Wednesday assorted links

1. The most unwanted song, explanation here.  I still like it more than most of what is on the radio.  And it is certainly better than the most wanted song.

2. The best albums of the 1980s (was it really so bad?).

3. NASA’s next rockets might say Budweiser on the side.  And thwarted markets in everything:

In 1993, a Georgia company called Space Marketing proposed putting a billboard in space so big that it would be visible from Earth. But the plan was met with disapproval from some in Congress, who derided the idea, saying space was a commons that should stay free of advertising.

Edward J. Markey, then a Massachusetts congressman, lamented the possibility of children wishing “upon a falling billboard.”

4. Does the future have pet foxes?

5. Uh-oh Fan Bingbing.


My, how Pitchfork's tastes have changed. Back in 2002 or so, they ranked the top '80s albums and they were all of a certain "indie" type (and reflected the albums that influenced/sounded like music then popular.) Now in 2018, we see a large sea change, especially more pop and hip hop, though again reflecting the albums that influenced/sound like what's popular now.

Stuff from the '80s that was quintessentially '80s but didn't influence either the late '90s or today made neither list; e.g., hair metal.

#2. I still have 42 albums on the list in either vinyl or CD. 12" singles from maybe 20 more. Plus other albums from the artists mentioned but not the ones on the list. So for me the list was validating.

Oddly, while working out today, a trip hop version of Blue Monday was on the playlist and I got somewhat nostalgic for 80s music. Here we go! Maybe I won't sell my collection after all.

I agree that the decade top XX lists tend to change and reflect where music is at. Today's music seems to be pop/electronic and this list reflects those roots.

Also, too, whoever said 80s music was terrible? I know...everyone...but they're wrong!

+ 1

Great writing; very evocative.

Where's "London Calling"?

I've always thought that people who argue over 70s vs. 80s music need to state in which decade they are placing the 3 albums that I bought (IIRC) on 12/27/79:

The Jam - Setting Sons
The Pretenders - The Pretenders
The Clash - London Calling

It was a great day for definite article bands.

Obvious top 200 albums of the 1980s by straight white guys that didn't make the new list include:

Dire Straits -- Brothers in Arms (e.g., Money for Nothing)
Tom Petty -- Full Moon Fever (e.g., Free Falling)
Police -- Synchronicity, Ghost in the Machine or other albums
English Beat -- I Just Can't Stop It (Pitchfork lists Talking Heads' 1980 "Remain in Light" in the top ten, and I agree: the October 1980 Talking Heads/English Beat concert was the best I ever attended.)
Van Halen -- 1984 (Jump, Panama)
Steve Earle -- Guitar Town
Dire Straits -- Making Movies (Skateaway)
ZZ Top -- Eliminator (Sharp Dressed Man)

If you want to include Greatest Hits albums, Squeeze

Black lesbian -- Tracey Chapman (e.g., Give Me One Reason and Fast Car)
Chicanos -- Los Lobos -- How Will the Wolf Survive

Blasters -- American Music (Marie Marie) -- one of the best live acts I ever saw.

Joe Ely -- Live Shots

John Mellencamp -- Scarecrow (Small Town)

80’s may b under rated but they don’t come close to 70’s...Always saw LDN Calling as pt of 70’s

Wikipedia says London Calling was released 12/14/79 in UK and in January 1980 in USA (although I bought it in L.A. between Christmas and New Year, 1979).

Grammy Awards usually require albums to be released by, I think, September 30 to qualify for being from that year rather than next year. In contrast, Oscars require movies to run in L.A. by last week in the year (week after Christmas).

I presume the distinction is that movies are fewer in number so voters can be asked to go see them, while countless albums are released, so dark horses could benefit from a two month lag to get recognized.

Pitchfork used to have an actual editorial POV and staff who genuinely liked music. Now they're just another corporate-owned media entity hoping to keep their head above water by embracing poptimism. As such, they had to revise their list into the same vapid focus-grouped nonsense that the original pitchfork writers would've mocked Rolling Stone for 15 years ago.

+1. Even the explanation for why they updated the list sounds like corporate Steve Jobs/Zuckerberg speak:

"That list was shorter, sure, but it also represented a limited editorial stance we have worked hard to move past; its lack of diversity, both in album selections and contributing critics, does not represent the voice Pitchfork has become. For this new list, we gathered votes from more than 50 full-time staffers and regularly contributing writers to open up our discussion. Our list still reflects the realities of the ’80s—many great artists worked more successfully in singles than in full albums, for example—but we hope it represents the best of what this innovative decade has to offer, as well as how people consume music now. Tune in."

