The Bridge: Genre vs. Generation, ’80s to ’10s

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S1: Hey everybody this is Chris McCarthy host of Hit Parade Slate’s podcast of pop chart history. Welcome to the bridge.

S2: That’s limited by The Cure a deep cut on the UK goth rock bands 1983 album Japanese whispers an E.P. called from that LP was the cure’s first album to chart in America. This song is just one of the many dark foreboding tracks the cure were recording in this period in the song cure singer and songwriter Robert Smith sings mournfully about a tragedy he witnessed underneath a bridge.

S3: And these mini episodes bridge are full length monthly episodes give us a chance to catch up with listeners and enjoy some hit parade trivia this month. I’m thrilled and honored to welcome a guest who’s not only a longtime friend but an estimable writer and critic. I first encountered Ned ragged when he was a freelancer on all music where he has written literally hundreds of reviews including much of the UK post punk I cover in the latest full length Hit Parade episode. Ned writes for numerous places including the quiet US band camp and KQED arts. Ned welcome to the bridge. All right.

S4: Hey. Great to be here. Thanks very much for having me.

S5: Thank you. You know we had a funny conversation. I can remember if it was September or October when you were saying Hey is anybody going to do something about the fact that 30 years ago right about now all of these UK post punk and goth rock acts were scoring hits on the charts. Maybe somebody should do something about that. I pinged you privately and I said Just don’t tell anybody I’m totally doing something with that. So where do I begin. Where did your fandom for this music come from.

S4: Well that’s an interesting question because even though I have I claim no great authority. But even though I still have people to this day for instance have told me that oh wow you’re all music review of the Joy Division gnomes got me into the band and I’m like Oh thank you is that I was hardly an early fan of them or new order or any of the other bands really discussed. And it really wasn’t until 88 89 that it fully sunk in with me and I had only encountered them beforehand because they started scoring pop hits.

S6: The is just like heaven. Good example. The. Sees. First time I ever heard them on the radio was that song when it got some airplay Love and Rockets. No new tale to tell. SAGAL. Towns. In town.

S7: Now. Sam. MTV airplay Top 40 airplay. And it was backtracking from there in 89 especially the first part of 89 and this was after I’d gone to college at UCLA then I really started to get a sense of oh OK there’s some history here. And here are some bands that I missed. I was too young or just too unaware at the time. And I started backtracking from there.

S8: Yeah you know one of the reasons I was so excited to have you on this episode besides the fact that I knew that you have fandom and now quite deep knowledge about these bands is that your journey was very similar to mine and in the episode as you heard the full length episode that I just put out I really tried to take listeners including British listeners who have tweeted at me and commented on the show about the journey that American listeners went on with these bands because yes they had to break on the British charts you know back in the late 70s slash early 80s but it really took the entirety of a decade for these bands to become hit makers in America.

S4: Oh yeah. I mean here’s a good example in terms of let’s say pop culture at work and where some of these bands already had cachet in the show The Young Ones the famed early 80s British company.

S9: Yes. Yeah I hear that laugh. We we all have memories of we are of that age. I’m picturing Vivian and Neil and Mike right now. Yeah the show which ended up where we broadcast over here on of course MTV later in the 80s. There’s a joke at one point that one of the characters makes in one of the episodes when they’re under the weather and says Oh I hope so-and-so comes back with the cure.

S4: And the response from the other characters. Oh no the cure is going to be next week it’s you know it’s in. I think it was madness that week. I. Was back with a. Now. So the idea that in a Middle East you know more Coletti but still Brit BBC comedy show you could just throw it a casual reference to the writer in this episode from 84 and have it be generally understood at least by the younger audience that was watching that right there is kind of a sign about the cachet that certain bands already had in in play right.

S8: Whereas you could have mentioned the cure on a television program in 1984 in America and it would have just prompted shrugs. I mean it would it wouldn’t have happened. Bottom line. So of course one thing I struggled with that you heard openly in the first like 10 minutes of the episode was what to call this music because there’s a little bit of a you know Supreme Court on pornography I know it when I see it that you know and no pun on the word pornography right now because of that of course a secure album. But you know I know that these bands all go together. Admittedly some of our British friends who were commenting the episode mostly saying very nice things said you know I consider new order to be way more dancey than the cure. And I’m not sure I consider the Smiths to be of a piece with Depeche Mode because you’re literally talking about one band Depeche Mode that plays virtually all synthesizers in one band that literally eschewed synthesizers avoided synthesizers. So yet I think especially to American ears these bands all go together. What would you call them. And did you feel at the time that they were all of a piece with each other.

