As a kid, I was always a pop music fan. Oh and country too. But for the most of the 80s, with just a couple of exceptions for bands like Bon Jovi (which could be called hair pop) and Van Halen, rock was not my bag. There was plenty of fun pop to keep me happy and Hair Bands just never appealed to me.
Then in 1987, someone came on the scene that changed my young life. I was 14 years old and impressionable. Deep in the heart of the Middle School Jungle I had really just discovered girls for real. And there she was – a creature the likes I had never seen before. Hell, I had no idea such a perfect animal existed. Her name? Tawny Kitaen.
In 1987, The band Whitesnake released the album Slide it In. It was the first album the band had released that moved away from it’s more blues inspired 70s sound to a polished 80s studio sound. And it rocketed up the charts. Slide it In went multiplatinum and peaked at number 2 on the billboard chart on the strength of two songs. The power ballad Is This Love and the certified smash hit Here I Go Again.
But it was the music video for the latter that changed my young life and that cemented it’s spot on this list. San Diego born model and actress Tawny Kitaen danced, crawled and slithered her way across the hoods of a Jaguars for 4 minutes and 33 seconds that the 14-year-old me-never wanted to end. Every time the video came on MTV I simultaneously had to watch and felt like I needed to sneak a peek so I didn’t get caught. I felt for sure that I shouldn’t be watching this stuff and surely I was getting away with something.
Watching the video now, it’s really interesting to see how much Whitesnake was pushing the envelope back then. Most of the scenes would pass easily on TV now, but in 87, this stuff must have been considered DIRTY.
The song stands up on its own. It’s a great tune and David Coverdale has one of the most robust and strong voices of any 80s rock band. Remember by 87 he’d been lead singer of Whitesnake for 9 years. He’d formed the band in 1978 after leaving the band Deep Purple. So the spotlight wasn’t new for him and it shows in this video. I imagine a Whitesnake show in the 80s was probably second to none. But I’m sure it would have been better if Tawny was there too.
Fun Fact: Coverdale and Kitaen married in 89 but divorced two years later.
Most of you know that when my beloved Saints lost I no longer had a reason to watch this year’s Super Bowl. Well lo and behold, Mashable has posted a quick story about this new Youtube ad that just showed up. It’s only 10 seconds long, but ends with 2.5.12, the date of the Super Bowl. Dear lord please let this be true, because it gives me a reason to care again.
On May 16, 1983, as I approached my 10th birthday, I saw something on live TV that I was convinced wasn’t real. I was absolutely sure that it was some kind of weird science fiction TV magic, and it blew my nearly 10 year old mind like it had never been blown before. But more on that later.
#5 on my list is from an artist that, maybe more than any other artist on my list, is universally recognized as one of the most talented artists of the last 50 years. If I had to guess, I’d say that we’d all agree that an 80s top ten list without this artist on it just doesn’t count.
Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958. He was the seventh of the Jackson family and actually began his entertainment career as part of the Jackson 5 in 1964. But it was the success of his 1982 album Thriller that cemented him as a bonafide superstar and confirmed him in my mind as an 80s phenomenon.
Trying to decide which of Michael Jackson’s songs to include on my list was quite a daunting task. Frankly, I could do an entire top 10 of his songs alone. I can clearly remember listening to this album over and over again. Nearly every song was a totally different experience. In Beat It, he somehow blended unmistakable pop with a Hard Rock guitar lick – something that at that time was unheard of. Human Nature highlighted Jackson’s vocals with an amazingly smooth and steady tune. It may be his voice at it’s best. I’m pretty sure P.Y.T. was the first time I ever heard that cool synth-robot-voice thingy. And Thriller – I don’t think anyone’s ever understood the art of, or spent the money on, making a video like MJ did. I mean, c’mon – Flash Mobs are doing that dance 30 years later.
But my choice for #5 is Billie Jean. The thing is, it’s probably not even my favorite song off the album. That’s another post. But considering all my criteria, the choice was easy. You see, on May 16, 1983, Michael Jackson appeared on the Motown 25th anniversary special to perform his new hit Billie Jean, and that night, he unleashed the Moonwalk on planet Earth for the first time. What I clearly remember about this is that I stood up, looked around to make sure I wasn’t the only one seeing this. I was alone in my room, so yes – I was. What I remember next was trying for the rest of the night to imitate Jackson’s Moonwalk. 29 years later, I still can’t.
