Monday, September 22, 2014

They Smell Like They Sound-Pop Singles 1981-83

John Cusack smokes in 1983's Class-apologies if this GIF is annoying it does seem to be in time to the songs


Finishing off our 1980's themed month, here's a compilation of pop singles from the years 1981 to 1983. These songs were mainly taken from the 1980's box set that Rhino put out back in the early 2000's  which is now out of print. I distilled my favorite songs from the two discs that covered these three years and then tried to place them in an order that had a nice flow, it's not chronological. I definitely prefer the first half of the 80's to the second, with 1980-83 being my favorite years. Unfortunately if I had included songs from 1980 the mix would have gotten too long, plus in some ways it feels like a decade doesn't really get started till about a year into it. 
This mix was also inspired by the book  I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution a good if somewhat trashy read that is, like its subject, light, silly and fun.Videos were important in breaking almost all of the songs in this mix, so below is the track listing along with, when available, the video. I've used some pictures from the movie Class in this post because it reminds me so much of the same period that the mix covers. 

1. Goodbye to You- Scandal- Patti Smyth was awful cute. I wish more girls went for cute rather than trashy. What's up with the guitar player in this one?  Is that the dude she's telling goodbye to, hope so. The keyboard player is funny too, nothing says ROCK like a fuckin' keyboard solo!  Come to think of it looks like she's telling both of them to get lost.

2. Tainted Love- Soft Cell- Looks like someone's throwing a bit of a hissy fit! Why, he's absolutely livid! Cute little kid in the video, hope she didn't get too creeped out by Marc Almond. I know I feel a bit traumatized just from watching it. 

Soft Cell - Tainted Love from bsi_pacs on Vimeo.

3. Bettie Davis Eyes- Kim Carnes- This song was written by Jackie DeShannon, so no wonder it's great. I had the single as a kid, with a picture sleeve I think. "Pure as New York snow" was almost the name of this post.

4. Don't You Want Me- The Human League- "Mother bought him a synthesizer, got the human league in to advise her". That Undertones lyric is what comes to my mind whenever I think of the Human League.  Anycase this is a clever little song, good alternating viewpoint boy/girl lyrics. And I don't think she wants you, usually when a woman's done, she's done.

5. Hungry Like The Wolf- Duran Duran- Duran Duran were massively popular when I was in Jr. High, and their fans were almost all girls. I didn't like record at the time, but in more recent years I've come to love the whole Rio album. Their first record's pretty good too, but the ones after Rio are the pits. I love how the whole album, Rio, has a colonial/Indiana Jones hanging out in the tropics in linen and safari gear feel, heh. What can I say I'm a white man. White's the new Black, right?

6. Words- Missing Persons- Careful the questions you ask Bozzio. There's a story in that MTV book about Dale giving head to some MTV executive while the band were on set or in the MTV building for an interview. 

Boy, if she thought people didn't listen back then she should see things nowadays, everybody just staring at their phones.

7. Jessie's Girl- Rick Springfield- In the aforementioned MTV book there's much talk about how videos developed "progressed" into little films with a narrative and how mimed performance videos quickly became lame. Yet, I gotta say in general I prefer the miming to the stupid ass story lines. This one mixes the two approaches to good effect. My favorite part is when Rick starts fucking up the medicine cabinet mirror with his guitar. Nice guitar solo too, short and sweet.

"She's loving him with that body I just know it" never assume my man, maybe they're just really good friends that like to spend the night at each other's house, could be totally platonic. "I feel so dirty when they start talking cute, I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot". Kinda makes me want Jessie's girl. Why can't I find a woman like that?

8. Centerfold- J. Geil's Band- This is a great story song in the classic pop tradition. The milk in the snare drum bit at the end of the video is funny. I used to see this video all the time on MTV, and the whole record, Freeze Frame, was a big hit with the kids down at my neighborhood swimming pool. The local pool had a 7-11 right across the street with tons of comic books, bubblegum cards, rock mags and a Defender arcade game along with a couple of other video games. Man I loved the smell of that place, some combination of bubble gum, chlorine and slurpees.

How did Peter Wolfe get Faye Dunaway to marry him? Some guys have all the luck.

9. Genius of Love- The Tom Tom Club- "What cha gonna do when you get out of jail?" Probably do some more drugs.

10. Down Under- Men at Work- Damn if I'm not craving a vegemite sandwich. 

11. Twilight Zone-Golden Earring- This is an awesome noirish rock track, and there's boobies in the video!  What's not to like?  For the record I'm into subjectifying women, so don't trip.

12. Dancing With Myself- Billy Idol- Billy Idol is definitely a guilty pleasure for me- well I don't feel that guilty, just when he does that lip curl thing too much. It's funny how he's always acting like he's a tough guy about to kick ass, but when you look at him he's a little dude, not muscular at all and the tiniest shoulders I've ever seen. Maybe he knows judo? As for the video, damn the 80's were so post-apocalyptic. If I'm following the video correctly it looks like he uses the generator on top of the building to harness his libidinal energy into power blasts that knock the zombies off the rooftop. Pretty cool!

13. Rock This Town- Stray Cats- These guys were solid and Brian Setzer is an ace guitarist. Anybody that loves Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent that much is okay in my book. In the video I wish he would have kicked that one guy's ass, the one with the shitty mustache and jacket, like he was threatening too in the lyrics. 

14. Mickey- Toni Basil- Robert Christgau seems obsessed with this song being about taking it up the ass cause of that one line about "anyway you want me, i'll take it like a man"- maybe Christgau's an ass man. 

15. I Want Candy- Bow Wow Wow- This is actually an improvement on the original, Matthew Ashman was an amazing guitarist, R.I.P.- the whole band was so unique. 

16. Maneater- Hall & Oates- Maybe I'm taking this title too literally but I think that if all men (or at least me) could get blown on a daily basis the world would be a much more relaxed and beautiful place. Just a thought, planting seeds! In the words of Buddy Bradley "this feast or famine shit is strictly for the birds".

17. 867-5309- Tommy Tutone- Did he make nine a three or four syllable word?

18. Harden My Heart- Quarterflash- I hate it when girls harden their hearts, it means among other things you are no longer getting any and most likely in the words of your boy Stephen Sondheim it's time to send in the motherfuckin' clowns (the original title for that broadway gem)!  

Anyway this one's got a wailing sax and I really dig the falsetto delivery on the line "darling in my wildest dreams".  All kinds of random stuff going on in the background of this video; torch jugglers, acrobatics and midgets. Midgets were all the rage in the 80's, probably the influence of Diamond Dave.

19. Love Plus One- Haircut 100- More sax! So fresh and so clean. Preppies, I dig the style but draw the line at tying a sweater around my neck.

20. Come on Eileen- Dexys Midnight Runners- These guys mean a lot to British folks of a certain age, but personally I find Kevin Rowland rather po-faced and strident- his voice and vocal mannerisms really grate on me nerves, that being said this is an undeniably great song. And the Dexys were certainly an improvement on his punk band the Killjoys, boy they were terrible. Takes all kinds I guess.

The voice over in the trailer for Class is bizarre, not sure what the idea was, sounds like a little kid. 

Rob Lowe, a Pisces like me, same b-day even, and were both randy fuckers but I guess that's where the likeness ends cause he's Rob Lowe and I'm not, anyway in the film Class he sports Izod-Lacoste polos and listens to the Dead Kennedys on his Sony walkman, such were the 1980's. I last saw him as a recurring character on Parks and Recreation in which he was very funny. God bless him, may he be the first human to live to 150 years old.

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