Having given you sixteen of the twenty three Eighties songs that made it into my list, today sees the final selection of seven, plus a bonus track that I think should have been in there, but didn’t sell enough copies to get into the annual top forty lists which were my starting point.
The image at the top of this gives you a pretty good idea of where I’m starting this week:
After the early days of Jefferson Airplane, who featured in the second of my two posts about Woodstock, the band, under the leadership of Paul Kantner, became Jefferson Starship – which still exists to this day, despite Kantner’s death in 2016. There followed an acrimonious lawsuit, which resulted in several of the band reforming as just plain old Starship. As you can see from the video, this included Grace Slick, about whom I was less than complimentary in the Woodstock post: fortunately, her performance here is much more to my liking! This was the new band’s debut single, released on 1 August 1985, and became an instant smash hit in the US, where it was #1. It peaked at #12 here in the UK, which was apparently good enough to earn it a place in that year’s top forty best selling UK singles: I guess it sold steadily over a long period. It was also the lead track on their first album, Knee Deep In The Hoopla, which got to #7 in the US but didn’t chart here. I always liked the song, and that video is just so Eighties in its style – all that big permed hair!
This next one is another I’ve always liked, as with many of his records:
Prince was such a brilliant performer, and wrote a whole catalogue of great songs, some of which he generously gave to other artists (remember Manic Monday, from last week?) I had a CD of his greatest hits which I played a lot in the car in my commuting days around north London. This one would always get me singing along at the top of my voice, though I have to admit that ‘Little Black Ford Escort’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it, even if it was the turbo diesel nutter bastard model – that car could move! The song was released as the second single from Prince’s 1999 album in February 1983, reaching #6 in the US, but only #54 here in the UK. It was, however, re-released as a double A-sided single with 1999 in January 1985, and that reached #2 here, which was how I found it in the annual best seller list. Either way, it is still a pop classic and a great record.
After a song about a one night stand, this one is also about temptation – I don’t just throw these together, you know!
That one was a late entry into the Eighties: it was a track on Alice Cooper’s album Trash, which was released in July 1989, reaching #20 in the US but doing better here in the UK, where it peaked at #2. The song was the lead single from that album, and also outscored the US in chart placings: #7 over there, and another #2 here. It’s a great rock ballad, even if Vince did appear to have borrowed a little of GnR’s opening riff from Sweet Child Of Mine! The video is brilliant, full of menace, and it is no bad thing to feature two of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in a music video, either.
So far, this week’s tunes have all been American, but I’m partially redressing that balance – three of the remaining five are from UK acts, including this next one:
I’ve been advised that this video isn’t available in the US. But a good blogging friend has tested out this alternative, which does work. It is an audio-only version, but that’s better than nothing, right? https://youtu.be/9uYF95jR_ME
After his early days with Tubular Bells and several other instrumental albums, by the 1980s Mike Oldfield was developing his shorter form songwriting, and included many vocal performances of his songs on later albums. Moonlight Shadow was one such: it was released on his 1983 album, Crises. This was a six track album – back in those vinyl days, the first side comprised just the title track, which came in at around 20 minutes, and then side two had five shorter songs, of which this was the first. Maggie Reilly sang on three of these, and I’ve always thought her voice was lovely – her own solo recordings bear this out, too, despite her not having had even one chart hit here in the UK, although other European countries have been kinder to her. The Crises album reached #6 in the UK, but didn’t chart in the US: after the success there of his first album, Tubular Bells, he had very little in the way of US chart placings. You guys have been missing out on some great music. This song was the lead single from the album, released in May 1983, and got to #4 here, #6 in Australia, #3 in New Zealand, and #1 in the Netherlands and Austria. Needless to say, it didn’t make the US charts.
This next tune is, I think, a masterpiece of rock music:
I’m lucky enough to still have my Dad, who will be 94 next month, but lost my Mum in 2008 and still find it hard to listen to this song without tearing up, thinking about what I should have said. Regrets are a terrible burden, and the message of this song strikes a chord with many of us. Mike + The Mechanics began as a side project for Mike Rutherford of the band Genesis, and my home town of Dover is credited with being the band’s birthplace by Wikipedia, for a reason unknown to me. This song was the title track of their second album, released in October 1988, peaking at #2 in the UK and at #13 in the US. It was written by Rutherford in collaboration with the songwriter B.A. Robertson, as both of them had recently lost their fathers, and the lead vocal is by the ever excellent Paul Carrack, whose own father passed away when he was 11. I think you can feel the emotion coming through this performance. In case you are wondering, the little boy walking on the cliff top with Mike Rutherford is his son Tom, who was 8 at the time. And despite the earlier reference to Dover, that scene was shot in Somerset: the White Cliffs aren’t covered in vegetation! The track was released in December 1988 as the second single from the album, also reaching #2 here but becoming a #1 hit in the US, Australia, Canada and Ireland.
Today’s next tune is also an introspective piece, and is another which I have loved since I bought the album it was on when it first came out:
Time After Time was a track on Cyndi Lauper’s debut album, She’s So Unusual, which was released in October 1983, reaching #4 in the US and #16 in the UK. It was the second of six tracks from the album to be released as a single, in January 1984: it was #1 in the US and Canada, and got to #3 here in the UK. The song was co-written with Rob Hyman, the keyboard player with The Hooters, and is a lovely piece about how regrets over a parting with someone you care about don’t prevent you from wanting to support them if they need you.
My penultimate song for today – and the last one of my list of twenty three – is also by a founder member of Genesis. He is the one whose subsequent solo career has produced the best catalogue of records, in my view:
A great song, and a brilliant video. Sledgehammer was released as a single in April 1986, ahead of the May release of So, the album on which it featured. Both were massive hits. The single peaked at #4 in the UK but was #1 in both the US and Canada, while the album was a #1 in the UK and Canada, as well as several other countries, and reached #2 in the US. Both have long been favourites of mine, and back in the days before streaming came along I bought all of his albums.
I said that I was adding in an extra track to complete another set of eight Eighties songs. Earlier I mentioned The Hooters, whose music I still love, and it somehow seemed right to add them in: Eighties music wouldn’t have been the same for me without them. This is probably their best known song, and the video is a brilliant piece of critique – fans of TV evangelists who rip you off should look away now:
They packed so much into that, and the over the top characterisations are brilliant. I particularly love the visual references to Grant Wood‘s painting American Gothic. That dates back to 1930, and I wonder what the couple depicted in it would think of how their country has changed: there are a couple of clues in the video as to how the band thought of this! This was a track on their July 1987 album One Way Home, which reached #27 in the US but didn’t chart here: none of their albums have, which I think is to our discredit. It was also released as a single, reaching #61 in the US but somehow getting to #22 here in the UK: I can only think that was due to the birth of MTV Europe that same year, though I do recall hearing it on the radio too. As a musical symbol of the Eighties, I think it a good place to round off my very selective look back at that decade.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my three part take on Eighties music. As I said at the outset, I had surprised myself at finding so many songs from that era that I liked: I had marked it down as a decade of heavily made up men with strange hairstyles, but underneath there was a lot of good stuff being recorded then, and not just from bands who had been around since my musical heydays of the Sixties and Seventies. I’m thinking of mining this seam a little further, moving away from the pop charts and into albums, which comprised most of my buying and listening back then, until our first born came along and provided a huge diversion! That may be where I go next, unless any new theme crops up in the next week, and if I do I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Until then, I hope you have a great week and stay safe and well. Take care 😊