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 27 The Dead Milkmen

The Dead Milkmen - Punk Rock Girl, 1988

'She brought me to her parents' for a Sunday meal. Her father took one look at me and he began to squeal...' The Dead Milkmen! Who could forget? I still have chunks of this album (Beelzebubba) memorised, especially 'Stuart' and 'Life is Sh%t'. But I pretty much stopped watching music videos when I left home for college, and my copy of the song came from a tape of a tape - which means that until a few minutes ago, I'd never even seen a picture of the band. And jumping Jesus on a pogo-stick! Would you look at them? They're children! Well, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at the Milkmen's relative youth, given that another of my favourites on this album is a song called 'My Many Smells' ('Won't you come and smell me? Won't you share my stench?'). And if I'd seen the clip in 1988 when I was supposed to, I wouldn't have even registered that they were young 'uns, because I was barely 18 myself. Where did that time go? Am I getting maudlin over The Dead Milkmen? Well, at least I still know all the words. 

Song 28 Kate Bush

Kate Bush - Running Up that Hill, 1985

'If I only could, I'd make a deal with God, and get him to swap our places...' Want to know what it's like to be an unhappy hormonal teenage girl? Listen to Hounds of Love. No other album does it better. Big drums! Big drama! Shrieking and howling! Everything's here: fear of sex ('Hounds of Love'), longing for romance ('Running Up that Hill'), mother guilt ('Mother Stands for Comfort'), father worship ('Cloudbusting'), and strange tortured impulses towards self-annilhilation (pretty much everything on Side Two). In the penultimate song she even blows up the entire world ('Hello Earth'). The dancing and kissy-faces in the video look a bit silly to me today, but I remember something very different. It's after school, there's a howling rain storm outside, I'm in my room huddled next to the speakers, and this is on the stereo, loud. Very loud. Perhaps my mother tells me to turn it down and I think, 'After this song,' or 'You don't understand me!' Ah, youth. How does anyone survive it?

 

Song 29 The Pixies

Just me this time. The guest posters have all gone home. Too bad - much as I love the sound of my own (written) voice, it's always nice to get some variety here. (Oh, and once again, if you've got a song and a story to tell, you know where to find me.) But here's today's offering:

The Pixies - Here Comes Your Man, 1989

'Outside there's a box car waiting...' I felt like a bit of a fraud posting this, as there is no way I was cool enough for the Pixies back in 1989, but then I heard that the Pixies considered themselves too cool for this song, so perhaps it all balances out. Seriously, the lead singer, Black Francis, apparently wrote 'Here Comes Your Man' when he was fifteen and fought to keep it off their debut album. In the video they're all staring contemptuously into the camera with their mouths hanging open, which is a more interesting way of approaching the lip-synching conundrum than was seen in Song 56. So enjoy, but know that somewhere the Pixies are sneering at you. Actually it's an almost cosy thought.

 

Song 30 Jane's Addiction

Guest Post!

Problem: I felt I needed more cool songs on this countdown. Bigger problem: I was a complete nerd back in the day, and still have no idea what was or is cool. Thankfully, Twitter was there with a solution. Robb Skidmore's 80s coming of age novel The Pursuit of Cool has been doing the business, so I figured he'd be an authority. Robb kindly agreed to contribute a tune, and it's a good one, even if I find this band more annoying-looking than I'd remembered.

Robb writes:

Jane's Addiction - Jane Says, 1988

Though probably the least characteristic song of their oeuvre, Jane Says is the most popular song of these late 80s alternative rock heroes. The hypnotic two chord guitar, the Caribbean steel drums and the lyric that 'Jane says, I'm done with Sergio' suck you into this one and make for an easy ride. The sheer beauty of the melody combines nicely with the heartbreaking chorus that Jane is 'gonna kick tomorrow.' Youthful drug-addicted defiance and melodrama have never been so skillfully depicted in lyrics. Jane Bainter, a former housemate of lead singer Perry Farrell, was the inspiration for the song and the name of the band. This knowledge that it captures a real person's struggle pushes the song into stratospheric levels on the poignancy scale. Ferrell's distinctive vocal style is used to full effect and at the end his voice trails off into a jazzy howling.

 

Song 31 Tina Turner

Guest Post!

Today my esteemed colleague Brendan Richardson, the mad genius behind The Syrup, has consented to offer up a tune. Hooray! It's a song I pretty much can't stand, but worth it for the write-up, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Tina Turner - What's Love Got to Do With It? 1984

Tina Turner, in 1984, was more than just an aging pop star: she was  a crash course in sexual politics and middle-aged relating for a then 13-year-old white boy.

