Album #6: The Clash, Sandinista 1980
I was late to the punk scene. Most likely because I was too young, and a freckle-faced kid who believed in the inherent goodness of the world. Why spoil it with a bunch of self-absorbed whining and screaming and lack of musical talent? (insert picture of Sex Pistols here)
Then came the Clash. They were some guys who could really play with fantastic thoughtful lyrics, and melodies in tune. They definitely had something to say, and an original way of getting it across. And how generous with their fans- a TRIPLE album for the regular price! Sandinista wasn’t their album I preferred, nor very punk, as they added a lot of electronic sounds. But I was blown away by the sheer volume of work they put into it. In five years of existence, they produced so much that was so good, and still sounds modern and full of life to me today. Like the Clash, I’m going to go overtime with this entry…
I only started getting into The Clash when I entered high school in 1983, just after they had broken up. I thought, High School!, finally, I’m with the big boys, and I’m going to drive to concerts, and have wild experiences with girls and drugs and be a part of the rock scene I’d heard so much about. Little did I know that 1983 was rock’s last gasp.
By the time I got to high school, rock’n’roll was dead. All the super-groups were gone. Led Zeppelin had broken up in 1980. The Who announced their ‘last’ tour in 1982. The Rolling Stones did their ‘farewell’ tour the same year. The Police broke up after their 1983 platinum album ’Synchronicity.’ There were no more ‘Days on the Green’ with multiple fantastic groups playing in a stadium.
Who replaced the rock legends? Haircut groups from LA, like RATT. Synthesizer duos like the Eurythmics. Bubble-gum pop like Huey Lewis and the News. The party was over by the time I got there. I could still smell the smoke and stale beer and the sweat of the artists, but that scene was gone.
What replaced the societal and cultural phenomenon of shared feeling, collective experience with throngs of people listening, dancing and rubbing up against one another? MTV. We WATCHED music. Alone. Music must be pretty. Nearly all the rock greats got into music because they were UGLY, and that was their only way to score. If you were already attractive, what did you need rock’n’roll for?
Think about it, did anybody from rock’s glory days put out a good, original rock album after 1983? Elvis Costello? No. Eric Clapton? No. Yes? My first concert was on their 90125 tour, (which came out when? you guessed it, 1983) and however much I adore the group, they really should have broken up before. Pink Floyd? Nope. Neil Young? You could argue that Ragged Glory and Freedom DO rock, but they’re just derivative of his earlier stuff, and trying too much to cater to the grunge fad. U2? You may have me there, as their output from ’87 to ’91 was quite good, but I could also argue that they no longer rocked, but did pop ballads, kind of like Chicago after Terry Kath died.
I call the good songs which came after 1983 ‘Zombie Rock.’ It can still do some damage, but it’s no longer alive. Examples are fleeting and far-between: The Pixies, Nirvana, Lenny Kravitz, White Stripes, The Breeders, Cranberries, Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, Offspring, Red Hot Chili Peppers. All good for a very, very short while. None capable of flag-bearing and inspiring a movement, or even getting a crowd going. Have you or anyone you know seen any of these groups in concert?
You could literally take all the supposed ‘good’ rock songs from 1984 until now, and you still wouldn’t have as many as the absolute classics which were produced in 1966 alone. Today, we can enjoy rock, or play it, or even emulate it, but like classical, and jazz and blues before it, rock is no longer a living art form. And sadly, gut-wrenchingly, NOTHING has taken its place.
This was in response to a challenge from Alain Cournoyer of the Homebuddies to post 10 albums which marked my life in ten days.
Rather than a greatest hits list, I chose to make this list personal. There are even albums here that I HATE. But they contributed to making me who I am. So, here goes…
I challenge Dan Vuletich