This article is respectfully dedicated to the late, great Falco: an 80's pop legend, a lovable Eintagsfliege, and one hell of a cool Austrian guy. "Er war ein Mann der Frauen; Frauen liebten seinen Punk...."

Hey, Remember the Eighties?

By Rachael Haring

The 80's: one big, happy, processed cheezball of a decade. And we're not talking a mild, delicately-aged swiss, or a sharp cheddar, or even a distinguished, mold-covered bleu. No, more like an orangish, goopy mess of salty goodness that can only be spelled with a double-e-z. If you can, imagine college dining hall cheez with even more fakeness and even less nutrition.

And perhaps nowhere is the pungent yet pleasurable odor of the 80's as evident as in the era's popular music. Hey you! Yeah, you there. Listen to this: "Don't you want me, baby? Don't you want me, ohhhhh?" See how the cheezy melody wafts instantly through your thoughts, haplessly destroying all hope of minimal concentration? Smell the hairspray as it depletes the ozone? Feel the jelly bracelets around your wrists and the oh-so-tasteful legwarmers adorning your calves? Obviously, this music must have an adverse effect on the brain's most basic functions; how else would Candies Co. get an entire nation of women to pay money for cheap, sharp-edged hunks of plastic pretending to be footwear?

Clearly, 80's music is insidious and brain-numbing and just plain silly. So why is it so much fun? Is it just a case of loving what is bad for us? Why should this particular decade cause such nostalgic amusement? Well, I put on my pink stonewashed jean jacket, cranked up some vintage Duran Duran, and decided to get to the bottom of this mystery. Here is my ode to the sounds of the eighties, in fun-shaped, bite-sized morsels.

1.)Synthesizers. If you ask me (just pretend you did, all right? Work with me here), there are just not enough synthesizers in today's music. And I don't mean merely heavy bass and some simulated drums- I mean full-on, blipping, chirping, swooping electronic mess. I mean saxes so fake and piano so distorted that you barely recognize what instrument that Moog programmer was even shooting for. I have nothing against more acoustic forms of sound; some of the best 80's cheez featured the occasional touch of "real" instrumentation. But enough with the stark guitar and underproduced angst-fests of the earnest 90's- I want me some overdrawn powerchords from somebody's souped-up Roland.

2.)Worldliness. From androgynous Euro-trash to "Domo Arigato, Mistah Roboto", the popular tunes of the 80's were infused with a sense of "global citizenry," if you will. Think about it: when was the last time you heard a song on the radio that spoke proudly of homeland like "Land Down Under", or a song that saw the soul-searching mysticism of travel like Toto's "Africa"? How about a tune (very loosely) based on an important historical world figure like "Rock Me, Amadeus"? I'll tell ya when: the 80's. Foreign language songs like those of the ever-popular Los Lobos and Nina Hagen were all over the charts, unlike recently...and I will personally maim each one of you who now sees fit to bring up the Macarena. That doesn't count. Why? 'Cause the Macarena is devil-spawn, pure and simple.

3.)Innocence. "Huh?" I can faintly hear some of you saying. "INNOCENCE? Are you out of your gourd, 80's Girl? What about 'I Want Your Sex'? What about 'I Touch Myself'?" To which I graciously reply, "You bunch of perverts. Of course you'd remember those songs. You probably sent the lyrics to your high-school crush so s/he would make out with you in the front of your dad's Rabbit."

But back to my point....uh....oh, yeah. To make a broad generalization (why stop now, right?), the music of the 80's was innocent at best, banal at worst. Compare the popular songs of today with all their blatant bumpin' and grindin' and bleeped-out obscenities, and you'll see just how happy and mild the majority of 80's music really was. Today, it'd be: "Oh Mickey, you're so fine, you're so fine I wanna blow your ((body part having nothing to do with his mind inserted here))." And Toni Basil would be wearing a black leather bustier and little else. Maybe I sound like a prude. Maybe I am one. Speculations as to my sexual repression can be directed at that big brick wall over there. Thank you!

4.)Unabashed weirdness. Tell me: would a thoroughly wack-ass, unintelligible song like "She Blinded Me With Science" ever make it to the top of Billboard today? And what about Gary Numan's "Cars"? I minored in German, and I gotta tell all of you non-Teutonics out there, neither "Rock Me Amadeus" nor "99 Luftballons" make a whole lot of rational sense even in the mother tongue. These kind of quirky little garbled songs would probably never make it to airplay nowadays, because everyone's clamoring for Jewel's next diatribe into her daily personal hygiene activities ("I got up and brushed my teeth, spat in the sink, oh look there's some of the chow mein I had last night...") So painfully heartfelt, so emotionally warbled, all set to accompany a touching moment in some sobby teenage drama featuring a cast of appallingly fresh-faced siblings who all have terminal illnesses but go about their achingly realistic lives meeting other appallingly fresh- faced teens and forming nuanced relationships....sorry, was I ranting? But I return to my original sentiment: Where has all the wackiness gone? For the love of Pete, the 80's were the decade of Weird Al (whom I have personally met, by the way, and I have the pictures to prove it, if anyone cares to see).

Well, I think that's enough out of me. As the Cheese Dairy Farmer's Council Association (or whatever) is fond of reminding us via cloying commercials starring third-rate celebrities, "Never underestimate the power of cheese." So serve me up a big ol' plate of drippy imitation-Velveeta and let me chow down with the kind of excess the 80's are famous for. like cheeeeeez.

© 2003 Rachael M. Haring