David Laurie: Dare

Read how anything went as the early 80s rebooted the rulebook.

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Lengthily subtitled How Bowie And Kraftwerk Inspired The Death Of Rock’n’Roll And Invented Modern Pop Music, Dare is not an ashes-to-ashes post-mortem but a nostalgic celebration. Recalling the years 1979-1982, it psalms the early 80s’ gleeful glide into synthesisers, electronica and flamboyant creative weirdness.

Bog standard rock (for a while) became passé, and everyone embraced the new gold dream. In its initial blooming, the decade’s pop shimmer wasn’t as shallow as frothy documentaries would suggest. Japan’s Ghosts remains perhaps the unlikeliest and most beautiful top five hit in UK history, and bands like ABC, Human League, Soft Cell and Simple Minds found the sweet spot between substance and spectacle. What’s this got to do with prog, you may well ask? Well, the book eulogises all-comers, acknowledging the era’s contrasts. Tears For Fears, Talk Talk, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush engaged with this wave of hope and experimentation, both technologically and in Eden-esque spirit. Equal stature is granted here to Blondie and to Echo & The Bunnymen; to Trevor Horn or the giants of goth. Can, Kraftwerk, and Neu all feature too. The author recalls, as a young and receptive music fan, falling in love with the thrill of it all. There is little room for snobbery here, just an eager quest for epiphany. (Though, it must be said, Laurie’s concept of prog is somewhat obtuse). Other books focus on a similar period: Andy Beckett’s Promised You A Miracle offers socio-political depth and Jonathan Bernstein’s US-centric Mad World interviews its stars. But Laurie’s fan-boy glee makes for a colourful and carnivalesque memoir, pooh-poohing the myth that heritage rock is the only gig in town. The photos and record sleeves alone prompt a Proustian rush. The dawn of the 80s gave a more vital shot in the arm to popular music than the sainted (and chronically limited) punk era, and the era merits this perky personal tribute.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.