Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yes, I Completely Forgot The Police

Another Tell It To Me Tuesday, another Tuesday when I’m Telling It:

First off, I should mention what’s apparent to anyone who knows us: I’m not as cool as my wife. While she was listening to all sorts of new wave and off-the-beaten-path music in the 80s, I was listening just around the edges of what everyone else was listening to.

Also, I didn’t stop listening to my 70s bands when the odometer flipped on the decade. Hell, I just started listening to my own music around 78-79, and the Cars were just getting started. But I’m not listing any of them here, just the same (well, aside from one cheat*).

So here they are – my top 10 eighties bands, in no particular order.

1. Joe Jackson: I lied about no particular order. This guy rules my musical Olympus. Like Zeus, he changes from rock to classical to jazz to a swan. Unlike a lot of artists, he’s not making the same album over and over – each one is a brand new experience. And if I still think Look Sharp! is his best album, it’s no reflection on him or his talents: it’s just that I was 14 when I heard it, and it makes me feel like I’m fourteen wanting to be nineteen every time I’ve heard it since. I play this loud in my car every summer.

2. Elvis Costello: Okay, everyone seemed to put Elvis Costello in the 70s lists, and I couldn’t figure out why (and was too lazy to look him up). Turns out My Aim is True was released in 1977 and I’m a total wanker for not knowing that. I first heard him in the 80s, playing a cassette of that album over and over again on the way to the beach with my friends Mike, Anita and Evelyn. It sounded so fresh to me I thought it was brand new. Since it’s too late to shoehorn him into his proper decade (not that he didn’t produce some great work in the 80s), I’m putting him here.

I’ve gotta make these shorter.

3. Cyndi Lauper: I like her more in retrospect than I did at the time, I have to admit. You really never knew what she was going to say or do next. She bop? And she put Steve Forbert in her first video!

4. Steve Forbert: Yeah, there’s “Romeo’s Tune” (or, as it’s better known, the “Meet Me in the Middle of the Day Song"), but Forbert is an amazing songwriter that gets less than a hundredth of the acclaim he deserves. Alive on Arrival is a great album, but his Streets of this Town wasn’t a bad way to close out the decade. “The nineteen seventies was ten long years, ten long years to sing a song. It kicked off madly with a New Year's cheer. I blinked once and it was gone.” I like Steve so much he bumped the Talking Heads. Someone cooler’n me will have to pick up the slack.

5. Nik Kershaw: Everyone I’ve ever met with whom I’ve talked about Nik Kershaw is amazed that someone else remembers Nik Kershaw. I listened to Human Racing until the heads on my walkman wore down – and even loved the awful songs (like “Cloak & Dagger”).

6. Rick Springfield: Now here’s a guy who doesn’t get enough credit. A friend of mine (hey Chris!) made up a compilation cassette of his hits (way more than you remember) and lesser known songs a few years after his star had faded a bit. Without the glimmer of being an MTV darling, two things are clear: one, the man knew his way around a hit record, and two, he had a vocabulary that wouldn’t quit. I still can’t hear the word “acquiesce” without thinking of him, and those two souls, looking for heaven, rolling the dice, looking for a seven.

7. Men at Work: These guys are well-known for their goofy songs like “Down Under,” but I don’t think they get enough credit for the poignance that many of their tunes have. Not just the better-known stuff like “It’s a Mistake,” but odd little tunes like “Helpless Automaton” struck me as having an emotional core, even if it’s about a kid who thinks he’s a robot.

8. Weird Al: On the other hand, Weird Al just goes for the goofy, and he’s still remarkably good at it. The eighties were his heyday, but he hasn’t missed a step. (And parody is a much tougher job now that the Top 40 has splintered into a dozen or more different charts.)

9. Violent Femmes: When I first heard this band in high school, I had no idea anyone else had ever heard of them—let alone what kind of touchstone their first album would be for my generation. Resolutely antiglamorous, it kicks the holy crap out of Duran Duran.

10. The Clash: In the eighties, I really just knew “Rock the Casbah” and “Train in Vain.” I was an ignorant laddie. I don’t care if it was released in 1979, London Calling is one of the best albums ever, and it makes the list. Wrong ’em, boyo.

11. Chris DeBurgh: A guilty pleasure. Before hitting the lottery on “The Lady in Red,” DeBurgh wrote much cooler stuff than how much he really really really loves you. He had songs about vampires (“Ecstasy of Flight”), stranded boats (“Ship to Shore”), the Cold War (“Borderline,” “Moonlight and Vodka”) and, of course, the journey to the land of the dead (“Don’t Pay the Ferryman.”) And then “The Lady In Red” happened and he suddenly forgot he grew up watching Dark Shadows and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ah, well.

That’s eleven. Whaddya think, sirs?

*I lied about the cheat. The Traveling Wilburys didn't make the cut.


Mon said...

Rick Springfield was dreamy! My fiance STILL loves Weird Al, and I have to admit, I love 'White and Nerdy'.

Christian Ready said...

Have to say 'bravo' to the list. I was listening to A Flock of Seagulls and Thomas Dolby a lot back in those days.

Natsthename said...

I'm a huge Forbert fan from the 70's era, but his 1980's was rather lacking in good tuneage. You're right, Streets Of This Town was excellent, and a move in the right direction for him. His 1990's shined!

Rob said...

You might think the 80s were Weird Al's heyday, but his new album debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard album chart last week - the first time he's ever done that. He's managed to remain relevant long past some of the artists he's parodied.


Rob S. said...

I'm really glad to hear that, Rob. Good for Al!

Nat -- I agree that the 90s were a better decade for Steve. (And frankly, I thought Alive on Arrival was early 80s until I looked it up.) But here he is, Little Stevie Orbit.

Janet said...

I'm trying to be very careful not to give my list away yet but I will say this. Rick Springfield rocks, period.

Chris A. said...

Does one have to be from outside the greater Philly area to give Hall & Oates their due? Nobody made better ear candy for the first half of the decade.

Rob S. said...

Ah, Chris, I put them in my seventies list, or else they'd probably be here too. You're right that I do sell that stuff short, though. It must be the lingering effects of that adult education.

Adult. Adult.