Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reeling In The Years: 1979

by Sam Pegley

1979: Rubbish is piling up in the streets, hospital entrances are being picketed, gravediggers are on strike, there are power cuts, fuel shortages, cuts in public services and sharp rises in unemployment. Add to this a brooding anxiety about the Cold War, heightened in December by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and you get the impression that Britain was a fairly grim place to be.

It was against this backdrop that the songs on this playlist were written and in their own way, capture the mood of the time. There is apocalyptic imagery (The Clash), commentary on the violence in Northern Ireland (Gang of Four), pre-new man blokiness (Squeeze) and The Specials, who were actively confronting racism and raising awareness of the dangers of the National Front.

Musically, 1979 was a time of innovation and experimentation following the landscape clearing of punk (though Buzzcocks proved that there was still life in the catchy three chord thrash). The mysterious Unknown Pleasures, with its vast space and eerie clicks and whirrs was released in July, while the year also saw a glimpse of the synth-driven 1980s via the cold futurism of Gary Numan and OMD. Wire released third album 154, and The Cure continued their early run of spiky pop singles before moving off into a grey, bleak period culminating in 1982's unremitting Pornography.

As with any year, it's impossible to sum everything up in one playlist, and these songs are only a fraction of what was happening at the time. You could choose plenty more obscure songs, and certainly plenty from other genres, but this I think is a pretty good representation of (at least part of) 1979.

The Clash - London Calling
Gang Of Four - Ether
Joy Division - Disorder
The Specials - Gangsters
The Cure - Jumping Someone Else's Train
Buzzcocks - Harmony In My Head
Gary Numan - Cars
OMD - Electricity
Squeeze - Cool For Cats
Wire - I Should Have Known Better

Master list

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