Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bruce Springsteen, "the band Suicide," the heinous Eighties

I was born in 1974. When I was coming of age there was this guy called Michael Jackson that everybody was listening to. Some of the cooler kids listened to Rick Springfield, or a satanic band called Queen. And who the hell knew what those criminal stoners were listening to. I listened to what my parents had. I really liked the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in D. And also the Beethoven Symphonies. I also really got into the early Beatles albums. Eventually I got addicted to top 40 radio. I grew up in Aurora, Colorado, that was best experienced in movie, Over the Edge, not actual form. (It has improved, I think. Though not a good place to live when you don't have a car.) Anyhow, when I was growing up, everything evil came from the 70s. Disco, Nixon, The Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter. (I didn't think Jimmy Carter was evil, but it seemed as everybody in Republican Aurora did.) And Nixon was still in disgrace, it took George Bush Jr to make Nixon look cool again. So that was far off.

Anyway, my point is, the 70s were ANATHEMA. And then somewhere around the time of Nirvana, the 80s became the new 70s. There's nothing cut and dried here. But the general trend seems to be that people were looking at the 70s for fashion and music and not outright gagging themselves on their spoons. But the 80s were bad news, dude. Everything from the 80s was bad. That awful synth music, horrible hair, acid-washed jeans etc. etc. Look at this 2002 Pitchfork list of top albums of the 80s:

It's said that the 1980s are responsible for the worst fashion, fads, and music of any decade of the 20th century. But as we see the decade recycled and updated with post-millennial minimalism, it's becoming clear that the 1980s had more to offer than we've given them credit for. As the calendar left the classless earthtones and polyester of the 1970s behind, musicians looked to the future for inspiration in new genres. With this feature, Pitchfork seeks to prove that, amidst the smooth-jazz of Kenny G, the vanilla soul of Hall & Oates, and the white-trash hair-rock of Warrant, lay a revolution in sound. It is to the vision and perseverance of many of these artists that we owe the roots of hip-hop, synth-pop, and most notably for this publication, alternative and indie rock. Respect is due.

As could only be expected of any collective of critics, Pitchfork is really behind the curve here. We've already got new new wave via Ladytron and Fischerspooner; and Nirvana unearthed for many of us (including myself) a whole secret history of music that is best described in Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, and investigated in the long out of print Spin Guide to Alternative Music.
So the 80s were cool in the 90s, but only the alternate 80s. I'm not trying to make dogma, or even a thesis out of this. I'm just trying to examine it. It's interesting because retro 80ism had become a dominant cultural force circa 2002. I know because I was living in New York at the time. New Wave Mullets, Mascara, guitar solos etc. I'd hear college girls scream with glee "that's SO 80s."

What throws my world upside down is that Bruce Springsteen was influenced by electric proto-punks Suicide. That really screws up my carefully coveted and nurtured geekhipster worldview. Oh, and it's okay if I like a little bit of prog-rock. (No it's not. Oh, how times change.)

No comments: