September 2011

The English Beat – “Rotating Head” – (1982)

Like Yaz, The English Beat was known by a different name in the U.K. than they were in the U.S. In Britain, they were simply ‘The Beat’ as I suppose the ‘English’ may have been redundant. You know, how like in France they call French Fries just ‘fries.’ Anyway, there is an instrumental version of “Rotating Head” and it’s called “March of the Swivelheads.” I have never heard it and see no need to hear it as this version is just fine. You may know it best as the song Ferris Bueller runs home to at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Every time I hear the hook of this song I picture Matthew Broderick jumping over a fence via trampoline in slow motion. Every time. Never fails. Just watch out for Mr. Rooney waiting in your back yard!

Jermaine Stewart – “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” – (1986)

This is the song that Jermaine Stewart is known for. He had other singles so I won’t go calling him a one-hit wonder, but this was as big as it was going to get for him. Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart passed in 1997 from AIDS-related liver cancer. The song was used in an episode of Miami Vice, which helped its popularity. It’s a catchy, pop R&B tune that sounds like a mix of Michael Jackson and Prince (but that last part might because he is in a very Prince-like pose on the album cover)… if only there were doves flying out from behind him it would complete the 80s cliché.

Tears for Fears – “Head Over Heels” – (1985)

Tears for Fears was one of, if not the, greatest new wave band of the 1980s. This was their fourth single from their massive album, Songs from the Big Chair. It is one of the three gigantic singles from that album (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout” being the others). This one isn’t as big as those two, but it’s just as good.

Foreigner – “Say You Will” – (1987)

“Say You Will” was a power-ballad type rock song from Foreigner and it was one of their last hits, hitting #6 in the U.S. The song is a kind of combination of mid-80s songs like “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and their earlier stuff like “Urgent” – it’s neither hard nor soft rock. It’s just rock.

The Waitresses – “I Know What Boys Like” – (1982)

The Waitresses were a new wave band from Akron, Ohio and this was their biggest non-Christmas themed hit – hitting #62 in 1982. It was originally released in 1980 but failed to do anything. Yes, the song is somewhat nerve-grating, which is why if you want to see what this band was capable of, you need to check out their 1981 Christmas hit “Christmas Wrapping” which is actually quite good. The Waitresses had disappeared by 1984.

Bruce Willis – “Respect Yourself” – (1987)

It would be pretty easy to make a joke about Bruce Willis needing to respect himself by not releasing albums full of songs sung by him, but the fact is this song isn’t that terribly bad. It was a top 5 hit in the U.S. The song is pretty catchy and the music is, um, very appropriate for the year in which it was released. It sounds like something that should have appeared on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (it didn’t) – but that might have to do with one of the Pointer Sisters being featured in the song. I do like the song, but I’m glad Bruce spends most of his time acting these days.

The Cult – “She Sells Sanctuary” – (1985)

This is an awesome song from English rock band The Cult. I’ve seen this song described as “post-punk” but I don’t know what I’d consider it. It sounds so different from almost everything else… It’s definitely rock but it’s peppy and up-beat but short of being pop. It’s an easy song to just rock out to. It’s just really, really good.

Whitney Houston – “How Will I Know” – (1985)

This was the third single from Whitney’s debut album. Apparently, Janet Jackson was originally offered this song but turned it down and you can kind of tell because it’s very up-beat and dance-y compared to the other giant singles from this album – and this was when Janet was pumping out great dance track after great dance track. This is the best track from that album and was Whitney’s second #1.

Roxette – “The Look” – (1988)

“She’s got the look!” is the popular hook from the chorus of Roxette’s breakthrough hit. Roxette is a Swedish duo and this song made them famous worldwide. The story behind the international airplay is that an American exchange student came back from Europe and got his local station to play this song and from there cassettes were spread to other stations and the song ended up at #1 in April of 1989. Could you imagine that happening today? It won’t. Ever again. Nowadays you can hear anything and everything online. Everyone’s connected. There are no more pleasant surprises. Sorry.

Madonna – “Dress You Up” – (1984)

Like a Virgin was Madonna’s second album and this was the final single from that album and it marked Madonna’s sixth straight Top 5 single in the U.S. This dance-pop song is classic Madonna – but I’m going to be honest: if this song comes on when I’m out driving with all the windows rolled down, I might leave it on – but I’m definitely turning it down so no one else can hear it.

Billy Joel – “Keeping the Faith” – (1983)

Billy Joel popped out hit after hit in the 80s and “Keeping the Faith” was a Top 20 hit in 1984. An Innocent Man is a brilliant album that harkens back to a number of different musical styles from the 50s and 60s (we’ve already talked about “Uptown Girl”). The video for this song makes me think it’s supposed to be early-60s rock, but for whatever reason I just don’t hear it. But it’s still a pretty good song.

Yaz – “Don’t Go” – (1982)

British synthpop group (duo) Yazoo was known as “Yaz” in the United States. It’s kind of lame that they had to change the name of the group to perform in the U.S. (a rock band had the name Yazoo), but they still managed to churn out a hit or two. Their debut album, Upstairs at Eric’s contained this single which is synthpop magic. Seriously, 80s synth tracks don’t get better than this – it is the epitome of synthpop. Enjoy it!

The Outfield – “Your Love” – (1985)

“Josie’s on a vacation far away – Come around and talk it over. So many things that I wanna say – You know I like my girls a little bit older. I just wanna use your love tonight – I don’t wanna lose your love tonight.” The lyrics to this song are fairly famous – you can sing along after the first line but most people don’t know who sings it. “Is that The Cars?” No, it’s not. This was a top ten hit in the U.S. and the song that the band is most well-known for. It’s good.