This is a textbook example of how to write at length without saying anything.

#2 - best albums of the 1980s - I'm unqualified to comment on music, since I don't collect nor even hear much, but I did buy music, on a cassette, from this artist: "Life Is... Too $hort 1988", which places at 185 on the list, and for a while I even memorized his lyrics and some guy named "Ice Cube"'s lyrics while commuting in LA at the time, and some other guys who I can't even find on the internet now. Too $hort had a song called "The Ghetto" (funky, funky) with the line (from memory) "mama's next door, getting high" and "dope fiends die with a pipe in their mouth" and some other fragments I still remember. Good tunes, but as soon as rap became mainstream I threw out the cassette. Homie don't do mainstream; I automatically hate anything that's popular in America. I also bought an excellent AU band named "Midnight Oil" and memorized every one of their songs, which were excellent dude! Again, I don't consume music, just reminiscing. But IMO the 1980s had superior music to the EDM of today, I mean who's going to remember "DeadMou5" thirty years from now? No, I don't listen to him but I read a bio of him a while ago and can imagine some forgettable ditty he must compose.

Bonus trivia: everything in modern reality TV pop culture is shown in this excellent satirical comic book: Piranese: The Prison Planet [Milo Manara, 2004]. Especially the panel about your 15 minutes of fame by tweeting a fart. Excellent!

1.- Giorgio Moroder: How can you tell a song is from the 80s? This guy is the author of the 80s synthesizer sound. Composer, producer, performer, DJ, collaborator or Bowie, Queen, Blondie, producer of Scarface's soundtrack, father of EDM.

People at Pitchfork attribute the origin of electronic music to Kraftwerk (#20) and they success at being the most boring "The album’s lyrical themes, meanwhile, explore computing’s place in society, their chilling sheen of technological disconnect setting the tone for the next three decades of societal slippage."........zzzzzzzzzzz, come one, it's electronic music, it MUST be fun and danceable, not the musings of a French intellectual.

2.- Queen.

3.- Metal: glam, black, heavy. They did some namedropping but apart from Celtic Frost there's no other wink to black/doom/death metal =(

Do people at Pitchfork ever have fun?

@Axa - thanks for the Giorgio Moroder reference, I read his bio, and wow, I had no idea such a talented person existed. But it into my notes file even though I don't listen to music, but at the next cocktail party may drop his name.

Cocktail party in the rural Philipines! What cocktails do they serve at Jolibee?

I think the ideals of "The Man who Sold the Moon" would be a better guideline than congresses approval/disapproval.

You mean lying, farce and manipulation!!


Moka-Coke: When you reach for a coke, make it a moke!

"NASA has steadfastly stayed away from endorsing any particular product or company — even going so far as to call the M&Ms astronauts gobble in space 'candy-coated chocolates' out of fear of appearing to favor one brand of candy."

Except for that time (curiously unmentioned in the article) when they put advertising for the then-forthcoming movie "Last Action Hero" on the side of one of their rockets.

As I recall, both the movie and the rocket launch were delayed, and the rocket went up after the movie had bombed.

(I am reasonably sure it was an actual NASA rocket, not a private space launch: however, I can't confirm that, as the one source I've been able to find is blocked at work as a security threat.)

#3 I'm marginally indifferent. Matt Groening was once interviewed about how he came to visualize the future-world of "Futurama" and he made a comment about how a world with super cheap and easy space travel wouldn't necessarily look "uncongested". Yes. The future will involve advertising on space vehicles, in space, and off-world. It remains to be seen if "Bachelor Chow" will be a thing however....

#4 Of course. I don't think human domestication of other species ended thousands of years ago, and as our understanding of the process in selecting for tameness expands other animals become potential candidates. Also, I want one of these.

#5 "But with a pass requiring a score of more than 60 per cent, only nine celebrities made the cut," Out of 100. Fan's score of 0 stands out but is less galling when you realize the pass rate was 1/10 the sample size with a passing grade being marginally above half. It actually makes the whole sample (i.e. all the celebrities) appear really stingy, not just her.

Bachelor Chow is definitely a thing, only we call it Kraft Dinner.

Not for's ramen all day

The 80s are said to be bad -- in all respects, not just music -- because the media never passes up an opportunity to tell us they were bad.

They do this because not a single one of them voted for Ronald Reagan, and they had to endure his election. Twice.

If you think that hate speech about the 80s is brutal, wait til you hear what is said about the years 2016-2024 in the future. Sadly for them, there is no easy numerical number to apply to the Trump years. Unless of course we get Ivanka or Don Jr for 2024-2032, in which case "The 20s" will have to do.

