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Albums That Killed The '80s: Songs from The Big Chair Edition!


When you consider just how amazingly the '80s had begun (with new wave, post-punk and power pop all exploding at once), I am truly proud to have been alive and raging with hormones. On the other hand, seeing as how the decade would end in the post-apocalyptic hellscape of gangsta rap and Diane Warren power ballads, one is suddenly tempted to hang their head in shame.

How could shit have gone so wrong so fast? Is it possible that society regressed in those ten years, giving birth to the '90s...which was nothing more than a dumbed down version of the '70s, but with Aerosmith played by Nirvana and Pink Floyd played by Pearl Jam? Apparently so.

When, you ask, was the turning point; that moment when wild abandon began to second-guess itself?

In one very real sense, one could argue that it was the death of B-52's guitarist Ricky Wilson in 1985 that burned through the last of the decade's innocence, but, musically speaking, I have pinpointed it to one precise band and album that, oddly enough, came out that same year:

Tears For Fears "Songs From The Big Chair"

While it wasn't the album's first single, "Shout" was THE SONG that inexplicably changed everything.

In fact, this writer would go so far as to state that the song's influence upon the entire music industry was every bit as pervasive as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" proved to be in 1991.

Sure, "Shout" may have sounded like random kitchen utensils being tossed down a flight of stairs on first listen, but once Roland Orzabal's vocals kicked in, one imagines that even Bono stopped what he was doing.

Elsewhere, Mick Jagger probably stopped returning Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts' phone calls for a time until Keith threatened to make him eat one of his own ballet slippers.

Thankfully, the song's release as a single in late 1984 began one of the slowest marches to the #1 spot in August 1985; TEN MONTHS after its release. took FOREVER to finally reach #1 in the U.S. much of an anthem as it was,  call-to-arms for an entire generation of , . By song's end, the quantum focal point at which the decade officially began taking itself WAAAAAY too seriously.

Ah, but all those high-tech bells & whistles were so hard to resist after we'd been raised on nothing more than Joe Perry guitar riffs.  Little did we know that one of those very riffs would be served up to us all over again the very next year and, in doing so, take hip-hop mainstream, but I digress yet again.

By the time "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" began being pushed as a single, it was all over.

Bands with perfectly good rhythm sections were suddenly tossing them in trash in favor of the latest fancy drum machine and Roland bass synth. Even at the local level, the days of bands just going into a recording studio to cut some professional demos were over, as my own band found out when we began working with our first "established producer".

All we knew about the guy was that he was from Muscle Shoals - a fact he never let anybody forget - and promised to capture the energy of our live shows on 2" recording tape.

Before we could even finish setting up, Mr. Muscle Shoals pulled us into the studio's control room and had us all take a seat. Excited as a child on Christmas, this producer fellow proceeded to show us his snazzy new compact disc player, using Tears For Fears "Shout" as a sort of "demonstration record" to show off this new format's sonic detail, which, coming through the studio's expensive and specialized playback speakers, admittedly sounded fucking amazing.

It was at this point, that Mr. Muscle Shoals informed us that, much like the track we were listening to, we'd be performing live to a click track in order to integrate electronic percussion and synthesizers.

"Wait, what?!" we protested.

Long story short, the sessions proved to be an absolute disaster as said producer stubbornly tried to fit a size ten foot into a size five shoe and, in doing so, had us trying valiantly to "lock-in with the click" and second-guessing our every move.

Had we recorded prior to "Shout" becoming an inescapable part of everyday life, nobody from Muscle Shoals, or anywhere else for that matter, would have said jack-shit about click tracks and synth pads. 

Sorry, after all these years, I just had to shout, shout, let it all out.

Feels good.


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