Thanks to The Beatles’ being formed in 1960 and breaking up in 1970, the 60s are a neatly defined decade in popular music history. The other great decade of UK pop music dominance—and, I would argue, of pop music creativity and genre development—the 1980s fits rather less well into its (vulgar) calendar definition. I’d say what we think of now as 80s music started in about 1978 and was pretty much over by 1987.
As a result, there are a bunch of 80s-sounding records that not only evoke that decade and were influential on its characteristic musical genres, but whose creation predates 1980. I recently posted a Twitter poll:
Record actually made in the 70s that defined the 80s?
(*Video Killed The Radio Star* -> Buggles, *Rapper's Delight* -> The Sugarhill Gang)
— Damian Counsell (@DamCou) June 27, 2017
about this that also prompted some interesting responses, so I thought I’d turn it into a YouTube playlist.
The daddy of these [and eventual winner of the poll] is Video Killed The Radio Star by Buggles. The song was written in 1978, and originally recorded by Bruce Wooley And The Camera Club but had its biggest impact from 1981 as the first track played on MTV, when it lived up to its original “Music Television” name and became arguably the defining broadcaster of 1980s popular music.
But, as you can hear, the song itself was rich with classic 1980s elements: layered synthesizer-based instrumentation, Trevor Horn production, a futuristic theme, and a hyperactive promotional video (directed by Russell Mulcahy, whose fast-cutting style helped define the decade visually). If you are interested in the clever arrangement of the song, then this poor-quality video featuring Geoff Downes (Buggles keyboard player) is informative.
Here are YouTube videos for the other records in my original Twitter poll list, plus one I kicked myself for omitting because it was probably the first or second example of the made-in-the-70s/made-the-80s tracks that occurred to me: Cars by Gary Numan.
[In an earlier version of this post, I accidentally embedded The Message instead of Rapper’s Delight.]
And here are some of the excellent suggestions from replies to the original tweet:
Got to be Peter Gabriel's Intruder, for Phil Collins and Hugh Padham's gated reverb, which is the 80s sound, if anything is.
— … (@TJA1972) June 27, 2017
“Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first video played on MTV.