I have a couple of deadlines to meet and a few other projects I want to get to on top of that. So to help clear out my head, I’m going to get back to my previously-derailed #LinkYourLife Challenge with the prompt: Make a playlist of songs you grew up with.
I remember as a young child being enamored with this amazing voice I heard from a baby-sitter’s record player. The singer was Harry Nilsson, and the song was “Without You”. Maybe it was some kind of mystical thing since Harry would be connected to so many musicians I grew to love throughout my life. (This could turn into a whole nerdy post somewhere down the line). Even the end of his life was eerily synchronistic. I heard this song on the radio the night Harry died, several hours before the news broke.
The dominant band of my childhood was Men At Work, and my favorite song of theirs then was “It’s a Mistake”. The video is also nicely illustrative of the Cold War fears that were still hanging on.
This next song didn’t make it very high on the charts, but I don’t know anyone who grew up in the ’80s who doesn’t remember this song from another Australian band by the name of Moving Pictures. Because of that limited success, this song lived as little more than a memory for over a decade before the rise of the internet. (This is probably why YouTube only has the video with Spanish subtitles.)
In contrast, it seems no one but me remembers “Unconditional Love” by Donna Summer and Musical Youth.
In the early days of MTV, you couldn’t find a cooler video than “Photograph” by Def Leppard. It looks terrible by today’s standards (even worse with the low video resolution), but we couldn’t get enough of it.
The Simpsons once had a joke in which Homer said you hadn’t heard the last of Dexy’s Midnight Runners after their massive hit “Come On Eileen”. So here is where I will confess that around the same time I would’ve bet money that Peter Scolari would be the most successful alum of “Bosom Buddies”.
Since I made an ’80s TV reference, I figure I should drop in a TV theme song. I chose this one because it was the basis of a “Robot Chicken” joke that no one else understood. Also, it’s another illustration of horrible ’80s predictions. Ricky Schroeder was a huge star, and now he’s probably the third-most famous cast member. (The top two aren’t featured in these credits, but the top two are his rival Derek, a.k.a. Mallory Keaton’s real-life younger brother and Dexter’s nephew a.k.a. that kid from the Pepsi commercial who supposedly died by breaking his neck while break-dancing.)
Speaking of failed predictions, I remember once hearing people on the radio predict that within a few years Eddie Murphy would be more famous for his music than his comedy. So you see Homer and I did not have a monopoly on terrible predictions.
My best friend and I would actually turn around every time we heard those words during “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. We were strange kids. Years later I would help make this song the unofficial theme for a crisis center where I used to volunteer. This leads me to a moment of nerding out: Another of her hits (“Holding Out for a Hero”) was redone for the opening theme of a short-lived TV show called “Cover Up”. It starred a fellow Michigan State University alum, the late Jon-Erik Hexum. I watched that show because I loved his prior show “Voyagers”*. (The premise would be pretty much recycled at the end of the decade for “Quantum Leap”.) During a frustrating day of shooting, Hexum playfully shot himself in the head with a gun loaded with blanks. The concussive force caused massive brain damage, and he would never regain consciousness. The show continued with a replacement but wasn’t likely to succeed even before the tragedy.
One of the most frustrating things about hearing songs from the ’80s is that so many stations only play one hit from a particular artist and usually not their best hit. I could go on for days with examples. (The aforementioned Men At Work’s “Down Under” is one. Give me some “Overkill” for the love of Greg Ham. It was a #1 hit.) However, the one that bugs me the most is that when I hear Joe Jackson, it’s never my favorite song of his, “Breaking Us In Two”. Everybody plays “Stepping Out” which I could stand not to hear for the rest of my life. (Nerding out again briefly: Part of the melody is pretty blatantly ripped off from Badfinger’s “Day After Day”. I like Badfinger, but I still love this song. For those of you too young to be familiar with Badfinger, they were the band playing at the very end of “Breaking Bad”.)
I had a couple of ethical dilemmas with compiling this playlist. I mostly separate my opinions of celebrities from their personal deeds. However, I have a lot of trouble with that when it comes to sexual assault. Rick James (featured in the “Party All the Time” video) was a convicted rapist. I believe Michael Jackson sexually abused children. Generally, I avoid their music, but the aforementioned song and the next one on my list feature other artists and hold a lot historical significance. For those reasons, I chose to include them, but I will probably continue to debate that decision.
You know you’re an ’80s child if you can name everyone who sings lead in this most ’80s of ’80s songs. (Bonus points for each member of the choir you can name.)
Having done most of my growing up (physically anyway) in the ’80s, most of my songs come from that decade. So I’m going to avoid straying beyond then and close with a song from near the end of the ’80s. For Christmas 1988, my mom gave me a cassette copy of “Volume One” by the Traveling Wilburys. (One last nerding: The title was a joke because they didn’t expect to make another. So their second album was “Volume Three”.) My mom was inspired to give me this gift in part for my love of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, plus she really loved Roy Orbison who died shortly before this video was shot.
*If you made it this far, here’s one last nerdy note that I couldn’t fit in earlier. Meeno Peluce, Jon-Erik Hexum’s co-star on “Voyagers”, is the older brother of Soleil Moon Frye, a.k.a. ’80s icon Punky Brewster.