Are the 80s forever stuck in the 80s?
Can a band with the ’80s’ tag ever be taken seriously as a band right now?
That’s a question I sometimes ask myself and is the key point of today’s post. I shall lay down my theory on the topic and it would be brilliant to get some comments and viewpoints at the end, also answer the polls with the direct question as asked above if you would.
So here we have my take on this one and I’d imagine that this would not be too far different to the views of many. Naturally, KajaGooGoo will be the main focus of my discussion here:
The eighties, a period of our lives we all know and love, whether you were a kid back then and remember little or a teenager with posters on your wall, the eighties will mean something very strong to you. The music, the image, it was all there and it was all very powerful. The artists from the eighties became the very essence of our lives, we looked up to these people and held them in such high regard and many fans even dressed like their favourite singer or copied their hair.
It was such a special decade for music, and remember this is long before the internet days so the most you’d ever see of your favourite pop star was a slot on Top of the Pops or an interview on Saturday morning television. If you were very lucky, you saw them in concert or even met them if you were a real fan. You couldn’t actually talk to them like you can now with social networking. If you wanted to hear the music, you went and bought the single or you sat next to your radio on a Sunday poised ready to record it from the charts. You had to go and get your music then, no Spotify or YouTube for a quick throw away listen. The music back then, you listened to it until it was worn out!
The eighties is a very identifiable decade, especially the first half. You know when a band is from the eighties and it’s fantastic to go and discover bands that you never knew existed back then. You get the look and feel because it is the genuine article. Bands who try to look and sound eighties now just don’t quite hit the mark and here lies another question. Do we actually want our eighties band to move on from the eighties?
These bands remind us of a special time, when we were younger and music seemed more exciting. Artists were big stars, huge stars! The word celebrity was rarely used, and anyone with the tag was a huge household name. Back then you did not get the celebrity tag for being the ex-wife of a former famous footballer! When the public pile into all of the 80s reunion events, are they there to enjoy the music as it is now or to relive those happy days?
So talking about KajaGooGoo, well they certainly had the image and the screaming fans and the music was exactly right. Is that what fans of the band hold dearest in their heart and want to preserve, or is that just the eighties crowd who just want everything exactly as it was back then? There will always be two camps involved here and one of those camps will always be stronger than the other, however one will always be bigger. Allow me to elaborate.
Let’s take the band OMD. They were always one of my favourite bands, that dark synth sound of theirs was just astounding really, so many superb tracks in their catalogue. When you think of OMD, you certainly do think ‘eighties’. Now last year, they announced their first studio album in years, ‘History of Modern’. This was a very special announcement for true fans of the band, they’d waited years for this and finally it was here. As I mentioned above, let’s be clear at this point that every band will have two sets of fans. Those that like a few songs and maybe own an album (probably ‘the best of’) and then those fans that buy everything and will see the band in concert etc. Now this runs true with everything, not just music. It’s the same in football, you’ll have the fan who casually checks the score on teletext after the game has finished, and then you have the fan who will be in the pouring rain in the away stand at the other end of the country. Both sets of fans are perfectly valid and perfectly welcomed by the entity that they follow.
Now back to OMD, our two sets of fans come into play. The true fans would have lapped that album up, played it inside out and will appreciate the talented musicians that have made it. They may well compare it to ‘Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark’ or ‘Organisation’ but they will appreciate it for what it is and love it. The eighties fans are much less likely to buy that album or know any track from it. I’m one of those people, I did not buy the album nor know any track from it, yet I’d call myself a fan of OMD. Is this because I just want to listen to ‘Messages’ and ‘Electricity’ and remember the glorious eighties?
Spandau Ballet released an album in 2009 called ‘Once More’. I would class myself as a fan of the band. Do I own this album? No. Do I know any track from it? No. Do I hold an image in my mind of the band in the eighties singing ‘Gold’ and the incredible ‘Chant No.1’? Probably. Have you ever bought a recent album from a band with the eighties tag? Was the recent material as good as the eighties material? Have they tried to keep the eighties style or gone for a new sound?
So, the camp is firmly split into two, the ‘problem’ being that the eighties camp is far bigger than the true fan camp. Go to any concert from a band who were biggest in the eighties and you’ll get your true fans at the front and the rest of the place packed with people waiting for the biggest hits to come on and quibbling about how much older they look these days. Isn’t it remarkable how these artists don’t have exactly the same face and hair they had 30 years ago?! The eighties fan is typically not interested in the new material, therefore that new material will never become as big as the eighties songs, even though the band have a colossal ‘fanbase’. Is it never possible that if the first five albums were incredible, this one might be too?
Fans of KajaGooGoo will know exactly what they are capable of. Back in 2008, ‘Gone to the Moon’ was released as a three piece band (Beggs, Askew, Neale) with Jonathan Atkinson on drums. We were sceptical of it, I know I was. I wondered if it could be as good as what has came before it and it really was, possibly even better. The fans love it, the eighties fans probably know nothing of it. The five piece band released the ‘Death Defying Headlines EP’ in 2009. Again, the fans could not get enough of this and welcomed it fully into the catalogue and into the live sets. Eighties fans will know nothing of it, nor care about it. It’s not Too Shy, forget it. The true fans of the band can only hope that the band will give us something we’ve waited so long for, a second album as a five piece band. Can the band ever afford to give us that? Possibly not.
So, what is there for a band to do? Every musician has a life to pay for like the rest of us, bills to pay, families to feed and choices to make. Do they put the time, effort and money into new material for 20% of the fans who will buy it, love it and talk about it? Or do they just come together for the eighties reunion shows, sing the old songs and please just about everyone, with only the true fans wishing there was more? Even the true fans will be happy to see the band perform live, in any context.
Any band who are still together now who are famous from the eighties, have a lot to thank the eighties for. Would they even want to shake off the eighties tag? The only artists who can really shake off that tag and still be very successful are the ones who have worked together pretty much right through, ‘Duran Duran’ and ‘Boy George’ to name just two.
So here are the three questions, please take a moment to answer the polls. It’s just a bit of fun for curiosity and interest:
If you answered yes to the above, then answer this one please:
Your comments would be appreciated!