“Just as much as synthesizers, hairspray and record sleeves in the Russian abstract style,” writes Paul Genders at TLS Online, “a major marker of the pop of the early 1980s and late 1970s, particularly British pop, was bookishness.”
He continues: “To anyone studying the downloads charts today—where you will search in vain for echoes of the English Renaissance stage or the Penguin Classics backlist—this idea will probably seem quite bizarre.”
Without waxing too nostalgic, I think he’s right. It’s not that no one else is making literate pop any more; it’s just that, these days, they’re “occasional activities largely on pop’s settled, adult-orientated fringes.”
For proof, listen to an hour or so of SiriusXM’s 1st Wave channel—The Cure, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, Kate Bush—then spend five minutes on Channel 2 (Today’s Pop Hits!). It’s downright depressing.
What does it mean that books and writers no longer inspire popular music to the extent they did just a generation ago? I dunno. It feels like a loss, though.