[feature] New Year’s Count-Up: 1979 in five songs

Three different genres get some pioneering acts.

- Dec 2, 2012

As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 1979!

The Police – “Don't Stand So Close To Me”

The Police - Message In A Bottle

Sting's solo work may be strictly dad music (yes, even “Desert Rose,” I don't care how many times it went platinum) but his work with The Police is still incredibly cool. Punk, reggae, ska and rock all came together for amazing tracks like “Message In A Bottle,” a smash hit in the States that helped make the band one of the most popular groups ever (yes, ever).

The Clash – “London Calling”

The Clash - London Calling

The artier, politically-fervent cousins of The Police, The Clash would become one of punk's crowning achievements. “London Calling” is a vibrant, harrowing picture of working class angst and oppression, a vital historical document that captures the concerns of a citizenry more reliably than a hundred newspapers. Punk doesn't get much more iconic than this song (except for maybe the album cover itself).

Joy Division – “Disorder”

Joy Division Disorder HQ

Few hallowed post-punk bands are so richly deserving of their accolades as Joy Division. The influence of their two albums Unknown Pleasures (which “Disorder” opens) and Closer was vast and almost immediate, with Joy Division flavored groups sprouting across the world from Brazil to Yugoslavia. And just a year after becoming post-punk's champion, lead singer Ian Curtis would become its martyr, killing himself at age 23.

Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper's Delight”

Sugarhill Gang - Rapper's Delight

For most scholars of hip-hop, “Rapper's Delight” marks the beginning of the genre's history. It turned the rapid, rhythmic vocal stylings of rap into a global phenomenon, sweeping the global charts on the backs of Le Chic's classic “Good Times” bassline and the fresh stylings of three New York MCs. Well, kind of. It's been rumoured but never proven that lyrics were stolen, while many others claim that the song was a sterilized version of New York's hip-hop culture.

Gary Numan – “Cars”

Kraftwerk may have pioneered the man-as-machine persona, but it was Gary Numan who predicted the paranoia of the digital age by making the image crueler, filled paradoxically with more of a personality and even less humanity, everything carefully constructed right down to his stage name ( Numan = New-man). “Cars” may have been his only hit, but his influence didn't end there: Numan paved the way for synth-pop and industrial music as we now know them. In fact, hip-hop sultan Afrikaa Bambaataa was acknowledged The Pleasure Principle's “Films” as being influential in the development of hip-hop.


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