Clearly the idea of decades being separate entities is fairly ridiculous, but the eighties seemed to arrive with full force almost on cue. The music of 1981 was quite different to the music of 1979, by the mid 80’s music consisted of sounds completely unrelated to anything from the 70’s.
It was largely down to technology. Synthesiser technology was coming on in leaps and bounds, soon there would be the Fairlight synthesizer, it cost more than most peoples houses but it was capable of making a whole lot of sounds that we had never heard before. Recording technology was also advancing at an amazing rate. The consequence of this was the rise of the producer. Up to the 70’s the producer was the bloke (always a man!) who tried to get the best performances out of a group of musicians together in a studio. By the mid 80’s a lot of those musicians had been made redundant thanks to synthesisers and drum machines, all a producer needed was a singer or two and unlimited studio time and they could produce a hit single.
It wasn’t all shiny happy people of course, by the time I finished at Trent Polytechnic I was actually of no fixed abode although I managed to upgrade to a property with an outside toilet and no hot water. Like a lot of the population I was unemployed for a long time but when I got on the gravy train things were ok, we didn’t really expect a great deal.
There was plenty of plenty of alternative music but it could get quite depressing listening to stuff that was lo fi and challenging and for me, bands that did continue some sort of rock tradition like REM or U2 didn’t really stand the test of time. By the mid 80’s I had become disconnected from rock/pop for the first time.
And John Lennon was dead.
But the transition from the 70’s to the 80’s is a fascinating one, sounds were changing from a guitar-based sound to one where keyboards were prominent, all of a sudden saxophones were everywhere. Even ZZ Top were rumored to be using drum machines and even if they weren’t the dreaded gated snare drum sound meant that a lot of great records sounded horribly dated after 5 years. For a lot of bands this was what was needed, it was a case of adapt or die. So, I’m going to look at some of the bands who were made that decision and in the process became very different groups indeed.
Here’s the 80’s sound in its full pomp