1981

Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month, Gary Steel presents something local from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. Today’s surprise item?

Here’s my end of ’81 editorial from IT magazine. Talk about end of times. I’m amazed I’m still here.

1981

l1981 is/was about conflict and loss of hope. It saw the graphic realisation of 77’s punk predictions – rioting, bitterness, negativity, unemployment, no fun and NO FUTURE weren’t just glib phrases and topics for conversation, but a real desperation felt through and through.
Too many tribes, too many extreme ideologies; and music, instead of focusing energies to bring things together, simply reflected the fragmentation. Weak.
For the first time since the birth of rock, popular music threatened to become the domain of the average citizen and to alienate the tastes of real music lovers. Hence the return in terms of mass-consumption to the harmful nostalgia of Billy Fields and his like.
Serious music barely got a look-in. Warriors like The Passage, Killing Joke and The Gordons stayed cult status while their potential audience escaped into the tinseltown gloss of the idiot Spandex Ballet. In America, the REO Speedwagons of this world kept on getting bigger and bigger, and we realised that their rock had nothing to do with ours.
The truest, most accessible music was that which highlighted matters of the heart the soul and passion – The Bunnymen, The Associates, U2. But we didn’t listen hard enough.
smelly-feetToo many trite trends produced lots of brilliance and wagonloads of shite. A directionless, scary year. Anyway, no space to cry – onwards to ’72, uh, sorry, ’82, and the return of ELP, Yes, King Crimson, Jobriath…
Lots of great local singles: ‘Counting The Beat’ – The Swingers, ‘Turn Of The Century’ – Beat Rhythm Fashion, Shoes This High EP, Blams 12-inch, ‘Danny Boy’ – Alms For Children, ‘Coloured’ – Playthings, ‘Wonderbook’ – Herco Pilots, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Happen’ – Tall Dwarfs, ‘Song For The World’ EP – Smelly Feet. One great local LP – After The Carnival – Graeme Gash. Overseas singles – ‘Atmosphere’/’Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – Joy Division, ‘Not Happy’ – Pere Ubu, ‘Release The Bats’ – The Birthday Party, ‘Ghost Town’ – The Specials, ‘Inworlds’ – Chrome, ‘Memorabilia’ – Soft Cell, ‘It’s Obvious’ – Au Pairs, ‘So Many Colours’ – the Past Seven Days. LPs – For All And None – The Passage, Closer – Joy Division, Heaven Up Here – Echo & The Bunnymen, The Affectionate Punch – The Associates, Algorythmes – Charles De Goal. GARY STEEL

Note from the author: Ha! I must have not been much fun to be around back then. I take back the line about U2. The rest still pertains, more or less.

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