Music News

First and Ten

As you're no doubt aware, we've been granted Top 10/Bottom 10 licenses by the proper authorities. In other words, these are official lists of what was good and bad about Eighties music. If you see similar lists elsewhere and someone tries to pawn them off as the real thing, just say no.

To make the lists palatable, we've broken them down into three groovified sections. First, the critics count off their favorite and least favorite albums of the decade. Then local music bigwigs list their Top 10s. After that, we pick the Top 40 local bands. Along the way, check out the best and worst singles of the Eighties, our look back at the Sixties and Seventies, and ten wishes for the Nineties.

Simple enough? Read.

THE TEN BEST ALBUMS 1. PUBLIC ENEMY It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Def Jam/Columbia, 1988). In an age of Reagan-Bush-yuppie-Cosby glossiness, the Eighties' rawest truth--an hour's worth of hip-hop that raged prophetically against America's institutionalized apartheid. A record that sent shivers up your spine and lodged in your brain. Believe the hype.

2. THROWING MUSES Throwing Muses (4AD, 1986). Muse matriarch Kristin Hersh walked a barbed-wire fence between breathtaking flights of imagination and sumptuous rock 'n' roll songwriting.

3. DE LA SOUL 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy, 1989). This has been touted as the Sgt. Pepper of rap, but the Beatles were never this funky or funny. Full of psychedelic spaciness and sampling slickness, it was the final and best example of how hip-hop turned out the Eighties' most creative pop music.

4. R.E.M. Murmur (I.R.S., 1983). Go to any college bar, and chances are you'll hear some version of the dreamy, jangling Murmur blueprint. Then listen to this for the seamless, lush guitar pop hundreds of bands are trying to imitate but never will.

5. PRINCE 1999 (Warner Bros., 1982). The title track, "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious," and "Let's Pretend We're Married" are as classic as the album they're sliced from.

6. MEAT PUPPETS Meat Puppets II (SST, 1983). The Tempe trio's country-punk meld remains Arizona's finest musical moment.

7. RUN-D.M.C. Run-D.M.C. (Profile, 1984). Gave modern-era hip-hop everything it needed--a suburban-urban double m.c. setup, a deejay that could be a band, ironic social consciousness, and the best crossover rap ("Rock Box") before or since "Walk This Way."

8. 10,000 MANIACS In My Tribe (Elektra, 1987). Singer Natalie Merchant's arty delivery, poetic presence and storytelling skill made this one pop music's most literate disc.

9. MINUTEMEN Double Nickels on the Dime (SST, 1984). A double album of rock 'n' roll stripped to its essence--a 45-song, 78-minute minimalist search for the truth.

10. THE REPLACEMENTS Let It Be (Twin/Tone, 1984). Wacky and weepy, rockin' and restrained, the Mats balanced raw power and brain power in a formula that sacrificed neither.

Pop music's biggest enemy in the Eighties was not the PMRC or the FBI, but itself--specifically, a right-wing record industry more in tune with history than creativity. Compact discs, classic-rock radio and nostalgic media ignored acts with something new to say but made success simple for any group that peaked before this decade. The record biz perpetrates lies when it says the Rolling Stones are still the greatest and that Bob Dylan is the voice of our generation. Hardly anyone seemed to mind that record-industry movers and shakers required us to relive their childhoods. They pretended that there is no musical revolution and no one to lead it. Anyone who's ever listened--and listened seriously--to Public Enemy or Throwing Muses or any other like act of this generation knows that's false. If performers in the Nineties can learn anything from the Eighties' best artists, it's to keep on reinventing pop music. And never to be satisfied with someone else's past.

John Blanco 1. THE REPLACEMENTS Tim (Sire, 1985). Ornery, heartsore and often on the verge of self-destruction, the band in all its ragged, drunken splendor.

2. PIXIES Surfer Rosa (Rough Trade/4AD, 1988). That mind-shredding sound! That chilling sense of desperation!! Those stupid spoken bits!!! This beyond-cool Theme"--a great early-Ramones imitation.

3. FETCHIN BONES Galaxy 500 (Capitol, 1987). The earthy North Carolina Boneheads dealt the precious, floral New South sound a serious kick in the ass.

4. PRETENDERS Pretenders (Real/Sire, 1980). Chrissie Hynde talked tough ("I'm too precious--FUCK OFF!"), but wasn't afraid of naked confessions. Sexy, aggressive, vulnerable, she ushered in a new age of rock 'n' roll feminism.

5. DEAD KENNEDYS Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (I.R.S., 1980). Politico-punk Jello Biafra bellowed righteously for social change, eerily prophesying the right-wing terror of the Reagan Eighties.

6. GUN CLUB Mother Juno (Red Rhino, 1987). Dark, disturbing lyrics and an abrasive blend of punk and Texas bluesabilly provided the soundtrack to your cold-sweat nightmares.

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David Koen