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 1986!
Peter Gabriel – “Sledgehammer”
Peter Gabriel did some weird and wonderful things with pop music. I mean, Japanese flute stitched over a soulful horn part by The Memphis Horns themselves? He’s kind of a Dr. Frankenstein. Only, audiences didn’t chase his monster, torch-and-pitchfork; they bought it up five times platinum in the States instead. Also, watch the music video. You will have a better day because of it.
Run-D.M.C. – “Walk This Way”
Run-D.M.C. had never heard of Aerosmith before Rick Rubin showed them Toys in the Attic. “Walk This Way” had massive crossover appeal. Maybe it was just time for rap to break in a commercial way. Maybe the rap rock format gave mainstream audiences a palatable introduction to hip hop. Either way, it was the first rap song to chart inside of Billboard’s Top 5. It even outperformed the original.
The Smiths – “Bigmouth Strikes Again”
Morrisey rails against his critics, and Marr whips through a few cool guitar parts, but it’s that rhythm section that guarantees the song will live on as an alt dance classic.
Big Black – “Kerosene”
“Kerosene” is a violent, menacing thing that lands somewhere between industrial and punk rock. That trashy drum machine, that clanking guitar, that bass that chugs like an idling engine — it’s an experiment in abrasiveness. All while Albini tells us a story about boredom, fucking, and setting shit on fire.
Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
I’m not one for golden age thinking, but consider this: in 1986 a Billboard Hot 100 chart topper asked listeners to think meaningfully about teenage pregnancy and abortion, and it was easy to dance to.