I could probably go on forever listing the great music that was born in the late 70s, only because I’ve searched them out since then. Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke; Jaco Pastorius, “the greatest bass player in the world” with Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter in Weather Report; fledgling giants such as Pat Metheny and Bob Moses. Herbie Hancock was in the prime of his career, eclipsing even his Miles Davis Quintet days. The unique fusion sound of this era is unlike any before or since. While I was there to experience it-—alive on the planet that is—what came next it is quite a sore spot for me.
You could say the advent of fusion was the beginning of the end. The revolutionary use of electronic effects, such as the electrification of Miles’ trumpet, allowed for a foray of effects such as feedback, distortion and use of the “wah-wah” pedal. But then everybody began layering synthesizers over and over until there was nothing left. This lack of pure instrumentation in the sound characterized the nuance of 80s music. To me, this time period represents the bastardization of music by the overuse of new-fangled electronic wizardry. Now the emphasis was on pop image and music videos, and away from true music.
Perhaps I gave up early, and in my later years of musical searching, ignored the decade because of the bitter taste in my mouth. Of course, this perspective is drawn purely from the fact that I was trapped in suburban white Denver, with no resources to search for music, besides the radio. (And we all know by now the radio only plays music that corporate Clear Channel has taken a liking to.)
So was it the 80s or just my perspective from the awful radio? It's hard to tell. What I found on my search was gangsta rap. Finding a beat that would stimulate my senses—or at least my sense of rebellion against the status quo—I turned to the foul-mouthed rappers from Compton. Easy-E, Dr. Dre, NWA, and 2 Live Crew helped me through the un-groovy decade. Towards the late 80s, I turned to the head banging thrash music of heavy metal: Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Slaughter, Anthrax, and Guns N’ Roses.
At the bus stop one day, waiting for the yellow chariot to take me to middle school, I discovered the power of music in the social realm. I just scored a recording of 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be from a friend’s older brother. (It was black market material for anyone pre-18 displaying the distinctive “Explicit Lyrics” logo.) When I finally got the album from my friend, I knew it would change my life.
I was rocking out to the nasty beats and wanted to share this rare gem of music with the cool crew. I approached Jeremy whom I’d known from soccer practice, but I usually didn’t talk to in school because he was a tier up on the social hierarchy—or so I perceived. I offered him a headphone on a carefully chosen track that contained more F-bombs than words. After a careful listen, the bus rolled up and I instinctively recoiled to return to my safe social bubble. But instead, Jeremy gave me an approving nod and led me past many empty seats I would have gladly filled, to a seat just three rows from the back of the bus. Yes! I had made it! By any measure, three rows back signified I was in the “back of the bus”. I was cool.
So where does this leave me musically as a young adult of the new millennium? First of all, I don’t regard pop music as something I listen to intentionally. While I don’t hate today’s pop music, I’ve moved far from the spoon-fed land of radio play and MTV. I learned to search out what I enjoy, rather than buy albums from the giant record companies. I have a massive CD collection of concert bootlegs of bands that actually encourage fans to tape them. It is this attitude that I look for in bands. It tells me they’re fully engaged in their music, and not their image or pocketbook. I am not closed to music coming out in the mainstream, but I’m a serious skeptic. So where the 80s could have scared me into an overall dislike of music, it actually encouraged me to look past the mainstream to find the headiest grooves out there. And for that result, I am thankful!
So What Became…
Politically, we’re liberal. Having grown up in the Regan and Bush Sr. era, we saw both the Cold and the Gulf wars. Being too young and unexposed at the time, all I knew was we were fighting communism, and whatever that boiled down to, we had to build more weapons than them. The atomic threat was as real as ever; I never knew why someone would drop a bomb that would kill millions of people.
Then we learned about Saddam Hussein when he decided to take over Kuwait. Coming home at night from school, we’d watch Wolf Blitzer on the news with flashing lights and anti-aircraft fire in a fantastic display behind him. We found out early on that Saddam was a bad guy. But it would take many years to grasp the motive behind our rapid action against him.
But our generation is vastly different from any in the past. My grandfather held three jobs for the bulk of his prime years, leaving grandma to care for my dad and uncle. My mom’s father was a respected Air Force pilot, in fact so privileged, that he was chosen to fly through the first mushroom clouds to get readings on the atomic blast. You can imagine how that’s affecting his health now.
Our parent’s generation was a class of baby boomers looking to take the vast opportunity of the “American dream” and run with it. With the World Wars out of the way, the emphasis was to gain wealth and secure a comfortable spot in upper-middle class America. Not to say they were not torn by other major wars, or even drafted, but at least we were fighting over economic principle and not world domination.
As a class, we are hard workers, but we expect more leisure time than any other generation. Through the tremendous economic success of the 90s we have come to expect the very best the material world has to offer—we’ve never known anything different.
Our generation stands on the shoulders of the baby boomers, reaching beyond where they left off. Now, they are still in charge of the world, and we watch them bicker over power and control of oil. We’ve seen the rapid destruction of our planet in just the short time we’ve been alive and we are contemplating ways to get out of this dilemma. Hopefully, we have the leverage needed to make a difference.
