When you think of 1960s music, you might think of it as the decade when rock and roll truly exploded. You think of The Beatles and their rabid fan base, The Rolling Stones and their bad boy swagger, and the era's epic mountaintop: the freewheeling carnival that 60s kids called Woodstock.
When you think of 1970s music, you might think of groovy teens rating pop rock records on American Bandstand, the funkadelic dance floor of Soul Train, and the garish glitter of Saturday Night Fever.
And when you think of 1980s music, well...
You probably laugh.
And think of hair. Lots and lots of hair.
Looking back, I now think of the 80s as a decade that was too insecure about what it wanted to look like musically, so it tried on every conceivable outfit in the hopes that one might fit. Either that, or it was so secure that it believed it could get away with wearing things like skintight leather, even tighter lycra, rubber bands, safety pins, and the occasional flower pot. Yes, only in the 80s did Home Depot and Staples do double duty as apparel stores.
Unlike other decade, 80s music was impossible to compartmentalize. Weekly Top-40 radio shows played like a dozen teenagers' mix-tapes had been thrown into a blender and squashed into one incomprehensibly goofy megamix that incorporated drum machines, axe-shaped guitars, and massive synthesizers that could simulate pianos, string sections and spaceships in one deft keystroke.
And therein lies the charm of 1980s music.
If you've read my novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe, you'd know that much of the story's soul is rooted in its protagonist's passion for 80s music. And if you haven't read the novel, this here blog post is your opportunity to snag a copy.
For free. Pretty awesome, huh?
I am nothing if not a devotee of holiday spirit and cheer. I suppose that once you've weathered 28 consecutive Decembers of hearing Do They Know It's Christmas? almost every single day of the month, it's hard not to feel like you shouldn't be giving stuff away.
And all you have to do to get to this giveaway part is indulge my silly meditation on 80s music.
From a Top-40 standpoint, the 80s was all over the map. How many of you learned what a vegemite sandwich was in the 80s? Who among you was puzzled by the fact that there were three Thompson Twins, and none of them were related? Did you ever watch the video for The Safety Dance and think, “Wow, that’s not safe at all!”
Have you ever dialed 867-5309?
If so, did you stay on the phone long enough to ask for Jenny?
The decade gave us Top-10 hits from toe-tapping, knee-knocking F-Word films: Flashdance, Footloose and Fame. Also from the world of cinema, the 80s gave us memorable anxiety anthems from the Brat Pack oeuvre like Don’t You Forget About Me, If You Were Here, and If You Leave.
Still, none of those soundtrack classics could compare to the grand champ of 80s movie music -- a bouncy little pop jingle about being alright that even to this day conjures up images of a dancing gopher.
The 80s also gave us some crazy scary stalker songs, such as the legendary Every Breath You Take, the playfully creepy Private Eyes, and the carnally charged Hungry Like the Wolf.
By the way, a question to any member of Duran Duran who may be reading this... How exactly does someone smell like they sound? I don’t really need to know the answer -- I long ago accepted the excellent nonsense that 80s lyrics often brought to the party. I mean as long as the melody is catchy, you’ll even sing along with gibberish like “See that chameleon, lying there in the sun, all thanks to everyone, Run Runaway.”
We'll get to song lyrics soon, but for now, let's take some more time to bask around the 80s lunatic fringes as we ponder all that the decade gave us...
It gave us Hit Me With Your Best Shot, a power-pop song in which five-foot-nothin' Pat Benatar proved she was way tougher than Robert Conrad and his silly 70s Battery-On-The-Shoulder bit.
It gave us a duo previously alluded to -- Hall and Oates. Back in the 80s, almost everyone I knew pretty much claimed to loathe Hall and Oates. Myself included. Naturally, all this distaste is indicative of why they scored twelve Top-10 hit singles between 1980-1985. Seems to me that everyone kinda lied. Myself included.
It gave us rappers Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, and The Beastie Boys. Back then, rap was new, and many thought it was just a fad. I wonder how many 80s kids believed back then that the genre would far outlast and surpass heavy metal, new wave and goth.
It gave us the faux media-fueled feud between teen queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Over two decades after their reign atop the pop charts, the two sirens came together to star in a SyFy Network B-movie called Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid.
The film was, predictably, totally freakin' awesome.
It gave us a third decade of Rod Stewart, who despite starting to show some wear and tear, still had the macho moxie to sing lines like "I'm coming home real soon / Be ready 'cause when I do / I'm gonna make love to you like fifteen men."
Okay, moving on.
It gave us more epic and catchy one-hit wonders than probably any other decade -- Too Shy by Kajagoogoo, the immensely fun Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners, and my personal favorite, 99 LuftBallons by Nena.
By the way, A Flock of Seagulls was not a one-hit wonder band, and Space Age Love Song was far superior to I Ran.
The 80s gave us Morrissey and his band The Smiths, who routinely made the morbid sound downright whimsical. Yes, Girlfriend In A Coma, I'm talking to you.
It gave us West End Girls, Wild Boys, Kids in America, and Superfreaks.
