Tuesday, August 26, 2014

(It's Not Nostalgia) It's the 80s Express--Pt. 2

96.  "Down Under"--Men At Work
Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  1

Americans were, for a time, besotted by Australians.  So quirky!  Like a fun version of the English!  Crude?  Lovably boorish.  Aggressive?  Straightforward.  Oi?  Haha.

An attempt at resuscitating national identity by celebrating what made their country special to begin with, "Down Under" is loaded with in-jokes, the best being "chunder" as a colloquial for vomit, and a sporadic flute riff that borrowed from the nursery rhyme "Kookaburra."  Oh, Australia.  You certainly are good for a larf.

Keep It?  NO

"Overkill"--Men At Work
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  3

Yep, Men At Work were no one-hit Joeys.  Neither, for that matter, was their homeland.  Near the end of the decade--years after "Down Under" introduced us to Vegemite--Crocodile Dundee hit theaters and turned actor Paul Hogan into an immediate A-list Hollywood sensation at the age of 47.  On the small screen, viewers were bowled over by the manic majesty of footballer-turned-singer-turned-shill "Jacko."  INXS were selling millions of albums as women who'd grown tired of masturbating to thoughts of George Michael's well-groomed facial hair turned to Michael Hutchence and the apparently brush-resistant growth sprouting from the top of his head.

Well, "Overkill" was better than pretty much all of that.  "Down Under" came with the leafy greens and unhinged orange slices, but "Overkill" slathered black 'cross the canvas before carefully applying browns and grays with the delicate touch of a watchmaker.  Is it paranoia or hypervigilance?  Either way, get thee to a typewriter!

95.  "Only In My Dreams"--Debbie Gibson
Released 1986
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  4

The aural equivalent of a baby sneezing.  Oh, Debbie Gibson wrote this herself?  That's super!

Once upon a time, you meant something to me.  Then some other thing happened.  I miss you.  Without you I am incomplete--just like the word "you."  I am but Ms. Pac Man with no ghosts to give chase.  At night I slip into feverish reverie after feverish reverie, reliving our glory days and nights.  Deep in my soul, I know that one day, our hearts will reunite, and we will finally get to second base together.

I am so very uninterested in hearing lost-love songs from young girls who sound as though they've yet to be finger-popped. 

Keep It?  NO

"What Is Love?"--Howard Jones
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  33

Calling shenanigans on so-called "unconditional love," now that I like.  Is such a thing possible?  Howie argues in the negative--how can it be, when the mere human mind is incapable of holding the very concept, and the body even less so.

Don't attempt to grasp that which can only be tickled.  Banish "true love" to the shadows.  Kiss your lover's warts, and allow them to kiss yours.  Abandon illusions of eternity, discard delusions of glamour--just embrace the fusion.  *well-placed hand clap*

Don't trust me?  Trust Jonesy, then.  He's wise enough to invite along a chorus of his damn self, after all.  He's also self-aware enough to turn "love" into an 18-syllable word.

94.  "Start Me Up"--The Rolling Stones
Released 1981
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  2

Are you ready for some football?  I mean what Americans refer to as football, not what virtually every other country refers to as football, but who cares we're better than England at both sports now anyway.

The Stones' status as sex gods has always bemused me.  'Twas strongest in the Sixties, persisted throughout the Seventies, even hung around for a spell in the Eighties till gravity sold off all the stock.  Truth is, the only member of the band who ever looked worthy of a sober fuck died young and still couldn't avoid wrinkles. 

I don't hate the Rolling Stones; I was just never in love with them.   The greatest contribution they've made, far as I can figure, is the riff to "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which is so goddamn good I want to perform a flying headbutt on a flaming woodpile every time I hear it.  Keef has bred other champions, though, the last in line being the riff for "Start Me Up."  Forgives every sin contained within the song's three and a half minutes, even that dreadful observation about dead guys. 

"Spread out the oil/The gasoline."  Load the ship with the rocket fuel! 

Keep It?  NO

"Burning Up"--Madonna
Released 1983
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position: Did not chart

How was "Burning Up" not Madonna's first number one?  It wasn't even a number!  I'd say that explains its omission from The Immaculate Collection, but "Dress You Up" is absent as well, and that gem hit the top 5.  (Perhaps they couldn't choose between two songs with "Up" in the title and decided to include neither.)  I'd go so far as to call "Burning Up" my favorite Madonna tune, just over "La Isla Bonita."  Both make me want to disrobe, but only "Burning Up" inspires me to roll around on the nearest uncomfortable surface. 

Old yearning meets new attitude.  There's Madonna's appeal in a nutshell.  "I'm not the same, I have no shame."  (Such a good Catholic girl.)  She's appealing to a lover, a listener, a whole world.

Incidental sounds pop up clutching full buckets, but the bottoms are quickly incinerated.  Useless to resist, but useful to insist.

93.  "Cars"--Gary Numan
Released 1979
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position:  9

The first of two songs on the list that were actually released in late 1979.  The pedant in me wants to disqualify them, but what's a few months, really? 

I don't drive, can't drive, won't drive.  I am a basket of frayed nerves, and the basket has problems of its own.  Furthermore, I am a writer--my mind cannot help but shoot off in all directions whenever the fuse is lit.  So, relating to a song about vehicular sanctuary isn't in the cards.

None of that truly affects my appraisal of "Cars" as a singular smash, however.  Freshly discharged from the Tubeway Army, Numan marched out a song about Earth's most popular form of travel, set to rearranged intergalactic communications.  His robotic delivery over bloodless synths makes me think we should just let the damn things drive themselves.  And if there are still accidents, well, you should have been nicer to your car.  (I know if some dumb mofo threw up inside of me, I'd be furious.)

The Moog is a tempting yet tenuous way to travel.  (Most people can't even pronounce it properly, for starters.)  Roadways are liable to appear and vanish before your eyes (even if they're closed).  Gripping the steering wheel and envisioning stars, dodging asteroids, and ducking space junk is kinda fun--I'm imagining, just like you--but when you have to stop and pee, the gas station restroom remains a stark reminder that we're living in 2014 and nothing in our daily routines can be described as "hovering" except for the flies. 

Keep It?  YES




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