Do you remember when flying on a commercial aircraft meant that you had your choice of dozens of different, albeit outdated, magazines to choose from to read? They came in those generic magazine holders like what school libraries used... the cardboard spine with the airline's name and the name of the magazine and then the thick clear plastic covers?
Well, much like the free food, this selection of magazines has gone the way of the dodo in recent years and we have, at least on American Airlines flights, been given an in-house written magazine that, shockingly, wasn't entirely terrible when I read the May and June issues to and from Las Vegas.
While the June issue had a pretty decent interview with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, the main article in the May issue is what caught my attention. It was about musicians that defined their respective decades. Basically, the author of the article talked about the significant advances in music in each decade since the 1950s and attempted to identify who he (or was it a she?) felt was the defining artist of the decade complete with some honorable mentions and a few songs that were pretty popular.
Here's the list as I recall...
- 1950s - Elvis Presley
- 1960s - The Beatles
- 1970s - Led Zeppelin
- 1980s - U2
- 1990s - Nirvana
- 2000s - nobody chosen yet
While the first two are blatantly obvious choices, I can see Led Zeppelin being argued by a few critics despite the fact that I agree with it personally.
I take a little issue with the final three. Well, two actually, since no one was chosen for the decade we are currently in.
While I can see U2 being representative of the 1980s, I wonder because their breakthrough album, The Joshua Tree, wasn't released until 1987. And, after that, all they released in the 80s was Rattle and Hum (my personal favorite). Yes, they released a ton of great stuff before TJT like War, Boy, and The Unforgettable Fire. But all those albums were considered commercial failures upon release. In fact, the author of the article even says that if U2 were a new band in this era repeating the sales figures they had with their first several albums, they never would have been given a chance to release TJT. They would've been released from their contract after their second or third bomb, which, in the case of U2, would've been October or War.
I could really see someone like Michael Jackson being chosen for the 80s. He defined commercial success, uniting of musical styles and tastes, and redefined the world of music videos with "Thriller." And why, with commercial megahits like Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, wasn't U2 chosen as the band of the 90s as opposed to the 80s?
That's right, because Nirvana was chosen. Another selection I take issue with mainly because they only really released two studio albums in the 90s (Bleach was 1989) before Kurt Cobain offed himself. Don't get me wrong, I dug on Nirvana to some degree and appreciated Cobain's lyrical ability and he did usher in a new sound to the mass populace, but the band of the decade? I'd still argue that U2 could hold this position as well.
And now for the decade we currently inhabit. The author opted not to choose simply because the decade is not over and (s)he didn't feel that one had truly emerged yet. (S)He was also worried about whether, this late in the decade, one actually would. The closest to a defining band that was suggested in the article was Coldplay. Thinking back through the decade, maybe they would be the best.
But (s)he also suggested that one of the newer bands might take the throne with another one or two good albums. One the author posited was The Arctic Monkeys. Really? A band that, while big in the U.K., a good 80% or more of the rest of the world has never heard of. And of the 20% that has, how many can name a song? Not me. I listened to one of their albums and was far from wow'd by it.
Why not Radiohead? They would be my suggestion. Granted all my favorite albums by them came out in the 90s (maybe they should be the choice for the 90s?), they changed their sound with their first album of the new millennium, Kid A, and boosted themselves through the stratosphere.
So my question to you is do you agree with the author's choices? Who would you counter-suggest? It's really not as easy as it may seem.
Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): Well, not "totally," per se, as it is music related. This little ditty from my past popped in my head yesterday on the way to breakfast with Katie's parents. I'm wondering if any of you have ever heard it or if it elicits any youthful memories...
Great, green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts,
Mutilated monkey meat,
French-fried birdie feet.
Eyeballs boiled in a barrel of blood,
And me without my spoon...
... but I got my straw...
Anything? No? I'm just an insane youth day camper of the 80s?