The '80s gave us George Bush, but it also gave us Boy George and George Michael. If an era can be defined by its music, the '80s played like one long party. And now WXYC is resurrecting the festivities at its biannual '80s dance, coming up this Saturday, March 29, at the Cat's Cradle. To get things rolling, here's the ultimate '80s party-mix CD. Apologies if your favorite song ("Valley Girl" by Frank Zappa, perhaps?) is omitted, but the focus was on dancing. Here's what we want to hear, and why:
1. "Dance Hall Days," Wang Chung--Originally Huang Chung, the name is supposedly a translation of some inscrutable dialect meaning "perfect pitch." Whatever. This undulating sing-along from the London-based outfit is the perfect way to get our '80s party started. Call it an invitation to the dance, if you will.
2. "Der Kommissar," After the Fire--Never guess that this Teutonic number came from a band of Brits, eh? Ominous warnings from der musik uberlord that you had better watch your step, jah? "Don't turn around, oh-oh!" A slice of vintage 1980s cheese at its finest.
3. "Whip It," Devo--As in "whip you into a frenzy" of '80s nostalgia. The video for this MTV classic by Mark Mothersbaugh and troops seems primitive now, but was considered groundbreaking--and naughty--at the time. Reports that the sale of bullwhips soared when this first aired were never confirmed.
4. "Turning Japanese," The Vapors--A one-hit wonder (if ever there was one) from these English popsters, who were associated at one time with The Jam. Just what the title of this insouciant little ditty concerns is open to speculation, but rumor has it that it refers to ... oh, never mind!
5. "Down Under," Men at Work--At the time, the second-biggest Aussie import since AC/DC. This pop postcard introduced foreign words like "chunder" and "vegemite" to American ears. A flash quickly extinguished. Nobody tops Angus Young and the boys for staying power.
6. "Walk Like an Egyptian," The Bangles--For a couple of weeks, everybody wanted to walk this way. With sexy Susanna Hoffs batting her long lashes, who could resist?
7. "I Want Candy," Bow Wow Wow--Masterminded by Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols), Annabella Lwin and the Bowsters remade the old Strangeloves riff with an '80s vengeance. Gotta love that guitar--thank you, Bo Diddley!
8. "867-5309/Jenny," Tommy Tutone--Who was Tommy Tutone? (Actually, it was a duo). Is that an actual phone number? What happened to Jenny? Who cares! This is one of those guilty pleasures (like Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl") that you are embarrassed to admit that you kinda like. Worth it for that one guitar solo during the break, and sometimes that's all you need.
9. "Sweet Dreams," The Eurythmics--Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox are nothing if ominous in this psychoanalytical pulse-pounder. "Sweet Dreams" indeed; Annie (as dominatrix) has other ideas.
10. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper--Any '80s party mix worth its salt has to include this one. Girls--as well as guys--wanna have fun, and Cyndi's "my-house-is-a-party-waiting-to-happen" anthem was a celebration of that fact. The '80s in a nutshell. Just try NOT to have fun with Cyndi's infectious WHOOPS.
11. "Owner of a Lonely Heart," Yes--Venerable art-rockers Jon Anderson, et al., score again with this misanthropic ode. Percussion and synths drive this one, like so much of the '80s soundtrack. NOTE: Include ONLY if the extended remix version is available.
12. "In a Big Country," Big Country--Supposedly the next U2, Scotland's Big Country was never really able to follow up on the promise of this anthemic rouser. Critics raved at the time. Dig those electric bagpipes!
13. "Back on the Chain Gang," The Pretenders--Well, what better way to wind up the festivities than with this harsh reminder that we've all got to go back to work in the morning? This also serves to recognize the longevity and perseverance of Chrissie Hynde, as the 2003 version of The Pretenders is now out on the road, touring behind a new album.