65 80s Songs - A Countdown

This was a countdown I started on December 26, 2012, and finished on March 1, 2013, marking the days until Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World was first published in Ireland. Relive the magic, if you dare. 

Song 1 Big Country

Big Country - Fields of Fire, 1983

I always knew it would be this one! No, it's not the best song of the decade. It's not the most iconic. It's not even the cheesiest. But I've developed a deep and irrational love for it - 'Fields of Fire' is the final song mentioned in Cinnamon Toast, and it's become part of my end-of-draft routine. (Type 'the end'. Dance around the apartment to 'Fields of Fire'. Post the video on Facebook.) And, yes, it runs over the imaginary ending credits of the imaginary movie. I should be more embarrassed by this than I am, but I'm past that point.

Two versions: In the original video, the lads battle a sinister kid who enjoys planting Scotsmen on railways tracks. Click here!

And a live performance on British TV. Right here!


fields of fire









And...that's it! Tomorrow, if all goes well, Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World will be available in a bookstore or on a website near you, if you live in Ireland or the UK. If you're so inclined, buy a copy and make me the happiest girl in the world. Happy trails, all!

Hmm. The Canadian release is in roughly 65 days. Should I start another countdown? Or make this a guest-post blog where you can send in song suggestions and a write-up? Anything's possible...

Song 2 Violent Femmes again

Violent Femmes - Hallowed Ground, 1984

'Everyone's trying to decide, where to go when there's no place to hide...' So why choose this forbidding tune with no video for the penultimate number? Well, once again, there's not much in the way of ranking going on here. And I kind of love this song - I even made it a chapter title, back in those dark days when I still had them. If you can guess which chapter it was for, you could win...a strawberry! Dream big, people. Like the Femmes' lengendary self-titled first album, this song and everything else on Hallowed Ground was written by devout Christian and beautiful weirdo Gordon Gano when he was still in high school. I wrote stuff in high school too. Eventually it might make a nice ornamental bowl, if I ever figure out how to mix papier maché. Another one for the imaginary soundtrack, of course.



Song 3 The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Jesus and Mary Chain - April Skies, 1987

'...And the world comes tumbling down...' You know that this countdown is not falling in any particular order, right? Or else why on earth would I have 'How Soon Is Now?' at 32 and Helix at 10? But I did want the last few to be somehow Cinnamon Toast-related, and this one delivers those goods in style. First of all, the book opens in April 1987, and the song is not only called 'April Skies' but was released in April 1987. The mood and attitude seem a perfect fit as well, and with all the references to the world tumbling down...let's say I could easily picture this playing over the imaginary credits to the imaginary movie, and it would definitely feature prominently on my imaginary soundtrack. So, there you go. An unofficial imaginary theme song. Plus I really love that hair. Hmm. We're down to song three. That must mean that the book will be on Irish bookshelves in three days. Ah. Interesting. (Head explodes.)



Song 4 Peter Schilling

Peter Schilling - Major Tom (Coming Home), 1983

'Earth below us, drifting, falling...' Bowie references, science-fiction, early 80s, a huge sweeping chorus...I would have done just about anything to shoehorn a mention of this one into Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World, but couldn't make it happen. Too bad. It would have been one of my protagonist's favourites - the song speaks to the hidden wish in all nerdlings that somwhere a home exists for them where they'll be accepted and everything will make sense, even if this place might not be on Earth. And then there's the music video, which I'm pleased to report is utterly bonkers. The rocket ship I can get. But the tower of junkyard cars? The 50s diner? The couple embracing on an ironing board? Absolutely nutso, as it should be. The whole concept here is a bit mad to begin with - 'Major Tom' is a German song which only became a hit in English, and is a third-person retelling of Bowie's 'Space Oddity' (1969), a story narrated in dialogue between 'Ground Control' and this Major Tom we've heard so much about. Years later Peter Schilling's hit spawned some great covers of its own - this one's my favourite, and this is a close second. (Seven songs in one today. Play them all! And go mad!) Also, bountiful birthday wishes are hereby dedicated to Leigha Worth, the intrepid guest commentator who brought you 'How Soon Is Now?' Enjoy the day, Leigha!