"Who is this peculiar Ewok Doyenne and why do the moms, usually so intolerant of male outbursts, act amused, even encouraging, whenever the dads start loudly extoling her legs during soccer practice?"

That's what I'd think to myself when the fatigued temptress with the fearsome mane would turn up her white collar, signaling the beginning of What's Love Got to Do With It, slipping pointed toe into pointy heel before terrorizing the family TV screen with her medley of still-got-it bum wiggling and come-hither kicks. Desirous female objectification, while as a rule, not okay with the moms, was, as it turned out, perfectly okay, so long as the desirous female being objectified was a) black b) potentially post-menopausal and c) known to have been abused. Dad still had to keep it zipped when Madonna or Sheena Easton took over the screen but to middle-aged, middle class Canadian women, Lady Turner was more inspiration than threat. She was a tough-as-nails survivor all women could empathize with, and to still be casting spells at that age, well, if her, then why not us? A win-win for everyone – except for 13 year-old- Star Wars nerds like myself – who didn't know what to make of this strange new feeling that they felt in their pants, in the final, increasingly fervent scenes of Return of the Jedi.

 

Song 32 The Smiths

Guest Post!

Leigha (Worth) Craig, a writer and blogger living in Vancouver and all-around magnificent person, has kindly consented to give us a tune today. I might add that I freakin' love this song, and it's another one for the imaginary soundtrack to Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World. (If you'd like to do a guest post yourself, you know where to find me.)

The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?, 1984, 1985

'I am the son and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.'

At Janet's request, I tried to steer clear of music from 1983-84. (*Only because I seemed to be stuck there myself,eh - JEC) I tried...and I failed. This mesmerizingly vibrato Smiths song kept dragging me back kicking and screaming to my angstiest teen years: 84-86. To me, this is and was the 80's teen theme...when we weren't melting our brains with synthpop, Chicago house, or hair metal, that is. (urgh)

This song has just the right bouquet of isolation, notes of despair and self-loathing esters to embody my teens the 80's. Yup, I just applied wine descriptors to a song. Of course, that's completely understandable since I'm chugging a glass of Pinot as I type while warbling, 'There's a club if you'd like to go. You could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go and you stand on your own, And you leave on your own, And you go home and you cry, And you want to die'

Art makes pain beautiful and 'How Soon is Now?' does it best.

Oh hell, pass the bottle!

 

Song 33 Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi - Simple Man, 1982

'Yes, I'm a simple man! I do the best I can!' I became a fan of Klaus Nomi (1944-1983) only a few years ago, when visiting my cool Canadian friend in Berlin who played me the Simple Man LP. When I found out he had a song about being a cowboy on another planet ('Rubberband Lazer') I knew it was meant to be. Nice tribute video here: yes, folks, you can start off life as just another German kid and end up recreating yourself as Astroboy's wicked uncle, if that's where the road takes you. It's so simple!

The song also answers the burning question: why the stupid website name? Well, I started out writing as Janet Cameron O'Faolain (married name), but it was pointed out to me that this might be off-putting to anyone outside Ireland. What next? There was already a Janet Cameron publishing in England. Jan Cameron? Okay. I'd already bought jcofaolain as a domain name, but I went looking for something Jan-related instead, and then I remembered the song. Reason prevailed the next morning when I realised that Jan Cameron sounded a bit dopey. I still liked the site name, though. And it's singable!

 

Song 34 Moving Pictures/ Angry Dancing!

Moving Pictures - Never, 1984

'You can never never never never never never never never hide your heart! Don't ever, ever, ever, ever try! If you don't give your heart wings, you'll never, never, never, neeevver flyyyy!' Moving Pictures is an Australian band who never broke into the U.S. charts, in part because they signed with a record company that folded under them just as they were launching their first singles. They didn't even get paid for this song's inclusion in the Footloose soundtrack. Sad story, even if it is a terrible song. But hey, we're not here for the music, right? What are we here for? Angry dancing!!!

Yesterday's tune was a good example of why I like the 80s for its love of big drama and lack of irony. But today's offering shows just what kind of unspeakable horror unfolds when irony goes missing, and there's no inner critic to stop everyone and say: 'Wait a minute. This is kind of stupid, isn't it?' If you don't remember the 80s, you'll laugh at Kevin's dancin' fury here. If you do, that laughter's going to be tinged with profound embarrassment. Because you remember a time when you watched this, maybe with a crowd of people in a darkened theatre, and nobody laughed. You all just sat silently with your popcorn and drank it in: Kevin is angry. And so he must dance. Behold!