The trick to this kind of trolling is knowing right where the line is between believable projection and stupid shit even you don't believe. This post fails bigly on that metric. Won't be getting any more liberal tears flowing with this one.

TPM's comment is very funny. The tone of your answer contradicts its last sentence.

TPM's comments are only funny to people who can't spell their own names. FYI, Joel doesn't have umlauts...

You too gab, you are funny.

Your wife and I both shared good laughter in your bed last night. It was funny.

Wow -- my very first doppleganger! This is how you know you've made it on Marginal Revolution, my friends. It's a touching moment.

As for msgkings -- leave him alone. He's like an adorable little puppy that follows me around, commenting on every single thing I say. It's sad and flattering at the same time. Leave him be!

I'm confused so did you or did you not go out with his wife? I feel so left behind in these comments.


Sorry! The "huh??" was for the tpm guy.

#2. No Lyle Lovett, Elvis Costello, The Clash, Stevie Ray Vaughn or Los Lobos?

Yep, and a lot of other great artists that didn't make the cut.

Nothing from The Smiths either in their list. Into the trash it goes...

Yes, "I'm so sorry" about that.

I take back this comment. I found the complete list in a more searchable form. The Smiths are in there. Also, so are Elvis Costello and the Clash.

See here:

it's not a bad list. From the country side, I would have had at least one of Dwight Yoakam's 1980s albums - Guitars, Cadillacs, etc for sure and probably Buenas Noches From and Empty Room. Also k.d. lang's Absolute Torch & Twang. Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, although that's not really a country album.

On the rock side, King Crimson's Discipline would make my list.

And I think the passage of time has made John Hiatt's Bring the Family my single favorite album of the decade.

The list did include most of the truly life-changing "indie" recordings. But the absence of Mission of Burma and the low rank of Husker Du were surprising, and I can't believe anyone actually ever listens to that Cecil Taylor album.

I don't know what list y'all saw but this one had the Clash (#144), Elvis Costello (#155), and the Smiths (#43 AND #13) on it.

The thing is, no list can ever match your tastes exactly and that's the point to get you talking about it.

Yes, but Imperial Bedroom should be much higher than #155.

Agree 100% it should be higher, as should Stone Roses, Joshua Tree (and no Unforgettable Fire on the list at all?), and Nothing's Shocking and others.

As I said, the point of these lists is for all of us to argue with them.

Not true, The Queen is Dead came in at #13. Also for Slocum, The Clash is in there (Sandinista!).

But yes, a bad list. Also Straight Outta Compton is important, but is very overrated: it's much less consistent than other rap albums of the era, and other rappers were more realistic in their tales. This was a curious line from the review:

"where they were quickly stamped with parental advisory stickers—a blatantly racist act that did little to stem their takeover"

Was the author of this blurb entirely unaware of the 1985 PMRC hearings, and that references to drugs, sex, profanity, violence, and "the occult" in rock and pop were what prompted the creation of the Parental Advisory label by the record industry? That hundreds of records of all genres before SOC had received the label? In fact, receiving the label probably benefitted NWA, as the records with the labels were the ones to buy. Continues to amaze me how culturally and historically unaware many writers in popular publications are.

"...probably benefitted NWA"

I think that absolutely happened. I can recall that for some receiving the label was practically a badge of honor. Music is so generational that taste in popular music serves as an "F U" from the younger gen to the older.

However, nothing amazes me regarding the lack of awareness. They pulled out the "racist" dog whistle because I'm practically convinced now all publications must find something racist and add it daily as part of their guidelines.

This was also a strange line:

"They delivered a premonition of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, and every black anti-tyranny initiative that would follow."

Aside from the fact that Ice Cube's 1991 song "Black Korea" is a more direct "premonition" of what would unfold next summer, is this now the popular understanding among the trendy set of the '92 riots, as an "uprising" against tyranny. Even Maxine Waters, who was in her first Congressional term when it happened and described it as such, has mostly rejected that understanding. There were certainly real grievances about police brutality, the Rodney King verdict, and the Korean shopkeeper who killed a black girl over some orange juice, but last I checked a huge majority of Americans of all races view the LA riots as abhorrent and uncontrolled violence, not part of some noble struggle or protest. Maybe Sheldon Pearce needs to talk to a more diverse set of voices.

And re: PMRC hearings, didn't see Zappa/Mothers of Invention on the Pitchfork list, unless I overlooked again. But I see that Philip Glass made it. Weird.

Proof that hair bands are underrated.

