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…