Lit and Crit
A Guide to America's Worst Decade
Pg 3 by Kevin Salveson
Still the only way to really understand the 80s right is band by band, album by album, year by year. Just as America has bifurcated into those who like educated things and others who simply do not (and are proud of it), each band of the era played a part in the dialogue between the Morning in America cohort and those who felt like the dawn was just a bank of klieg lights erected to blind those who were willing to stare too long into the glare and get hypnotized.
At the same time, my people --the people who will read this and nod sagely at its immutable wisdom and clarity of vision-- people like you, for example, already liked real American music: the golden oldies of the 50s and the psychedelic pop 60s, and the rock of the 70s.
We only wanted the tradition to carry on. Instead, the bliss house was boarded up and the yuppies all started buying investment rental properties and churning out instant disposable Styrofoam and cardboard cutout music instead.
Then came MTV and the supremacy of TV image over substance. Video did indeed kill the radio star. Ugly but talented people need not apply. The 80s are here to reignite advertising's mantra: you are not good enough. Howabout cut up your face and get a nose job, the better to look good as an extra in the Baywatch beach scene your agent once scord you. Howabout a boob job? Big tits are always preferable if you are going to carve up your body to serve it on a silver platter to the McReagan millionaires who ship in underage actresses to make their modelling business coke parties a success.
How to sum it all up? Howbout this: an actor became President and pretended to be a cowboy while he was busy gutting any and all services for the desperados who actually lived and breathed in America's Midwest.
Hair metal. Gender-bent glam pop. Easy listening. Fabio, Michael Bolton, Rco Suave, bad rap, Madonna. There is just no end to the torture. Heck, it's been scientifically proven!
So what's the best of the worst? Where to start, bad pop or hair metal?
Let's start with hair metal, just to get it out of the way early and put it out of our minds as soon as possible.
The lineage goes like this:
Elvis and Chuck Berry begat rock vocals.
Mick Jagger and Robert Plant and Ian Lord from Deep Purple and John Kay from Steppenwolf beget hard rock vocals. Mick had the sexual attitude, Robert had the ballad timbre, groans and wails, Ian the growl and throaty threatening tone.
Then in the 70s Van Halen and Bruce Dickenson beget 80s rock vocals. David Lee came and showed the world how to play the lothario showman with confidence and master of the art of peacocking. Dickenson brought the operatic wails and tremolo crescendos.There may be more that we'll mention as we go along, but those are the basic casts from when the first copies were generated (Rainbow, Iron Maiden).
Then after that there were copies of copies (Cinderella, Kiss without Makeup, and all those Sunset Strip Gazzari's metalers trying to capture the same lightening in a Jack Daniels bottle that Van Halen did).
And they all tried beefing up their guitar riffs with synths. Like Loverboy, et al, it was a formula that yielded a few hits before our auto-immune systems kicked in.
Well, anyway, time for you to get some silence and lucidity so that you can really understand why the 80s were the worst American decade since the 1930s.
So stretch the spandex tighter and tease that hair up high, it's time to rub on the rouge and hit the Rainbow Room as we do an ongoing series rundown on the best of the worst of the 1980s!
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