by Darren Clarke, June 7, 2017
(For links to Spotify and iTunes Playlists please see Part 1 and Part 2 of this series)
“Enjoy your mileage.”
As mentioned in Part One of these articles, back in the eighties, “Enjoy your mileage,” was something Giuseppe Milani would say to you after he had finished filling your gas tank. I thought of Giuseppe as I reminisced about all the times I willed my parents Ford LTD to make it to his gas station so I could get some gas in the empty tank. The Ford LTD with the second speaker that would kick out until I banged my fist on the dashboard. The navy blue Ford LTD that, like all of my father’s cars was continually in for repair at Champions Service Station at the corner of Albert and Pine Street. I dreaded the, “Go down and see if the car is ready…” directions from my dad almost as much as Mr. Champion dreaded me following through on those directions, the two of us rivaling each other for least enthused participant in the exercise of-
“My dad wanted me to see if the car is ready…”
“It should be ready in two hours…”
It rarely was.
Driving the Ford LTD through Thorold’s empty winter streets headed for nowhere, listening to David Lee Roth being interviewed on a Buffalo radio station. Diamond Dave telling the DJ in classic Roth-ian hyperbole, like something Spiccoli might of shared with Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High after the cameras stopped rolling, “Making Rock’n Roll is like being Christoper Columbus sailing to the new world…”
Enjoy Your Mileage.
I was twelve coming into 1980. And like anyone who is twelve the next ten years are almost certain to be a mess of change: acne, posturing, bad haircuts, trying to be a good person but often being a selfish person, struggling to overcome fear, anxiety, listlessness, intermittently tapping into reckless joy, passion, landing in new worlds: comrades in arms, staying out all night, the lure of women, the frustration of women, the miracle of women, evolving your own thoughts and feelings about the world, immature thoughts, brilliantly honest thoughts, thoughts based on your worst attributes, thoughts based on your best, winning, losing, figuring out the entire universe for a moment, losing it the next, being punched in the face, learning hard lessons about drinking too much, finding out your parents have flaws, finding out everybody has flaws.
For me the 80s was a mess of changing perspective so this list is as well. My playlist is a highly emotional, purely subjective, shameless, exercise in conveying to you the stuff that moved me then and now.
A friend of mine asked me what the purpose of all my effort in making up a massive 80’s Playlist and the attached articles. I couldn’t answer. But I think now that it was my way of reconciling myself to the fact that the past can hold as much mystery as the future. I can attempt to tell you who I was in the 80’s but those wildly important nuances get lost in the translation. And the nuances are everything. There is also the issue of not fully being able to realize who exactly I was. We walk around for our entire lives estranged to varying degrees from the fullness of who we are. In the end we are all to some extent strangers to ourselves.
But what we can never fully know, music can always touch. Like reading a good book is part discovery of something foreign and part discovery of yourself, music voyages into the mystery and gives you a glimpse of the depths and diversity of emotion within. The more naively we love music the more we are rewarded. The more we surrender to the elusiveness of our relationship to music, the more we confess that there is something beyond context, intensity, genre, even the finest poetry, the more we are rewarded. We are fundamentally a mystery: why we are here, where we are in the universe, what we should try to be, it’s not certain. The mystery only gets greater over time. All we can do is love it.
Enjoy your mileage.
Life in a Northern Town- The Dream Academy
If you conceive of something as outrageously fantastic as “Hey-oh-ma-ma-ma-do-do-do-nay-oh, hey-oh-ma-ma-ma-hey-ey-ey-ma,” that’s a moment of being in fate’s favour, that’s a moment of being in touch with something deep and rich. They struck the vein. I hope the members of Dream Academy jumped up and down in the studio for a week, drank, ate, did not sleep, just relishing in the genius of the chorus that they made. This song is a great big, bittersweet, taste of the 80’s for you to relish forever.
Take Me With You- Prince and the Revolution
I saw Purple Rain at the theatres twice. The tumbling drums at the beginning of this song, the buoyant sunny Sunday drive keyboards and the gorgeous vocal interplay between Prince and Appolonia (with a layer of Lisa Coleman) make this a great song on an album whose cup runneth over.
Left of the Dial- The Replacements
You tell me what this stuff is. It’s not really punk, it’s not really the Stones. It’s the Replacements who far too often get pigeon holed, by others (and I would suggest, themselves) into something less profound and too simple to capture the beauty roaming about their ambiguity of sound and purpose.
“The sweet Georgia breezes, safe cool and warm…”
Life just ain’t 1+1=2. What matters often seems like it shouldn’t matter, what doesn’t matter sometimes seems like it should, and the Replacements kind of get that. For the idea that perfection cannot be achieved directly but only by accident, The Replacements are the proof. Their reckless energy, their silliness, their epic wails for apparently the wrong reasons, they just seem to be more onto things than those who seem to work harder to get it. So yeah, these are anthems, but anthems for what exactly is a different question.
No band has given me as much as the Replacements have so it’s a bit absurd to ask for more, but I sense there was more to be had, not for me but for them.
Bonus Paul Westerberg quote after Jon Bon Jovi questioned the Replacements being chosen as, “Last Great Band of the Eightees,” by commenting to a reporter, “Nobody even knows who they are.”
“I wouldn’t mind having his wallet but I wouldn’t want to wear his pants.”
Radio Free Europe- R.E.M.
“Push that, push that, push that to the hull/That this isn’t nothing at all.”
88 Lines About 44 Girls- The Nails
In Southern Ontario there are many who have fond memories of the good old days of CFNY radio. I don’t know if I’m fully on that bus but I do remember this tune being a staple of The Nooner and thinking that was a good thing.
“Pauline thought that love was simple,
turn it on and turn it off.
Jean-Marie was complicated,
like some French film-maker’s plot.
Gina was the perfect lady,
always kept her stockings straight.
Jackie was a rich punk-rocker,
silver spoon and a paper plate.”
School Announcements- Bob and Doug Mackenzie
The Twelve Days of Christmas is the most popular tune from their Great White North album but this one reminds me of Denis Morris High School first thing in the morning when just the Thorold kids would be there. McCarthy campus, winter morning, furnaces rattling, me hanging out in the empty class waiting for 9 AM to arrive, when suddenly somebody began playing this album on the intercom. And they played it in entirety.
Walk Away Renee- Billy Bragg
Life on the River bank. Hammy the Hamster started so many of my days in the 80’s. Real rodents doing really human things. Hammy in the Diving Bell, GP, the Guinea Pig in an airplane, Matty on water skis. A bizarre yet warm and reassuring world that made life so simple: Your chestnuts fell in the river? Talk to Hammy and he’ll scamper about the diving bell and eventually get your chestnuts back (actually almost all problems seemed to call for Hammy to get into the diving bell). Anyways, the guitar in this song reminds me of Hammy Hamster and the tune itself just nails the reality of falling in and out of love and how randomly things can go from wonderful to horrible to completely forgotten.
Anything Could Happen- The Clean
“Well, anything could happen and it could be right now
And the choice is yours to make it worthwhile
Anything could happen and it could be right now
And the choice is yours, so make it worthwhile.”
Save it for Later- The English Beat
If you’re not happy listening to this song, you aren’t going to be happy ever. Ever.
The Rainy Decade- The Cleaners From Venus
Truth in advertising. Perfectly named instrumental song.
In Between Days- The Cure
When I originally started doing this playlist the idea was for the songs to be off of albums not included in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 albums of the 1980’s. Stunningly that would have allowed me to use every single song by the Cure in the 80s’. There’s a time to slap someone upside the head, there’s a time to kick them in the groin. Rolling Stone deserves both for the omission. I won’t get into some of the crap they have on their list but I’ll say this: The Cure is a must have for any eighties playlist.
In Between Days is maybe the ultimate slice of the 80’s musicana with glossed up guitars, sweeping keyboards, some plinky piano, and a part melancholy, part romantic theme. Juiced up and running this is a gloriously delicious song, this is slice of watermelon on a hot ass summer day.
Barnaby, Hardly Working- Yo la Tengo
Yes, Yo la Tengo with the soundtrack to being drunk on peppermint schnapps at the amusement park.
Birthday- The Sugarcubes
If the question is, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?” The answer is Bjork. If the question is, “Does God exist?” The answer is Bjork. If the question is, “Where does your consciousness go when you fall asleep?” The answer is Bjork.
Here Comes Your Man- The Pixies
(FYI Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a real nice karaoke job on this in the movie 500 Days of Summer).
The Pixies, like the Replacements, like the Sex Pistols, like the Velvet Underground, like that dude who gets more girls than most everyone else are proof that it ain’t about how many chords you know or how many music classes you took. Those are great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s often largely about more ambiguous things: your energy, your soul, your passion, your magnetism, your cool (In no particular order or proportion, and to be honest I probably shouldn’t have thrown in the mix the guy who gets all the chicks because I still don’t know what he’s doing exactly).
In a Big Country- Big Country
“In a big country dreams stay with you/Like a lover’s voice fires the mountainside/Stay alive.”
L’affaire Dumontier (Say to Me)- The Box
“Walking, walking, on the tight rope of insanity, walking, walking, on the verge of losing your mind.” Canadian content, Much Music, The Two Solitudes, French Canada’s ability to smoke cigarettes way more cooly than English Canada. This song brings it all up for me. This is a great break for a play list. A completely unique tune from one of Quebec’s finest.
Much Music Memories: being torn between hating Eric Ehm and thinking she was pretty attractive, wanting to punch Steve Anthony in the face, loving Mike and Mike traipsing across Canada, and thinking Laurie Brown was the sexiest, coolest, woman ever.
O Marie- Daniel Lanois
This album is a Canadian treasure. Listening evokes memories of melting snow, of icy creeks and rivers, of blowing in your hands to try and keep them warm, of a runny nose, of warm alcohol in your throat, of seeing your breath condense in cold air, of loving the warmth that can be found in the cold hard truth.
Mining for Gold- Cowboy Junkies
“And I feel like I’m dying,
From mining for gold
Yes, I feel like I’m dying,
From mining for gold.”
Sweet Jane- Cowboy Junkies
“Anyone who’s ever had a heart, wouldn’t turn around and break it/And anyone who’s every played a part, wouldn’t turn around and hate it.”
Roller Rink- Grant Hart
Sometimes, in and of itself, the title just nails a certain moment or thing. Roller Rink. Skating around and around a darkened arena while red and yellow lights circled around on the cement floor every once in a while bounding off of a disco ball. A friend of mine, a complicated friend with a great mind rivaled by an irregular attachment to reality, a friend who would disappear never to be seen again, often got us in to a St. Catharines roller rink on Hartzel Road, Wheelies, when it was closed. That’s the kind of in you don’t forget. Like when I was five and Paul McCarthy was in charge of picking out one of the hundred or so colourings in a large kind of hamper type thing for a contest and I discreetly nodded towards where my colouring was located and ended up winning a stuffed Winnie the Pooh.
If you bounce around the internet looking for the eighties here’s what you won’t find but is necessary to understand as a backdrop: Space. Tons and tons of space. If you’re waiting for a bus, you are waiting for a bus. If you are waiting for your TV program to come on at 9 PM on a Thursday night, you either catch it at that exact hour or you are waiting an eternity until the show may, or may not, be rerun in the summer. If you are waiting for your ride to pick you up all you can do is wait. No cellphone, no text, no app on your phone to kill time with: Space. Space and waiting. And the music you got was pretty much whatever music the radio played, you could afford, or your friends would cobble together for you in the form of a mixed cassette (my mixed cassettes by the way came with a cover I made from random National Geographic pictures).
The good news though is that freedom can be realized as much by a lack of options as a dearth of them.
Da Da Da (I don’t love you you don’t love me)- Trio
This song wasn’t on many of the lists of 80’s music I scanned through as I prepared my original 1,000 song playlist, and that is a shame, that’s a damned shame. It is simplicity, but brilliant on so many levels: a great guitar riff, a simple beat, an absurdly repeated meaningless phrase, and some girl in the background shining things up. If you don’t like this song you are taking yourself too seriously.
Twilight Zone- Golden Earring
It’s a 70’s album, but Golden Earring’s Moontan is one of the most criminally under appreciated albums of all time. This album wasn’t quite as great but gave them some much deserved appreciation.
Hungry, So Angry- Medium Medium
Dance man. Dance. I mean, bite down on that bottom lip and dance.
Spirits in the Material World- The Police
This was one tight unit. Sting, Stewart Copeland, Andy Sommers. All they did was create great albums. But like all things in life, young, talented, men soon find themselves unable to resist the sirens call of writing songs like, Englishman in New York, and then it’s over.
Love Will Tear Us Apart- Joy Division
What a fucking song.
“When the routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again.”
The Killing Moon- Echo and the Bunnymen
Pavement has a great spaghetti-western-guitar cover of this tune where they manage to get the word, “Cucumber,” into the mix. Just so you know.
I have the, “Strictly Limited, Individually Numbered,” Everyday Now Live/Studio EP still in it’s package. It’s kind of a catastrophically disorganized guy miracle. The Sam the Record Man sticker on it reads $2.99. According to Discogs the median price it sells for these days is $18.87. In case of emergency it’s good to know you’ve got about $20 at your disposal I guess.
Waiting on a Friend- The Rolling Stones
At times the Rolling Stones being, “The Rolling Stones,” makes you forget that they are the ROLLING STONES! Opening with strolling, melancholy, guitar that playfully winks before embracing an ambling stream of cool, crisp, piano, Mick Jagger nails the sweet wonder, the beauty, of waiting for something wonderful to happen.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name- Gary Portnoy
A little ditty about Sam and Diane.
Manic Monday- The Bangles
“Six o’clock already
I was just in the middle of a dream
I was kissin’ Valentino
By a crystal blue Italian stream
But I can’t be late
‘Cause then I guess I just won’t get paid
These are the days
When you wish your bed was already made.”
Goodbye to You- Scandal
Scandal appears to now be, Scandal featuring Patty Smyth, which made me wonder what was up before I realized that searching for Scandal in Google first gets you a TV show. Refining your search to, “Scandal band,” then gets you a Japanese girl band in school uniforms.
In case you don’t know yet, time can be humbling.
Intruder- Van Halen
(Oh) Pretty Woman- Van Halen
I have on multiple occasions, when imagining myself opening a rock concert, shocking all my friends and family with my rock’n roll talents, opened with these two songs. It’s an air guitar extravaganza.
Bears noting as well that Alex Van Halen is just such a great rock’n roll drummer.
Good Time Boys- Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Indeed it may seem that we have strange ways
But we do it with compassion and don’t believe in age
Travel round the world gettin naked on the stage
Bustin’ people out of their everyday cage.”
Mary Had a Little Lamb- Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
In high school I got a lot of rides, here there everywhere, from Gary Kiss in his little beige Chevette. Much of that time he was listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Stevie Ray Vaughan or Phil Collins. When we saw Stevie Ray at Kingswood Theatre in Toronto his main concern was hearing this song played live.
Gary, I likely never really thanked you for all the rides as much as I should have but here’s a small, humble, token, of my appreciation.
What Comes Around- Beastie Boys
“Doris the Fink-o-saurus.”
Navigator- The Pogues
“Take your pick and your shovel and some old dynamite, just to shift a few tons of this earthly delight.” The thing about the Pogues was this idea that Shane MacGowan was a terrible singer but, no way, not at all. I defy you to find someone who could relay these songs with the same conviction and beauty. Shane MacGowan’s voice contains all that is gorgeous, ugly, tragic, mortal, compelling, and true about this world of ours. His voice captures the feel of a split lip, a sloppy hug, a stubbed toe, a kiss on the forehead, and the magical moments in between being wonderfully drunk and terribly drunk. Shane MacGowan’s voice is every bit as precarious as we are.
7-11- The Ramones
“She was standing by the Space Invaders
So I said can I see you later
Yeah we went for a little spin
Down to the Holiday Inn.”
The Spirit of Radio- Rush
I remember how excited I was the first time I heard this song. From Alex Lifeson’s opening riff helicoptering over the horizon, to Geddy and Neil building and tearing down mountains this song starts shot out of cannon and keeps the adrenaline flowing while it blossoms, ebbs and flows, even daring to chance upon a quick reggae vibe at one point. It is Rush’s particular brand of awesome at its’ most daring and accessible.
Jane Says- Jane’s Addiction
Playing baseball in Thorold we played at the beautifully green expanse of MacMillan Park. When I was in my teens I frequently played right field. Every once in awhile in the summer a girl my age, Pam, who lived in one of the houses in behind the fence in right would come out and suntan. This was utterly fantastic. She was smoking hot. She was the exact kind of smoking hot that grows up to drive a pink jeep but, hey, when you’re getting smoked on the baseball field every weekend a hot chick in a bikini a baseball throw away is wonderful consolation.
Some Peace Tonight- The Bats
“But just you wait there will be a morning sky bringing you some peace tonight.”
Pocket Calculator- Kraftwerk
“I’m the operator with my pocket calculator.”
White Horse- Laid Back
Electonica, fat, sizzling, plinky, jogging along while some dudes mostly say, “If you want to ride, don’t ride the white horse… no-no-no.”
But man, it works. And if it sounds good, it is good.
Sweet Dreams- Eurythmics
1983, waiting for the school bus, keeping warm inside the entrance to Holy Rosary Church in Thorold, thinking about seeing the Eurythmics video for this song a couple nights before. It was strange in sound, in appearance, in content. I didn’t know what she was singing about. I kind of liked the fuzzed out keyboards but they were still foreign to me and she was a strange looking cat that I didn’t quite know what to make of.
I don’t know how much my point of view has changed in 34 years.
Chariots of Fire- Vangelis
Still holding off on seeing this movie. Just isn’t the year yet.
