Thursday, February 27, 2003

Mike's excellent project to determine which decade had all the best music comes to a close today. Head over there and choose between the number ones of '63, '73, '83, '93 and '03. Or, respectively, between Jet Harris & Tony Meehan; The Sweet; Men At Work, 2Unlimited and tATu.

It has been a fascinating endeavour, but it has highlighted our misconceptions about the decades' defining characteristics. Think of The Sixties, for instance, and you think Beatles, Stones, Summer Of Love, Carnaby Street, yet the charts in early '63 were still filled with singers straight from the '50s tin pan alley showbiz tradition: Frankie Vaughan, Cliff Richard, Del Shannon. In fact, the period that Mike has chosen sees the Beatles in the top ten for the first time, signalling the start of the sixties proper, and five or so years of glorious pop.

By 1970, the optimism of the '60s had soured, and the pop turned to pomp, to rock, or its poppier niece: glam. The hair got longer, the outfits more ridiculous, the staging more complex, the concepts more ludicrous, until the seventies were given a swift and much-needed kick in the teeth by punk, signalling the start of new era: the 80s.

The '80s started in - ooh - 1978, as punk was swiftly followed by new wave and the new romantics. Blondie, the Boomtown Rats, the Police and Gary Numan all had number ones in the '70s. The next few years were wildly inventive, and thus pop quickly ran out of ideas by the middle of the decade, foisting identikit puppets on us.

One strand of what we came to know of the '90s started very early - in about '84 - with The Smiths spearheading the indie trend. The other defining sound of the '90s - house and dance music - hit the charts with M/A/R/R/S in '87, and it was soon goodbye to Kylie [but only for a little while] and hello to faceless Italian producers.

It's perhaps too soon to say what the defining musical characteristic of the '00s will be. Will the boybands and manufactured pop survive? If so, perhaps Robson and Jerome started this decade in 1995. Or perhaps the real sounds of the '00s will prove to be rap and R&B? On the other hand, perhaps there's some new and exciting musical trend just round the corner. We can but hope...

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