S4: I don’t know if I knew of the terms at the time and in German what I would call them now. You can’t wrong God it just too. It’s limiting. It’s too broad a term I suppose. I mean I don’t know or maybe too limiting a term.

S9: Ironically it’s one of those things that it’s sort of because there is an emphasis on melancholia or you know you sort of people look at it through those lens but again musically there’s very little connection there’s very little connection in terms of where they’re from in the country. Manchester is not the suburbs of London which is where her which is where the cure comes from. And and similarly Northampton which is where a bathhouse comes from completely different in turn.

S4: So you’ve got this reductive effect and it’s not that far removed really from you could see the original British invasion or the second British Invasion of the early 80s where all these bands from all these different eras get lumped together right. They just happen to be successful at the same time right. But there was never an easy catch all term for them all and it’s hard to say it’s more a generational marking point that people will come up with the terms as they do I know you and I have exchanged terms like the Holy Trinity or the Holy quartet because of the certain key bands that seem to be you know the above all else. But it’s really hard to get a beat on in many different ways.

S8: Yeah. I like your analogy of the first British invasion in the 60s literally if you boil it down to the two main bands the Beatles and The Stones Beatles are a provincial band from Liverpool the stones are basically centred around London like they don’t have much in common except the moment when they came up. So yeah that’s a really great point where it’s generational more than it is you know strictly musical even though there’s clear sonic hallmarks across these bands so that that’s a terrific analogy. So the the killer of this episode for me was knowing what to include and what to leave out. And so I guess what were the roads not taken in this episode did. Could I have included more Susie in the Banshees I frankly felt like I could have given them a little more play. Did we have too much Morrissey. We should probably talk about where Morrissey has been in the last 25 to 30 years. Some people are canceling Morrissey. So what did you feel were the holes or the gaps in this story.

S9: Well I mean you know part of it certainly can be retrospective. But to give some people their credit you and I have personal friends who pretty much even more so you started making statements particularly in the late 80s musically and otherwise was like That’s it I’m out. So you know there are people who are already pulling the ripcord and famously the first time I ever heard of the band corner shop great band was when they appeared in the music press in 1992 burning a Morrissey poster in front of EMI s headquarters I think. Was there something like that because of a couple of his then recent solo songs that they took understandable exception to.

S4: So you know you could say he’s always been cancelled by some but it’s sort of reached a tipping point. You kind of have to include the band because of the marker they laid down. I mean I think for a lot of people the preferred member of the band to this point is easily Johnny Marr is sort of come into his own in recent years.

S10: He has been touring and performing Smiths songs along with his own solo tracks. And it turns out he has a wonderful singing voice. So it’s a lot of people said it’s a great way to enjoy the old Smiths songs and not have to think about the guy originally sang them. He thought let’s look at it. So you can’t leave. You can’t leave him out. So. And the impact was so huge. You almost have to kind of acknowledge it.

S4: As for Susie yes and no because the great thing about Susie is that in this is something I told her after I interviewed her once when her solo album came out. We wrapped up the interview and I said and thanks for you you’ve been really great. And by the way I just want to let you know I wanted to make sure I did this entire interview without once mentioning the word Goth. And her response was this deep. Thank you. You know she’s she’s kind of sick of the association. I think it’ll all this time.

S8: That’s amazing. I you know you make a very good point that in a way it’s almost the audience that applies a term like goth and you know either in the moment or even retroactively. And and you know the stories are legion about bands that don’t want to be tagged with the exact thing they’re tagged with whether it’s you know grunge or emo in the 2000s. The minute somebody comes up with a catch all term the artists are trying to scurry away from it almost immediate right. I’m not at all surprised that Susie does not want to be overly associated with goth persay even though like bands like The Cure like Backhouse at the time she embodied that aesthetic to whatever extent it’s the people who draw on them and created the subculture after that sort of creates the subculture they are just sort of like you know Susie essentially is a fantastic art pop slash art rock performer.

S10: That’s what she is. And then things get applied to the past. All right.

S3: Here we are in the late 2010s the very end of the 2010s the cure are still touring off and on Marcy is still out there being his obnoxious self.

S8: What’s what’s the legacy of these bands and as long as I’ve got you speculating a little bit. Do you think this is the year Depeche Mode gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since they’re on the ballot again.

S9: I would love it too. I certainly voted for them. I think it’s inevitable. I think that we’re we’re within a lease you just you know no more than another couple of years that there’s finally a tipping point. I think it’s just generational change I think enough people are going in they’re going look come on and there they’ve just been too big a band.

