The culture of the 1980s was a strange and wacky one. I feel sorry for today’s young people who never got to experience all that weirdness and lack of self-consciousness, things that made it okay for a dude to wear shoulder pads, acid wash jeans, skinny ties, and the grand daddy of all hairdos, yes, the righteous mullet. Business in the front, utter shame in the back.
On TV, we had cool crime shows with super “macho” characters like Magnum P.I., Miami Vice, T.J. Hooker, and The A-Team. We had lots of bitchy, backstabbing rich folks in Dallas, Dynasty, and Knots Landing. Plus there were a lot of half cute, half creepy, black orphans being raised by very white adopted parents on 30-minute sitcoms.
But I didn’t watch any of that crap. My television only had one channel worth watching back then, and that channel featured a rock riff coupled with a moon landing.
Fast forward 25 years, and I’m spending tonight doing the same damn thing: watching 80’s music videos. The only thing missing is Beavis and Butthead sitting next to me. Ah, but alas, I am alone. And not watching music videos on television, mind you, that would be ridiculous because MTV ceased to be awesome a long time ago. Now it’s about as awesome as getting hit in the nuts with an aluminum baseball bat.
Thank you, YouTube.
I‘ve watched a lot of videos tonight, but for the sake of tickling my wife‘s funny bone and to kill some time, yes, ladies and gents, I‘m picking out a few for you.
I’ve always thought Dancing With Myself was about, well, something much more giggle-worthy than being the last man on earth after the zombie apocalypse, but according to Billy Idol, that is what‘s happening here. Apparently, he plans to survive by looking creepier than the zombies. At about 50 seconds into the video, the camera zooms in on the grinning faces of a decomposing corpse and a Pinocchio from Hell as they laugh at the fate of mankind. Then you think you can breathe a sigh of relief when Idol reaches the roof of one of the few remaining buildings, but predictably, of course, the zombies have developed superhuman wall-climbing abilities, a super power that is tough to believe when these people have limbs rotting off their torso.
Luckily Idol is able to thwart their attack with a giant electricity conductor that gives him the ability to give sexually suggestive looks that shoot lightning, although, to be fair, it’s rumored Idol actually had this ability for a brief period around the time of White Wedding. The video ends as Billy Idol stops merely dancing with himself and begins dancing with the zombies.
There are two kinds of people in this world: People who love Journey ironically and people who love Journey genuinely. People who love Journey ironically are mostly fashionable hipsters wearing second-hand vintage T-shirts, smoking clove cigarettes, and hanging out with androgynous she-boys outside used record stores. As for people who love Journey genuinely, they do so because of songs like Girl Can’t Help It. If you don’t know the lyrics, don’t worry. Every Journey song is about the same thing. It’s about jaded city boys, lonely small-town girls, singing in bars, drinking, cheap perfume, taking your chances, livin’ in the city, romance in the rain, and drifting to some mysterious destination where things will be better.
To any youngsters watching, this song is best played while enacting any of that generation’s primary concerns: dancing about in a vaguely industrial areas, following your dreams to the big city, or bedazzling your name on the back of a denim jacket.
On a side note, yes, that’s Randy Jackson of American Idol fame, with the flat-top fro and slapping on his bass guitar. What up dawg!
The 80s had a big worries about the future, about, well, NOW. This is the future we were afraid of. Thank God we don’t live in Billy Idol’s zombie-infested post-apocalyptic nightmare. Thank God also that we don’t live in Corey Hart’s totalitarian dystopia Sunglasses at Night. I’d hate to run around trying to avoid that expressionless, Terminator-like police force that patrols the streets making people put on sunglasses. The 80s were famous for creating these technophobe visions, but fear of sunglasses doesn’t really seem to be that threatening of a technology to me. Maybe Cory was just worried that wearing his Ray-Bans made him look like Tom Cruise.
You might think Suddenly, Last Summer starts out innocently, what with an ice cream truck rolling through suburbia, but as any connoisseur of fine horror cinema knows, those involved in the ice cream industry are anything but pleasant.
And then, just like about every music video from this decade, it stops making sense as soon as possible. We quickly jettison the ice cream man plot and observe as a young woman (lead singer Martha Davis of The Motels) has a dream inspired by her beloved trashy romance novel. Then things get bizarre when a group of onlookers in matching uniforms shows up. Things get downright terrifying when the ice cream truck rolls back into frame. And then I completely crap myself when the young woman wakes up and faces my worst nightmare: that the entire population of the neighboring retirement community has invaded her home and are JUST STARING AT HER. And the worst part is, she doesn’t even care! Kids, don’t believe what you see. Waking up to a room full of stony-faced geriatrics was not common in the 80s.
