Friday, January 30, 2015

Pastel Orgasms: A Review of Music from 1985

It's interesting that I wrote a review of music from 1984 almost exactly a year ago as part of my nostalgic obsession. It's one thing to research music from 1943 and write essays and play songs by artists I never listened to previously and even artists my parents never listened to and possibly artists my grandparents never heard of. Obscure artists from 1936 or 1925 or 1904. I like that as a project to expand my appreciation of pop music and to develop the skills of research and cross referencing so that I might sound like I know what I'm talking about. Ok. But it's a totally different deal to write about music that I grew up with, and it's an even bigger deal to write about music that was released when I was a Freshman in High School. And it's an even bigger deal to write about music that was released at what could be considered the peak of American pop music in the '80s. I claim it peaked in 1985 because I only see a decline in originality and eclecticism and creativity from 1986 on. It was like artists in 1985 didn't listen to the radio at that time or didn't care. Nothing sounded derivative in 1985, but in 1986 I detect a certain tired approach. In fact, I will not write reviews for music years past 1989 because commercial decisions were made that undermined the entire output and led to Rock Bottom, otherwise known as the Gin Blossoms. 

Allow me to digress...

It's sort of like my other fixation: baseball. There was a time not too long ago when players were purchased for the life of their career by one team who could sell them off whenever they wanted. There were no agents like we know them today. A team actually expected to gather a team together with no changes for 12 years and win with that team based on good coaching and performance. This approach only worked for one team: The NY Yankees but other teams still tried to make it work. More accurately most teams merely wanted to put a team on the field for all the games of the season. Win or lose. It was like a carnival act and baseball fans would buy a ticket no matter what the team's record was. But because of Curt Flood's determination in 1970 players got more control of their fate in 1972. This actually helped teams and and players but at the time the team owners thought this was hurting them. Well, today it's understood that if your main goal is a World Championship then personnel is critical, not fan loyalty or team stability. And I mean changing personnel as often as possible to suit the situation. There is almost no team loyalty or player loyalty left, but teams now have arguably equivalent chances at winning, or slightly better chances than in 1972. I can speak from experience that being a fan of the 1984 Boston Red Sox as a teenager is completely different than being a fan of the 2015 Boston Red Sox. Yes, over the course of a single season there will evolve a loyal spirit but not much else changes. In fact, the only major personnel changes from 1975-1983 were in my own family. I could rely on Dwight Evans and Jim Rice and Yaz to show up every day more than I could trust my own mother. God help a kid looking for stability in his team today. From 1979-1985 there were almost no substantial changes. Yes, players left but only because those players were horrible like Jerry Remy or junkies like Butch Hobson or hobbled like Yaz. And they were replaced by equally horrible players like Glenn Hoffman and equal junkies like Oil Can Boyd and equally hobbled like Bill Buckner. The art of assembling a winning team was not a huge priority in 1983. The core players on the 78-84 Red Sox were all average.  The pitchers were average. The fielders were average. The manager was average. The fans wanted to see a win once in a while, hopefully half the time. When you have an average team playing another average team then the whole game is going to be decided by the ump's discriminate strike zone. BUT....the players were loyal and the fans were loyal and conversations about the team were predictable. Tickets cost $6 and games were played during the day and Fenway sold out only on weekends the Yankees were in town. Baseball was no big deal for anyone over 16 years old. 

Today, baseball and pro sports is a cancerous abomination, there is no loyalty, salaries are completely out of control but so is revenue generated by an ugly base of gawking adult fans trying to get autographs to sell online. How about this: Two of the greatest players in history, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, both served in the military. Williams sacrificed 6 seasons of his Hall of Fame career. DiMaggio sacrificed 3 seasons. They both were in their prime basically their whole career so it's inexact to suggest they entered the service during their "prime". No, they didn't have a season that wasn't "prime". Williams hit a home run on his first at-bat in 1939 and last at-bat in 1960. Today's baseball climate is an embarrassment. Please find me a player who participated in the recent 15 years of warfare. I couldn't find one from the MLB. An 11 year old kid can't afford go to a game and his parents would probably be arrested if they let him take the subway alone to a game as I routinely did in Boston. Derek Jeter was the last honest player whose character alone was enough to support a long career but his skill simply guaranteed the Yankees would never trade him. Jeter had opportunities to leave NY for more money and he chose not to go. NY had opportunities to not resign Jeter and find someone who wasn't crippled, and they chose not to. That's actually what all of baseball looked like in 1983. Do your job and you kept your job. It took abysmal performance to force a club to trade you. 

