When you listened to the radio in 1953, there was no rock 'n roll. While the musical genre was just starting out, the airwaves were still filled with the likes of Patti Page puppy shopping, June Valli getting stood up at the alter, Eddie Fisher telling his lover how a body part will do so much for her, and Julius LaRosa (who just passed away a month ago) trying to launch a jam session.
You could find some nice music, though, over the air and on vinyl. Eartha Kitt purred in French, Tony Bennett got himself out of the gutter, and Nat King Cole wanted us to daydream. While Dean Martin sang about love, Hank Williams sang about the painful side of love. Les Paul and Mary Ford wished you goodbye, and The Four Lads gave everyone a geography lesson. Lastly, Ray Charles told people to dance with his first big hit. Best hit from the year, though, goes to a song covered by many people, but few match the power of the original by Big Momma Thornton.
1979 was a transitional year in music. Disco was extremely popular, and rock was recovering from the psychedelic phase that transitioned into soft rock. So AM radio played Anne Murray and Barbara Streisand. Kenny Rogers sung about a wimp and Dolly ruined a Beatles classic. Rupert Holmes wanted to Escape, maybe with the help of The Village People's Navy. A couple of right wing a-holes also could be heard on the radio. And being this is my blog, I'm listing these in the bad music section: Ted Nugent and Charlie Daniels.
Thankfully, there was some really good music in '79. Record debuts came out from The Knack, Joe Jackson, The B-52's, Pat Benatar and U2. The first rap song hit the airwaves in 1979 from Sugarhill Gang. New Wave showed up from The Boomtown Rats, The Cars and Gary Numan. Hard rock was alive and well thanks to Cheap Trick, Bad Company, and Led Zeppelin. Elvis Costello sung about mistakes, Supertramp sung about Mr. Spock and Styx song about the clock. M and Donna Summer kept folks dancing, and Prince, Van Halen and Frank Zappa were all on varying places along that dancing spectrum. Davie Bowie and Foreigner had different takes on boys. Madness felt a single step was plenty, but Michael Jackson wanted us to keep on going until you got enough. The album of 1979, though, is a no brainer. One of the three albums I would take to a desert island (along with The Joshua Tree and Syncronicity) was released right at the end of 1979 - The Clash's London Calling. Great from start to finish, it would be hard to pick just one song, but track 9 has always been a personal favorite.
1991. 25 years ago. The set released the year I got married. FOr the start of the year, my future wife and I were living in Fort Myers, FL. Then came back home in August. Rock music changed in 1991, as you will see. But plenty of junk was still out there. Roxette wanted to take you for a ride (no thanks). Paula Abdul wanted us to dance (no thanks). Michael Bolton loved women (no thanks). The Spin Doctors got WAY overplayed. And while I do have some respect for what she did, Natalie Cole still wrecked a great song dueting with her daddy.
As I mentioned, music changes in 1991. Grunge came into fashion, so Smashinig Pumpkins, Blur, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana ruled the airwaves. NWA were the first hard core rap group to score a number 1 album. 2Pac debuted, Hammer was 2Legit, and Heavy D was 2confused about sex. A few future actors released songs in 1991, including The Fresh Prince, Ice Cube and Mark "Marky Mark" Walberg. Both Van Halen and Crowded House were baking. R.E.M. went meta, Tom Petty went to flight school and The Smithereens went to the top. The Chili Peppers wanted us to give it away, but not sexually. Prince and The Divinyls, though, were very obvious in what they meant. Michael Jackson had a color problem, U2 had a bug problem, Guns N' Roses had a weather problem and The Godfathers had a problem with the whole planet. If there was one big issue with the rise of grunge was other great music was forgotten. Material Issue released their debut International Pop Overthrow and were set to hit it big. But their style didn't fit the growing sound on the radio and they never received the recognition they deserved.