#2) It is all that bad--the list, that is--for one reason: Purple Rain is rated higher than Sign o’ the Times. [Sign o’ the Times is easily the best album of the 1980's]

The list is awful for this reason alone. What are they thinkn' or hearin' at Pitchfork? Nothing.

#3) Yeah!!! Their shooting Budweiser into space! Does not belong on Earth.

May be NASA is getting older bud weiser.

I wonder how many people favor raising corporate taxes, i.e., funding government with corporate money when it's involuntary, but oppose the government selling sponsorships, i.e., funding government with corporate money when it's voluntary.

Lots. For lots of people the government is a religion. For them that means everything and everyone that is not the govt should tithe appropriately, and that suggesting wrapping jesus on the cross in Reebok pro wear for extra cash should result in your being burnt alive at the stake.

The best years for country music lyrics - from my point of view - may have been, first, the early commercially successful years, although those years were over-infused with the "I yam jussa hummbul country boy" fake humility (Hank Williams, I'm looking at you) ... and then .... the mid-80s, when the C&W lyricists could look back on the disasters of 1970s country music and do better, and before the early 90s and the dawn of those bad condo-corporate lyrics one remembers from the early 90s.

That being said, Shakespeare himself would have been thrilled to be able to title a country song

"I'm the Fool who's in love with the Fool who's still in love with you". (Lee Ann Womack).

(not a mid-80s song, but sort of like a mid-80s song ....).

Seriously, spend 20 minutes or so reading the lyrics from the top 100 country songs of, say, 1986. If you ignore the celebrities who got hits only because they were celebrities, It was a golden age. Not a Pushkin or Emily Dickinson-level golden age, but still, a golden age.

You take that back about Hank Williams.

Hey he tried to steal my girlfriend away from me!

I mean "my gal" ....

actually his lyrics are great, I was actually thinking of those old comic strips where Snoopy was pretending to be a Hank Williams-style country boy ....

5. the sociology dept gives everybody a social responsibility value
based on science and webscraping and then your number goes on
the list.

it doesn't fit the list, which is focused on well known works and not obscure gems, but guitar fans should seek out Danny Gatton's "Unfinished Business" one of the best guitar albums of all time, let alone the 1980s

#4 is clearly fraudulent because everyone knows behavioral traits cannot be selected for genetically. Also, dont you dare even think there can be phenotypic markers for behavior.

Seriouslu, I think there could be a lot of selection pressures for amiability with humans at this point. Or maybe just the prevalence of cute animal videos has increased with cellphones.

2. Tom Waits does not appear in the top 30. He is the only person who became more interesting in the 80s, and for that alone he should be top 10.

Partial list of acts that became more interesting in the 80s: Prince, Michael Jackson, U2, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Dire sure it's only Tom Waits?

Could you elaborate on why Van Halen became "more interesting" in the 1980s? The synthesizers? The switch from DLR to Sammy? Most people say VH lost their edge around 1984-85 and became more generic and formulaic.

On a related note, how is 1984 not on this list? I know that this list is distinctly anti-"beer-chugging and sportscar-driving rock of the 1980s", but not even including it in the bottom half, and then including Nirvana's Bleach (a good album but hamstrung by their early deficiencies in the rhythm section), is a joke.

Van Halen I and II are their only 1970s albums, so to me the progression after was more interesting, and yes synthesizers were part of it. I love the 1970s albums especially I, but they definitely expanded their scope later. Post-DLR they lost me but switching lead singers like that is definitely 'interesting' if not a success.

Basically like Prince, U2, and Michael Jackson, Van Halen was primarily a 1980s band that happened to get started in the late 1970s. U2 can barely even be said to have started in the 1970s so maybe I shouldn't have included them.

1984 is their best album IMO and I agree should have been on this list.

"Basically like Prince, U2, and Michael Jackson, Van Halen was primarily a 1980s band that happened to get started in the late 1970s. U2 can barely even be said to have started in the 1970s so maybe I shouldn't have included them."

This gets to an interesting point, as there are some groups that did their best work in the late 70s/early 80s that I would characterize more as 70s groups. A good example would be Rush, and maybe Journey; obviously some major punk groups fall in this bracket too, like The Clash. The period from about 1977 to 1982 is quite sonically distinct, both in terms of style and in terms of production techniques, such that many albums of the era don't conform neatly to what we typically think of as 70s acts or 80s acts. Maybe we need a new term to describe this half-decade period.

I agree, though, that Van Halen is more of an 80s band that just happened to start in the 70s. Eddie pretty much created 80s guitar style and sound on VH I and II, particularly on Eruption.