Do They Know It’s Christmas- Band Aid
The sound of working at the Pen Centre Mall in St. Catharines during Christmas season in the 80’s.
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?”
Ghost Town- The Specials
Quick, ska dance everybody! It’s crazy but I think it will be the last thing I will be able to do in this world. I won’t know my name, I won’t be able to button up my shirt, but the ska dance… all day.
Never Say Never- Romeo Void
“I might like you better
If we slept together
But there’s somethin’
In your eyes that says
Maybe that’s never
Never say never.”
Inside Out- 999
In the late 80’s I worked at Sears Gas Bar at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines. It was there I would meet many of the finest people I would ever meet in my fellow gas bar attendants. Mark Lane was among my co-workers, as honest and straightforward a friend as a person could have, however he did have one massive flaw: a compulsion to play 999’s song, Homicide, over and over. That horribly uncatchy chorus, “Homicide… Homicide… Homicide…” drove me to regularly hide his 999 cassette tape and to have to wait decades to discover (while my wife was watching the show, Shameless) that 999 actually had other songs that not only didn’t suck, were actually quite great.
Still in Hollywood- Concrete Blonde
“And so it’s three A.M., I’m out walking again.
I’m just a spot on the sidewalk in a city of sin.
He doesn’t give a fuck, he’s living under a truck.
You know it coulda’ been me, I guess it’s just my luck.
But I swear I hear the sidewalk talking to me singing to the rhythm of the beat of my feet,
and I swear I hear the sidewalk singing to me- Keep on, keep on, keep on.
Still in Hollywood.”
The Coldest Night of the Year- Bruce Cockburn
I struggled with Bruce Cockburn in the eighties. Not struggled in the, “he keeps beating me at wrestling,” kind of way, but rather more in the natural distrust of goofy earring wearing guys who sing about rainforests kind of way. But now I think Bruce is okay. He’s alright. There is something entirely unique, entirely Canadian, about him. He can stay for dinner if it comes down to it.
Redemption Song- Bob Marley and the Wailers
The Uprising album was released in 1980. What an uplifting and timeless piece of art. God bless Bob Marley. I got my first real job, a part time job in the early eighties working as a stock boy at Bargain Harold’s and with my first cheque I bought three cassettes- Lynyrd Skynyrd’s, Second Helping, Triumph’s, Never Surrender, and Bob Marley and Wailers, Uprising. Still all great albums to me but Uprising is the one closest to my heart over the course of time.
Lovelines- The Replacements
“Slightly overweight girls need sex also…”
Romeo Had Juliet- Lou Reed
“Manhattan’s sinking like a rock, into the filthy Hudson what a shock
they wrote a book about it, they said it was like ancient Rome
The perfume burned his eyes holding tightly to her thighs
and something flickered for a minute and then it vanished and was gone.”
I’m an Adult Now- Pursuit of Happiness
“I don’t write songs about girls anymore
I have to write songs about women
No more boy meets girl boy loses girl
More like man tries to understand what the hell went wrong.”
Quantum Leap- Velton Ray Bunch and Mike Post
All Out of Love- Air Supply
These guys were huge and now I don’t know if I ever hear about them anymore. Maybe I’m just not hanging out with the right people though. But listen, I get why people kind of tired of them but as Bon Scott once said, “The white man’s got the schmaltz…”
Don’t deny yourself some wonderful Schmaltz.
Everyday is Like Sunday- Morrissey
There was a Head Shop in downtown St. Catharines at the bottom of the ever so sketchy Leonard Hotel that, hey wait, you don’t know what a Head Shop is? Wow. It sold rock’n shirts and posters- Head Shop. Jeez.
Anyways, they had a poster in the one window of Morrissey. I whacked him upside the head every time I passed by and told him often to stop wearing mesh shirts. He never listened. But I grew up and got on the Morrissey bus. It’s a good bus. Too many people with mesh shirts though.
A Forest- The Cure
I quite decidedly elected not to make a list counting down the songs in order of their whatever: best-ness, importance-ness, or “greatness.” I’m not sure how to make that kind of list to be honest, and I don’t think the question is so much how do you compare Morrissey to the Replacements but why, why would you want to? Having said that, this song by the Cure just feels like breathing and being in the 80’s, sleeping, dreaming, waking up, learning to drive, watching things appear and disappear, having 95-cent french fries at the Hungry Bear on Pine Street Thorold, kicking a soccer ball around on a drizzly summer vacation morning… Hard not to mention this is to me one of the most vital tracks to lay your ears on from the decade.
Another reason for creating this list was to celebrate the artists and music. To create something of substance in a world where songs blur by us, where they are skipped, where they are half listened to, where they are in the background, here, there and everywhere. Music deserves better than that, we deserve better than that.
Music may have saved lives millions of times but it also made lives a zillion (to be precise) times more. Music moves us. Music excites us. It brings joy. It loosens us from the rigidness of ourselves. Music is the great emancipator. And from time to time I think it important to stop for a moment from clicking absently through our various playlists, to stop and consider each individual tune and the moments that lay within. No doubt that music appreciates no ceremony greater than dancing, than air guitar, than reckless bouncing and singing along, but it also deserves some quiet contemplation, some jaw dropped appreciation, some, “Hey man, you have to check out this song!”
Games People Play- The Alan Parson’s Project
The Alan Parson’s Project was okay but I never loved them and I think it was because on some level the band name made them sound kind of like an architectural firm.
Let My Love Open the Door- Pete Townsend
The year this album came out I fell in love with a girl named Danielle who was visiting her Aunt who lived across the street. My plan to get her to fall in love me was act as goofy as possible. This has really been the only plan I have ever had for these types of things.
It was actually working pretty well on this one occasion until I was in a bike crash and punctured a hole in my stomach, ending up in the hospital for quite some time. In the hospital there were two really cute Candy Stripers (hospital volunteers) who visited me quite often in what actually appeared to be candy striped nurses uniforms.
That was my summer of love.
Blue Monday- New Order
As a “rock guy,” in the 80’s I would not venture down the path to listening to New Order with a remotely unbiased set of ears for 25+ years. Denying myself the luxury of being immersed in some candy cotton keyboards was a mistake, I see that now. I also think I’m far enough removed from some really sad nights out at the bar with this song playing every time to let them off the hook.
99 Luftballons- Nena
I have never not loved this song. From my perspective it is as indelible a part of the 80s’ as there is. I can remember being in the back seat of my parents Station Wagon going up Burleigh Hill in St. Catharines listening to this song, imagining 99 Red Balloons in Germany. In this pre-Internet world where everything un-American seemed exotic, the wash of keyboards and Nena’s lovely voice started me on my path to a lengthy and entirely unrequited love of East European women.
The Camera Eye- Rush
Moving Pictures was the album in Thorold, Ontario in 1981. Rush t-shirts everywhere supplanting Supertramp t-shirts as the cool band shirt to have. As my hometown was largely Italian I naively, perhaps stupidly, equated the love for Rush to be attached to the fact Geddy Lee kind of looked Italian. In retrospect it was likely just a coincidence. Regardless, the album itself is insanely good. Moving Pictures is brilliant from head to toe but if you feel like walking around in the 80’s a bit listen to this tune. There is a lonesomeness to the 80’s that can be found on side two of Moving Pictures and it begins here.
Mr. Cab Driver- Lenny Kravitz
There were few places whiter than Thorold coming into the eighties. I actually did not meet someone other than a white person until the late seventies. In Thorold you were either Italian or not Italian and either way you were white. So, needless to say, I needed a lot of this song explained to me.
Sunglasses at Night- Corey Hart
This is one of those songs people like to reference in a corny, ironic, way. Let me assure you of this though Sir Lancelot, you are not too cool for this song, you are not cool enough for this song. The guitar is absolutely killer, as the Replacements liner notes on, Sorry Ma Forgot to Take out the Trash, say in reference Bob Stinson’s lead on the song Customer, it’s, “hotter than a urinary infection,” (if a urinary infection had a whammy bar), and the Corey Hart’s level of passion is riveting. What he means he means. I don’t know what it is exactly but he can barely contain himself.
I’m not being cooly ironic, listen to the damn song.
Rain- The Cult
When I worked as a stock boy at Bargain Harolds as a seventeen/eighteen year old I would often spend my time after work hanging out with my girlfriend in the empty food court before we caught our respective buses home. We would stay as late as our last buses, mine to Thorold, hers to Western Hill, would allow after all the stores had closed. We’d talk and smoke and enjoy the near empty mall. Being it was the 80’s it was the classic 80’s food court: Wooden tables lit by dim tangerine light. We could look across the mall to where the exit to the old pool , now a parking lot, sat beside Robinsons. Mostly it was tall windows filled with the darkness outside, painted by the the remaining lights from the food court. One of the few things that stayed open for a bit after 9 PM was the Avondale Dairy Bar at the front edge of the food court where we sat. The Avondale offered ice cream, shakes, coffee. The girl that usually closed would talk to us all the time. She was slightly older and clearly more worldly than the two of us. She also loved Ian Astbury. His bellowing voice, his long mane of jet black hair, his whole rock’n roll thing. My girlfriend Nancy also seemed quite taken with Ian Astbury: his voice, his hair, his whole rock’n roll thing.
I didn’t like Ian Astbury for awhile.
This is the Sea- The Waterboys
“That was the river, this is the sea.”
I bought this cassette when I was working as a landscaping/maintenance guy at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines. I was working with Terry Venus and as we were walking past Sam the Record Man I asked him to pick out a cassette for me to purchase and thus I was turned on to the Waterboys. This, let Terrry Venus pick out a cassette for me plan, brought me a deep and abiding love for the Waterboys and the Police. Thank you Terry Venus, you played a big part in ensuring my music palette welcomed more than just Rush and Aerosmith. This song off the album of the same name by the Waterboys is epic, sweeping, and important.
“Once you were tethered, now you are free/That was the river, this is the sea.”
It also may sum up everything there is to say about looking back thirty years.
The Message- Grandmaster Flash
“Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under.”
This is the Day- The The
I think the Universe was actually created by the start of this song. No big bangs. It simply got out of bed because it had to.
Under the Milky Way- The Church
“Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find
Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find.”
It’s Raining Again- Supertramp
The shortest route for me to be immersed in my youth is Supertramp. Nostalgia in all its’ goosebumped, heart breaking, fleeting, splendour. This song is what being a kid in Thorold in 1982 sounded like. Quick memory: The street I grew up on, Queen Street South in Thorold, runs downhill from Holy Rosary Church at the top of the street. In the summertime when it would rain crazy hard we would have popsicle sticks races in the water running down the street along the curb. We’d break up popsicle sticks, go to the top of the street, and then, in bare feet in the wet tar streets, run along with our stick from the top of the street to the bottom of the street, stopping every once in a while to frantically dislodge our stick from where it got stuck in rocks or silt. We ran along soaked and splashing and entirely carefree.
All the Things I Wasn’t- The Grapes of Wrath
Take this song and run. There isn’t much beyond this song in their catalogue but, hey, one great song is more than what most of us have created.
Kangaroo- This Mortal Coil
Great Big Star cover.
“I first saw you, you had on blue jeans/Your eyes couldn’t hide anything/I saw you breathing, oh/I saw you staring out in space.”
The Best of Times- Styx
What happened to Styx? I mean I know they recently played at the casino here, there, everywhere, but really, what happened to them? Were they too earnest, too goofy? Did, “Domo Ariagato, Mr. Roboto,” really bring them down? In Grade Five music class we were asked by our teacher, a nun who alternated convincingly between really scary and really cool, in a flourish of the latter, to bring in two albums to listen to. The two albums people brought in to represent us were the B-52’s self-titled album from which we listened to Rock Lobster, and Styx’s, Pieces of Eight, from which we listened to Renegade. Man did Renegade move me. Still does.
When Doves Cry- Prince and the Revolution
Mix wise there isn’t a song to transition to better. The opening of When Doves Cry compliments everything before it. This song is too good for me to try and get all descriptive about. This song is better than you and me and I’m okay with that.
Memories Can’t Wait- Living Colour
What’s more 80’s than Living Colour doing a cover of the Talking Heads. This tune starts with Vivian Reed appearing to be applying for the position of the Devil’s Guitar Player and while the dexterous Steve Vai ended up getting the job, it may just be that Mr. Reed was overqualified.
Ladies Night In Buffalo- David Lee Roth
Once upon a time all the girls dug David Lee Roth (or maybe I was spending too much time in Western Hill St. Catharines and it just seemed that way). But this is a cool tune that sounds exactly like what a Ladies Night in Buffalo would feel like from my perspective.
A great David Lee Roth quote I heard him say on a live interview I was listening to late one night driving around in my parents Ford LTD, he had just finished talking about rock’n roll and Christopher Columbus when the DJ asked his thoughts on Buffalo, to which he replied with his slightly raspy, slightly stoned, slightly evangelical, tone, “Buffalo, Buffalo is the glove box of America.”
Edge of Seventeen- Stevie Nicks
The girls in high school who liked Stevie Nicks were always he girls you wanted to kind of stay away from despite how attractive they might be. Once a girl willingly puts a feather in their hair you need to know things aren’t going to go well.
Mandinka- Sinead O’Connor
“I don’t know no shame
I feel no pain
I can’t see the flame
But I do know Man-din-ka
I do know Man-din-ka
I do know Man-din-ka
Echo Beach- Martha and the Muffins
Far away in time.
Inca Vacation- Zimbo Chimps
“We stopped in small towns where we went to small restaurants…”
When Harpo Played His Harp-Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman is the kid in high school, slightly weird, slightly cool, slightly everything. He’s the kid everybody likes except maybe the guys on the rowing team because, in case you don’t know, rowers are assholes.
Electric Avenue- Eddy Grant
Come on man, you know that the Jamaican carbonated soda keyboards chewing up the landscape is great. “We gonna rock down to- Electric Avenue- and then we’ll take it higher.”
Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely- Husker Du
Somethin’ to Du.
Der Kommissar (7” Version) – After the Fire
There have been a few times in my life where I have been able to see into the future. Not in a kind of: Change your life or you will end up in a ditch way, but more: When I get home and turn on the stereo (in the early 80’s it was just that, it was a clear plastic strip with a thin red line in the middle that scrolled smoothly along a back lit metal band that had the radio station numbers etched into it) I will hear, Der Kommissar, by After the Fire, or Cold Sweat, by Thin Lizzy (great, great, air guitar opportunity there). There was also a little while in the late 80’s/early 90’s where I would foresee who I would run into when I left the house, as in, people I hadn’t seen in years, i.e. Tom Palombo at Woolco on Welland Avenue. I guess I’m just here to tell you that looking into the future can be far less exotic, far less romantic, than you think.
Turn It on Again- Genesis
This is straight outta’ Anthony “Chobes” Falovo’s older brothers record collection. We used to do radio shows by playing records on Chobes stereo system and recording the music and our intro/outros on blank cassette in their early era ghetto blaster. Limited to his older brothers music we nonetheless had some classics- Supertramp, Meatloaf (we loved the part with Yankee legend Phil “Scooter,” Rizzuto’s nazily Brooklyn voice doing a play-by-play of Paradise by the Dashboard Light up to, “STOP RIGHT THERE!”), Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and lots and lots of Genesis).
I’d kill to get my hands on one of those tapes.
Fast Car- Tracy Chapman
Quick Memory: Driving back from Balls Falls (Thanksgiving weekend is big at Balls Falls: Apple cider, crafts, sunlight, nature, music) with Jason Curvin, sun chucking in the windows, listening to Toronto radio station CFNY playing Evan Dando of the Lemonheads being interviewed by a Finnish radio station. The interviewer asked him if Tracy Chapman and Husker Du were influences to which Evan Dando went all in, “Everything we do is based on Tracy Chapman, everything. Essentially all I do is change a few words here or there and the music just a bit but it’s all pretty much Tracy Champman songs we stole.”
Kid Fears- Indigo Girls
You haven’t heard this song? Seriously? Hear this song. I am so jealous you will get to hear this song for the first time. Michael Stipe arrives in this tune and everything starts beatifically rising and falling. Constellations, planets and suns are born and collapse and I am left in awe. If I’m listening to this song and not crying it’s because it’s the seventh time I am listening to it in a row and I’ve exhausted all the tears in my body.
Smalltown Boy- Bronski Beat
I think back in those less politically correct/thoughtful times I thought of this song as being too, “gay.” But I was an idiot. The keyboards are wonderful, very early morning commute in the winter, and the vocals, whatever he is saying, are riveting.
How Soon is Now?- The Smiths
“I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular.”
Tainted Love- Soft Cell
This song is like the person in life you see every five years that looks exactly the same as the first time you met them. There’s nothing narcissistic about them they simply are the chosen ones. Over time it seems a little odd as the context of things change and they retain a similar hairstyle, a similar manner of dress, but there is no doubt that time struggles to lay a finger on them.
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)- R.E.M.
“Six o’clock, T.V. hour, don’t get caught in foreign tower
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn
Lock him in uniform, book burning, bloodletting
Every motive escalate, automotive incinerate
Light a candle, light a motive, step down, step down
Watch your heel crush, crush, uh oh
This means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline
It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine (time I had some time alone)
I feel fine (I feel fine).”
The Man Who Invented Himself- Robyn Hitchcock
Like a spear into the sky
And he cast his light on everything
It was like he’d never die
But the target rolled away
And it left him pointing nowhere
You could hear the children say
The man who invented himself
He’s the fella
The man who invented himself”
Willie Brown Blues- Ry Cooder
Like a million little sisters in the 80’s my little sister Cheryl was in love with Ralph Macchio. She also had a Warrant shirt which I mention just to be an ass. My other sister Leah was a huge Cyndi Lauper fan. Lawrence “Don’t Call Me Larry” Gowan as well. They had to suffer through a lot of sermons from me on why listening to Triumph and Rush would be far more discerning musical choices.
