Why the 80s Hate? (Production & Sounds)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Runicen, Feb 5, 2016.

  1. Runicen

    Runicen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So this may be a bit broad, but I was reading a thread on George Harrison's "Gone Troppo" album, and one of the primary complaints even among people who liked the songs on the album was the production. This comes up a lot with material from the '80s, particularly mid- to late-'80s. Usually, it's described as having "aged" or "aged poorly."

    My question is: why? What is so bad about '80s production that makes these sounds and treatments so unforgivable? The '60s had plenty of muddy, gimmicky and uninteresting production fads that haven't been revisited exactly as they were, particularly during the psychedelic era, weird panning decisions, and so on, but this era earns warm appreciation by contrast.

    I'd like to put forward a theory on this. Particularly with artists who came up in the '60s and '70s, they simply didn't play to the strengths of the sounds they were offered. An obvious exceptions would be someone like Peter Gabriel, who embraced synths and sampling as a whole new musical language rather than a 1:1 replacement of the old band lineup.

    A band like Queen, on the other hand, would fall into the opposite camp where synthesizers and drum machines seemed to usher in almost a laziness in production and arrangement that flew in the face of their previous working methods. They went from intricate layers of guitars arranged to sound like other instruments to... Whatever the hell the whooshing synths used on The Game would be called.

    Now, this may just be the benefit of hindsight from someone born in the early '80s looking back from the vantage point of the 21st century, but the productions that have genuinely "aged poorly" seem to have done so because the musicians using them treated the technology as a crutch rather than an aid to imagination as the prior tech had been perceived. That said, I'm sure there are plenty of points of contention even under this theory. For example, I love everything Jethro Tull put out during the '80s, even the heavily synthetic "Under Wraps." To my ears, this is a prime example of someone pushing the format using new sounds and treatments - exploration, in other words (or, dare I say, "progressive" :p).

    Anyway, this is a long enough opening post. Talk amongst yourselves! :-popcorn:
  2. JohnnyQuest

    JohnnyQuest Forum Resident

    Drum machines and cheesy synthesizers annoy people.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  3. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

    if the music is good enough it can overcome the 80's mire (prince used synths a plenty in his early years) but if the music is lightweight and reliant on the new fangled technology then it gets tedious, I cant remember gone troppo to be honest, i know i listed but it never hooked me in, but George was very hit and miss for me (i loved gh and 33 1/3)
  4. Runicen

    Runicen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    They're really not going to like my concept album that's nothing but Yamaha DX7s and Linn Drums then.... :winkgrin:
  5. altaeria

    altaeria Forum Resident

    If it has melodic verses and big anthemic choruses,
    then count me in !
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  6. Tristero

    Tristero Forum Resident

    I think that the OP made a key distinction between more forward looking artists that really embraced the new technology (i.e. Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Talking Heads) and older artists like George Harrison, who were trying to play catch up because it was the latest thing. Obviously, old guard fans who prefer the classic sound were less likely to enjoy the new, more synthetic approach, but some bands made it work for them. It's been a long time since I heard Under Wraps, so I can't comment on how it has aged, but Anderson certainly wasn't half hearted in his use of the new technology there.
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  7. Runicen

    Runicen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    There's another question: was George Harrison actually trying to play catch up or was it just, "Oh, you have a synth instead of an organ. Sure, use that instead?" I mean, that's still a fair level of laziness, but you've got to wonder if the sound was liked or if it was just, "Meh, it's what we have on hand."

    With regard to "Under Wraps," I have to admit it's grown on me, but the stronger album from Ian Anderson was his "Walk Into Light" album from the year prior. It was him and Peter John-Vettese working alone and it's a much better fusion of his songwriting with the new sonics. "Under Wraps" is better than it gets credit for, but it's almost like nobody knows where to put the human players in the arrangement or the mix and ends up being neither fish nor fowl at a number of points. The lack of live drumming also hurts it a bit. Still, points for experimentation.
  8. krlpuretone

    krlpuretone Forum Resident

    Grantham, NH
    Gated reverb on drum production makes everything sound dated, thin and unnatural.
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  9. Duke Fame

    Duke Fame Forum Resident

    Tampa, FL
    Yeah, I try to take it for what it is. A representation of a place and time. I like the fact that I can listen to some things and immediately pinpoint the date it was made. I think there's some 80's stuff that sounds pretty damn good to me. '90125' coming to mind right off the bat.

