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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Remember the 80s too...

This space shared some nostalgia from the 70s last week and several of you shared in the corduroy memories.  Dare you to feel the same about the teased hair, acid washed, Cosby sweater 80s!!!

Maybe the most diverse decade of them all.  Just think, the real advent of rap (before 40 people were on stage and dj's were actually spinning records), the Manchester and synth invasion from England, U2, Bruce's "Born in the USA.", REM, Cyndi Lauper, MTV, Hair Rock like Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Slaughter, Culture Club, Hall and Oates,

"Reagan/Palestine/Terror on the Airline/Ayatollahs in Iran/Russians in Afghanistan/Wheel of Fortune/Sally Ride/Heavy Metal Suicide/Foreign Debts/Homeless Vets/Aids/Crack/Bernie Goetz."

You get the idea.  Variety was king.  And as the bands of today pay their homage let's take a look back at some timeless hits/acts that paved their way.  A kind of "Ode to Members Only" if you will.  


Joe Jackson "Breaking Us in Two"  The album Night and Day is an absolute gem.  "Steppin Out" got all the radio play and left a lasting image for this bloger.  But this subtle, heartfelt track hits all the right notes.  Song with a longing and soul only Jackson can provide it stands out as a cautionary tale of love and loss.  Love the synth solo that plays along with his piano near the middle too.  


U2 "Where the Streets Have No Name"  So it's been 25 years since The Joshua Tree was released huh?  Wow.  This song (and video which itself pays homage to the Beatles...  and was repeated by the Red Hot Chili Peppers last year) cemented the Irish lads as rock Gods.  Is it the Edge's signature riffs?  Bono's roaring voice?  Larry Mullen's dashing looks?  It's not Clayton's bass, is it???  No.  It's all of it.  And it is pop perfection.  


Violent Femmes "Add It Up"  Subversive alt for the brave new World.  Tongue and cheek nonsense with something of a groove.  Good, clean goofiness you could play in the background or melt your mind to.  I still remember my first time...  a long country drive in the back of my buddy's Suzuki Samurai on the way to a high school football game.  The first time I heard the song that is...  who can remember losing virginity??  That is trivial, no?


REM "Fall on Me"  Give me the 80s REM anyday.  The politics were more subtle.  The music more genuine...  folksy...  authentic.  The band had 4 members!!  No sappy power balads in sight (see: "Drive", "Everybody Hurts."  Pop success was nowhere to be found when this track from 1986's Life's Rich Pageant.  Pay close attention to the misspelled word in the video.  Find it?  Love to compare the budget for this video to Gaga's "Telephone."


RUN DMC "Rock Box"  Lots of folks will credit Grandmaster Flash or Melle Mel for bringing rap/hip hop to the mainstream.  They deserver their due for sure, but this blog contends the boys from Hollis, Queens are the deserved innovators.  Guitars, drums, and real instruments under a steady stream of flawless beats and rhymes.  Others have tried to recreate this sound.  Argue all you want about Kanye, Jay Z, Lil Wayne et al.  Not.  Even. Close.


English Beat "Save it For Later"  We pick this for a few reasons.  Ska?  Check.  Euro?  Check.  Racial harmony?  Check.  Great harmonies and toe tapping goodness?  You bet!  This song immediately brings the movies of John Hughes to mind.  School dances and house parties too.  Drunken escapades around a keg somewhere in a field.  Headlights keeping light on the party and innocence soon giving way to something more...  something unexpected...  something wonderful.  


Stevie Nicks "Stand Back"  Was she a witch?  Coked up?  Both?  Who cares?  That voice was too much!!  It could not be ignored.  And when she got out of Fleetwood Mac for a few years she spread her wings, or cape like clothing, and belted out some winners.  It helped that she could write a little bit, and employed writers and producers that were super talented.  Synths and harmonies that take a backseat to no one.  Her voice was never better than this period.  This song is her high point.


Bruce Springsteen "I'm On Fire"  Bruce acting.  Bruce going Hollywood.  Bruce showing depth and range.  NJ mechanic making good.  Going to the Hills to deliver the sports car to the mystery gal.  So freaking adorable when you think of the man today.  "Born in the USA" was so big, so fierce, and incredibly unavoidable.  It was everywhere you looked...  or listened.  And for those who summered at the Jersey Shore...  fugetaboutit.  Thing is, it stands the test of time like its author.  


The Police "King of Pain"  Another immense album from the 80s...  The Police's Synchronicity.  New wave at its peak.  Sting, the bass playing frontman, was never better (in both pen and voice.)  Complex songs held together nicely by his partners in crime (Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers.)  For a moment there The Police were bigger than everyone in music.  Makes sense.  This album was full of hits.


Men at Work "Overkill"  Aussie's who might be looked at as gimmicky by today's youth.  What, with the "vegemite sandwiches" and all...  Do not underrate or ignore Colin Hay and his band of merry song makers.  They built a catalog on sharply written and carefully crafted pop songs.  And Hay's voice, still quite lovely today, complemented it all very well.  We never turn a Men at Work song off when we hear it.  Why would you???  


Honorable Mentions:


Hall and Oates, MJ, Whitney, The Cure, Morrisey, Thomas Dolby, Madness, Erasure, Joy Division, Midnight Oil, you tell us...  what/who are we missing and why????





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