Having it on a Sunday is about as arbitrary as you can get, I think.
Anyway, Michael Bérubé, rightful owner of Arbitrary but Fun Friday, is busy what with running the world’s most popular defunct blog among other things, so I am stepping up unasked to take it over this week, two days late, which is the story of my life.
Those of you who were alive during the Reagan Administration will recall that that decade just seemed incredibly freaking endless. This was certainly true politically, if only because we Americans as a nation did not know that we would one day look back on Reagan’s amyloid-plaque-ocratic administration as a relative paragon of diplomacy and careful consideration compared to what we have now.
And it was also true of mainstream rock and roll, which had to all appearances died in the first half of the decade or thereabouts: I date the mortality to the moment Billy Zoom left X, though there are some who argue for when The Clash split up, and a few place it on December 7, 1980, the sad, sad day when The Germs’ frontman Darby Crash died, only to be upstaged by John Lennon’s dying the very next day. The 1980s was the decade of Don Henley and Tears for Fears and Simple Minds and quite honestly, if I keep listing them here I may get depressed. I had to LIVE in the goddamn decade, man. You kids have it so EASY now, what with your “iPods” and your “printing” and your “fire.” We had endless repetitions of Gimme Three Steps on the Classic Rock stations. It was horrible.
But the 1980s wasn’t entirely bad, of course. There was tons of good funk and hip hop, even if Will Smith WAS part of it. There was the birth of the Quiet Storm genre, worthwhile even if Smooth Jazz was its probably inevitable demon spawn. There was the ska trend, the Specials and Rankin’ Roger and a brief shining moment in 1983 when Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley was nearly paved in checkered high-top shoes and OK fine, go ahead and add Sting to that list, even though he broke up the Police and starred in Dune the very same year, injury added to insult. There was the post-Zoom X and their folky compatriots, Dave Alvin and the Cowboy Junkies and Camper Van Beethoven, Michelle Shocked and Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman. There were momentarily popular and not untalented groups such as TimBuk3 and Edie Brickell. There were proto-emos like The Cure. The list goes on.
Your Arbitrary But Fun task, should you choose to accept it: remind us all of 1980s music that did not suck.
I’ll start us off.