The 80s were a dark time for rock, what with hair metal and the extremism of a lot of hard core and so much poppy hit mongering by everyone else. Nena released her album early in the year. Metallica fired Dave Mustaine. Thin Lizzy was done with Phil Linott. There was Flashdance and Men At Work. Punch the Clock was Elvis Costello’s album, which epitomized the slough of despond. Bob Dylan’s Infidels flooded it. This was a year of soft hits, UB40 broke big, and forgettable late albums by punk bands trying to find a new way. Oh, and Joe Strummer fired Mick Jones. Dark.
The big moment in music in 1983 came when Marvin Gaye sang the National Anthem at the NBA All Star Game. But that’s a clip for another day.
I was thinking about what I was listening to in the time My Struggle: Book 1
takes place. Karl Ove is big on Echo and the Bunnymen, but I was not. A record I listened to a lot was by the Scottish band Aztec Camera. Roddy Frame, the lead guitarist and singer, could play, and he wrote at least an album’s worth of good songs. This was the hit, though I don’t think it had much presence in the states.
Hate to burden the night music listeners with additional tracks, but reading some stuff about Frame and Aztec Camera (on Wikipedia) revealed two facts: He used a different guitar on every song on Hard Land, Hard Rain. And, on the song Orchid Girl, a very nicely crafted song on a grand cliche, he tried to merge the style of the jazz guitar great Wes Montgomery with that of Joe Strummer. That’s a worthy project. How’d he do?
I would say that he’s great with words, ideas? Well, he’s a really good guitarist. It all works on Oblivious, which should be remembered.
Oblivious has a Beatles feel in the acoustic guitars and the backup vocals, quite nice. In Orchid Girl I can hear the Wes Montgomery but not the Joe Strummer.
I was thinking the Strummer was what sounds like a failed attempt at unjaundiced look at the downtrodden. And then there is this duet with Mick Jones (no Wes Montgomery here):
Got it. I did hear the word “democracy” in there somewhere, and no doubt it sounds anthemic. I like my musical politics vague. Even better when they are vague and sad:
I’ve been a longtime fan of Frame’s – his High Land album came when nobody else outside the Smith’s were using guitars like that. He’s always said that Highlands never hindered him and while he lost his commercial mojo he has done what he’s wanted to do. His new album Seven Dials seems to be an older Frame talking to the one who made Highlands. I was buying some groceries the other day when Walk Out to Winter started blaring in the dairy section.
That’s a good grocery.