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The Most Absurdly '80s' Song Of All Time?

By Luke Lewis

Posted on 11 Mar 09

 
 

Violence in Northern Ireland. Arthur Scargill bashing Thatcher in The Guardian. Shoulder pads 'on trend' (apparently). Tina Turner and Michael Jackson playing arena dates.

Open up a newspaper and you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd been sucked into a wormhole and spat out in 1984. In the indie realm, too, the zeitgeist is looking as luridly 1980s as a stockbroker guzzling Taboo in a Sinclair C5 (insert wildly inaccurate '80s stereotype here).





On the one hand there's La Roux reviving the ice-queen electro-pop of Eurythmics (whose singer Annie Lennox is also on the comeback trail). On the other we've got White Lies and Red Light Company cut-and-pasting the billowing raincoat-rock of Echo And The Bunnymen and Simple Minds.

All of which inspired an office discussion this morning: what is the most quintessentially '80s' song ever? This, of course, begs the further question: what do you mean by '80s'? Synth-pop? Hair metal? Post-punk? New wave? College rock? All these genres 'defined' the decade, depending on who you talk to.

It's a huge subject, but here are a few tracks that have been suggested so far. Tell us your own suggestions below.

Simple Minds - Alive And Kicking (1985)
Not so much for the song – although the expansive synths, blustery dynamics and Jim Kerr's declamatory holler are all traits that characterised rock music in this decade more than any other – but more the video, which features so many of the tropes we've come to think of as definitively '80s. Namely - arms-wide posturing, lantern-jawed staring into the middle distance, an inexplicable mountaintop setting…



Journey - Don't Stop Believing (1981)
Essentially a roll-call of '80s lyrical clichés – the small town girl, the smoky bar, the cheap perfume. From here, the notion of all-American desperadoes livin' on a prayer became a cornerstone of 80s poodle-rock. In all seriousness, though: Steve Perry, what a voice.


Donna Summer – This Time I Know It's For Real (1989)
Because the '80s was actually mainly about naff, gaudy, commercial pop – we just choose to remember the more epic bits. In reality, British music in the 80s was dominated by Stock, Aitken Waterman, whose assembly-line production style is so horribly of-its-time it even renders the voice of Donna Summer, otherwise capable of such brilliance, almost unlistenably cheesy. It's telling that you never hear SAW hits on the radio these days: nothing in pop history has dated less well.


Pet Shop Boys - It's A Sin (1987)
Quintessentially '80s in a good way, this one. Yes, it's titanically overblown - all thunder bolts, synthesized choir and po-faced religious references - but it's also vast and dramatic and ambitious in a way that few artists would attempt in today's cynical, intensely ironized, post-everything climate.

 
 
 
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