Well, this is a long way of saying that's how I feel about popular music today. It's generic, overproduced, inauthentic, commercialized, disloyal. Fans want hit singles and then they download them for free off the Internet. It's a joke. In 1985 you literally were going to be arrested on the greasy mall food court floor if you shoplifted a Van Halen cassette for your Sony Walkman. Today there is no risk and the fans have no spines and the artists know it and their music is transparent and the producers are hollow sharks. The era of the genuine musical recording artist probably ended in 1988 with Sinead O'Connor. Mainstream artists today are little more than soda pop shills. The most authentic music today is from independent labels you'll never hear on a radio. In 1985 the best music was on the radio.

But enough about that...let's put on our penny loafers and moonwalk back in time.

There was a time when musicians were looked to for commentary on current events. Country music was for Conservatives and Rock Music was for Liberals. That time was 1985. Today, pundits squawk like crushed chickens  on the road instead of musicians, and people are listening. Notably, I prefer music from 1982 because that year's offering were incredibly original and made more of an impact coming on the dying polyester threads of Disco. 1982 was the year I became personally aware of music as more than background noise. I took ownership of pop music in 1982 and it took ownership of me. 1984 did have the release of Born in The USA which was in heavy rotation still in 1985 and the erection of Madonna's virginal fame, and 1988 had some good offerings I'll write about in 2018, but 1985 is the middle of the decade and at this point the ridiculous collision of cultural and political events inspired music that sounded nothing like music from an equally distraught year of 1967, yet was arguably motivated from the exact same activist sentiments. In fact, I even tried to think up a nifty title for the Summer of 1985 like '67 was called The Summer of Love. But the best I could think of was The Summer of Glove to honor MJ.  Anyway, $10 Oggy dollars to anyone who can think of a cool name for the Summer of 1985.
Allow me to explain.

MTV was in its 4th year of existence and gaining momentum. I actually relied on it and because MTV was a cable channel (not transmitted via antenna) its existence on cable forced me for about two years to visit nearby friends who had cable to watch it or else rely on the lesser music video feature segments of Boston stations. Cable had existed for a few years but only MTV made me desire it. The videos were the same on the local stations but they only broadcast a few of them for an hour and that hardly fed my addiction for stimulation and glimpses of Madonna's legs or videos by Van Halen which always featured half naked women. Actually VH1 was launched on January 1, 1985 but it was also not on the 11 snowy channels received by our aluminum "rabbit ear" antennae. So we had to invest in cable and it's possible at this time my brother convinced my father to sell a few hundred AT&T stocks in order to buy something called a "VCR" because he had a scheme with a friend to dub grainy bootleg copies of Return of The Jedi and "make a fortune". The VCR cost about $450, weighed as much as microwave oven, had a remote control that was connected to the unit with a long wire, and wore out in two years and those AT&T stocks would probably be worth around $120,000 today so that was a smart investment. The VCR was not the first piece of hi-tech equipment in the house because my father had also bought an Atari-800 word processing cartridge that allowed a person to save and edit a complete page of text. That's right. You had to insert the program physically and then type a page at a time. This was followed soon by a Commodore-64 and other computer products I didn't think would apply to me because I was going to play baseball for a living. It's also notable that we had an Apple computer at that time and if the same amount of money had instead been invested in Apple stock, instead of the computer, I'd be living in Bermuda right now sipping rum and more rum. I only point this out because it's amusing to look back on such a critical period and realize I paid no attention to it at the time. Computers were obviously an amazing invention and my school even forced me to take some ridiculous programming class (like that would ever help anyone in life?) Apple and Microsoft were the leaders and their stocks were trading for $0.25 a share and I preferred to sort packs of baseball cards that cost $0.50 a pack.
My calculations suggest that $2000 invested in a $0.25 stock in 1985 would be worth $1,000,000 today without considering any reinvestment or splits. But don't take financial advice from me. I can barely add.

Although we were slightly more cutting edge than many of my friends because my father liked expensive gadgets, our phone would remain tethered to the wall jack for about 3 more years. Yes, the phone was not only a land line, it was attached to the wall. Conversations lasted only long enough for me to say, "Meet ya at the whiffle ball court? Oh, yeah, well, yer mom does too. What? Of course I saw the Madonna video. She's hot. Yah. See yah there." \

Then I'd hang up the phone and go play Whiffle Ball for 6 hours which left at least 7 minutes to do all my homework before listening to the radio for the next 8 hours until the high school secretary called to figure out why I was late for class. It was a flawless routine that suited me perfectly.

