In the movie Stand By Me, the Wil Wheaton/Richard Dreyfus writer character memorably muses, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12." On a similar note, my wife recently shared the thought that the music you listen to while in college becomes part of you like no other music. Between the two of us, we were at the State University of New York at Albany from 1979-1984, and we stuck around Albany for another four years after graduation. Thus, the 15-volume Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s series (released in 1994 by those reissue heroes at Rhino) comes as close as any collection to being the retroactive soundtrack for our college and immediately post-college years.
So-called "new wave" was perhaps the ultimate big tent, making room for the rockabilly redux of the Stray Cats, the R&B-tinged rock of Graham Parker & the Rumour, the fledgling cowpunk of Rank & File, and the bright Buddy Hollyisms of Marshall Crenshaw alongside the synthetic sounds of Soft Cell, A Flock of Seagulls, Spandau Ballet and a host of others. In one of the most entertaining reviews I've ever read, Rob Sheffield, writing in the Spin Alternative Record Guide, takes on the Just Can't Get Enough series in all its multiple-personality glory. My favorite line: "[M]any synth-pop hits concerned nuclear apocalypse, perhaps because that's when many synth-poppers expected to find someone to make out with." It's funny because it's true, I'm here to say.
What brings all this up is that our 7-year-old son Jace recently discovered the discs, a chance encounter with Bow Wow's version of "I Like Candy" on the radio serving as the entry point. After several long drives enabled him to listen to a good chunk of the series, Jace offered, "I don't know why, but I love music from the '80s." My response was going to be, "Maybe because you don't have to experience the hairstyles that went with the music." However, lately my attempts at humor with him tend to fall flat unless I'm able to somehow work in the word "butt," so I let his comment remain rhetorical. And we continue to explore all 15 CDs and all 240 songs as journeys to summer camps and sports practices allow us.
As much as it bothers me to borrow a credit card commercial cliché, I'm going to do it anyway.
The 15-volume Just Can't Get Enough series: About $13.99 a pop.
Reliving memories from the '80s: priceless, but occasionally frightening.
Hearing your 7-year-old say, "My favorite songs on this CD are 'Hey St. Peter,' 'Cruel to Be Kind,' 'Rock 'n' Roll High School' and 'Video Killed the Radio Star'": positively priceless.