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Friday, January 5, 2018

Five Bands Vol. 4 - Lost Gems of the 1980's

I know a lot of you who read this only know me from my Southern California blog posts or have come by to visit because of my book The Wash (available at Amazon... shameless plug complete).  You may not know that for years, I wrote about music and movies mostly, first on my now defunct website and later on sites like and  

Music is and probably always will be my first love and it really became my obsession during the 1980's.  I was at just the right age to begin discovering classic bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones through my older cousins.  At the same time, MTV hit the airwaves introducing me to bands like Rush, Styx and Motorhead.  I wasn't just a metalhead though.  I was just as likely to get fixated on a band like The Thompson Twins or an artist like Cyndi Lauper as I was to delving into the back catalog of Iron Maiden. It wasn't about the look of the band.  It was about whether the song caught my ear and so I would walk around singing some very, very uncool songs sometimes.

The thing about early MTV was that there were artists who appeared with one catchy song that was an instant hit on the channel.  Then they would disappear and you'd never hear from them again.  For this Five Bands post, I'm going to attempt to dig some up.  You can hate me for it later once these are stuck in your head and won't let go.

The Salt In My Tears - Martin Briley

As I remember it, this was a huge hit on MTV.  I know there were a few weeks where you could not get away from this video.  Knowing what we do now about how songs were picked to get played, someone paid a lot of money to try to make this guy popular but other than this song, he never caught on.  It's still one of my favorites to pull out on an 80's playlist though.

She Sheila - The Producers

This one has a chorus that sticks in my head for days!  The Producer's biggest hit was "What's He Got?" which anyone who has ever listened to an 80's nostalgia station has heard at some point.  Personally, I like this song better.  Plus the video is fantastic on its own!  Check out the sleeveless muscle shirts, spiked hair and wait... are those pink sweat pants??

I Wonder If I Take You Home - Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force

This song was all over the radio in my senior year of high school.  I'm not really including it here because she was a one-hit wonder.  She wasn't.  It was the first of a string of hits for Lisa Lisa. I'm including it for a few really dated and fun reasons.  First, it's a song about not having sex.  Even though the lyrics to this are about waiting until you get to know someone better, nothing says 1980's AIDS scare like a song about not having sex.  Second, the name of the band is even longer than the name of the song.  Finally, check out that video.  Hot pink!  Jheri Curl! Spiked hair!  Plus despite the dated electronic drumming, this song has a chorus that will stick in your skull.  Listen at your own risk.

Modern Day Delilah - Van Stephenson

Here's another one of those artists that somebody was pushing like crazy but ultimately only had one hit that I know of.  He's got the hair, the sunglasses (that you know he wore "at night") and the clothes but something just didn't click.  However the song itself is a quintessential 80's rock song.  It's got all the hallmarks of the kind of thing you'd hear on the car stereo in an episode of Stranger Things.

Change - John Waite

John Waite was not a one hit wonder.  The guy had huge hits with his band The Babys before going out on his own.  He had a mega-smash with the song "Missing You" which pretty much ruled the charts the year it was released.  Later on, he formed a supergroup of sorts called Bad English with a couple of the guys from Journey and scored even more hits.  This song kind of gets lost in the shuffle though.  It's probably my favorite song of his and I only rediscovered it when it was played in Trader Joe's while I was grocery shopping.  Now it's in regular rotation.

Had enough of the 80's?  Why not read a horror novel set in the 2010's?  My book The Wash is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Give it a try!


Lisanne Harrington said...

Oh, Cary. You make me feel so old when you refer to The Who and Rolling Stones as "classic." Sigh.

- The M.A.D. Hapa said...

It's a miracle you ended up with a great taste in music despite all the 80s pop-awfulness.

Cary said...

M.A.D. Hapa, there are some real gems in some of that 80's awfulness. The cool thing about MTV when it first launched was that you'd see something like that Van Stephenson video and right after it, they'd play The Clash's "London Calling". There was no segregation or labeling. It was all just thrown together. It was only a few years later that they started dedicating an hour to "alternative" stuff and splitting the pop and rock stuff out separately.

With no point of reference, hearing Iron Maiden's "Two Minutes to Midnight" right after "Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins just seemed normal.

Also - I picked up the Sleater Kinney "Live in Paris" disc over the holiday break. I haven't had a chance to hear it yet though. Did you get it or download it yet?

Cary said...

Lisanne - when I say Classic in that context, you should read it as "timeless". It's just a label. I love both of those bands, especially The Stones.

SuperCFL said...

You and I met in the middle on a wide range of musical tastes back then, and we even made a radio show out of it for a while. One of my favorite memories of you and me and music was when we, together, first heard "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals. I thought it was disappointing, derivative and all the other words used to describe something ordinary that gets overproduced by someone wanting to make a quick hit out of a bad song. It certainly wasn't worthy of the group that had given us the timeless classic "Johnny Come Home." You felt exactly the opposite. Time was kinder to your take on the tune, and I've slowly grown to like it (almost 30 years later).

Cary said...

That's such a divisive song still. I know plenty of people who can't stand it and others who think it's amazing. On a slightly related note, I went to a brewfest here in Orange County last month and you'll never guess who played a concert afterwards. The English Beat. It looked like Dave Wakeling was the only original member, but they sounded great!