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 40 Simple Minds

Neurotic Weirdness Week Concludes! The stirring finale! 

Simple Minds - Don't You Forget About Me, 1985

All of Neurotic Weirdness Week has been building up to this moment. Of course, there's nothing that strange about the song itself, but if you're my age, this tune means exactly one thing: The Breakfast Club! One of the most bizarre movies to come out of the 80s, or any time at all: a hit teen film about a Saturday detention which turns into an all-day group therapy session. They're misunderstood! They're abused! They're pressured by parents and peers! They're suicidal! One of them is Ally Sheedy! The kids sit around talking for 90 minutes and, inexplicably, end up in couples (except 'the brain', left behind to actually write the essay they're all charged with completing). Critics hated it, kids adored it, and if I started quoting lines this could run on forever.

 

Song 41 Styx

Neurotic Weirdness Week!

Styx - Mr Roboto, 1983

'I've got a secret, I've been hiding, under my skin...' The song is actually a snippet from a rock opera that never made it - Dennis DeYoung plays Kilroy, the oppressed saviour of rock and roll, who has gone into hiding disguised as a robot. Um, okay. It's weird, but is it neurotically weird? Hell, yes! Take the silly context away and look at this song on its own: here we have a narrator insisting that he looks the same as everyone else, but inside he's different, special, he's terrified of anyone finding out his secret and even says that if he comes out of hiding his life will be in danger. He pleads for self-control, and then starts bursting into foreign languages and claiming to be some sort of messiah. Well, sorry, kiddo, but you just sound a bit mad. I'm also a little embarrassed by Dennis's acting here. Am I too used to post-80s irony? Look at him. The pointing. The eye-rolling. He really means it.

 

Song 42 The Romantics

Neurotic Weirdness Week! With a spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye!

The Romantics - Talking in Your Sleep, 1983

'I hear the secrets that you keep! When you're talking in your sleep!' So where's the neurotic weirdness here? Is it in the girl's extremely mild sleep disorder, or the emotional horror show going on in the other half of the relationship? Here, falling asleep in your lover's arms is not actually a time of trust and comfort - it's a nightmare arena where you drift off unwillingly and under bug-eyed scrutiny, wondering what stray mumble the jerk beside you will be taunting you about the next morning. 'You tell me that you want me! You tell me that you love me!' You mutter something about peanut butter! No word on the sequel, 'You Snore Like a Mighty Earthquake, Baby'. Jeez, give the girl a break. The lyrics are still less icky than the video: four gormless big-haired twerps leering at unconcious chicks in their underwear for four minutes. Way to work that crowd, guys. They're going mad for you.

 

Song 43 Thomas Dolby

Neurotic Weirdness Week! (One of Fifty-Two!)

Thomas Dolby - Hyperactive, 1984

Hyperactive? Really? Messages from outer space? Hooked up to a machine at the tender age of three? Turning into a bizarre ventriloquist's dummy and trying to kill your frumpy psychiatrist? Can't help feeling there's been a misdiagnosis somewhere. You've got problems, Sonny Jim, and I don't really think a little Ritalin with the morning Cornflakes is going to put much of a dent in it. This is one of those 'clever video' songs everyone seemed to love for a few months and then forget - worth special mention among my age group at the time both for its creative special effects and a briefly visible line drawing of some boobies. Priorities.

 

Song 44 Billy Joel

Neurotic Weirdness Week! Sock it to Me!

Bill Joel - Pressure, 1982

'You used to call me paranoid - pressure! But even you cannot avoid - pressure!' Billy Joel's all stressed out! And can you blame him? Barking dogs, splashing cars, carnivorous carpets and killer TVs. A lot to deal with in four and a half minutes. Plus he seems to be stuck in the same room Platinum Blonde found themselves confined to back in Song 62, but with a bigger TV. Is there someone out there kidnapping pop stars and forcing them to sit in uncomfortable chairs watching television and singing unhappily? If so, I want in on it.

 

 

 

Song 45 Split Enz

Neurotic Weirdness Week! Join our Jamboree!

Split Enz - I Got You, 1980

'I don't know why sometimes I get frightened! You can see my eyes and tell that I'm not lying...' So how does one deal with floods of overwhelming, irrational anxiety? Well, you should probably hang out in a picture frame while your lead singer makes goofy faces in an empty room and gets freaked out by some floating, disembodied eyes. That seems to have worked out for these youngsters, who were able to reform later as Crowded House and dominate the airwaves all through the summer of 1986 with 'Don't Dream it's Over'. See? Simple. I'm going to start singing to picture frames right now and see if it works. 

 

Song 46 Rockwell (with Michael Jackson)

It's Neurotic Weirdness Week!

The 80s were a deeply odd time to be alive. Outside your window there was plague, famine and the spectre of all-annihilating war, and at the same time it was an era that felt right comfy embracing greed, empty display, and relentless, bone-headed optimism. Is it any wonder there were times the culture seemed to go a bit cracker-doodle? And that this would manifest itself like a nervous tick in the normally chipper Top 40?

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me, 1984

'I don't know anymore! Are the neighbours watching me? Or is the mailman watching me?' Poor paranoid Rockwell can't enjoy the comfort of his California mansion because he keeps hallucinating that the place is full of staring weirdos and junk from Halloween shops. Plus he's singing/speaking in a bizarre fake English accent for reasons that only he can understand. And towards the end of the clip, our hero, wearing only a towel, (to be fair, if I looked like that, I'd hardly bother with anything else) imagines that he sees a spectral figure from his balcony beckoning him to jump. To his relief this turns out to be his smiling mailman...but watch out, Rockwell! He has a really weird-looking arm! Thank goodness Michael Jackson arrives at the chorus to inject a breath of sanity into the proceedings. 

