Back to the VH1 list

To recap, see the whole list of 80s songs and my comments on 1-25.

26 Guns N’ Roses / “Welcome to the Jungle” 1987

Hey, hockey teams need theme songs. One of the last great riff-driven songs.

That said, I’ve been known to break into parody that seems appropriate for this long, long-inactive band:

Welcome to McDonald’s / We’ve got burgers and fries
(haven’t figured out the next part)
Would you like some ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cheeeese?! Cheese?!

27 Kajagoogoo / “Too Shy” 1984

Here’s where I differ from the average snarky kid-in-T-shirt they drag onto these shows. Most of these people remember Kajagoogoo for the hair. I remember them because Nick Beggs is a helluva bass player.

(Tangent alert …)

You also have to like Beggs because he figured in not one, but two, Bands Reunited episodes. One with Kajagoogoo, of course. The other was ABC, though that was a bit of a sham because Beggs was actually part of ABC’s touring band at that point anyway.

(Further tangent alert …)

How has this Wikipedia entry on former ABC “member” Fiona Russell-Powell gone unedited?

(And back to a previous tangent …)

Back to Bands Reunited, here’s an epilogue on Extreme:

“Nuno Bettencourt refused to be filmed on camera. After a conversation with Gary Cherone (who wasn’t sure on participating either), they decided it wasn’t a good time to reunite. Since then, they have reunited in 2004 and 2006.”

This is when you call bullshit. As if the original episode itself didn’t have enough bullshit in it, given Cherone’s attempt to explain More Than Words as something other than a sleazy “If you loved me you’d do me” drunken frat-boy warble. Then Nuno refuses to appear on camera, apparently because he’s too big in Japan or some bullshit like that. Who does he think he is, Nigel Tufnel?

So Nuno and the guy who bombed as Sammy’s replacement in Van Hagar take a stand for artistic freedom and privacy by refusing to reunite, even though the other guys — who seemed like the only guys you’d ever consider meeting over a beer — were up for it.

And after all that … they play some reunion concerts elsewhere?

Yeah. That’s bullshit.

OK, back to the list.

28 Wham! / “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” 1984

I hated this song in high school. And I still do. And the video is an affront to the eyes.

(Could I say “affront” on VH1? Probably not.)

29 Talking Heads / Burning Down the House 1983

This band spend a lot of time in the deep end without a life vest, but when they put it together and let Chris Frantz play drums, they did good stuff. I liked the video, too, with a diverse collection of people switching places back and forth with the band and matching the choreography.

30 Pat Benatar / “Love is a Battlefield” 1983

Beware the Shimmy of Death! And the overwrought acting!

“You leave this house now …”
“No one can tell us we’re wrong …”
“… you can just forget about coming back!”
“Search in our heart for so long …”
“Hey! Could you cut the operatic crap for a minute?! I said, ‘If you leave this house now’ … ah screw it.”

Want to see a good Benatar video? Check out Shadows of the Night, with her and the band as a WWII band of pilots on some sort of secret mission. Not her fault Top Secret came out around the same time and seemed to use a lot of the same sets.

And Benatar did far better songs. If we were going for quality, Heartbreaker would be worth a shot here.

31 Queen and David Bowie / “Under Pressure” 1981


F— Vanilla Ice.

The impression I get of the English is that this song ranks only slightly behind the Bible and the 1966 World Cup on their list of things that are to be treated with nothing other than reverence. And that’s understandable. This is a legitimate classic, one of the rare rock songs that could be called “majestic” without any trace of irony or snark. It’s also quintessentially English, building wonderfully from that understated bass line to Mercury’s soaring pleas to get along and Bowie’s calming response.

I’m unable to find a link to the story behind the video, and that’s too bad. As I recall, an unknown director was told to make a video for it without the musicians, leaving him to assemble it from stock footage. The result, like the song, is a classic.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Guster comes close, singing about difficult situations while offering a pat on the back and encouragement to stick it out, but that’s about it.

32 Night Ranger / “Sister Christian” 1983


Barf.

Don’t turn your drums sideways and yell “Motoring” at me like it’s supposed to be some sort of meaningful statement.

