Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Year the Music Died

In Whisky's post "Album Of The Year," the comments veered into a discussion of when popular music - the charts, radio, etc. - lost their appeal for them. (I began to craft a simple answer for the comments, but my researching for it morphed it into a post.)

I've always known I'd had "that moment of egress from the larger gestalt," but until now, I didn't really try to pin-point it. Now I have: 1989 was the year the music died for me. The last year the charts and radio were truly relevant to me was 1988.

Reviewing the charts, there were a handful of songs I liked in 1988, which speaks to my probably still buying albums regularly and such, but it was a pretty weak year, nonetheless. Here's a sample of songs I liked at the time:

INXS - Need You Tonight
George Harrison - Got My Mind Set on You
Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up - interesting that the famous internet meme song came out this year
Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine
Steve Winwood - Roll With It
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry, Be Happy
Beach Boys - Kokomo
Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
Van Halen - When It's Love
Sting - We'll Be Together
Joan Jett - I Hate Myself for Loving You
John Cougar Mellencamp - Cherry Bomb

(I also realized that when I came across Whitney Houston's "So Emotional" in the 1988 hits list that it was the year I got my wisdom teeth removed. Irony? Fate? Synchronicity?)

The few songs I did like from 1989 all seem to be named appropriately, given it was my year of abandonment:

Boy Meets Girl - Waiting For a Star to Fall
Mike + the Mechanics - The Living Years
38 Special - Second Chance
Don Henley - The End of the Innocence

1989 marked the beginning of the invasion of the metal hair bands, "Dance/Hip Hop" (which was really just disco remonikered), Bon Jovi, and other abominations, which was main reason I stopped listening. Public taste had changed from mine.

That was also the year I relented and stopped buying vinyl and moved to CD exclusively. The trigger was Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever." It was the last vinyl I bought because MCA had always had shitty prints (they usually came with a side of bacon), but that particular print sounded like it was already two decades old. I took it back to the store and they let me exchange it for the CD.

After that, the rare awesome album came along. Here's the mostly complete list:

U2 - Achtung Baby - 1991
Nirvana - Nevermind - 1991
Spin Doctors - Pocket Full of Kryptonite - 1991
Faith No More - Angel Dust - 1992
Dave Matthews Band - Under the Table and Dreaming - 1994
Live - Throwing Copper - 1994
Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill - 1995
The Refreshments - Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy - 1996
No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom - 1996

There was a blip in 1996 when a rash of good songs were released (Collective Soul, Oasis, and the Gin Blossoms were gaining prominence then), but other than that, I tend to buy the artists I already like: Prince, The Cure, Collective Soul, U2, DMB, The Foo Fighters, and Dwight Yoakam.

The only memorable new artist added to my cannon was The Flaming Lips when they bombed the world with "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" in 2002.


Whisky Prajer said...

Hm. I'm tempted to offer a short sharp thought myself, but I do believe I'll be following your lead and posting instead.

Whisky Prajer said...

Alrighty, then. I'm tempted to say, "Thank you for the music," but I'm grateful enough that you provided the post's title.

yahmdallah said...

Great article. I think I checked your site about 8 times before you posted it. I don't know about Canada, but Rush is having a major renaissance in 'Merica.

And here's where you can get your hands on that great article Rolling Stone did on them:

(I'm going to post this exact comment on your site, btw.)

Whisky Prajer said...

I'll reciprocate:

I announced my intentions before I began composing -- if that's not a no-no in the blogosphere, it probably should be. Sorry about that.

The Rolling Stone piece: that's the one where the writer/interviewer sheepishly admits that the magazine that sent him hasn't been particularly receptive to the band. The trio's response is quite generous, all things considered. Actually, I bought that issue (Obama's on the cover) -- probably the first RS issue I've purchased in at least a dozen years.

As for the regard of Canadians, I'm not sure I could say if it's changed at all over the decades since Permanent Waves. Their concerts have usually been filled to capacity, even during the synthesizer years (which elicits Lifeson's only hint of bitterness in the doc). But my sense is that public love for the band definitely surged in Canada when they returned to the studio and stage after Peart's tragedies. We'd all thought it was over, and apparently so did the band.

Anonymous said...

Rush is having a major renaissance? Dude, Rush was my favorite band in high school and college - believe me, if they were having a renaissance I'd be the first one on board.

It’s one thing when a band uses computers to generate sound effects. But nowadays when I listen to Rush’s new stuff I get the feeling that they are using computers to WRITE THEIR FRIGGIN’ SONGS. So, OK, they’re probably not actually doing that – but it sounds like it. Their albums for the past two decades have consisted of, usually, ten tracks of uniform blandness. Skillfully performed blandness, to be sure, and Neil Peart still produces the occasional memorable drum riff, but they haven’t put together a really good tune since Dreamline in 1991, and even that was a late outlier. I haven’t seen them in concert since the early 90’s, and watching Rush in Rio confirmed my hunch that I’m not missing anything.

I watched Beyond the Lighted Stage and noticed something: after giving loving attention to every album release from the original Rush to Moving Pictures, the film suddenly just fast forwards to today. OK, they spend a few minutes on Neil Peart’s personal struggles, but there is scarcely any mention of their music after 1981. It’s like they have nothing to talk about after that. If I was them, I wouldn’t want to talk about the later stuff either.

yahmdallah said...

Anon, well, ya got me.

I meant their body of work has finally been acknowledged.

By the very guys (and it's guys) who really were more concerned about what's hip rather than what's music.

But, it's still nice.

Whisky Prajer said...

Somebody Up There likes you.

Whisky Prajer said...

Hm. Missed a bit of the Rush conversation here. I generally enjoy their new music, even if I still think of, and chiefly return to, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures as their creative zenith. Those albums were evocative, while the recent ones tend to be descriptive. The chief pleasure in seeing them live is seeing them alive. Ditto, the later records -- any sign of life from these three is a welcome thing. I think the doc was trying to get to that aspect of Rush's peculiar fandom, that the music has become an almost secondary concern.

As for the live performances, it's certainly remarkable that guys their age can play "Tom Sawyer."