Most, if not all, music buffs would consider Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the album that defined the 60’s, and The Wall as the album that defined the 70’s. What do you think the album that defines the 80’s is? And I don’t mean what album necessarily sold a lot(so we can ignore Thriller).
The Joshua Tree. U2’s not even one of my faves, but it’s hard to deny that one its lofty place.
And The Wall defined the 70’s? Hell, that didn’t even define Pink Floyd. Try Never Mind the Bollocks instead.
Five bucks says this thread gets moved, too.
I think you could make a case that Thriller defined the 80s. It might not be on anybody’s favorites list but when you are trying to define a decade you have to compare it against what that decade was perceived to be. What did the decade mean historically?
With the advent of music videos we saw music change in that it wasn’t what you sounded like but what you looked like. I think songs were made and created based on what the video would look like. I think music videos were the biggest remnant of that decade. What better example of that than Thriller?
I would say The Joshua Tree but I don’t think of the 80’s as being a political/serious decade.
- Born in the USA
- Joshua Tree
For good or ill, BITUSA had more cultural resonance with Reagan’s America, Rambo, etc. Mind you, this a complete distotion of what Springsteen was trying to say, but that’s the way it was interpreted.
Now, if you’re talking about musical quality or influence, that’s a different issue…
Thriller is a great bet. I would also suggest Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms, and Paul Simon’s Graceland as being seminal influences and representatives of various '80’s ethoses.
But one album to define a decade? Ain’t gonna happen. For every The Wall, there’s a
Black Sabbath or a
Teaser and the Firecat or a
For every Sgt. Pepper’s there’s a
Beggars Banquet or a
Pet Sounds or a
Peter, Paul and Mary Ten Years Together or, God knows, a Bridge Over Troubled Water.
When did Hotel California come out?
December 8, 1976
Well, if we’re going to keep this in GD, I suppose I better do a little debating. Unlike Oblong, I remember the 80’s as a highly political decade. Not so much in most music, but the Reagan years were highly contentious. (See “Bullet the Blue Sky.”)
But it also had a lot of other stuff going for it that scream 1980’s to me. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (hate that damn song) had a spiritual bent to it that fit in nicely with the return of faith to the public eye.
“Where the Streets Have No Name” was totally about Bono discovering/celebrating America, which coincided with the rise of pride in the country after Vietnam/Watergate. [Okay, this is obviously an Ameri-centric award I’m giving away here.]
And as Oblong also pointed out, the 80’s was the dawn of the music video. Hard to beat “With or Without You” on that front.
Musically, I think the album was a complete turning point. If you think back to the early 80’s, it’s hard to distinguish popular songs [synth-pop excepted] from the stuff that came out in the 70’s. Joshua Tree just sounded a lot more modern.
Plus, musically, the album
Damn, lost the end of the post! I was just saying that Joshua Tree was the first big [non-synth pop] album that sounded noticeably different than the music of the decade before.
I’ll throw this one in just to keep the debate rolling. It was later ‘80s, but how about Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction?
I thought about Appetite, and I actually like it a lot better than Joshua Tree, but I don’t think it makes it for two reasons. First, musically, although extraordinarily well done, it’s largely a cross between Aerosmith and the Sex Pistols, so we’re right back in the 70’s again. Second, I think an album that defines a decade ought to be fairly timeless, and I’m not sure that Appetite is going to make it on that front. Don’t hear a lot of it on the radio these days, do you?
But if you want to talk about defining L.A. in the 80’s there’s your Rosetta Stone!
Appetite was solid, but I never saw it a groundbreaking. Howsabout Van Halen’s Diver Down and 1984 for spawning a new generation of ripped-clothing pseudo-metalheads, resulting eventually in mainstream acceptance of abysmal glam rock in the late 80’s as well as the “grunge” movement (drop-D tuning anyone?).
Minty Green, you make valid points. My first thought when I saw the topic was The Joshua Tree but after thinking about it I don’t see the 80s as being that serious. I may be basing my opinion on what I’d expect to see in a LIFE magazine article on the decade instead of a music journal.
The only argument I can make is that I’m basing my opinion on the reflections of the decade relating to pop culture as a whole instead of specifically music.
I wouldn’t dream of selecting ANY album/CD as representative of an era, and neither should anyone else. All we can do is say what OUR favorites were, and what each meant to us.
In no special order (okay, alphabetical), my favorite CDs of the 80s were:
Back in Black by AC/DC
Heartbeat City by the Cars
Making Movies by Dire Straits
Watermark by Enya
Security by Peter Gabriel
Kick by INXS
Discipline by King Crimson
Argybargy by Squeeze
Maverick by George Thorogood & the Destroyers
Volume 1 by the Travelling Wilburies
I would never have imagined! You’re alright, astorian–I don’t care what anyone (including me) says about you!
Rather than GnR, I’d have to go for Bon Jovi, Slippery when Wet, as the album that defined my 80’s. Everything from Born in the USA working man’s songs to something that approximated metal.
Quiet Riot, Metal Health, was the vinyl I wore out, however.
Maybe a nod should be made towards Run-DMC and the Beasties?
I know Grandmaster Flash was first, but they were wider spread.
REM, Shiny Happy People was a bit late… hm. The problem is, half the 80s is really the 70s. Till '82 or '83. And half of it is really the early 90s. '88, maybe, onwards.
So, as far as a pure 80s sound… well, what was around only then? Hair bands. Shiny happy reggae (Don’t Worry, Be Happy), junk pop… boy bands… Ricky Martin… (Menudo, that is)
Aha. The perfect 80’s song, by a band that not only reflects the music but the sexual revelations of the age.
The Safety Dance, Men Without Hats.
(Yes, I know that wasn’t what it was about)
There was good music in the 1980s, but most of it qualifies as early 90s, or something completely different. Still, considering everything, I’d have to say that furt was right. Bruce. Born in the USA. Upbeat song, with horribly conflicting lyrics really reflects the feelings we had. Mighiest country in the world, knocked back by Nam (Gone to kill the yellow man), industry crumbling (Born down in a dead man’s town), and a sense of confusion on where to go next.
The most important release of the eighties was, without question,
Identity, by Marginal Man
If you haven’t heard of it, blame the Vast Right-Wing Conspriacy.
On the other hand, one might consider Synchronicity, or really anything else, by The Police to be pretty darned important for bringing several genres together into an oft-emulated pop standard.
I was thinking more along the lines of the culture as a whole, not pop culture. American culture, that is. Ironic that I see this Irish band as doing the best job of defining the American 80’s, eh? Oh well, nation of immigrants and all that stuff.
If you wanna go with defining the decade in pop culture, I think Slippery When Wet and Thriller are both solid choices.
As far as rap goes, I don’t think that the wider culture felt its impact until the very end of the decade, so it was hard for it to define the whole 80’s. But man, Straight Outta Compton sure defined something. Was that '89 or '90?
Shoot, forgot about Synchronicity. Another solid choice, Sofa King.
Interesting analysis of Born in the USA. I always felt that it was a bad song because the upbeat music and tempo makes you think it’s a rallying flag waving song to be played at the Olympics, while lyrically it’s a bit of a downer. If Springsteen intended that to show conflict, then maybe he is greater than I thought…
I’ll have to agree with Oblong on Thriller even though it’s not my cup o’ tea.
And even though The Wall IS my cup o’ tea, I would have to agree with those who say the OP’er is wrong to list it as the definitive album of the 1970s.
Led Zeppelin’s IV or Physical Graffiti, or something by the Rolling Stones would make more sense, IMO.