Wanted Dead or Alive was written in that small window of the ’80s when a blue collar steelworker from New Jersey with a terminal case of hockey hair could write songs about being a cowboy and be taken seriously. It was a very small window. Actually, it really only encased this one song. Still, when Bon Jovi throws up his fist and says he’s seen a million faces and rocked them all, we believe him. We all want to spend the rest of our lives rocking faces.
The song is a bipolar narrative, with Bon Jovi emotionally wandering from the depths of the deepest stone-washed denim blues to the highest peak of cock-rocker euphoria. One minute he’s lamenting “Sometimes you tell the day, By the bottle that you drink, And times when you’re all alone, All you do is think.” Then almost immediately extolling that he rocked all those faces. Incidentally, if you have had your face rocked at any point by Bon Jovi, please seek prompt medical attention. It is highly probable you have contracted something doctors refer to as Chlamydia.
Enjoy the song. But I recommend strapping on a six-shooter or saddling up a motorcycle while you listen. Or anything, really, that one could conceivably do to let others know that you have a large penis and are not afraid to use it.
80s rock songs were all pretty much about penis and the various ways it is great to have one. And it is. It‘s fun to swing it around, waggling it in the face of enemies, or simply writing songs about it while playing phallic guitars.
As such, I felt the need to represent the ladies here a bit, too. Love is a Battlefield compares the intricacies of love to a battle. In case those subtleties escape you, this video hammered the message home by manifesting these metaphors with Pat Benatar and a bunch of whores dance-fighting a Raul Julia look-alike while shaking their boobs in a menacing fashion.
The song became the unofficial anthem for the unappreciated woman of the ’80s. This was “cock rock” for the female set. My immediate memory is walking into a nightclub in 1984 and finding a few women there on a girl’s night out, blockaded behind a wall of teased hair and empty bottles of Bartles & Jaymes, drunkenly belting out “We are strong!” while adjusting their fluorescent ankle-warmers.
Another woman’s anthem from 1984 was Holding Out For a Hero. It called for a resurgence of heroic chivalry among men of the era. Bonnie Tyler cried out in futility and frustration, lamenting “Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?” She begged for rescue, singing that she was “Holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night!”
In response to this heart-wrenching plea for masculinity, men of the ’80s commenced to wear white loafers without socks, purchased hair mousse in bulk and turned up their Wham! albums until Bonnie Tyler’s screams for help were drowned out.
This song inspired young women not to settle for second best, as well as motivating young men to be at their most grand and heroic. As a man, I promise to forge swords and then do some sword fighting. Ladies, feel free to swoon while watching me.
This song doesn‘t have an official music video, but I‘ve attached a 80‘s concert performance by Foreigner. Jukebox Hero is a simple tale about a down-to-earth boy from the Midwest learning how to play the guitar and thereafter eternally rocking until the end of time.
According to most 80s rock songs, there were only two types of people in the 1980s: teenage boys from the bible belt who secretly yearned to rock, and small-town girls with big dreams that their parents just didn’t understand.
Hmmm. I’m thinking if hearing a rock guitar while standing outside a venue in the pouring rain can cause an innocent farm boy to mutate into a screeching, musical demi-god, imagine hearing 17 guitars on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm! Damn, that could instantaneously transform altar boys all across the heartland into 70-foot tall rock ogres, shredding on nuclear guitars and ejaculating fiery magma into the horrified faces of America‘s enemies.
Yes, Kenny Loggins, the man who sang every sissy song of the 80s, somehow managed to grow a temporary pair of testicles and step up to be a man for one brief, shining moment in 1986 when he delivered the decade’s most badass anthem. He wrote a song comprised entirely of muscular guitar riffs and tailor-made for kicking ass in the midst of explosions on a rainy night. He did not settle for a lesser concept. And for that, the gods in Valhalla still salute him.
There’s a reason the band called themselves Survivor. Eye of the Tiger has been universally appropriated as the definitive anthem of the triumphant underdog. Its opening chords have entered the cultural subconscious as the theme music for facing impossible odds. When anything insurmountable occurs, from massive corporate takeovers to pie-eating contests, this song will be faintly heard, wafting distantly in the wind. Life is Goliath, Eye of the Tiger is David.
Be extremely careful when listening though. Nearly everything can be unbelievably dangerous while listening to Eye of the Tiger. Here’s a little exercise that illustrates perfectly what this song is capable of. Think of the weakest, most pedestrian chore you can do, for example, doing laundry. Now play this song in the background. By the end of the spin cycle, you’ll find that you’ve managed to somehow kill a grizzly bear with fabric sheets or make sweet love to every woman within 40 yards.
As proof, check the video. The band absolutely throws down the gauntlet here, saying, “Witness how badass this song is, even if you walk down the street in skin-tight jeans and a beret.”
Beware, listener. This song will accept no less than lacing up boxing gloves, buckling on a sword, or rolling on a condom from you. Don’t listen if you‘re not prepared to use any of those things, as odds dictate that by the chorus you‘ll be knee deep in either blood or poontang.