Showing posts with label 1980s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1980s. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

71/100 Video - "Would I Lie to You?" - Eurythmics (1985)


The Eurythmics had already produced a number of synth-pop records and hit singles before the release of their 4th album Be Yourself Tonight.

The album also showcased the amazing range of vocalist Annie Lennox, like in the angelic "There Must Be An Angel" and the soulful "It's Alright". 

The first single (and video) "Would I Lie to You?" was a veritable head-turner: the track features a large horn section and Motown backup singers. 

But most of all, the single illustrated the queen of new wave could also rock. Feisty, even. And if you watch the clip, you'll see she's a pretty good actress, too.

In the video, Lennox sings from the perspective of an angry girlfriend who walks out on her cheating lover. 

However her anger was not directed at Stewart, although they were a romantic couple before forming Eurythmics, but inspired by the breakup of her first marriage, to a Hare Krishna named Radha Raman.

At the beginning of the clip before the band hit the stage, I love how David offers Annie a piece of advice that was the title of their current album: "Be Yourself Tonight."

You may have most recently heard "Would I Lie to You?" on TV, as it's the theme song for Border Security: Canada's Front Line. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

78/100 Video - "Out of Touch" - Hall & Oates (1985)


There are times when all you need is a little comfort food to make you smile. 

Hall & Oates always delivered the goods, one of those quality artists that appealed to almost everyone at some point along the way. 

"Out of Touch" is irresistible with soulful verses, a spectacular chorus and a timeless melody.

The cheesy video showcases the big, bam, boom 80s production, as established artists during the mid-80s had enormous budgets for their videos.

The video was directed by Jeff Stein, who also did the surreal videos for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Don't Come Around Here No More" and The Cars' "You Might Think." 

The imagery fit well with the song's meaning, best illustrated when we see the giant drum roll over Hall and Oates, then later on when we see them trapped inside it, a metaphor for the feeling of isolation expressed in the lyrics.

It's obvious the boys had a blast making this video. Some of the best "white guy" moves ever made appear from 1:27 to 1:30, as Darryl and John shuttle off in opposite directions. 

In fact, I'll make the argument that "Out of Touch" is John Oates's shining moment; his backup singing and dance moves 
come to the forefront, including a cart wheel!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

84/100 Video - "The Ghost In You" - The Psychedelic Furs (1984)

Although British band The Psychedelic Furs is best known for the title track on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, I've always preferred the shimmering synths and the sheer beauty of the pseudo ballad "The Ghost In You".

This song and video master the 'sad verse, happy chorus' classic alternative formula.

I love the sharp colour contrasts in the video between the more subtle verses and the slightly happier chorus. 

During each verse, the black and white clips show a reflective Richard Butler singing in front of his backstage mirror.

The melancholy is offset in each joyous chorus as the frame changes to an altered reality, as vibrant colourful bubbles move about the screen.

You may recall the track was featured in the romantic comedy 50 First Dates starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

The chorus's cerebral lyrics "Inside you the time moves and she don't fade, the ghost in you, she don't fade" reduce the sappiness of what ultimately is an old school new wave love song...and what a lovely song it is. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

#1. "True Faith" - New Order (1987)

I always feel so extraordinary when I listen to this song. 

An addictive song about dealing with addictions, "True Faith" by New Order has always been a go-to track throughout the years.

First, and as corny as it may sound, "True Faith" got me through my first breakup. 

Musically, it's a band playing at its peak in 1987 with everyone making notable contributions: from Stephen Morris' dramatic drumming to Peter Hook's melodic bass and Gillian Gilbert's danceable synths. 

The surreal video shows costumed dancers slapping each other and hopping on gym mats to the beat of the tune.

It's also the song that cracked the band in North America. 

But it's Bernard Sumner's honest vocal delivery of poignant and edgy lyrics about the struggle we all experience that puts this track over the top. 

The "morning sun" take on the old adage of a "tomorrow's another dayis proof we all get another chance.  

