Friday, May 24, 2019

Playing Back the 80s

Playing Back the 80s: A Decade of Unstoppable Hits, by Jim Beviglia

This was just a fun book for me to look through.  Beviglia really just wrote letters to absolutely everybody who had a hit song in the 80s, asking for the story behind the song.  If he got an answer, he did an interview and published the story -- just one song per band.  As a result, the book is a little hit-and-miss; presumably Madonna didn't bother to reply (I don't like Madonna anyhow so that was OK with me), and he says in the foreword that although he's a big fan of 80s rap, nobody responded, so there's no rap and it makes him sad.

The selection is stronger on early 80s material than on the later years, and I would say that it's heavy on groups that were not as well-known.  The Police appear, but not U2 or Depeche Mode.  No Cyndi Lauper.  However, many of my own favorites are here, like Men Without Hats, Corey Hart, Bruce Hornsby, Talking Heads, and lots of others.  There were also some songs I just didn't know, like Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider.

The fun thing about this book was that it was obviously necessary to listen to each song as I read about it.  I tried to just read the book at first, but it would describe some particular feature of the song, like the delayed chorus of Journey's Don't Stop Believin', and I'd have to go find my phone and bring up Google Play so I could figure out just what he was talking about, and so pretty soon I just sat on the couch playing each song as I read, even if it was a song I don't really like (*cough* Eye of the Tiger).   A bunch of new things made it on to my playlist!

I definitely do not love all the songs listed.  For some reason that awful thing Cry by Godley & Creme is there (how was that a hit??), and I've always hated the Piña Colada song but I'm hardly the only one.  There are some real oddballs, like Styx' Mr. Roboto, one of the weirdest songs ever, and one of my all-time favorites, Georgia Satellites' Keep Your Hands to Yourself.

So much fun.  For those of us who loved the 80s, anyway!


I decided I had to include one video, but it was hard to pick just one.  I figured on going with the ultimate 80s ballad, Don't Stop Believin', but it doesn't seem to be around.  So I pick the cheerful lunacy of The Safety Dance!




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