Perfection

•April 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

POP! …goes Perfection!

As if being a child in the 80s weren’t tough enough–what with the Cold War, tainted Tylenol, and the threat of instant death if you combined Pop Rocks with your favorite soda–we also had to deal with the ridiculous level of stress inherent in one of our favorite games.

Sure, Perfection arrived on the scene in 1973 (and was revised two years later to its more-famous pop-up tray design), but virtually every child growing up in the 80s had one in their game closet…so we’ll go ahead and co-opt it as a mainstay of our favorite decade.

25 plastic yellow pieces (moon, X, stop sign, and propeller among them) all had to be placed perfectly into the red plastic tray before the 60-second timer ran out. If you got them all, great–you got a pat on the back and the admiration of your friends. If not, you were subject to a near-fatal heart attack as the time expired and the tray popped up with the force of a 7.2 earthquake, ejecting all your pieces into the air.

If you want to get technical about it and deny our love of Perfection because of its pre-80s release, we’ll instead profess our admiration of Head-to-Head Perfection, which debuted in 1987. Same game, same concept–only you squared off against an opponent; when you finished placing your pieces, you smacked the bar on your side of the game and launched your opponent’s pieces in the air (causing the same near-fatal heart attack, 7.2 earthquake, etc.)

Happy now?

It was stressful, it was frantic, and it was violent, but it was also heaps of fun. And whether you consider it a legally-acceptable addition to our celebration of the most awesome decade ever or not, we’re standing by it. Because we were children of the 80s, and, well…

We ♥ Perfection.

Flowers in the Attic

•April 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

We aren’t really sure what was going through V.C. Andrews’ mind when she wrote Flowers in the Attic, nor do we think we want to; we just know that the book was wildly popular and that it was later made into a movie during our favorite decade… and thus we’re writing about it here.

In case you aren’t familiar with the sordid tale, let us give you a little rundown.

It’s about four siblings who are locked into an attic by their psychotic mother in order to secure a family fortune from their grandmother. As the years pass, the two older siblings, Chris and Cathy, take on more of a parental role for the two younger children. The grandmother is paranoid Cathy and Chris are having an incestuous relationship (and oh-ho-hoooo! with good reason, Grandma! WITH GOOD REASON!) and to stop that train in its tracks, Grandma chops off Cathy’s hair in the hopes it makes her less attractive to her brother

Eventually it’s discovered the children themselves are a product of incest; their mother was in love with her uncle and decided, “Hey! This isn’t a bad idea at all! Let’s have some kids!” Except her parents were, like, “Ew. Disgusting. No family fortune for YOU if anyone finds out!” So, to solve all of these problems, Mom decides the only way out is to slowly poison all of her children…the ones she’s kept locked in an attic for several years.

Totally normal, right?

We have no idea why this movie was as popular as it was, because man, the ick level is off the charts, but for some reason, we can’t help but love it. And we’re not alone. No, we’re not going to plop our own kids down in front of the VCR and show this thing to them, but there was just something so deliciously scandalous about sneaking out to the theater or, years later, to the video store to check out a movie you knew you shouldn’t be watching.

That’s what it was for us. Scandalous and kind of gross, but still oddly appealing.

We ♥ Flowers in the Attic.

Can’t Fight This Feeling

•April 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“…and even as I wander
I’m keeping you in sight
You’re a candle in the window
On a cold, dark winter’s night”

Our favorite decade was chock-full of power ballads, from movie duets like Ann Wilson & Mike Reno’s “Almost Paradise” from Footloose (which we ♥) to hair-metal classics like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” (which we, naturally, also ♥)…and then right in between them were the pseudo-heavy slow songs like the one that gets our ♥ today.

