Friday, October 31, 2008

The Tragically Hip: Small Town Bringdown (1987)

They later went on to become possibly Canada's most popular band "within the borders of their home country." The hard rock poets led by Gordon Downie mixed sometime hard-driving and sometimes off-kilter melodies with their own brand of poetic lyricism to join musicians like Tom Cochrane as homegrown acts who enjoyed moderate internationally but were music superheroes in the land of the Maple Leaf and permanent fixtures in Canadiana musical folklore.

Small Town Bringdown was the lead single from their 1987 self-titled album and arguably the hardest rocking song they ever produced.

While they enjoyed greater chart success with later songs in the 1990s, some felt that the future offerings would be a little more self-indulgent and poetry-focused and longed for the Tragically Hip to still prove they could rock out like they did in the late 1980s.

Tragically Hip covers remain popular and common throughout Canada, as many musicians have been inspired by the band. This cover by Ronnie and the Law is one example.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pretty Poison: Nighttime (1984)

1980s two-hit-wonder dance act Pretty Poison had a bona fide smash with Catch Me (I'm Falling) in 1987. However, while Nighttime was originally released to little fanfare in 1984, it was met with a much warmer reception four years later and became the group's second significant hit.

Here is the 12" extended version.

And the band was also wise to the virtues of targeting the latin market. Here is the simultaneously released Spanish recording.

Lou Gramm: Lost in the Shadows (1987)

Well, as it turns out, sometimes an iconic movie has two songs that make it what it is. In this case, not only does Gerard McMann's Cry Little Sister become inseparable from the 1987 cult hit The Lost Boys. So, too, does Lost in the Shadows, the soundtrack contribution performed by Lou Gramm, the lead singer from Foreigner and owner of one of the clearest and most characteristic voices of the 1980s.

Here is the original video from the song, featuring some selective and well-timed imagery from the film.

It is also somewhat cool that in this video, Lou Gramm looks like he could well have been the fifth Lost Boy. He could easily have had the role portrayed by Alex Winter (a.k.a. Bill S. Preston, Esq). There he is, way in the back...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gerard McMann: Cry Little Sister (1987)

Every once in a while a song becomes so intertwined with an iconic movie of its era that the song immediately recalls imagery from the film. Likewise, the movie just wouldn't be the movie it is without that particular piece of music.

One such instance is Cry Little Sister by Gerard McMann, the theme from the 1987 cult classic The Lost Boys which starred Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman.

Here is the studio recording...

And here we have the 2008 cover of the song by Alden for The Lost Boys II: The Tribe.

The song has inspired numerous covers, especially by heavily goth-induced bands, and has lent itself well to varying interpretations and arrangements. Here is one such rendition, by Carfax Abbey...

And as a special treat, here is the original theatrical trailer for The Lost Boys.

Pretty Poison: Catch Me (I'm Falling) (1987)

Pretty Poison, hailing from Philadelphia, was a classic 80s two-hit wonder. Fronted by Jade Starling, their calling card was the 1987 smash hit, "Catch Me (I'm Falling)," a song that went to #1 on the Billboard Dance charts in 1987.

The song was also featured on the soundtrack for the movie "Hiding Out" which starred Jon "Don't Call Me Duckie" Cryer.

Here we have quite a good extended version of the song.

The song has enjoyed good longevity in terms of samples and remixes and is a dance favorite at any retro night.

Here is the Spanish Ultimix...

To this day, Jade Starling is still active in the techno scene. Feel free to visit JADE STARLING'S MYSPACE.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cutting Crew: I Just Died in Your Arms (1987)

"I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight" still stands as one of the most popular 1980s pop songs in terms of lasting power and cool factor. The landmark single from the album "Broadcast" (the first ever #1 album for Virgin Records), the song itself also reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

Cutting Crew and frontman Nick Van Eede never had another smash hit, but this one contribution remains one of the high points of 1987, a year that was one of the stronger entries of the decade.

