A ‘column’/feature I’ve been contemplating for a while now kicks off with today’s music post. I grew up in the 80’s, and, as seems the norm for most people I’ve met, I just generally assume that most of the artists I liked as a kid those decades ago are probably at least semi-retired. Brian May certainly looks cool still, playing his shiny Red Special guitar with his halo of hair all white, and surely there are a few other aging musicians who can still look like they belong on a rock stage. Still, the crazy, silly or dumb antics that carried the hairbands and pop bands of the 80’s into the spotlight look ridiculous in a less appealing fashion when replicated by the much older versions of the classic 80’s stars.
At the same time, being a musician is more than just a job, or even a lifestyle- it’s a personality, and people who were into making new music in the 80’s surely aren’t all just rehashing the songs they wrote 2-3 decades ago. So, what are these creative people up to now, recently and in 2012? A lot of these artists seem somewhat lost when it comes to social media, especially when it comes to promoting their new work, but these folks did not all just retire and start mixing or producing music for youngsters, and some of what they have been doing is pretty decent, even by our enlightened 2012 standards.
I was never lucky enough or wealthy enough to go to concerts as a kid, and never had money for band merchandise, with the exception of my one Europe t-shirt, which I wore till it literally fell apart. I never was a proper ‘fan’ of any group during the 80’s and 90’s. But, I have always devoured music ever since I was introduced to Europe and Led Zeppelin back in ~1985. (I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, but my dad still had his secret love of rock n’ roll, and I was his favorite for most of my childhood, so he of course introduced my to his tape collection when I was old enough to use a tape-deck.) I loved Europe, having a mild crush on that sexy blond Swedish lad, Joey Tempest, for much of elementary school, and I had Heart’s Little Queen album memorized within a few days of when I bought it used from a Salvation Army rack. I loved the Led Zeppelin songs that referred to Lord of the Rings stuff, and listened to my dad’s Asia albums a lot.
I only discovered Queen in the mid-90’s, and thus my fan-fixation on them occurred entirely after Freddie Mercury was already dead. I watched the tribute concert for Freddie on MTV, and was heartbroken at the realization that he was gone and I had missed being his fan while he was still alive. I bought all the US-released Queen albums, gradually, with whatever allowances and birthday money I had, and by the time I left home for college I could sing through all of the songs on all of the Queen albums, in chronological and album order. I have never been so strongly a fan of any artist since then, though my interest in Celtic Thunder may seem similar on the surface.
This new weekly ‘column’ is thus an interesting exploration for me. Now, as an adult, with a significant percentage of the music from the 80’s and 90’s available for free on my spotify player, and all the Internet’s wealth of information at my fingertips, I want to get a better sense as to who I was listening to as a kid. I am not so interested in bands that just play their 80’s sets over and over again- frankly at some point the more youthful tribute bands do a better job of recreating the magic that launched some of these groups. But, even in these cases, I figure it might be nice to know what all has happened for these folks since the 80’s. Every week I’ll pick one of the artists I remember from back when MTV played music videos, and look at what all they did in the past, and what they have been doing over the past 3 years or so. Since I only ever heard what was on MTV and the radio for most of them, even their past work could make for some great new musical discoveries.
Tonight’s featured artists for this new column will be Nelson (Gunnar and Matthew Nelson), whose songs “After the Rain” and “Love and Affection” I still get stuck in my head some days.