The world now is smaller than ever with the advent of the Internet. We have the summation of knowledge at our computer-savvy fingertips. Even though we have more freedom than ever, we constantly push the status quo and question authority. Whether we express ourselves through piercings and tattoos, or politically in the Libertarian or Green party, we are pushing to get outside the box.
Artistically, we are a generation of innovators. We appreciate abstract modern American art because we do not understand it, and that is what makes it good. We seek to push the envelope and constantly step out of our ever-changing dogma. Whether you talk about music, literature, or the visual arts, we are here to change the world by opening peoples’ eyes to the trenches of conformity that blindly lead people to the same blunders, over and over again. We feel the pain of the world, and wish to reach out and help each other. We are willing to forego the material luxuries that our parents spent their entire lives in pursuit of for the philosophy of peace and freedom.
We are a spiritually charged group, and while this often does not fit into the traditional boundaries of organized religion, we are actively seeking the mystical experience in our everyday lives. Most of us were raised in a particular religion, but boundaries and rules only push us away from devotion. We are seekers through experience, skeptical of lessons taught. Largely pragmatic, we take experience more seriously than lecture, as the ultimate learning tool.
Now that I am a mature young adult, thoroughly marinated
in the 80s worldview, I have developed a unique outlook on the future.
Because of the international problems that began in the 80s, carried over
to climax during the Gulf War, I have taken on a personal charge to change
the attitudes of Americans. I want to help open their eyes to the cause-and-effect
relationship we have with the rest of the world. I’m sure every
generation has its own unique view of international conflict. But for
me, in the formative years of my youth, I watched conflicts revolve around
socialism versus capitalism. Along with that paradox came a broad swath
of issues in the fight for the dominant economic system; the struggle
for power over oil, the control of the Middle East, the arms race, the
atomic threat, and the role of the United States in the international
I was never a history fan—in fact, I hated it. In
school we’d learn about empires conquering their neighbors, this
tribe killing that tribe, and people like Hitler trying to take over the
world. Of course, in the 80s, it was still the same. It seemed ridiculous
that we were forced to learn lessons about history when we are still dealing
with the same problems, with nobody having learned any lessons. I guess
that’s the point.
This vocation of ours is going to encounter some monumental obstacles. The path is going to be slow as we tackle each link of the cause-and-effect chain. For example, we have to convince people that conservation is the first step to stop war and environmental damage. This means we need to change our mindset away from the fundamental motivators in our country: status and money. What I mean is we have to stop believing that someone driving a bigger car—a Ford Expedition or a Hummer—is socially more reputable than someone driving a Honda Insight. We have to stop trying to out strive each other and begin looking at the big picture. Instead of “How can I make myself appear more powerful,” we must be thinking “How can I help out more?”
Why do I feel this way? Because the 80s were the transition from big to BIG. “Reganomics” charged the system with an ambition that would take our reasonable American lifestyle, and take it over the top. After the recession ended early in the decade, we were in a comfortable socio-economic place. That’s when we began the reckless excess. This wild lack of social accountability, emphasized by the living large attitude, extended to a way of life. Not only were we making fools of ourselves, running a muck of the natural resources, we were dressed in poofy hair, flamboyant leg warmers, and addicted to oil like it was going out of style. Unfortunately, it was the only thing that didn’t.
The economic philosophy of the US auto industry of the early 80s characterizes perfectly what I dislike about the decade. We were in a hurry to put things out without taking the time to make it right. If you look at that problem, and work backwards, you can trace it quickly to the source—like retracing a maze in reverse. W. Edwards Deming, the authoritative quality guru, purported that Quality (with a capital Q) is produced by improving the process and by doing it right the first time. This idea empowered workers to literally build quality into the product, versus relying on inspections to catch defects. Tracing backward, we see a lack of concern with doing it right. Accountability was at a minimum. Haste created mediocrity, which gave people little satisfaction in their work. Pride was neither inherent, nor impressed upon them by their foremen. It showed up in the fruits of their labor, and that’s where you get the ultra classic oldsmo-buick, rotting in your neighbor’s driveway.
Our days have now played out such that BIG is the norm in America. While we as a country could have spent the last 20 years solving problems that plagued us, we’ve come out with an entire fleet of super-sized automobiles to make them worse. And surprise, surprise, we’ve found ourselves coming full circle with another war with Iraq because of our unceasing hunger. Because of this influence, we must decide to help open the eyes of the world to the absurdity of this dilemma-to help society stop suffering from want and look towards solutions.
Thankfully, I was blessed with a childhood bliss that rendered me unaware of the issues at hand. This left plenty of time for Transformers, Legos, Star Wars action figures, and Atari. One thing I never figured out was why anyone would buy Duck Boots instead of Moon Boots?!? I can picture it now. The year is 2006. It’s Guns N’ Roses twenty-year reunion. Slash; black, feathered Moon boots. I’m callin’ it!