I've been around a very long time, many people I work with don't get the references of Bananarama other than with phrases such as 'Oh yes my Mum loved them!' But what this timescale has given me is great perspective on all things digital. Prodo started around the same time as Google and as a result I've watched all the changes that they have instigated along the way.
From the earliest days when SEO was all about smoke & mirrors and those who did it were seen as true technical wizards who had somehow found the backdoor to the Narnia or Oz or some such place.
What has always been true and is still true today is that your websites authority is still measured by Google and that links are still part of the overall picture, many other elements make up the mix but your links still hold weight.
This article from Search Engine Land nicely explains this and talks about the two best techniques to build natural and authoritative links.
Today, link building must prioritize the perception of “naturalness” and value to the users encountering those links. That’s why link building largely exists in two forms: link attraction and manual link building. Link attraction is the process of creating and promoting valuable content in the hope that readers will naturally link to it on their own, while manual link building is the process of placing links on high-authority sources. Even though marketers are, by definition, manipulating their rankings whenever they do anything known to improve their rankings, there are still checks and balances in place that keep these tactics in line with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.