Jackson was a flawed man. He lived his short life in a way that I can’t understand. His issues were too numerous to count. But there’s no doubt about his genius. Thriller was the first in a long line of hit albums. But for me, it stands alone. There aren’t many albums I consider “Go To” in the sense that they are solid front-to-back, track-to-track. This one is in it’s own special way, just like MJ was. I’ve included that legendary performance, and I think it’s still MJ at his raw and amazing best. Be watching at 3:38. And yeah, I remember it lasting longer too. I’ve also linked the official music video. Enjoy.
I know I’m probably gonna catch it for this next pick. There are plenty of reasons I should I suppose, but I’m going to go with a pick that could be somewhat controversial for #9.
In 1988, Frank Farian, a record producer and songwriter, brought Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus together in Germany and formed the Duo Milli Vanilli. Right out of the box, they were an International hit. Their debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, exploded and was the source of hits like “Girl I’m Gonna Miss YOu” and “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” as well as the title track. The album went 6-time Platinum and the group won a grammy for Best New Artist in 1990.
But it didn’t take long for the train to com off the tracks. In late 1989, the band was performing live in a park in Bristol, Connecticut when they seemed to be repeating “Girl You Know It’s…” over and over, before running off stage, then returning moments later to continue the song. The cat was out of the bag, their lip syncing was exposed, and less than a week later, their grammy was rescinded.
Still, despite it all, I love this stuff. When I hear #9 – “Blame It On The Rain,” I’m instantly transported to a place in time. It’s not a specific place, but it’s some point in high school, in the passenger seat of Ken’s yellow truck, and he’s got those 10s banging with this tune. We’re probably cruise the Old Bay loop on a Friday night or headed to go fishing on a weekday afternoon. Either way, it makes me smile.
Everything about the video says 80s. Acid washed holey jeans, electronic drum pads, slo-mo montages, It’s all so perfect. If you grew up in the 80s and haven’t had a listen in a while, do yourself a favor and download a few off the album, regardless of who really sang it, turn up the bass in your car and go for a cruise around whatever your old loop used to be. I’ll see you at #8
So for those of you that are connected to me on Facebook at all, you know that I occasionally slip into a familiar internet rabbit hole. One of my favorite things to do (especially after a couple of glasses of wine) is to troll Youtube for the best 80s music videos in history. Once I find them, I love to plaster my Facebook wall, and in turn flood all my FB friends with music that, at best are annoyed by or have no emotional attachment to, and at worst, hate.
Recently as I was posting some great LL Cool J and Simply Red, I made an off-handed comment about a song that would definitely be in my top ten. A friend responded by asking what my full top ten list would be, and named it my challenge for the night. This was 9 days ago and it’s been on my mind ever since then. THIS IS NOT A CHALLENGE TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY.
If you read my posts or see my Facebook, you know that in my mind, its still the 80s. From parachute pants to Reebok hi-tops, I love absolutely everything about the decade. My favorite pandora station is 80s Pop. My favorite TV is 80s sitcoms. And the music is no exception. So to create my definitive top 10 80s music list, I knew I’d have to set some basic rules/standards.
CRITERIA USED TO DETERMINE THE DEFINITIVE TOP 10 80s SONGS
1. Music Videos: The 80s was THE era of the music video. It only makes sense that the quality/ridiculousness of the music video would influence my decision.
2. Movies: Music was vital to the 80s. Ask any 80s kid “Who ya gonna call?” and you’ll get the answer sung to you. The magic that John Hughes created wouldn’t have been magic without his amazing ability to choose the right soundtrack. The films of the 80s owe a lo to their music.
3. One Hit Wonders: It’s as if the 80s was the birthplace of the One Hit Wonder. Of all the decades, the 80s seemed to have the most One Hit Wonders, and surely at least one will make the list.
4. Not Just Pop: Even though pop dominated the decade and what we most often think of when we reminisce about 80s music, it wasn’t just pop. I’ll consider rock and even country.
5. Sing-along-ability: Some of the best 80s songs are great because when they’re played, they illicit an immediate and passionate response. Your head bobs, your toe taps and you absolutely sing along – loudly.
