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Living in the Eighties: Part One

by Kristine England

I’ve seen a slew of articles over the past year or so heralding the 80s as the greatest decade for music. It’s an interesting premise that I don’t agree with. However, there was a lot of great music released in that decade. YouTube channels list the “Greatest” one hit wonders or forgotten songs, but so many are better left forgotten. Nearly all of them are synth-laden pop tunes that were a dime a dozen at the time and haven’t aged well. Yet, many new artists seem to be looking back on that decade for inspiration. I also met someone a few years back who told me she hated 80s music. When pressed, she admitted she had only been exposed to hair metal.  I decided to catalog some of my favorite artists by sifting through my LPs, many of whom are well-known and others who may have fallen into obscurity. Here is a sampling of my favorite music from the decade.

Companion Spotify List

Companion YouTube list

Laurie Anderson

Mister Heartbreak

This multi-media artist has always been a fascinating performer. The haunting “Gravity’s Angel” is a great showcase of her voice, and guest Peter Gabriel adds his distinctive vocals (and musical influence) to Anderson’s. It’s quite compelling.

FEATURED TRACK: "Gravity's Angel"


Aztec Camera

High Land, Hard Rain

This is one of the first albums I looked at and realized I had nearly forgotten that I had in my collection. This Scottish band’s debut High Land, Hard Rain was a hit in 1983, riding on the success of the immensely catchy single, “Oblivious.”



Bauhaus and related incarnations

Burning from the Inside

My article, “Some Like It Goth,” already details the origin of my love affair with this band and its members’ other projects . They were an essential part of the era, particularly for me as most of my former schoolmates can attest.

FEATURED TRACK: "Lagartija Nick" 


The Birthday Party


A friend once innocently remarked to me that nothing I listened to would shock her. I played “Mutiny in Heaven” for her. She never said a word to me about music ever again (but we’re still friends). Good times.



Black Flag


Henry Rollins is an icon. Founded by guitarist Greg Ginn in 1976, the hardcore punk group from CA really came into its own when Rollins joined the band in 1981. Their songs could be satirical (“TV Party”), anthemic (“Rise Above”) or a pure rage protest (“Police Story”). Great album art too.



The Chameleons

Script of the Bridge

Formed in 1981 near Manchester, UK, the group released a string of influential albums from its debut Script of the Bridge until its demise in 1985. Their music had a great influence on the next generation of artists like the Verve, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, and more.



The Church


Formed in Sydney in 1980, the Church was a neo-psychedelic new wave outfit. Inexplicably, the band never achieved the kind of sales it deserved in the early days and as a result had a bumpy ride with record companies signing and dropping them unceremoniously. A breakthrough finally came with Starfish in 1988, an album I still listen to quite frequently.


FEATURED TRACK: "North, South, East, West"

The Clash


This band had a fascinating way of reinventing itself, and it’s pretty hard to calculate how influential it was. Punk pioneers who stretched out on the three album set Sandinista, the songs span a host of genres: punk, funk, reggae, dub, and so many others. It’s also not lacking in social and political commentary -- Joe Strummer’s specialties.

FEATURED TRACK: "The Magnificent Seven"


The Cramps 

Songs the Lord Taught Us

How can you not love the Cramps? Insanely fun, psychobilly greatness! And Lux Interior is a truly unique creature. We did not deserve him.



The Dead Kennedys

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

Formed in 1978 in San Francisco, this seminal punk band's heyday stretched from 1980’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables through Frankenchrist in '86. The inimitable frontman Jello Biafra and the Dks took a harsh look at politics and societal ills, serving up furiously fast surf music with biting social commentary. 


FEATURED TRACK: "Holiday in Cambodia"

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