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The Kids in America - 1981

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

Banzai Retro Club's latest podcast with me and Scott, "Best New Wave Albums, 1979 - 1989." Listen to Episode #77: 1981:

A transformative moment from 1981: Adam Ant in a role-reversing, half-drag version of Cinderella. "Prince Charming."

So, 1981…. We’re really building up to something here.

This was a year when U2 had an album. The Police had an album. The Cure had an album. Depeche Mode spit one out. So did Bow Wow Wow, Duran Duran, and The Cars.

All at the same time.


Others who cranked out an amazing piece of vinyl that year: Adam and the Ants, The Stray Cats, The Eurythmics, Squeeze, Madness, The Ramones, The Go Go's, The Tom Tom Club…

This was all happening simultaneously. It confirms that it wasn’t my imagination: Our generation was in the midst of a keen outburst of talent, young people who were pouring their hearts out in the studio year upon year, producing ridiculously fabulous feats of music, back to back. So much that you could barely get your head around it while it was happening.

This ability to review the decade—or even a single year—as a whole provides a perspective that we weren’t privy to as we were living it. We adolescents just bopped from club to club trying to find the best tunes to dance to. We haunted record stores for that elusive extended play “EP” or bootleg three-song recording from Europe that didn’t appear on the regular album, or hadn’t been released on this side of the pond yet. And when we found that little snippet of musical gold, we felt special. We were the elite, the envied.

That’s what music was like once the eighties began to unfold. Songs were mysterious and rare; underground bands were a “find.” We were the Kids in America, and we hunted for our music. We earned it.

And because mainstream radio hadn’t caught up yet and the guys and gals at MTV were still unpacking their office furniture, a phenomenon took hold where some of the songs from 1981 weren’t heard by a wide US audience until years later. The decade took some time to season. So my memories of many of these albums, from Killing Joke and Gang of Four to UB40, are from more like 1983 or ’84.

Listen to our discussion on 1981. We had the beat, all right.

Or catch up on the rest of the podcast series. It's on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Podbean and podcasts.

Best New Wave Albums, Year By Year:

1980: Banzai Retro Club, Episode #74

1979: Banzai Retro Club, Episode #71

Best New Wave Songs of the '80s: Banzai Retro Club, Episode 67 (Currently the club's 2nd most-downloaded podcast)

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