6. The “Takes Me Back” Effect: This consideration is perhaps the most important. Some songs are personal, and carry us back to a place and time instantly. The first notes float through the air, we smile, close our eyes and are immediately where we first heard them. This is MY LIST, so I’ll lean heavily on this when making my decisions.
So that’s the criteria, and I’ll begin counting down this weekend. I plan to give each song it’s own post, along with video links to each, if I can find them and some background on why they made my list and some historical background for each. I hope you enjoy the list as much as I think I’ll enjoy creating it and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts, comments and your lists too. This oughta be fun.
In 1995, I was a junior in college and was just starting to use email (I thought it was still a curiosity as we pecked away on keyboards and looked a green DOS screens), someone sent me a one page essay that spoke to me and for me as well as nearly anything ever has. A young man named Bryant Adkins published the following in The Reflector, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Thanks Bryant, and enjoy.
I am a child of the eighties. That is what I prefer to be called. The nineties can do without me. Grunge isn’t here to stay, fashion is fickle and “Generation X” is a myth created by some over-40 writer trying to figure out why people wear flannel in the summer. When I got home from school, I played with my Atari 2600. I spent hours playing Pitfall or Combat or Breakout or Dodge’em Cars or Frogger. I never did beat Asteroids. Then I watched “Scooby Doo.” Daphne was a Goddess, and I thought Shaggy was smoking something synthetic in the back of their psychedelic van. I hated Scrappy.
I would sleep over at friends’ houses on the weekends. We played army with G.I. Joe figures, and I set up galactic wars between Autobots and Decepticons. We stayed up half the night throwing marshmallows and Velveeta at one another. We never beat the Rubik’s Cube.
I got up on Saturday mornings at 6 a.m. to watch bad Hanna-Barbera cartoons like “The Snorks,” “Jabberjaw,” “Captain Caveman,” and “Space Ghost.” In between I would watch “School House Rock.” (“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”)
On weeknights Daisy Duke was my future wife. I was going to own the General Lee and shoot dynamite arrows out the back. Why did they weld the doors shut? At the movies the Nerds got Revenge on the Alpha Betas by teaming up with the Omega Mus. I watched Indiana Jones save the Ark of the Covenant, and wondered what Yoda meant when he said, “No, there is another.”
Ronald Reagan was cool. Gorbachev was the guy who built a McDonalds in Moscow. My family took summer vacations to the Gulf of Mexico and collected “Muppet Movie” glasses along the way. (We had the whole set.) My brother and I fought in the back seat. At the hotel we found creative uses for Connect Four pieces like throwing them in that big air conditioning unit.
I listened to John COUGAR Mellencamp sing about Little Pink Houses for Jack and Diane. I was bewildered by Boy George and the colors of his dreams, red, gold, and green. MTV played videos. Nickelodeon played “You Can’t Do That on Television” and “Dangermouse.” Cor! HBO showed Mike Tyson pummel everybody except Robin Givens, the bad actress from “Head of the Class” who took all Mike’s cashflow.
I drank Dr. Pepper. “I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” Shasta was for losers. TAB was a laboratory accident. Capri Sun was a social statement. Orange juice wasn’t just for breakfast anymore, and bacon had to move over for something meatier.
My mom put a thousand Little Debbie Snack Cakes in my Charlie Brown lunch box, and filled my Snoopy Thermos with grape Kool-Aid. I would never eat the snack cakes, though. Did anyone? I got two thousand cheese and cracker snack packs, and I ate those.
I went to school and had recess. I went to the same classes everyday. Some weird guy from the eighth grade always won the science fair with the working hydro-electric plant that leaked on my project about music and plants. They just loved Beethoven.
Field day was bigger than Christmas, but it always managed to rain just enough to make everybody miserable before they fell over in the three-legged race. Where did all those panty hose come from? “Deck the Halls with Gasoline, fa la la la la la la la la,” was just a song. Burping was cool. Rubber band fights were cooler. A substitute teacher was a baby sitter/marked woman. Nobody deserved that.
I went to Cub Scouts. I got my arrow-of-light, but never managed to win the Pinewood Derby. I got almost every skill award but don’t remember ever doing anything.
The world stopped when the Challenger exploded.
Did a teacher come in and tell your class?
Half of your friends’ parents got divorced.
People did not just say no to drugs.
AIDS started, but you knew more people who had a grandparent die from cancer.
Somebody in your school died before they graduated.
