After a discussion of the inexplicable unavailability of certain songs on MP3,* my brother lent me his CD copies of Mike and the Mechanics and Big Hits of the 80s for ripping purposes. I may never give them back. Whoops, just kidding. What I meant to say is that I began listening to the 80s hits obsessively, and my children's reactions reminded me that I've been germinating a post about 80s music and my children's relationship to it for some time.
S. walks into the kitchen as I wash dishes and bop my head to "Mickey." "What is this?" she asks. "Mickey," I say, most likely in synch with the song, since 78% of the lyrics are "Mickey." "It was one of the first videos on MTV," I offer. "Toni Basil was dressed as a cheerleader."
"Wait, one of the first movies? Really?**"
"No," R. corrects, "one of the first videos. On MTV. Music videos."
"Oh," S. says. "Like the one with the guy walking on top of the water in a pool?"
Yes, my daughter's familiarity with music videos begins and ends with my attempt to describe the video for The Cars' "Magic."
R. walks into the kitchen as I pack the lunches and occasionally spin around to "Centerfold"; "Did he just say, 'My angel is a cellphone?'" he asks.
But that's not what I came here to tell you about.
Came to talk about which songs live and which songs die. Here, of the many hits of the 80s, are the songs with which my children are most familiar:
"Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter
"Don't You Want Me" by The Human League
"Iron Man" by Black Sabbath
"It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M.
"Celebration" by Kool and the Gang
"Holiday" by Madonna (they get "Celebration" and "Holiday" kind of mixed up)
"Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" by C+C Music Factory (okay, that's 1990)
Now there are lots of 80s songs I play in the house that they would recognize; but the above list are the ones they absorbed from the elementary school culture, and it is this that fascinates me. S. tells me that the first two songs on the list are the favored songs for unison bus singing on class trips: she refers to "Hot Hot Hot" as "Ole ole," and even more annoying, they apparently sing "Don't you love me, baby." Incidentally, I treasure the memory of my entire class singing "Sister Christian" in a boro bus, but it may be colored by my knowledge of the "Tiny Dancer" scene in "Almost Famous." On that same bus, I was probably listening to 60s Motown on my Walkman, but nobody was singing it with me. Ergo, the music of my generation has more staying power than that of my parents' generation. Right?
"Iron Man" mystifies me. They even sing a parody, "I am ice cream man/37 flavors in the back of my van..."
The R.E.M., the Kool and the Gang, and the Madonna they must have gotten from movies; they break into the former when things look bad, and the latter two when things look good. It's a "soundtrack of your life" thing.
And I guess no one will ever be able to resist the beat of "Gonna Make You Sweat," not to mention the musical punchline of "Everybody Dance Now."
But still, that's not the top seven 80s songs I would have picked in 1991, 2000, or ever.
*I see that the CD of "Sixteen Candles" is, in fact, available now. Santa?
**Michael Bluth style.
PS Dick Cavett has a blog.