Disturbing news from the VH1 special — drummer Kelly Keagy’s sister has apparently been hounded constantly about the song, of which the Wikipedia entry says, “It became a cautionary anthem for teenage girls across a conservative America, warning them not to ‘give it up before their time is due’.” But if you’re not Kelly Keagy’s sister, see Mongo over there for a backstage pass.

33 Soft Cell / “Tainted Love” 1981


Does YouTube have the ad in which the guy starts singing this in the hospital? I couldn’t find it under “tainted love ad” or “tainted love hospital.”

I don’t need to hear this song often. It’s a little thin beyond the still-novel synth sounds and that unforgettable rhythmic hook. But that hook and the vocals are pretty cool, aren’t they?

34 Poison / “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” 1988

“Just like every dog has his day … just like every cowboy wears disco boots … every girl … would rather listen to something else.” Come on. Nobody likes this song.

35 Phil Collins / “In the Air Tonight” 1981

The Wikipedia entry on this one covers it quite well. Section 1.1 — Drum sound. Section 2 — Urban legend.

This was Phil at his peak. For all the computerized recommendations that tell me I should listen to early Genesis, I simply cannot listen to early Genesis. The band started to hit its stride in the early 80s, and so did Phil, who managed to do interesting stuff on his own and with the band for a couple of albums before degenerating into Illegal Alien and Invisible Touch. Not to mention all the videos about making videos.

The song is simply mesmerizing. And Collins was a damn good drummer back in the day.

36 Tommy Tutone / “867-5309 / Jenny” 1981

Another classic case of a journeyman stumbling upon a couple of interlocking hooks that just drill themselves into your head. This is easily the best song ever about a phone number, closely followed by Public Enemy’s 911 Is a Joke. (So why did Duran Duran cover the latter and not the former? I’m not kidding.)

37 Aerosmith / “Janie’s Got a Gun” 1989

I may lose tons of street cred here, but I don’t like this song. Please allow me to explain.

I don’t like the way Aerosmith gets a free pass on things that, if done by another band, would draw the snarkiest of critics’ commentaries. They can use an orchestra for a live performance of Dream On, and it’s brilliant, but when Yes calls in the strings, they’re pretentious jerks.

In this case, they do an allegedly serious song about an abused daughter, then sabotage it with cutesy synth-horn blasts in the prolonged fadeout. Let’s call this the Chopsticks rule. You can add Chopsticks to the middle section of Blinded by the Light, and it works. You can’t do that to, say, Sting’s Fragile. You’re either trying to say something, or you’re not. Make up your mind.

Mrs. MMM points out a flaw in the video. She shoots him in his home office. But he’s found on the tracks. That’s a drag, so to speak.

38 U2 / “Pride (In the Name of Love)” 1984

Now here’s a band that knows how to make the music fit the lyrics. And wow, this was awesome. U2 always had a social conscience, obviously, but this song started Bono down the path as one of history’s greatest humanitarians. And the Edge, Adam and Larry have always known how to make us march along.

39 Modern English / “I Melt With You” 1982


The Clash were a scowling political band whose legacy on current radio playlists is a couple of lighthearted songs. Same deal here. But in this case, the shoe may fit a bit better. Maybe love songs weren’t their primary interest, but they made a good one.

40 The B-52’s / “Love Shack” 1989


(Snarky, VH1-friendly take) A Chrysler that seats about 20? Haven’t these people heard of being environmental? And what’s with the OLD guy in the video? Ewwww …

(My actual take) Somebody tell all the gangstas rapping about smoking blunts and making videos indistinguishable from MTV Cribs that THIS is how you’re supposed to party.

41 Mötley Crüe / “Dr. Feelgood” 1989

Always good to see hard-rock bands with a little groove. Big leap forward for these guys, who started out as a cartoon in the Shout at the Devil days.

42 The Clash / “London Calling” 1982

A very well-delivered song, with that staccato guitar telling you it’s time to listen up. If only I had any idea what Joe Strummer was talking about. I can get a general sense from the tone, but I have to file this under “songs I love even if I don’t quite get the lyrics.” The AllMusic review doesn’t really help. Yeah, it’s a call to action. To do what?

I’m nit-picking, I know. This is a good one, establishing a mood of urgency that makes you want to join whatever rebellion Strummer’s selling.

