Day 381: The Big Box Of Juke – 80s Edition

originally published January 15, 2013

Last night I fell asleep with a song in my head. This morning, the bridge of that song – essentially the same lyric and countermelody, repeated over and over again at a gradually increasing tempo – haunted the crusty innards of my brain. It’s a great song, but any tune that farts its way into an endless mental loop can grow to be annoying. In order to exact some measure of revenge (a concept I’ve clearly been having trouble defining in any logical context lately), I’ve decided the song, along with some of its contemporaries, will be granted squatter’s rights on today’s article.

Good luck to anyone with a weakness for catchy 80’s pop. Please feel free to pick out the tune that will drive you crazy for the next hour. I apologize for nothing.

“Poor old Johnnie Ray…” I thought the first line of “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners was about a friend of the singer’s. Maybe one of those guys dancing behind him, wearing overalls and no shirt. Turns out Johnnie Ray was a 50’s-era singer who used to fall to his knees and cry/sing as part of his act.

As for Eileen, the irrefutably cute actress in the video is Máire Fahey, sister of Siobhan Fahey, co-founder of Bananarama and Shakespeare’s Sister. Wikipedia also informs me that the corner where the video was shot can be seen on Google Maps.

Wikipedia doesn’t lie. Not sure if that counts as a tourist attraction, though.

Cyndi Lauper’s hit “Time After Time” is another one that crams itself into the darkest recesses of my think-meat from time to time, punishing me with its fluffy synth and curiously erotic sadness. The song was co-written by Rob Hyman of the Philadelphia band The Hooters.

Here’s something I didn’t know. Lou Albano, the WWF wrestler who appeared as Lauper’s on-screen dad in the “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” video (and as a cook in the video for this song) played Mario in the Super Mario Brothers Super Show!, a phenomenon I didn’t even know existed. Not the look I would have picked for a live-action Mario.

Looking for something else to reverberate around your inner ear until the next time you can get to Youtube and crank up Rebecca Black’s “Friday” just to rid the demon from your midst? How about something from this guy:

If you grew up watching movies in the 80’s, then this guy overloaded you with poignant synth stabs and musical bleeps in the score to your childhood viewing hours. He pieced together the score to Fletch, Tango & Cash, The Running Man, Top Gun, and of course Beverly Hills Cop. I call him Harold “the reason all those movies sound incredibly dated now” Faltermeyer.

“Axel F” was originally known as “The Banana Song” because it was only meant to be featured in the scene where Eddie Murphy sticks a banana in the tailpipe of a police car. Director Martin Brest must have loved the tune, because he chose to smatter it all over the movie. Faltermeyer’s “Top Gun Anthem” won him a Grammy, though I think it’s a safe bet that people bought that soundtrack for Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” or that obnoxious Berlin song.

Perhaps the most memorable part of Twisted Sister’s video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (apart from the nightmares inspired by Dee Snyder) is the appearance of actor Mark Metcalf, reprising his smarminess and even a line of dialogue from his role as Douglas Neidermeyer in Animal House. The depiction of the wholesome family getting overrun by a rebellious teen and his demon-clown friend angered some members of the public, including future Second Lady, Tipper Gore.

The story of Tipper’s descent into the censorship cesspool is well-documented: she helped to form the Parents Music Resource, slapped ‘explicit lyrics’ labels on all potentially offensive CDs and cassettes, and we all lived happily and holily ever after.

A parody of the chorus of the song was used in a Spanish ad for Primavera, with the line “Huevos con aceite, oh no, ya no queremos, ahora con Primavera, desayunaran.” According to Google Translate, that literally means “Eggs with oil, oh no, we do not want, now with Spring, have breakfast.” Yum!

Does that photo disturb you? Okay, does it disturb you when I mention that it’s the same guy as this?

Pete Burns, the lead singer of Dead Or Alive, whose song “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” is now free to enter your brain and beat upon it from the hippocampus outward, has led quite a life. He executed a curious stint on England’s Celebrity Big Brother 2006, getting into trouble when he claimed that the coat he wore was made from genuine gorilla. Police confiscated it and tested it – you need a license to wear gorilla fur in the UK, apparently.

Fortunately, it tested negative for gorilla. It did, however, test positive for being made out of colobus monkeys, also an endangered species. The real big news was when Burns announced he had spent most of his Dead Or Alive money on reconstructive surgery after a horrific blunder while he was having polyacrylamide injections jabbed into his lips. Beauty – or whatever – comes at a price.

Herbie Hancock is best known for his impressive tenure with the Miles Davis Quintet, a pocket-rattling collaboration with the Headhunters and his funktabulous Fat Albert Afro-jazz fusion. For a Canadian white kid raised on pop music in 1983, he was known for “Rockit.”

As a jazz song, “Rockit” isn’t great. It’s simple, heavily produced, and hangs on its riff for dear life. But as a pop song, or as a preliminary showpiece for urban electronica, it’s fantastic. GrandMaster D.ST is the guy responsible for the turntable scratching – the first time that was ever done on a pop single. The song sounds like nothing else from ’83; in fact, it would be years before pop music caught up Hancock’s sound on that 45. Unfortunately, pop music would also deteriorate into a lesser form of push-button pap by then too, but that’s my emerging old-man-speak, and I’d never think to blame Herbie for all the crap that followed him.

The video for “Rockit” was also unlike anything else, spooking children all over with its robotic limbs and dead-eye faces. It was directed by the musical duo Godley & Crème (whose “Cry” video is another one of the great 80’s visual masterpieces). The frames of the video were edited to sync up with the record scratches in the song, creating a completely integrated experience.

Okay, I’m happy ending the article with this one. I can live with this song in my head for the rest of the day; nine hours of Dexy’s Midnight Runners was too much. Dammit, I shouldn’t have mentioned them again…

…shit. Too-ra-loo-rye-aye!!!

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