Music Of The Eighties : The Good, The Bad and The Talentless

Every decade washes a new wave of artists up Fame Beach as new genres emerge to suit the times. The sixties gave us Bob Dylan; the seventies, disco and heavy metal. The eighties—a decade often derided as lacking in musical merit—was actually no different from any other. You had the good the bad and the talentless in about equal measure.

In the UK life, rather than music, in the eighties brought us the delights of Margaret Thatcher, the miners’ strike, the poll tax and a war in the Falklands. None of which made you want to throw open your skylight windows and shout ‘hurrah!’ at the sky. Amongst other downers, the eighties saw John Lennon shot dead on his doorstep and the emergence of AIDS. On the upside, Pac-Man arrived on the scene.

As always, young people largely ignored all the bad stuff and took refuge in their music. In the early years of the decade Michael Jackson had a major, and as it would turn out, lasting impact. His 1982 album, Thriller, would become the biggest grossing album of all time, with estimated worldwide sales of 100 million copies. Jackson wasn’t the only attraction, of course.

Starting with the truly awful, you had Black Lace, responsible for the viral spread of Agadoo over the planet’s airwaves. Voted the worst pop song in history because – well if you’ve heard it you’ll know why. If you let its meaningless lyrics – ‘Agadoo doo doo, push pineapple shake that tree…’ – into your head you might never get them out again.

Close behind this musical monstrosity in my opinion, you’d find the magnolia coloured, vanilla flavoured and utterly talentless Bananarama. Black Lace and Bananarama did for pop music what Benny Hill did for international water polo.

Black Lace and Bananarama were not alone at the bottom of that barrel though. Accompanying them down there you’d find many scary examples of naked commercial pop in the products of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s hit factory. Acts churned out using their easy listening, money making formula included the likes of Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, Sinitta and Sonia. And a track called Packjammed (with the party posse). Not much to say after that, really.

Any decent sounds around at the time were all related to protest. Punk in the late 70s and early 80s had spawned an entire anarchic, anti-establishment genre—complete with its own dance—the pogo, which was essentially jumping up and down. Easy to learn, but difficult to perform and simultaneously deliver your premium chat up lines. Judged for technical and artistic merit it wasn’t the Argentinian tango and it isn’t going to appear on Strictly Come Dancing any time soon. I’m sure you can live with that.

Punk produced bands with loyal followers. Bands like The Clash, The Damned and the notorious Sex Pistols. This genre also gave rise to another dance (Was it a dance? Or was it a cry for help?) called the dead fly. Here, the dancer would throw himself to the floor and twitch in time to the music. This always puzzled me because dead flies don’t behave like that. They don’t actually do anything at all, because they’re…well, dead.

As a backlash against the severity of punk, the so-called New Romantics made an even more flamboyant appearance during the eighties. They celebrated glamour with their big hair, frilly shirts and men wearing mascara. Duran Duran and Spandau ballet tended to dominate.

Between the low water mark of Jason Donovan and the high tide of Duran Duran there was no shortage of talented performers. The danger of listing examples is that you are bound to offend an awful lot of people whose favourite band inevitably hasn’t been mentioned. On this occasion let me simply list my personal preferences and leave it at that.

Blondie, The Eurythmics, Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Whitney Houston. Ozzy Osbourne and ZZ Top. And of course U2 in the days before Apple decided to force them onto our hard drives when we were off guard. As with any decade, those who entered their formative years when the eighties began would carry with them the emotional imprint of its music—good and bad—long beyond the end of the decade when the Berlin Wall came down and the first episode of the Simpsons aired. That has always been the case, and always will be.


Die Hard (1988)

The plot of Die Hard is brilliantly simple and highly effective:

A group of terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) take control of the offices of the Nakatomi Corporation, an L.A high-rise, during the companies Christmas party. While visiting his estranged wife, New York cop John McClane finds himself in the middle of the action as he tries to stay unnoticed while he figures out a way to stay alive and stop the group from killing the hostages and making off with $600 million.

bruce willis die hard

Fox Studio Die Hard Mural. Photo credit : Jay Galvin

Die Hard, as an action film, has never really been bettered. The fact that the film is set inside a 40 story building, it’s claustrophobic at times which makes it all the more thrilling to watch, some of the action scenes are absolutely breathtaking – even by todays standards. As well as the action Die Hard is actually very funny, Willis’ character manages to take sarcasm to a new level and much of the story outside of the building featuring Chief of Police Dwayne T. Robinson and the F.B.I is very tongue in cheek and very amusing to watch. The performances are also excellent, Willis shines in a role that couldn’t have been played by anyone else and Alan Rickman as the almost pantomime villain is sensational.

What more could you want? Die Hard is simply one of the best action films ever made, the story is great and very well written, while director John McTiernan has failed to reach this level since. A classic.

Back To The Future

In 1985 executive producer Steven Speilberg and director Robert Zemeckis brought to the big screen a comedy-adventure featuring a cast of then largely unknown actors and a plot involving an obscure, paradoxical version of time travel. Originally conceived as a one-off production, Back to the Future would become the highest grossing film of 1985.

Set in a Fictional Californian town of Hill Valley, Back to the future is the tale of Marty McFly (Michael J Fox), and his sidekick, mad scientist friend Dr Emmet Brown (Christopher Lloyd), and a Delorean Time machine. After an incident involving Libyan terrorists, Marty is transported to 1955, and encounters all kinds of problems, the most serious being the fact his mother is falling in love with him and not his dad! He has to endure all sorts of comical set pieces to get his mum and dad together, and to get back to 1985.


Marty McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean? Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style? Photo Credit : JD Hancock

Following on from the success of the first film, it was only a matter of time (pun intended) before we again met up with our time travelling friends in Back to the Future Part 2. This time Doc Brown returns from his trip to the future to get Marty’s help to stop his future children from starting a chain of events that wreck his family. Whilst on this mission an older Biff Tannen steals a Sports Almanac and the Delorean time machine and heads back to 1955, and gives this book to his younger self. This causes all kinds of problems and an alternate 1985. Doc and Marty have to go back to 1955 and get the book back and save the day again. And just as they succeed, disaster strikes as the flying Delorean is hit by lightening and vanishes with the Doc on board. Minutes later a letter is delivered to Marty from the Doc, who is in 1885!

Cue Back to the Future part 3 and Marty runs back into town and again gets the help of the 1955 Doc Brown to rebuild a hidden Delorean and get home, but on finding a grave of Doc, Marty decides to go back to 1885 and save his friend from certain doom. In this part of the trilogy we are treated to a hilarious take on the western theme, but how are the Doc and Marty are going to get home? By stealing a train of course, and having Doc fall in love!

Photo Credit :  Garry Knight

Photo Credit : Garry Knight