Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Confessions of an 80s music fan
I was born at the tail end of the 70s, at about the point where generation X meets generation Y. I guess you could say I belong to the XY generation, which is kind've appropriate considering my chromosome makeup.
Due to my point of entry in this world, I'll always refer to myself as an 80s kid. Most of my younger years were spent in the decade of the big hair, and I still have the acid wash jeans somewhere to prove it. This was before the days of the Internet (at least in widespread popular usage), before the putrid slop of reality shows (what we now call entertainment), and before we made people famous for the sake of being famous. I'm looking at you, Paris.
I grew up with matchbox cars, marbles, MAD magazine, Garbage pail kids and You can't do that on television. I was always afraid to say I don't know, lest a bucket of slime land on my head. One of my first memories of seeing a movie was seeing the original Back to the future with my parents when it first came out. I was so restless and annoying that I pretty much ruined the movie for them. It was only years later when I finally watched the movie and understood it. Of course, 1.21 gigawatts!
And of course, there's the music.
One of my earliest childhood memories was dancing to Van Halen's Jump in my next door neighbour's living room in the mid 80s. I also remember (in the latter half of the 80s) seeing Perfect by Fairground Attraction and The only way is up by Yazz and the Plastic Population on the music show of the day.
These were more innocent days; or, I was younger and more innocent. Before music clips consisted of scantilly clad women grinding against a pole. Sure that kind of stuff would be exciting for a teenager, but I'd like to think that 7 year olds could be shielded from that kind of stuff for a few more years.
Music from the 80s was without inhibitions. It was daggy, it was flamboyant, but in an ironic sense it was more real than most popular music released nowadays. It also made you happy. I challenge anyone not to smile when they hear the opening of The final countdown by Europe.
Yeah, I know it's the rose coloured glasses talking. We always look back fondly at our youth, forgetting the bad things, and romanticising the rest. It's human nature I guess.
It was my 2nd wedding anniversary last week, and my beautiful wife Lorin kindly bought me the following CD set (ok, I hinted that I wanted it):
I'm normally against compilations of this ilk. I almost put them in the same category as those 50 best songs to listen to while driving around with a truckie and eating a meat pie with sauce and the sauce has just fallen all over your shorts type compilations.
These decade-based compilations are not quite as bad, because at least they have some objective merit and aren't entirely based on what a record company hot shot thinks an Aussie bloke likes to hear at a BBQ. After all, there's probably a lot of Aussie blokes who dig classical music, and a lot more who never need to hear Khe sanh again.
Back to my point about objective merit - it's more difficult to argue with the choice of what songs to include on a CD called 101 80s hits. Firstly, a song should only be included if it had been released between the years 1980 and 1989. Secondly, the song should be a hit of some sort. I guess this term is a bit more subjective, which is where so many compilations fail.
When browsing these sorts of compilations in stores, there's a commonly recurring sneaky record company practice which I have noticed over the years. They put a few corkers at the start of the compilation, with slowly diminishing returns over the rest of the CD(s). The careless buyer will see the first few songs, think they are on to a winner, and buy the CD. It's only when they get home later that they realise it's an EP masquerading as a long player.
But this 5-CD set is not like that. Here's a sample of 5 great songs from each CD. Notice the tracks numbers of the selections:
1. Blondie - Call me
5. The B-52s - Rock lobster
8. Men At Work - Down under
13. J. Geils Band - Centerfold
17. Survivor - Eye of the tiger
2. A Flock of Seagulls - I ran
5. David Bowie - Modern love
13. Nena - 99 luftballoons
16. Limahl - Never ending story
20. Dead Or Alive - You spin me round (Like a record)
7. Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder - Together in electric dreams
9. Simple Minds - Don't you (Forget about me)
14. Huey Lewis & The News - The power of love
16. A-ha - Take on me
19. Starship - We built this city
2. Divinyls - Pleasure and pain
3. Mr. Mister - Broken wings
10. Cutting Crew - (I just) died in your arms
13. Europe - The final countdown
18. Rick Astley - Never gonna give you up (the Rick Roll himself)
5. Robert Palmer - Simply irrestistible
7. Fairground Attraction - Perfect
11. Fine Young Cannibals - She drives me crazy
19. Martika - Toy soldiers
20. Deborah Harry - I want that man
And that's just a sample of 25/101 songs!
I wouldn't expect those from generation Y to have have the same emotional attachment to some of these songs. And if I was coming to these songs fresh, without having grown up with them, I would probably laugh in the face of their 80s production awash with drum machines and synths. But for someone born in the same era as me, this 5 CD set is a treasure chest of memories.
Those who know me well know that I don't download music, even from legal online stores like iTunes. Everything that's included in my iPod has to be legitimately purchased in physical CD format. It makes acquiring new music so much more fun - downloading is just too easy. The thrill of the chase, etc.
I used to be more of a purist, and never would have considered buying a compilation CD set like this. Which is kind've why I have been getting more into soundtracks lately - they feel less dirtier than a compilation like this, as they have more of a conceptual unity to them (they were all in the same movie!). But to get this many great songs from the 80s through the purchase of single artist compilations or soundtracks would be a massive expense in both time and money. Considering that many of the songs on this compilation are from one-hit wonders, it would be a pretty fruitless task as well.
These songs and me will be together in electric dreams for many years to come. I look forward to them coming up in the shuffle on my iPod.
MP3: Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder - Together in electric dreams [Link removed]
The most notable omission for me in this set is Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners. I may have to buy one of their albums to get that song. As Homer Simpson once said, we haven't heard the last of them.
I also would have liked to substitute Drive by The Cars for Tonight she comes. I already have Drive on their 1984 album Heartbeat city. Tonight she comes is more difficult to get hold of, as it's only available on their Greatest hits CD (which is redundant for me now) and possibly some soundtracks as well.
Amazingly, I only had 6 of the 101 songs in this set already. Considering I always been an 80s music fan, having such a small overlap with the rest of my collection is pretty amazing.
Update: Song links removed.