Tuesday, 25 March 2014

10 Songs that Describe the 1980s

The 1980s were the "Me" decade, which came with two sub-themes to it:

1. "Look at me!"
2. "It's Mine. What's mine is my own, and whatever else I can get, by any means legal or otherwise, is mine as well".

Point 1 explains the outlandish clothes, the big hair, flashy cars and the like that was the fashion. But along with point 2 there was a real developing sense of corporate greed during the period, which culminated in the stock market panic of 1987.

In the early 1980s I was in grade school in Newcastle, NSW, but it seemed everybody between the ages of 18 and 24 all worked at the BHP steelworks, or steel-related industries in town.

The times were marked in other countries (less so than here) of a real rift between the Haves and the Have-nots. Thatcherism and Reaganomics seemed to push the concept of open markets and a sense that whoever earns it, gets to keep it. Whomever is cunning enough to play the game right and gets to the top first wins the lot. It also meant a lot of pain for smaller families, especially when interest rates in Australia hit 17% in the late 1980s...

Midnight Oil – Don't Wanna Be The One
There could have been a number of other Oils tracks I could have chosen, but this one speaks volumes on the realities for those at different positions on the corporate food chain. "We end up in home units with the brick wall view..."

Redgum – Lear Jets Over Kulgera
This song heralded the start of the resources boom in Australia, with foreign investment making a motza out of the "poor young mineral-rich country". This track wins an extra credit badge for working the word "giegercounter" into the lyric.

Billy Bragg – Between the Wars
A vocal critic of Margaret Thatcher, Billy Bragg sang songs in support of ordinary workers lost in the shuffle of the push towards corporatisation and privatisation. This didn't just happen in Britain, but all over the world, and this is a timely reminder without the workers, executives and upper management don't make a profit.

Warumpi Band – Blackfella/Whitefella
Indigenous people of Australia, up until the 1980s were un-mentioned, under-represented sub-class who struggled to get their voices heard in the media. Some bands prior to Warumpi were making noises along similar themes (Goanna's "Solid Rock" being one example) but this one is the most powerful and influential. This begat "Beds Are Burning" by the aforementioned Midnight Oil.

Spandau Ballet – Gold
The 80s were characterised by the chase for money, and more of it, heralding a new age of decadence and excess.

Tears For Fears – Shout
For all the money, parties and celebration, a lot of people still weren't happy and the rise of the expensive therapist started.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes
This track is included because during the 1980s you had two superpowers, the USA and the (then) USSR flexing their collective military muscles in each others direction, daring each other to push the button that could blow the planet into smithereens.

Frank Zappa – Valley Girl
The "look at me" culture of the San Fernando Valley can be seen as a metaphor for the the fashion of the times - big outfits and even bigger hair. This Zappa parody was is precisely what "Clueless" was in the mid-1990s.

Metallica – Master Of Puppets
The corporate drug culture is probably something that was not openly discussed at the time, but it was prevalent. This theme was tackled by Frank Zappa on "Cocaine Decisions" but Metallica did it the best with this powerful and emotive anti-drug anthem.

Prince – Sign 'O' The Times
Touches on the fallout of era's behaviour: drugs and hedeonism, AIDS and poverty, bad hangovers and money going around and around and around and.....

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