Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Thursday, October 12, 2006

1980s Music

OK call me an old fart. And I'm sure you will. But back in the 1980s, music was important.

Take 1981. There were three TV channels -- BBC1 which featured the Two Ronnies, the 9 o'clock News and the test card, BBC2 which featured the Open University and ITV which featured Coronation Street and lots of adverts.
Not even the most imaginative sci-fi writer had thought of the internet, computer games consisted of a ball pinging round a screen and pocket calculators were hi-tech and expensive. So expensive in fact that my dad paid £16.00 for mine one Christmas, and so hi-tech that Kraftwerk wrote a song about them.

In short, there was nothing to do. So when The Jam or Motorhead released a new single, it was genuinely exciting. And when Shakin' Stevens or Bucks Fizz released one, it wasn't.

There was nothing to beat the thrill of trekking to your local record shop and forking out £1.10 for your own personal choice of 7" single., complete with full colour picture sleeve, and (if you were really lucky) coloured vinyl. Then off home to play it to death, check out the B-Side, and wonder if the LP might be any good.

Nowadays of course, everyone under 25 downloads their music or copies it from their mate's CD in 60 seconds. Blank CDs retail for about 20p and when you're sick of the music on it, you throw it in the bin and forget about it.

In the 80s, 'home taping was killing music.' Actually it wasn't. You taped your mate's LP, wrote the track-listing on a crappy little inlay card and more often than not ended up buying the LP anyway.

But was music actually better in 1981? OK you had the New Romantics, Synth-Pop, The Jam, David Bowie's last decent year and some good quirky indie singles, but was it really any better than the Arctic Monkeys and the Scissor Sisters? Well no probably not, but the difference is that it was cherished. Balding blokes in their 40s still cherish their record collections, but kids nowadays just see it as downloading data and having a temporary background noise. And even when you look at the physical format of the CD, the supermarkets have turned them into baked beans. All the little record shops are closing, hit by downloading, copying, online sales and Tesco's selling chart product at below wholesale price.

But against all this, vinyl is making a comeback. Yes vinyl! That stuff that was declared dead and buried 15 years ago. Check E:Bay if you don't believe me. CDs that barely fetch a fiver are fetching over £30 for their vinyl equivalent. Why?

It's simple. The vinyl LP is a 'proper product'. It can't be downloaded or easily copied. It's a great big chunk of 'something' in your hands -- something that is both pleasant on the eye and the ear. Look at artistic LP covers like Genesis 'A Trick Of The Tail' or ELPs 'Brain Salad Surgery'. On CD they looked like postage stamps, on LP they were a work of art.

And the LP has that 'hands-on' feel to it. Rather than clicking a mouse or watching your CD disappear into a tray, the LP has to be manually cued, and turned over halfway through. And of course there's the whole 'warmth of sound' debate too.

So in some ways, the past is coming back. Kids are actually seeking out vinyl (sometimes by new artists, sometimes by old) and getting a kick out of owning real physical product. What this means for the future of the CD is of course less clear.

But one thing IS clear -- people of all ages still want music, and there's still room for all formats. Well apart from the 8 track cartridge. Whatever that was.

1 comment:

steve said...

Oh the touch and smell of vinyl!!