I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s music lately – more so than usual – and, well, you all know what “80’s music” sounds like. I don’t have to explain to you how the 80’s were aggressively pop oriented and coated in many saturated shades of chartreuse, fuchsia and aquamarine. Then there was the obligatory kickback and rebellion, and – deep drumroll – the birth of the goth movement, created by and for people who felt that music was in dire need of more black lipstick, heroin and murder. Nobody stood in starker contrast to everything MTV friendly and candy colored than Nick Cave, a sepulchral creep whose exploits as a gutter punk soon became legendary. He was the ultimate alternative to the Aqua Net crowd, with the sickest imagination, the raggedest wardrobe, and the overall vibe of a hungry and mange-eaten street dog. (The coiffure looked like the result of months of rolling around in junkie effluvium, but I’m guessing he used the same damn Aqua Net as everybody else.) The murder-junkie aesthetic must have been a real shock to the system of anyone who stumbled upon a record invitingly titled Kicking Against the Pricks. I imagine a lot of people picked it up for the title alone, and their lives were never the same after.
I’ve said before that I don’t have much use for Peter Gabriel. But like everyone who’s ever had the experience of watching late-night MTV, I can’t get enough of his visually inventive Sledgehammer video. How many music videos can boast contributions from Aardman Studios’ Nick Park and the Quay Brothers? It was eye-popping in 1986 and is no less so to this day. It was really part of an industry-wide renaissance of video creativity, when ‘promotional videos’ grew from being merely promotional to being an integral part of an artist’s overall vision. The song’s alright too, though it’s slightly too bad that Gabriel chose to hang all that visual artistry on what’s basically a typical mindless mid-80’s plastic soul jam filled with crude 3rd grade quality double entendres.
I think the lesson here is that if impeccably glamorous people can’t have positive romantic outcomes, what hope is there for people who don’t lounge around in evening wear? Or, relatedly, only the impeccably glamorous get to experience the full gamut of romantic emotions in the first place, while the rest of us just have to settle for settling. You all know how I feel about romance – it’s a social construct that does more harm than good, on my bad days, and a sport on the good ones – but I did learn my lessons from Bryan Ferry. It’s that everything is better with fashion, and that includes being sad. Ladies, find you someone who looks at you the way Bryan Ferry looks at a good tuxedo.
Dreamlike is absolutely right. Ofra Haza became famous for melding Middle Eastern music with pop, and her best known work is dance floor ready club music with a touch of Aleppo pepper to it, so to speak. However, she didn’t always lean Western, or make herself so accessible. Here she leans the other way. It’s an exploration of a vocal style most Westerners weren’t familiar with, and still aren’t in a lot of places. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, although it won’t fill up very many dance floors. She certainly opened a lot of doors for what Americans and Europeans will dance to, and that’s a hefty legacy. The worlds of pop and of more traditional musical styles are so much more entwined now, and more people get to hear so many more things, which is is beautiful.
It’s impossible to imagine Mick Jagger ever being anyone’s ‘slave’. Not even in a kinky sex way. Nor is it a good metaphor for romantic relations, because, you know. But it is a good jam, and good jams don’t have to make sense. You don’t make sense of energy and chemistry, you just either feel those things or you don’t. The magic of The Rolling Stones has always been in their combined chemistry together. They somehow make great jams happen even when they don’t actually have any good ideas, or when they’re not speaking to one another. That’s why they can turn a handful of previously rejected outtakes and polish it into a classic album. It is utterly inexplicable. But thank God.
Dire Straits made some great videos, and this one is an underrated gem. It really takes you back to 1980, and not in a bad-nostalgia way. The aesthetics could not be cooler, and the message couldn’t be either. It makes you look at dated technology – roller skates and Walkman cassette players – and remember how those things used to represent the greatest freedom. You could skate through life with music playing in your ears, escape the ordinary, become who you wanted to be. Damn, that’s what it meant to be cool. Kids these days will never know how game changing it was to have your own music in your pocket.
Nico is the voice of your sexiest nightmares, the kind you wake up from feeling clammy and disturbed. Discovering Nico is like sliding down a very scary rabbit hole. Her music sounds so apocalyptic because it appears she was living her own personal apocalypse her whole life. That means, for those who knew her, that she was a nasty and depressing person to be around. For her fans, she reached straight into the dark corners of their dreams. There’s something seductive about that, a comforting sense that one can hit the darkest bottom and live there with ease, even thrive, if you’re willing to throw away convention.