Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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CG-80s Book Cover

Distinctions Not Cost Effective

Accept: As I walked behind two teenaged boys with a boombox one hot vacation afternoon in 1983, these Swedish metalists knocked me out for at least thirty seconds. I must have been in a great mood.

Asleep at the Wheel: Commander Cody with chops--which isn't what they (or Commander Cody) originally had in mind.

Adrian Belew: A welcome addition to other people's music.

Regina Belle: She raps, Anita Baker doesn't. That's called demographics.

Blue Oyster Cult: Though the power-packed Career of Evil compilation stole great slabs of 1982's Extraterrestrial Live, only two of its songs were written in the '80s. They should know.

Laura Branigan: Her big, anonymous voice and safe, Irish-American looks went debut gold in 1982, but dance-pop is fickle and Laura's not too talented. So she picked up a check in Sun City in 1988 and--unusually for such a "name"--returned in 1989. Guess she liked the culture.

Lonnie Brooks: Back in the Depression, it made sense for bluesmen to choose Chicago over Mississippi. The ones from New Orleans didn't want to leave.

Jimmy Buffett: His best title since A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean told us what had become of him: Last Mango in Paris.

Cabaret Voltaire: My taste in dadaist dance musicians runs to the Memphis Jug Band.

John Cale: Provided more proof that he'd studied at Juilliard. Subcontracted his lyrics to a Dylanologist.

Cherelle: I'll never forget the charcoal-gray number she wore on the cover of . . . what was it called again?

Alice Cooper: Vitiated Ozzy's shtick by refusing to play down his 120 IQ.

Rodney Crowell: Once this ace writer-producer vied for country-rock auteur, but soon his records sounded more like pop demos. And he was too much the pro to get anywhere on the neotrad gravy train.

The Damned: Considered changing their name to the Darned.

Dissidenten: So German pop-rock isn't your stein of beer? And Middle Eastern music still seems a little alien? Now imagine a fusion.

Sheena Easton: Kim Basinger she wasn't--not without Prince, anyway.

The Four Tops: I'll grant them this much--the same old song would have been even worse.

The Germs: More valuable dead than alive.

Howard Hewett: No matter how adorable Brits found Jeffrey Daniel, Howard was Shalamar. But that's all he was.

Hiroshima: Those Japanese-American fusion musicians--what a sense of humor.

The Isley Brothers: They started the decade with Go All the Way, Inside You, and Between the Sheets. Then they announced a two-for-one stock split.

Al Jarreau: NARAS's idea of a jazz singer.

Waylon Jennings: Once you loved him or hated him. No more.

The Jets: Tongans transplanted to Minnesota, the black-pop Osmonds were discovered wearing native garb in a Holiday Inn. For their Apollo debut they dressed like African-American street kids. Clean-cut ones, of course.

Daniel Johnston: R.D. Laing would be proud.

Greg Kihn: Kihnformist.

Krokus: Swiss metal--which doesn't even guarantee clockwork.

Laibach: Not fascists--in fact, probably antifascists. That's something.

Love Tractor: First they were Dixie Dregs for the New South. Then they started singing.

MDC: Millions of Dumb Complaints.

Modern Romance: Spearheaded Britain's 1982 salsa boom. You remember Britain's 1982 salsa boom, don't you?

Stevie Nicks: Tolerable in a group that was vying for a Dorian Gray medallion by decade's end, she proved a menace solo, equally unhealthy as role model and sex object.

Kenny Rogers: Reached out to Lionel Richie.

Todd Rundgren: His Rhino/Bearsville best-of has an '80s side, including the unlistenable "Compassion." Stick him in a studio with Ted Nugent until he recants.

David Sanborn: He wants to be Arsenio Hall, fine. King Curtis, forget it.

Spinners: Philippe Wynne, 1941-1984. R.I.P.

Rick Springfield: This was the '80s--the Partridge Famiy never did anything as carnal (or good) as the breakout jealousy anthem "Jessie's Girl." This was the '80s--they never went AOR crossover, either.

The The: Uh-uh.

Third World: The most profitable reggae band in the history of the first world.

Three Mustaphas Three: Not really brothers. Not really from the Balkans. Now you know.

Toure Kunda: They're said to have sold in France without diluting their Senegalese sources, so maybe the sources are the problem. Just listen to their rhythm section, the backbone of Kaoma.

Twisted Sister: Dee Snider's congressional testimony remains unreleased. The rest you can watch on television.

Conway Twitty: His polite courtly-macho speeches turned sheer pettifoggery whether he was running for stud or hubby.

John Waite: Twixt fronting the well-named Babys and fronting the well-named Bad English, he produced one dynamite exploitation: 1984's "Missing You," an "Every Breath You Take" for nice guys. Later he claimed it created a backlash against his serious work.

Dionne Warwick: She has no regrets--a grande dame is what she always wanted to be.

W.A.S.P.: He who drinks like a fish shall fuck like a fish. And that's not the beast they had in mind.

Waterboys: How could they be U2 imitators? They're from Scotland. Pompous as hell, too.

Bobby Womack: He's no poet and he don't know it.

Yello: Chickenshi.

Frank Zappa: Oh shut up.

Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s, 1990


Subjects for Further Research Meltdown