My Introduction to Rock Music, 1980-1981


Recently I thought of my lists of songs would be more interesting if I got back to my roots. This is for my friends and fellow-inmates who went to Riley Creek School, in Gold Beach, during our pre-teen years. When I left Pistol River school to meet the town kids, I was introduced to the evils of Rock and roll. And oh, how evil it was.  I thought my fellow-students, and all rock musicians, were going to Hell for various reasons. I even wrote a letter to The Curry County Reporter, stating as much.

OK- you have to cut me some slack. It was 1980 and I was eleven. I loosened up a bit over the years. I heard these songs in classrooms, in hallways, in the gym locker rooms. Later I was surprised to notice some of the music had eroded its way into mainstream television (I heard Lawrence Welk do a scary rendition of Eddie Rabbitt’s “Drivin’ My Life Away.”

Here is a list of songs that stuck with me, and slowly eroded my very sheltered opinions of rock ‘n’ roll. I will try to faithfully record (maybe to humorous effect, given my love of all things rock, these days) the initial impression of each of these songs. I didn’t include them because they were good, or bad. They made the list because They stuck with me, and they remind me of junior high. They’re not really in any order; just as they came to me.

1. Wall Of Voodoo – Mexican Radio. I never liked this song. I remember hearing it played in Mr. Thelin’s class in seventh grade, and thought it was about the strangest sounds I’d ever heard. I knew it had to be demonic somehow because no singer should sound like this guy did.

2. J. Geils Band – Freeze Frame. I don’t remember if this song came before “Centerfold” but I remember both J. Geils Band hits, and picked lesser-played of the two. I remember watching the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, and some ice skater doing a routine to “Centerfold.” I thought “The whole world is going to hell, and glorifying pornography.” Wasn’t it great?

3. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. Remember hearing this song in the Riley Creek School gymnasium. I thought Joan Jett was the most raunchy, most disgusting woman I’d ever seen, apparently because at this point in my life I’d never encountered Patti Smith’s “Horses“. The song was catchy. I castigated myself for enjoying it.

4. Blondie – The Tide is High. I thought this song was mostly acceptable because it was cute, and had a nice Jamaican lilt to its rhythm, and the lyrics were understandable.

5. Billie Joel – It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me. I’d heard the Billy Joel song in the hallways and we sang this in Choir. I liked it. I knew I shouldn’t, it being rock and all, but I just couldn’t help myself.

6. Toni Basil – Hey Mickey. I thought this song was acceptable, although I thought publicly that the video of the cheerleaders showed way too much flesh. I thought privacy that it was the most sexy thing I’d ever seen in my life. I remember hearing this song played at the skating rink in Brookings.

7. AC/DC – Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap). If Joan Jett had an all-male counterpart in terms of sheer raunch (in my eleven-year-old mind), it was AC/DC. I’ve since come to appreciate them, but at the time, I knew these guys were going straight to hell. I also remember their song Big Balls, and thinking no song should be so blatantly about testicles, because how could that possibly glorify God?

8. Queen – Another One Bites the Dust

I remember secretly enjoying this song, and hearing it played in Mr. McBeth’s science class. The real reason was the 45’s B-Side “Don’t Try Suicide“, which was forgotten in obscurity, but I thought had a decent, Godly message. This was one of the songs that changed my opinions of rock music. I heard a man preach specifically against Queen, in a sermon about the evils of rock. I thought “but it doesn’t make sense… they’re against suicide. Not all rock music has the Devil’s message.” That thought steeped in my mind for years and really changed some deeply-held (and to my mind, misinformed) youthful opinions.

9. Olivia Newton-John – Magic. Magic was evil. I read about it in a magazine for Christian youth (I’ve long since forgotten the name of the magazine). It was the same one that said we shouldn’t play Dungeons and Dragons because you’d end up slitting your wrists in a bathtub. Also, Olivia was hot and breasty. Foul temptress.

10. Hall & Oates – Kiss on My List. These guys just seemed wrong to me. I remember the song in the Riley Creek hallways. It wasn’t until 1982’s “Maneater” that I decided I really didn’t like them. I realized that people shouldn’t be singing about oral sex, even if they did try to veil their lyrics in order to stymie the censors.

11. Buckner & Garcia – Pac-Man Fever. It seemed harmless. I mean, how could a song about a little yellow dot with a mouth be bad? This is before the church came out against the frivolous waste of inserting quarters into video game machines.

12. Eric Clapton – Cocaine. I didn’t realize until years later that this song had an *anti* drug message. At the time, I thought it was a blatant glorification of drug use, and nearly turned me off to all rock and roll.

Now is different of course. I enjoy all these songs. I hope you do too, and if there are a few new ones you’ve never heard, go ahead and give them a listen.

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5 thoughts on “My Introduction to Rock Music, 1980-1981”

  1. We had lots to overcome; I had the Blackwood Brothers and a guy in my Christian school’s chapel service who told us that all rock was evil and that he should know because he used to be in a band. And the evangelist who visited my church and had us breaking records after service down by the altar. (Someone handed me “The Carpenters Greatest Hits” and I stared at it and thought, “Breaking this record because it’s evil is stupid. Breaking it because you don’t like the music is wasteful–give it away. Breaking it for any reason makes no sense.” So I put it down and grabbed a Beatles compilation issued by Capitol which included “Lady Madonna” and broke that because they were mocking the Virgin Mary. That was my reasoning, I swear.) But here we are today, not much the worse for the Bill Gaither Trio or CCM or whatever. And long live Larry Norman.

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  2. I’m just glad I’m not the only one who learned about Rock in the skating rink. 😉 My parents would only allow Country & Western music in our house. Rock wasn’t “evil”; it was just “noise” to my folks. We had one Elvis LP, but that was because he was from the South and therefore his music was really Country in my mom’s opinion. 😛 LOL. OH! and we had The Partridge Family Christmas album that got dragged out every holiday season. Other than those, though it was C&W or white-southern style gospel.

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  3. Riley Creek memories…and skating memories 🙂 I sang the song Magic in the 7th or 8th grade talent show. I was evil! Thanks for the trip back in time.

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  4. Thanks, Brian for the walk down memory lane. These songs were played at my house all the time growing up. My Dad loved this kind of music. I never thought we were going to Hell. 🙂 I remember all these songs being played at the skating rink in Brookings.

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