Punk. 1977. Ground zero.
The torn t-shirts, the spiky coloured short hair, the spitting and most of all the back-to-basics retro-pop caused a seismic shift in musical tastes and styles that was not fully felt till the early 80s. US bands like The Stooges and New York Dolls paved the way ultimately for British punks like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Damned. In the wake of punk, a new approach to pop-rock (variously labelled ‘post-punk’ or ‘new wave’) emerged making superstars of the likes of Blondie, The Cars, The Police et al.
But what about the 70s prog rockers? Well, they had to adapt to stay relevant. Here are examples of 80s pop songs made by progressive rockers.
EMERSON LAKE & POWELL – TOUCH & GO (1985)
Emerson Lake & Palmer (Keith Emerson, Greg Lake & Carl Palmer) enjoyed enormous popularity for most of the Seventies before splitting in 1979 as the onset of punk took full effect. In 1985, Emerson and Lake formed Emerson, Lake & Powell with former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell. Palmer declined to participate in a reunion as he was busy with commitments with Asia. The result – an under-performing album and this somewhat mediocre attempt at a 80s pop single.
Buy now: Amazon
GENESIS – INVISIBLE TOUCH (1986)
After lead singer Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975 and with drummer Phil Collins taking over, the fortunes of the band really took off, transforming from a cult prog outfit to a genuine chart act by the mid-80s. Collins of course, even had a parallel solo career that often eclipsed the success of the band! Following the release of Invisible Touch in June 1986, the album spent three weeks at No. 1 in the UK and reached No. 3 in the US. Despite the mixed reviews, Invisible Touch was a commercial success, becoming the best selling Genesis album in the US, selling over 6 million copies there.
JETHRO TULL – LAP OF LUXURY (1984)
Described by Rolling Stone as “one of the most commercially successful and eccentric progressive rock bands”, Jethro Tull have sold over 60 million albums worldwide, with 11 gold and five platinum albums among them. Embracing the innovation of the new sound, the band went almost fully electronic in 1984 with Under Wraps, which produced this hit single.
PINK FLOYD – LEARNING TO FLY (1987)
When Roger Waters left the best-selling Pink Floyd in 1985, he believed that his departure would cause the demise of the band but his gambit back-fired when remaining members David Gilmour and Nick Mason actually put together a new Pink Floyd album – A Momentary Lapse of Reason two years later. Though it received mixed reviews and was derided by Waters, the LP outsold Pink Floyd’s previous album The Final Cut (1983), and was supported by a successful world tour. In the US, it has been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.
RUSH – TIME STAND STILL (1987)
Similarly Canadian rockers Rush kept up with the times with shorter songs and more emphasis on synthesisers – drummer Neil Peart even played electronic drums – when the mid-80s came along. “Time Stand Still” is a stand out cut from that era, featuring Aimee Mann on backing vocals.
YES – OWNER OF A LONELY HEART (1983)
South African guitarist Trevor Rabin was the catalyst behind prog rockers Yes re-invention in the early 80s. Together with Yes members Chris Squire & Alan White, Rabin sought to form a new group but the project eventually morphed into a new Yes album with the return of singer Jon Anderson. The result was 90125 – their best selling US LP – and this hit single.
… still there’s more …