I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for being an insufferable jackass at times.
Killed By Death- Motorhead
This is the song to listen to on your way to hockey when you are trying to get your pulse to a more urgent place. Listening to Killed by Death today though I was given pause to consider how opinions are formed. I mean, I love Lemmy’s voice and everything and I know you’re out of the cool guys club if you say anything remotely critical about Motorhead but tell me how Corey Hart is a wanker for singing passionately about wearing sunglasses at night and Lemmy is cool for singing about being Killed by Death? I’ll tell you how, bull shit.
Racer-X- Big Black
“Just a man in a car
Racer X got a need
Come on, Five
I need a little more speed
He’s just a regular guy
Racer X got a need
Come on, Pops
I need a little more speed.”
Disgusteen- Teenage Head
Summertime in St. Catharines. May 2-4 Holiday weekend. Beer and more beer and 97.7 HTZ FM being played to appease the masses: “Nice day for a party isn’t it?” This tune, with its’ bizarre Psycho-esque spoken word part, somehow just sounds like the perfect Ontario bar-b-que party tune from the late 80’s and early 90’s. Disgusteen or anything from Trooper.
Baby Ran- 54.40
More Canadian Content Much Music memories. 54-40 was a nice band that I think, in terms of getting appropriate recognition, always seemed like the member of the opposite sex who you thought was attractive until she just seemed too nice to you. Treat me a little bit mean baby…
Fact is though this song is great and has to be on your 80’s playlist.
Peter Gunn- Art of Noise (feat. Duane Eddy)
Remember the Tom Jones/Art of Noise cover of Prince’s Kiss? If you don’t check it out.
Under Pressure- Queen and David Bowie
David Bowie and Freddie Mercury together is something you simply can’t take your ears off of. Magic.
The Magnificent Seven- The Clash
“Wave bub-bub-bub-bye to the boss
It’s our profit, it’s his loss
But anyway the lunch bells ring
Take one hour, do your thang
I Melt With You (7” Mix)- Modern English
This is a great example of a song I probably don’t need to tell you about but it’s too delicious to not comment upon. There are certain song that capture an era’s Zeitgeist. I Melt With You, is memory lubricant capturing the motion of the era, the happening of it: Skipping school for “hush-hush” day, your beautiful, sweet, girlfriend, wearing a full length dress to the beach because she was shy, playing stickball at Prince of Whales of School until it was too dark to see the tennis ball, listening to Duran Duran on my Walkman radio coming back from baseball practice, the horror and, horror, of high school…
All this and more contained in one song…
I Want Candy- Bow Wow Wow
“Candy on the beach, there’s nothing better
But I like candy when it’s wrapped in a sweater
Some day soon I’ll make you mine
Then I’ll have candy all the time.”
Rockit- Herbie Hancock
“It is people’s hearts that move the age.”
Moody (Spaced Out)- ESG
I know almost nothing about this song other than the fact it feels great to listen to. So let’s take a break and consider some of my best and worst movie choices as a young man. Blame It on Rio I saw solely based on the ad in the paper, chalk that one up entirely to puberty. Weird Science is a great movie (don’t listen to IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, they’re complete wankers): that moment where Kelly LeBrock comes to life is a jaw dropper for the ages. Paris, Texas, is the ultimate late night find, featuring another of my original East European loves, Natassja Kinski. There’s so much open space in the movie Paris, Texas. That open space is wonderfully accentuated by Ry Cooder’s soundtrack. If you need more reasons to see the movie it also has Harry Dean Stanton in it and it’s visually stunning, inclusive of Miss Kinski. Great movie.
Our House- Madness
“Father gets up late for work
Mother has to iron his shirt
Then she sends the kids to school
Sees them off with a small kiss
She’s the one they’re going to miss in lots of ways.”
Hot, Hot Papa- David Wilcox
Seemed like David Wilcox played small Southern Ontario bars almost continually during the 80s. He was famous for energetic sets and for consuming alcohol in prodigious quantities. Two David Wilcox related memories: 1) Mr. Trivieri, Mr. Triv, Mr. T, was a phys-ed/science teachers in two of my schools growing up. He was a stocky Italian man famous for his temper and for physically assaulting students, i.e. He once put me under his desk and kicked me in the ass 60 times. In science class he once held me over a garbage can by the ankles because I was pretending I was stoned (It was Grade 5 and we were examining different objects, one of which was Angel Hair I believe. I somehow took it as an invitation to act like I had taken Angel Dust). Beyond this he also slapped me in the face outside class one day in much the same way I saw him slap various other students over the course of time. Ah, the good old days. At any rate, beyond the various incarnations of his name there was also another one based on the amazing amount of hair he had on his body, “Bearcat.” So, I was at a rummage sale at Holy Rosary gym one day when I came across the 45 of David Wilcox’s classic, The Bearcat. I’d never heard of David Wilcox at that point (grade 8 I think) but I knew I had to purchase that 45 and deliver it to Mr. Trivieri. Days later I slid the 45 under Mr. T’s gym office door at A.T. Clancy and ran like hell. I was to find out later that another student reportedly got a beating for it. Sorry. 2) I was at Kurt Anderson’s party at a Motor Inn across from the Leonard Hotel in downtown St. Catharines. The Motor Inn was a classic dive but the party was great. Kurt was a ton of fun. For me, at 19 Kurt seemed just so much more comfortable in his own skin. He and the whole Western Hill gang were following in the footsteps of some real tough, fun loving guys from the past, and you could see that in how they carried themselves. I always felt like the former alter boy I am around them. But they were good to me. This party stands emblazoned in my memory for numerous reasons: First, this was the night where I got the impression that I was impervious to the effects of Tequila. I drank a ton of tequila that night playing euchre with some dude I got along famously with and I just had a wonderful buzz the whole night. (I would of course some time later learn in the the usual horrible manner that I was not immune to the downside of Tequila but that night I was the chosen one). Second, my euchre partner would much later that night hit one of my friends girlfriends. He was put in the corner by two guys whose names I won’t mention, and beaten to a pulp. I have never seen a man hit that many times. Third, Kurt’s girlfriend, who was a beautiful person, had hid David Wilcox tickets above the main dining table in a balloon. Kurt searched and searched for those tickets until he looked at me and I gave a fleeting glance at said balloon.
Stray Cat Strut- Stray Cats
“I don’t bother chasing mice around
I slink down the alleyway looking for a fight
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy”
I wish I could be as carefree and wild
But I got cat class and I got cat style.”
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)- The Proclaimers
No song conveys as romantically the nobility of fallibility as well as this song. Or maybe, no song feels as right to raise your glass and sing along to as this one.
“But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door.”
Flashdance… What a Feeling- Irene Cara
Only You- Yazoo
I never took an art class in high school. Instead I took shop. Funny choice for a guy who it took two years, Grades 7 and 8, to finish one spice rack. Yes I took shop in Grade 9 and it ended with this exchange-
Teacher- Are you ever going to take shop again?
Teacher- Okay I will give you a 50 (a passing grade at that time).
I don’t know why I didn’t take Art class but I do remember it seeming to be a place more for people who listened to Kraftwerk and Yazoo than people who played baseball and hockey.
Tom Sawyer- Rush
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift.”
Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf Mix)- The Pixies
“Cease to resist, giving my goodbye
Drive my car into the ocean
You’ll think I’m dead, but I sail away
On a wave of mutilation
A wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation.
Dee- Ozzy Osbourne
Goodbye to Romance- Ozzy Osbourne
Randy Rhoads 3/4 sleeves t-shirts. There was a brief era of that in Southern Ontario and for good cause- Randy fucking Rhoads. The Blizzard of Oz album has Rhandy Rhoads just doing things on guitar that many would copy in form but none could duplicate in feel, Ozzy was pre-cartoon era Ozzy, i.e. not so many of the dumb “Mad man,” faces and, Goodbye to Romance, is the musical equivalent of that moment in drinking a bottle of wine when the world hangs in the balance, not fully happy, not fully sad, but warm and beating. I saw Ozzy on the Blizzard of Oz tour at Hamilton Place when I was twelve (the Queen City Kids opened) and retain two vivid memories, 1) Going into the bathroom and it was full of smoke to the point my friends and I assumed we were high when we left, 2) My friends’ dad who brought us, Mr. Dickinson, sitting absolutely still the whole show until Goodbye to Romance, where he, like almost everyone else in the crowd, raised his lit lighter up before him to celebrate the cool vibes.
Theme from Hill Street Blues- Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton
“Let’s be careful out there.” Sergeant Phil Esterhaus
I Just Called to Say I Love You- Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder jokes were a big thing in the 80’s, i.e.
Q: What did Stevie Wonder’s mother do for punishment?
A: Rearrange the furniture.
The shame of it all is that I allowed it to let me lose sight of a humble, gifted, kind, soul.
Don’t You (Forget About Me)- Simple Minds
Breakfast Club. Breakfast Club is perfect as it’s high school through the lens of the immature people it holds. And how could you not be immature in high school?
Girls on Film- Duran Duran
“Wider, baby, smile and you’ve just made a million
Fuses pumping live heat twisting out on a wire
Take one last glimpse into the night
I’m touching close
I’m holding bright
Give me shudders in a whisper
Take me up ’til I’m shooting a star.”
I’m Alright- Kenny Loggins
Carl Spackler: So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.
Angie D’Annunzio: A looper?
Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.
Main Titles (Bladerunner)- Vangelis
Deckard: [narrating] I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life – anybody’s life; my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.
Games Without Frontiers- Peter Gabriel
“Hans plays with Lotte, Lotte plays with Jane
Jane plays with Willi, Willi is happy again
Suki plays with Leo, Sacha plays with Britt
Adolf builts a bonfire, Enrico plays with it
Whistling tunes we hid in the dunes by the seaside
Whistling tunes we’re kissing baboons in the jungle
It’s a knockout
If looks could kill, they probably will
In games without frontiers-war without tears
Games without frontiers-war without tears.”
Enola Gay- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
There’s a great, innocent, fun to OMD, particularly the keyboards. Reminds me of how I felt watching the quick public service cartoons on Saturday monrings-> Time for Timer, in the 80’s. Remember that? “Hanker for a hunk of cheese,” “You are what you eat!” and the one where he showed you how to make popsicles with orange juice, toothpicks, cellophane, and an ice cube tray? My mom made those for us all the time after seeing that. Thank you Timer.
Axl F. (Beverly Hills Cop)- Magnetic Scope
Axel Foley: What? Y’all the second team?
Detective McCabe: We’re the first team.
Detective Foster: Yeah, and we’re not gonna fall for a banana in the tailpipe.
Axel Foley: [mocking him] You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe? It should be more natural, brother. It should flow out, like this – “Look, man, I ain’t fallin’ for no banana in my tailpipe!” See, that’s more natural for us. You been hanging out with this dude too long.
Against All Odds (Take a look at me Now)- Phil Collins
Phil Collins was a machine in the eighties. A machine.
“Take a good look at me now
‘Cause I’ll still be standing here
And you coming back to me is against all odds
It’s the chance I’ve got to take
Take a look at me now.”
I Wanna be a Cowboy- Boys Don’t Cry
I’ve got my hat on,
I’ve got my boots dusty.
On my horse.
He’s called… T-t-t-t-t-trigger
Go! (Club Mix)- Tones on Tail
The bass line is all that and then some. It’s the best looking girl in town pulling up beside you on the side of the road and asking you if she can give you a lift. It’s waking up panicked because you think it’s Monday and then realizing it’s only Sunday. It’s finding a fiver in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in a year.
Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)- The Icicle Works
“We are we are we are we’re just children
Finding our way around indecision
We are we are we are rather helpless
Whisper to a scream.”
Billie Jean- Michael Jackson
Friday Night Videos. The tiles lighting up as he danced around the set. Michael Jackson was kind of something for awhile- pop commercials, Friday Night Videos, and complete irrelevance. This is a great tune.
Should I Stay or Should I Go- The Clash
“This indecision’s bugging me (esta indecision me molesta)
If you don’t want me, set me free (si no me quieres, librame)
Exactly whom I’m supposed to be (digame que tengo ser)
Don’t you know which clothes even fit me? (no sabes que ropas me queda)
Come on and let me know (me tienes que decir)
Should I cool it or should I blow? (me debo ir o quedarme).”
Battle Scar- Max Webster
Canadian royalty meets. Geddy Lee from Rush playing with Kim Mitchell and Max Webster and the result is gold. GOLD. I don’t have a clue what this song is about. Maybe something to do with Native Indian culture, but, I mean, GOLD guy.
Lunatic Fringe- Red Rider
Before his song Life is a Highway, took over Canadian rock’n roll radio and my room mates stereo for 6 months in 1991 Tom Cochrane had Red Rider. It was hard for me to forgive him for my roommate and seemingly everybody, everywhere in Southern Ontario, playing stinking Life is a Highway over and over until I wanted to kill everyone but I feel like this is a big step.
This Beat Goes On- The Kings
Switchin’ to Glide- The Kings
You can’t separate these two songs. They are classic early 80’s radio fodder, and brilliant radio fodder at that. They actually played at my high school, Denis Morris. We had Teenage Head, The Kings, and a Christian rock band loosely based on Stryper but without the magnificent outfits.
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)- Talking Heads
There were two people I was frequently told I looked like in the 80’s: David Byrne and Bob Saget. So you know, you win some and you really, really, lose some.
Tower of Song- Leonard Cohen
“They don’t let a woman kill you, not in the Tower of Song.”
So Wat Cha’ Sayin’- EPMD
“Yo, I’m the hip-hopper, plus the show shocker
Down with MD, yes the microphone doctor
One wrecks, the other destroys
And if you think that you’re ready to mess (kill the noise).”
No One is to Blame- Howard Jones.
“You can look at the menu, but you just can’t eat
You can feel the cushion, but you can’t have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool, but you can’t have a swim
You can feel the punishment, but you can’t commit the sin.”
“You’re the fastest runner and you’re not allowed to win.”
In the 90’s I was at a party that ended early for me due to my consuming materials that my body felt it couldn’t carry on being conscious with. Prior to me coming tumbling down a stripper (or a girl with a stripper name) was explaining to me why Alanis Morrisette’s, You Oughta Know was such a meaningful song to her. This seemed entirely fitting to me. Ironic was the next hit off that album and it is very similar in nature to No One is to Blame. Also similar is how for a short period of time it seemed impossible to imagine a world without either one of them. Howard Jones owned a significant chunk of the eighties pop scene in as much as (though to a lesser extent) Alanis Morrisette owned the late nineties scene. Both have long left the pop culture map to others however their achievements are remembered by failed pot head adult hockey players and women with strippers names the world over, intermittently, briefly, sometimes fondly.
Whole of the Moon- The Waterboys
“Hmm, you were there in the turnstiles, with the wind at your heels
You stretched for the stars and you know how it feels to reach too high
You saw the whole of the moon.
I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon.”
Somewhere Down the Crazy River- Robbie Robertson
“Yeah, I can see it now
The distant red neon shivered in the heat
I was feeling like a stranger in a strange land
You know where people play games with the night
God, it was too hot to sleep
I followed the sound of a jukebox coming from up the levee
All of a sudden I could hear somebody whistling
Fromright behind me
I turned around and she said
“Why do you always end up down at Nick’s Cafe?”
I said “I don’t know, the wind just kind of pushed me this way.”
She said “Hang the rich.”
The Host of Seraphim- Dead Can Dance
This song begins sounding like a church organ and when the vocals begin you are transported to the heavens. The why, the where, the when, the what, all disappear in the wonder of the majestic: space and time, stars and nebula, the universe expanding and contracting: and in the simple: sunlight on your face, wine on your lips, death on your doorstep. This song ends with no explanations, no apologies, no promises, it delivers something beautiful and moving. Why ask for more?
Fall on Me- R.E.M.
I always suspected Michael Stipe was a dick. I don’t know why. Maybe he looked like somebody who treated me bad back in the day or, more likely, like someone who was likely to treat me poorly. Hard to say, I had a lot of suspicion to go around. But he actually has a great warble. It’s no Ethel Merman, “There’s no business like show business!” but Michael Stipe’s voice has that little off kilter warble I have come to expect all profound messages to come wrapped in-
Bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground before the weight can leave the air
Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky
Fall on me (if it’s there for long) (it’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (it’s over, it’s over me) (it’s gonna fall).”
Don’t Change- INXS
At some point in the 80’s or 90’s INXS took over the world and in doing so annoyed me similarly to how Peter Gabriel did with Sledgehammer etc. I mean it was fine but it didn’t seem to have the substance to validate all the fuss. But time has passed and why carry grudges? This is a great song, like caffeine doing its’ thing when you really need it to, and Michael Hutchence sings, “I’m standing here on the ground, the sky above won’t fall down…” in a way that makes it seem far more profound than it does on the surface.
Black and White- The dB’s
Love is the answer
To no question
But thanks for
Oh, the suggestion
I know I don’t care at all
Yeah, I know I don’t know anything at all
But I stop
I don’t enjoy you anymore.”
Lonely is the Night- Billy Squier
Great, great, rock’n roll song, but I would have forgotten about it if I wasn’t reminded of it in the movie Couples Retreat wherein the venerable Vince Vaughan competes in a Rock Band showdown to this song. Couples Retreat is a God awful movie. It’s terrible. It was some kind of price to pay to be reminded of how good this song was, nonetheless, take important reminders where you can get them.
Come on Eileen- Dexy’s Midnight Runners
I dedicate this song to my friend Jason Curvin who played this song so many times in the jukebox at Players Bar and Grill on Hartzel Road that I came to loathe it. Time heals all wounds though and I’m sure, to get balance back in the universe, while I listen to Come on Eileen he is somewhere listening to Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner.