43 ABC / “Look of Love (Part One)” 1982


ABC did better songs than this. Poison Arrow and Be Near Me, to name two. This one provides a likable backdrop for Martin Frye to do his English soulman bit, but if I put one ABC song on an iPod, it’s Poison Arrow, which has far more going on musically.

44 Bananarama / “Cruel Summer” 1984


Oh yeah — I remember hanging out at the pool, dancing and singing along. It was kind of my theme song for a while.

Oh wait. No, it wasn’t. It was an insubstantial pop ditty I would’ve forgotten years ago if VH1 didn’t keep dredging it up.

45 Janet Jackson / “Nasty” 1986

Gotta love those pop-feminist “treat me with respect” anthems, dating back to Aretha. This one fits nicely. Every comedian for the next two years did some variation of the “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” bit.

46 The Police / “Every Breath You Take” 1983

Another one of those songs on this list that isn’t the best song by this band but is the most unforgettable. The simple melody, the limerick-style verses, Sting’s aching vocal on the bridge — one listen, and this joins half the Beatles catalog and a handful of ’70s tunes as a pop standard in your head.

Didn’t like the video(s), though. The camera and lighting effects were anything but smoothly integrated.

47 Twisted Sister / “We’re Not Gonna Take It” 1984

What a fun career Mark Metcalf has had. He was apparently on Buffy, he was The Maestro on Seinfeld, and he was able to reprise his Animal House character in these Twisted Sister videos.

Sure, the video is full of goofy humor that seems dated today, but that’s OK. This was never high art.

But geez, Dee Snider was an ugly cross-dresser.

48 Bruce Springsteen / “Born in the U.S.A.” 1984

Poor Bruce. One of the most misunderstood songs in history, right up with CCR’s Fortunate Son. (No, advertisers, it’s NOT a patriotic anthem — it’s a nasty rip on the draft and the way those who encourage our wars are rarely the people who fight them.)

The talking heads on VH1 had it wrong here — Bruce was already big. If anything, this was a comeback after the low-key album Nebraska. (In an alternative “non-hits but nevertheless vital songs of the ’80s list,” we’d need to discuss Atlantic City.)

The lyrics here shine more brightly with every listen. He crams so much detail in every verse. Who can forget this: “Had a brother at Khe Sanh / Fightin’ off the Viet Cong / They’re still there, he’s all gone.”

Attention Toby Keith — THAT’S a boot up your ass, son.

49 Beastie Boys / “Fight For Your Right” 1986

Sure, the chorus sticks in your head, and the video was entertaining. But the lyrics are really, really stupid. I’ll take Sabotage over this one.

50 Eurythmics / “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” 1983

I didn’t know what to make of this when I first saw it. I still don’t. Even 23 years later, after androgyny lost its shock value and after synth-popsters grew tired of such artificial sounds, this song and video are still cutting-edge. And that’s a compliment.

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7 Responses to Back to the VH1 list

  1. Anonymous says:

    This list is turning into the highlight of my Thanksgiving weekend. OK, that’s not saying much, but still.

    Tying in 31 and 50, did you see the tribute concert for Freddie Mercury, where Annie Lennox took his vocal part? Astonishing, gorgeous, and somehow shocking, too. I don’t know how she does it.

  2. Lex says:

    “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

    I saw U2 perform this at the Omni in Atlanta in 1986, when they were headlining the Amnesty tour. It was, literally, a religious experience, possibly the most electrifying moment in all of the hundreds of rock shows I’ve seen.

    Surprisingly, Bryan Adams wasn’t bad, either.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi, just read your comments about Nuno and Bands Reunited (“BR”).

    Just wanted to shed some light.

    Richar Blades, a DJ in Los Angeles, was recruited by the producers of BR to clandestinely approach management an artists to participate in DR.

    Blades had contacted Bettencourt’s management and told them that he was interested in interviewing Nuno for a book he was writing on bands, musicians of the ’80s for a book with a similar theme.

    Bettencourt and his management agreed and a meeting spot was set for a lunch at a restaurant Bettencourt frequents.

    Bettencourt was kind of surprised that in all his years of doing interviews that Mr. Blades did not have a recorder or even pad and pencil.

