Celebrate the one good thing about the 80s
Margaret Thatcher, the Falklands war, Dynasty, bleached fringes, the IRA, yuppies, the Chernobyl disaster, MTV, shoulder pads, the miners’ strike, Aids, Ben Elton: the Eighties were a horrible, horrible time.
The music, however, was the mutt’s nuts. Not that you’d know it if you took your lead from the endless stream of crappy ‘80s compilations and slaggy revival nights. Do not fall prey to them.
You don’t run some high street watering-trough for people with more facial warts than teeth. Yours is an establishment of some refinement. A tribute to the era of greed and synthesisers should be equally elegant.
That means no Debbie Gibson, no Shakin’ Stevens, no Dire Straits, no New Kids on the Block, no Bucks Fizz, no Rick Astley, and no irony. Repeat: no irony! Very few people of sound mind and taste want to hear overproduced, overblown retro-toss no matter how knowingly you offer it up. That goes double for novelty records. (Shaddup You Face? You’re likely to get yours smashed in.)
Try to be refreshing, and maybe even a little bit hip. With ten years of wonderful tunes available, there’s no need to be predictable by spinning nothing but Prince, Madonna, Wham!, Frankie and other bleedingly obvious ‘80s chart doyens. Not all blistering pop tunes were top 40 smashes by mega-combos. And not all one-hit wonders were Fairground Attraction, Men at Work, Ray Parker Jr and Survivor. There were some good ones, too.
Stick to pure-ish pop; ignore hip hop, baggy/Madchester scene, house, the ska revival, and what’s still bafflingly called indie – all of which bloomed in the ‘80s. Each genre deserves its own dedicated night.
There follows a suggested playlist (which you’re welcome to download from Spotify). Before that, here’s one last thing: no Billy Cyrus – unless you want an achy breaky jaw.
1. I Feel For You – Chaka Khan
2. Reward – The Teardrop Explodes
3. Our Lips Are Sealed – Fun Boy Three
4. The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnymen
5. Hey, Music Lover! – S’Express
6. Beaver Patrol – Pop Will Eat Itself
7. Caribbean Queen – Billy Ocean
8. Oblivious – Aztec Camera
9. Politics of Dancing – The Reflex
10. Prince Charming – Adam and the Ants
11. Pull Up to the Bumper – Grace Jones
12. Mary’s Prayer – Danny Wilson
13. The Honeythief – Hipsway
14. Love and Pride – King
15. First Picture of You – The Lotus Eaters
16. We Got the Beat – Go-Go’s
17. Living on the Ceiling – Blancmange
18. Two of Hearts – Stacey Q
19. When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout
20. Johnny, Come Home – Fine Young Cannibals
21. Pump Up the Volume – MARRS
22. Love on Your Side – Thompson Twins
23. Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
24. E=MC2 – Big Audio Dynamite
25. Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag – Pigbag
A closer listen: Echo and the Bunnymen
When Pete de Freitas was killed in a road accident in 1989, so the true Bunnymen died. Singer Ian McCulloch had left the year before, but it took the demise of the drummer to affirm the end of the band proper. (Balls to their ‘90s and ‘00s reunion twaddle.)
The legacy: a slack-handful of brilliant songs and one flawless album in Ocean Rain. Everyone should own a copy. It’s brilliant from its ‘Five Go Spelunking in a Boat’ cover, via its big ‘n’ lush compositions, to the production by the ingenious Gil Norton (who was at the controls for most of the Pixies’ finest moments). The Killing Moon, My Kingdom, Crystal Days, Seven Seas… every track’s a winner.
The singles compilation Songs to Learn and Sing is only fractionally less excellent, featuring as it does The Cutter, Bring on the Dancing Horses, The Back of Love and many more songs that demand that the listener flail both arms while wearing a long, black coat.