Fave lyrics: "I feel so extraordinary / Something's got a hold on me / I get this feeling I'm in motion / A sudden sense of liberty"

This is a song that keeps sounding better. Although the instrumental bridge is amazing in the original single, the replacement guitar solo improves it as shown in this recent concert clip from Berlin below.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

#2. "Things Can Only Get Better" - Howard Jones (1985)

Just hearing the first few seconds of "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones releases the dopamine and always puts me in a great mood.

The song is one of my favourite cheerleading anthems, a reminder that adopting an optimistic attitude towards whatever the problem may be is half the battle.

It's also a reminder of how great music was in the 80s. 

And whoever said that synth has no soul has obviously never heard of this tune.

The rambunctious beat, the bursts of brass and an uplifting falsetto chorus are the obvious highlights. But it's the "Whoa, whoa whoa whoa oh oh-s" in the refrain that liberates us from all our worries.  

Fave lyrics: "It may take a little time a lonely path, an uphill climb / Success or failure will not alter it"

Friday, March 29, 2019

#3. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" - Tears For Fears (1985)

"Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears For Fears is one of Gen X's greatest anthems, this stunning song is a bit cynical yet also ambitious and optimistic.

One of those rare tunes with a near-universal appeal, it resonates with just about everyone. Is there a catchier song from the decade that also touches on the issues du jour like the environment, yuppies and the Cold War? 

From the profound and ambiguous lyrics that make you think, the vocals, and of course the incredible arrangement. The short but captivating vocal bridge is out of this world just before the sweeping synths and guitars kick in for a longer instrumental one.

The uplifting vibe of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" puts me in a great mood despite the lyrics being a bit on the cynical side. The song only reinforces the type of music I love best: melodic music and dark lyrics.

The lyrics challenge us to live life to the fullest (at the time it was during the Cold War of course) by taking full advantage of its pleasures and liberties before the true nature of the world, war and turmoil, come back again as per the history books.

Fave lyrics: all of it is so thought-provoking. But if I have to choose it's the universal truth of the opening line: "Welcome to your life / there's no turning back...".

One of the best driving songs ever made, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" always makes me want to put the top down and hit the gas. Even in the winter.

The classic video features Curt Smith driving an antique sports car around Southern California interspersed with shots of the full band performing the song in a studio.

My deep affection for the track has a lot to do with the timing of its release. In the spring of 1985 I'd just gotten my contacts and in the midst of a personal re-branding of sorts: I had the feeling I could do anything I wanted to in life. After getting my license days later, it was one of the first songs I cranked in Dad's Ford Escort hatchback. 

When I hear this song today i still get that same feeling. So I'm destined to never, ever tire of this tune. That's some powerful nostalgia.

#4. "Just Like Heaven" - The Cure (1987)

That sweeping layered 50 second instrumental intro is right up there with the best intros of all time (love those cymbal splashes!).

And the rest of the song isn't too bad either. In fact, it's pure ecstasy. 

The churning, shimmering guitars, the melodic synth, the driving beat. The piano at the bridge. 

Combine this with Robert Smith's passionate vocals and poignant lyrics and "Just Like Heaven" is also probably my favorite love song. 

But of course like many of their tunes, it has a twist and not a happy ending. But that's ok because it's all about the journey, albeit a short one at three minutes and nineteen seconds.

Proof that The Cure can produce a pop song as good as anyone from an era of classics.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

#5. "Something About You" - Level 42 (1986)

There's something about "Something About You" by Level 42 that's hard to pinpoint that make me look forward to hearing it again and again

Could be the amazing bass line. 

Those epic falsettos and the harmonies. 

Or perhaps the delicious chorus.

Can't forget about that surreal video, with the lead singer playing the Vaudeville clown in the engaging video.

In fact, it was all of those aspects and more: "Something About You" is simply a perfect pop song with a little R &B and synth tossed in. All the right hooks in all the right places.

All those little things that combine together to make me appreciate the whole of the song.

The tune still transports me back to when Dad used to drive me home for lunch back in Grade 11. The great ones will do that to you, take us back upon hearing the first note. 

