Posts tagged 80s Music
In 1984 I was 11 years old. I was melting #2 pencils in 5th grade homeroom heaters at Shady Grove Elementary School and the Space Shuttle Discovery had its maiden voyage (an event that I was sure was further proof that I would make it to space by the time I was 15). Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out. But my favorites that year were Romancing the Stone and The Karate Kid. And The Cars were near the top of their fame in 84 too.
Rick Ocasek was the lead singer of The Cars and I can clearly remember he was one of the strangest looking guys I’d ever seen on MTV at the time. Remember, this was in a time before Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson, so Ocasek’s strange ticks and emotionless delivery in music videos was one of the strangest things to watch at the time. Never was Ocasek’s weirdness on display more than in the video for “You Might Think.” The video itself was wacky but it worked perfectly for The Cars.
Probably The Cars most famous video was “Magic.” The song was great and I can still clearly remember how fun the video was. Watching the collection of Hollywood cliches gawk and point as Ocasek “walked on water” in a backyard pool was classic 80s kitsch.
Both of these songs were from the Cars most successful commercial album, Heartbeat City. But it’s another song from that album that is #3 on my list.
Drive was different for a couple of reasons. First, it was a slower, more somber tune than what The Cars had become known before. Second, lead vocals on this song were performed by the bands bassist, Benjamin Orr. So if you thought the vocals sounded different from the Cars other hits, you were right. Orr died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer, and the song was played at his funeral.
This song is so pure. It’s simple, clean and beautiful. I love the synth melodies and simple steady drumbeat (the beat really carries the song). The video is dark, and sad and 100% 80s. It’s a look at a woman slowly slipping away from reality from the viewpoint of her boyfriend. The use of mannequins is awesome in it’s 80ness and this video marked the second appearance in a Cars video by Ocasek’s then girlfriend, Supermodel Paulina Porezkova. I love a lot of The Cars stuff, but this is by far their best, and for me it lands at #3 in my top 10 list.
What about you? Where would you rank this one? Is it your favorite Cars song? Let me know what you think!
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.
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.
Foreword: I’m probably going to take heat for picking two John Hughes movie songs in a row, but I’m doing it anyway.
In 1984, a talented writer with little experience but a knack for understanding the era’s teens made his debut with Sixteen Candles, a brutally honest and completely hysterical look at teenage life in the American Midwest. The movie starred Molly Ringwald, and I, along with every American teenage boy at the time, fell immediately in love with her. John Hughes would go on to write and direct a string of comedy/dramas that would change the way movies about teens were made. Hughes was a master at capturing life as a teen, and part of that magic came from his ability to evoke emotions through the music he wove into his movies.
In his article John Hughes: The Soundtrack to a Generation, Todd Martens describes the range of teenage emotions in Sixteen Candles through it’s songs: Recklessness? The Specials “Little Bitch.” Romantic Anticipation? “If You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins. Spazzed Out Heartache? Spandau Ballet’s “True.”
But it’s “If You Leave” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark (yes that’s how they spell it) that wins my spot for #6 in the Top 10 80s songs of all time. I think it’s the (probably fake) strings at about :18 that hook me. Whatever it is, I can’t imagine Pretty in Pink without this song. It immediately evokes images of Jon Cryer as the uber-friend Duckie (years before Cryer would just give up and plod through his role in 2 1/2 men), Andrew McCarthy as Blane – the guy every girl gushed over even though I didn’t get it, James Spader as Steff McKee, maybe the biggest D-bag in the history of movies, and of course Ringwald as Andie Walsh. If Molly Ringwald was what made me fall in love with this movie, the music is what has kept me coming back for more.
Fun Fact: This wasn’t the original song OMD recorded for the movie. Their song “Goddess of Love” was in the first cut of the movie, which had Duckie and Andie together at the end, but it played poorly for test audiences. When they reshot the ending to the way it was released, the song didn’t’ fit and was replaced with “If You Leave.” Jodie Foster turned down the part of Andie, and Anthony Michael Hall turned down the part of Duckie.
If you read my post that laid out the criteria for creating this list, you’ll recall that 80s music, in my opinion, were vital in some of the bet 80s movies ever. And #7 might be the biggest example of this. In 1985, John Hughes wrote and directed a movie about 5 teenagers, each from a different walk of life, as they spend a Saturday in detention at Shermer High School. What followed was a movie that, perhaps more than any other movie before or since, defined a generation. I know that for me at least, it felt like these people were me, and I was them, and they were speaking a language that I knew well.
The Breakfast Club gave voice to an entire age of kids as they struggled to come to terms with who they were. Two other artists, including Billy Idol, were offered “Don’t You Forget About Me” before Simple Minds agreed to record it. When it became the theme song for The Breakfast Club, they became stars overnight in the US. It would be their only #1 in the States.
I think that The Breakfast Club is one of just a handful of movies that can speak to a time in history unlike others. The Breakfast Club is the Gold Standard of Teen films – the film against which all other teen films are measured. But it loses it’s bite, it’s feel without this song, . The song’s become synonymous with a phenomenol film, recognizable within it’s first two notes, and stands the test of time, even without the film. And that’s why it’s #7 on my list (I’ve decided to include the original video as well as a great movie montage, if for no other reason, than to hear the monologue/letter that ends the movie).
Fun Fact: Simple Minds was actually a Scottish Band, and they had a second hit, albeit not as big, called Alive and Kicking. By the time Don’t You Forget About Me became a hit, the camaraderie of the band was already coming unraveled.
…and the montage….