Anyway, I'm not here to cry over the past. Instead of Apple stock I got some baseball cards that I know will be priceless one day like Garry Templeton and Dwight Evans rookie cards. I got Jim Rice and Roger Clemens to autograph a piece of paper that will certainly sell for enough to pay for my early retirement.

I'm here to celebrate music from 1985 but I finally have enough time to really sink my teeth into one of these music reviews and I'm letting myself run wild. You came to the wrong place if you want brevity. My essays are improvised and cover a lot of ground, but I'm not going to edit or organize them for free. So take it or leave it. I finally have the time and inclination to pound out an epic review of music and that's what I'm going to do.

"War war is stupid and people are stupid
And love means nothing in some strange quarters"  Culture Club - The War Song 1984

So, 1985, it started out with the genocidal senile lunatic Ronald Reagan being sworn in to his 2nd term as President after winning every state except Minnesota and Washington D.C. I've seen more lucid people at old age homes in wheelchairs being fed peas by nurses. Fortunately, his Vice President, G. Bush Sr., was very competent because the only thing Reagan could still do good was mug for the camera and memorize speeches written for him but it turned out that was all that was necessary to ultimately undermine the entire Soviet Union and threat of Communism. I mention Reagan because his actions, along with the newly appointed Soviet Leader Gorbachev affected pop music in a way that will seem anachronistic in today's sterile twerkfest horror show where Putin and Obama's names are never mentioned. Yes, weirdly dressed pop artists read the news in 1985 and were not only unafraid to write about current events and express their feelings, they felt a duty to do so. Today, the mere hint of disloyalty or counterculture will completely ruin a career. The late '60s are famous for music inspired by the counterculture activism but the '80s are ignored because people looked like Boy George of Culture Club. But Boy George recorded the doo wop inspired cloaked attack on organized religion: Church of The Poisoned Mind in 1983 and The War Song in 1984 which has more counterculture spirit than Bruno Mars has even heard about. You heard it here first: '80s music was a counterculture revival after the spineless decade of the '70s, 1985 demonstrated a full inundation of counterculture values on the radio. Musicians in 1985 were progressive, opinionated, talented and the studios and audience loved it.

It will sound like a hoax when I describe Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative so I'm going to provide two links so you can research it yourself. Even then some of you might suggest there is a conspiracy to discredit our former President by inventing SDI. No, he was an actual lunatic who determined a need to shoot Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles out of the sky before they reached America. This was also referred to Star Wars and had things like Hypervelocity Rail Guns. It cost about $100 Billion dollars and shot down exactly zero missiles. It's probably covered in history classes today and students laugh out lout but this was a serious topic in my last Spring months of Junior High school and this was still covered in my 3rd period Freshman Current Events class in the Fall and I would've paid more attention if it had not been for the Easter Egg fashions that were popular among the girls I was surrounded by.

This is why I call this essay Pastel Orgasms...because the girls who I really thought might be Mrs. Bleacher one day all looked like this. I'm not making fun of their garish pink and blue adult baby tops and high hip twill pants. No, I'd happily reproduce some of my own pictures from 1985 to show you what I looked like but I have no access to those  photos since I am a hobo and they are all physical prints (The first known digital photo of me is in 2005). Anyone with my 1985 yearbook or photos of me climbing trees in my ninja costume want to email me a scan and I'll throw it up here and you can mock my bowl haircut, ill-fit Red Sox jersey, scrawny arms, goofy walk and acne and the shiny grin of my brace face that fixed my crooked fangs. I was dirty, goofy, smelled, dressed in a Ninja uniform all the time. etc. Sure, go ahead, like I wasn't made fun of enough in 1985. Just heap some more abuse onto me now that we're adults. hahahaha. You fucking low-esteem piece of white-trash shit, Chuck Albany, I swear if I ever catch you in an alley I'll slit your ass open with my hatchet for picking on me in gym class. Motherfuycker! hahaaaaa. But I'm over it all. I swear.
not real subtle, but it works.