Pure nostalgia.

Fave lyrics: 
"These changing years, they add to your confusion
Oh and you need to hear the time that told the truth"

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#6. "Wrapped Around Your Finger" - The Police (1983)

As a young teen I'd always been mesmerized by "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police. I still am, 36 years later on headphones. So mellow, yet so hypnotic.

The magic of Sting's melodic and lyrical prowess, Andy Summer's sparse effective guitar and Steward Coupland's intricate drum work all reach new heights on this textured tune.

From the lighting of the first candle, the video had always entranced me. 

The obscure literary references in the verses made me flip through the encyclopedias as Sting found a creative way to weave in such words as apprentice, Charibdes, Mephistopholes, tuition, fruition, and from the iconic bridge, alabaster.

And what a bridge! It never fails to give goosebumps. Both lyrically and musically, the tune picks up the tempo when the tables are turned on the master and servant relationship dynamics in question as "You'll be wrapped around my finger". Captivating stuff.  

The simple "I'll be wrapped around your finger" chorus shimmered. The synths are hauntingly beautiful.

Decades later, I still dream of knocking all those candles down at the end of the video like Sting did when he channeled the 'boy inside the man'. 

Fave lyric: "Devil and the deep blue sea behind me".

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

#7. "Strangelove" - Depeche Mode (1986)

"Strangelove" wasn't the first song I liked from Depeche Mode; but it was the one that sold me.

There is so much to appreciate here: the punchy synth, the deep bass, the entire production is irresistible. And it's moody as hell.

The original single release was deemed by the band to be too poppy and not dark enough for the Music for the Masses album, so they produced a darker mix known as "Strangelove '88" that became the group's first #1 dance hit in the US.

The dark lyrics navigate the territory between pleasure and pain; and appear to be about going off the grid, of being emotional unavailability of sorts. A perfect teen anthem.

Fave lyrics: "I'm always willing to learn, When you've got something to teach"

Monday, March 25, 2019

#8. "West End Girls" - Pet Shop Boys (1986)

Recorded in one take, "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys originally missed the UK Top 40 in 1984 until re-recorded with producer Stephen Hague. Once slowed down and the story told a little clearer, the single vaulted to #1.

"West End Girls" isn't just another synth-pop song: it's intellectual pop. The song creates a cityscape in your head. 

The music was inspired by hip-hop artist Grandmaster Flash's "The Messagewhile the lyrics inspired by TS Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land'. The lyrics recount the class tensions and inner-city pressure in London, specifically how the boys from the East End of London pine for rich girls from the West End.

The street chatter and car horns intro followed by hypnotic synths before Neil Tennant's dead-pan vocals immediately grab our attention. But it's that unforgettable bass-synth hook and cryptic lyrics that keeps bringing me back to live vicariously in the "dead-end world". 

Watching the video as a 17-year-old verified that a much bigger world laid out there waiting to be explored.

When Joelle and I visited London in 2012, I couldn't help but point out the many famous London landmarks shown in the iconic video:
- Waterloo Station
- a No 42 red double-decker bus to Aldgate
- Tower Bridge
- Westminster Palace Clock Tower
- the South Bank
- Leicester Square

Fave lyrics: "Which do you choose. A hard or soft option"

In 1993, New Zealand-based artist Flight of the Conchords paraodied "West End Girls":

Sunday, March 24, 2019

#9. "Eyes Without A Face" - Billy Idol (1984)

"Eyes Without A Face" is two tremendous songs for the price of one. 

The first half sees a chill Billy Idol crooning a ballad, with no screaming nor squealing guitars in sight. The synths are dreamy and laid-back.

One of the best hooks of the decades, I've always loved the female vocals leading into the chorus. The angelic "les yeux sans visage" harmony literally translates the track’s name, and encouraged me to translate other pop singles of the day into French. 

The second half is a complete 180 turn. 

