Music

For Your (Re)consideration: The Rolling Stones in the 1980s

There's much to cherish in the Stones' '80s oeuvre, maligned though it may be

The '80s were, to put it mildly, unkind to legacy rockers like the Rolling Stones. Ultimately incompatible with both burgeoning alternative scenes and mainstream pop, the Stones soldiered on, cutting albums that now sound as dated as the decade's very worst records, all the while searching for a hit that could sit comfortably alongside the songs of the day (it should be noted, too, that they continued to crack the top ten with some regularity).

What's more, while the band didn't formally break up in the '80s, it certainly did break down. Mick Jagger pursued a solo career, Keith Richards bitched about Mick ad nauseum, Charlie Watts struggled his way through a heroin addiction, and Ronnie Wood... well, he kept right on being Ronnie Wood.

That being said, the Stones laid down some terrific tracks in the '80s. Here are five choice cuts from the period (and songs from Tattoo You don't count -- sure, it's a great album, but the music therein all dates back to the '70s).

 
"Undercover of the Night"
Undercover (1983)

On "Undercover of the Night", a rare foray for the Stones into overtly topical songwriting, Mick spits venom over rampant political corruption in Central and South America. Bill Wyman offers up some fine, rubbery bass and Richards, some typically terrific guitar work. Danceable, to boot. I dare you not to boogie along. Also, an absolute classic video.

 
"She Was Hot"
Undercover (1983)

Yeah, it's a dumb lyric, but since when have you wanted the Stones to wax philosophical? And, sure, it's not exactly a nuanced approach, but since when does that matter? It's really direct, and it really rocks. Don't forget, it's only rock 'n' roll.

 
"One Hit (To the Body)"
Dirty Work (1986)

A pummeling rocker, graced with some pugilistic riffing by Keith and a positively vicious vocal from Mick. Granted, the back-up singers are a bit cheesy, but the song itself is remarkably strong. Apart from a tell-tale '80s mix, "One Hit" finds the band in winningly spare, swinging form.

 
"Mixed Emotions"
Steel Wheels (1989)

In which Mick and Keith set aside their differences for the sake of rock 'n' roll -- and, let's not forget, more money than you can shake a stick at. Is this where the Stones sell out once and for all? A lot of folks think so, but I don't care, so long as the music's as good as it is here. The video signifies camaraderie, but the song itself signifies something far more ambivalent, not to mention combative (after all, Mick implores his companion to "button her lip" in the first line - not exactly a conciliatory suggestion).

 
"Slipping Away"
Steel Wheels (1989)

A strikingly reflective moment for Keith, with a moving, impeccably phrased vocal and a terrific melody. As the last track on their last album of the '80s, it set the tone for much of the band's subsequent work.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set

Music

Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez

Music

Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.

Music

"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.

Music

The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.

Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Music

2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Books

'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.

Music

Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.

Music

Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.