On 12 January 1980, “Tusk“ by Fleetwood Mac was at #97, its highest position in the 80s. Its peak position was #8 in 1979.
So, all that complaining I’ve been doing about how all the music of the late 70s is the same? I’m going to stop right here, because the music gods have brought us Fleetwood Mac, and Fleetwood Mac have brought us “Tusk“, a tribal anthem that’s just, well, downright weird. And I love it. It’s got a chugging beat drifting in over a swirl of murmurs; it’s got half-whispered, half-mumbled voices of paranoia menacing us with “Don’t tell me you love me!” from the depths of an audio mist; it builds and builds and the voices shriek “TUSK!”, the brass section underscores the screaming howling in the background; it breaks down in a clamor of drumbeats and builds again and fades out like an army of witches and ghouls into an October night… How did this ever get on the radio? Why did the DJs decide to play it enough to get it into the top 10 (number 8!)? The only reason I can think of is that Fleetwood Mac simply could do no wrong; whatever they put out would get airplay. Frankly, I’m happy it did, and wish classic rock stations today would continue to play “Tusk”, because I’m tired of hearing “Rhiannon.”
Good luck finding anything like this on the radio today. The only thing I can think of off-hand in the past few years is “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, a brooding menace of darkness that while not musically similar is at least emotionally similar. It managed to get to #3 in 2010.