Wednesday, December 22, 2004

What music belongs on a decade compilation?

This topic was well covered on the fantastic movie "Hi Fidelity" and I can only agree with John Cusack's character, Rob Gordon: it is a nightmare trying to put together a compilation for someone - it feels like you have taken the responsibility to compile a set of tracks that define a decade / genre on behalf of all those that lived it.

A simple example: my subject is an eighties album. Of course it is possibly the richest musical decade ever (IMHO) to make things far worse. So many bands and artists walk onto the set: Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure, Alison Moyet, Cyndi Lauper, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Bronski Beat, New Order, Talk Talk, Talking Heads, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Cutting Crew, Opus, The Thomson Twins, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, David Bowie, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, The Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Nick Kershaw, Wham!, U2. Madonna has to be there. Does Tina Turner? And there are some who just ask the question: Bananarama? Belinda Carlisle? Sandra? Bryan Adams? Guns and Roses? The Eurythmics? Blondie? Bonnie Tyler? Yes? Culture Club? Adam And The Ants? Gerry Raferty? The Stranglers? The Cars? Van Halen? Men At Work? Kim Carnes? ABC? Gary Numan? Martika? T'Pau?

Now you see the problem: that limit posed by the length of the CD...

Immediately a trade off must begin. Who should be left off? And on what basis? Of sourse the easiest would be to look at a cumulative eighties chart ranking. But of course that has its faults: comparing like with like is important. So is to balance songs and bands that contributed to shaping music and culture. The Clash made punk more accessible than the raw aggression and anarchism of The Sex Pistols. Vince Clark and Depeche Mode defined Techno-Synth-Pop. Spandau Ballet defined the New Romantics. And Billy Idol, The Pixies and Guns and Roses bridged to the grunge of the early nineties and showed the rising tide of Generation X.

Then add to all this that we live in South Africa and surely some of our own musical legacy must feature: Ballyhoo, Evoid, Johnny Clegg and Juluka / Savuka. Petit Cheval? Bright Blue?

And then there is the issue of which song. Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" is the hit we all remember, but "Run to You" had some of Bryan Adams early elecrtic guitar. Similarly, Billy Idol's "Mony Mony" had us stamping on the dancefloors, but what of "Rebel Yell"?

In the final analysis, relevance must make the call. It depends on the audiance for the compilation. I've got to find music that defines common past, shared experience, ... Jeez, it just gets harder! Looks like it's going to be a double album...

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