The Winner Takes it All- ABBA
ABBA. ABBA’s prime was in the seventies. But this marvellous bit of Sweden still crafted a few gems in the 80s while their Greatest Hits albums were being hawked morning, noon, night, on UHF stations across North America.
Private Revolution- World Party
World Party has some terrific songs and a few videos with Sinead O’Connor in them as she guested on a couple of their tunes. And I think it important I take this opportunity to say something important- Sinead O’Connor was beautiful back in the day. Stunning.
We Care a Lot- Faith No More
“It’s a dirty job but someones gotta do it
Oh, it’s a dirty job but someones gotta do it
Its a dirty job but someones gotta do it
Oh, it’s a dirty job but someones gotta do it.”
Gets Us All in the End- Jeff Beck
As a life long card carrying member of the There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Time or Place to Play Air Guitar club this song has to be here. And let me tell you that there really is no such thing as a bad time or place to play air guitar and while being a member certifies a person as having limited romantic success throughout their life it is worth the cost.
Do You Remember Rock’n Roll Radio?- The Ramones
“Rock’n, rock’n’roll radio Let’s go
Rock’n, rock’n’roll radio Let’s go
Rock’n, rock’n’roll radio Let’s go
Rock’n, rock’n’roll radio Let’s go.”
Beverly Hills- The Circle Jerks
There may be some posturing in this pick. I’m human. I’m not immune to wanting someone, anyone, some time, any time, please, pretty please, to say, “Hey, despite the air guitar that guys kind of cool.”
Blister in the Sun- Violent Femmes
At Sears Gas Bar we frequently had the kiosk door wedged wide open and the ghetto blaster cranked. The Violent Femmes self-titled album would be one of the many cassettes we played so much the songs rubbed off the sides.
Great line by a customer one night while we were playing the Femmes way too loud, “Is this your band?”
Super Freak- Rick James
Rick James I was barely aware of in the 80’s, and what I did know was mostly vague suggestions of drug use. And that’s a shame. Because Rick James made some damn fine, damn funky, music. Street Songs is a must listen to album, tight from top to bottom. I would also be remiss if I didn’t also mention checking out Rick James Style, from the Lemonheads, Come on Feel the Lemonheads, album, “Don’t wanna get stoned, don’t wanna get stoned/but I don’t wanna not get stoned, I don’t wanna not get stoned.”
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man- Prince
This song is my six-degrees of Buffalo. I have seen it played live twice. The first time was 1991,by Buffalo’s Goo Goo Dolls with the Incredible Lance Diamond on lead vocals. That was brilliant. The Goo Goo Dolls prior to an avid fitness and gel regimen were skinny white boys in bare feet tearing it behind the Incredible Lance Diamond in a tuxedo tossing roses to the crowd. Again, brilliant. The next time was My Morning Jacket performing it opening up for Wilco at the Knox Albright Museum parking lot. I don’t know if Prince had so much Buffalo in mind when he created the song but it works.
Levi Stubbs’ Tears- Billy Bragg
“When the world falls apart some things stay in place
Levi Stubbs’ tears run down his face.”
Try- Blue Rodeo
“Every time you walk in the room
I couldn’t even be sure of a smile
You were never the same way twice
But I’m falling in love
Night after night – oh it’s crazy.”
More Canadian Content (if only to make the good old CRTC happy) from a real damn fine Canadian band.
Fish- The Clean
Beatnik- The Clean
Man this band makes me want to drive some place with the windows down and the music up.
Shame About the Rain- The Chesterfields
“How can you say that then say that it’s over/How can you say that then say that it’s over.”
Children’s Story- Slick Rick
“Crashed into a tree near university
Escaped alive though the car was battered
Rat-a-tat-tatted and all the cops scattered
Ran out of bullets and still had static
Grabbed a pregnant lady and out the automatic
Pointed at her head and he said the gun was full o’ lead
He told the cops “Back off or honey here’s dead”
Deep in his heart he knew he was wrong
So he let the lady go and he starts to run on
Sirens sounded, he seemed astounded
Before long the lil’ boy got surrounded…”
Hey Ladies- Beastie Boys
“There’s more to me than you’ll ever know
And I’ve got more hits than Sadaharu Oh
Tom Thumb, Tom Cushman or Tomfoolery
Date women on T.V. with the help of Chuck Woolery
Words are flowing out just like the Grand Canyon
And I’m always out looking for a female companion.”
Juke Box Hero- Foreigner
“Bought a beat up six string, in a secondhand store
Didn’t know how to play it, but he knew for sure
That one guitar, felt good in his hands, didn’t take long, to understand
Just one guitar, slung way down low
Was a one way ticket, only one way to go
So he started rockin’, ain’t never gonna stop
Gotta keep on rockin’, someday gonna make it to the top.”
Magnum, P.I. Theme- Mike Post Feat. Larry Carlton
A Message to You Rudy- The Specials
“Stop your foolin’ around
Time you straightened right out
Better think of your future
Or else you’ll wind up in jail.”
Never Tear Us Apart- INXS
Michael Hutchence just owns this song, elevating something that could be a bit of a throw away into something tender and majestic.
Just Like Heaven- The Cure
More big and bouncy, swooning and mooning, from The Cure.
The one that makes me scream” she said
“The one that makes me laugh” she said
And threw her arms around my neck
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you.”
Cadillac Ranch- Bruce Springsteen’s
There probably should be more Bruce on the list given his dominance in the 80’s but Bruce never did a whole lot for me. I’ve come to appreciate Springsteen’s work ethic and love for music, he’s a likable dude, but to me there is an element of posturing to his game that just ain’t my kind of posturing I guess. Could be something as simple as me not being American.
High School Confidential- Rough Trade
Good old Carole Pope.
“What’s the principal doin’ with her?
Who’s that guy, is he screwing with her?
What’s her perfume? Tigress by Fabergé
It makes me cream my jeans
When she’s coming my way.”
Jessie’s Girl- Rick Springfield
When I just entered my teens one of the big places to hangout was the arcade in downtown Thorold. It was a tough spot though, populated by some tough dudes. I remember looking in the mirror one night and wishing I could make my features more dangerous looking for places like that. I think what I wanted to look like was Rick Springfield in a leather jacket.
Come Dancing- The Kinks
Thorold used to have a five pin bowling alley- Bowlaway. It was a buck a game and it was almost always empty. We went there a lot one summer whenever we had enough money. It was a break from the heat and every once in awhile some girls came in which was a great opportunity for us to get really excited about the possibilities we hadn’t fully conceived of and were years away from getting involved with. It was a more innocent time, those first initial rumblings of the excitement created by the other gender. Come Dancing came later than Bowlaway but it always makes me think of it when it gets to the-
“They put a parking lot on a piece of land
Where the supermarket used to stand
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local pally”
I love this tune and the simple yet true story it tells of time’s transitory nature. Most of the greatest parts of the Kinks library exists pre-1980 but a gem like this shouldn’t be forgotten.
Mexican Radio- Wall of Voodoo
“I feel a hot wind on my shoulder
And the touch of a world that is older
Turn the switch and check the number
Leave it on when in bed I slumber
I hear the rhythms of the music
I buy the product and never use it
I hear the talking of the dj
Can’t understand just what does he say?”
Bastards of the Young- The Replacements
If the question is, “How many great lines can you pack in one song?” This is the answer. This song is a gold mine of 80’s angst and apathy. This is Paul Westerberg at the height of his powers-
Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung
Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled
It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgottenWe are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
The daughters and the sonsClean your baby womb, trash that baby boom
Elvis in the ground, no waitin’ on beer tonight
Income tax deduction, one hell of a function
It beats pickin’ cotton and waitin’ to be forgottenWe are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
Not the daughters and the sonsUnwillingness to claim us, ya got no war to name usThe ones who love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please
If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand themWe are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
Daughters and the sonsTake it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours
Take it, it’s yours.”
Fairytale of New York- The Pogues
“It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank…”
This song is just so rich: The elegant loneliness of the opening piano juxtaposed against Shane McGowan’s sandpaper and whisky voice that signals to all the world, “the man who did it to himself.” Kristy MacColl enters the scene clearly the woman tragically attached to the wrong guy. They sing together of hope and hopelessness, they are angry, they embrace, they dance a jig, they fight, they romanticize of a better place and a better time and they are utterly alone with each other in love, laughter, loneliness and despair.
Beautiful things happen, elegantly and inelegantly. And all the while-
“The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing “Galway Bay”
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day.”
Good Tradition- Tanita Tikaram
“And though the rain may fall your father’s calling you
You still feel safe inside
And though your ma’s too proud your brother’s ignoring you
You still feel safe inside.”
Petite Etude- Triumph
Magic Power- Triumph
“I’m young, I’m wild and I’m free, I’ve got the magic power of the music in me.”
If you were looking for me in the 80’s this is where I likely was: at a Triumph show. If you never made it to a Triumph show let me tell you this- You missed out on the lasers my friend, what a laser show. Pyrotechnical magic.
Later in life when I finally shook off the pretense of musical enlightenment I came to view Triumph in much the same way I do my youth as a Catholic, as in, it made me think about wrong and right, it made me think that making a choice was important, and that’s important.
In any event this tune is marvelous. Check out the video from the US Festival, sun rippling on the water, cut off jean shorts in the crowd, and a double necked guitar. Make sure to pop Petite Etude on before Magic Power. Rick Emmett has a whack of these little acoustic gems throughout the Triumph catalogue..
Bottom of My Heart- Kings of the Sun
I guess I could have put Serpentine or Black Leather in here as they were the bands big songs off this album. Bottom of My Heart though is such a great garage band love song from a band that didn’t seem to entirely get they were more garage band than rock band. Take your happy accidents where you can get them.
Trickle Down- The Tragically Hip
The 90’s were to be Tragically Hip’s decade in Canada to the point rock’n roll radio in the Great White North seemed to be 50% Tragically Hip, 50% AC/DC. This album was just the beginning, but what a beginning. This was a special band: kind of a twist on the Talking Heads with a drunker, but more straightforward, more bar friendly sound, and a singer who, though a brilliant poet, was never afraid to come back down to earth and speak in a language everyone could understand.
Skyway- The Replacements
Can’t Hardly Wait- The Replacements
“Jesus rides beside me and never buys any smokes.”
I mean, that’s a line guys. That’s a line to hold onto. These two songs- Skyway and Can’t Hardly Wait have never been separated by me on a mixed tape/CD/playlist. Never. They never will be.
If you get the opportunity check out Paul Westerberg’s Saturday Night Live appearance where he plays this song. For me it’s the last hurrah for the magic Replacements energy. It still rummages about to some extents but it just doesn’t hum along quite the same for me. (BTW, If the question is what does the drummer yell out to make Westerberg laugh in the song’s second pause the answer is, “Burt Reynolds!” Of course)
Watching the Wheels- John Lennon
There’s a point in time where dancing around, bouncing around, gloriously sweating the night away with your heart pounding, appears to be something you are too old to do. Age brings about an overly self-conscious careless dancing second guessing sensibility and it’s kind of shame. Or it’s kind of appropriate. I’m still not sure. For me in the 80s the Beatles seemed like a bunch of guys unsure of how, or if, to dance anymore. Left overs from another age, “sitting there watching the wheels go ’round and ’round.”
Sunday Bloody Sunday- U2
How long must we sing this song
How long, how long.”
Fisherman’s Blues- The Waterboys
“Tomorrow I will be loosened
From bonds that hold me fast
That the chains all hung around me
Will fall away at last
And on that fine and fateful day
I will take thee in my hands
I will ride on the train
I will be the fisherman
With light in my head
You in my arms.”
Lovesong- The Cure
“However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you.”
The Zoo- The Scorpions
The Schenker brothers on guitar crushed but not in a tuneless metal way but rather an exhilaratingly soulful, German, way. I know what I just said, I am sticking by it.
Hells Bells- AC/DC
If you were an obnoxious idiot who wanted to sit outside a doughnut shop and listen to rock’n roll cranked out of the trunk of your (insert dumb ass car here- Trans AM if you can’t think of one), this is the odds on favourite for you to be playing: AC/DC. It was almost enough for me to hold it against AC/DC. Their best work was in the 70’s no doubt, you simply cannot replace Bon Scott, but Back in Black is a solid album.
Club Mekon- The Mekons
“And when I danced and saw you dance I saw a world where the dead are worshipped
This world belongs to them now they can keep it!”
Ashes to Ashes- David Bowie
Typing out David Bowie lyrics is like pro-actively telling someone your wife’s measurements when they ask, “What’s she like?”
Some things math cannot contain or relay.
Raspberry Beret- Prince and the Revolution
“I said now, overcast days never turned me on
But something about the clouds and her mixed
She wasn’t too bright
But I could tell when she kissed me
She knew how to get her kicks.”
Dancing With Myself- Generation X
“No one messes with Billy Idol!” The Wedding Singer.
In the end we are all simply dancing with ourselves.
Pop Goes the World- Men Without Hats
“Johnny played guitar, Jenny played bass.
Name of the band is The Human Race.
Everybody tell me have you heard? Pop goes the world.”
A Million Miles Away- The Plimsouls
“I’m a million miles away
A million miles away
I’m just a million miles away
And there’s nothing left to bring me back today.”
Waterfront- Simple Minds
What a backbeat, heart slapping the heavens, backbeat, “Get in get out of the rain.”
Christmas is the Time to Say “I Love You”- Billy Squier
“Just outside the window snow is falling
but here beside the fire we share the glow
of moonlight and brandy, sweet talk and candy
sentiments that everyone should know
Memories of the year that lays behind us
wishes for the year that’s yet to come
and it stands to reason that good friends in season
make you feel that life has just begun.”
1984- Van Halen
Jump- Van Halen
In January of 2010 Nathan Rabin reviewed/burnt to the ground David Lee Roth’s book, “Crazy From the Heat.” Mr. Rabin trotted out all of David Lee Roth’s self-indulgence and absurdity and tried to make the case that all there was to David Lee Roth was self indulgence and absurdity. Here is a David Lee Roth quote leveraged for full ridicule in Rabin’s review, “So when it came time—not terribly much later—to start getting on stage and doing what I do for a living, I took elements of comic and soul. I took Superfly and introduced him to Spider-man. I took Sly and the Family Stone, welded them together with the Human Torch. And I flamed on a whole fuckin’ generation. Dolemite, motherfucker!” In this case Nathan Rabin couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Yes, David Lee Roth is all the things you say he is, but he’s fucking awesome at it.
By the way, the sample sentence provided for Dolemite by the Urban Dictionary is, “Dolemite is the master of Pimp Fu.” And Diamond Dave is. We should all have such fantastic flaws.
Answering Machine- The Replacements
If love went wrong for you in the eighties The Replacements were right there to jump off the bridge with you. Raw and rumbling, carving the truth out of your chest-
“How do you say I’m lonely to an answering machine?”
Could You be Loved (12” Mix)- Bob Marley and the Wailers
Bob Marley gets the good earth humming into his music. It’s in the dragon fly taking flight guitar, the monkeys in the trees keyboards, it’s in the feet ambling in beach sand drums, and the dusk melting in his raspy yet soulful voice. Bob Marley is timeless.
Day By Day- The Hooters
What an opening: The speeding Mandolin, the wash of keyboards, the strumming guitar over the drums building up, leading to a galvanizing chorus, the ripping guitar solo-
“Give me what you can tonight
Time is all we have to play
Tell me you can’t live without me
Tell me every day by day by day
nothing last forever, only fades way
day by day.”
Truly a riveting and underappreciated song.
What I Like About You- The Romantics
100 bonus points to the Romantics for best use of “Uh-huh,” over the course of a decade that included John Mellencamp. I imagine them standing in a garage some place saying, “What would Buddy Holly do?” immediately before they created this perfect little rock song.
Fight the Power- Public Enemy
Oh Chuck D. That voice. That voice. If the truth wanted to sound like itself it would sound like Chuck D. And what’s the truth without a little Flavour Flav?
“1989 the number another summer (get down)
Sound of the funky drummer
Music hittin’ your heart cause I know you got soul
(Brothers and sisters, hey)
Listen if you’re missin’ y’all
Swingin’ while I’m singin’
Givin’ whatcha gettin’
Knowin’ what I know
While the Black bands sweatin’
And the rhythm rhymes rollin’
Got to give us what we want
Gotta give us what we need
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be.”
Waiting Room- Fugazi
If you are listening to Fugazi’s 13 Songs album it is all you are doing. Fugazi defies you to be distracted while listening as you and everything else in the immediate area is nailed to the spot as the buildup, the release, the unrelenting waves of Fugazi come crashing down. “Come on and get up!”
The Trooper (Live)- Iron Maiden
Galloping bass lines and more galloping bass line. Bruce Dickinson running across the stage like the captain of a Pirate ship, while the two guitars play off each other like Thin Lizzy doing a national anthem for Vikings. We went to see Iron Maiden at Maple Leaf Gardens in the late eighties with a few of Gary Kiss’s friends from Brock University. The girls were dressed in what would be referred to in classic eighties parlance as, “preppy,” and greeted with many a suspicious look by Maiden fans who looked at us in sort of a, “Shouldn’t you be at the Wang Chung concert?” kind of way. The girls were actually cool as hell, we drank Root Beer Schnapps out of McDonalds cups all night, and Maiden pillaged the night away.
Flying High Again- Ozzy Osbourne
“I can see through mountains, watch me disappear
I can even touch the sky
Swallowing colours of the sound I hear
Am I just a crazy guy (you bet).”
