Dave Kinzer listened to all 4,172 songs that made Billboard’s Hot 100 chart during the 80s. Then he compiled 113 lists that include over 3600 of those Billboard songs. Pause and admire his dedication to the decade.
Then he published The 80s Music Compendium – a book of lists that includes everything from songs that were sung in foreign languages (99 Luftballons still holds up, in my opinion); songs that use certain instruments (looking for some ace pop to play on your oboe? Crazy for You by Madonna is just the ticket); 80s hits that are remakes of songs from different decades (basically, if you’re looking for a hit, dig out your Mavelettes vinyl. Also, recognise this?); and songs with particular modulation (so if you’ve been busting to learn an 80s hit heavy on the ostinato, you could start with I Send a Message by INXS).
Some of the lists are very long. Kinzer has gone for ‘comprehensive’ rather than ‘representative’ – fair enough, it’s that kind of book. I guess I tend to favour a curated list, one that says, for example, “of all the songs featuring ‘robot voice’ to hit the Billboard chart in the 80s, these are the top five” (there were more than sixty songs with robot voice but I think Sly Fox’s Let’s Go All the Way; Real Life’s Catch Me I’m Falling; Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You; Taco’s Puttin’ On The Ritz and ONJ’s Landslide would make my list).
The lists also reminded me that, in Australia, we get a lot of homegrown music and music from the UK – the eighties for me were largely about Culture Club, Kim Wilde, INXS, George Michael and lesser-known Australian bands. Although I was familiar with almost all of the songs on Kinzer’s US-based Billboard lists, I realised that Juice Newton and J. Geils Band just weren’t quite as big in Australia as they seemed to be in America.
Who is this book for? Music teachers with a penchant for the 80s and hardcore trivia buffs.
Of course, I can’t review this book without my own list. So, thanks to Kinzer’s work, here are my top ten 80s hits that I had forgotten (they weren’t on my 80s playlists but are are now) –
10. Freeze Frame by J. Geils Band
9. Rhythm of the Night by DeBarge
8. Iko Iko by Belle Stars (watch this clip if only for the Lycra)
7. Rock Me Amadeus by Falco
6. Shiny Shiny by Haysi Fantayzee
5. Montego Bay by Amazulu
4. I Eat Cannibals by Toto Coelo
3. Just Be Good to Me by S.O.S. Band (check out the keytar)
2. Like Flames by Berlin
1. Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins
3/5 I love a list but I guess I love subjective lists the most.