    Mr. Blades seemed uneasy during the lunch and excused himself to make a telephone call (to call the VH-1 camera crew) and came back to the table.

    All of a sudden, a crew of camera people descended onto Bettencourt’s and Mr. Blade’s table and cameras were in Bettencourt’s face with the host of the show saying “Nuno, Pat, Paul and Gary have signed on to reunite the band, will you sign on?”

    The host asked a lot of personal questions about the band and Nuno out of respect for his former band mates did not give reasons to a complete stranger and to a channel that has become the “E Entertainment” of video channels — sensationalizing any type of story to get rating on a channel that is losing viewers and desparately trying to get rating via any type of new show (can you say desperation).

    It should be known that VH-! did approach management and they and Bettencourt commented that they would appear on camera if they would air the complete footage of the “ambush” and if Bettencourt’s management had a final air copy with right to an injunction should they misrepresent how they were going to edit and air the piece — VH-1 declined to sign on to this request.

    BTW, Nuno was very open in telling the host that VH-1 is the same channel who trashes artists who helped build their channel in their formative years and that he didn’t need VH-1 to help put his band together.

    Moral Of The Story: Things are not what they always appear on Television, especially with sensationalistic channels like VH-1 who are desparate for ratings and who has Viacom, their parent company, looking to VH-1 for their next success as they sharpen the axe to chop some heads off for lack of successes.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi, just read your comments about Nuno and Bands Reunited (“BR”).

    Just wanted to shed some light.

    Richar Blades, a DJ in Los Angeles, was recruited by the producers of BR to clandestinely approach management an artists to participate in DR.

    Blades had contacted Bettencourt’s management and told them that he was interested in interviewing Nuno for a book he was writing on bands, musicians of the ’80s for a book with a similar theme.

    Bettencourt and his management agreed and a meeting spot was set for a lunch at a restaurant Bettencourt frequents.

    Bettencourt was kind of surprised that in all his years of doing interviews that Mr. Blades did not have a recorder or even pad and pencil.

    Mr. Blades seemed uneasy during the lunch and excused himself to make a telephone call (to call the VH-1 camera crew) and came back to the table.

    All of a sudden, a crew of camera people descended onto Bettencourt’s and Mr. Blade’s table and cameras were in Bettencourt’s face with the host of the show saying “Nuno, Pat, Paul and Gary have signed on to reunite the band, will you sign on?”

    The host asked a lot of personal questions about the band and Nuno out of respect for his former band mates did not give reasons to a complete stranger and to a channel that has become the “E Entertainment” of video channels — sensationalizing any type of story to get rating on a channel that is losing viewers and desparately trying to get rating via any type of new show (can you say desperation).

    It should be known that VH-! did approach management and they and Bettencourt commented that they would appear on camera if they would air the complete footage of the “ambush” and if Bettencourt’s management had a final air copy with right to an injunction should they misrepresent how they were going to edit and air the piece — VH-1 declined to sign on to this request.

    BTW, Nuno was very open in telling the host that VH-1 is the same channel who trashes artists who helped build their channel in their formative years and that he didn’t need VH-1 to help put his band together.

    Moral Of The Story: Things are not what they always appear on Television, especially with sensationalistic channels like VH-1 who are desparate for ratings and who has Viacom, their parent company, looking to VH-1 for their next success as they sharpen the axe to chop some heads off for lack of successes.

  5. Mrs. MMM says:

    (So why did Duran Duran cover the latter and not the former? I’m not kidding.)

    I know you’re not kidding. Your wife owns this CD, you know.

  6. bdure says:

    Anon – Thanks for stopping by. I’ve read one interesting response to the Bands Reunited ambushes — I think it was from one of the guys in Information Society. I don’t doubt that it’s disconcerting, and I know there’s plenty of stuff we don’t see. (You can often read between the lines.) I thought the ambush crews were overbearing.

    That said, is there really so much harm in playing ball once you realize what’s going on?

    Nuno may think he’s punishing VH1. But didn’t he punish the fans who wanted to see the band play?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I freakin’ love Annie Lennox. And you’re dead on both about the Eurythmics and about “Born in the USA.” Spouse and I had the same conversation. This was a comeback. I was 10, and even I knew that.

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