 

Song 47 Duran Duran again

Nuclear Devastation Week Concludes!

Duran Duran - Planet Earth, 1981

'Look, now. Look all around! There's no sign of life.' Yes, this is Planet Earth. You're looking at Planet Earth: a freakin' wasteland! The nuclear devastation element plays out more in the lyrics than the images here, although instead of their usual heavily populated universe, the lads are isolated on some kind of Fortress of Solitude cube in the middle of nothing. Ending a week of destruction on an up note, we don't get to see the earth blow up this time, just bare-torsoed Simon engulfed in flames and some arbitrary factoids about our planet scrolling across the screen. Then a mysterious pair appear at the edge of the cube, dancing a merry jig. One of them sports an extravagent furry hat, meaning that he is...Russian? So the other one's English? And look at how well they're getting along! Well, there might just be some hope for good old Planet Earth after all. But, my God, look at those outfits. Who would have thought that peace would come at such a terrible price?

 

Song 48 Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Nuclear Devastation Week! Get your shopping done early!

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Two Tribes, 1984

'When two tribes go to war, a point is all that you can score!' Hmm. Did Frankie and company make this video because they're passionate about peace, or did they just like the idea of two big guys in suits kicking the snot out of each other for four and a half minutes? Which they do, while a symbolically attired audience cheers, and later turns on each other. And at the end, once again, the whole world blows up, but to tell the truth I'm getting a bit blasé about it at this point. Am I proving my colleague's point again? (See Song 53) 'Two Tribes' was a controversial clip back in the day, and I'm fairly sure that CBC censored Chernenko biting Reagan's ear, and probably with good reason - it's icky. Hmm. What if it were Two Tribbles going to war? And there'd be these two fuzzy lumps just sort of sitting there. I'd be into that. More than this, anyway.

 

 

Song 49 Rick Springfield

Nuclear Devastation Week! Join the fun!

Rick Springfield - Dance This World Away, 1985

'Somewhere there is a ship that's sinking. Why do I think that nobody knows?' Yes, even Rick Springfield. An ex-soap star and the man behind 'Jesse's Girl', that anthem to stealing your buddy's woman, now chiding American yuppies for their shallowness in ignoring the nuclear threat. Here Rick takes on three roles: he's a 70s lounge lizard entertaining 80s yuppies at a party for an enormous missile, a ragged fella engaged in a brisk round of post-apocalyptic desk thumping, and a daft Mr Rogers-style children's show host talking to puppets about fallout. Well, he was an actor first. And the nerd hair and glasses? Totally hot. Too bad he never took this on as his default look instead of that wind-swept mullet.  

And if you'd like a sample of Rick before he grew a social conscience, just scroll down.

 

 

Song 50 Ultravox

Nuclear Devastation Week!

Ultravox - Dancing with Tears in My Eyes, 1984

'The man on the wireless cried today. It's over, it's over...' I'd remembered this video as being about nuclear war. Instead it's a power plant that has become unstable, there's no way to outrun the blast, and...everybody dies.

Okay, here's the difference between watching something like this at 14 and at 42: I had NO CONCEPT of mortality back then. None at all. I probably saw this and thought, 'What a shame,' or, 'How scary.' Now, I want to go lie down in a dark room. (Admittedly, this is not the first time that an 80s video has inspired this reaction in me, but it's usually something to do with hair-related shame.) Perhaps I'm proving my colleague who claimed that 80s teenagers never worried about nuclear war right. How can people too young to understand death take on the end of the planet? Um...happy Thursday!

 

Song 51 Nena

It's Nuclear Devastation Week! Let the good times roll!

Nena - 99 Luftballons, 1984

The fun part was when English speakers like me would try to sing along. (No, the phrase 'spider gum' does not appear, though it's mighty tempting to believe it does.) Any DJ looking to fill up airtime would give you a rough idea of what the song's about: balloons float over the Berlin Wall, they're mistaken for some kind of hostile craft, World War III ensues and, once again, the whole world gets blown up. (Except for Nena and the band, some balloons, and at least one fully functioning generator handy for powering electric guitars.) I was unable to find the alternate version of this video, in which Nena's pit hair makes a brief appearance - freaking out sheltered Junior High kids all over North America. Of course, having spent a good part of the 90s in the company of  back-to-the-land hippies, that demure five o'clock shadow hardly registers for me now, but at the time - devastating.

 

Song 52 Genesis

Nuclear Devastation Week Continues!

Trying to win an argument (see yesterday)...using the power of song!

Genesis - Land of Confusion, 1986

'Too many men, too many people, making too many problems...' To be fair, the nuclear fireworks don't begin until the last few seconds of the video, but it still seems a bit eerie to me - watching Spitting Image's version of President Reagan, who is dressed as a cowboy and galloping off to war (or somewhere) on what appears to be the Beast of the Apocalypse. (Did Ronald Reagan really exist? Looking back, all I remember is this puppet.) Treat this clip like the time capsule it is and have fun playing 'spot the grotesquely caricatured 80s celebrity' if you've got a few minutes of finite lifetime to spare. (Check out the list here) And look! At the end, once again, the entire world blows up. Must be a trend.  

 

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