September 22, 2023
Recommended Reading

Recommended reading: Playing Back the 80s

Here’s a simple truth when it comes to music: Most people will defend to the death the decade in which they became musically aware. Or, to put it another way, every generation believes that the music of their youth is forevermore an indelibly the greatest music ever made.

In the introduction to his new book, Playing Back the 80s, Jim Beviglia is completely upfront about this common sort of bias. And no one should feel any shame in this sort of thing, either. Nothing will ever matter as much as the music you listened to while growing up.

That said, those who didn’t grow up in the 80s will look at this book and wonder why Beviglia has so much affection for songs that were the height of uncool.

There’s the happiest cheatin’ song ever written: “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes. Air Supply’s soppy “All Out of Love?” Does anyone really pine for Huey Lewis and The News “I Want a New Drug,” one of the most overplayed songs of the decade?

Perhaps. And probably. Again, if you grew up with it, it becomes part of your DNA. And just because you don’t personally like some of the songs profiled in this book (Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” always causes my colon to spasm), there’s always something to learn about music.

For example, The Romantics weren’t sold on their song “Talking in Your Sleep” until they were assured by the studio’s janitor that the song was a smash hit (it was). The opening line of Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” (“You can dance if you want to”) was written in response to singer Ivan Doroschuk being tossed out of a club for daring to dance to The B-52s’ “Rock Lobster.” The original title of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” was “Sister Christy” because it was written for the drummer’s sister. But when someone else misheard it as “Sister Christian,” that became the new title.

There are dozens of similar stories, ranging from Gary Numan’s “Cars” (actually released in 1979, but never mind) to odd gems like “Welcome to the Boomtown” by David + David.

If the 80s is your thing, you’ll definitely find yourself in the depths of nostalgia with this book. If not, there’s still plenty of trivia to be gleaned. And knowledge is power, right?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37091 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “Recommended reading: Playing Back the 80s

  • Phil Collins ruined the 80’s

  • He ruined more than just the 80’s…

  • I will never forgive him and Philip Bailey for The Easy Lover video.


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