Kicking in around 2:25, the minute-plus bridge features a Steve Stevens' guitar riff slashing through while Billy goes on a road trip bender whilst "trying to stay hip".

Billy returns to do his best Sinatra impression to wind up the power ballad.

#10. "Major Tom" - Peter Schilling (1983)

"Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Peter Schilling will always remind me of the space shuttle missions in the 80s.

The song is a sort of a sequel, an homage to David Bowie's astronaut character ("Space Oddity" and "Ashes to Ashes") who cuts off communication with Earth and floats into space.

The melody is so addictive, and the glorious exploding chorus with the 4-3-2-1 countdown is a natural singalong. I can't help but feel a little sappy while watching the video and imagining Major Tom looking down on Earth. 

So what happened to our hero? The sweeping melodramatic finale sounds like he made it home. 

In space.

On one hand, Major Tom may be left drifting out in space, unable to return to Earth. But perhaps that was his intent all along: could it be he just wanted to go away to some place, a new home, and not have to answer or reply to anyone?

Since the song was originally written in German perhaps something is getting lost in translation or interpretation. I'd be interested in a German's take on all this.  

Fave lyric: "This is my home. I'm coming home."

Here's the original German version:

Saturday, March 23, 2019

#11. "A Forest" - The Cure (1980)

After having bought the "Standing On A Beach" singles collection in the mid-80s, "A Forest" was the song that hooked me on The Cure, making me double-down to explore the rest of their deep catalogue. 

A former all-time favourite, I no longer binge listen to it. Brooding guitar, ominous bass and haunting keys all build a relentless atmospheric tension. Years later, it would have fit right on the soundtrack for The Blair Witch Project

The song is utterly brilliant and taps into a primal part of my brain. 

"A Forest" has such an edgy presence and creates a feeling of unease, over-the-shoulder glancing, shivers down the spine and general claustrophobia. This is a song best enjoyed in solitude, cranked up high on headphones or on a stereo with a good set of speakers.

By the time the second verse is over I'm totally gripped, lost inside a dream inside my head. The throbbing bass, the pounding drums and the synths are all working overtime. After the bridge, I imagine running in the woods in the dark as the guitar jangles and dangles.

Fave lyrics: "The girl was never there, it's always the same, I'm running towards nothing again and again and again..."

Below is a video of an almost 14 minute long live version from The Cure's Wish tour in 1992. It's far and away my all-time favourite live version of any song. I love how it builds then quiets down only to build back up again (and again and again....). Robert Smith even gives us a bonus, an extra verse as a sort of second bridge before the tune explodes for the grand finale. 

I can listen to it again and again and again...

Friday, March 22, 2019

#12. "Bizarre Love Triangle" - New Order (1986)

"Bizarre Love Triangle" is probably the catchiest of New Order's singles and the one most recognizable for music fans.

After years of experimentation, New Order had perfected the use of synths and drum machines by 1986. The result is a pop masterpiece. 

In terms of layers of electronic music, this song is near the top of the pedestal. 

So many gorgeous, magical highlights:
- the opening lyric is impressive: "Every time I think of you / I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue."
- the swirling synths interlude in the pre-chorus
- the undulating pacing of the chorus
- Hooky's bass as the foil to the euphoric synths and strings

A superb song to zone out to on headphones and a great groove for the dance floor.

The most bizarre thing about this song: it never charted well, peaking at a dismal #98 on Billboard and #53 in Canada.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

#13. "Pale Shelter" - Tears For Fears (1982)

One of the first Brit invasion songs to catch my attention back in 1982, "Pale Shelter" by Tears For Fears is among the very best from this era. It seems ludicrous now that the single only peaked at #15 in Canada. 

The song is completely memorizing: from the get go in the intro an acoustic guitar pleasantly strums along with the ubiquitous synths making a truly magical sound. 

I was always captivated by this video and the hundreds of paper airplanes tossed out the school windows, reminiscent of similar antics by David "The Pilot" in Mr. McInness's Grade 7 English class at Prince Arthur Junior School.  

