HMmm Should I defend the 80's?
Those were the years that honed the huge rock sound (among other things), and things became much larger than life thru the take-no-prisoners mixdown approach. SSL Boards offered all in one versatility, automation became tweaked (GML too), great digital reverbs were spawned, and in fact, digital technology itself became accepted and common. CD players became "commercial" (I can hear some of you saying "EXACTLY! It sucked!" lol). Then there were the social events of the birth of MTV and death of Disco.
I do think there were a lot of mistakes and an over-fascination with transients and high end. Mastering engineers were getting all-digital tapes with frequencies that would never stand on analog tape. Lots of them didnt know what to do with the frequencies at first, I dont think. I remember some re-released albums on CD that sounded like experiments with "extreme treble", and had very little sweetness that the original album's had.
We had people like Clearmountain, Massenburg, Mutt Lange, and the Lord Alge brothers come into prominence (to name a few), becoming part of a bands sound by maniupating not only the tonality and dynamics in their mixdowns, but even manipulating the individual tracks, flying them around, and pitch fixing on a regular basis - whatever it took at mixdowns to make something killer. And then digital editing also came into its own as a basic mixdown tool. And these guys were speed mixers too (laughing)
Digital Mastering also was a big technological change, mostly during the 80's.
And what about the advent of MIDI? That happened during the 80's too. And the home recording craze started with the advent of cheap multitracks and the all in one "Portastudios".
Maybe one way to look at the 80's was a renaisance of music culture and music technology, but that we didnt know how to use all these new tools & mediums, and maybe we over did them. Maybe we were "distracted" by technology. I think most people have a sense that "songwriting" has taken a back seat to the image, the video, the production, the culture.
Or it could just be the "Older things are better" phenomena. (Why isnt there a name for that, besides "nostalgia"?). All in all the 80's saw tremendous technical innovaction and the proliferation of people who were masters at using it... and possibly OVER-using it.
Sheesh this was gonna be a short paragraph when it started.