Still Loving You- Scorpions
The power ballad gets made fun of a lot and much of it for good reason. But this song is the rebuttal statement you didn’t see coming. The kitschy, cymbal heavy, drums, the German accent, the overly bending guitar notes, the hokey lyrics, the buildup, the crescendo, the release, transcend themselves, and at the point the harmonized vocals wash over the late guitar histrionics, how can you resist not being a believer in power chords, love, and German engineering?
Touch and Go- The Cars
One of the things about the early 80’s I miss were the non-marketing genius store ideas that lasted six months. Just down the street (and around the corner) from my house growing up was the Pine Plaza which contained the Pine Center Restaurant run by a wonderful Greek couple, the IGA supermarket, and Maslinks TV (where I saved money picking cherries in the summer to buy a black and white TV to allow me stay up late and watch Charlies Angels) and a rotating series of poorly conceived, here today, gone in a future tomorrow, stores. The one I remember the best had platform shoes, lots of platform shoes, sunglasses, and a baseball bat that bore the name of Toronto Blue Jays expansion star Bob Bailor. I was there for the bat of course. Honest. At any rate, I guess it would be foolish to lament the end of nonsensical, non money making, poorly conceived, enterprises, but I can be a bit foolish. I miss empty coffee shops, absurdly concocted businesses, space and pointlessness.
Always having a point would suck.
Rock the Casbah- The Clash
“By order of the prophet
We ban that boogie sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
But the Bedouin they brought out
The electric camel drum
The local guitar picker
Got his guitar picking thumb
As soon as the Shareef
Had cleared the square
They began to wail.”
Sweet Old World- Lucinda Williams
Spin magazine not so famously characterized the entire decade of 80’s music with a picture of an atom bomb. But that is silly as hell. The 80’s had Chuck D, Bob Marley, Fugazi, it had Lucinda Williams. I think if most anyone else sang this it would come off as trite but in the magnificent, the effortless, the Car Wheels on Gravel Road, voice of Lucinda Williams it is just more true than me or you.
Patience- Guns ’n Roses
That there is some great whistling. I put it right up there with Wilco’s Red Eyed and Blue.
Veronica- Elvis Costello
“Did the days drag by? Did the favours wane?
Did he roam down the town all the time?
Will you wake from your dream, with a wolf at
the door, reaching out for Veronica
Well it was all of sixty-five years ago
When the world was the street where she lived
And a young man sailed on a ship in the sea
With a picture of Veronica.”
Mirror in the Bathroom- The English Beat
The first time I heard this song was a summer night in the late-eighties at the Palmwood bar in Crystal Beach, Ontario. We were early at the bar on that Friday night and the place was shiny and empty with the left over warmth of the day.
I Ran (So Far Away)- A Flock of Seagulls
Similar to Sunglasses at Night this song gets mocked for its’ over the top 80’s-ness a lot but it’s a wonderful bowl of glossed up melancholy, lost at sea guitar, droning synth, and who-cares-what-the-lyrics-are-about-? man in a London Fog jacket, vocals.
I suppose at this point I should talk about the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war, Ronald Reagan, the Rubik’s cube, but let’s face it, the most interesting character of all of them is the Rubik’s cube and I never liked that stupid cube.
“If you didn’t come to party, don’t bother knockin’ on my door, oww
I got a lion in my pocket and baby he’s ready to roar, yeah hey
Everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day, oh
But before I let that happen, I’ll dance my life away, oh ho.”
You Dropped a Bomb on Me- The Gap Band
I cannot stop myself from biting down on my bottom lip and grooving oh so very whitely to this song.
(FYI, “whitely” according to spell check is not a word, but I can tell you that it very much is a thing)
Hit the North Part. 1- The Fall
This is playlist mixology (apparently also not a word). Salt-n-Pepa’s Push It is next and it would seem the more natural fit after the Gap Band but this song actually takes us in a little different direction and you can’t keep on the main street all the time if you are really trying to take a walk.
“Hit the North
Manacled to the city, manacled to the city
All estate agents alive yell down nights in hysterical breath
Those Northern lights, so pretty
Those big big big wide streets
Those useless MPs
Hit the North (manacled to the system).”
Push It- Salt-n-Pepa
I honestly can’t believe I have this song on the list but you had me at, “Ooooh baby baby…”
Charlie Brown- JFA
Charlie Brown is some of the finest art of my time. Charles Shulz is a genius. Pairing Charles Shulz with the sublime jazz sketches of Vince Guaraldi takes everything to another level.
When Love Comes to Town- U2 and B.B. King
There was a whole blues thing in the 80’s where people kind of started thinking about the white man appropriating the blues. It wasn’t in the kind of absurd, “White people can only do white people things,” way we handle this sort of thing now in the court of social media shaming but rather, “hey, let’s show a little appreciation for the originals!”
B.B. King, the bass drum, and Bono’s, “hey-ey-ey-ey-ey-yeah!” make this tune.
Rio- Duran Duran
Duran Duran lived quite a life in the 80’s, from Kings to Court Jester. At one time the very best thing you could be in pop culture was Duran Duran and then, suddenly, the very worst thing you could be was Duran Duran. It is what it is. It was what it was. Their unique brand of Duran Duran funky come whitely (see, it’s a good word, see how nicely it fit right there?) synth heavy pop does stand up though.
“Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
And when she shines she really shows you all she can
Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande.”
World of Pauline Lewis- Television Personalities
What sounds upbeat but isn’t?
Somebody’s Baby- Jackson Browne
Fast Times at Ridgemont High again. Classic.
“Well, just look at that girl with the lights comin’ up in her eyes
She’s got to be somebody’s baby
She must be somebody’s baby
All the guys on the corner stand back and let her walk on by.”
Kaleidoscope World- The Chills
“I’d look at you, and perhaps you’ll smile at me
Loving my kaleidoscope world
The stars and planets just glide on by
Cold and patient like white gods’ eyes
We smile a lot, loving our kaleidoscope world
It gets a bit cold so we turn on the heater
Things are great but that makes it neater
We’ll never die in our kaleidoscope world
Come along baby we’ll live in our kaleidoscope world.”
When You See a Chance- Steve Winwood
Steve Winwood is another guy who was real big in the 80’s who just seemed to fall off the planet. But just when I begin to feel sorry for Mr. Winwood I consider that the dude actually played on Jim Hendrix’s brilliantly meandering Voodoo Chile and was in such solid bands as the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. He’s okay. He’s fine.
Ah! Leah!- Donnie Iris
Another song I remember mostly because I managed to tape the song off the radio. The good old days of sitting there fingers poised over the record button waiting to see what would play and hating the DJ talking over the end of the song.
For me this song is the precise sound of being young, being awkward, being alone.
“In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth.”
Crockett’s Theme- Jan Hammer
There was a time I thought, “If only I could be a little more like Don Johnson…”
Dmitri’s Bar- Vangelis
More great instrumental stuff to break up the playlist and give you some respite from you know, words and stuff. Take all the tunes from the Blade Runner soundtrack and sprinkle them liberally throughout the landscape of your playlist and enjoy some wonderfully melancholy space, some spacey space, to walk in. Summing up Vangelis music is challenging as it’s kind of hard to believe that Vangelis really existed. The music is just so fantastically out there. Beautiful and out there. Which reminds me of the fact I used to have a big thing for Sean Young.
68 Guns- The Alarm
The Alarm always seemed like a poor man’s U2. This is their best kick at that particular can.
Burning Down the House- Talking Heads
Another completely original, completely outstanding, 80’s band.
“No visible means of support and you have not seen nothin’ yet
Everything’s stuck together
And I don’t know what you expect starring into the TV set
Fighting fire with fire.”
Ghetto Life- Rick James
“You want to know what I’m talkin’ bout?
Talkin’ ’bout ghetto life
You want to know what I’m singin’ ’bout?
Talkin’ ’bout ghetto life
Catch My Fall- Billy Idol
De-frosting your fridge. That used to be a thing. I always think of the fuzzy ice/snow just steadily expanding its’ area of influence until my mother would decide it was time to take back the surrendered area.
The things we’d find entombed in the frost…
Bullet the Blue Sky- U2
“And I can see those fighter planes
And I can see those fighter planes
Across the tin huts as children sleep
Through the alleys of a quiet city street.
Up the staircase to the first floor
We turn the key and slowly unlock the door
As a man breathes into his saxophone
And through the walls you hear the city groan.
Outside, is America
Outside, is America
Sweet Child O’ Mine- Guns N’ Roses
The first time I heard of Guns n’ Roses was seeing them listed as the opening act on a giant concert sign as we approached Exhibition Stadium in Toronto on August 19, 1987. We had gone to see the Cult in the wake of their AC/DC’d up Electric album. The stage at the Ex was situated where it usually was: in left field facing the bleachers. The crowd was sparse and disinterested as Guns and Roses took the stage. They were awful. My God they were awful. We weren’t really paying attention all that much but it was hard not to notice what a mess they were. Then Axl took over.
Keep in mind that 80’s concerts of the more mainstream variety tended to be pretty amicable affairs, i.e. “We love Toronto,” usually said while some member of the band had a Leaf shirt on, “We love Canada, we love Toronto,” yada-yada. So, to suddenly have an opening act swearing at the audience was fascinating. Thirty years later it’s hard to quote precisely but the spirit, if not the content, was definitely, “Fuck You!”
Perfect Strangers- Deep Purple
Grade 8. A.T. Clancy, I am waiting outside of class beside bass playing Mike Berradelli. I start talking to him about Deep Purple and mention that I had read Jon Lord recorded in the nude to which Mike replies quickly, “Does that get you excited?”
I had no idea what to say to that. My shit talking game had a long ways to go.
Beat on the Brat- Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth always seemed kind of like the ultimate alternative gateway band. As in, if you liked Sonic Youth you were in.
Walk This Way- Run-DMC with Aerosmith
Joe Perry’s very bad acting is brilliant in this video. From his overly serious pointing for Steve Tyler to throw a random jug (Yeah! that’ll do it!) at the wall or his serious rock’n roll face as he pokes his head through a hole in the wall it’s great cheese, and, the song is great. Run DMC kills it in the best possible way.
Dirty Disco- Section 25
You had me at the bass line. Sloppy and wandering down the halls up to no good… “I want your body I want your heart.” The guitar riding along side still hung over from last night and just coasting, “Give me, give me, give me, give me, your love.”
Video Killed the Radio Star- The Buggles
And the internet pretty much killed everybody else.
Valley Girl- Frank Zappa
If you’re a Frank Zappa guy I probably lost you at Blog. But if you hung in there I’m sure you are disappointed in this choice. But being a Frank Zappa fan is courting a lifetime of average people letting your down. Sorry to add to the total.
Jack and Diane- John Mellancamp
“Diane sitting on Jacky’s lap
Got his hands between her knees
Jack he says:
“Hey, Diane, let’s run off behind a shady tree
Dribble off those Bobby Brooks
Let me do what I please”
Saying oh yeah
Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone
Sayin’ oh yeah
Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone
Now walk on.”
Sweet Blue Midnight- The Georgia Satellites
This was the age of the mixed cassette tape and I made a ton of them. The key by the way: Let the first song run as long as possible after the music ends, then back it up to after the music had stopped, press pause, then play and record-> start song #2 and release the pause button simultaneously and bam, no popping sound between songs. At any rate, this album by the Georgia Satellites, Somewhere Between Salvation and Sin, is their finest hour.
Lovers in a Dangerous Time- Bruce Cockburn
“Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by
We never get to stop and open our eyes
One minute you’re waiting for the sky to fall
The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all
Lovers in a dangerous time
Lovers in a dangerous time.”
Beg, Borrow and Steal- Scruffy the Cat
Driving to Nova Scotia on our annual summer vacation in the 80’s, I would sit in the front seat of the station wagon and be in charge of keeping my dad awake through Quebec and New Brunswick. We had two 8-Track Tapes- Elvis and the Outlaws.
No A/C, windows down with the darkness chucking in, listening to the Outlaws, looking for a motel that didn’t have the NO in NO VACANCY lit up.
Rise Up- The Parachute Club
If there was a band that might have be conceived in Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk, the Parachute Club is it.
Cruel Summer- Bananarama
I’m going to admit it. I love this song.
Hold on Tight- Electric Light Orchestra
ELO en français.
Guitar Shop- Jeff Beck
“Slinky, super slinky
Boomers double ball ends
It’ll faze, it’ll flange, it’ll fuzz
It’s fast it’s flexible
Just feel those frets.”
Crazy Train- Ozzy Osbourne
Randy Rhoads. Randy Rhoads. Randy Rhoads.
Rainbow in the Dark- Dio
I never got the whole devil horns, metal horns, religious/anti-religious thing Dio had going on, but I also didn’t like Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer, I was more a APBA dice baseball game player in my teens so what do I know. While it easy to take shots at the 80’s one thing worthy of recognition is that it was possible for Ronnie James Dio, at 5’4”, an entirely odd looking man, to sell a ton of records because the little dude had killer pipes and an affinity for great supporting casts.
The KKK Took My Baby Away- The Ramones
“The KKK took my baby away
They took her away
Away from me
The KKK took my baby away
They took her away
Away from me.”
Let’s Go Crazy- Prince and the Revolution
“Dearly beloved, we are gather here today to do that thing called life…”
Original Miami Vice Theme- Jan Hammer
Beats for the Listeners- Eric B. & Rakim
Wonderin’- Neil Young
“Doo-wah-wop-wop.” Man I loved this video back in the day. Still great. Watch it. Take a ride through the 80’s with Neil Young and the Shocking Pinks.
Buffalo Soldier- Bob Marley and the Wailers
“I’m just a Buffalo Soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Said he was fighting on arrival
Fighting for survival
Said he was a Buffalo Soldier
Win the war for America.”
Take the Skinheads Bowling- Camper Van Beethoven
“Some people say bowling alleys got big lanes, some people say that bowling alleys all look the same.”
If you’re from St. Catharines maybe you remember Jerry’s Alley where there were actual skinheads at times. Do your remember when skinheads were an actual thing? Doc Martins with certain coloured laces equaled certain sensibilities, i.e. White supremacy or whatever? Who knows, I’m not going to any effort out for skinheads… which I guess is kind of the point of this song.
Color Me Impressed- The Replacements
Sometimes the 80’s sucked. A lot of times actually. The annoying part about it was sometimes it seemed the very worst people were having the very best time.
“Everybody at your party
They don’t look depressed
Everybody dressin’ funny
Color me impressed.”
Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution- AC/DC
Hey man, could you give me a break and turn the AC/DC down, I’m trying to have a Honey Cruller here!
Unchained- Van Halen
“One break, comiiiiiing up!”
Don’t Stop Believin’- Journey
When the world ends all there will be left is cockroaches eating Twinkies listening to this song.
Every Breath You Take- The Police
Late 80’s some friends and I went to Buffalo for New Years. I distinctly remember listening to The Police’s Synchronicity II on the radio on our way there and I thought that it was like the Best of X Year, but ’83 doesn’t make a lot of sense. We would have been at least twenty pretending to be twenty-one so it would have to be the late 80’s. At any rate we went to some big hotel, maybe the Marriot, I think there were four or five of us. Entering the hotel the guys somehow managed to pick up two girls who were like 19 to our 21 (remember when two years difference in age seemed to mean something?) I didn’t have much time for them and was minding my own business when I came back to the room and found everybody talking about music. I sat down and listened for a bit then asked if they’d heard of the Replacements. Moments later I had two girls on my lap passing me breath mints from mouth to mouth. All because of The Replacements. The ladies hung out with me for the next few hours and things were great. It sort of faltered in the end and I think for decades I may have blamed this on Carmine Tremonte getting sick early and coming back and claiming the room but in all honesty I would have fucked it up somehow or another anways.
A New England- Billy Bragg
The lyrics you wish you wrote were written by Billy Bragg.
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl.”
Wishing Well- Terence Trent D’Arby
Terence Trent D’Arby was going to be the next Prince if I recall.
E=MC2- Big Audio Dynamite
When asked why the Clash broke up Joe Strummer explained, “Because you shouldn’t have to beg a man to play his guitar.” This is a great quote that you can feel free to use at work the 90-100 times a day it applies. As far as this synth heavy tune from BAD goes it’s great Sunday morning drive accompaniment. Grab a coffee to go, jump on a long, mostly empty road, wait until your coffee cools down enough to drink, toss this tune in on and bob your head along.
Rock Me Amadeus (Canadian Version)- Falco
The fact this is the, “Canadian Version,” has nothing to do with me being Canadian. It just has this voice over run down of the life of Amadeus Mozart and the life of Falco that is some great kitsch.
Mony Mony- Billy Idol
I heard this song played at a lot of sad singles bars on a lot of sad singles nights. If you don’t think the whole, “Hey motherfucker get laid get fucked!” sing along can be depressing you simply weren’t there.
Theme from “The Greatest American Hero”- Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton
Postcards from Paradise- Flesh for Lulu
Paul Westerberg had this as a hidden track on one of his albums. The girl at the record store at the Fairview Mall in St. Catharines advised me that the last song was great but that it cuts out because he ran out of tape. She also advised me for good measure that, “race car,” spelt backwards is- race car.
Good to know.
Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow- Felt
I hadn’t heard of these guys until months ago. I know next to nothing about them except their guitar sounds like sunlight that looks warmer than it feels. You know that March day you go for a walk and it’s beautiful but winter still has some bite in the breeze? Like that.
It’s Like That- Run-DMC
“You should’ve gone to school, you could’ve learned a trade
But you laid in bed where the bums have laid
Now all the time you’re crying that you’re underpaid
It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is
One thing I know is that life is short
So listen up homeboy, give this a thought
The next time someone’s teaching why don’t you get taught?
It’s like that (what?) and that’s the way it is.”
I’m a Boy I’m a Girl- Johnny Thunders
“I’m a boy, I’m a girl, what am I doin’?/I’m a picture in a frame where am I hanging?”
