I distinctly remember, around 1980 or so, desperately searching for some good music. Anything!
1980 was kind of a seminal year for me, because it was shortly after this time that I just finally GAVE UP on country music. I mean, gave up. I think Charley Pride did it. (Thanks, Charley!)
I remember house-sitting for my parents when they took their trip to Vegas. I had my four-year-old, and my two-year-old, and me just hanging around, kind of faux-housecleaning, and tuning the stupid console stereo to the country station, and longing...yes, LONGING for one, just ONE, decent country song.
I had gotten the Thorn Birds from the library, so that was a nice distraction, but something was still missing. And that missing piece was some decent country music.
You see, there was no such thing as DECENT country music in 1980.
You can look back now, and pinpoint some classic songs, but truthfully, if one is honest, it was all Crystal Gayle and Sylvia, and others. And this chart will point the way.
It was a sad, demoralizing time for country music.
I just scrolled through the chart, and I don't even recognize most of these songs. That's how bad it was.
Sure, I can pick out some good ones. But that really doesn't give you the flavor of 1980.
I would hate to be someone who charted in that year, because, well, if you were still doing concerts, you'd have approximately three people show up for your show, and two of them would have been dragged by their wives, just to keep peace in the family.
Country music in 1980 deserved what it got.
I wonder sometimes about cycles in popular music, and what causes them. Is it societal? Does the culture dictate what kind of music is created?
If we're feeling complacent, and not challenged, is the music complacent and unchallenging? The answer must be yes.
But what about music now?
One would think that the times we're living in would create angst and disharmony. Instead, it's blase. Maybe everyone has just given up.
In the sixties, everyone was ticked off. They were all mad about the war and about this and that, or at least they pretended to be mad, when they weren't prancing around with flowers in their hair. And look at the music of the sixties. It was great!
1980? I don't know. I'm thinking, we were at the tail end of that "long malaise" that the guy in the White House told us we were in. Way to buck everybody up, there, Jimmy! Such inspiring words!
And thus, the music on the radio was still malaise-ackal, as well. The music said, "Really, we just don't care. Don't listen to us ~ we're hideous! Just like the economy!"
Amazingly, after 1980, the music started looking up! Coincidence? I think not.
The nineteen eighties were really some of the best times country music has ever seen. If you don't believe me, check out these songs and artists.
So, maybe if things get better, the music will get better? There's always hope.
Like I said earlier, you can pick out the good songs from any year, even a crummy one. And that's what I'm going to do.
I don't feel like depressing myself, or you, and as you know, my motto is, music should be fun.
So, no Sylvia; no Crystal; no Charley Pride (sorry, Charley).
THE OAK RIDGE BOYS
MERLE HAGGARD Sorry about the re-route. I don't know what's up with that, but at least this video works!
One of the best country voices EVER ~ GENE WATSON
Sorry, no performance video available of this song, but I still feel it needs to be included:
It's becoming an unfortunate pattern that I am not finding performance videos of some of the best songs of 1980, but to leave them out would be unthinkable:
ROY ORBISON & EMMYLOU HARRIS
I honestly didn't even remember that this song charted on the country charts in 1980, because this isn't a country song. Is it? Yes, to me, it's an homage to Roy Orbison, so I guess, since Roy charted on the country charts, why not JD SOUTHER? Plus, I love this song! So, fine by me!
My son probably wouldn't admit it, but he was obsessed with this TV show in 1980. Remember, he was four.
So, we had to rush home on Friday nights (from Happy Joe's Pizza Parlor) to tune in to CBS to watch Bo and Luke. This was one of the worst shows I was ever forced to watch (ha!), but I did it for my kid.
By the way, my son, Chris, thought the sheriff's name was Roscoe PEE-Co-Train, when, in fact, it was Roscoe P. Coltraine. I'm sure he knows the difference now.
Here is WAYLON JENNINGS (at least here are his hands):
(Note to YouTube posters ~ you can "disable embedding by request" all you want. One can find ANYTHING on the internet. It wasn't hard, really. And by the way, who is requesting that you disable embedding? CBS? This show was 32 years ago, for God's sake! Do you (CBS) think someone is going to steal your "intellectual property"? C'mon).
So, here we are. The best songs from a bad, bad year in country music.
Yes, you think, well, these are pretty good! Sure! I cherry-picked them! Just check out my Wikipedia link to see all the bad ones! You know, ten songs, out of all the records released in a year, is a woefully bad percentage.
Just trust me on this ~ it was a bad year. I was there.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. Aren't you forgetting one, oh Sage?
No, I didn't forget it.
Here's the deal. When anybody says, "This is the best song EVER. The best song that mankind ever created", well, I kind of bristle at that. The truth is, there is no such thing as the best song ever. There could be a best song today. A best song that you like a whole lot, because you heard it on the radio when you were driving to work, and you forgot how much you liked it, but now you think you should get home and download it, because it's the best song EVER. At least, that's how you feel today. Tomorrow, there will be a new best song.
So, I like Bobby Braddock's and Curly Putman's writing a lot. They wrote a ton of classic country songs.
And this is a good song. No doubt. But is it the best country song ever? No.
Because there is no such thing.
But no, I'm not going to leave out GEORGE JONES.
So, eleven. Eleven good songs from 1980. And you could quibble about whether a couple of them are even country songs. That's a bad average.
I guess, though, you could take any year and dissect it, and find that there weren't a whole lot of good songs. But music is meant to be taken in its entirety. Our brains don't sort songs by year (leave that job to me ~ ha).
I do find it interesting, however, that when you take even a bad year like 1980, the usual suspects pop up ~ the classic artists ~ Merle, Gene, Emmylou, Ronnie, George, Roy (of course), Waylon. There aren't any one-hit wonders (and JD Souther, by the way, wrote some classic songs for the Eagles, so no, he's not a one-hit wonder, either).
The cream rises to the top. Even in 1980.