The '80s is Brits' top music decade

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 20, 2017, 4:34 PM GMT+0

Almost a quarter of Brits (23%) say that the '80s were the best decade, marginally ahead of the '60s on 22% – but the era of Michael Jackson and The Smiths has much more cross-generational appeal

With all the hoopla over the 50th anniversary re-release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band last month you might believe that the public hankers for some '60s nostalgia. However, new YouGov research finds that the decade of Motown and the Rolling Stones is edged out as the best music decade by the era of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna: the 1980s.

Just shy of a quarter of Brits (23%) say the 1980s had the best music, marginally ahead of the 1960s on 22%. The 1970s came in a relatively distant third, at 16%, followed by the 1990s on 12%.

However, whichever decade’s music you think is the best depends heavily on your age. Unsurprisingly, Brits are most likely to favour the music of their youth.

Those who were young in the 1960s feel much more strongly about the decade of their youth than people born later in the 20th century. Among those aged 65 or over – who would have been at least eight years old at the beginning of the decade – 63% say the 1960s were the best decade for music.

No other decade was as popular with any age group. Among those aged 54-64 – for whom the 1970s was the most popular decade – by comparison only 43% said it was the best. Likewise, for those aged 43-53 (the age group that most prefers the 1980s) and those aged 28-42 (who favour the 1990s), those figures are 48% and 32% respectively.

By contrast, Britain’s current youngsters don’t seem convinced that music from more recent decades is the best there has ever been. Just 14% of 18-24 year olds think the 2000s were the best music decade, and even fewer (11%) think the same of the 2010s so far. In fact, young people are more likely to say the 1980s had the best music (19%).

Talking ‘bout my generation

While the data clearly shows that the 1960s is overwhelmingly seen as the best music decade by those who were in their youth at the time, it also shows that its appeal does not extend too far beyond this age group either. By contrast, music from the 1980s has a more cross-generational appeal. Outside the age groups that think either the 1960s or 1980s were the best music decade, the '80s has wider support than the '60s. This wider support is what puts the 1980s in first place among the population as a whole.

Photo: PA

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