@msgkings. Ha! I'm obviously less enthusiastic about all of those bands than you are. The 80s are a decade whose pop music I find almost impossible to listen to compared to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s... I mostly blame the production, and I often wonder what those albums, remastered or re-recorded, might sound like. Only Tom Waits seemed to veer into this weird, brilliant corner on "Swordfish Trombones." A tune like 'Hang On St. Christopher,' from "FWY," sounds like it could be released now and people would still find it fresh and interesting. (Also, his new song is really great.)

VH is interesting really only in the late 70's. They repeat in the early 80's what they created in the late 70's, but those creative elements diminish, as time goes on, especially post Sammy.

What are those elements:
1) Guitars falling apart sound of Eddie
2) Single side channel isolation of the guitar in its rhythm roll--a much more powerful sound than the later sound that was chorused, the thought being that an more expansive sound would be more powerful: it wasn't.
3) The band more than rocked, it swung. Alex's drum rhythm often aggressively swang, and the rest of the band swung as well.
4) DLR as Louis Armstrong doing metal.

"[W]as it really so bad?"

Of course not. Obviously the list is four lists, which makes it kind of weird and disjointed, because who likes the stuff on all four lists?

List 1 is "Jacksons, Prince and Madonna," with positions 1, 2, 8, 16, 17, 26, 30, 33, 72 and 78 inside the top 100. (10 total).

List 2 is hip-hop, with 3, 6, 11, 15, 20, 21, 29, 38, 48, 50 (I think), 60, 70, 83, 99. (14 total).

List 3 is "1978-1981 (and its aftermath)" with 5, 9, 12, 13, 18, 19, 22, 24, 27, 40, 43, 47, 61, 63, 73, 75, 77, 79, 87, 88, 89, 97. (22 total). You might quibble whether Kraftwerk or Laurie Anderson belong here, but I think they do.

List 4 is "American Indie." 7, 14, 32, 35, 39, 46, 51, 54, 57, 58, 62, 65, 68, 86, 90, 98. (16 total).

So far that's only 62 of the first 100, but I think you can add the Hardcore and Speed Metal stuff to list four, which adds another 12 there (by my count), and you can add some other pop/solo artists (4, 10, 37, 44, 59, 64, 91, 100) to list one, which gives it 18 and gives these four lists a total of 82. I think this makes sense; maybe not so much back then but looking forward from the music of then to the popular music of now. If nothing else Prince, Madonna, MJ, Kate Bush and Sade were all born at almost the same time.

What's left over is about 10 "oldies" (Bruce, Eno, Simon, Cohen, Bowie,, Waits, F Mac (!) and Marley) and about 8 or 9 "unclassifiables" like Van Gelis (the closest we get to prog, not counting Roxy or Eno maybe) or Fela Kuti (world music fans have to 96 to get something).

If you're a hip-hop fan, maybe list 2 contains a lot of music you truly love and/or is truly great - I have no idea. If you're a fan of the very high-selling artists on list one, maybe ditto.

If you're a fan of list 3, you can't be too disappointed, as there's lots of this sort of stuff. I like some of this stuff myself. Of course it's hard to decide with some bands whether they belong in list 3 or list 4....

If you're a fan of "1978-1981 and its aftermath," as I am, then the list is totally bizarre, especially going all the way down to 200. Some cool things are on there, to be sure (97 or 108 or 167, for example) but a lot of obvious things are missing. They went 200 deep and couldn't find room for _Rum, Sodomy and the Lash_? What the hell? Isn't Pitchfork a bunch of Anglos? To this day I'm guessing if you walk by a dilapidated Commonwealth-area student rental there's a reasonable chance you'll hear "Dirty Old Town" or "A Pair of Brown Eyes" coming out of it!

Meanwhile the same people who put a Kate Bush album #4 (a fun touch, to be sure) couldn't find room for a Japan or Sylvian album? Seems a tad schizophrenic.

As a follow-up to my other comment, maybe the worst omission is in the "obscurities" division. They've got albums by Reich, Glass, Young and Monk, yet the 1984 ECM Arvo Part release, _Tabula Rasa_, didn't make it? That should be in the top 10....

The 80s were musically perhaps the last great decade, but 80s music was eclectic and (unlike the 60s or 70s) no canon has been retroactively adopted. The (English) Beat and Michael Jackson were both great but probably nobody at the time listened to both (and I don't remember anyone listening to Pixies at all) - and that's kept 80s music from getting the credit it deserves, both for influencing today's music and for its own sake.

One more (obvious) comment: Some good albums in the 80s were by artists who were holdovers from the 60s and 70s (Dylan, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel etc.) making 80s musically even more undefinable...

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