    The only 80's stuff that I have a hard time listening to is some of the early 80's metal. And at least half the blame goes to the popularity of that ****ty guitar tone that everyone seemed to have. Very shrill and no weight (for lack of a better description).
  10. musicalbeds

    musicalbeds Strange but not a stranger

    Ontario, Canada
    As a huge fan of great guitarists, the 80's was vapid imo, with EVH clones and synths getting in the way of tasty guitar playing.
  11. budwhite

    budwhite Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

    You said it man
  12. Tristero

    Tristero Forum Resident

    It sounded cool at first on albums like Bowie's Low or Gabriel's third, but when everyone started using, it got old fast.
  13. Curveboy

    Curveboy Forum Resident

    New York City
    I think what the 80's represents is a light year jump in technology; automated boards, more tracks, digital recording, etc.

    With that came the good and the bad; some people made the most of it and others abused it.

    Let's take Heart for example. You have some great recordings in the 70's, but then you get to 1987 and Bad Animals and it's just so sterile. Then again you jump to 1990 and Brigade and it's one of my favorite sounding recordings ever.
  14. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Fresno, California
    This, mostly:

  15. micksmuse

    micksmuse Forum Resident

    san diego
    it is when the first wave of non-musicians discovered they could make sounds with the new tech-toys that came out and it hasn't gotten any better through the max martin/hip-hop era. sure there is some creativity occasionally. a squirel can make it across a busy highway every so often but it usually ends up in road kill.
  16. Runicen

    Runicen Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I still think this is down to the crutch vs. creativity aid side of it. There have always been also-rans who were only there because they slept with or knew someone who could get them a record deal and put them in a studio with people who could almost carry the day without the "star's" input. It's just that now you can buy yourself tools to get there, so there's even less of a cost of entry.
  17. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

  18. The Zodiac

    The Zodiac God's Lonely Man

    I hated the sound of the 80's and fled to the sanctuary of heavy metal where guitars still sounded like guitars and drums still sounded like drums. One listen to an album like David Bowie's "Never Let Me Down" tells you all you need to know about the misguided production values of that decade. A lot of good songs got lost in that flood.
  19. mikaal

    mikaal Sociopathic Nice Guy

    I love some 80's production.
    Some of those compilation cds- Hits of the 80's etc etc have songs on them that really kick! It's obvious the production seemed to go hand in hand with the new digital technology but some, (not all) really highlight a reasonable sound system.
    McCartney's "Press To Play" comes to mind with some of the panning and other effects on that album/cd.
  20. LarsO

    LarsO Forum Resident

    I also went through a "real-instruments-is-great-synth-and-drum-machines-are-crap-phase" but now I think the 80's and it's production values only makes checking out music a little more interesting. Sometimes I find it fascinating that an era had it's own distinctive sound and I need a fix of that kind of thing.

    I believe there was a certain naive faith in the new technology and that it could make everything sound better.
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  21. FlatulentDonkey

    FlatulentDonkey Forum Resident

    Northern Ireland
    The big hair and spandex were probably more abhorrent to be fair
  22. Spitfire

    Spitfire Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest
    I heard Belinda Carlisle's Heaven Is A Place on Earth this morning on the radio and I thought right away this song is the epitome of the 80s sound. Synths, fake drums, vocal effects. Still a great song but the production could only happen in the 80s.
  23. billy1

    billy1 Forum Resident

    I agree up to a point. It's just that 80's drum BLATT!! It seemed to be everywhere regardless of the mood of the song.
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  24. tkl7

    tkl7 Agent Provocateur

    New York, NY, USA
    There is a lot of 80s hate because the decade sucked generally.
  25. overdrivethree

    overdrivethree Forum Resident

    I think there is also a tendency for people to conflate '80s production (synths, drum machines, artificial reverbs and processing) with the visuals that were happening on MTV at the time. A lot of '80s videos were cheesy, whether they were on the "ridiculous haircut" end (like A Flock Of Seagulls), or "we blew a cool million on this ridiculous concept video" ("Total Eclipse Of The Heart").

    As with the new digital recording technology, some artists used their visual statements for good ("Money For Nothing," "Sledgehammer," "Take On Me") and others less so.

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