Rise — Public Image Ltd.
Johnny Rotten. Bless ‘im. He’s barmier than a ball of ferrets, and that’s what makes him an interesting performer. The Sex Pistols were certainly important, but more often than not, I’d rather listen to Public Image Ltd., and I love “Rise.” The band is its own form of punk — “Anger is an energy.”
Who Wants to Live Forever — Queen
Oh yes, why don’t we include the Highlander song? Actually, I liked this song quite a bit even before seeing the movie for the first time, just a few months ago. I love the massive scope of it, with the full orchestra and the choir. Because Freddie Mercury is such an outstanding singer, I’ve always wondered why shows like American Idol would do Queen-themed weeks, yet would criticize singers who tried to sing a Whitney Houston song because it’s “too hard to do well.” Really? You’ll let some eighteen-year-old butcher one of the other greatest singers of all time, but if Randy Jackson can’t name drop him as a professional contact, it’s okay? Gross.
In Your Eyes — Peter Gabriel
Well, someone would’ve asked me why I didn’t include this song if I didn’t have it on here, so go on, you Lloyd Dobbler fans, get yer swoon on. Except! Except, this song originally came out in 1986, and Say Anything arrived in 1989, so you get the original, Cusack-free video. It’s a bit strange, but then, that’s how Peter Gabriel rolls. I do like this song, but I’m not a big Say Anything fan.
There is a Light That Never Goes Out — The Smiths
Formula for Morrissey Song Titles, Jed Bartlett Homage-Style Version: Anyone who uses two words when they could have used eight just isn’t trying hard enough. (Tell me someone else remembers the episode I’m referencing.)
I mentioned this song in Alphabet Soup: The Letter T, along with the required Noel Gallagher and Dum Dum Girls cover versions, but this and “How Soon is Now?” were the two songs that won me over. Yes, I could talk about other songs on their 1986 album, The Queen is Dead, but I love this song so much that it’s worth another mention. Get in.
Open Your Heart — Madonna
The peep show! The cone bustier! It’s a Madonna Classic, friends. The True Blue album is pretty great as whole, with “Papa Don’t Preach” and “La Isla Bonita” both being among the singles, but I like it when Madonna sings about everyday loneliness. Despite doing her usual provocateur thing in the video, “Open Your Heart” occupies a far more vulnerable place than we’re used to associating with her.
I’ll follow you around but you can’t see / too wrapped up in yourself to notice
I wonder what that kid in the video is up to now. He’s probably, what, approaching 40?
Happy Hour — The Housemartins
The future Fatboy Slim, Norman Cook, sings here, and he sort of sounds like Morrissey would if he weren’t so melodramatic. The video is one of those strange claymation efforts, so I’d rather just listen to the song. The Housemartins are another band that I stumbled across during 120 Minutes DVR-ing on VH1 Classic, and I think they were one of those bands that were mainly popular in the UK and perhaps not too many other countries.
Don’t Let’s Start — They Might Be Giants
How about another video featuring geeky guys dancing? My unfamiliarity with both The Housemartins and They Might Be Giants (beyond a handful of singles) lead me to think that They Might Be Giants might have been 1986′s North American version of a similar sound. I recognize that this is not very nuanced, and obviously They Might Be Giants had greater longevity, but when I play one right after the other, the comparison doesn’t feel so far-fetched.
It’s Tricky — Run-DMC
Lest you think I only listen to semi-depressive Englishmen, let’s get some hip-hop in here. It is a major dance party in my house when we put on Run-DMC.
But this… is a dumb video. I’m sorry, but it is. It’s silly. Penn and Teller. A makeover. Exceptionally bad ’80s hair. The song is too great for this video.
Push It — Salt-n-Pepa
Speaking of dance parties, I love Salt-n-Pepa. My fifth through seventh grade years featured lots of Salt-n-Pepa (just you wait for 1993… I think you know what song is coming). Yes, maybe our parents would not have been fans of their ten-year-olds singing, “Push it real good,” but we didn’t care. You taped those songs off the radio, the ones they wouldn’t buy you.
Nasty — Janet Jackson
Gimme a beat! Paula Abdul choreographed this video. Her dance moves and other Janet Jackson choreography were probably the biggest influence on our dance class. At a certain age, we started making up the moves to the songs we picked ourselves, and these old videos remind me of all those recitals. We didn’t attend a strict schools that required a leotard and the right pink shoes — We could just have fun with dance and the songs we loved, and because of that, I kept at it for eleven years.
All right, friends, consult Ye Olde Wikipedia, and tell me your favorites from 1986.