1980 is a pivotal year in the development of my musical appreciation. Here’s why.
A transitional year for me. I welcomed the new decade as a National Serviceman having enlisted on Boxing Day, 1979. But more importantly, my musical tastes were changing as well, significantly. Sometime in 1978, I had been exposed to punk when a JC friend played to my friends & I, the Sex Pistols‘ Anarchy in the UK LP (banned in Singapore but smuggled in for good measure) and to be honest I was unimpressed. For a pop-rock lover weaned on The Beatles, Deep Purple, Queen, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols seemed dumb and barbaric!
That said, by 1980 I had begun to cotton on to the post-punk movement and had already started listening to the pioneering new bands of that era, which seemed far removed from the old-school rockers of my relative youth. Fueled by the noises made by rock mags like NME, Sounds & Melody Maker, I had started to abandon the old bands (as irrelevant) and had ’embraced’ the future of rock.
Thus, that transition from 1979 to 1980 saw a shift in my record collection as well but very much in the early stages.
I recall hearing the new Pink Floyd double album The Wall in late 1979, just before enlisting and especially “Another Brick in the Wall – Part 2” which sounded like a disco song to be then. Without a doubt, the first six months of 1980 was spent in dissecting this glorious concept album – the fact that it was the last significant album of Floyd’s recording career marked the end of an era.
Same could be said of Queen. The Game was an LP that Queen tried to jump on the post-punk bandwagon with a leaner sound and shorter haircuts and whilst it had a couple of great singles (“Play the Game” and “Save Me”), one could sense that the band was slipping into a slow decline. In the early 90s, Mercury was taken from us and by then, I no longer considered myself a diehard Queen fan and it began here.
By 1980, Genesis had morphed into a pop band. More or less. There were still elements of prog in Duke but from Abacab onwards Phil Collins and company made a strong move for commercial success and they succeeded, probably beyond their wildest dreams. Mainly due to Tony Bank’s brilliant songwriting, Collins’ pop sensibilities and the band’s overall technical ability, I still consider Duke one of my favourite albums ever. But it was difficult to continue to follow a band like Genesis when the UK rock mags were denigrating them every chance they had. And soon, I stopped as well.
In these circumstances, my transition was aided by bands that had a foot in both old and new worlds. The Police may have looked like punks but in truth they were escapees from the jazz-fusion scene and applied their considerable technical proficiency to produce edgy, infectious pop songs that made them – by 1983 – the biggest band on the planet. Thus, it was not difficult for me to become a huge Police fan. Zenyatta Mondatta was released in 1979 but with the success of hit singles like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” on the UK charts, the impact of The Police was easily felt even in Singapore.
Another good example of a new band straddling two worlds was The Jam. Ostensibly, their first two LPs also look and sound like punk albums but singer/guitarist and principal songwriter Paul Weller was really a Mod revivalist and the band channeled the sound of The Beatles, The Small Faces and The Who with a spiky intent. Again, The Jam made it easy for me to jump on the so-called post-punk bandwagon. Sound Affects was the first new Jam album I purchased and I fell in love with each and every song from the moment I heard them. This album changed my life, no exaggeration.
A brave new world finally arrived for me when I picked up Tubeway Army‘s Replicas. It was the introduction I needed into the world of synth-pop. And there was no looking back after that. My conservative musical tastes were being subverted. Granted of course, Gary Numan basically wrote good pop songs (he followed this album with his first solo – The Pleasure Principle – which contains the immortal “Cars”). But Replicas will always have a special place in my heart for synth-pop classics like “Are Friends Electric” and “Down in the Park”. Yet another LP that changed my life…
… still there’s more …