I wonder if Hampton Court Palace staff will supply us with paper airplanes to toss in unison from the ramparts during the bridge when we see the band live in London this June. Or maybe we'll just have to bring our own?

While Roland Orzabal sings most of the hits on the 1985's Songs From The Big Chair, Curt Smith's softer vocals are a better fit for this melancholic number. 

Fave lyric: "When all I want to be is, completely in command." 

If you enjoy this track then you'll love this live version from 1983:

The 2016 single "Secrets" by The Weeknd has introduced the Millenials to Tears For Fears and other 80s artists, as the song samples vocals from both "Pale Shelter" and "Talking in your Sleep" by the Romantics. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

#14. "This Charming Man" - The Smiths (1983)

"This Charming Man" is the most iconic song in The Smith's repertoire: a veritable Marr & Morrissey masterpiece.

Johnny's Marr's trademark jangle guitar kicks it off and shimmers the rest of the way.  

Vintage Morrissey lyrics articulate obscure and elegant literary references delivered with verve. 

The bass is catchy, almost funky making the rhythm punchy, the melody upbeat. 

The buoyant and bubbly song is just so darn uplifting; imagine that for a second, from a band often branded as being miserable.   

The tune is short and sweet, clocking in at less than three minutes. Dare I say this "This Charming Man" rivals a typical single from The Beatles.

Fave lyric: “I would go out tonight / But I haven’t got a stitch to wear / This man said, ‘It’s gruesome/ That someone so handsome should care'”

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

#15. "It’s My Life" - Talk Talk (1984)

"It's My Life" by Talk Talk is a synth-pop masterpiece and pure magic: both song and video.

A soaring chorus, warm synths and a catchy bass line carry it along.

In the video the animals for the most part are in the sync with the sounds: check out when the whale breaches and the running ostrich. Perfect. 

The nostalgia factor cuts deep, as I find myself wondering whatever happened to all those animals in the zoo and in nature. 

It's a powerful and even joyous tune that should make us want to follow our dreams and respect and protect the natural world. Not a bad ROI on a 80s new wave tune.

No Doubt's cover in 2003 charted higher than the original which is a minor travesty.

Monday, March 18, 2019

#16. "Under the Milky Way" - The Church (1988)

"Under the Milky Way" by Australia's The Church is one of the most beautiful songs ever made. In terms of atmosphere and production, it's hard to top this.

The acoustic strumming sets the tone, the keys are melodic and the vocals and lyrics are perfect. The layers of jangle guitars and synth is extraordinary.

It also makes you think; think about the big things like your own existence, the universe, and why they don't make music like this any longer. 

The song is also highly addictive: I recall playing it 10 times straight after losing my job in Vancouver back in 1996.

It would place even higher if it wasn't for the bloody 'bagpipe' solo in the bridge. I don't hate it,  but it slightly ruins the ambiance. Fortunately, the tune reverts to the moody strumming and ends well with some nice reverb.

Fave lyrics: "Leads you here despite your destination. Under the Milky Way tonight."

And I totally missed it back in 1988 when released. 

Was I too busy wrapped up listening to the back collection of The Cure, Depeche Mode and New Order to notice?

Was it even released in Canada? (Wikipedia states it reached no. 69 on the Canadian RPM 100). 

When the dust settles, it's by far the highest ranking song of my top 100 80s singles that I don't recall enjoying during the 80s.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

#17. "Never Let Me Down Again" - Depeche Mode (1987)

The second single from Music For The Masses only reached #22 on the UK charts. 

Despite its modest chart success, "Never Let Me Down Again" is quite possibly Depeche Mode's most powerful jam.

And one of its darkest. 

The synths pulsate relentlessly and hypnotically.

An addictive song about drug addiction; or is it about trust?

David Gahan nails the vocals with a chorus that soars across the sky.

Absolutely perfect. And addictive.

Fave lyrics: 
"We're watching the world pass us by 
Never want to come down
Never want to put my feet back down"

"Never Let Me Down Again" is a fan favourite at concerts as per this live clip: