It’s ’80s Night’ at The Best Music Recommender in the World HQ. So dig out your Rodeo ski jackets, put on your best pair of pixie boots, and plug in your Philips Roller, because I’ve made you a mixtape to blow your Falcon Crest-addled mind!
But first, a little bit of housekeeping. When this competition started out (just under a year ago) it was very much an album-recommending competition. This year, the plan was to do albums and songs on alternate weeks but increasingly that is looking impossible. I had almost seventy entries this week. If this week had been an ‘album week’, I would have struggled to listen to them all. And so, I have made the difficult decision to make most weeks ‘song weeks’. I’m not saying there won’t be any more ‘album weeks’, but they will be few and far between. I hope that is ok with you lot.
On a (potentially) more cheering note, I have also decided that as more people are entering each week it feels almost churlish to limit ourselves to a top twenty. So, from now on, any week with more than fifty entries will have a top thirty. If we ever get more than a hundred entries in a week, I’ll probably knock it up to a top 40. I dunno. It’s a work in progress…
Anyway, the 1980s. Madonna, Madness, Prince, Public Enemy, Pixies, The Dead Kennedys… and that’s just the stuff nobody picked. Which is not to accuse you of anything. I’m just illustrating how big the task was – recommend one song from the 1980s – I can’t tell you how glad I am that I don’t have to pick each week. Congratulations to all of you who managed to choose something.
Right, enough chat, let’s kill some dreams. The following choices didn’t make the top 30.
- Picky Bastards recommended Push It by Salt-N-Pepa. It’s a good song too. However, without wanting to dive to deeply into my own personal traumas, well, let’s just say I was a late bloomer, attractiveness-wise. I was a nervous and unlovable teenager. And this eighties song loomed large in the nineties too. To this day, I cannot hear the, “This dance ain’t for everybody. Only the sexy people,” bit without thinking, “Jesus. Alright, mate. Calm down. I’ll just sit over here and wait for you to play The Soup Dragons or something, yeah?” Stir up the pain of my youth and you score zero. Them’s the breaks.
- Rob Cutforth recommended Welcome Home (Sanitarium) by Metallica. And, I don’t know, I think it might be rubbish. I saw Metallica live once, and they were absolutely brilliant, I even got dragged along to an album launch thing in Liverpool (for Load, I think) and got a Metallica keyring/bottle opener that I still own (and has a surprising amount of sentimental value to me) but this song… it’s a bit silly, no? I think it’s the word sanitarium that does it. Some words have no place in a metal song title. Sanitarium, pavonine, crocus, bidet. Know your limits, I say.
- Charlie Tevez recommended The Saturday Boy by Billy Bragg and while there are Bragg songs that would have made the top thirty, I didn’t really gel with this one. That may sound hugely unfair, my personal foibles denying you a score, but that’s kind of what we do here. Soz and that.
- Dan surprised me hugely by recommending Wishing I Was Lucky by Wet Wet Wet. I know he loves Mel and Kim as much as I do and I was expecting something from them. They would have scored well too, Mel and Kim. Really well. But all those points have fucked off now, like tears in the rain or whatever. Wet Wet Wet indeed.
- Desmond recommended Life on the Line by Fad Gadget and Nicholas Royle recommended Back to Nature by Fad Gadget. I don’t know why. Maybe when we get out of lockdown they could meet up for a cuppa and chat about what a philistine I am for not even considering these songs for the top thirty. I’d like that, I reckon.
- Another band that two people picked that I had never heard of before was Propaganda (and yes, I know Fad Gadget was a person, not a band) (this time Jummo70 chose Duel and Sarah-Clare Conlon picked Dr Mabuse. Again, I’m sorry, I didn’t really get it.
- Another choice that two people made was New Order, a group that I would put in my bottom ten of all time but that everyone else seems to love (and as such, one that I am willing to concede I might be wrong about). So, in an almost certainly doomed attempt at diplomacy, I am going to award two of this week’s bonus points to OhMartinC (who recommended The Perfect Kiss) and two to Kevo B (Temptation).
- Daniel Carpenter recommended Let’s Dance by David Bowie and I don’t understand that any more than you do. Ashes to Ashes was right there, Dan. Let’s Dance is a terrible record. Let’s Dance is 43% of the reason that Bowie wasn’t cool for the best part of two decades. It’s guff. It’s bobbins. It’s garbage. If you had said Magic Dance, that would have been 40 points right there, but Let’s Dance? You are lucky I don’t take points off you.
- Plashing Vole recommended O Superman by Laurie Anderson and if we were looking for serious and important contributions to the development of popular music it would have scored highly. But we aren’t. We are looking for bangers. Give me Bananarama or give me death.
- Adrian Slatcher recommended Private Investigations by Dire Straits, saving Daniel Carpenter from the shame of picking the worst song of the week. Only joking. Dire Straits are awful but this isn’t as bad as Let’s Dance. It’s still pretty bad though.
- Geisterhaus recommended Step Off by Grandmaster Melle Mel and The Furious Five which isn’t even the best hip hop song from the 80s with the word ‘off’ in it’s title (Set it Off by Big Daddy Kane, in case you were wondering) but I’m going to give it two bonus points for at least recognising that the 1980s had a fair few hip hop classics. Where were the nominations for The Show, The Roof is on Fire, The Sounds of Science, Bring the Noise, Needle to the Groove, Me Myself and I, Vicious Rap, etc?
- Oh go on then. Picky Bastards can have two bonus points too. Even if he did stir up hurt feelings.
- The remaining ten bonus points this week are going to David Coates, whose recommendation of I Know Him So Well by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson is so deliciously wrong and right at the same time that while I was never going to actually listen to it (the song is permanently seared into my brain via the copy of it my mother bought when it came out) I couldn’t not reward it with something.
The following choices almost made the top thirty but just missed out on glory…
- The Passions, I’m in Love with a German Film Star – recommended by Graham Cox and Leighton. (though read on, Graham, because this week hasn’t been all bad for you)
- Fear, I Don’t Care About You – recommended by Sleepy
- Dinosaur Jr, Freak Scene – recommended by Graeme
- The Fall, Lie Dream of a Casino Soul – recommended by Simon Mundy
- Teardrop Explodes, Treason – recommended by Rebecca H
- INXS, Never Tear Us Apart – recommended by Tom Mason
- The Church, Reptile – recommended by Lisa
- The Housemartins, Paris in Flares – recommended by Peadair Murchu
- The Cure, Charlotte Sometimes – recommended by James Battisson
- Beat Happening, Indian Summer – recommended by Lenni Sanders
- Sheila E, A Love Bizarre – recommended by Lil’ Vanni Byniaeth
- Altered Images, Don’t Talk to Me About Love – recommended by Nick Portnell
- Scritti Politti, Absolute – recommended by Sex Police
- The Cult, She Sells Sanctuary – recommended by Kim Z Baker
- ESG, Dance – recommended by Monsterlander
- The Field Mice, Emma’s House – recommended by Richard Jones
Any of those could have made the top thirty (except The Field Mice) so if you were one of them, please don’t feel too hard done by. We are talking about the finest of margins here (except with The Field Mice) and a butterfly flapping its wings a thousand miles away might have seen you scoring points (unless you picked The Field Mice).
OK, Let’s do this…
Dr Noel Carter recommended Fade to Grey by Visage with the argument that you can’t get any more eighties than that. I bought his argument too, which was the main reason this pipped the songs on the list above to this list. Man, that’s a terrible sentence. Does it even make sense. Probably not. Sorry. Let’s just hand out 2 points, recognise the ahhhhh-ah bits of Fade to Grey are magnificent, and move on.
Also getting 2 points is Neal, who recommended Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction. (30th and 29th both get two points because everyone gets a point the first time they recommend a song so I needed to make getting on the chart worth more than one point. It’s a fudge. Basically, this whole competition is already falling apart from the inside out. We’ll muddle on though, because the music is good.) I haven’t mentioned the song yet, have I? It’s a corker, no?
Jeanette Greaves recommended The Closest Thing to Heaven by The Kane Gang which seemed, to me, to be an excellent choice. It is one of those, ‘oh yeah, that one’ songs that hover on the edge of the consciousness, only popping up occasionally, when you need them, or 3 points, or something, and reminding you that there are thousands of songs you really should revisit soon. Nice.
Benjo recommended I Want to be Your Man by Roger, providing a bit of Roger’s life story too. If I’m brutally honest, I preferred the life story to the song. Roger did the vocoder bit on California Love and was murdered by his own brother. Who among us can name a high or a low in our lives that high or that low? I’m working on a screenplay already. Oh yeah, 4 points.
Chris *Wear Your Dang Mask* recommended Shipbuilding by Elvis Costello. A song about the Falklands War (which would make a very nice double header with Tramp the Dirt Down were I to introduce a double header element to this competition, which I’m not planning to, because it is complicated enough to run already) is very 1980s (and in a good way, not an I Eat Cannibals kind of way). It’s also a brilliant song. It gets 5 points.