S4: And in terms of where it goes from there I mean it both at passion the cure who have long had a very much strong mutual appreciation society going pretty much almost from the get go. I think it’s telling that those two are you could say the great survivors the ones who can play the big venues have the special events and tours things like that very notably. And even though New Order is sort of you know permanently fracture now that Peter Hook looks like he’s you never ever going to come back. You know they maintain their own audience as well. It’s one of those things that as time has gone on younger generations I think very understandably find their own locus points a really good example can be the fact that speaking of reunions the My Chemical Romance reunion was announced and you had a whole generation of people younger than us just losing their minds.

S11: Over that one. They were thrilled. Diane it’s you. All you have to do is like look especially at a you know mid 2000s NCR Winder we still have the hair fully youthful fully teased up it’s like that yeah.

S8: Robert Smith come on and he’ll cop to it. I mean you know he’s he owns up to you know his his influences so yeah. Now as I said at the end of the episode I really think you can you can see the legacy both visually and melodically musically in a lot of these bands. And like you I’m certainly hoping that this is Depeche Mode here. I’ll be voting for them. You know I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe I shouldn’t have been that the cure got in on this. I believe it was their second time on the ballot this year. And just so delighted that they got in. So you know maybe our generation is reaching a point where you know we have the the legacy and the influence that a band like Depeche Mode could get into the Rock and Roll Hall.

S10: The numbers are there. The impulse is there and I think they’re just simply gonna put this. I think there are less people now who basically look at something like depression go look synthesizers that’s not real music. And you know if you’re out there and you’re listening to that you still think that way bless your heart that’s all.

S5: Now it’s time in Hit Parade the bridge where we do some trivia. And joining us on the line from the D.C. area is Amanda. Amanda are you there. I am. Hi Chris. You’ve also got my guest this month a gentleman named Ned ragged on the line Ned can you hear us as well.

S10: Yes I can. How do you do Amanda. How are you.

S12: I’m great. I’m really happy to talk to you today.

S5: Now I understand that you discovered hit parade in a very specific way when you were at work.

S13: I was I I work in politics and last year I was working on a congressional campaign in New Jersey and had about an hour long commute in both directions each day. And I discovered Hit Parade basically right at the beginning of that endeavor and sort of binged all of the episodes every morning and every evening and it kept me alert and awake on that hour long commute after very long days on on a campaign.

S5: Well I’m touched to hear that it kept you awake. I’ve definitely gotten the odd comment from people who said oh it’s so lowing and soothing it helps me go to sleep so the fact that it was keeping you awake I take as a compliment. Thank you.

S12: It was it was nice to indulge in some music history rather than all of the politics that I was engaging in all day long.

S5: Oh I can imagine. Let me also ask and I think I know the answer to this question but are you asleep plus member. I am a Slate Plus member about how long have you been asleep plus remember I think it’s about two years now. Fantastic. Well of course this is the moment when I remind folks that while this bridge episode is available to all hit parade subscribers we only open our trivia rounds to Slate Plus members. So if you are a member and would like to be a trivia contestant visit Slate dot com slash Hit Parade sign up. That’s Slate dot com slash hit parade. Sign up. So Amanda I’m pretty sure you know how this works but briefly I’m going to ask you three trivia questions. The first will be a callback to the most recent episode of Hit Parade and the next two will be a preview of the next full length episode of hit parade. And then at the end you’re going to get a chance to turn the tables and ask me a trivia question. Are you ready for some trivia.

S12: I am. I’m a little nervous. My man Kuni father will disown me if I get this first one.

S13: Mm hmm.

S3: Holy cow. Okay well here we go. Let’s let’s see how this turns out. Question 1 last month I discussed the slow emergence of U.K. post punk bands as U.S. hit makers. The Cure in particular took about a decade to score their first Top 40 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 watt Cure song barely qualified by peaking at number 40 a Let’s go to bed B in between days see just like heaven or d love song.

S14: I believe it is C just like heaven.

S2: And that is correct. The correct answer is C just like heaven. The second single from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me scraped the top 40. The first week of January 1988. For the record let’s go to bed bubbled under the hot 100 at Number 1 0 9 in 1983. In between days spent a single week on the chart at number 99. In early 86 and of course love song was a number to smash in 1989.

S3: Fantastic one for one. And now we’re gonna do our preview questions are you ready for the next. Yes I am. All right here we go. Question 2. We are less than two months away from the end of the 2010s from January of 2010 through October of 2019. Which of these recording artists including their featured performances has scored the most number one hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. A Bruno Mars B.

S14: Rihanna see Katy Perry or D. Drake I’m going to go with Rihanna.

S15: And that is also correct. The correct answer is Rihanna.