When you put all this stuff together, you have my childhood. If this stuff sounds familiar, then I bet you are one, too.
We are children of the eighties. That is what I prefer “they” call it
Those of you who know me, who have seen my Facebook posts, or who follow me on Twitter know that I’m prone to reminiscing. A lot. I’ve often said that my brain is stuck in the 80s and the rest of me wants to stay there. Whether it’s 80s music, TV shows or movies, I continue to be convinced that the decade(s) of my childhood are in my opinion, the best decades ever.
So it should come as no surprise that late last year, when word spread through Facebook that plans had begun for my 20th high school reunion, I marked the calendar and was set to go. The chance to relive what were some of the best days of my life was one that I just couldn’t pass up. As word spread, one of my closest friends dating back to 4th grade came up with an idea: Let’s get the old gang together. In high school, there were 4 of us. And wouldn’t it be great to have the chance for an adventure together again? Phone calls were made, emails went out. The location? A no brainer: New Orleans, a place we all claim as our own. The plan: Two days together before reunion night. It was on once we got confirmation from all involved.
Without giving up too many gory details, the New Orleans weekend was amazing. With a few exceptions, it was like we’d never been apart. The same old jokes, the same laughs, the same 4 guys I remember. Ken, Robert and Chris are some of the best friends a person could have. New Orleans was a great host, one I hope to return to often. 48 hours with the boys have provided another lifetime of memories.
Reunion Night: I always considered myself pretty fortunate to have a happy childhood. I don’t come from an affluent family, but I had two parents that loved me and grew up in a small Southern town mostly sheltered from a lot of the stuff that kids face today. I’ve said often that even though I love my life, I pine for my childhood often. That meant that I was set up for either a great night or a HUGE letdown. I’m sure that I’m only seeing the good parts of high school in my mind’s eye, but I’ll take it. There’s enough bad stuff in the world today that a rose-colored memory is valuable. And here’s the cool part. When I think back to high school friends, I don’t just think of the close friends. The picture my mind paints includes those people who I was “Mortal Enemies” with in high school. It includes those people who I didn’t really know well. I think of all of them, and I think of them fondly. A friend of mine recently said that High School is the time when we are put together with other people in the most random way. That, because of this, we’re forced to support to each other, we become like family, and form these connections forged from adversity. This totally makes sense to me and maybe it’s why I was so affected when I walked through that door.
I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous, but as I walked into the reunion, I immediately saw smiling faces reaching through the pages of my yearbook and greeting me with open arms. I was guilty, like most people I’d imagine, of wondering how time had treated my classmates. I wondered who’d look great, who wouldn’t, and what to expect. Funny thing: When I saw everyone, I saw the 18-year old high school senior version of them. The Cheerleader, Valedictorian, Basketball Player, Trouble Maker, Quiet Kid, they were all there, laughing, sharing, reaching out for a handshake, or more often, a hug.
I mentioned on Facebook that my heart was filled to overflowing, and it was. For nearly 4 hours, old classmates talked, laughed, shared stories and hugged. Really hugged. These weren’t nice, polite half hugs, but big, giant, loving hugs, the kind that people don’t want to let go of. Old friends and even old acquaintances were genuinely thrilled to see each other. We asked about kids, jobs, and missing classmates. It was heartwarming, even moving to see everyone.
Reconnecting with a couple of people in particular hit me like a punch in the stomach. I’d forgotten about the strengths of the friendships I had with some. There was one dear friend specifically who I was incredibly happy to see. I hadn’t seen this person in 17 or 18 years, and simply being around them again made me amazingly happy. It occurred to me at that moment Saturday night that I was with one of the most important people who’d ever been a part of my life. By the end of the night, when I had to say goodbye again, my heart ached in a way that it hadn’t in a long time, and simply writing about it now evokes incredible emotions. Watching a true friend walk out the door was so tough that it physically hurt.
