Here we go, folks! As I said earlier today, this is turning out to be a series of long posts instead of just one long post, so bear with me. The future segments will end up reflected as pingbacks in the comments.
I had been thinking for some time about doing an 80s music blog, and reading Allison‘s decade series of posts just reinforced that. The problem for that sort of thing is, where the hell do you begin, and where do you end? I’m a major music dork; you can get me started and I’ll ramble on for hours, only occasionally backtracking over strange ground, until I suddenly blink and notice that people around me are reenacting those scenes from Airplane! in which everyone sitting next to Ted commits suicide in interesting ways.
I’m also like Nick Hornby or John Cusack’s character in the movie based on Hornby’s novel, High Fidelity. Music is really an autobiographical thing for me, which is why I created something called “My Soundtrack.” It’s because sometimes I actually think of my music that way – as though it should be coming from everywhere at once, like I’m in a theater watching everything happen.
So, what I decided to do is take my beloved (and beginning to finally show signs of falling apart) 80s MP3 disc and break it down with some commentary on what each song means to me. This blog series is the result.
Now, there are very important songs that aren’t on here for several reasons: usually that neither my wife nor myself have a CD or other digital copy of the song (like A-Ha’s “Take On Me” – like I could pass over THAT song on purpose…I’m also notably lacking in Duran Duran, and I’m waiting to borrow my parent’s 2-disc Lionel Richie set that I gave ‘em for Christmas, dammit), or are songs that just generally drive me up the wall or positively piss me off (Michael Jackson, I’m looking in your direction – and the only reason there’s so much Madonna is because my wife would be pissed at me otherwise). So yes, there are quintessential 80s tunes that aren’t on this list, but for now, with the stuff I have at hand, this is my list.
I cordially invite anyone reading this to share their memories of these songs or others – I’m actually looking forward to it!
Now let’s get down to business. Songs are arranged more or less alphabetically by artist, since that’s the easiest way I could make it make any sense.
Now buckle in, folks – this part is just A-C. Mwuhahahah!
AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
Oh yeah, a good one to start off with. AC/DC’s “Back in Black” album came standard with black t-shirts and a tattered jean jacket in the Redneck Kit that every white kid in my middle and high schools could sign up for. Ah, I love me some AC/DC. And I have a jean jacket with the band logo bleached into the back to prove it.
Air Supply – Making Love Out of Nothing At All
Ah, some shimmery shirt boys crack the list! This is a good use of piano in a great 80s song. And tell me it isn’t triumphant in the end. Sing it with me, people: “I can make the runner stumble…” Yeah, I know I’m flat on the high notes. Bite me.
Bananarama – Cruel Summer
Every 80s kid knows this one, because we all had those dreary summer days in the 80s that made this song fit perfectly. And, of course, we all saw The Karate Kid, over and over and over.
Beastie Boys – Fight for Your Right
Beastie Boys – No Sleep Till Brooklyn
Fuck yeah! The first well-known hard rock/rap combo still kicks some ass. If you were a middle school kid in 1986 when “Licensed to Ill” came out, this was probably as much like nirvana as it was to me. Friends of mine and I, white and black, used to congregate outside school and rap Beastie Boys lyrics.
Shut it, I could flow back in the day.
Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
In my karate class, we called the Billy Idol pose a “reinforced block.” You know it. Right forearm vertical. Fist clenched. Now bend the fist back toward yourself a bit. Good! Now left forearm horizontal, left fist pressed against the inside of your right elbow.
Now sneer, damn you!
Billy Idol – White Wedding
Just a great song and a great video. Supposedly Billy wrote this one for his little sister, in a warning of “a nice wedding’s not going to fix a shitty relationship.” Preach it, brother. That climbing/falling bass line is recognizable in an instant.
Billy Joel – My Life
Great song of course – but to me it’ll always be the theme song to “Bosom Buddies.” Damn, I loved that show, even though I bet Tom Hanks wishes it would just go away – like George Lucas and the Holiday Special.
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl
Another good Billy Joel song. Every guy knows this story – the rich, pretty girl who falls for the tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Oh, few live it, but we all know it…
Blondie – The Tide Is High
A fantastic 80s tune, and my favorite Blondie song to boot. Debbie Harry and her laid-back reggae just kill me. The whole song is just bouncy, and it makes me feel good. I saw a heavy ska/reggae band at a frat party in college and they used this song in a breakdown – they had the whole house singing along. It was awesome.
Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive
Yes, “Living on a Prayer” or “You Give Love a Bad Name” would probably be more appropriate if we were going for an imitation of an 80s radio station, but of all the Bon Jovi songs, this is the one I like the best, and the one that I think has best held up. Musically it’s interesting, despite the occasionally laughable (“loaded six-string on my back/…might not make it back” – great tough-guy images and rhyming technique, there, Jonny boy!) lyrics.