Here is the 1990s cover by Intonation (feat. Joee), erroniously credited in the video to Stevie B.

Here we get a glimpse of the remix featuring Jay-Z...

And a techno mix by Jorg Schmid...

And finally, a more mellow cover by the Northern Kings. It seems a bit Iglesiasized...

Evidently, this song has enjoyed a great deal of staying power and inspired numerous takes on the lyrics and melody that extend beyond those listed here.

Nick Van Eede brought together a new lineup for Cutting Crew in 2006 and this version of the band still exists today. Here is their OFFICIAL SITE.

And here is a collection of REMIXES over at Retro Remixes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alphaville: Big in Japan (1984)

And in honor of our inaugural POST ON JAPANESE 80s MUSIC featuring X Japan, we have a song that emblemized the 1980s fascination with all things Japanese.

This fascination made itself evident in such films as "Gung Ho" with Michael Keaton, "Mr. Baseball" with Tom Selleck, and the action classic "Black Rain" with Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia and "the Clint Eastwood of Japan" Ken Takakura.

"Big in Japan" was the debut single for iconic 80s pop group Alphaville.

Here we have a 1988 remix of the hit single.

And a techno remix...

X Japan: Kurenai (1989)

Well, the 80s didn't only occur in the west. Asia had its own wave, its own Bon Jovis, its own Def Leppards. Here we have "Kurenai," a 1989 single released by Japanese supergroup X Japan.

And here we have another live version from 1997.

X Japan still stands as one of the most enduring and popular acts in Asia, its appeal having outlasted many upstart acts over the last 20 years.

Here is the band's OFFICIAL SITE (in Nihongo).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A-ha: The Sun Always Shines on TV (1985)

It only makes sense to follow up "Take on Me" with the video that was ostensibly its sequel... "The Sun Always Shines on TV."

Like the previous song, the single was released from the "Hunting High and Low" album, one of the most rock solid pop albums of the 1980s.

This powerhouse trio from Norway made their mark with a catchy sound, boyish good looks, lead singer Morten Harket's vocal range, and a series of memorable and creative videos.

Here is a live acoustic performance of the song from 2007 in Kiev.

And here is an extended remix...

To this day, A-ha is still going strong. Their latest albums have not made enormous waves in North America but continue to enjoy huge success in Europe.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A-ha: Take on Me (1985)

Due to the overwhelming success of this single, A-ha is sometimes erroneously remembered as a one-hit wonder.

The video was revolutionary for its time. Along with Peter Gabriel, A-ha established themselves as the visual masters of the 1980s, taking full advantage of the opportunities the MTV medium provided.

Here is the prototypical recording and video of the song, which preceded its 1985 worldwide mega-release with the comic book video.

The 1985 allbum, Hunting High and Low, from which the single was released, was one of the most consistent and listenable albums of the decade, and featured a number of singles which also utilized A-ha's distinctive visual style.

The song has endured several covers, including this version by Reel Big Fish, that made an appearance in the 1998 Trey Parker and Matt Stone film Baseketball.

And perhaps most importantly, there now exists a version of the song where the lyrics are a literal interpretation of the video. Pretty hard not to laugh...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Real Life: Send Me an Angel (1983)

In 1983, Australian band Real Life, fronted by David Sterry, burst onto the international music scene with a hit that still stands today as a strong 80s favorite, "Send Me an Angel."

While a healthy portion of 80s pop tends to be fondly remembered for nostalgic reasons only, to this day, Real Life's signature piece still inspires people to say, "That is a cool song."

This is the video from the 1989 re-release, where they upped the visual production value a little.

And here is one of the best of the many remixes inspired by this 80s classic.

The song also appeared in the 1986 teen BMX movie "Rad," which has since fallen into obscurity but was popular at the time.

Real Life is still actively touring to this day. While the lineup has seen some revisions from time to time, David Sterry is still holding it together and producing some quality music.

