80s was music’s greatest decade says Dylan Jones

Saturday: The 80s – Music’s Greatest Decade? With Dylan Jones; (BBC Two, 8.55pm)

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 5:00 pm

Shoulder pads, massive hair, glamour, gloss, outrageousness and money, money money.

Yes, all were present and correct in the 1980s, a decade that brought us yuppies and were dominated politically by Margaret Thatcher.

In the years since it ended, the era has been much-maligned by some, especially music fans who claim we’re better off skipping over its tunes. However, Dylan Jones is going to try to change our minds on that score via a new series.

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Dylan Jones with Cookie Pryce and Susan'Suzie Q' Banfield

“Interminable television programmes still suggest the whole episode was nothing but a calamitous mistake, a cultural cul-de-sac full of rotten records by shameful individuals with orange skin and espadrilles,” he says. “I’m here to tell you this couldn’t be further off the mark.”

“I’m delighted that we’re going to dissect the impact and influence of the 1980s – an experimental period of time that divides opinions hugely,” adds Lorna Clarke, BBC Controller, Pop.

Jones was 20 when the 1980s began and a student at the Chelsea School of Art, so you imagine he was in exactly the right place to fully immerse himself in London’s club scene. After a spell at Saint Martin’s School of Art, where he studied graphic design, film and photography, he became a journalist, working on such stylish magazines as i-D and The Face.

In more recent years he has written biographies of iconic musicians Jim Morrison and David Bowie, as well as the semi-autobiographical tome The Eighties: One Day, One Decade; perhaps he will draw on some of its content in his TV musings.

Jones believes that despite its reputation, music in the 1980s was perhaps better and more inventive than it’s ever been. Okay, so it has its fair share of clunkers we’d all prefer to forget, but then so does every other decade. But sort through all that trash and you’ll find a lot of gems.

In each episode, he delves into the BBC archives and beyond, using footage and interviews to reveal the stunning range of creativity on view. The first sees him discuss the theory that rather than being defined by any one movement, the decade was a breeding ground for new genres and styles; he speaks to musicians and performers in an effort to prove his point.

Nile Rodgers – who is almost omnipresent on British TV these days – is among the contributors. During this period he was winding down his band Chic while working as a producer for some of the biggest stars around, including Diana Ross and the aforementioned David Bowie. Later in the decade he teamed up with Madonna, INXs, Grace Jones and Jeff Beck.

“The 1980s was the pinnacle for a lot of us musicians who had come from the 60s and the 70s,” claims Rodgers. “Reaching that place you had this great explosion of artistry in the 1980s that ran the gamut.”

Bananarama’s Keren Woodward adds: “You’d hear something and think, oh that’s Bananarama, that’s Culture Club, that’s Duran Duran – and everyone looked their own way as well.”

Future episodes focus on the influence of MTV, the birth of hip hop, the emergence of house music and the rise of those who rebelled against the decade’s ostentation.

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