Vintage Musicians #2: Casualties of the 80s

Some musical acts from the 1970s transitioned nicely into the 1980s - Hall & Oates, Aerosmith and Prince found their niche in this new decade and flourished. Others... well, let's just say things didn't work out too well.

For example, if you were in a stanky booger nosed funk band, you had a choice: get Caucasian or die. The Ohio Players died, meanwhile the once-funky Kool & the Gang took a page from the Lionel Richie playbook and hung in there.

Hush Puppy wearin' 70s guys like Seals & Crofts and Gordon Lightfoot were ancient history- not glossy and synthetic enough. However ex-hippies like Steve Winwood rolled with the changes and were successful.

And now, disco was dead and new wave was in... so what's a band like The Village People to do? Answer: Try to fit into the New Romantic movement in such a way that twenty-five years later people are still laughing at them.

Some bands just completely chunked their former image (and credibility). One of the worst transitions had to be Grace Slick. How in the hell did she go from "White Rabbit" to "We Built this City"?!?!

And how do you go from being The First Lady of Acid Rock...

...to this and still look in the mirror without crying uncontrollably?
Oh well, I guess that's just part of the music biz. You either stay in step with the times (no matter how awful they may be) or go bye-bye like The Ohio Players.

However, it still made me a bit sad to see a band like Heart get Wang Chunged. "These Dreams" was a far, far cry from the kick ass "Barracuda" (see previous post on the song), "Magic Man" and the incredible Zeppelin-esque "Love Alive".


  1. I have always been impressed with the groups that had longevity and have been successful for more than a decade. You made several great points in this post. It's a fine line between selling out and bombing and adapting to the times and trying to recreate a niche.

  2. And then there was the Stones who, outside of brief nods to psychedelia, disco and whatever the trend of any given year happened to be, just kept rolling (even though much of their post-1975 music is unlistenable to me!).

  3. It was like Pablo Cruise, The Commodores, KC & the Sunshine Band and the Bee Gees, etc. were wiped off the map and forgotten in one day. Fads change quickly, and you've got to hand it to those that can adapt. I think this may have been the secret to the Stones' longevity (i.e. Her Majasty's Satanic Request).

    Of course, sometimes it's better to just admit defeat than look like a fool. I for one am glad I never had to witness Steely Dan try to sound like A Flock of Seagulls.

  4. Hey Gil. I am intrigued by why some artists stick around successfully and others fade into history. I think it's got to be a balance in what you do to stay relevant. Many others basically sell out and/or change their identity all together to fit in. You've got to find a way to adapt and be timely without being a joke. Cheers!

  5. I just heard "These Dreams" on the radio last night and I thought of your post a few days ago on Heart. "These Dreams" is such a nightmare.

    I wonder if the difference is adapting to the times or being in tune to the times. Those "in tune" can make a seamless high-quality change, while most are caught off guard and try to play catch up.

  6. I think it might be a little more complicated than that. We are talking about the music industry, where being successful has to do with more than talent.

    Still, being "in tune" as Retro Hound said plays a big part, some of these groups were pushed by their companies where other were left to be forgotten.

  7. I'm sure the greedy bastards at the record company share in the communal guilt - but no record exec forced Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas into those outfits. Somehow I can't see Joplin and Gram Parsons striking that same pose. ...And what's with the one red boot?

  8. Grace Slick's decline is a tragedy of near-epic proportion. "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" are true classics, showcases of her vocal power. Not only did she lose her cool and her wardrobe, but her voice went in the tank too. Sad.

    And btw, NO THANKS for posting that terrifying Village People LP cover! You'll give me nightmares, Gilligan!

  9. AnonymousJuly 30, 2009

    "We Bulit This City" was voted the WORST #1 song of all time by Blender Magazine in April, 2004.

    Need I say more?

    Personally, I'm glad Barry Manilow didn't make it into the 1980s.