TL;DR: You kids get off my lawn!
From 1981-1986, I was a devoted listener of Casey Kasem’s “_American Top 40_”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Top_40. We were living in (West) Germany at the time, and that broadcast on “AFN”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Forces_Network was a primary means of keeping in touch with music back in the ‘States–though MTV was rising to power back home, we didn’t have it there, and besides, the alternative was hearing _99 Luftballons_ *again* (remember, Nena was German, and (rare for a Continental act) had a hit in the US. It was inescapable, and to this day that song still makes me cringe).
Anyway, I listened all the time, and with such devotion that I could remember well enough where a song I liked had been the week prior so that I could be ready to record it when it came on the next week. I have a vivid memory of being at “an airshow at Ramstein AFB in 1983”:http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flugtag_Ramstein#Flugtag_1983 (incidentally there’s a site with “pictures from the airshow”:http://www.aviatikphoto.ch/airshowsint/ramstein/ramstein1983/index.html one of which is the sort of plane my Dad was flying out of Ramstein at the time) with an “AIWA”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiwa “walkman” that had both a radio and the ability to record, ignoring the actual airshow because I really wanted to tape a copy of “_Little Red Corvette_”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Red_Corvette (though, truthfully, I can’t quite make the chronology match up–surely it didn’t take 6 months after LRC’s release for it to make it up the charts).
(In fact, Billboard “posts their charts”:http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100#/charts/hot-100, and has records going back to the ’70s, including “that week”:http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100#/charts/hot-100?chartDate=1983-07-30, and looking at the top 10 leads me to suspect that the song I was trying to record was Stevie Nicks’ “_Stand Back_”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand_Back, which, interestingly, has Prince performing on it, albeit without credit, and was partially inspired by _Little Red Corvette_).
Other acts I remember from that time–Hell, from just that year: “Dexy’s Midnight Runners”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexy%27s_Midnight_Runners (Hi, Chet!), “Naked Eyes”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_Eyes, “Taking Heads”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talking_Heads (_Burning Down the House_, obviously), “Tears for Fears”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tears_For_Fears, Michael Jackson, David Bowie (_Let’s Dance_, of course), “Thomas Dolby”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Dolby, “Men at Work”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_at_work, “Culture Club”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_Club, “Duran Duran”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duran_Duran, “The Police”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_police, “Eurythmics”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurythmics
Anyway, one of the biggest acts of that time period were “Hall & Oates”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_%26_Oates. Every time they had (yet another) single on ATF, there would be the recitation of how they had had more songs chart in the Top-40 than any other duo and various other distinctions. I could probably have recited the stats at the time.
So I was in Whole Foods the other day and the in-store sound system played Hall & Oates’ _I Can’t Go For That_, followed by the Bee Gees’ _Night Fever_. Two songs that, 10 or 15 years ago I might have been embarrassed to admit I like, but now, hey, I’ve already got one foot in the grave, who cares what anyone thinks?
And I realized that as much as I have come to accept that half the pop music acts I hear these days sound like retreads of the ’70s or ’80s, I don’t understand why they seem to choose to rehash the mediocre stuff. I mean, _The Strokes_ sound like _The Knack_, but I don’t understand who would consciously choose to do that? Where are the people who are trying to at least copy the well-crafted pop songs of the period?
Is this the culture of irony eating itself? People choosing to copy the second-tier artists as some sort of commentary?