Couldn't resist adding the Flight of the Conchords' interpretation, from the last episode of the first series. Sometimes you just have to dance your rage and heartache away.

 

Song 35 Squeeze

Squeeze - Last Time Forever, 1985

'I've said goodnight tonight the last time...' Foreeeevveeer! Yes, I used to put this one on the stereo with the volume up and think big, sweeping, cinematic thoughts, in my cluttered, messy, stinky little room. It's that kind of a tune. This was the album you'd buy so that people who really knew the band could sneer at you and say their earlier stuff was way better. And in this case they were right, but I'll always have a soft spot for Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, and I can easily see Stephen of Cinnamon Toast getting all dreamy-eyed at 15 or 16 listening to this song. Why not? I did. So I'll put this on my imaginary soundtrack with yesterday's offering. I also found an interesting live version. The keyboardist gets all fancy with that piano line. 

 

Song 36 Lone Justice

Lone Justice - Ways to be Wicked, 1985

'Honey, why you always laugh, when you see me hurt so bad...' Exhausted by pretending to be funky yesterday, I have to admit that I'm more comfortable with the cowgirl thing. The choice of headgear seems less bewildering, anyway. Anyone besides me remember these guys? Not quite country, not quite rock, not particularly popular with fans of either, despite the cute girl with the mighty voice. I bought the tape because Rolling Stone told me to, in those dark days before I started taking orders from Pitchfork. (Yes, I have no idea what's cool or interesting! Just tell me what to listen to and I'll do it!) The song's by Tom Petty and it sometimes lurks around the edges of my imaginary soundtrack to Cinnamon Toast, maybe because of the countrified setting.

 

Song 37 Cameo

Cameo - Word Up, 1986

'Yo! Pretty ladies around the world...' Here's Cameo with a 27-year-old song that feels like it never really went away. And they still don't have the time for psychological romance, which is not something most bands will take the trouble to tell you. Hmm. I get the feeling this countdown has been fairly unfunky overall. Apologies. It's my own self-conciousness, I'm afraid. I'm one of the least funky people on earth, and would feel abashed to be holding up examples of funkiness as if I were some kind of authority on the subject. But I can always pretend, right? In fact I think I'll make a day of it. So, let this Wednesday, 23 January 2013 be international Pretend to be Funky Day! It should be a bank holiday here in Ireland. Imagine the parade! Or wait a minute, that's actually a terrible idea. No parade. Let's all just keep Pretend to be Funky Day in our own hearts. Sit quietly and think funky thoughts. Perhaps the music will help.

 

Song 38 The Cure

The Cure - The Exploding Boy, 1985

Damn. Damn! Great song! Anyone remember it? A B-side of 'Inbetween Days', it also ended up on the Standing on a Beach 'hits and weird stuff' double album. (Or cassette.) I was so happy to rediscover this one last year that it almost won the great Title Crisis of 2012. (For 'great' read 'extremely irritating', and if you're curious, it lasted over a year and went something like this: 1) Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World  2) Next Time the World Ends  3) Stephen Eventually (What was I thinking???)  4) Someone Else's Joke   5) Every other &%$£ title in the world including Summer of the Exploding Boy ...and finally 6) Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World ) Yep. Over a year. Anyway, please enjoy the lovely song. No video, I'm afraid, just some close-ups of the cover to the single, with Robert Smith in a bit of a Kermit mood.

 

 

Song 39 OMD

OMD - Forever Live and Die, 1986

'I don't know, I don't know, I don't know why-iii-yiii...' Me neither, guys. Why does 'OMD' look like one of those new-fangled internet acronyms to me now instead of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark? Why am I terrified of writing that name without a spellchecker? Why have I mostly been leaving the 'alternatives' like OMD alone so far in this countdown as I delve into Top 40 cheese? Maybe because there's not much to say about a song like this except, 'Whoa. I was young when this was first on the radio. Young and confused. Now I'm an old fart looking at tiny moving pictures on this here laptop doo-hickey. While my brain disintegrates and my face collapses and my youthful ideals sputter out into nothing. But at least my hair's less dopey-looking.' Oh, well. Have a joyous Monday, all! And don't ask why.

 

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