REO Speedwagon had plenty of hits in the late 70s and early 80s, but after mid-1982’s “Keep the Fire Burnin'”, they had a bit of a drought…until the release of their album Wheels are Turnin’ in November 1984. Its first single “I Do’ Wanna Know” did okay, but it was an abject failure compared to the syrupy-sweet friend-zone ballad “Can’t Fight This Feelin'”. From its first tinkly notes straight through to its hugely-satisfying power-chord ending, it’s a song that seemed tailor-made for the high school dance circuit during our favorite decade.

Written by lead singer Kevin Cronin some 10 years earlier and dusted off during some REO downtime in Hawaii in early ’84, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” spent a total of 18 weeks on the chart, peaking at the top spot in all the land on March 9, 1985. It spent three weeks at #1, and it marked the last time our favorite 80s-band-named-after-the-early-century-precursor-to-the-pickup-truck topped the charts.

Despite being more than three decades old, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” has continued to enjoy quite the shelf life, most prominently in the Fox hit Glee, as our introduction to Finn Hudson (the late Cory Monteith) in the pilot episode…and then later in ABC’s 80s-tastic hit The Goldbergs.

It’s happy and hopeful and sappy and awesome, and it’s still a classic, so it’s no wonder…

We ♥ Can’t Fight This Feeling.

Shoulder Pads

•April 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

shoulderpads

“No! Taller! I need more height at my shoulders!”

That’s how we feel most conversations about fashion started in the 80s, especially for any woman wearing suits to work. That was the thing about the 80s–power dressing was a thing, and women were totally killing the game. And that’s where shoulder pads come in.

Shoulder pads in the 80s pretty much took on a life of their own.

They started out innocently enough, but as the decade progressed, so did the size…because apparently in the 80s the taller your shoulder pads, the more power you held. While originally they were sewn into the clothes, some genius eventually came up with the idea to attach them with Velcro, meaning you could go from power suit to… well, regular suit in an instant.

(We like to imagine that many of these women felt like Clark Kent getting ready to save the day when they got ready in the morning–shoving their shoulder pads in place…)

While it was mostly women who were rocking this trend, we can’t forget the gentlemen who were bold enough to pad their shoulders as well. Seriously…look at Prince! We definitely love that guy, and he definitely loved shoulder pads.

As the 80s progressed, shoulder pads grew to almost the size of dinner plates, but as our favorite decade came to a close, so did most peoples’ love for the padded pieces of power. Not us though… we’ll always have a place for them in our hearts, and that’s why…

We ♥ shoulder pads.

Shopping Malls

•April 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“Let’s go to the mall, everybody!” – Robin Sparkles

Ah, for the sweet love of everything that was awesome about the 80s, was there ever anything better than a trip to the mall?

Setting aside an entire day (or night…or both) for some serious shopping with your friends (after getting all decked out in your best duds)? Gnarly to the max.

Sure, sure– we hear you… malls weren’t invented in the 80s, but just because something was born in the 50s (and essentially died in the 00s), doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it here… because as all of us know, the shopping mall had its heyday in our favorite decade.

Whether you worked at one, spent every waking (non-school) moment at one, or just hit its food court and the movie theater on sporadic weekends, the mall was THE place. And if you’re at all like us, you know there was no feeling like throwing open the doors to the local galleria and breathing in that awesome smell of Corn Dog on a Stick mixed with Foot Locker.

Speaking of stores, shall we strap on our velcro tennis shoes and walk down memory lane a little? Remember Chess King? Musicland? Gadzooks? Software Etc? Waldenbooks? Sam Goody? Merry-Go-Round? Camelot Music? Sharper Image? They were all 80s retail giants, and they all have one thing in common–they no longer exist.

Sure, we could suggest pausing for a moment of silence in memory of those stores and the shopping mall itself (at least as we 80s kids knew them), but we prefer to instead just look back on the good times…the fun times…the times when we could spend a totally rad day with our friends at Benetton and the Time Out arcade.

