Some call this surreal television. Some call it the weirdest moment in entertainment. To me it’s just a perfect musical moment.
Tomorrow marks the 35th anniversary of the airing of the Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special. In 1977 glam rocker David Bowie appeared as a guest and sang a duet with Bing. The song was a medley of the new song “Peace On Earth” with the standard “Little Drummer Boy”.
Bing died a month after this was recorded, and a month prior to the airing of this TV special. Then the song was released as a single in 1982. Also that year, MTV added the clip to its rotation as a stand-alone video.
After decades of forgettable holiday TV specials and variety shows with duets with artists from varying genres, this one performance stands out from all others. At first you may think it’s due to how odd this pairing is: it’s the tiny point on the Venn Diagram where The Golden Age of Hollywood overlaps with Modern Rock. Shock value doesn’t hold it up for 35 years; two great voices do.
My Grandmother once told me the best year for music is, or was, whatever year you turned fourteen years old. She was not an expert on modern popular music or entertainment media or targeted market research. But she did know a lot about people (especially kids!).
I thought about this theory often while I was working in music promotion and radio programming. It seemed to be true across generations and decades for all demographics.
Recently I shared this notion with my colleague Dave Whalen, who is on my short list of smart dudes. Dave concurred with Grandma’s “Age 14” theory, so I’m pretty much now calling it law: The greatest year for music was whatever year you turned fourteen.
So, for me, the greatest year for music was 1982.
That’s right, 1982: The Crossroads between classic rock, pop, new wave, punk, and heavy metal. But remember, that’s just for me…your experience will vary…
Not About Michael Jackson
A quick note here – 1982 brought us the best-selling album of all time, Thriller. However, I am not, nor was I ever, a fan. The only part of it in which I find any value is the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo in Beat It (oh, and the Vincent Price voice-over bit in Thriller). But if you really want to catch some great Eddie work from ’82, see the Diver Down album on the list below.
The video music channel launched in August 1 1981, but it was 1982 where the number of homes in the US (including mine) with access to MTV exploded. And then, everything changed!
The best way to adequately explain how BIG 1982 was to Generation X is to list some of the albums of the year that were huge sellers, influential, or important milestones. See if you agree with me about 1982 and/or the “Age 14” rule…
Peter Gabriel – Security
The Clash – Combat Rock
XTC – English Settlement
The Jam – The Gift
Talking Heads – The Name of the Band Is…
Asia – Asia
Genesis – Three Sides Live
Men At Work – Business As Usual
Frank Zappa – Ship Arriving Too Late To Save the Drowning Witch
Sonic Youth – Sonic Youth
Split Enz – Time and Tide
Squeeze – Sweets From a Stranger
Madness – Complete Madness
INXS – Shabooh Soobah
The Fixx – Shuttered Room
Devo – Oh, No!
Men Without Hats – Rhythm of Youth
Thomas Dolby – Golden Age of Wireless
The Motels – All Four One
Dexys Midnight Runners – Too-Rye-Ay
Flock of Seagulls – Flock of Seagulls
Duran Duran – Rio
Go-Go’s – Vacation
Pat Benatar – Get Nervous
Adam Ant – Friend or Foe
Robert Plant – Pictures at Eleven
Pete Townsend – All The Best Cowboys
The Who – It’s Hard
The Beatles – Reel Music
Toto – IV
John Cougar – American Fool
Tom Petty – Long After Dark
Queen – Hot Space
Kansas – Vinyl Confessions
Rolling Stones – Still Life
Crosby Still & Nash – Daylight Again
Steve Miller – Abracadabra
Golden Earing – Cut
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
Phil Collins – Hello, I Must Be Going
Led Zeppelin – Coda
Scorpions – Blackout
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
Rainbow – Straight Between the Eyes
Ozzy Osbourne – Speak of the Devil
Sammy Hagar – 3 Lock Box
Van Halen – Diver Down
What great albums are missing on this list? Let me know via comments!