If I Had a Boat- Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett is so good he got to be married to Julia Roberts for awhile. Rock’n Roll is the ticket kid, Rock’n Roll is the ticket… or, you know, running Hydro One. Rock’n Roll ain’t what it used to be, public service is where all the money and action is.
Achin’ To Be- The Replacements
“She opens her mouth to speak and
What comes out’s a mystery
Thought about, not understood
She’s achin’ to be.”
Dear God- XTC
I always had a challenging relationship with Dear God song as it was championed by so many fashionably agnostic folks: “Hey I don’t know if you know this but organized religion is flawed, I know this because I studied.” Shut up guy. Andrew Partridge also apparently had mixed feelings about it as it wasn’t even included originally in the Skylarking album but rather released as a B side.
Steppin’ Out- Joe Jackson
Are young but getting old before our time
We’ll leave the T.V. and the radio behind
Don’t you wonder what we’ll find
Steppin’ out tonight.”
Snapshot- Art of Noise
My favourite car in the 80’s, and I’d kill to get another one: The AMC Gremlin. Actually, here are a few of the fine automobiles I rode and/or drove around in the 80’s-
Pink Frost- The Chills
I know, you’re still awed by how great those cars are. It’s a better choice than reading the lyrics to this song. Trust me. Keep thinking about the cars.
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life- Indeep
Last night a DJ saved my life, yeah
‘Cause I was sittin’ there bored to death
And in just one breath he said
You gotta get on
You gotta get down girl.”
Personal Jesus (Acoustic Version)- Depeche Mode
“Reach out and touch faith
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who’s there.”
Footloose- Kenny Loggins
There’s a type of beautiful that is breathtaking to behold in motion but just doesn’t photograph all that well. Lori Singer is exactly that kind of beautiful.
The Breakup Song- Greg Kihn Band
Per Genius Lyrics-
“We had broken up for good just an hour before
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
And now I’m staring at the bodies as they’re dancing ‘cross the floor
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
And then the band slowed the tempo, and the music gets you down
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
It was the same old song, with a melancholy sound
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah.”
Just Between You and Me- April Wine
This was the bride and groom dance song at many a wedding in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The pride of Nova Scotia: April Wine. And hey, I know it’s kind of corny, but shut up because it’s a great kind of corny and look at how in love the bride and groom are.
20th Century Boy- Chalk Circle
Obscure Can-con pick. But it’s a T. Rex cover so you can’t go far wrong?
Fashion- David Bowie
This is clinical guitar. Surgically rambunctious. Cover your appendix while listening.
Bela Lugosi’s Dead- Bauhaus
I went to Mohawk College in Hamilton for Radio Broadcasting in the early eighties and learned pretty much that nobody gives a diploma for one semester of college and that when you’re stoned, drunk, messed up, and calling information asking for the phone number for Ronald MacDonald (the actual name of the guy who owned the house I stayed at) they aren’t going to believe you.
At this point Mohawk had a cable radio station. Cable radio meant that pretty much nobody listened to it which, given the quality of our work, was a good thing. I don’t recall much from the experience beyond a tidbit from my recurring feature: The Art of Destruction News Thing, “In other news it was discovered that five members of the East German track and field team were in fact women… the husbands and children of the athletes were reported to be the most surprised by the announcement,” and that whenever I was working alone and needed to get out of the booth for a bit this was my tune of choice.
Heaven’s In Here- Tin Machine
By the end of the 80’s pop music’s ratio of syrup to pancakes had reached dangerously sweet proportions and into the pre-Nirvana void came the odd pairing of Soupy Sales kids (Soupy Sales was a comedian starting in the 50’s. A kind of an old school pie-in-the-face, game show activist, comedian) on bass and drums, Reeves Gabrels on fastest-fingers-in-the-west guitar, David Bowie with vocals, and everybody in a dark suit. And the dudes crushed. If you get the opportunity check out the 1989 International Rock Awards show where they played for the first time. The drummer with a smoke in his mouth while he plays, Bowie in full loose and limber effortless swagger, and Reeves Gabrels just wanking it on the fretless guitar for all he’s worth. It is at times complete musical anarchy with Bowie even taking an opportunity to sit down, have a drink, and snap his fingers along with, er, something. I watched it at the time and it was simultaneously a, “Fuckin’ eh!” moment and a, “God Bowie is cool,” moment.
This album is a great album, check out, I Can’t Read, Amazing, and, Bus Stop, as well.
Johnny’s Gonna Die- The Replacements
“Johnny always takes more than he needs
Knows a couple chords, knows a couple leads
Johnny always needs more than he takes
Forgets a couple of chords, forgets a couple of breaks
And everybody tells me Johnny is hot
Johnny needs something that he ain’t got
Johnny’s gonna die
Johnny’s gonna die.”
The Lights, the Sound, the Rhythm, the Noise- Flipper
If Charlie Brown grew up to be a bad ass this is his band… and when you think about this it makes sense. There’s a lot of trauma there- Lucy, the football, his struggles as a baseball pitcher, his narcissistic dog, the Christmas play failure.
I’m Not Here- The Mekons
Too much whitely dancing going on to type too much.
Electricity- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
“Our one source of energy
All we need to live today
A gift for man to throw away
The chance to change has nearly gone
The alternative is only one
The final source of energy
Who Can it Be Now?- Men at Work
You know what has always been a cool thing to be? Australian. Always. Pivotal moment in my life would be the moment Linda Kozloski decided that a thong bikini would be necessary in order to fill her canteen. That scene checked all my teenage boxes.
Take It Off- Alex Chilton
I heard this song for the first time in ’93 at Lee’s Palace in Toronto over the PA before a Paul Westerberg show. I was with my good friends Mark Lane and Jason Curvin. Mark was terribly paranoid that we would be late so we got to Lee’s Palace hours before the show started and simply walked in, nobody to take our tickets or anything. We hung out, smoked, talked to the two other people in the bar (an older dude and his girlfriend/maybe wife who was quite attractive but clearly a “woman,” wearing had a really formal red dress), played some pool, eventually watched Grant Lee Buffalo do their soundcheck (which was amazing) and then mosied up to the stage to watch Westerberg kill it.
Six Years Gone- The Georgia Satellites
“Well I’m in no mood to fight, no mood to bicker
Sittin’ in the back seat, drinkin’ your liquor
And everything tonight
Suits me just fine.”
Maybe these lyrics don’t seem that outstanding but wrapped in Dan Baird’s, “I’ll do that for five-dollars,” reckless, lost interstate highway cigar stand, voice, it sounds like gospel.
Blue Highways- Graham Parker
“The rusty chrome, the shutters swing open and closed
Don’t knock that door, don’t knock it, nobody’s home
The blood runs cold, the blood runs cold
There must be gold where fools are
That’s what we are, that’s what we are
Get on the blue highways, follow the blue highways
You know that they’re there
You know that they’re there
Where the real America lies
Blue highways, blue highways, blue highways.”
Take It on the Run- REO Speedwagon
One of those bands that is generally mocked as 80’s kitsch because, well, it was 80’s kitsch. But again, this is damn good kitsch.
Goldilox- King’s X
I don’t really fully understand what King’s X was as they are in between so many things- soul, progressive, heavy metal, alternative… but this song is sweet. Gretchen Goes to Nebraska was the album after this and is worth a listen for its’ unique brand of being many things and not being them at all.
I stopped seeing Rush after the Presto tour. Giant inflatable rabbits.
That wasn’t it fully, it was a run of albums that didn’t do a whole lot for me, that and I was really getting into the likes of The Replacements, The Pixies, etc and at that time they seemed mutually exclusive.
Having seen Rush on numerous tours we often felt kind of bad for Alex Lifeson who appeared to only be required to strum the odd chord once in awhile on the new material while Geddy Lee continued to be fully engaged on synth and bass and Neil Peart was his usual raging sea of drums self. Lifeson was almost similar to Andy Summers from the Police in the restraint he exercised in his playing. This song is a reminder of just how good Alex was/is.
Moving Pictures is easily a Top Ten album from the eighties for me. It is lights out from head to toe. In YYZ Alex Lifeson is his usual tasteful self but takes the song to an entirely different place with a foray into an almost middle-Eastern sound.
And he knocks it off with the ease of popping the cap off a bottle of Heineken.
Higher Ground- Red Hot Chili Peppers
“I’m so darn glad he let me try it again
‘Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach my highest ground.”
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da- The Police
So much of my memory from the 80’s is meaningless flickers of moments in time. This song I remember coming on the car radio as we drove through Thorold in the winter. Had to have been my mother driving in order for this song to be on at all let alone entirety. Again, you can’t really say the 80’s were that bad when its’ roll call includes the damn Police.
Big Log- Robert Plant
Robert Plant’s solo material from the 80’s ranged from undercooked to overcooked, from unfortunate to even more unfortunate: Dude, you were the singer in Led Zepplin! At any rate this tune is a good, 2 AM driving from nowhere to nowhere, kind of tune.
Message of Love- The Pretenders
There was a great story from the Pixies and Breeders Kim Deal about the first time she met in a Spin magazine interview in 1995 after she was asked about meeting the Pretenders Chrissie Hynde-
“Yeah, there was this rumor that she was going to appear during the encore of an Urge Overkill show at [New York’s] Irving Plaza and I was in town, so I went down there. After Urge Overkill finished, they introduced a special guest and it was Chrissie Hynde and they did “Precious” and man, I was almost in tears. The whole muddy, ugly sound of Urge Overkill just automatically cleared up. The sound system itself sounded better. She just did one song and it was so cool, so amazing. Anyway, there was this after-show party at a bar around the corner and I went over and Ed [“King” Roeser, Urge bassist] was with Chrissie and she’s drinking tequila out of a bottle in her purse and making out with him pretty heavy in the booth. I guess because Ed’s girlfriend person or whatever was in the bar, he started encouraging me, really encouraging me, to come over and meet Chrissie. I guess he was trying to finesse the situation or something. And I’m like, you know, “This doesn’t seem like the right time, Ed,” but I sat down next to the booth and he’s trying to interrupt this makeout session with Chrissie Hynde to introduce me. So finally he pulled away from her and said, “Chrissie, this is Kim from the Breeders.” And Chrissie looked up, kind of confused, and said in this slurred voice, “You’re not a chick, you’re a dude.” Then she reached out and grabbed my boob. So I’m in shock, right, and I guess Chrissie got embarrassed, because then she grabbed my hand and put it on her boob, like it was a boob-off or something. I don’t know why I had to touch hers too, but I just got up and left, it was awful….Actually, though, looking back on it, I’m kind of glad that she didn’t turn out to be all nice and down-to-earth. She was kind of an asshole and I kind of liked that.”
Head over Heels- The Go-Go’s
“Been running so fast
Right from the starting line
No more connections
I don’t need any more advice
One hand’s just reaching out
And one’s just hangin’ on
It seems my weaknesses
Just keep going strong.”
Teenage Beer Drinkin’ Party- Teenage Head
God Bless Teenage Head.
“Well hide all the antiques, put all your paintings away
Now it’s my turn to heat up the R . C . A .
Open up the fridge, put all that food in the rear
Make a lot of room for another couple boxes of beer
We’ll have a teenage beer drinkin’ party
Beer drinkin’ party, beer drinkin’ party
A teenage beer drinkin’ party
Dancin’ on the living room rug.”
Slip Into the Crowd- 39 Steps
I remembered seeing this video on Much Music back in the day and thinking it was awesome, so awesome I remembered it for decades until I found it again. No idea why someone hasn’t done a fantastic cover of this song.
It Came Out of the Sky- The Scientists
I don’t have much to say about this song or the band. It’s a cover of a CCR song. There’s something.
On a completely unrelated note- soda pop in the 80’s. Notably The Pop Shoppe. A shop solely dealing in the art of soda pop. Soda pop scientists. It was pretty exciting when we got Pop Shoppe pop. Somehow though the Pop Shoppe went out of business (Leading to I imagine a great opportunity for those in need of soda pop scientists). MIO pop was big when I was a kid growing up in Thorold. The internet isn’t giving me much love in terms of information related to MIO. Seemed to me as a kid it was an Italian thing. I do remember that there was a truck that would deliver the pop and pick up empties (which were in wooden boxes). It was an odd truck, very long, with open sides where they would load/unload the pop. Every once in awhile they’d let me and some other neighbourhood kids take a ride. Cool view driving through Thorold in the morning, laying back and watching the houses bathed in sunlight and shade glide by. We felt like the chosen ones being allowed to ride along.
Tide is High- Blondie
I Got You- Split Enz
I used to have this song on 45. It had notes etched into the vinyl that turned colours, like the skin of a Rainbow Trout, when you turned it against the light. The B Side was a song called, In the Wars, that I thought was the coolest song every and couldn’t find for the longest time. Loved the chorus. Thirty years when I heard it again it wasn’t quite the same. Still, decent tune and it’s a damned shame I didn’t lose that 45.
Relax- Frankie Goes to Hollywood
A friend of mine, much younger than myself, Steve Del Duca, a brilliant musician and music lover, once asked me at work if he thought we’d have been friends if we met when we were both in our 20’s. I responded easily, “No.” I was way too immature. I was hunkered down with a certain sensibility or lack thereof, a certain type of music and being. Whatever it was it was too insecure to enjoy music without first frisking it for signs of being effeminate or gay and this song was the epitome of, “gay.”
Another Nail in My Heart- Squeeze
The chorus is sung so sweetly so as to make anyone and everyone weak in the knees-
“And here in the bar
The piano man’s found
Another nail for my heart
And here in the bar
The piano man’s found
Another nail for my heart.”
Riviera Paradise- Stevie Ray Vaughan
When we saw Stevie Ray at Canada’s Wonderland (Kingswood) this was the last song he played. I remember hearing an interview with him where he said he liked to (paraphrasing now) kind of relax people for their departure. He sat for the bulk of the song as I recall. It was a great summer night outside and this was a wonderful way to part.
If Only You Were Lonely- The Replacements
“Well, I ain’t very good
But I get practice by myself
Forgot my one line
So I just said what I felt
If only you were lonely,
If only you was lonely too,
If only you was lonely
I’d go home with you.”
What I Am- Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians
My parents got me a job when I turned sixteen. They got me this job despite the fact a part time job would conflict with my full time baseball-stickball-hockey-road hockey-golf after school program. The job was as a stockboy at Bargain Harold’s which was a discount everything store. My experience there was interesting: The nights that we’d be overwhelmed by the Jamaican farm workers some of whom would take our lack of change rooms to mean they should try on their pants in the middle of the aisle-
Boss:– Darren go tell them they can’t change in the middle of the floor
Darren: (Looking wide eyed over at the 20-30 men in the clothing section) No way.
Boss: (looks over at the crowd then walks decidedly in the other direction)
Random memories– Elvis being played over and over on Christmas, all the women who worked there keeping the clothes folded wearing red smocks, old running shoes in new running shoe boxes= more stolen running shoes, free food after you accidentally cut too deeply open a box full of chips, making a cardboard cutout of Jimi Hendrix in the back room, complete with a cardboard guitar, lighting the guitar on fire and laughing until one of the ladies came back to report the store was filling with smoke, and my meeting with my manager Joe-
Joe: Darren I notice you’ve been coming into work high lately
Darren: (who legitimately had never come into work high) No. No.
Joe: Look I do it myself: hot knives, hash, weed, I get it, but you can’t keep coming into work high.
Darren: I really have never come into work high Joe.
Joe: Just make sure you don’t do it again.
Listening to Edie Brickells’ What I Am song while stacking jam and thinking it was fantastic and that Edie Brickell was exactly the kind of girl you wanted to lay in the grass and watch clouds pass with.
You Make My Dreams- Daryl Hall & John Oates
So slick they were hard for me to love in the 80’s. But hey, good is good.
China Girl- David Bowie
“And when I get excited
My little China girl says
Oh baby, just you shut your mouth.”
Major Tom- Peter Schilling
“Earth below us
Coming coming home.”
Owner of a Lonely Heart- Yes
I saw Yes in Buffalo at the Aud on the Big Generator Tour. Such a talented band. Virtuosos. And Jon Anderson floated around the stage, often wielding a kerchief as a prop of sorts, establishing himself as the most non-rock’n roll dude ever.
Eyes of a Stranger- The Payola$
More great Canadian content. This to me is the sound of an aimless, lost, summer vacation night. Staying up and watching Sportsline at 11:30 on Global TV, followed by Magnum PI in syndication, “Damnit Magnum!”
I Will Follow- U2
The Edge is an interesting guy because he doesn’t seem to me to be a great player in terms of skill but he’s got a knack for a certain type of riff that gets your heart beating faster. Many with much more skill impacted way less. Which goes to show something.
Somebody Got Murdered- The Clash
This one is here purely for my good friend Mark Lane. The Clash were awesome. (BTW, Rolling Stone included London Calling in their Top 100 Albums of 1980 as it was released in the UK in ’79 but not until ’80 in the good old USA. To me ’79 is ’79 so I couldn’t include it here or maybe that whole album would be on the list)
Is That All There Is? Christina
“Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is.”
Tally Ho!- The Clean
If I was ever going to rob a Supermarket in the middle of the day by being pushed around at 100 miles an hour while wielding a banana and shouting, “When we’re finished robbing you there won’t be one marshmallow related product left in the building!” This would be the soundtrack.
Shadows of the Night- Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar has mass skills. Full respect to Miss Benatar.
Total Eclipse of the Heart- Bonnie Tyler
From the get go- the plinking piano and Bonnie Tyler’s two packs a day of cigarettes voice is riveting. From there the songs soars and returns to earth, and soars again, and quietly exits as only the the best Meatloaf song done by someone other than Meatloaf in the 80’s could.
