Eighinger: Don’t overlook the often-overlooked 1980s

Milli-Vanilli-1988-billboard-1548-compressed

Rob and Fab: The faces, if not the voices, of Milli Vanilli


By Steve Eighinger, Muddy River News Minister of Culture

For many, the 1980s represented the widest collection of pop music styles to ever cross over and form one massive genre. Never before, and not since, have so many eclectic ventures worked their way into mainstream listening.

Maybe that’s why the 1980s were voted the No. 1 decade, in terms of forging the best overall popular music, in a YouGovAmerica poll that solicited the opinions of 17,000 Americans earlier this year. The 1980s’ version of pop music saw the decade’s tentacles embrace not only conventional top-40 radio, but numerous subdivisions like never before. 

“Speaking of genres, the 1980s introduced (or re-introduced) many of them such as the resurgence of heavy metal, the advent of new wave, rap music, hair metal … all of which influenced music to the present,” according to mentalitch.com.

Not to be forgotten about the 1980s were the births of MTV and VH1. MTV came along in 1981, offering images with an artist’s music. VH1 did the same in 1984, but in a more classic rock format. Those who grew up at that time, or were simply intrigued by MTV and/or VH1, will forever have videos matched to specific songs in their musical memory banks.

Those videos were also round-the-clock marketing tools, and were also responsible for “bringing several new genres into the mainstream,” mentalitch.com said.

I can’t argue with any of that thinking, and would readily rank the 1980s as my second-favorite decade for music behind only the landmark 1960s, which will likely be a column for another day.

I’ve put together my own personal top 20 songs for the 1980s while trying to incorporate multiple tastes and styles, ranging from country to Christian glam rock. To avoid any personal bias, Rod Stewart songs were ineligible for consideration. The 1980s is often a 10-year period too often cast aside as either the decade of decadence or the decade of excess, but hey, there was also some pretty good music during that 10-year stretch. My picks:

1. “Mixed Emotions,” Rolling Stones (1989): This was actually the last top-10 mainstream hit for the Stones.

2. “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” Milli Vanilli (1988): I don’t want to hear about the scandal, all I know is there was no hotter sound in 1988-89 than that of Milli Vanilli, and for the record, I’d rank the Milli Vanilli concert I saw during that time as one of the best ever.

3. “There You Are,” Willie Nelson (1989): An incredible, incredible country song. In my mind, it’s Willie’s finest. If, at some point during this song, you don’t get a goose bump or two you had better check your pulse.

4. “You Shook Me All Night Long,” AC/DC (1980): The only AC/DC song I have really cared for, and what a great video.

5. “Armageddon It,” Def Leppard (1987): My favorite part of this song — for obvious reasons — is when lead singer Joe Elliott says to lead guitarist Steve Clark, ‘C’mon, Steve!’

6. “Old Flame,” Alabama, 1981: Ah yes, that old flame … that tears can’t drown and makeup can’t disguise. 

7. “The Tide is High,” Blondie (1980): The band’s reggae version of this song was a No. 1 hit in both America and the United Kingdom. In my opinion, it is lead singer Debbie Harry’s finest effort.

8. “Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes (1981): Arguably my favorite female voice, no matter the decade.

9. “Blame it on the Rain,” Milli Vanilli (1989): For the record, I play my collection of Milli Vanilli favorites at least once a week.

10. “Calling on You,” Stryper (1986): The Christian metal/glam rock band was huge in the latter part of this decade, and this song was its anthem.

11. “Your Wildest Dreams,” Moody Blues (1986): This video should be must viewing any music-loving child of the 1960s.

12. “Dangerous,” Roxette (1988): Co-lead singer Marie Frederikkson was taken from us by cancer in 2019.

13. “Edge of a Broken Heart,” Vixen (1986): In many ways, Vixen was the female equivalent of Bon Jovi.

14. “Living on a Prayer,” Bon Jovi (1986): King of the ’80s’ hair bands?

15. “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone),” Cinderella (1988): Lead singer Tom Keifer, a great, great voice for the metal/glam rock genre.

16. “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler (1983): I’ve always wanted to hear a duet between Kim Carnes and Bonnie Tyler.

17. “Girl You Know It’s True,” Milli Vanilli (1988): It’s hard to imagine that all four Milli Vanilli songs listed in this top 20 were from one album/CD.

18. “Angel Eyes,” Jeff Healey Band (1989): If you’ve ever watched the  Patrick Swayze film “Road House,” you’ve seen the Jeff Healey Band.

19. “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” George Jones (1985): This song/video is also a lesson in music history.

19. “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” Milli Vanilli (1988): This was the second of the group’s four monster singles from its debut album/CD.

20. “Kiss Me Deadly,” Lita Ford (1988): Her only major hit, but a memorable one, thanks to the video.

If I Had My Way …
I would make these changes to Major League Baseball:

1. First and foremost, add the designated hitter to National League play, which barring a major surprise will happen in 2022. I think we can all manage to survive without the double switches. The DH has been around since 1973 and has worked out quite well in the American League. For those of you who feel a pitcher batting is necessary for the integrity of the game, please go back to your black-and-white TV sets and rotary phones.

2. Let’s seriously look at reworking the divisions, which might mean abolishing the separate American and National leagues (which, in case you haven’t noticed, the MLB hierarchy is quietly moving toward). For starters, how about a division of California teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland. How about a division of midwest teams: St. Louis, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City and Milwaukee. And so on …

3. Shorten the regular season by a couple of weeks and expand the playoffs to 12 and maybe even 16 teams. Give the postseason a true tournament atmosphere. If shortening the regular season is not viable, chop a couple of weeks off spring training and start the schedule in mid-March. Many of those early games could be scheduled at west-coast sites.

4. Keep the extra-inning rule that will likely disappear after this season. Placing a runner on second base at the start of the 10th inning creates a sudden-death mentality that is popular in college and pro football.

5. Re-establish the World Baseball Classic, possibly as a biennial event and always have it played in one of those baseball-crazy Caribbean countries each January. It would whet our appetites for the return of MLB baseball, plus stealing some of the postseason thunder of the NFL.


Top 5

Think sports aren’t boffo box office for network TV?

Check out the top five shows for the 2020-21 viewing season, based on the Nielsen Ratings:

1. “NFL Sunday Night Football” (NBC).

2. “NFL Thursday Night Football” (Fox/NFL).

3. “NFL Monday Night Football” (ESPN).

4. “This Is Us” (NBC).

5. “The Masked Singer” (Fox).

Steve Eighinger

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