And so, one last round of hugs were given out, along with promises to stay in touch. The hugs and promises were sincere, but life will surely intervene in the latter. The members of the WJH class of 91 went their separate ways, returning to kids, careers, new hometowns and the lives they live today. They stepped back out of 1991, leaving behind tight rolled jeans, hypercolor shirts and Reebok hi-tops, and returned to 2011. But at least one of them isn’t quite ready to let go. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
Top 5 Moments of the Class of 91 Reunion:
5. The slide shows of classmates we’ve lost and those serving our country
4. The electric slide
3. Tony Graham’s greeting from the group as a whole
2. Jim Scott (!!) of SL100 as the DJ – and the shrieks from the group when he announced it.
1. Jody Johnson’s Table Dance
You might have heard of Amos Lee. He’s been around a few years, although his story is an interesting one. A friend of mine recently asked me to recommend some Amos Lee music, and so I sent him a quick Facebook Post. After posting I realized I’d created my Ultimate Amos Lee playlist. Here it is:
Supply & Demand
Seen It All Before
Shout Out Loud
Night Train (Amazing song)
Street Corner Preacher (Look up the Live Sessions on iTunes)
What’s Been Going On
Baby I Want You
Love in the Lies (Couldn’t find an actual video of this song)
Windows Are Rolled Down (Maybe the best/highest quality live recording I’ve ever heard)
Learned A Lot (This song is UH MAZING and I love the audience reaction to it)
I really think this guys is amazing and as you can see from the videos, he doesn’t disappoint live. His music clearly comes from life experience and I’m blown away by both his voice and the lyrics in his music. He gave an interview on NPR that gives great insight into who he is. What do you think? Did I miss a song? Do you have a one-and-only favorite? Share. I’d love to hear it!
It’s been all over Twitter the last few days: According to Astronomer Parke Krunkle, many of us probably have a different Zodiac sign than we thought we did. He attributes this to changes in the Earth’s alignment over the past 3000 years. There’s even a new Zodiac sign: Ophiuchus. So we’ve all been living a lie. For years, everyone has said to me: You are TOTALLY a Cancer. And I TOTALLY was. And now I discover, I’m a Gemini! What??
So here’s what the interwebs says about the old me, Cancer: Emotional, loving, intuitive, imaginative, shrewd, cautious, protective and sympathetic, changeable, moody, overemotional, touchy, clinging and unable to let go. The Cancer’s first love is its home and family. They love to nurture those around them. No sacrifice is too large to ensure their home is secure and their loved ones are safe and happy. They are very kind and sharing. Cancers are also very moody, and often retreat into themselves to regenerate, or sometimes sulk. The quickest way for them to rebound from such moments is to do what they do best: nurture others.
Yep, that’s me. I’m super emotional, very moody, touchy and quite clingy. Ask anyone who keeps up with it, they’ll tell you – I’m a textbook Cancer. So imagine my surprise when @thefeist informed me that I’m now a Gemini. It was a sudden and uncontrollable personality crisis. Who was I? Have I been living a lie? What about what all those things people said about me? And who is this new person that I’m told I am now?
Here’s what the interwebs says about Geminis, the new me: The duality of the Gemini personality can make it difficult to know just whom you are dealing with. They sometimes appear fickle, flighty and susceptible to whim. These traits often make it difficult for Geminis to finish much of what they start. The other side of their dual personalities is they have an innate ability to multi-task, which is good since their interests are many and varied. Of all the great tragedies and maladies of the world, nothing terrorizes the Geminian more than boredom. They are, since birth, used to multitasking. They just can’t go about life one issue at a time.
Oh. OK. That kind of sounds like me too. I’m flighty sometimes, and definitely a multi-tasker. I get bored easily for sure. And I often don’t finish what I start. Maybe being a Gemini won’t be so bad. Besides, having a new Zodiac sign could be the perfect excuse for me to make a change. I could make a fresh start, and take on a whole new persona. It could be fun to focus on the traits of this new sign and try to be aware of my actions and attitudes, to take the advice of the stars and what they say about me.
Or, I could make my own path.
After all, hasn’t it always been my decision to be who I choose to be? Haven’t I always chosen my own attitude? It’s true, I’m moody, touchy and overemotional. In addition, I get bored easily, prefer to multitask and often give up on projects before I finish them. But that’s not all there is to me, I’m a lot more than that. Yeah, it’ll just be easier to be Greg than a Cancer or a Gemini. I’m going with that. What about you? Did your Zodiac sign change? Do you like the new one better? I’d like to hear about it.
So I’ve heard of the “Can’t Miss Event” of the year, but this is the real deal. No One should miss this.
I mean seriously. The 38,202 of you NOT attending this are so gonna get eaten. You know this right?