It gave us countless awesomely awesome hair bands who probably tore through enough hairspray to ultimately set back the lifespan of Planet Earth by a full century. Oh, and for the record, amongst all of the power chords and flammable bombast, the bands White Lion and Tesla totally deserved better.
It gave us MTV, and watershed moments in video history like the videos for Take On Me, Money For Nothing, and Thriller.
It gave us Milli Vanilli. Fortunately, we quickly passed them over to the 90s.
It gave us scandalous and unmentionable innuendo songs like Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax and Billy Squier’s The Stroke -- two songs about how to succeed at golf.
And finally, it gave us legends both new and old. Prince. Madonna. U2. The Boss.
The 80s were also a powerfully transformative decade, turning hard rockin’ monsters like Van Halen and Motley Crue into Casey Kasem’s favorite cream puffs. So too did the 80s turn Hippie Nation on it’s dreaded heads when The Grateful Dead’s Touch of Grey reached the Top Ten back in 1987. But honestly, was any transformation any more gruesome than Jefferson Airplane’s nosedive into its reincarnation as Starship? In a parallel universe, someday 60s Grace Slick will meet 80s Grace Slick, and she will kick her ass into the third row for We Built This City.
This nutty decade also posed many important and potentially life-changing questions. Questions like: Who ya gonna call? Who’s that girl? Who can it be now? How will I know? What about love? What is love? Why can’t this be love? Do you believe in love? What’s love got to do with it? How am I supposed to live without you? Don’t you want me? Do you wanna touch me? Where is the tenderness?
Sorry. For a moment there, I was having flashbacks of being dumped at the homecoming dance.
Back to the 80s... Specifically its song lyrics, which will (hopefully) soon segue nicely into the big giveaway.
Some of the decade's lyrics have become almost iconic:
Out on the road today
I saw a Deadhead sticker on a cadillac.
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone.
Put another dime in the jukebox, baby.
Other lyrics are unexpected pop music poetry:
Aspirations in the clouds
But your hopes go down the drain.
Spinning on that dizzy edge
Kissed her face and kissed her head
Dreamed of all the different ways
I had to make her glow.
Let me smell the moon in your perfume.
Yes, the 80s gave us some totally excellent lyrics. Unfortunately, they also gave us lyrics that were totally looney tunes:
You played dead
But you never bled
Instead you laid still in the grass
All coiled up and hissing.
Before the cream sits out too long
You must whip it.
Candy on the beach, there's nothing better
But I like candy when it's wrapped in a sweater.
I stumble into town just like a sacred cow.
War is stupid, and people are stupid.
Who's that eatin' that nasty food?
And then there's the band Wang Chung, who apart from committing the atrocity of attempting to turn their band name into an actual verb, gave us the following verse in their single Dance Hall Days:
Take your baby by the hair
And pull her close, and there there there
Take your baby by the ears
And pray upon her darkest fears.
I can only imagine that the reason we have not heard from Wang Chung recently is because they are all safely locked away.
One final lyric for you to contemplate:
That Thomas Dolby guy... He just got it, y'know?
So anyway, let's finally get around to giving away copies of my novel Thank You For Flying Air Zoe! I will be giving away two paperback copies of the novel on Christmas Day, and the winners will be selected at random by the aptly named website Random.Org. Here is all you have to do to add your name to the mix.
I would like to hear a lyric or verse from one of your favorite 80s songs. It can be a snippet from a favorite song, a few lines from a song that sparks a special memory, or just something you find howlingly funny. Share your song lyric here in the comments section of this blog, or share it on my Facebook Author Page, and just like that, you've entered the giveaway!
And here's a groovy holiday bonus I've come up with. If you already own a copy, you can instruct me to send it to someone as a belated holiday gift. That's right, I will send them a signed copy of my novel, whether they like it or not! I'm giving like that.
Also, many of you have told me that you have not been able to leave comments on this blog -- apparently through some Blogger related hitch. So if you can't access comments here, and you're not a Facebooker, please feel free to email me -- address at the top right of this page -- and I will add your lyric to the comments myself.
This giveaway will end when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve. Rest assured, I will remind you ad nauseam until then. And of course, if you feel like spreading the word and sharing this giveaway post with anyone you think might be interested, I would be impossibly grateful.
Lastly, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't include a favorite lyric of my own. I have a handful of favorite songs from the time period -- songs by the ever popular Fleetwood Mac and U2 (Gypsy and Bad), as well as songs by more alternative acts like The Replacements and 'Til Tuesday (Skyway and Coming Up Close). But my pick is from a one hit wonder that hit close to home during an icy adolescent New Hampshire winter back in 1985-1986. Got into a whole lotta trouble that year, and for whatever reason, jacking this song up on the walkman and drowning in its psuedo-psychedelia, booming tympani, and hypnotic chanting was my great escape from the angst that ailed.
Plus, I met my wife during that school year. So looking back, I'm sort of fond of my 1985-1986 winter, and my crazy life in a northern town...
'The Salvation Army Band Played
And the children drunk lemonade
And the morning lasted all day
Life In A Northern Town
So what's your 80s song lyric?