I grew up in the 1980’s, which historians have now confirmed was the dorkiest decade in recorded history (I use the term “historian” loosely, but it seems to be the general consensus). Fresh off the platform heels of the swinging Seventies, with its disco and wide lapels, the 80’s memorably ushered in parachute pants, Reaganomics, and friendship pins. It was an era that began with the Dorothy Hamill haircut—a short cut, parted in the middle, that copied the Olympic ice queen’s coif (my mother nearly cried as I cast off my long locks in favor of this new style. Why couldn’t she understand that, with only a side part and a feathering comb, it doubled as a Lady Diana?!)—and ended with my bangs ratted skyward.
Just as my bangs evolved over ten years, so did my generation—probably more quickly than any other thanks to the advent of MTV. The 24-hour channel gave voice and face to music (yes, they played music videos back then). The first time I saw MTV, I was on a ski trip in Colorado with my dad. Our hotel room had cable, something my house in Minnesota did not. I felt so changed that I couldn’t wait to leave the slopes and head back to the room at the end of the day. Back home, friend’s slumber parties were accompanied by the constant loop of “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” by the Eurythmics, “Hold Me Now” by the Thompson Twins, and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I remember visiting my dad at his house down in Georgia and racing to turn on MTV the night Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video premiered. (For you youngsters, this was long before the word “meme” even entered our lexicon.) We ordered a pizza and sat around the television watching the much-hyped debut—all fourteen minutes of it. My poor father must’ve been shaking his head the way I do watching the Kid play Modern Warfare.
But it wasn’t just the good stuff. MTV had a lot of crap. Amazing crap! Crap you get up and dance to. Crap that got stuck in your brain for years. If there were gaudy synthesizers, asymmetrical hairstyles, and bright neon shirts with strategic razor cuts, you bet there was a band nearby. What’s more, these videos were devoid of the cynicism and snark that has become today’s stock and trade. They oozed cheese, but it was an earnest and sincere cheese. And, even if the videos made no sense at all, a dorky kid like me who was going to love them.
Look, I adore the “cool” music of the Eighties, too, just like you. But I woke up this morning and thought it would be great to reminisce about all the amazing guilty pleasures that we’re still too ashamed to admit we loved*. So, I’ll go first—here are five of them. Sing ’em if you know ’em . . . and you know you know ’em.
*Hopefully, I’m not the only DJ today—please do share your embarrassing faves in the comments section.
Ah, the Breakfast Club. No, not the one with a brain, an athlete, basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Marked by a Pee Wee’s Playhouse décor, “Right on Track” may be the last time women un-ironically dressed up as chickens.
I always loved to hear this song by Robbie Nevil, who was not one of the Neville brothers. Watching the nonsensical video, you can understand why it sounded better on the radio. But just watch as he sings—he so into it.
On the playground, a friend asked me what my favorite song was. “Who’s Johnny,” I said, quickly thinking up the popular song from the movie Short Circuit. The accompanying music video is so bad, the film’s star, Steve Guttenberg, didn’t even appear in it, instead showing up as a cardboard cutout.
This video has everything that epitomized the 80’s: Mullets, shoulder pads, top-buttoned shirts, fake Bryan Adams, and children playing horns.
I was probably entering junior high when this song came out. I could hear it on a loop, I loved it so much. Honestly, what was it about trumpets and the 80’s?