There are a lot of references to music in my Vinyl Tiger novel. Some of it is mainstream music, some not. Sometimes they were just themes that needed a good name drop.
I've put together a playlist on Spotify along with some comments regarding some of the entries and music themes that appear in the first volume of my novel - the 80s, all included below.
Lovebites was the second album by the Buzzcocks. Originally formed in the mid-70s, they were pioneers in the punk music scene. The Buzzcocks line-up changed over the years, but their influence over the indie, punk and Manchester scenes has been enduring. Read more about them here
It’s the kind of music that almost everyone loves today, but just a few decades ago Blondie signalled a complete challenge to the status quo. On Parallel Lines you got the full range of rock, disco and even reggae infused pop, and the blue print for future pop albums.
The range of the disco genre was wide: artists like Donna Summer and Grace Jones, with their natural vocal flair brought some pathos [and camp] to the genre, but for every one of those divas you got more than a couple of Andrea Trues in return. No matter, it was all about the slinky grooves, and if nothing else, we can also thank disco for removing the vocal hurdle which would otherwise have stopped half of the pop/dance acts that arrived in the eighties from achieving what they did.
But before that, filmi, music from films, were by far the most popular song forms in India’s music market. There are certain regal figures in the Indian music scene, among them Manna Day and Lata Mangeshkar. In Vinyl Tiger, the title character spends some formative time in India, collecting music along the way. I imagined him as a kind of early eighties M.I.A, who I think remains without peer when it comes to cannabalizing from the subcontinent and producing something new and provocative.
Acts like Grandmaster Flash would go on to have a lasting effect on hip hop and mainstream music, but it was a handful of artists like Madonna who rode the underground sound right into the mainstream, bringing the new club sound to the masses. And we all know what that particular arrival wound up meaning to pop music.
People are really hard on the eighties. But really, they shouldn’t be. The eighties was the first decade of democratization in pop music. You no longer needed to be a killer vocalist to have a hit record, and you no longer needed to sling a guitar around to be a rock star. You could now just pound away at a keyboard (and not know more than three or four chords). Hell, you could even sling it around your front.
We’re no longer in that wonderful place where anyone has a shot, no matter what they tell you. We live in a world which, thanks to our decade long obsession with talent shows, thinks that having a great vocal range makes you a great artist. But it’s also a piecemeal world where more and more, the mainstream means something less.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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