...This morning I woke up to DH's favorite radio station as an alarm and they were talking about their own Rock of Ages. They were trying to determine, among themselves and from listeners, what the "album of the decade" was for the 60s through to today.
What little I heard was interesting and got me thinking. There were folks who thought that the 60s album was anything between the Beatles White album to Led Zeppelin "I" with a shot of the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" in there. Oh, and I can't forget the guy who said "Beggars Banquet" was the album for the 60s (because I like The Rolling Stones). I'll disagree with the guy that said Led Zeppelin "I" would be the album of the 60s. The honor of Zeppelin having made the defining album of any decade should go to "IV" for the 70s, and a caller agreed with me just a few minutes later.
The opinions of callers (and radio staff) varied here and there when it came to later decades. Everyone had an opinion for the 60s and 70s. But the 80s? There were some that said it was a dead decade for music. Only one said the same about the 90s. A great many others said that about now ("music is the same now as it was then, life is over"). That tells me that either people weren't paying attention at the changes in music during those decades or that it's going to take another 10 years or so before an album could be named for some.
In the 80s we had Prince's "Purple Rain", Michael Jackson's "Thriller", Springsteen's "Born in the USA", Chicago's "17", and Depeche Mode's "101" (a compilation of live and studio tracks of the best of the best of the band). Each an album worthy of distinction in their own right and each an album that fit a different genre of music in the 80s because that's when the big splits in music distinction started happening.
How do you pick an album that defines a decade when you have so many musicians who have things that they want to say, things that they want to do and are speaking to different sets of people in the world? It's close to impossible. Not completely, but close. And I think we're still too close to the 80s to say what the truly defining album for that decade *was*.
Same for the 90s and now, although I'll give the guy credit who thought that the album for the 90s was Nirvana's "Nevermind". Why? Well, it's not because I'm a Nirvana fan (because I'm not a Nirvana fan). It's because that album, with the hits that it spawned started a whole new segment of rock. Yes, Grunge rock. But that's not all. Grunge sort of died and yet it didn't. It brought back the need for drums instead of drum machines, and resurrected guitar players who could work progressive chords as a foundation for a song instead of high spiraling solos that made your ears bleed (as it did in rock music in the 80s). It brought back some semblance of progressive rock which was dying a slow cruel death in the 80s after it's amazing growth of the 70s. Being that I like that sound, I'll give credit where credit is due. But I digress...
How does one pick one album that defines a decade? You can't leave it to one person, because they might have a totally different view of the world. Or have totally different tastes in music than the rest of the world. Let's go back to the examples I listed for the 80s - would any of you pick those as the defining albums for the 1980s (if you were alive then and aware of what was going on in the world around you then - I was born in '71, so I was very aware of the 80s)?
I don't think that I would pick any of those, but I'm not sure what I *would* pick in the first place.
There were so many artists and so many pieces of outstanding music. After all, where's U2's "Joshua Tree" on that list? The Police's "Synchronicity"? Peter Gabriel and "So"? Madonna and "Like a Virgin"? Def Leppard and "Hysteria", INXS and "Kick", "Double Fantasy" (Lennon/Ono), "Brothers in Arms" (Dire Straits). These were landmark albums in their own right, yet did they really define the decade? They certainly defined careers and helped some folks become musical legends.
Music changes within decades. The Billboard top album for 1980 was Pink Floyd's "The Wall". In 1989? Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel". How much further on the spectrum can you get? How many changes in music happened during the decade to cause a definite hard/progressive rock band to start the decade and a boy band idol to end it? Top albums during the 80s also came from Whitney Houston, John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses and Huey Lewis. That's not to say that the defining album of a decade had to be a Billboard top 5 hit, but it probably helps with the recognition factor.
Still... even for the 60s and 70s there's debate about what would be the defining album of the decade. One woman who called the radio station said that it would be an album from The Allman Brothers, but also admitted that she wouldn't be with the norm on that one. True. It's a perspective thing again. Someone's going to say that the White Album was the defining album of the 60s and someone else will fight them to the death that it's "Beggar's Banquet". Someone else will say Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - and they might be met with the accusation of "stoner" when they do. The 70s will bring out folks who will say that the Eagles were our voice and someone else will say Elton John and yet another will say Led Zeppelin. And yet another will say Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" was the voice of the 70s. Each had defining albums of their careers in those decades, but maybe they weren't quite the defining *voice* of the decade...
...but I think it's all going to come down to where you were, what you were doing, and what you were thinking back then.
So, folks, what were your defining albums of the 70s, 80s, and 90s (and 60s if you were around back then or have a strong opinion)?