Lately we’ve been discussing with friends the seemingly rapid passage of time and joking about whether a phone number or an e-mail address exists for one to lodge a complaint. And then the eventual realization we'd been subconsciously avoiding finally hits: 1980 was 30 years ago. Let that sink in for a second. Thirty. 3-0.
1980…in terms of music, the interesting thing about the first year of that decade was how certain pop music artists either released albums that were already distinctly ‘80s (The Cars, and The Police, among them); others were, in terms of production, decisive and distinctive sonic improvements over their previous releases (AC/DC, and , come to mind); or both (). Personally, that year would be the beginning of a rich musical adventure that started with ’s Women and Children First and concluded with The Cure’s Disintegration 9 years later, with so many varied and wonderful stops along the way.
But of the many fine albums released in 1980 which we cherish—all of the discs released that year by those mentioned above are personal favorites, with the exception of The Cars’ Panorama; it’s OK, but not a saint of our devotion—there are two in particular whose 30th anniversary is a noteworthy occasion for us: The Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta, and The Pretenders’ self-titled debut.
The former has always been derided not only by the band itself (not enough time and too mush pressure to adequately put an album together, they say) but also, as an example of its negative standing among much of the press, Rolling Stone saw fit to single it out as the lone Police album not included in their list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". (We understand the now-barely listenable, adult contemporary-sounding, Sting-solo-album-in-disguise Synchronicity had the big hits and monster sales figures, but the filler-laden, Ghost in the Machine over Zenyatta? Really?!)
Meanwhile, the opening salvo by Chrissie Hynde and her killer band of co-horts was not just the best thing they ever did, it towers over the rest of their catalog. And in the majority of cases, dramatically so. (It is, after all, recognized as one of the greatest debut albums in rock history.) We remember exactly where we were the first time “Brass in Pocket” came on the radio, and we'll always be grateful to our then-new friend Mr. S for lending us the first three Police records in one shot, which we then proceeded to absorb in chronological order, gazing at each vinyl record as it spun on the turntable of our parents’ living room sound system, and culminating with Zenyatta.
Three decades on, not only do we still enjoy both of these discs, they have proven to be key components of our makeup as a musician and songwriter and continue to influence us to this day. But they also manage to insinuate themselves in interesting ways: Sting’s performance of “Driven to Tears” at the recent Haiti Relief telethon reminded us of how relevant and powerful that song remains; days later while imparting bass lessons to a student, we were surprised by how many of those Zenyatta songs we still remember how to play. Meanwhile, The Pretenders’ “The Wait” happens to be on the jukebox of one of our fave Brooklyn watering holes; every time it plays it’s like we're rocking to it for the first time. “Brass in Pocket” still makes us smile. And sing at the top of our lungs.
30 years…wow. 1980…Thanks for the tunes.
[Oh, and yeah smartasses, we're aware "Brass in Pocket" was a 1979 single...in the UK.]