Feel free to visit their OFFICIAL SITE and see what they've been up to.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dead Or Alive: You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) (1985)

The 1980s were a confusing time. The public was having trouble getting their minds around the nuances of time travel in "Back to the Future Part II." People thought WWF wrestling still might be real. And Dead or Alive Pete Burns was making Boy George look like Clint Eastwood.

Dead or Alive burst onto the scene and quickly cornered the market for power-glam-disco and sealed their spot in 1980s immortality with their 1985 album "Youthquake" and its smash single "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)."

The song has had incredible staying power, inspiring an endless array of remixes. Dead or Alive themselves changed up and re-released a new version of the song in 2003... Along with a new version of Pete Burns...

And for the final proof of the song's immortality, we need look no further than Opera Man himself...

You can also visit the OFFICIAL SITE for the current incarnation of the band.

And HERE you can catch some of the remixed versions at Retro Remixes.

A Flock of Seagulls: I Ran !1982)

It was the height of early 1980s pop-pretension. A Flock of Seagulls, with their bizarrely haute-couture-coiffed lead singer Mike Score, was soaring up the charts with "I Ran (So Far Away)".

The signature song of one of the 80s' most distinctive-looking and prototypical New Wave acts went a little something like this...

Due to the original band name, Mike Score's memorable haircut (parodied recently in a Diet Pepsi commercial), and some creative but very synthy songwriting and arrangements, this band tends to be one of the first to be mentioned as an example of why people either love or hate the 1980s.

Here is a live performance of the song from 1983.

And this live version, also from 1983, I much prefer...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eight Seconds: Kiss You When It's Dangerous (1985)

They were pretty much a one hit wonder, but with "Kiss You (When It's Dangerous)", pop band Eight Seconds became one of Canada's most fondly remembered contributors to the 1980s music scene. Not only was it a catchy and melodic tune, but it had a moody but heartfelt video with high production values. And that was saying a fair bit for Canadian productions at the time.

The video actually features a pretty cool artistic theme of the changing of the seasons.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dino: I Like It (1989)

It was the late 1980s, and the public could certainly not be accused of buying substance over style. Enter Dino, king of the pre-Gerardo bicep-curling mullets. You wanted to hate him, but he was armed with a catchy track, "I Like It."

The video is a fairly sharp, Paula Abdul / Samantha Fox / Michael Damian / Milli Vanilli-esque production. It was the waning days of the 1980s, right before the Kid n' Play, TLC and Kris Kross era.

Here is a live version of the song. Though it sounds suspiciously like a remixed version of the studio track, it is worth it just to see the choreographed Carlton-style background dancing. Don't blame Dino. It was 1989.

I don't know why the audience was primarily full of dudes, though.

For another sample of Dino, circa 1989, here is the song "Summer Girls", from the same album, "24/7".

Shannon: Let the Music Play (1983)

It began as a humble, low budget synth tune with a simple video, but has ended up being one of the most anthemized and remixed powerpop songs of the 1980s.

Shannon did go on to release another moderately successful single, "Give Me Tonight", but her 1983 smash single remains her calling card and her admittance ticket to the halls of 1980s pop immortality.

The continuing appeal of the song is evidenced by the following Mary Kiani cover.

Does anyone else think Mary Kiani looks like Judge Marilyn Milian from The People's Court (a.k.a. "The Hottest Judge on Television")?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Helix: Rock You (1984)

"Rock You" was the blue chip single from hair metal band Helix's most memorable album, Walking the Razor's Edge (1984). There was a running theme in their album titles, if you can pick it up. They included "Breaking Loose", "Wild in the Streets", "No Rest for the Wicked", and "Back for Another Taste."

Apparently they mellowed out a little in 1985 for "Long Way to Heaven."

The original (uncensored) video for their flagship hit can be seen below.

It was kind of the hair band version of the Beastie Boys.

Beastie Boys: "You gotta fight for your right to party!"
Helix: "Oh yeah? Tell you what we're gonna do... Rock You!"

But the video was maybe Conan the Barbarian meets Mad Max meets... my friend Ryan's bachelor party.

