More on the '79 - '81 thread

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Posted by Ammianus Marcellinus on 03/31/02 - 11:25:48
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Mike titled post #10435 "The New Wave -- same as the Old Wave".  I didn't want to let that comment go unanswered...  so here goes...

Here's the history of pop music as I see it entwined with my own personal history, with especial emphasis on that period '79 - '81:

Look, here’s my perspective upon ‘79 - ‘81:

BEFORE: During most of the '70s I had little interest in pop music.  Oh, sure, I remembered the Beatles, but those days were gone, and what was left of them was people wishing they’d come back, retaining their long hair, etc.  Elementary school period image of watching "Yellow Submarine" in the theater comes to mind.  Pop music was Elton John and the Eagles.  Disco played on my radio whether I wanted it to, or not.  The same could be said of Hall & Oates & Seals & Crofts & England Dan & John Ford Coley, or “oldies,” or Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, the last being music for other people, louder, raunchier, and just as meaningless.  Music was something to hear while doing homework, but not for listening.  Pop music appeared to me as something having to do with conveying an image.

DURING: I started to take a real interest in music, because the Powers That Be were marketing music that appeared to have “perspective,” rather than just “image.”  I suppose I started to catch on with albums like Neil Young’s _Live Rust_ or Pink Floyd’s _The Wall_, then with the Clash’s _London Calling_ and on to other stuff.  I even went to some nightclub concerts -- of course this had a lot to do with the fact that I was growing up and my parents were granting me more privileges as a growing teenager.  Somewhen I encountered an old copy of the Airplane’s _Flight Log_ at about that time, & started to collect all the old ‘60s stuff (*especially Airplane*) at this time.

I tend to suspect that the reason why music in this period was so good was that many of its composers tended to put more intellectual effort into its composition, and so turning “image” into “perspective.”  With an album like _The Wall_, for instance, you get the idea of a person’s formative process, the creation of a “wall” as a result of various traumas that come out in Roger Waters’ idea of musical therapy.  _Animals_, by contrast, was thematically well-orchestrated jeering at rich business sharks.  But I think it can be generalized beyond Pink Floyd, all the way to bands like Gang of Four.  Am I making things up here?

AFTER: The music I was listening to, after ‘81, was either too old or too local to be of importance to the music industry.  I hung out with a lot of Deadheads, but I thought of myself as more retro than they were.  After U2 issued _Rattle and Hum_ I stopped listening to new music altogether.  I was fully disaffected from the “mainstream.”

I suppose this mini-history reveals my position a bit too much.  I’m not terribly interested in the old incarnation of the Starship, and I suppose the new incarnation is interesting because it’s an attempt to invoke the ghost of the Airplane, so as to conjure up something powerful that the Airplane did not have the power to conjure.  At any rate, it’s due to something at work in ‘79 - ‘81 that I became interested in music, and I suppose that if I had grown up at any other time in the history of pop music per se, my interests would be completely different from what they are today.

The history of pop music is probably important because so many people hear the stuff -- so I’m wondering out loud here if anyone else has experienced a similar thing, or are these ideas unique to me.

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