published Friday, July 8th, 2011

Courter: Music all over the place back in the day

My 30-year high school reunion is this year, and I thought it’d be fun to put together a playlist of music from our years in high school to play during the gathering. Wanting to make it as inclusive and representative of the time as possible, I asked for help from my classmates. The music of our high school years saw a great shift in tastes and styles, and the lists that people sent me of their favorites reflect that.

It was pretty much all over the place.

All of the lists have a lot of diversity. They include everything from hard rock from AC/DC to rap from the Sugar Hill Gang to disco from Lipps Inc. and “Funky Town” to new-wave hits from the B-52s and Joy Division. One list even included a hit from “Grease.”

Classic-rock radio came into its own back then, so as I remember it, songs by bands from the ’60s and early ’70s were getting played on FM radio, and they dominated most of our record and cassette collections as well. That means a lot of us were listening to old Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin stuff while disco dominated the AM side.

My high school years were bookended by “Saturday Night Fever” and “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first video to air on MTV in August 1981. In some ways, that’s a very big change, but not as much as it might seem. The first had a guy in a white suit with big hair and the second had a guy in a shiny metallic suit with big hair.

In between there were some monster releases from Cheap Trick (“Live at Budokan”), Pink Floyd (“The Wall”), AC/DC (“Back in Black”), Michael Jackson (“Off the Wall”) and The Ramones (“Rocket to Russia”).

We went from listening to arena rockers like Kansas, Boston and Styx with their giant live shows to acts like The Clash and the Sex Pistols, who proved you didn’t even need to know how to actually play an instrument to change the music world.

Of course, the first rap hit, “Rapper’s Delight,” also came out then, proving you didn’t even need real instruments or people playing them to have a hit.

Even country music changed quite a bit as Alabama hit the scene. It was a pretty schizophrenic time for music.

* Chattanooga native and former “Saved by the Bell” principal Dennis Haskins sent a note from Singapore earlier this week to share a YouTube link to a video that went out on the Armed Forces Network in Europe.

Haskins has been serving as emcee and entertainer on a tour supporting our troops overseas, and the video is an AFN feature on the Fourth of July event in Japan. Also on the tour are Natalie Stovall, Safety Suit and Bowling for Soup.

“We just left Japan after three shows in different cities — Sabeso, Atsugi, and Yokosuka — and are headed for — more shows. I can’t discuss where they are until we leave each for security reasons.”

Haskins said the shows end with him leading an a capella version of “America the Beautiful.”

“It’s a magical moment! Sailors, Marines, soldiers, pilots, families and friends, and even Japanese join in. How cool is that?”

You can watch the video at

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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