Song 5 Prince

Prince - I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man, 1987

You know what's weird? Whenever I'd ask friends for 80s song suggestions, nobody ever mentioned Prince, and didn't he pretty much own the decade? But say the name and immediately eyes start rolling - the cancelled concerts, the lawsuits, the temper fits about youtube, the stupid name changes. I feel the same. But when I hit 'play' and watch the man himself...good God, he's %&$ing adorable! Not to mention insanely talented, and yes, he actually does have a sense of humour. Why is this so easy to forget? There were many late 80s Prince songs I could have chosen for today, but I picked this one for several reasons. It's not as over-played as 'Kiss', I like the silly theatricality on display in this clip, that drummer is having a fantastic time, I almost used the song in Cinnamon Toast in the background of a party scene (for reasons which may become clear when you read it), but most of all, because I consider it the best 80s song ever to be covered by the Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra. Do yourself a favour and watch both versions.

Here's Prince: just click!

And here are those soulful ukeleles!

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Song 6 REM

REM - It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine), 1987

You knew this was coming! In fact the song nearly made it into Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World, but I was caught by a vigilant copy-editor who pointed out, quite rightly, that there was no way it would be playing at a party in June 1987 when Document was only released in the fall of the same year. Curses. But the change turned out to be a good thing - around the time of the Mayan Apocalypse I heard a lot more of this song than I ever wanted to, in fact I was almost sick of it. Too bad. I have such great memories of yelling 'Leo-nard Bern-stein!' at the top of my voice on crowded dance floors in the late 80s. I hope you do too. Watch out for Russian meteorites, and please accept my apologies for not running the original video. REM's recording company has this funny trick of blocking views from other countries, and we can't have that.



Song 7 The Cure again

The Cure - Just Like Heaven, 1987

''Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick. The one that makes me scream,' she said...' Why is this song so good? Just look at what it's survived: over-play, being used as the title of an after-life rom-com with acccompanying 'adult contemporary' cover by Katie Melua, and this frankly underwhelming video, in which our boys half-heartedly mime a performance of the song as they cavort by a cliff top. Still, I love watching them do anything at all, especially Robert - they could have their own channel where they're just sitting around brewing tea and playing board games and I'd be hooked. (Especially if they were playing Operation. I think they'd be good at it.) Most of this video was actually filmed in a studio, with shots of the cliff and sea added later. Hmm. Doesn't it look familiar? You think they would have learned to stay away from there, given what happened the last time.



Song 8 Joy Division

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart, 1980

'When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low. And resentment rides high, but emotions won't grow...' Why does this song scream '80s' to me, when it was released so early in the decade? Yet I remember hearing a few notes of the intro in the background of a party scene in Donnie Darko (2001), and I was instantly transported back. Apparently the strange colour in the video is not some artsy effect - it's a 'production error' according to my friend Wikipedia, and the fact that the sound seems a bit weak is part of this. (If you're hankering for a better recording, click here.) I won't get into discussing Ian Curtis's suicide because it's upsetting to me in a way that it wasn't back in the day - all that registers when I watch this clip now is that this is a very young person who is weeks away from a sad and preventable death. Um...happy Thursday, everybody! As a bonus, see what you think of this odd remake by Canada's Broken Social Scene.



Song 9 Bronkski Beat

Bronski Beat - Smalltown Boy, 1984

'Pushed around and kicked around, always a lonely boy...' I knew I'd have to include this one at some point, especially given my main character's orientation. (Just in case I haven't made this clear elsewhere on the site, my beloved protagonist, Stephen Shulevitz, is as gay as...well, as Bronski Beat, though I'm not thrilled about this being used as his defining characteristic, and I'm sure he would be extremely irritated to be introduced in such a way. And for the record he is also impulsive, bright, sarcastic, Canadian and often neglects to clip his toenails.) Revisting this ground-breaking classic video after several years, I can't help but notice the quantity of tea drinking and sandwich eating on display. Comforting, I suppose, that even if the narrative is unquestionably sad, everyone appears to be well fed.