S16: She has had nine number one hits this decade including her featured performances on two Eminem singles. For the record Katy Perry has generated eight number ones this decade. Bruno Mars has seven and Drake six.

S10: All thrown quickly at this point. My and my firm belief that Rihanna tying in the theme the earlier episode discussion is very much a good goth artist of the 2010s in many ways. You can’t call exactly call her music goth but in terms of inspiration aesthetic how she presents herself. There’s a definite through line that emphasizes the darker side and that I think is been to her benefit both musically and both. And with her makeup and fashion lines do.

S5: That is a great point. Thank you for tying together the 2010s and the goth hugely appreciate that. All right. So two for two let’s try and make it three for three. Here we go. Let’s do it.

S3: Question three famously Old Town Road by little Nas ex spent 19 weeks at number one this year beating a 23 year old record for most weeks at number one. But what other song this decade almost beat that record and is tied for the second most weeks on top. Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars Uptown Funk be the chain smokers featuring Halsey closer see Ed Sheeran shape of you or D.

S12: Lewis Fonzie and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber despots CTO just purely based on the fact that I think it played or truly forever. I’m going to go with desktop Ito.

S15: And you have run the table that is absolutely correct. Despot CTO let’s say I do this by CTO. I can get close.

S17: I can get it make when it’s spent its 16th week at number one.

S18: Lewis fancy and Daddy Yankee’s bilingual kit with Justin Bieber tied to the record set in 1996 by Mariah Carey and Boyz two men’s One Sweet Day. That record was broken this year by little Nas ex for the record Uptown Funk spent 14 weeks on top and closer and cheap of you 12 a piece.

S5: That was spectacular. My gosh three four three well done. Amanda you must be very proud.

S12: I am. I think the fact that I was in college for a good chunk of that period of time with those songs playing is probably helpful. No played on repeat it at college party.

S8: Yeah well so that doesn’t hurt a little first hand experience as Ned and I will say about the 1980s. Somalia goes a long way in a trivia question. I understand that you have a trivia question for me is that right.

S13: I do. Chris OK. Are you ready. Ready as I’ll ever be. All right. Drake was the artist who spent more weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other artist in the 2010s. Which of his songs held that spot for the longest. A God’s Plan B in my feelings. C One dance. Or D Nice For what.

S5: All right I can eliminate nice for what straight away because I’m pretty sure that it cycled in and out pretty quickly. If my memory is correct I think improbably it was none of the twenty eighteen number one hits and it was actually the 2016 number one hit which was one dance. So I’m gonna go with that.

S19: That is incorrect. And the answer is a god’s plan at eleven weeks at number one.

S20: It is devastated as it is in my feelings in one dance are tied for second at 10 weeks.

S5: My goodness how the mighty have fallen. Well you us you ran the table on my trivia questions. I blew a trivia question I absolutely should have gotten and you have stumped the band so nice job Amanda. Well done.

S12: Thank you very much. I feel very accomplished now as well you should.

S8: I would like to thank you very much for joining us on Hit Parade the bridge.

S12: Thank you so much Chris.

S8: So as our last two questions of the trivia round indicated the next episode of Hit Parade will be about the decade of the Ten’s The Decade That is about to end. As I record this episode in early November 2019 it should be an interesting bird’s eye view of a decade that we probably didn’t think too much about until it was almost over and now we may have enough perspective to figure out what the 2010s was about musically and where it fits in with the last 50 to 60 years of pop rock and R and B in hip hop history. My thanks to Ned ragged for joining me for this episode of The Bridge Ned. Tell us where folks can find you online. And it’s not just at the usual social media sites you’re kind of all over.

S6: Oh I just do a few things here and there. Well just to say where to find me probably the easiest thing is Twitter. It can be found out my name Ned ragged that’s spilled are a g g e t t. I also do have a patron that I’ve recently started. This is too. Can continue some various writing projects revive some other ones and things like that on a variety of subjects. A lot of them have been oddly enough sort of Gothic UK related lately but not solely that trust me. Anyway that can be found at patron dot com slash Ned ragged again my name but the final thing I just throw out there if you’d like to know what else I get up to is my own podcast which is not a musical podcast with my friends Oriana Chouinard and Jared Pickard chick. We have a podcast on the megaphone not F.M. network called by the Bywater and it’s all about Jarrah token everything with Middle Earth and beyond. We record monthly. We just recorded our latest episode yesterday and it should be out around the time this episode is out. So if you have an interest in that please do give a listen. Really appreciate it.

S18: Fantastic. Thanks so much Ned. This episode of Hit Parade the bridge was produced by OSHA’s solution. And I’m Chris M.A.. Keep on marching on the 1.