We ♥ shopping malls.

sex, lies and videotape

•April 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“Garbage. All I’ve been thinking about all week is garbage. I mean, I just can’t stop thinking about it…”

As the 80s drew to a close, a new movie arrived in theaters. But this wasn’t any ordinary movie. No sir. This little bit of awesomeness was not only an instant classic in and of itself, it ushered in the dawn of a whole new (well, not NEW… but certainly old-in-a-new-light) kind of movie.

For years, independent movies had languished in the obscure art-house theaters in the bohemian section of town. And only people who considered themselves ‘cineastes’ would ever go see them. Usually independent films were weird, incoherent, and not at all entertaining for the average Joe.

Then came sex, lies and videotape (and its totally cool all-lowercase title).

And while, yes, it was still quite a bit ‘out there’, its cast included household names (Steff from Pretty in Pink, Dale from St. Elmo’s Fire, Michael from Summer Lovers, and Kit, who we’d already started seeing in trailers for the following year’s Pretty Woman).

The story of a loner named Graham (James Spader) who rolls into a sleepy little Louisiana town to meet up with his buddy John (Peter Gallagher), sex, lies and videotape had our attention from the very first shot of the asphalt rolling by to the tune of Mark Mangini’s percussive guitar solo.

Full of, well… sex, lies, and videotape, the movie tackled infidelity, impotence, and a loveless marriage like we’d never seen those topics done before. Anne (Andie MacDowell) is married to John, who’s cheating with Anne’s sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). When Graham arrives, he brings literal baggage (a duffle bag full of videotapes and a camera) and emotional baggage (he can’t be sexually aroused in the presence of anyone).

Secrets are uncovered, tables are turned, punches are thrown, and plants are used as sexual ornaments.

And it all came from the mind of an unknown writer and director named Steven Soderbergh.

sex, lies and videotape would not only win the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, it would also score an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay, and it would help secure each of the main actors’ careers for many more years.

It would also help launch a fledgling movie studio named Miramax into the stratosphere. And Soderbergh did okay for himself, too.

sex, lies and videotape earned more then $24 million by the time 1989 drew to a close–– not bad on a budget of just over $1 million. More importantly it helped pave the way for other independent movies like Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant, and Pulp Fiction.

Not too shabby indeed.

“I think it’s gonna rain.”
“It is raining.”
“Yeah.”

We ♥ sex, lies and videotape.

Kiss Off

•April 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

“I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record…”

We all learned to count to ten long before the Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off” first entered our consciousness… but we don’t remember ever having more fun at it than when we sang along with mopey-voiced Gordon Gano.

The Milwaukee trio may never have cracked the Billboard charts, but if you were of age in the 80s, and if you enjoyed a nice high school party every now and then, well… chances are the Femmes were often on the boombox.

Their biggest song, of course, was 1983’s alt-rock ditty “Blister in the Sun”, but we here at Best of the 80s maintain that “Kiss Off” (an unreleased single–– also off their debut, self-titled album) was their best.

“You can all just kiss off into the air, behind my back I can see them stare…”

Even without the little counting lesson in the middle of the song, “Kiss Off” would have still been a classic tune, but WITH it? Well, it’s just that much better (and eminently more memorable).

“I take 1 1 1 ’cause you left me,
and 2 2 2 for my family,
and 3 3 3 for my heartache,
and 4 4 4 for my headaches,
and 5 5 5 for my lonely,
and 6 6 6 for my sorrow,
and 7 7 n-n-no tomorrow,
and 8 8 I forget what 8 was for,
and 9 9 9 for a lost god,
and 10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything…”

If we told you the Femmes went on to record seven other studio albums and that they only officially broke up in 2009 (before getting back together 4 years later), you might look at us with a cockeyed glance… but it’s true.

And though they never had any other songs quite as successful as the ones off their first album, we’ll argue that’s plenty.

The Femmes were as awesome as they come in the ‘folk punk’ world, and “Kiss Off”? Well… yeah, yeah, we’ll listen all the time. (Yeah yeah.)

We ♥ Kiss Off.