The brilliance of that year's teen offering The Breakfast Club was this: although it would be easy, even justified, to initially identify with one or another of the characters, John Hughes miraculously managed to produce something that was blatantly trying to blend all the personalities into one...and bluntly convey that to the audience so you identify with everyone...and do it all without being horribly ham-fisted or parental about the process. And he pulled it off. We all have elements of each character in The Breakfast Club. He made a "message movie" without shoving the message down your throat, even though he had to shove it down your throat. That's very rare. Maybe kids today watch it and think "this is kind of hokey and this message has been shoved down my throat since 1st grade". That's because of this movie! I recall that it was new and simple, believable and even a little too mature a message for me. The movie was was novel in 1985. School shootings were pretty common then too but we all felt George Michael would fix everything. Hell, the character Brian brought a flare gun to school because of performance stress. He brought a gun to school and his punishment was one day in after school detention. But fist fights usually settled everything. About 4% of students were obese and they were mercilessly mocked by everyone including teachers, especially gym teachers. Today it's something like 75% of kids are obese and can't run 50 feet without falling down...but they don't get bullied. No. Never bullied. God help them if they lose some fucking weight in an attempt to fit in. That makes sense. Maybe it was easy for me to stay thin because I always got up so late for school that I could never beg my father for lunch money, and our house had no food, and I had to run to school or else be expelled. And Chuck Albany would beat the shit out of me every day for calling his mother a whore and when I got home I'd eat one frozen burrito and a candy bar. For a few years I only ate lunch if I won the weekly arcade game competition at the corner store and they awarded a sandwich as a prize. I don't know much except I didn't eat for 4 years, didn't get much sleep, and was running basically 15 hours a I was thin. But, Jesus, did I listen to music. I knew every single song lyric on the radio, every artist on MTV, every mole on Madonna's ass. I listened to the radio all night long every night. Dr. Demento was a substitute to my mother's lullabies. I was cheated a little by American DJs who ignored lots of great music from England, but I eventually educated myself.

Anyway, either AIDS or Nuclear War was going to end humanity in 1985 so we kind of didn't care about political correctness. The Breakfast Club pretended we'd all see 1990 and our self-image actually mattered. I didn't cry at the end or anything, because that kind of shit is for queers who listen to Bronski Beat or Erasure, but I did think a little about the troubles other kids might go through if they weren't entirely devoted to my happiness. Until that point kids doing drugs were totally villainized but all the characters smoked pot in The Breakfast Club and didn't get axed to death by a serial killer. Instead, they learned something about themselves and life. It was odd: I wanted to see Porky's III, and John Hughes gives me Terms of Endearment for teens. What the fuck? It took some time to appreciate The Breakfast Club but I feel Hughes did the right thing by making an adult movie for kids. Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink are more teen oriented.

I see now I'm going to basically review the entire year of 1985, which is something that will cripple my fingers. But music and culture really overlapped in 1985. Reagan was actively trying to defend American air space from nuclear weapons at the same time as flooding Los Angeles streets with cocaine to fund Nicaraguan and Guatemalan death squads and also supplying our future enemies in Iran and Afghanistan with abundant weapons so they would put up a good fight when we sent our own troops to annihilate them. He was a busy guy. The song "Land of Confusion" was released in 1986 along with an epic satire music video but the climate it was written in was 1985 and did accurately describe my mental state when pondering Star Wars, Cold War, Berlin Wall, Terrorism, Imminent Threat, First Strike Initiative, and Miami Vice. Sting did release Russians in 1985 and his career did not suffer because in 1985 people were not jingoistic cunts. In fact, Sting's song is on his first solo album after a respectable career with The Police so he's basically saying, "This is my personal opinion and I'm willing to take the fall for it." As long as the quality was high then no subject was off limits from radio play in 1985.

Speaking of limits, no conversation of 1985 is complete without a mention of the PMRC. Tipper Gore and crew honestly were not a censorship group, although everyone tried to label them so. They were biased, yes, and futilely trying to shield kids from naked genitals and swear words, but they were not censorship freaks. They did not ever want to prohibit any artist from producing anything. But they did want labels to identify possibly objectionable lyrics or material which isn't much different from movie rating systems to tell teenagers which movie they want to sneak into. That's where it gets into a witch hunt because someone has to judge an AC/DC song or a Prince tune as explicit, and that's how these career politicians make their money, an extended argument over nothing that makes them seem useful. They end up debating a paper topic that they invented to debate. Otherwise we could send them home. The PMRC ultimately won and now you see "Explicit Lyrics" stickers on all the popular albums. In fact, kids gravitate towards those as the ones they will probably like. Way to go PMRC! As John Lyndon of The Sex Pistols said, "In a world with major pollution and guns ablaze, they have to pick on someone using foul language." He could've added, "Oh, by the way, your President is enabling genocide in three different countries, he's killing thousands of people as you sit here discussing Motley Crue songs, so Cyndi Lauper's clever reference to playing with her pussy isn't real big priority, understand?"

