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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