Friday, 29 January 2010

1980 in twelve steps

[Avoiding the obvious ones; e.g. 'The Winner Takes it All' and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart']

ORANGE JUICE, 'Simply Thrilled Honey'

A courtly, thoughtful postcard of a love song. There is kinship with the Monochrome Set and Dexy's Midnight Runners, as well as oft-mentioned other Scots. Devotion to devotion: 'worldliness must keep apart from me'.

JOHN FOXX, 'Underpass'

'World War Something'. Ballardian pop; from Metamatic, full of pristine shivers. Nile and 'Nard were following suit with 'Real People'.

A fellow Lancastrian's Weird Tale turned epic:
Further eurotronic pop:
European guitar music and spectral synth organ:

UB40, 'The Earth Dies Screaming'

As well as More Specials, there was this. The apocalypse of Thatcher-Reagan; despair in adversity, without any signs of unity in opposition to the incipient neo-liberalism. 'Your country needs you, let's strike up the band'. A lament for a doomed youth to rival Owen:

'Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.'
('Anthem for Doomed Youth')

Perhaps also worth mentioning this: Not the only great use of organ in this 1980 assemblage.

THE DURUTTI COLUMN, 'Sketch for Summer'

Let it speak for itself, this one:

From the following year; suitably faded, evocative video footage of Reilly playing the deathless 'Never Known' in an autumnal park:

NEW MUSIK, 'This World of Water'

Urgent synth-pop from a rather underrated source; the following two albums are more uneven yet still contain much that is lovely.

The final highlight from one of British electro-pop's most concentrated long-players:

In 1980, there was also the grave, profound 'Waterfalls' and then there is the entirety of McCartney II; surely his finest solo album - the influence of Brian Eno and the insurgent British synth pop seeping through.

PAUL McCARTNEY, 'Summer's Day Song'

It seemed like the older generations might just get it in 1980... But then you had Thatcherism and, shudder, this: Bowie had been part of the Europeanising of British music; of course, Peter Gabriel also made his compromise with the times that was 'Sledgehammer'. McCartney did also sink to those sort of depths: Such is McCartney's up-and-down trajectory that he then went from this Rumsfeld pop to the Wyattian 'Riding to Vanity Fair' in 2005, a determined transformation which sounds like a man desperately reclaiming his humanity:

Returning to 1980 and McCartney II, I place before you a beautiful slice of pastoral electronica; pastel coloured synths play a spiralling, wistful lullaby:

KATE BUSH, 'Delius (Song of Summer)'

This evokes David Rudkin's Penda's Fen and perhaps also Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland, with its dreamy Ravi Shankar score. Making the classical live and creating art of hazy English summer times. Kate Bush is an artist who unites so many vital, seemingly contradictory strands: the Brontes with Prince; Roy Harper with Peter Gabriel; Rolf Harris with Powell and Pressburger.

PETER GABRIEL, 'Games Without Frontiers'

More outward-looking pop; England in the era when perhaps most open to the European influence. Fairlight the way, Peter and Kate; one of the very finest and oddest of pop songs.

ROY HARPER, 'The Unknown Soldier'

The album is uneven, like Peter Hammill's A Black Box from the same year; the uses of synth are not always sure-footed, but occasionally inspired in both cases. And there is Kate Bush, returning the favour after 'Breathing'. And then this, an acoustic ballad similar in sound to those on Valentine six years earlier. The other side of the coin; a grave sadness absurdly juxtaposed with the interviewer's namedropping bonhomie in this video clip:

TEENA MARIE, 'Behind the Groove'

From a massively undervalued artist; Lady T. - along with Rick James - set the groundwork for a lot of what Prince went onto do. Funk, pop, disco, soul and attitude; Eros and Aphrodite. Also to be mentioned in this company is George Benson's aqueous 'Give Me the Night' - that rare occasion where footballers showed some musical taste; sublime production and vertiginous backing vocals - up there with the following year's slick pop procedural from Luther Vandross, 'Never Too Much'.

Essential also to mention New York Skyy and Loose Joints at this point.


Spare and yet immense organ; an approachable Weird, conveyed by children of the Radiophonic Workshop ethos. As with much of the British music in this list, you get a sense of the new generation (b.1955-64) born not of blues or rock 'n' roll, but of this:

THE KORGIS, 'Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime'

It's not 'gotta', nor could it ever be. Perhaps the greatest of so many astounding Trevor Horn productions (well, along with this, this and this - Crewe railway station heartbreak), and one of my favourite songs of all:

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