Song 10 Helix

Helix - Make Me Do Anything You Want, 1984

Okay, okay. With only ten songs to go I realised there was no way I could avoid this any longer. Yes, I've let my anti-metal prejudices rule my choices so far: in a decade famous for shaggy-haired screamy hard rock, I've included none. No Def Leppard, no Van Halen, no Aerosmith, not even a whiff of Bon Jovi. Even stuff that was good (so people tell me) like Metallica or Iron Maiden has been ignored. And now I'm about to commit a further disservice to the genre by including Helix as its only representative. Here we see the lads taking a break from teaching their crazed followers how to spell 'rock' to reveal their softer side. (Although one might argue that if a video begins with the lead singer visibly yawning, that's never a good sign. Perhaps the director told him to 'act relaxed'.) Why Helix? Well, they're Canadian, they're just embarrassing enough to make me smile, and the song's kind of pretty - reminds me of summers in small towns in the 80s. My choice might also have something to do with a colleague describing my book as 'Bronski Beat performed by Helix', which I'm still hoping was a joke.


Song 11 Jermaine Stewart

Jermaine Stewart - We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off, 1986

'So come on, baby, won't you show some class! Why you wanna move so fast?' Here's one of the more frustrating aspects of being an 80s teenager: Say you're having a crisis. A break-up, a rejection, a moment of profound self-doubt. Now, if you're safe in your room, this will be happening to the bittersweet sounds of The Smiths or something equally beautiful and sad. But if you're in public, odds are that your moment of vulnerability will be played out to a soundtrack of pure, ripe cheese - like this song. In fact, 'We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off' made it into an early draft of the book, in a rejected scene where the main character and his friend face down some intimidating toughs in a bar. 'I really hoped I wasn't going to get punched in the face,' the protagonist muses, 'and have to listen to this song at the same time.' Hope you have similiar luck. As a side note, you might also remember Jermaine Stewart's anti-sex, post-AIDS awareness anthem was a particular favourite of the janitor on Scrubs, among others. 



Song 12 The Smiths again

Guest Post!

Well, if you want something done right, ask a sumo wrestler. John Gunning is an Irish journalist and sumo-sensation living in Japan, as well as a major fan of 80s music. His excellent choice combines two 80s icons and is also perfect for my imaginary soundtrack to the novel. If you're curious about the Canadian song John quotes at the end, just click here.

The Smiths (brought to you by John Hughes) - Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, 1984, 1986

John writes: The Smiths had better lyrics, The Dream Academy had better songs, but John Hughes never had a better two minutes of celluoid. A Cinnamon Toast-esque 80's moment of realisation and both film and audience come of age as Cameron loses himself in Seurat, Morrissey and Marr. Since it's an instrumental I'm going to cheat and steal another Canadian's words to help describe the teenage condition as it was at that time.

"One day you're waiting for the sky to fall, the next you're dazzled by the beauty of it all."

 And if you're missing Morrissey's voice, here's the original:


Song 13 Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes - Good Feeling, 1983

'Vague sketch of a fantasy, laughing at the sunrise, like he's been up all night. Oh, slipping and sliding - what a good time, but now I have to find a bed, that can take this weight...' Don't you wish you could program a soundtrack into your book's pages - like one of those musical cards, but less annoying? Because I want this one for Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World so &*%$ing much! Oh, well. While I'm waiting for the technology to catch up, I'll just tell you to come back to the site when you're at Chapter 18 and play this song. Deal? In the meantime, let the memories of stumbling home through the dawn after a late-night party and wondering what it all means wash over you. And if this is actually how you spent your most recent Friday night/Saturday morning, then...I'm jealous. No video this time, just the cover of the band's iconic first album - an image I never saw until years after I'd memorised these songs - like everyone else in the world, my copy was a tape of a tape of a tape. How did the Femmes ever make a cent off of this one?  


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