From the monthly archives:

December 2015

Update – 12/14/15: While I think I got it right the first time, admittedly I should have added Sex Dwarf to the list. We didn’t have YouTube when I first posted this list of the best 80s songs almost 11 years ago – so I’ve also updated this breathtaking collection in that respect. See what you think and I look forward to hearing your own opinions in the comments below.

I have a friend named Katie who is convinced I am the leading living authority on 80’s pop music. I made her 3 CDs of my favorites called “Katie’s Eighties” and she’s copied it for a dozen or so of her friends. She plays it in the office, in her apartment, her car – she’s obsessed. Whenever I go over to one of her parties, I’m immediately recognized (“YOU’RE the guy who made that CD?!”), cornered and then praised incessantly. To be honest, it’s kinda nice to be able to make something so many people have enjoyed so much. And the music angle is also sorta on the cool side.

I think the key here is to really “dig in the crates” as they say, and find great songs that a lot of people have completely forgotten about. Anyone can make an “80’s Mix” With Soft Cell, Rick Springfield and Kenny Loggins on it. Big whoop. To make a good 80’s CD, you have to do better than that. You also have to set boundaries as to what exactly constitutes 80’s music. For example, my favorite band, the Pixes, recorded the vast majority of their material in the 80’s – but I’d never put one of their songs in an 80’s collection (well, maybe Here Comes Your Man). This is because I like to associate 80’s music with synthesizers, ridiculous haircuts, legwarmers and the like. Although there are many important guitar-driven bands from the 80’s, for the most part I leave them off of my pirating endeavors. And I’m not even going to start worrying about what I’m supposed to do with rap.

You also have to make sure you’re not picking songs for the sake of being original or clever – they have to be crowd-pleasers. I’d love to throw a brilliant-yet-obscure Gary Numan song like Are Friends Electric? on there, but no one would ‘get it’. Your CD has to be one you can throw on at a party and that people will dig the whole way through. Lest you start ‘gagging them with a spoon’. You can’t be self-indulgent.

So I started to think – Maybe I can be considered an 80’s music authority. I’ve certainly done the legwork. I was as much of a music fan when I was 10 as I am now, so I was alive and conscious during the 80’s onslaught. I was such a Culture Club fan at the age of nine that my father pretty much gave up on trying to teach me how to throw a baseball. Or having grandchildren. Then I asked myself what songs I’d put on my top ten list and decided to turn this whole unabashedly uninteresting project into an article here on Pye In The Face. You lucky devils. So with no further ado, here’s my ultimate top ten bestest eighties song list. In very particular order.

10. Uncertain Smile – The The

Matt Johnson never managed to break into the bigtime, and it’s too bad because The The have some truly amazing material. This song is not my favorite, but it’s the most easily digestible. I’d rather put “The Sinking Feeling” or “Giant” on here, but again – you have to cater somewhat to the lowest common denominator for this project.

9. Whisper To A Scream – Icicle Works

This song reminds me of growing up on Island View Drive in Manotick, Ontario. Everytime I hear it, I feel like I’m back on my BMX, racing around the subdivision with a bag of stale bread to go feed to the ducks at the river. A great little catchy guitar intro, interesting call-and-response phrasing and a thunderous chorus.

8. Head Over Heels – Tears For Fears

This was the first concert I ever saw, back in 1986 at the Ottawa Civic Center with Mr. Mister opening up. What an evening. I went with my Dad’s friend’s younger brother and saw my first lesbians and smelled my first marijuana. “Why are those two women kissing and what’s that wonderful smell?” An eye-opening experience to say the least. I love the piano in this song – it sounds as though someone is hitting the keys with a hammer. Also the way Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal take turns singing sections of the verses is very cool. And I’ll never forget the video: Roland following a pretty librarian around trying to win her affections. In 2004, we’d call that sexual harassment.

7. When The River Runs Dry – Hunters and Collectors

This song could have the catchiest chorus of the decade. I once saw this Australian band open for Midnight Oil at Great Woods and they were amazing. The lyrics are horribly convoluted and just really bad. But then so are most of the others on this list. It’s also unique in that they build up to the chorus over two verses, and then separate them with just one verse for the rest of the song. And I love the way Mark Seymour screams the one word “Salvation” at the end of the chorus. The song is mostly guitar based, but the bass sound is altered in such a way that I’m gonna let that slide.

6. Voices Carry – Til Tuesday

Many people don’t know that Boston’s own Aimee Mann was the lead singer of this shortlived outfit. This song was a no-brainer for this list – I’ve loved the dirty sounding guitar picking coupled with her amazing voice since I first heard the song as a mere pup in 1985. Mann and her baffling hairdo always reminded me of Pris from Blade Runner. And that it was getting increasingly more interesting to touch myself in the pants.

5. New Moon On Monday – Duran Duran

I had to put the double D’s on this list somewhere, as I was thoroughly obsessed with them for years – but I was originally a strict Tears for Fears man.I had a friend named Andrew Habbington during most of the eighties and we used to fight, literally, over who was the better band. But I eventually crossed over to the dark side and became a Duranie myself. I haven’t seen Andrew in 20 years, but maybe someday he’ll Google himself and find this, and then laugh with some sense of smug satisfaction. The harmonies in this song are intense, and you’ll need a degree from Juliard to be able to sing along in your car. Forget Hungry Like the Wolf for a minute and get yourself Duracclimated.

4. We Run – Strange Advance

Bryan Adams wasn’t the only Canuck rocking out hardcore in the eighties. Darryl Kromm sounds almost as if he’s fighting back vomit during the entire song, but I like the 2nd synthesizer that comes in mid way, and the eerie high-pitched “hayaaa hayaaa” vocals that get layered in at the end. I don’t know much about this band, and I don’t think anyone does, but I love this song. And Bryan Adams.

3. In A Big Country – Big Country

Where do I begin? My friends are all well familiar with my enduring love of this band, and I was absolutely shattered when Stuart Adamson hung himself a few years ago. Their live DVD entitled appropriately enough, Final Fling, is amazing and I watch it all the time. This song has an enormous energy behind it which is only made better by the fact that Stu and Bruce figured out a way to make their guitars sound like fucking bagpipes. And I love the video where they’re zipping around Scotland on ATVs – perhaps in search of a deep fried Mars bar.

2. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – Culture Club

Quite possibly the funkiest bassline ever laid down. Incidentally the bass player, Jon Moss, was subsequently laid down by Boy George – which led to the untimely demise of the band. Listen to this song with the subwoofah turned way up and recollect that ridiculous dance George was doing through the male senior citizen bath house in the video. Or was that his living room? And he’s still influencing disassociated nose-piercers to this day – by no means look at this page if you plan on sleeping tonight.

1. The Promise – When In Rome

This is a truly incredible song. It’s recently been resurrected by the film Napoleon Dynamite, and was an excellent choice for the soundtrack. The choppy synth bass, 14 octave vocals and clever chorus drove this to my number one with a bullet. You don’t know a lick about the 80’s if you haven’t heard this tune. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It was extremely hard to pick just ten – I could have easily done twenty. Honorable mentions go to Sunglasses at Night by Corey Hart, Kyrie by Mr. Mister, Pop Goes The World by Men Without Hats, Major Tom by Peter Schilling – but I just have to draw the line somewhere. And get some sleep. Yep – all in all, with the possible exception of Monchichis, it was a pretty cool decade.