Also picking something incredibly 1980s in a good way was Fat Roland, who recommended Beat Dis by Bomb the Bass. It’s an early sampling masterpiece worth 6 points and no mistake. I was also grateful that he chose this and not Pump Up The Volume by MARRS because I wouldn’t want to admit in public that I don’t really like that one.
Mark G recommended Brilliant Disguise by Bruce Springsteen and I struggled to work out where to put it on the list. There are Springsteen songs that wouldn’t have made the list at all and at least one (Bobby Jean) that would have made the top ten but this choice caught me by surprise slightly. It’s great and all, and obviously a personal choice, but it isn’t Bobby Jean, so… you know… I decided to give it one more point than Fats’ choice because Fats doesn’t like Springsteen, and I am a sucker for petty low level trolling. So that’s 7 points for Mark G.
I have a confession to make. I have never seen The Little Mermaid. There’s no reason for my not seeing it other than I haven’t got round to it yet. [It’s been out for thirty years? Sure. But I am quite a busy guy.] Anyway, when Mallen181 recommended Poor Unfortunate Souls by Pat Carroll I didn’t have any knowledge of the song at all. It’s good though, innit? Well good. 8 points.
James Beck and Penny both recommended Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. This is the second time Michael Jackson has turned up in this competition, and the last time he was I pretty much refused to listen to him because I wasn’t ready yet. I still don’t think I am ready to separate the artist from the art when it comes to shit like Earth Song but I can’t deny that Billie Jean is a tune. It probably deserves more than 9 points but, what with all the unpleasantness, it’s as high as I’m willing to go. (I am also going to give Graham Cox 9 points for his earlier Jackson recommendation – it seems churlish not to)
Justin Chisnall recommended Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry, a song I didn’t like when it came out because I was an idiot. People change. Tastes change. People’s tastes change. Who knows, it’s possible that in twenty years time I will think New Order are good. I doubt it, but never say never, eh? I’m giving this choice 10 points, you know what I mean?
Having mercilessly binned off several ‘cool’ choices for being too cool I am going to let Nick Rayney‘s recommended track, Teen Age Riot by Sonic Youth, have 11 points because a) I really like it and b) I am a fickle and nebulous bastard. I make no apologies for my personality. You will all have to learn to love me for who I am.
You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC is the song Rob Cutforth should have picked instead of the hilarious Metallica one that he did. And he may have if he had any faith in me to recognise its sleazy/fun genius which, clearly, he hasn’t. More fool him, eh? Instead the 12 points will be going to Michael Conley, a scholar and a gentleman.
Sarah Jasmon recommended The Chauffeur by Duran Duran. Was any band more 1980s than Duran Duran? I doubt it. Did you know they spent six years on that boat? From the second of March, 1982 to the eighth of April, 1988, they only left it twice. Once to film that Wild Boys video where they are strapped to massive Wagon Wheels and once to do Pebble Mill. Classic 80s that. 13 points.
Tinky Winky’s handbag recommended Felicity by last week’s top scorers Orange Juice. Does its lower score this week reflect my opinions on whether Scotland or the 1980s are better? No. No it does not. I would like to go back to Scotland as soon as restrictions allow. I wouldn’t go back to the 1980s if you paid me. Unless I could get some McVities Jaspers while I was there. They were proper lovely they were, all orangey and that. Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. Felicity. Brilliant song. 14 points.
Mat Pringle recommended Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat which is one of those uncontroversial choices that we can all get behind giving 15 points too. Just 100% pure banging banger that bangs until it can’t bang no more. Bang. I tell you, sometimes this job is easy. When the recommendations are right, they’re right, I guess.
Slugger paid attention to my ranting last week and recommended Are You Ready to be Heartbroken by Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, a band cruelly absent from our list of great Scottish albums. And you know what? I’m not above awarding him 16 points for doing so. I’m not a proud man at all. Especially not when the music is this good.
Adam Farrer recommended Clap Hands by Tom Waits and, much as it pains me to admit it, it’s a an absolute classic, isn’t it? With an extra 17 points, it looks like it is another week at the top of the table for Adam. But he can’t find a Waits song for every week, can he? SPOILER: No. No he can’t. He is, very definitely, on borrowed time. SPOILER: Or is he?
When I came up with the 1980s as a category I knew deep down it would largely be a case of people having to go big or go home. David Hartley did not go home. David Hartley went big. David Hartley recommended Kids in America by Kim Wilde. David Hartley got himself 18 points. David Hartley is a role model to us all.
Georgia Boon owes Daniel Carpenter a big thank you this week. Only the fact that he had already recommended Let’s Dance saved her from making the same tragic mistake. She even presented me with a short essay trying to convince me that Let’s Dance was good because Bowie had originally written it as a folk song or something. Cotton Eyed Joe started off as a folk song, Boon. Anyway, she switched her choice to the far far far far far far far far far better song You Are The Everything by R.E.M. and it got her 19 points.
