Reason #6 Why The 80’s Didn’t Suck As Bad As We Thought It Did

The Smiths were one of those bands that came out of nowhere and slapped the music industry upside the head with a tuneful blend of lyrical melancholia and jangly guitars. Their debut appeared in 1984 and to give you an idea what a breath of fresh air it was,  here’s the top 20 songs of that year:

WHEN DOVES CRY, Prince and the Revolution

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, Tina Turner

SAY, SAY, SAY, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

FOOTLOOSE, Kenny Loggins

AGAINST ALL ODDS (Take a Look at Me Now), Phil Collins

JUMP, Van Halen

HELLO, Lionel Richie

OWNER OF A LONELY HEART, Yes

GHOSTBUSTERS, Ray Parker Jr.

KARMA CHAMELEON, Culture Club

MISSING YOU, John Waite

ALL NIGHT LONG (All Night), Lionel Richie

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOY, Denise Williams

DANCING IN THE DARK, Bruce Springsteen

GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN,.. Cyndi Lauper

THE REFLEX, Duran Duran

TIME AFTER TIME, Cyndi Lauper

JUMP (For My Love), The Pointer Sisters

TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP, The Romantics

SELF CONTROL, Laura Branigan

So let’s analyze this, shall we? You’ve got the worst songs in their entire discography by: Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen and the Pointer Sisters. You have TWO songs by Mr. Excitement Himself, Lionel Ritchie and TWO songs by Cyndi Lauper. The rest of the list is rounded out by past-their-prime oldies acts (Tina Turner, Yes), hair gel bandwagon jumpers (Duran Duran, Laura Branigan, Culture Club, The Romantics) and drek from Laura Branigan, Ray Parker, Jr.,  and whoever the hell this John Waite character is. Prince is the only semi-decent artist here. Taken alone this list makes a DAMN fine argument that the 80’s were a lost decade, nothing more than hair gel and has beens.

But then the Smith’s dropped this guitar album on us that sounded totally unique and like nothing I’d ever heard. Lyrically, looking back, it was kind of self-serving, mopey and a little pretentious, but the music and the songs themselves were alien and fantastic. Pop, Motown, punk, jangle, rockabilly. It shouldn’t have worked. Songs about celibacy, vegetarianism, Oscar Wilde and reeling around the fountain should have made any self respecting music fan run for the hills, especially given the fact these songs were sung by an obsessive New York Dolls fanatic with a penchant for flowing shirts and hearing aids. But it does work, wonderfully, and with the help of brilliantly tuneful fare such as What Difference Does It Make, How Soon Is Now, This Charming Man, William It Was Really Nothing, The Queen Is Dead, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, the Smiths became the most beloved band in Britain since The Jam.

Morressey went on to a mediocre solo career (not unlike Sting), Johnny Marr rented his talents as a guitarist for hire (most notably in The The) and the other two…well, I don’t know what happened to those guys.

The Smiths were a great band and released 4 great albums before dissolving in 1987/1988. It’s worth your money to invest in these. Ignore the live album. If you’re scared to invest in the actual albums, get the compilation Louder Than Bombs.

Advertisements