In the Air Tonight- Phil Collins
The background music for 42 tense moments in Miami Vice. Every time they took a high speed boat out at night, this was the music that played while Don Johnson’s hair feathered in the wind. This was also the background music for about a zillion other tense theatrical moments since it was made. Good for Phil.
Your Daddy Don’t Know- Toronto
You know I always assumed that Toronto wasn’t actually from Toronto. But they are. Whaddya’ know?
More Songs About Chocolate and Girls- The Undertones
Teenage Kicks is one of my favourite tunes. So had to get some Undertones in here. Title alone works for me. Great tune though, trust me.
Seen Your Video- The Replacements
In fairness to those who criticize the 80’s, yes, there is lots of stuff to criticize. Much of that is what the Replacements were channelling magnificently in this song from their brilliant Let it Be album, “Seen your video, your phony rock’n roll, we don’t want to know! We don’t wanna’ know!”
We Want the Airwaves- The Ramones
The Ramones, like the Replacements, fighting the good fight-
“We want the airwaves (that’s right, that’s right)
We want the airwaves (that’s right, that’s right)
We want the airwaves, baby
If rock is gonna stay alive.”
People Who Died- The Jim Carroll Band
Letters from the slam dance pit, part 79: There are good songs to slam dance to, i.e. Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash and The Jim Carroll Band’s People Who Died, wherein people will bounce around happily with big smiles on their faces and there’s stuff like Cop Killer. Every dick in the world feels like they have to get out there and throw their weight around for that song. Get off the floor if you hear something like Cop Killer or any kind of industrial garbage.
Part 80: Don’t mess with the bouncer, the bouncer always wins.
Struggle- Keith Richards
I believe it’s actually Keith Richards and the x-pensive winos.
““Keith once took my 10,000 dollar overcoat
To put down across a mud puddle
To allow an octogenarian laundress
Named Clementine Moorehouse to cross the street
That’s Keith always the gentleman”
From Tom Waits Poem, “Keith Richards…”
Dance Part 1- The Rolling Stones
Two people I would love to be, 1) Fred from James Brown band so I could introduce myself at parties as, “Hi, I’m Fred. I take it to the bridge.” 2) Charlie Watts for his effortless cool.
Ship of Fools- World Party
“Avarice and greed are gonna drive you over the endless sea
They will leave you drifting in the shallows
or drowning in the oceans of history
Traveling the world, you’re in search of no good
but I’m sure you’ll build your Sodom like you knew you would
Using all the good people for your galley slaves
as you’re little boat struggles through the warning waves, but you don’t pay
You will pay tomorrow
You’re gonna pay tomorrow
You’re gonna pay tomorrow.’
Holding Out for a Hero- Bonnie Tyler
Two Bonnie Tyler songs. Not sure how this happened but… I guess I like Bonnie Tyler more than I had previously considered. I will say that in the wake of the Meatloaf comparison that a Phil Rizzuto clip would have went really well in this song. Maybe a story about him golfing with the Yankee Clipper.
Love- Art of Noise
I think maybe another Phil Rizzuto voice over would have worked well on this song as well. Maybe his great Brooklyn accent calling Mike Stanley’s at bat from August 14, 1993, “A driiiive to deep left center… and that ball is outta’ here! No it’s not, yes it is, noooo… what happened? He caught it… you gotta’ be (laughs)… I know I gotta’ get these glasses changed, Seaver saw it and I didn’t believe him. Oh I gotta’ see it again before I declare it… now look at Stanley lookin’ back, I’m doing doing the same thing… watch this… here he goes… son-of-a-gun he hit the fence and held on. At the end of seven it’s the Yankees 4 and the Orioles 2.”
Fascination Street- The Cure
The opening bass line is so brilliant it carries the song for over two minutes before Robert Smith interjects. The bass line though not significantly changing in content seems to start as a threat and transition to repetitive waves that carry you bobbing along on top until it finally deposits you in the fading embers of Fascination Street.
“Oh it’s opening time
Down on Fascination Street
So let’s cut the conversation
And get out for a bit
Because I feel it all fading and paling
And I’m begging
To drag you down with me
To kick the last nail in
Yeah I like you in that
Like I like you to scream
But if you open your mouth
Then I can’t be responsible
For quite what goes in
Or to care what comes out
So just pull on your hair
Just pull on your pout
And let’s move to the beat
Like we know that it’s over
If you slip going under
Slip over my shoulder
So just pull on your face
Just pull on your feet
And let’s hit opening time
Down on Fascination Street.”
The Lady in Red- Chris de Burgh
I don’t know if I am recommending this song but if you want to know how every night ended just after last call at bars throughout Southern, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York in the 80’s (in the 80’s and part of the 90’s the bars stayed open later in New York/”Over the River,” than Ontario, so we went over there every weekend), this song was it. Often times the end of night rendition was accompanied by bar staff stacking chairs, maybe one or two couples leaning on each other slow dancing on the mess of the post-last call dance floor, and me smoking a cigarette, immersed in Chris de Burgh’s soundtrack for another night of failure. Thanks Chris de Burgh, you jerk.
Hungry Heart- Bruce Springsteen
Hey, another Bruce Springsteen song! I remember bouncing around my living room one night as a kid singing along with this song and Kenny Loggins’, I’m Alright. Always loved the opening line. Great American rock’n roll, a little bit of soul, a little lost piano, and a great sad opening addressed with a sense of whimsy-
“Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.
Tenderness- General Public
High School Graduations’ crescendo was a night over the river (the Niagara River) at The Three Coins Restaurant and Lounge. Here’s the description of the bar from the Buffalo Courier Express in 1967, “The exciting Three Coins, truly a unique setting for lunch, dinner and late supper where one may dine like a Roman Emperor on centurions pay. Sun. dinners from 1 PM and Sat. from 5 PM. Enjoy the sophisticated stylings of the JaMan Trio nitely except Fridays, The fine muisc of Dave Kles Trio is yours to enjoy every Friday.”
None of the pictures of the Three Coins available via Google searches look familiar, mind you, I don’t remember a whole lot of the night. I remember that every guy had a white tuxedo (very, very, bad idea on someone’s part), that there was a Bruce Springsteen cover band (think the band in the fantastic ode to the 80’s movie Adentureland doing the Foreigner cover song), people kept saying, “Hey somebody sit that guy down!” in my vicinity, and I remember that I forgot my name… yep: I was sitting down (I think because somebody finally made me) and a girl asked me my name. I couldn’t think of it. I did have a pack of cigarettes though, American cigarettes, Lark cigarettes.
“Like the bird?”
“Yeah, like the bird.”
The rest of the night in my memory is just a flickering jumble of high school carnage. People passed out, people throwing up, people fighting, people making out. Somehow I came out unscathed. My white tuxedo however did not.
Don’t Go- Yaz
This is exactly the kind of song that piss me off at the bars back in the day. I’m not sure what I was advocating in its’ place though? “Everyone on the dance floor for Rush’s, Cyngus X-1: Books I and II!”
Drug Test- Yo La Tengo
The 90’s would give us the majesty of the great band Pavement. Disjointed guitars and disjointed thoughts of melancholy, madness, and the matter of fact. In the meantime enjoy the honest pleasure of Yo la Tengo.
The One I Love- R.E.M.
R.E.M.’s lyrics left alone don’t do the experience justice. There is no better example of this than this song. The simplicity of the lyrics seemingly vastly more potent within the soaring body of the song.
Here Comes a Regular- The Replacements
More lyrical brilliance from the Replacements who truly owned the 80’s. How many times a day at important moments can you rhyme off a Replacements line and give a small, humble, passing moment the elegance it deserves?
“Well a person can work up a mean, mean, thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all.”
Girl U Want- Devo
“She sings from somewhere you can’t see
She sits in the top of the greenest tree
She sends out an aroma of undefined love
It drips on down in a mist from above
She’s just the girl, she’s just the girl
The girl you want.”
The Safety Dance- Men Without Hats
If you were to ask me which part of Canada, English or French, would be most likely to use small people in their video the answer is easy.
White Wedding- Billy Idol
“It’s a nice day to start again (come on)
It’s a nice day for a white wedding
It’s a nice day to start again.”
Back on the Chain Gang- Pretenders
Twenty-Five Forty-One- Grant Hart
Big windows to let in the sun
I Will Dare- The Replacements
How old am I?
Let’s count the rings around my eyes
How dumb am I?
Don’t count any of my advice
Now I don’t care, meet me tonight
If you will dare, I might dare.”
Monkey Gone to Heaven- The Pixies
“Rock me Joe.”
A Means to an End- Joy Division
“I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
In you. In you. In you.
Put my trust in you, in you.”
Teenland- Northern Pikes
More thanks to the Canadian Radio and Television Commission for the Canadian Content rules that made so much of this list possible.
Centerfield- John Fogerty
“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.”
A remarkable thing in the 80’s that I was privileged to get to see in action was my friend Mal Romanin’s attempt to reconstruct the entire 1981 American League baseball season using the APBA baseball game. Using the lineups he had for every major league baseball game from a box full of issues of The Sporting News Mal undertook to dice roll from here to eternity every game for every team in the American League. He almost made it. He didn’t (yet) but to get beyond the All-Star game in and of itself is something legendary.
All hail the great game of baseball and John “Horseface” Candelaria.
Town Called Malice- The Jam
Such a happy bass line. This bass line is a reminder that life is absolutely fucking fabulous so stop your moping!
And quit running for that runaway bus ’cause those rosy days are few
And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called malice
And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It’s enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast and furious
In a town called malice, yeah.”
One Thing Leads to Another- The Fixx
The Fixx was real big there for a bit. Funny though, I can remember multiple occasions standing in Sam the Record Man at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines back when every dollar counted trying to decide whether or not to buy The Fixx’s Reach the Beach. I never did. I liked it but there was this kind of robotic-ness about the music that made me keep that $10 in my pocket.
We Got the Beat- The Go-Go’s
Damn this is a great band.
“Go-go music really makes us dance
Do the pony puts us in a trance
Do the watusi just give us a chance
That’s when we fall in line.”
This song is also in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Quick Fast Times snap shot: Mr. Hand telling it like it is, “What is this fascination with truancy? What is it that gets inside of your heads? There are some teachers at this school who look the other way at truants. It’s a little game you both play. They pretend they don’t see you, and you pretend you don’t ditch! Now, in the end, who pays the price? YOU!”
Fight for your Right- The Beastie Boys
One summer I worked in the Falls at the Victoria Park Restaurant as a Parking Lot Attendant. I think I was nineteen. Between the restaurant downstairs and the more exotic Dining Room upstairs there was about 30-40 girls my age working there, most of whom were dropped off and picked up at my little parking lot attendant booth. It was awesome. A few highlights of my time there-
- I gave really bad directions to Niagara-on-the-Lake to Larry Wilcox of the TV show Chips (Also starring Erik Estrada)
- Jo from the Facts of Life ate at the Dining Room causing a massive stir arriving in a Pink Limousine with tinted windows that precluded this longtime fan from getting a look
- Four cars from the State of Ohio hit the parking lot gate. Zero cars from any other state managed this feat.
- In heavy rotation on the booth cassette player at the time when I was working was the Beasite Boys and Whitesnake.
- I once missed a day of work because I didn’t figure out what day of the week it was until 7 PM when I lost an argument about whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday. My boss was named Hildegard. This was not a good mix. I blamed everything on insomnia (no idea where or why I came up with that lie, WKRP in Cincinnati comes to mind though, I think Johnny Fever had insomnia one time, maybe the episode where God told him to become a golf pro), Hildegard seemed to suspect idiocy was at the heart of it.
- I think this was ’87. There was a Royal Visit to the Falls which would end up going up Mountain Road past my booth. As such the police were doing security checks. I found this out with a policeman in front of me asking to look through my napsack. I had weed in the napsack in a metal can (I think it was like a mints can). Never been so nervous in my life. But he never looked inside the can.
- This is a pre-casino world for Niagara Falls. Much quieter and slightly less cheesy (But still cheesy). We would often wonder why people would come to the Falls but there would be times where I’d take a break and sit by myself on the lawn in front of the restaurant at dusk and watch the sun setting on the Falls and find it breathtaking. My other favourite time was first thing in the morning in the offseason when it was kind of cool outside. The whole world empty and encroached upon by slinky, lingering, mist. Standing there on those crisp mornings with my tea piping away on the ledge, looking at the sun and mist filled empty roads feeling like time was standing still just for me.
I Might Lie- Andy Taylor
Featuring Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. This is a glorious bit of posing by Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor that makes me get out my air guitar to play rhythm right along. Do you remember, “The Filthy Lucre,” tour in the 90’s when the Sex Pistols reformed? There was a great moment on Much Music where the cameraman got a shot of the front seat of Steve Jones car which contained prominently Bon Jovi’s, Slippery When Wet, CD.
Fight the Good Fight- Triumph
Yes I did have a giant Triumph patch sewn on the entirety of the back of a jean jacket in the 80’s.
That’s When I Reach for My Revolver- Mission of Burma
I came really late to Mission of Burma as in like, two months ago in fact. So I feel a bit suspect here but what is life if not an endless attempt to figure out all the crap we missed while we were busy paying our dues, paying our rent, and suffering from the limitations presented to any one soul trying to do the best they can with such entirely fallible faculties?
Let’s be kind to ourselves.
Wait for the Blackout- The Damned
“… and on bass guitar: Captain Sensible!”
On the Loose- Saga
A major Canadian band that had significant international success in Germany and Peurto Rico. Germany and Peurto Rico. If there’s a world euchre tournament they should consider being partners.
Monkey Bars- Coney Hatch
If there’s ever a movie made about working at a Gas Station in Ontario making minimum wage in the 80’s this has to be the opening song.
A suggestion for the movie: Have two gas bar attendants in a kiosk across a desk from their boss who is talking on the phone. Let’s call the gas bar attendants Jason and Darren. Both are wearing mandatory red clip on ties while their boss is there. Darren will be looking out the large kiosk windows at the clouds floating past telling Jason that he’d always dreamt of floating around on a cloud all day. Mid-way through his stream of consciousness dissertation on the potential wonders of cloud riding a clipboard will fly past his head and hit off the wall behind them. The boss, let’s call her Renee, will look very angry and cover the phone with her hand, “Shut up!”
The next day in the morning Darren will speak to Renee and request she not throw clip boards at his head. This will make Renee even angrier. Later in the day a former gas bar attendant’s girlfriend will come in for gas and get $10. This qualifies her for 2% in coupons. As a common practice for everybody from Renee on down, Darren will give his friend’s girlfriend $1 instead of 20-cents. Renee will rush out of the kiosk to check how much coupons Darren handed out. Darren will be fired. For stealing.
Thinking of You- Harlequin
Maybe, maybe, the greatest band to ever play the Pine Hotel in Thorold. When everybody in Grade 8 was writing Rush, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC on their desks, I was writing Harlequin.
“Each of us
A cell of awareness
Imperfect and incomplete
With uncertain ends
On a fortune hunt that’s far too fleet.”
All We Are- Kim Mitchell
Always a great live show. This song live at dusk, outdoors in the summer, was always magnificent. Peter Fredette played everything and provided backup vocals (he did such a great job doing the Geddy Lee part of Battlescar). I mention this only because Peter Fredette deserves some credit. So does Kim Mitchell though as his solo work and time in the brilliant Max Webster is tragically under appreciated. (Patio Lanterns isn’t on this list but it bears mentioning that it owned Southern Ontario in the summer of 1986)
Bette Davis Eyes- Kim Carnes
I smoked a lot of cigarettes in the 80’s but not nearly as many as Kim Carnes. I picture Kim Carnes and Bonnie Tyler as the sisters from The Simpsons.
Angel of the Morning- Juice Newton
To me it appeared in Grade Eight that liking Juice Newton was something only girls did. I remember really noticing this at recess one day as there was a girl who grew her hair crazy long to be like Juice Newton. I still don’t really understand women and I still really like recess. So here’s to that.
Suddenly Last Summer- The Motels
“One summer never ends, one summer never began
It keeps me standing still, it takes all my will
And then suddenly last summer
Sometimes I never leave, but sometimes I would
Sometimes I stay too long, sometimes I would
Sometimes it frightens me, sometimes it would
Sometimes I’m all alone and wish that I could.”
Eye of the Tiger- Survivor
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Every Time You Go Away- Paul Young
As mentioned my first job that wasn’t delivering papers or whatever was at Bargain Harolds as a stock boy. It was there I met Nancy Napolitano. She was beautiful, she was sweet, she had a real wonderful light about her. It took me awhile to muster up the nerve to ask her out and when the night finally arrived for our first date fate had dictated that I be sick and that there would be a massive snowstorm. No way was I cancelling though.
I popped some pills and took Nancy to Niagara Falls where I would get the old Ford LTD stuck in the snow. After much pushing and falling down on my part I finally managed to get the car out of the snow and we were back on our way. Consuming alcohol along with my pills and being sick was not a good combination though and I was fading fast as I approached Nancy’s house in Western Hill to drop her off. It was at this point Every Time You Go Away came on and Nancy asked that we keep driving so she could listen to the song. A short time later in the nether regions of Western Hill, some street Louth (4th, 5th, 6th… one of them), my eyes closed long enough for me to start to go off the road, I reopened my eyes, saw what was going on and jerked the wheel back but it was too late. My passenger side front tire caught on the lip of the road and directed us into the (thankfully) snow filled ditch.
In the pre-cell phone world, in the middle of nowhere, this meant we had to walk back to civilization in a snow storm. Civilization in this case turned out to be the Donut House on St. Paul West. Once there Nancy introduced me to her brothers Mike and Tony, “This is Darren, he put his car in a ditch.” They were unimpressed, which is fair. Not much later the tow truck driver Nancy’s brothers had arranged for got his turn to be unimpressed as it became clear I wasn’t exactly sure which particular Louth Street I had put my car in a ditch on.
