Wednesday, March 10, 2010

1979: Moving In Stereo

The Cars: Moving In Stereo


I remember the music of 1979 vividly. I turned 19 at the end of that year. I think the years 18 to 25 are the most important in the development of a person’s musical taste. In 1979, I was working at my first job, and I had money to spend on albums. I also entered college at the end of that year, and my influences expanded accordingly.

So I remember 1979 as the year the music turned strange. The examples that have been posted so far mostly bear me out. But it is probably hard for our younger readers, (perhaps even our younger contributors!), to realize just what a break this music was from everything that had gone before.

My favorite example is the album The Cars released that year, Candy-O. Here was a band that had burst upon the scene only the year before with a pop-rock hit that included Just What I Needed and other hits. The Cars were immediately labeled a new wave band, but really that first album was fairly safe. But Candy-O was another matter. The music acquired a darkness that was new. You can hear it in the way Ric Ocasek approaches his lead vocals, as well as in the instrumental settings. The pop sheen of the previous album is gone, replaced by a sense of menace.

For many bands in 1979, this approach worked well. But The Cars were on a major label, and had an audience that expected something else entirely. So Candy-O was the only Cars album that sounded like this. I don’t think this was simply a bid to capture the new audience for new wave, however. Candy-O, and Moving In Stereo in particular, sound to me like a young band stretching their wings and seeing how far they could fly. For The Cars, the answer was, “not this far.” It’s too bad.

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