A blog isn’t a blog without at least one list – so here is the first one for Strength in Numbers.
A recent post in The Guardian’s Music Blog asked readers to create a playlist that explains the 1980s (http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/mar/13/ten-songs-that-explain-the-80s). It posed this challenge in response to a viral video, that is making the rounds at the moment, starring Kevin Bacon. Although the video isn’t meant to be taken seriously, Bacon does make the claim that “awareness of 80s culture … is in decline” (particularly with those born around the millennium). Is it possible to apply this idea of a playlist to a specific city like Glasgow? Is there a playlist that would provide an explanation of the city in the 1980s?
Of course, it is nigh impossible to sum-up a decade through a list of ten songs, and to even attempt such a task will not result in a definitive list. Rather it will generate a plethora of contested lists (aptly illustrated by follow-up posts on The Guardian’s blog). Nevertheless, certain songs (or rather certain Glasgow-based bands) dominated Glasgow’s popular musical landscape through the 1980s (mainly though developing a presence in the national media). The list of ten songs given below is offered as an illustration of this, and does not necessarily reflect my personal taste. More than just their dominance of the airwaves and music press, these bands (and these songs in particular) shared an aspirational quality that was consistent with the city’s changing social and economic conditions. The list includes bands from both ends of Glasgow’s 1980s’ white soul/C86 musical spectrum and, though they did not necessarily share the same artistic/commercial goals, their aspirations were not always that different.
An expression of the city’s changing climate through this period was the great number of style bars or club nights that had newly opened. The clientele of these bars included musicians from across this wide spectrum. Tellingly, in a passage from the biography of The Blue Nile, Nileism The Strange Course of the Blue Nile, Allan Brown (2010: 3) recalls that P.J. Moore of the band worked in the Rock Garden, on Queen Street, and during a shift “fell into conversation with one of the many groups then forming in the city; perhaps Set the Tone (urban dance) or Friends Again (jangling pop), The Dreamboys (late punk) or The Jazzateers (Bowie-esque funk). During the discussion the aspiring musician would say something fateful: ‘I’m in a band,’ he said to Moore, then paused ‘. . . as you probably know’”. In contrast with Glasgow’s ‘heavy’ industrial past, in the 1980s, the city (alongside the savage bolstering of the dole queues by the then Conservative government) allowed musicians to be up-front and confident (arrogant in the above case) about being involved in the creative industries.
The playlist is available here: http://playlists.net/glasgow-in-the-1980s
Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing (1980)
Altered Images – Happy Birthday (1981)
Simple Minds – New Gold Dream 81/21/83/83 (1982)
Aztec Camera – Oblivious (1983)
The Blue Nile – Tinseltown in the Rain (1984)
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey (1985)
Love and Money – Candybar Express (1986)
Deacon Blue – Dignity (1987)
Wet Wet Wet – Wishing I was Lucky (1987)
Texas – I Don’t Want a Lover (1989)