Dan Williams and Henriette Pleiger both recommended Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads which is, in many ways, the 1980s all wrapped up and packaged in an inflating suit. It was a decade of excess and capitalism, all shoulder pads and cocaine, but it was also a decade of quite arty stuff charting very nicely thank you. Arguably no decade stretched what pop music meant quite as much as the 80s did. (I say arguably because I don’t want the argument btw). 20 points each.
Chris Bissette brought some hardcore punk to the party by recommending Banned in D.C. by Bad Brains. It was a brave move as I am hugely fussy when it comes to punk music, but one that paid off to the tune of 22 points.
William Mallin recommended Rocket to Your Heart by Lisa. She makes collages now, Lisa Fredentha-Lee. And very nice ones too. Puts the stuff that I post up here on a Thursday in perspective, that’s for sure. If I had a spare four thousand pounds I might even buy one, but I don’t (obviously) so I won’t. I’ll stick to the music, and give it 24 points while I’m doing so.
Stu Holliday recommended I.O.U. by Freeez, the first record he ever bought, and one that he partly paid for with coupons he saved from boxes of Weetabix. I was more of a Sugar Puffs guy back then, so I missed out on this record (though I did have a very nice Honey Monster sticker on the back of my Action Man jeep for a while. In hindsight, I was eating the wrong cereal because this is a great song. I don’t even have the sticker any more. Oh well. Never mind, eh? 26 points.
Stephen May and Dan Edmonds both recommended All of My Heart by ABC, accidentally picking a song from what is (possibly, I change my mind a lot) my favourite album, The Lexicon of Love. This is something of a double-edged sword (if that means what I think it does). Yes, you each get 28 points for picking it, but if I wasn’t so obsessed with 4 Ever 2 Gether, and if I wasn’t silently judging you for not picking that, you might have got even more
Four people recommended songs by Pet Shop Boys and I have, rightly or wrongly, lumped them all together so as not to fill the top ten with songs by one artist. Weeman recommended Always on My Mind, Sam Whyte recommended Rent, and Skerret recommended West End Girls and they all get 29 points for their troubles but only Tom A. correctly chose something off Introspective (Always on My Mind/Always in My House) and he gets 30. (btw, I have just noticed I have spelled Skerret wrong on the leader board – sorry – I’m not redoing it now (too lazy) but I’ll fix it for next week)
After a slow start to the tournament, Donna Morris has got herself a decent haul of 32 points for recommending Sometimes by Erasure, closing the gap to long time ‘rival’ Graham Cox. The fight is on! Another week like this next week and you could be storming past him and in to the top ten. Unless you pick Westlife of course, in which case you won’t be.
Now, I am sure there will be some among you who think that there is no place in the top thirty for Where Do Broken Hearts Go by Whitney Houston but, and I am going to put this as politely as I can, you would be off your bastard rocker to think so. Not only does it have one of the greatest pauses in recorded history it is also, in a very real sense, a perfect pop record. If you can hear it without singing along you are minus one soul. That’s just how it is pal. Don’t shoot the messenger. Em, who recommended it, gets 34 points.
David N Atkinson recommended Follow the Leader by Eric B & Rakim, bagging himself 36 points for picking the only hip hop track selected this week that is both great and not something that churns up the past for me in an unpleasant way. (As an aside, and if I might recommend something for a change, if any of you aren’t familiar with Rakim’s 1997 album, The 18th Letter, you should treat yourself to a listen of that at some point.)
Prison Dentist and Tom. both recommended Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) by Kate Bush, an artist who, it would be fair to say, produced quite a lot of good stuff in the 1980s, not least of which being Hounds of Love. When I first saw her being nominated I thought, “I’m not sure anything is going to beat that,” but then something did. Still, 38 points is a lot of points.
And the song that beat it, and this week’s winner, earning 40 points and a place in the Hall of Fame, is Party Fears Two by The Associates, recommended by Sal Page. It ticks so many boxes of what I was looking for. It’s a banger, it’s massively 80s, it is a huge pop song but also quiet and personal, the sort of thing you can hang your emotions on for four minutes while you dance to it. It’s a bloody gorgeous perfect pop song. What more could we ask for?
Next week… taking advantage of the fact that next Sunday is February 14th, the theme next week is VALENTINE’S DAY. I’m looking for one song but how you interpret the theme is up to you. Love song, anti-love song, sexy funk workout, anti-capitalist punk masterpiece… it’s up to you. Think about how Valentine’s Day makes you feel and send me something that reflects that.