Renowned music photographer Lynn Goldsmith says that when her editor suggested she put together a book of her photography from the 1980s, her reaction was, “That was a terrible decade! My initial thought would be that it would just be a lot of pictures of hair bands.”
But after compiling a couple of images of her work from that era, Goldsmith says she realized that “it was actually an amazing decade. There was so much new music and such a variety of music on the charts,” she says. “You had Bananarama and Barry Manilow. Bruce Springsteen and Spandau Ballet. Madonna and Prince. Herbie Hancock had a hit with ‘Rockit.’” Even Goldsmith was writing, recording and performing as Will Powers, a sort of self-help Dry Cleaning for the era.
“So then I was like, ‘I love the ’80s!'” says Goldsmith, whose about-face has resulted in Music in the ’80s, a 352-page hardcover book published by Rizzoli, that is an alphabetically arranged — from AC/DC to Ziggy Marley — collection of Goldsmith’s photos from that decade. (There’s also a shot of her as Will Powers.)
A preface of sorts features the quotes of artists depicted in the book summarizing the 10-year period when MTV, new wave, hip-hop and hair metal went pop.
From Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash: “Looking back on it, I would say the ’80s was the last truly definable decade, love it or hate it.”
Blondie’s Chris Stein: “The ’80s murdered what was left of the ’60s.”
Iggy Pop: “I hated the ’80s, except for the sex and drugs.”
Laurie Anderson: “Everything was so big — big hair, big budgets, big egos, big paintings. Could it really have been as airhead as it seems now?”
A number of the photos look like they might have good stories behind them. A shot of Paul Simon and Lou Reed leaves the impression that they could be in the middle of an argument, and another depicts Keith Richards walking along a deserted New York City street while an elderly woman stares at him as if she is witnessing the first sign of an alien invasion.
But Goldsmith, whose work is among the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum, says she has no tales to tell. “I’m so focused on the visual, you’re safe telling me anything,” says the photographer, who owns a Nashville gallery and is working on a Springsteen photo book for Taschen. “I could never repeat it because I could never remember it.”