Topical songs from any era are not uncommon but in 1985 I felt their relevance most strongly and if anything, this activism is what sets this era apart. There was an optimism even in the darkest punk or metal song. Optimism in the face of the evidence while today's pundits and news factories chew up celebrity cellulite and spit out purile and sterilized shit. There is no popular activism today and it's because artists have sold out. They obey the labels, they dance like monkeys, they have talent but they have no opinion on anything that wrinkles anyone's suit. The world is perfect is the mantra of today. Smile, you're on camera.

Even the credit song of The Breakfast Club by Simple Minds "Don't You (Forget About Me)" seemed like an anthem with a message about something that might relate to me after the movie was over and after I had had passionate dream sex with Ally Sheedy. Other bands boldly wrote albums full of topical/political music such as U2 (Unforgettable Fire 1984) and Dire Straits (Brothers in Arms 1985). This offering by Dire Straits was released in April and it might be the definitive album of 1985 as it covered culture (Brothers in Arms), television (Walk of Life), radio (So Far Away) as well as a broad range of musical styles from rockabilly to blues, to ballad, to doo wop and Everly Brothers melody. No single album is representative of this year, but Brothers is in the conversation as it is phenomenal.

The Ramones notably wrote a song in 1985 called Bonzo goes to Bitburg, about our old friend Reagan visiting a Nazi cemetery in 1985 to put the past (Germany's incineration of 6 million people) behind us on the 40th anniversary of the end of WWII. This isn't surprising when you consider at that very moment Reagan was responsible for his own holocaust in Central America and he would get away with it because he had charm and Americans love charm. I realize it would not do any good to dig up his moldy bones and crush them and feed them to Mayan goats as bread snacks...but that's what I feel Reagan (and those Nazi corpses) deserve. Reagan was not a good American, No, he was principally a Genocidal Fascist who happened to be Pro-America. The Ramones felt the same way at the time and they were an established band willing to get political. Bonzo is a reference to the monkey named Bonzo that Reagan would partner up with in movies from the 1950s. That's right, kids, we elected a genocidal fascist senile monkey actor as President and he thought he could shoot Nuclear missiles out of the sky. I should write a song about that.
does this make me a pundit?

The list goes on and on, established bands with a lot to lose did not hesitate to write songs in defiance of the status quo and they all prospered. John Cougar Mellencamp (Justice and Independence '85), Tears for Fears (Everybody Wants to Rule The World), Bruce Springsteen (Born in The USA), Black Sabbath (Goodbye Blue Sky), Elton John (Nikita), Cyndi Lauper (She Bop), Queen (Hammer to Fall), The Police (One World- Not Three), Kenny Loggins (Hope For The Runaway), Paul McCartney (How Many People). Songs inspired by activism filled the radio at T.V. in 1985. If you were a musician in 1985 then you could not ignore current events. Yes, there were light-hearted songs without much relevance and most were by Bryan Adams or REO Speedwagon, but there were also many many "opinion songs" that demonstrated artists were paying attention. Today, Lorde covers the Tears for Fears tune because I guess we have to go back in time 30 years to be subversive.

And that brings me to the culmination of the era, the ultimate song of 1985, AND the ultimate song of the entire decade of the 1980s. The quintessence of loveliness, the crown jewel in '80s pop. This song is in fact definitive of the era in every respect. It musically reflects the synthetic instrumentation, it demonstrates the major tonality, the even harmony, the glory, the optimism, the bombastic ego, and the humble philanthropic collaboration of the age. That song is We Are The World. I'm not saying this is my favorite song of the 1980s. No, this song is in many ways painful to listen and the self-indulgent anthemic lyrics are too blunt, but that merely adds to its value as a representative song. 

