Sunday, 31 July 2011

facts gleaned from the Virgin Encyclopedia of 80s Music

Q: What is the difference between Stan Stammers and Elvis Costello?


"OMG!" i hear you say.  "How do you know such an interesting fact as that?!"  Well, you, it's because a while ago i read the Virgin Encyclopedia of 80s Music.  This crucial volume indexes every single album released in the 1980s with absolutely no exceptions, and also rates every single one of these albums with between one and five stars.  Thus is created, within the book's mere 544 pages, a definitive record of all 80s music, and how good it is.  Because i greatly respect empirical musicological research, while i was reading it i made a note of all the albums it gave five stars, and of all those it gave one star.

Since then, i have been harbouring my list in top secret - living, i suppose, in fear of what would happen if such a beautifully pure source of fact fell into the wrong hands.  Can you deal with this degree of objectivity?  Recently, however, i have decided that this is a stupid question, and so i have decided to publish the list on the internet.  Here it is.


The Lexicon of Love       
Eric Clapton
Crossroads (best of)       
Elvis Costello
This Year’s Model and Imperial Bedroom    
Fred Frith
Guitar Solos        
Michael Jackson
Off the Wall and Thriller     
Joy Division
Trans Europe Express        
The Immaculate Collection (best of)      
My Bloody Valentine
Isn’t Anything       
Straight Outta Compton        
New Order
The Best Of New Order     
Pet Shop Boys
Discography (singles collection)      
Automatic for the People       
Stone Roses
Stone Roses        
Talking Heads
Remain in Light       
Richard Thompson
Watching the Dark (best of)     


Two the Hard Way       
Christian Death
Death Catastrophe Ballet Live and The Decomposition of Violets (live album)
Phil Collins
Dance into the Light      
Eek a Mouse & Michigan And Smiley
Live at Reggae Sunsplash 
From Genesis to Revelation       
LaToya Jackson
From Nashville to You      
Malcolm McLaren
Swamp Thing        
John Mellencamp
Nothing Matters And What If I Did   
Freddie Mercury
Solo (a 10-CD box set)     
Milli Vanilli
Two X Two (remixes)      
Napalm Death
Live Corruption        
New Kids on the Block
Merry, Merry Christmas    
Klaus Nomi
Simple Man        
Hazel O’Connor
Live in Berlin       
their entire recorded output       
Quiet Riot
Quiet Riot        
Sex Gang Children
Ecstasy and Vendetta over new York and Re-enter the Abyss
Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Dress for Excess      
Spandau Ballet
Spear of Destiny
a live album      
Live and Loud!        
Shakin’ Stevens
Merry Christmas Everyone       
Curt Smith
Soul on Board and Mayfield     
Theatre of Hate
three albums whose names i didn’t write down 
Tiffany Dreams
Dreams never Die        
Absolutely Live         
Transvision Vamp
The Little Magnets Versus the Bubble of Babble  
Tygers of Pan Tang
Burning in the Shade    
George Winston and Meryl Streep
Velveteen Rabbit     
Steve Winwood
Junction 7        

So then.  What can we learn from this?  What can't we learn from this?  Maybe it's hard to say.  It is pretty interesting, though, that apparently everybody is wrong about My Bloody Valentine: it turns out that their best album is not, as a thousand other best-of lists would testify, Loveless, but rather Isn't Anything.  And as mentioned, Stan Stammers is one unlucky guy, featuring in both Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny, and hence being on a total of four of the decade's very worst albums - this is more than anyone else, as far as i can make out.  Unless you choose to count every one of the ten discs of Freddie Mercury's Solo separately, which i wouldn't recommend.  Not that i've listened to any of it at all though obviously.

Can we generalise much about music in the 80s, on this evidence?  We can certainly say that it was often not a good idea to release live albums - they ended up comprising almost half of the decade's worst crop, and none at all of the best ones.  Christmas albums, even when by the delightful Shakin' Stevens, were also a dangerous game to play.  It also seems evident that more good music was made by individuals, and especially guitar-based individuals, than by bands with aggressive or stupid names.  And that it was over twice as easy to be exceptionally crap as to be exceptionally good.  And that this is especially the case if you choose to count every one of the ten discs of Freddie Mercury's Solo separately.  Apart from that, i think the facts speak for themselves.

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