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Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Classic 1980's Songs (That Could Never Be Recorded Today)

The 1980's were a simpler time.  A neon time.  A coked up, spandex, feel good time.  And the songs are very reflective of that attitude-- they are often upbeat, chirpy, and self-involved and also gloriously, wildly, and most unashamedly offensive in the worst possible ways.  And while nowadays it's trendy as hell to cover or mix songs from this era, I'd be willing to bet my hidden stash of leftover 1980's cocaine that no artist will ever touch these songs:

5. Killing An Arab, The Cure

The song:  The soundtrack band to every suicide that took place in the 1980's, The Cure takes Albert Camus' classic novel the Stranger and simplifies it to its most basic premise of Mediterranean murder.

The most offending line: The song itself really isn't all that offensive, especially if you take the time to learn about the book it's based on, but maybe, just maybe, lead singer Robert Smith could have gone easy on the chorus of 'Killing an Arab' a little bit which, I swear, he repeats 87 times. And it only gets a little more awkward each time. It's like riding in the backseat of your grandpa's car as he tries to navigate his way around the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Why it would never fly today: Because 9/11, duh. And because, while it's perfectly acceptable to post military footage of terrorists getting blown up on your Facebook page, the entire world will rain hate down on your bigoted ass if you so much as make one unkind remark about the Muslim world.

4. Funky Cold Medina, Tone Loc

The song: A celebration of a new date rape drug that turns horribly wrong (wronger?), after the singer dopes up both his dog and a transvestite.

The most offending line: It's a tie between Tone's psychotically detached description of doping up a prospective date, which reads almost like a court deposition:

I went up to this girl, she said, Hi, my name is Sheena
I thought she'd be good to go with a little Funky Cold Medina
She said, I'd like a drink, I said, Ehm, ok, I'll go get it
Then a couple sips, she cold licked her lips
And I knew that she was with it

Or his proclamation that homophobia is okay because, hey, this is the 1980's man.

You know, ain't no plans with a man
This is the 80's and I'm down with the ladies
Break it down

Why it would never fly today: Because 1) Will and Grace made being gay cool and 2) date rape just isn't celebrated like it used to be.


3. Into the Night, Benny Mardones

The song: A crooner's plea for everyone to just back the fuck off him and his jailbait date because this is true love y'all and because he has no concept of how the legal system works.

The most offending line: Mardones wastes no time with that one. The opening line sets the tone right away,

She's just sixteen years old
Leave her alone, they say
Separated by fools
Who don't know what love is yet 

So clearly, if you're not down with underage love, you're a 'fool'. Later the song gets downright weird as Mardones dreams about gaining superpowers and flying his underage biddy away to his Silence in the Lambs-like basement for some hot, hot loving.

Why it would never fly today: Things are uncomfortable enough with underage celebrities phone pictures getting hacked and posted everywhere, we don't need the soundtrack to go with it.

Runner ups in the jailbait category:  Sister Christian (Night Ranger), Don't Stand So Close (The Police), Art Lover (Kinks), Seventeen (Winger) ... What was it about the 1980's and statutory rape?


2. Turning Japanese, The Vapors

The song: I'll let Rob Kemp, the Vapors guitarist explain this one, "It's a love song about somebody who had lost their girlfriend and was going slowly crazy, turning Japanese is just all the cliches of our angst... turning into something you never expected to."

Um, what? You got dumped and suddenly you're every terrible stereotype about Asian people imaginable? Who hurt you, Rob Kemp? Was it the guy who sold your girlfriend her Toyota?

Why it would never fly today: It's not really cool to hate the Japanese anymore. Not since Michael Keaton made loving the Japs adorable in Gung Ho.

1. The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun, Julie Brown

The song: Julie Brown's celebration of the valley girl lifetsyle two years after it stopped being cool played against the back-drop of a massive school shooting.

The most offending lines: Pretty much everything after the Homecoming Queen whips out her glock:

Debbie's smiling, and wiping her gun
Picking off cheerleaders one by one
 Oh no! Muffy's pompons just blew to bits
My God, Mitzi's head just did the splits!
My best friend is on a shooting spree
Stop it, Debbie, you're embarrassing me!
How could you do what you just did -
Are you having a really bad period?
Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen's got a gun!
 Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen's got a gun!
(Stop it, Debbie, you're making a mess
Powder burns all over your dress
Bloody bodies all over the quad
Who'd have thought she'd be packing a rod!)
An hour later, you know, the cops had arrived
Oh, but by then the entire glee club had died - no big loss
You wouldn't believe what they brought to stop
Tear gas, machine guns... even a chopper!
"Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of that float!"
Debbie didn't listen to what the cop said,
No, she aimed and fired, and now the math teacher's dead!

These aren't song lyrics, it's a coroner's report set to music. The song is ridiculous so it's easy to overlook lines like, "Powder burns all over your dress/ Bloody bodies all over the quad," but Jesus, this song is dark.

Why it would never fly today: Columbine and every school shooting afterwards. If you're going to sing about it, it better be tasteful and understated or, in the least, completely intelligible (see Foster the People, Pumped Up Kicks).


And just so I don't leave you on a sour note, here's Chuck Berry singing about his penis. A song that is just crying for a Miley Cyrus cover: