is a perfect recipe for music that I love. So it only makes sense that I love the early B-52's records. I'll never forget hearing Rock Lobster for the first time. What a great song! I liked their later hits as well but really didn't get into the full albums as much. Fast forward to New Years Eve 2004. My wife Sara is a huge fan of their hits but neither one of us had ever seen them live. We usually get a sitter for New Years Eve and go see some big show. The past few years we've seen some great stand up comedians. This year we heard about the B-52's show and decided to go. We thought it might be fun, but we had no idea... In all my years of going to shows, how I ever missed seeing them is beyond me. I guess I had heard they're a fun live band, but never realized just how good they would be! This was easily one of the best live shows I've seen. They're so much fun live! The main 4 original members are all part of the group and then they have an extended touring band. Fred Schneider is a complete freak and one of the most entertaining singers I've ever seen. I guess one of the reasons both Sara and I liked them so much is that they have fun with it and don't take themselves too seriously. The band is tight, the vocals are spot on, and I don't know if it was because it was a New Years Eve show, or if they are like this every show they play, but they made it a party. I rarely see a band have so much fun. They opened with my favorite B-52's tune "Planet Claire." Being a weird, mostly instrumental tune I didn't even think they'd play it. Fred Schneider came out with a pair of weird lighted alien glasses with blinking red lights and the whole show had a retro 50's sci-fi B-movie feel to it, from their clothes, movements to the music. Very cool stuff. They closed with my second favorite, Rock Lobster. All in all a very good show. If you've never seen the B-52's, make the effort. It's a great party. This band needs a live DVD. Where is it? In the meantime, pick up their early CD's...the first 3 are fantastic.

Hey, CLICK HERE to check out the picture of Sara and I after the show!