And now, of course, it’s the theme song for “Deadliest Catch” which adds to its awesomeness.
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
Classic 80s. Disagree? Fine. “Turn around, bright eyes…”
Immediately thought of the next line, didn’t you? Told you.
Boston – Amanda
Great 80s song by a great 70s group. This was an absolutely insidious love song in, what, 1985 or so? And I always laughed at the whole “I swear it’s not a lie girl, tomorrow may be too late!” line. Really? Aren’t the guys in Boston in their 30s by this time? And does that “sleep with me now, tomorrow may be too late!” line really work on anyone over the age of, say, 17?
And of course there’s the alternate lyrics a guy named Mark used to always sing around the swimming pool. “I’m gonna take you by your thighs, and drill you to your eyes, Amanda…”
Yep. Every time you hear that song, from now until the end of time. You’re welcome.
Bruce Hornsby and the Range – Mandolin Rain
Holy crap is this a gorgeous song. I think it perfectly captures the melancholy of the end of a good relationship. The feeling is not despair that it will never be recaptured or that there will never be another…just sadness on the loss of something that, for a time, was beautiful.
Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark
This is just a great song all the way around. Even if it did introduce the world to Courtney Cox – damn you, Boss, damn you.
Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
Probably the one song that screams “Reagan 80s” more than any other…partially because our senile president didn’t notice that it was a damned protest song, and took it as his campaign theme. Dumbass.
Bruce Springsteen – Glory Days
The best of the three Boss songs, in my humble opinion. I thought so at the time, and I think so even more now that I’m more into the “looking back on the glory days” years of my life. The mix of mirth with a slight tint of wry sadness is perfection.
Bryan Adams – Cuts Like a Knife
I just like the chord structure of this song. Very simple, very straightforward, paired with lyrics about love and loss. Very appropriate for the time in my life when I was trying to figure out what love really was.
Bryan Adams – Summer of ‘69
My “Summer of ‘69″ was the summer of ’86, when I met Tammy, the summer-girlfriend who changed my life. (And who eventually threw my heart into a blender and hit “gooify.”)
Bryan Adams – Heaven
Yep. Welcome to your middle-school dance. You can see the streamers now, can’t you?
Bryan Adams – Run to You
One of my favorite Bryan Adams tunes. The rhythm guitar fits the mood and pace of the song perfectly.
Chaz Jankel – Number One (Real Genius soundtrack)
This one’s here because my wife loves it. Personally, I think it’s fantastic in the scene in Real Genius. By itself…not so much.
Cheap Trick – The Flame
Another 80s song from a 70s band. This is more great slow-dance material, isn’t it? It’s from a 2-disc 80s compilation that my wife had when she moved in with me, so for me it’s also tied to memories of spring days when I was home from class in grad school, waiting for her to come home, playing my guitar along with the CD player.
Chris deBurgh – Lady In Red
Hell yes, we can’t forget this one, can we? In the 80s at least, the “Lady in Red” to me was a beautiful olive-skinned girl named Carrie who used to wear a pretty red dress to church when I was about fourteen or fifteen. Of course, me being me, I would never have worked up the guts to talk to her had her younger cousins not broken the momentous news that “Carrie likes you!!” (and thanks to little cousins who are attempting to torture their elders).
It just so happened that, a few months later, a whole heapin’ hunk of folks from the neighborhood took a joint vacation to Myrtle Beach, and Carrie and I were one of a few who were the same age. We awkwardly hung out for a few days, I worked up the testicular fortitude to ask for her number by the end of the week, and once we got home she proceeded to turn me down for dates until I quit calling. Ah, the memories.
Corey Hart – Never Surrender
Ah, the 80s, when saxophone solos were still cool. This song surely was on some 80s movie soundtrack, right? Not that I know of, but it seems like it should be. And GOD knows that 80s movies badly needed another Corey…and since this one was already pasted on girls’ walls…
Corey Hart – Sunglasses at Night
“Don’t put the blade on the dying shades of love!” Hmm, no.
“Don’t push away the guy in shades, oh no!” Maybe? Or
“Don’t push the play of the down-in save, oh lord!”
I give up.
Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over
A good laid-back almost-love-song, combined with visions of broken crockery. That’s the 80s for you. Seriously, there’s an underrated bass line here, and that guitar line after the bridge always sounded really good to me.
Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun
I’ll ask you, my female readers: True or not?
Regardless, iconic. Not even counting the whole WWF connection, which just OOZES 80s. Personally, I’m wishing I had a good digital copy of “She Bop.”
That’s it for Part 1, folks – but there’s more to come!