We are The World is the most important song and the song that best represents the 1980s and it was recorded in 1985 immediately following a January music awards show and I suspect nearly every musician of that time would've participated if there was room. More importantly every musician of that time did participate in his or her own way with the material they were releasing. 1985 had none of the ironic overtones of today's useless digital porn generation. People had attention spans. Music videos were not edited to include 200 cuts a second or long cleavage and ass shots (except Van Halen videos). And the urgency was obvious...a month after Band Aid's release of "Do They Know it's Christmas?", Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones organized this gathering of anyone at the Music Awards in Los Angeles. In fact, it was 30 years ago today, January 29th, that the recording of We Are The World was finished after commencing on the 28th. So it's appropriate that I would write this today. The song was mixed and released a month later on March 8th. I recognized the song and the video as important. It was urgent. The news about Ethiopian famine was relevant and these musicians were singing about it to raise awareness because they were optimistic that once people learned about the crisis then they would act. It's very basic adult thinking yet with countless compelling crises mounting today I am witnessing the total apathy of modern musicians. 15 years of war, torture prisons, financial collapse, banks buying political power, climate apocalypse looming, oceans dying, wolves extinct, heart-breaking gun violence, terrorism, police killings...and the most counterculture rock is Wizard Rock? What? Why? Because you couldn't find something in the real world to write about? So is this a confirmed surrender by recording artists? I guess it is. The Ramones are gone. The Clash is gone. Dylan mumbles everything. Billy Joel is a lounge act again. U2 still cares but their audience is more interested in posting videos to their fuckbook page than what happens in Darfur. Should I hold out hope that Yusuf Islam is going to write a catchy topical song? We have the planet's climate in complete free fall, a global food crisis looming, but we cheer young singers who whine that it's ok to be fat? That's great. That makes sense. Ethiopians are still starving to death and instead of writing songs to feed them we'll have some more fried chicken because we're only 120 pounds overweight...but it's OK to be you and you're beautiful. Well, is an adult man weighing 81 pounds "beautiful"? Is it? Is an infant weighing 3 pounds "pretty"? Are you "perfect from your head to your toe" when your corpse is slipped inside a body bag filled with excreta after you die from Ebola? Well? We've become a parody of ourselves, folks, and because we love irony everyone thinks it's funny. Laugh it up.

It took one month for some musicians to write, record and release a fairly irritating song that would become the biggest selling single in history, not because people thought it was a great song, but because people understood in 1985 that when Billy Joel and Michael Jackson ask you to buy a $2 record then you go ahead and buy it. It immediately raised about $11 Million....about 1000X less than the never completed or used SDI programs cost.

On Good Friday of that year 8000 radio stations participated in a worldwide simulcast of We are The World. And they managed to do all of that with analog phones attached to walls. Today we have ice bucket challenges and Movember, but not one good song about the climate or terrorism. How is that possible? In 1985 there were songs about AIDS, Homosexuality, nuclear missiles, famine and the environment. Everyone sang about current events. Today we have the flawless Taylor Swift singing, "Shake it off". Hey, Swift, YOU DON'T 'SHAKE OFF' EBOLA! Grow up and write a good song about not losing your tits to breast cancer. please. 90% of rivers in Guatemala are polluted and can you guess where all the rivers empty? I just looked at the top 100 songs for this week and was horrified that every one of them was about dancing or drinking or Love me Harder. Not one topical song during a time that is begging for topical songs. Bleak. In 30 years historians will look back and think musicians in 2015 were either all on Prozac or were in total denial or had no access to news media, hahaha.
A sign of the bleak times. Their favorite artist's biggest "protest" song was about critics who picked on her platinum album. WTF?

It's not that there isn't good music after 1985, but I feel it's all redundant. The trends of synthesizers and hair and spandex and gay English boys in leather dancing were all in perfect harmony in 1985. It all made sense. Everything after 1985 was slightly derivative, some good and some bad. I'll cover those years if we all survive the current one.

 "And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Star-Spangled Banner - poem by Francis Scott Key

1985 was not the last time artists contributed to the dialog on world events, but it was the last time the average person was listening. We're out of the habit now and I sound like one of those Hippies who still flashed the peace sign in 1985. Mock the '80s all you want from your digital castle made of ironic bricks but We Are The World proved the musicians of 1985 were no less socially cognizant than those in 1967. The tradition of musical activism had not died with John had grown, although now it does appear to be dead. The music sounded different and the crises were different but the tradition among musicians, until only recently, was still to write songs that reflected their times, offered perspective as artists and possibly tried to rectify the problems. What I see today is kids on synthetic drugs with glow sticks in their ass, twerking to songs about fucking and drinking Kid Rock enema cocktails. 

Sadly, if there's a counterculture today in 2015, it would be Tea Party zealots who sing the National Anthem with their hats off. That's considered fringe...and if Tipper Gore is listening she can put an "Explicit Lyrics" sticker on the Star-Spangled Banner because it mentions bombs and rockets and blood and violence. 
"Where is that band....?" 
Where is that band?

"Oh, Oh,
When a Nation cries
His tears fall down like missiles from the skies
Justice look into Independence's eyes
Can you make everything alright?
And can you keep your old Nation warm tonight?"

Justice and Independence '85 John Cougar Mellencamp from the Album Scarecrow
Artists asked the hard questions in 1985.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.