1976-1984. For music listeners it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. Rock N’ Roll dinosaurs such as Led Zeppelin, The Kinks and The Who still roamed the earth for a time. Punk rock came and went (and in the 90’s would come again).
New wave music, bolstered by the second British Invasion, gave music an injection of hope and gladness. British Rock and Heavy Metal were setting both sides of the pond on fire. On the other end of the spectrum was disco, which burned bright at the beginning of the time period, and was put out by the end of it (thankfully).
Funk bands were plentiful and churning out classic singles and albums. Mega-stars like Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Van Halen, U2 and Bruce Springsteen put out some of their most seminal material as well during this period.
The ‘Yacht Rock’ Enigma
The other thing that was going on was a new insidious type of “smooth” music was also running parallel to all of the aforementioned noteworthy music. Incorporating elements of lite jazz, mellow rock and commercial jingle catchiness it was everywhere. With its dulcet, oftentimes bland tones and its inescapable ability to dull the senses, a sub-genre of Lite FM and sappy Top 40 pop music called ‘Yacht Rock’ came to be known to one-and-all.
While some of it was actually of pretty high quality (Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, The Doobie Bros., the Eagles), some of it was so lightweight and insipid that it survives on as some kind of low-level running joke that children of the 1980’s who were held hostage in their parents cars have trauma-bonded with other kids of the era to form a kind of nostalgia that inexplicably subjugates and captivates them.
When the show was decided on by listener suggestion (thank you Geoff Price), Randy W. Hall thought it would be fun to look at a subgenre of music that he has favorites from, but all-in-all thought it to be a harmless, maybe even fun exercise and a good reason to talk about your Michael McDonald’s, Kenny Loggins and Hall & Oates in a mildly celebratory setting.
Dan Says No
Dan Minard went deeper still. He analyzed the soul-sucking, masculinity-stripping lyrics and called it as he saw it. ‘Yacht Rock’ wasn’t the light-hearted soundtrack of rich yuppies with cocaine ponytails and too much money to burn. It was a way for men to supplicate to women and yield their masculine core giving women all of their power and choice, to the detriment of them both. It celebrated women in a corny, needy way that gave women all the power in an unhealthy and unnecessary fashion.
The bearded, feathered haired dudes with the bad lyrics weren’t just infecting eardrums and filling the airwaves with false promises and aching badness, they were setting up a generation of young men for disappointment, sadness and softness of spirit that would end up exhausting and resigning both sexes to awkward longings and unrequited passions. Or something like that.
We also want to thank Michael Douglas for his help in helping to talk about an era he featured prominently in and deigning to introduce this very special edition of That Dandy Classic Music Hour.
Think of this as public service. A very special kind. And mostly tell a friend whom might identify and be able to be helped by listening to this episode during this holiday season!