20 Songs from The Early 80’s and What I Was Probably Doing While Listening to Them

1. The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me”

This song inspired us to run around and act like British people who were pale and sang in monotones. There was a brief moment when I experimented with eyeliner just like Philip Oakey, but after it got in my eyes and burned while sweating on the dance floor, I was basically over it. I also had a brief career as a waitress in a cocktail bar, but that was just to meet guys, not a career path.

2. Madonna – “Holiday”

When Madonna appeared on the scene with the first of her many world-dominating clothing styles, every girl of a certain age (and many of the guys) were immediately clamoring to wear so many rubber bracelets that they could barely lift their arms over their heads while dancing in their chic-trash outfits.

3. Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star”

I would be scratching my head and trying to figure out what the hell they were doing in this video. Who is that small devil child and why are people stuck in giant plastic tubes?

4. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Relax”

A song was actually playing on the radio that was all about delaying orgasm? What college student wouldn’t worship this song? And the best part was everybody getting to holler the “HUHHH!” sexual-release noise in the middle of the song.

5. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy”

This inspired many a teenage tramp-in-training to wallow around on a random beach and beg for sugar-based goodies. Of course, you would find sand in surprising places after doing so, but that’s just the price you pay. And hey, sometimes it works out, like getting to marry a future American president and sneak the rest of your family into the country.

6. The Eurythmics – “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

Annie Lennox, with that severe orange hairdo, implied that she could snuff the life out of Margaret Thatcher with one look. Too bad she didn’t. (Oh, behave. You know I’m kidding. Mostly.)

7. Talking Heads – “Burning Down the House”

I would say that the ghostly video image of David Byrne swallowing lane-markers on a highway inspired me to do equally artsy things, but most of the time I would just get another drink from the bar. I tried to be hip, really did, but there’s only so much time in the day.

8. Modern English – “I Melt with You”

I desperately wanted to be enough in love with someone to sing this song to them during a spectacularly-romantic and perfect moment, but it took me a while to understand that there was more to a relationship than being pretty and wearing the right clothes.

9. Spandau Ballet – “True”

This was another fascinating romantic song, sort of, but the bit about “with a thrill in my head and a pill on my tongue” always confused me. Would you really want to sing that line to someone that you hoped would stick around long-term?

10. The Vapors – “Turning Japanese”

No idea what this song was actually about, but the peppy, hectic vibe of it made you want to run out into the streets and then do something incredibly stupid. Not that I needed a soundtrack, as I was very adept at poor choices on my own.

11. Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”

I didn’t know what was tainting the love, but the pure geekiness of lead singer Marc Almond let the little people believe that they could also one day grow up to sing about people hurting them. On an album that actually included a track called “Sex Dwarf”.

12. A Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran (So Far Away)”

Loved the song, but I was certainly running away from that guy’s hairdo that was jacked high enough to knock planes out of the sky.

13. Men at Work – “Down Under”

Vegemite sandwich? What fresh hell is that? Of course, we didn’t have Google back then so we weren’t able to quickly determine that vegemite was essentially a yeasty Nutella.

14. New Order – “Blue Monday”

There was something about dancing to a tune about suicide and loss that made us feel really European and cool. That sounds harsh and unempathetic now, but you just had to be there. The early 80s, at least for the newly-minted adults, were rough, mentally and spiritually, so sometimes the only recourse was to dance the pain away.

15. Joe Jackson – “Is She Really Going Out with Him?”

This is when I would get something to eat or go pee. I thought this song was incredibly annoying and I couldn’t make it all the way through.

16. Animation – “Obsession”

The song was sex-stalker enough on its own, but the hot-looking male half of this duo made me think that kidnapping and forced physical encounters were fine. As long as you left a thank-you note on the nightstand.

17. Duran Duran – “The Reflex”

This song was so hugely popular that they actually played the extended dance mix on the radio in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bible Belt Central! I nearly drove my car into a ditch.

18. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – “Come on, Eileen”

People made so many raunchy jokes about the lyrics in this song that you couldn’t listen to it anymore without your mind getting perverted. Which, of course, probably didn’t impress the reluctant Eileen.

19. Adam Ant – “Goody Two Shoes”

Adam Ant clearly did drugs and enjoyed them immensely.

20. Culture Club – “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”

No, we didn’t want to hurt you, Boy George. Instead, we were hoping that your day-glo dreadlocks wouldn’t hurt us. What was up with all that mess? Were you trying to get into a drag-queen circus and misunderstood the application process? No offense, live your life, but gurl, you were on a trip I couldn’t grasp. Was your chauffer Adam Ant?


Previously published in “The Sound and the Fury”. Modified somewhat for this post. For the record, and despite the snark, some of the music from that time period was just what this liberal gay man in extremely-conservative Oklahoma needed to hear. Music soothes the savage yeast…


28 replies »

    • Well, the band did try to pretend that it was also a political statement, but really (especially if you managed to see the original video that was quickly banned in many markets), that’s exactly what the song was about…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. OK, it’s official: we must be the same age! They were all MY tunes too (except for #8, never heard of it)- I was growing up in England listening to all that, plus Bronski Beat… I’m so glad the tunes reached you in deep USA ❤ x G

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my. I feel like a bit of an underachiever at the moment. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I do seem to recall a discussion along those lines when I was chatting with one of the publishers of a certain underground newspaper at the University of Tulsa. He was trying to school me, but I was more interested in getting his phone number. Because I was a bit bored with the solo contemplation…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “that vegemite was essentially a yeasty Nutella” – NOOOOOOOOOOO
    Vegemite is not yucky
    nutella – I am much disheartened to hear you say such wicked things.
    I can only be appeased if you make me many, many buter and vegimite sandwiches, and never sully vegemite in the same sentence as
    nutella 😦

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Oh man, this was a fun trip! I loved so many of these songs, though some I had to be discreet about depending on the crowd I was with. (Some people will never admit that any music coming out after their high school years is any good. Why is that?)
    My addition: David Bowie – Let’s Dance. That was a song I was never discreet about. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loved the first part of your comment, hugs and kisses and all that. But the “Let’s Dance” reference? Um, how can I put this politely? That song did not necessarily give me the inspiration that it perhaps should have. Was that fair? Still hugs and kisses, though. Always that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay. We ARE in the same generation – relatively speaking. I do recall you were born in 196* (I know the year actually I think. You told it in a recent post, but I’m still paranoid enough of ID thieves not to reveal what is essentially your ‘secret’. And there I was all laboring under the impression you were much, much younger. 😐 This post requires a re-blog as the comments I have to make are much too much for a mere comment venue. Thanks for the flashback/way back machine – even if it isn’t Friday…

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are very close in age, a mere five years apart, which is nothing now that are essentially older than the dinosaurs. That’s why we connect on so many levels. And I’m still researching the possibility that we are siblings separated at birth, which means that we can never marry, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes…


      • Oh over here we could marry. Cousins totally did that all the time, in fact, in my own tree of ancestry, I have some that married their FIRST cousin. Which now is seen as a real bad idea, but no pointy headed cousins were born of that union. A small miracle, as my personal gene pool is pretty loaded with all sorts of nasty genetic surprises. Like middle age onset diabetes. That one’s still chappin’ my non-existent nads. 😡 ANYWAY. I suspect we ARE related and that the revelation of that wonderful fact will bring joy to this old woman’s withered dinosaur heart…. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    • I completely understand your hesitance to fully date yourself. I used to not care, but as the years whiz by and I suddenly realize that my actual age can now only be determined by carbon-dating techniques, I tend to hide a few facts…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t really speak for KOMA in OKC, as my provenance was in Tulsa. But I will say that the coolest place on the radio dial in Tulsa was the tiny radio station at the University of Tulsa, which had a broadcast distance of roughly 25 yards and a budget of absolutely nothing. Somehow, we got through it all… 😉


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