Great Debate - '80s Music: So Bad It's Good Or Just Plain Bad?

By Michael Fraiman and Brendan Butler 2007-05-01 08:32:33



’80s Music: So Bad It’s Good Or Just Plain Bad?


So Bad It’s Good!

-- Michael Fraiman

The ‘80s are like mosquitoes. People always say, “Man, I wish we could exterminate all the mosquitoes in the world.” But we can’t. Remember 10th grade Science? It would destroy the fragile ecological food chain. If we killed all the mosquitoes then some other species that ate them would die out, causing another species to flourish beyond control … I assume that I needn’t explain this is in greater scientific detail because you all took 10th grade Science as well.

We needed the ‘80s. If we didn’t have them, we’d have never had hair metal, and the first real years for metal fans to rock out to Poison and Slayer and Twisted Sister--and look where metal is now! We’d have never had Tears for Fears or Wham!, meaning the butt of most late-night talk show jokes would be gone. And what of Run DMC and the hip-hop revolution, MJ’s “Thriller,” the overkill of the bass drum or the hysterical keytar solos of Devo? (YouTube their hit single “Peekaboo” to see just what I mean.)

My friends, a world without the ‘80s is a world I wouldn’t want to live in! (Nor would I be able to, as I wouldn’t have been born.)

Jokes aside, don’t judge a decade based on hoop earrings, cameo cuts or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies emerged in the ‘80s, and they’re some of the most influential punk-rock bands around. They Might Be Giants debuted in ’82 and defined geek rock for generations to come. Primus was formed and now it has its own musical genre. There were plenty of legitimately decent parts to the ‘80s, and in terms of music it helmed some pretty breakthrough pieces of punk and metal.

Plus, they were so damn funny.





Just Plain Bad!

-- Brendan Butler

The music of the 1980s was not only bad because it was misdirected and lacked genuine passion, but because it was a microcosm of a decadent culture.

You see, the Reagan era gave Americans a false sense of accomplishment. While standing on the shoulders of giants, we were told to celebrate because, evidently, we climbed up there ourselves. The “me” era ensued and meticulously rotted into our mainstream music supply.

The rock star flourished in the ‘60s and ‘70s, with the obvious, quick examples: the Stones, Hendrix, Beatles, Joplin, etc. These acts called themselves musicians, activists and artists long before rock stars. In the ‘80s, sadly, being famous, becoming rich and getting laid became the primal motivation for picking up a guitar.

Through minimal effort, the likes of Motley Crue and Poison believed they were Jagger because they could wreck a hotel room, and the GoGos thought they were Janis Joplin, for whatever reason. Never mind the music was free of talent and intelligence. Why did it stop being cool to be smart?

I can figure that I’m on the unpopular side of this debate. Most people would be interested in a discussion on ‘80s music because they came of age in the irreverent decade, so it sparks a Hiroshima of nostalgia within them. There are even some tunes that make me a little gushy but, as a whole, no dice.

When a problem comes along you must, what was that, whip it? That's the sage advice of the time period? Thanks, Devo. I personally blame Mark David Chapman for killing John Lennon and, obviously, Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” for the whole thing. If an exercise video can climb the charts like that, then time to run along.





Where Do You Stand?


Last Week's Column: Can You Get Into Jazz Music?

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