Oh, I read somewhere that the Swans are coming to New Zealand next March. I think there are people on here who might be interested in that. Me, not so much. Also, they look miserable in those pictures.
Whatever happened to Alternative Nation? (courtesy of thatgirljj who posted it this morning). It's part of a series and I'm bookmarking it, and will probably go back through the archive when I don't have to write an essay any more. It's long, but worth a read - it explores the explosion of grunge in the context of the time, and the 1991 one is an insightful compare/contrast between Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose.
The thing that struck me as I was reading it is the contextual nature of it - to me, Axl Rose had been around a really long time by the time Kurt Cobain came onto the scene so I found it hard to compare them. I don't see them as operating in the same field in that to me, GnR were pretty much over by the time Nirvana stepped up. I'd seen GnR live in 1988 and been disappointed - mostly because the 20 minute drum solo made up 1/3 of their show and it seemed to me that they just couldn't be arsed - maybe having no competition in the late 80s made them jaded? And I never really got interested in Nirvana - in the early 90s I was listening to Pink Floyd and Melissa Etheridge and Nirvana was what the smelly teenage boys (who I was close enough to in age to not want to be associated with) were into.
Anyway, it got me to thinking about when Axl Rose was up and coming, so I went and looked and was surprised to find that Appetite For Destruction wasn't released until 1987 when I was 17. For some reason I thought they'd been around longer than that. Sadly, they released two good albums one after the other (one in 87 and the other in 88), then their next offering, IMO, was overmastered, trite and wanky, at the same time that Nirvana released Nevermind. So I can kind of see how the rivalry was set up, but I think the comparison is a little unfair because the timing is a bit off.
I do wonder, though, if GnR had released Appetite For Destruction in 1991, what would have happened? I do believe that as about the only act that did anything rebellious in the late 80s (that actually got famous for it), GnR paved the way for grunge to be successful. And that got me thinking about my musical formative years, which were 1984-87. Who did what then? I thought about this and tried to come up with artists whose music had influence at that time, who had a big impact on music.
Confession time: I was into Duran Duran. They played bubblegum pop and were pretty and well marketed with minimal talent - they mastered the art of video earlier than a lot of other acts and thus wee teenage girls got to perv on them which took the edge off Simon LeBon's painfully nasal and vibrato-free screechings. They also didn't really influence music much, except to make those of us who were into them painfully embarrassed about 80s music for a really long time.
So, who was influential? Here's my list: Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Cure, New Order, U2. I'm sure other people can think of other bands of the 80s that were influential, but I'd just like to point out here that one of the factors I'm using for choosing is that I heard them a lot on the radio. I'm a girl from a small town (a locality, actually, a sheep-farming dot on the map) and did not have access to the magazines, record shops and cafes of city kids. What I heard was what got played on the radio. There was no internet. Radio With Pictures (local TV show about music) was NZ-indie focused and I found Karen Hay to be annoying and pretentious so I didn't watch it. So what I'm doing here isn't a retrospective, musically-knowledgeable account which acknowledges all factors, it's a one-eyed view of what music was from someone whose life was influenced by it at the time. So if you weren't alive when this stuff was going on, I won't pooh-pooh your opinion, but I would venture to suggest that your perspective of the context I'm talking about may not be complete, and may very well be influenced by the construction of information as it's filtered down at a later date.
For example, U2 are generally not well liked in the circles I move in today, it's a bit of an embarrassing admission to say you like them, and most people agree that Bono is a bit of a dick. Consequently, their music and its influence has been kind of swept under the carpet. However, before U2 became So Last Decade, before Bono tried to tell Africa that he knew what was best for them better than they did, before Live Aid (yes, such a time existed), when War, October and Boy were released, that stuff hadn't happened yet. At that time they were a raw-sounding Christian band who sung about stuff we could all relate to (or wished we could) without ramming God down our throats, and their music spoke to the whole post-punk new romantic, proto-goth desire to be tragic. And when The Unforgettable Fire was released, two things happened: their mastering got good enough to get radio airtime and the world realised that Bono was hot (yes he was - you 25-year-old now-men don't get to tell me what 14-year-old 80s girls thought). Presto! Success. International Sex Symbol!
And later on, when LIVE came out as another Christian band, they used exactly the same formula of god-angst juxtaposition combined with raw passion and it still worked.
This is not that different from what happened with Nirvana and GnR, sans the god, you know?
In mid-80s New Zealand, Dave Dobbyn (then known as DDSmash) and Herbs wrested musical influence away from the whiny white-boy indie sound of Flying Nun and put politically-minded Pacific reggae at the forefront of what was considered to be the 'Kiwi music sound'. Later bands like Salmonella Dub, Katchafire, Rhombus, Fat Freddy's Drop, all have a sound influenced by these guys, even if they don't realise it. They have horn sections. I rest my case.
Anyway, this is getting long and I don't really really know where I'm going with it. I guess I'm not embarrassed to admit I formed my musical identity in the 80s any more. And, to make this interactive, I'd like to hear what bands you feel were influential at the time when you were forming your musical identity. TELLL MEEEEE!
 I'm also interested in what you liked about these bands, how they fit with the context of who you were at the time and how you think they've influenced what you listen to today.
Meanwhile, I think I'm getting better at essays. This time round, with a 1500 word cap, I only wrote 1850 for the first draft. I may have cheated by condensing about 500 words' worth into a table but hey, there's nothing in the rules says I can't do that. But yeah, cutting 350 words is heaps easier than cutting 1500 as I used to. I'm not sure if I'm writing better quality in the first draft or if I'm just getting lazy. I like to think the former...
PS Joel, can I have my prize now? x