To the Max: ’80s Music in Books


Let’s face it…many a music snob would declare the 1980s as the worst decade in music, while others would put ’80s music in the “so bad it’s good” category. A flurry of recent titles chronicle the highlights, and occasional lowlights, of the decade’s most influential artists.

For me and my high school friends, heavy metal ruled, starting with my first concert: Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet tour in 1984 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. In Nöthin’ but A Good Time, you can explore all things metal – from the heyday of hair bands (confession: I’ve seen both Whitesnake and Skid Row in concert) to the edgier Guns N’ Roses, before heavy metal gave way to grunge in the ’90s. Spanning hard rock classics (Ratt’s “Round & Round”) and obligatory metal ballad (Poison’s “Every Rose Has it’s Thorn”), authors Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock take readers on a wild ride.

When I want to listen to ’80s music today, it’s not heavy metal that I go for, but dreamy new wave music that I mostly avoided when it was out (now I’ll take Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark over Ozzy Osborne any day). Music journalist Dylan Jones captures the essence of this era in Sweet Dreams, where he classifies artists like Culture Club, the Eurythmics and Wham! as the “New Romantics.” Born in late ’70s Britain, the New Romantics embraced a variety of music styles from the gimmicky (Adam Ant) to the sublime (Sade).

Want to take a deeper dive? In Can’t Slow Down, Michaelangelo Matos asserts that 1984 is THE definitive year for ’80s music. With hits like Prince’s “Purple Rain,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” it’s not hard to argue that the music of 1984 has endured.

What is the quintessential ’80s band? It’s subjective, of course, but Stephen Davis makes the case that it’s Duran Duran. In Please Please Tell Me Now, Davis interviews the band whose good looks captured the hearts of millions of ’80s kids around the world, and whose songs were often overshadowed by their music videos (remember Rio and Wild Boys?)

Want more? Check out our Totally ’80s list of eBooks and eAudiobooks and immerse yourself in the best and worst of a decade to remember.

~posted by Frank



2 thoughts on “To the Max: ’80s Music in Books”

  1. As a 70s metal-head the 1980s were a mixed bag for me: while Zepp was dead, Rush was moving into synths, and Aerosmith was blowing up and re-forming, there were some bright spots in the Hair/Glam metal and Arena rock areas. Metallica and Judas Priest kept the hard-core alive, but bands like Motley Crue, Def Leppard, and the Scorpions were hitting their stride.

    Jazz sure had a good decade, though, pushing further into mixes of fusion-, funk-, and acid-jazz.

  2. The 1980’s was my teenagedom so I love a lot of 80’s music. Music videos of 80’s are fab to watch and laugh at – what a wonderful (!) era for fashion, the bigger the hair the better. I was into power ballads, it was the era of confident female singers and hot boy bands in exotic locations (think Duran Duran on boats, etc!). True, a lot was also rubbish – guess that’s true of all time – not everyone has the same taste – there were probably girls in the 50’s who though Elvis too smooth and preferred a bad boy!

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