It wasn't the most amazing display of vocal range. Pavarotti wasn't looking over his shoulder in 1984. But it was hard rock. It was 80's rock. It was the insert from Slippery When Wet where Bon Jovi was washing their car with ten girls in tight white t-shirts. Minus the t-shirts. Helix style baby...

The band's official site can be seen HERE.

Kim Carnes: Bette Davis Eyes (1981)

It is one of the most lasting and stylistic songs of the 1980s. Kim Carnes entered the forefront of the pop music scene like Stevie Nicks' smoky-voiced California-bred older sister with Bette Davis Eyes, a song that spent nine weeks at #1 on the charts.

From the memorable 1981 album Mistaken Identity, it still stands as one of the strongest contributions to the pop music scene from the early part of the decade.

The song's longevity is testified to by its inclusion in the karaoke soundtrack from the film Duets.

And, as a bit of a footnote, here is the song reincarnated by Gwyneth Paltrow for the film.

HERE you can find a good collection of Bette Davis Eyes remixes over at Retro Remixes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Whodini: Freaks Come Out at Night (1985)

It was 1985. Rap was in its infancy. Well, maybe it was a toddler. It was post-Grandmaster Flash but pre-Run DMC. It was the age of Whodini. And in 1985, the freaks came out at night.

Above is the original video. Below is the instrumental...

The song achieved a new level of success when it appeared in the film "Jewel of the Nile", which was the sequel to the smash 1984 hit "Romancing the Stone", both starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.

Here, we have the theatrical trailer for the film.

The 1980s came to an end, and took Whodini's brand of hip hop with them. But the group did leave a lasting imprint on the prototypical era of modern rap.

Holy crap, does Michael Douglas look like his father in that picture.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Eddie Murphy: Party All the Time (1985)

No, that isn't Bobby Brown in the recording booth.

Yes, it was the 1980s. As attested to by the Michael Damian post below, producers were wising up to the fact that you could take an actor, put him in front of a microphone, and try to sell some albums. See, for example, Bruce Willis and Alyssa Milano. Even Steven Seagal gave it a go...or two, or three...

Golden boy and unstoppable force Eddie Murphy was riding high on the wave of Beverly Hills Cop... well as Saturday Night Live, and a Richard Pryor-like wave of success with standup comedy albums.

Well, this time it wasn't comedy. Eddie Murphy was rocking the mic. And he had a Top 10 hit on his hands. And it was catchy...

It's not too hard to miss the cameo by Rick james.

"I'm Eddie Murphy, bitch."

And in case you're in the karaoke mood, here's the instrumental track.

Finally, here, of course, is the Mad TV sketch about the infamous song.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Michael Damian: Rock On (1989)

It was 1989. Decades after David Essex had recorded his moody James Dean-esque classic "Rock On," somebody had the idea to take soap opera star Michael Damian and stick him in a recording booth with some high production 80s loops.

But it didn't stop there.

The two Coreys were together again, back when the two of them commanded a theatrical release. This time around, it was Dream a Little Dream.

So here we were. The two most commercialized children in Hollywood since Shirley Temple. A soap opera actor in front of a microphone. A decades-old favorite just ready to be shredded and shat upon by the excess and bubble gum pop-ism at the tail end of the 1980s.

And didn't sound that bad. Here's the video.

Here it was, Michael Damian and two Coreys. And since Michael Damian kind of looks like Corey Haim plus 12 years, it was a bit like the three Coreys. And even if you wanted to hate it, it kind of worked. Granted, there you have Corey Feldman on stage doing his best MC Hammer dance... But that was the essence of the two Coreys. Just caught up in the mix, changing the game from year to year, going for it and being fearless.

So there you have it. Three icons of pop commercialism all bundled up into one song. And here's a slightly remixed, slightly more soap-opera version.

And for your reference, here is a live recording by the original artist, David Essex...

Finally, in an 80s-meets-80s phenomenon, here is a recent cover of the song by none other than 80s hard rock mega-legends Def Leppard.