Somehow though we did go out again and Nancy remains one of the finest people I’ve ever met.
I Go Blind- 54-40
Despite Hootie and the Blowfish’s best attempts to ruin this great song this remains: a great song.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World- Tears for Fears
“It’s my own desire
It’s my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world.”
Unsatisfied- The Replacements
A Memory: A 15-minute break from work at the Bingo Factory I worked at, Bazaar and Novelty. Sitting on a table reading Route 666: The Road to Nirvana by Gina Arnold. In the book she tells the story of Paul Westerberg in a phone booth being advised that Rolling Stone magazine will be doing a review of their Let It Be album and requesting to clarification on the line that follows, “Everything goes or anything goes/All of the time/Everything you dream of is right in front of you…” with Westerberg advising that the next line was, “Liberty is a lie.”
It was like being hit by a lightning bolt. I’d listened to the song hundreds of times but never really stopped to consider what was said there.
I grabbed the cassette and rewound it to Unsatisfied and cranked the ghetto blaster. There I was alone on the factory floor, music blaring, and when the tune arrived at that line I had goosebumps and tears streaming from my eyes.
Swingin’ Party- The Replacements
“If being afraid is a crime
We hang side by side
At the swingin’ party down the line.”
Garbageman- The Cramps
“You ain’t no punk you punk…” How’s that for a killer opening line? “If you can’t dig me you can’t dig nothin’…”
Turning Japanese- The Vapors
This song is probably pretty objectionable but we live in objectionable times. So settle down and enjoy the damn song.
One World (Not Three)- The Police
That Sting was one mean bass player wasn’t he?
Microphone Fiend- Eric B. & Rakim
Yes, you’re right, I heard this done by Rage Against the Machine first. But, so what? This is a brilliant tune from the get go, “Yo, I was fiend before I became a teen/I melted microphones instead of cones and ice cream.” Definitely wouldn’t have heard this in the 80’s and if I had I wouldn’t have liked it.
Age can be good, age can be real good.
Bring the Noise- Public Enemy
Death row, what a brother knows
Once again, back is the incredible
The rhyme animal
The uncannable D, Public Enemy Number One
Five-O said, “Freeze!” and I got numb
Can I tell ’em that I never really had a gun?
But it’s the wax that the Terminator X spun
Now they got me in a cell cause my records, they sell
Cause a brother like me said, “Well
Farrakhan’s a prophet and I think you ought to listen to
What he can say to you, what you wanna do is follow for now”
Power of the people, say
“Make a miracle, D, pump the lyrical”
Black is back, all in, we’re gonna win
Check it out, yeah y’all, here we go again
Turn it up! Bring the noise!”
She’s Crafty- Beastie Boys
“… and she’s just my type.”
Everyday Clothes- Jonathan Richman
“Going to a party and she’s wondering what’s the way.
I say “look, why don’t you just wear what you’d wear everyday?”
You know, T-Shirt, you know sweatshirt,
You know, cut off shorts you know those…
Plain old everyday clothes.
She had a black dress that I remember still
But in her ordinary clothes the girl was dressed to kill.
I loved her, I loved her at first sight I suppose
And I couldn’t have loved her more than in her…
Plain old everyday clothes.”
Big Best Summer- Kim Mitchell
“We want modern thrills, we want rock’n roll that kills.” We saw Kim Mitchell at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 80’s and my buddy Mal had won a back stage pass to meet Mr. Mitchell. I think it was the Akimbo Alogo tour… at any rate Mal was super wound up and nervous about meeting Kim Mitchell and planned long and hard what to ask him, deciding finally to ask him something related to a song off his first solo EP Tennessee Water.
I emailed my friend Mal to ask him to remind me how the meeting went and he replied he couldn’t remember. So remember kids, whenever you are really stressed about something in life that seems gigantic, you probably won’t remember it in 30 years anyway.
New Orleans is Sinking- The Tragically Hip
While I never saw The Tragically Hip Gord Downie’s ad-libbed live version of this tune was legend. I vividly recall playing pool at Scott and Vine Billiards with my friend (and far more talented pool player) Diano Difeliece and listening to New Orleans is Sinking over the old speakers as Gord Downie appeared to freelance mid-song over the tunes’ steady backbeat-
“I had a job before this… I had a job before this… ultimately it was that job that drove me into this. I worked at an aquarium, an aquarium with lots of money from the government, so it was HUGE! I ah… I was ah, a clean and scrub man, we called each other in the CNS Union… I scrubbed the inside of the Killer Whale tank. And after awhile the boys in the CNS, the clean and scrub, we just sort of made it one word: The-Killer-whale-tank. The-Killer-whale-tank-Uh! The-Killer-Whale-tank-Uh! I’m going into The-Killer-Whale-Tank… I got along with these two big beasts so well! It was like they knew me! They looked at me with their one hundred year old eyes and it was like they knew me! I-I put on my scuba gear, my mask, my regulator (regulator breathing sound)… and I’d fall into the tank with nary a sound… maybe a phooo-tik and I was underwater… (G. Downie makes whale like noises, music slows)… sometimes, I’d jump out! Right in front of the window! When people are expecting a killer whale and they see a human, they get spooked! Spooked. Anyway, I’d do that, but I was, I was in the water this particular day, unbeknownst to me Shamu and Bartholo-mu (music picks up pace again), their relationship had gone stale… seems I was going in there so much and I was looking so good!!! Shamu took a shining to me. And they are so smart those things you know?!?!!? They got all these human emotions: LOVE. LUST. GREEN, HUNDRED YEAR OLD EYED JEALOUSY! Bartholo-mu was LIVID!!! Unbeknownst to me I can’t hear a GOD DAMNED THING UNDER WATER! He came up, he was bumping up against me a lot. Kinda stale, killer whale, bumping up against someone so pale and frail, how was I to know that the Killer Whale whose relationship had gone stale… well… he brushes up against me a few times, his skin is like sandpaper, I say, “He man, Bartholo-mu, what’s up? What’s up? What’s going on big fella? What is it? What is it? I don’t want to steal your Mommy and I sure don’t want to take the place of your Daddy. I only want to be your friend… and he circled around and I thought we were all patched up and, and I was scrubbing and he took my… he came up and he… he came up and he… and he… and he… he ripped my left arm off… the Killer Whale they are beasts of the deep they’re…. they’re… they’re quite docile and friendly in captivity but somewhere along the line, thousands of years of breeding, just snapped and he took my left arm man. He took my left arm. He took my fucking left arm! What… what is it Bartholo-mu? I spoke to him in a language he could understand! As I came back! (More whale noises from G. Downie as music builds to crescendo and releases and guitar weaves back into the song’s conventional structure):
Sucking up to someone just to stoke the fire
Picking out the highlights of the scenery
Saw a little cloud that looked a little like me
My feet back up on the banks
Looked up to the Lord above
And said “hey man thanks”
Sometimes I feel so good I gotta scream
She said Gordie baby I know exactly what you mean
She said, she said, I swear to God she said…
New Orleans is sinking man and I don’t wanna swim.”
Sister Christian- Night Ranger
This song goes out to 80’s rock fanatic and the only man brave enough to bring a pink bath pouf into a hockey dressing room: Russ Tobin.
Emotional Rescue- The Rolling Stones
“I will be your knight in shining armor
Riding across the desert on a fine Arab charger.”
Real Canadians- Trooper
Standing in Steadmans Department Store on Front Street Thorold and overhearing talk on the radio about potential pro careers for goaltender Jim Craig and other US Olympic members after the Miracle on Ice at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1984. I wasn’t a big fan of anything U.S.A. related at that time but I did like the cool clover on Jim Craig’s mask. From there the speaker moved on to the topic of Canadian band Trooper who apparently were getting some kind of death threats (the internet knows nothing of this). I was absently listening to the radio talk in the store while considering buying a game that was advanced for the time: it was hand held and the user controlled a solid spaceship that sat above a backdrop that essentially was on rollers so that you had to navigate the terrain that had as much variety as the limited physical material within the game. There was no point system, it was simply the fun of operating the spaceship. I bought it and lost interest in it a few days later.
Goo Goo Muck- The Cramps
Goo Goo Muck is too good of a song to be limited simply to Halloween.
I Wanna Destroy You- The Soft Boys
Love the intro. The electric guitars chiming over a punchy backbeat:
“I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I Wanna’ Destroy You!”
She Sells Sanctuary- The Cult
“The sparkle in your eyes
Keeps me alive
And the sparkle in your eyes
Keeps me alive, keeps me alive.”
Theme from “The White Shadow”- Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton
Mike Post was the king of 80’s TV theme music. I mention the White Shadow because people forget that show and the tune is kinda’ cool. 80’s TV shows themes, the original versions are another great diversion in your 80s playlist.
Say What!- Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
It takes a lot of balls to cover Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) and there’s no shame in not being able to hit those heights because really who ever has? Jimi Hendrix was the first musician I really fell in love with. I re-listened to the two tunes back to back and here’s the difference: One person is mortal and the other one isn’t. Jimi Hendrix not only has earth and sky and water in his voice, in his playing, he has the heavens. He has Northern Lights, he has shooting stars, he has lightning, he has the movement of the sun. He can take gravity and he can leave it. Steve Ray, like the rest of us, doesn’t mix in all those circles, but he clearly has singularly loved and felt and related, he has a legitimate joy for music, for love and sadness and all earthbound things and there is so much to be said for that. Listen to Say What! and enjoy a special man doing special things.
Let Love Rule- Lenny Kravitz
Lisa Bonet. My God, Lisa Bonet.
This is a brilliant album by Mr. Kravitz truly one of the most spectacular musical entertainers I have ever witnessed.
Walkin’ Away Blues- Ry Cooder
If you are ever headed nowhere (and hint, most of us, maybe all of us, are) you need a little Ry Cooder for the drive. It feels right. Life should have some space to it. Breathing in should have some breathing out. Music should have some silence. Happiness should have some sadness.
Ry Cooder will help you keep it real brother.
Fisherman’s Daughter- Daniel Lanois
“I laid awake a whole night long
Waiting for the sun to beat down on my head
In this broken bed
I laid awake and dreamt of ships
Passing through night
Searching for shelter
Stopping at no harbor
I heard the screaming waters
Call sixty sailors’ names
Raging words, pounding on the sail
Like an angry whale
I felt the iron rudder skip
The smell of seeping oil
The heat of slipping rope
Failing hands, failing hope
Every sailor asks
Asks the question about the cargo
He is carrying
God’s anger broke through the clouds
And He spilt the cargo for all to see
The fault of the sailor
The fault of he who asks no questions
About the cargo he is carrying
Fishes and tales and a fisherman’s daughter
Walks in the rain, she walks to the water
To the sea.”
White Mustang II- Daniel Lanois
More life on the river bank. Hammy Hamster chilling by the Diving Bell waiting for the imminent moment of need to arrive to leap into action.
Purple Rain- Prince and the Revolution
This is the song. It is beyond perfect. Perfect I could have conceived of before hand. I had not considered this could exist before I heard it. And it just keeps on destroying me (The AMA’s performance of Purple Rain is a great place to go to bear witness).
Prince and the artist formerly known as Prince went through so many ebbs and flows in popularity from Purple Rain on. The 2007 Superbowl was a great example. 2007 when Prince was all but forgotten. I met my friends at the bar prior to the game and somebody complained about Prince being the half time entertainment. I reproached him immediately, “When Prince is in the mood he can tear a stadium down.”
And so he did.
One last thought on Purple Rain. If you don’t believe my take on its’ greatness, look at this man’s face. Look at the face of a man who spent minutes and minutes of the Purple Rain movie frustrated with Prince’s unreliability suddenly vastly moved watching the very same Prince perform the movie’s title track.
O.K. This is the End, Eh?- Bob and Doug Mackenzie
So yeah, this is the end. I didn’t mention Mt. St Helens erupting or the US boycott of the Moscow Olympics in lieu of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war. I didn’t reference leggings, Rubik’s cubes, Ronald Reagan, the Berlin Wall coming down, or the fact Vin Scully was brilliantly calling baseball games for another decade. Mainly I didn’t mention any of that stuff because none of those things (aside from Vin Scully) meant all that much to me.
At the beginning of any endeavour it is easy to suggest that no closure will be had, that at most there will be unfettered moments of clarity whose reality exists only within in their own borders. At the end that’s a little tougher, a little lonelier, proposition. We want, I want, a narrative. But while there are truisms to our individual experiences in the end they should be so much more complex and nuanced than the simple, the trite, the traced. It’s a mess but, it’s your mess, and it’s not a mess that can be figured out by borrowing a generic story line. Here’s a truth: I was engaged at the end of the eighties. I could tell you about a lot of things in regards to our relationship but the details, the beautiful, the ugly and all points in between, aren’t for you and to be honest they continue to evolve for me. I will tell you this though, she had beautiful eyes, amazing eyes: vivid green with gold flakes. But every once in awhile she would wake up in the morning and they were a quiet, overcast, blanket, of grey. Those suddenly grey eyes were always a shock, as if this person in bed with me was someone entirely different than I had conceived of.
The truth is always about to roll over and present you with something you hadn’t considered.
So yeah, while the 80’s were noisy with puberty and the awkward undertaking of adulthood it was also pretty quiet and angst free: for instance, there was a lot of dice baseball involved. In this pre-internet, pre-PVR, pre-too much entertainment to consume, world, in this land of “57 Channels and Nothing on,” (Bruce Springsteen) I could wistfully walk the barren streets of Thorold as the snow fell, the world seeming to get quieter and quieter the longer the snow fell. I could sit in donut shops with friends smoking cigarettes all night looking through the Weekly World News (“How to become invisible in 3 Easy Steps- $9.99”). I could ride on a MIO truck with my friend Anthony Falovo, the two of us leaning back and watching Maple Trees and house peaks covered in morning light slide by.
Stream of consciousness memories to finish on three: 1, 2, 3!
This Week in Baseball, Mel Allen’s aw-shucks, mom and apple pie voice, relaying the wonder of a back flipping Ozzie Smith. My mom’s Chevette with the cracked block because I wasn’t checking the oil. Parties I was invited to, more parties that I wasn’t invited to. Mike Bentivoglio “Benty,” telling a guy on the bus (I’m changing his name), “Brad Penny open every window on the bus,” then after he’d completed the task, “Brad Penny close every window on the bus.” My mom asking me sometime later, “Do you know Brad Penny? He tried to commit suicide…” That feeling of being complicit in something horrible. Girls in tight jeans, it was the era of the tight jeans. Skipping school to play video games at the Pen Centre. Smoking hash at the table at the West Hill Tavern. Walking along somewhere between Dennis Morris High School and the Pen Centre with Frank Marini. Frank wearing his jean jacket with the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here cover sewn onto the back that displayed two men in suits shaking hands, one of the men immersed in flames. Frank randomly saying in a deeply meaningful voice, “There really is no dark side of the moon, it’s all dark.” The rich kids in the foyer, the rich kids who always had a way of indicating that they were the rich kids, uniform or no uniform. The glum principal, Father Something, in the hallway at Denis Morris High School when the warning bell went, pale and ashen, gaunt, tall and thin, wielding his arms, waving them them like a Hummingbird’s wings, “Get to class! Get to class!” Vice Principal Mr. Milo, yelling at myself and Angelo Dosa for hitting Kenny Goswell in the face with a few full Tim Hortons pies (back in the day when Tim Hortons made full pies) then bringing us into his office where he immediately laughed and said, “That was actually funny. That kid bugs me. But I have to suspend you.” Angelo having to spend the next day working in the garden as penance while I stayed home and watched TV. Playing ball hockey by Cyanamid in Niagara Falls, fights and more fights, especially if the other team had their girlfriends watching. Racism. Right out there. For everyone to see. A kid on a St. Catharines Transit bus being referred to by a racial slur. Me doing nothing. Finding out my best friend when I was a little kid, had died. Not knowing how to react as it seemed surreal. Still does. The Economics teacher asking me to write my name down for the group graduation year book picture and me writing Pedro Clarke which is exactly how it appeared in the Year Book. Dan Bell’s jean jacket with names of so many bands I had never heard of written on it, “Alien Sex Fiend.” Singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm in right field at MacMillan Park to entertain Mal (and myself). Ross Campbell warming up to pitch for the first time asking me if the last pitch he threw me had, “moved,” and me lying, “sure.” The Mulberry tree in the back yard of the Falovo’s house, the cats eating pasta out of bowls on the patio, the tomato plants growing up hockey stick shafts, the re-purposed piping covered in grape vines. Being afraid to talk to Tammy Conlon in Grade Eight because she just seemed too beautiful. Carlene Birmingham’s smile knowing more than I will ever know. Nancy Napolitano excitedly gesticulating as she told her story until she knocked my iced tea over, spilling it on me, again. Seeing George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers at the CNE in the pouring rain. George at his fun loving best. Waiting for the GO Train afterwards entirely drenched as the rain droned on. Mario Difeliece giggling in Grade Eight class until the always ready to explode french teacher furiously whipped his massive clump of keys at him. Mario magically, ninja like, catching the keys before he was struck in the face. A stunned pause with nobody knowing what to do. Mario finally gently lobbing the mass of keys back to the teacher who immediately thew them even harder at Mario who, stunningly, once again nimbly picked off the key chain before he was struck. Another extended pause as we all held our breath in amazement. Mario again underhanded the keys back to the teacher who seemed entirely unsure what to do. After some time he simply resumed teaching class.
I play the music, I feel, I remember, I discover, and finally I am left in wonder. It’s okay to not completely know or understand. It has to be.
Enjoy Your Mileage.
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