Like, Omigod!: The Totally 80s Pop Culture Box

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Format: CD (7) boxed set
Label: Rhino
Country: US
Year: 2002
Price paid: $20
Purchased at: The Sound Garden, Syracuse NY

 

I have this theory, one amongst many, that when it came to American popular music the eighties were a decade of opposites. One could argue that a line could be drawn in the sand in any decade and the tea leaves unearthed easily read with multiple interpretations, but just go with me on this…
NW1The 80s had two faces. On the one hand you had the valleygirl-filled wonderland with shopping malls on every corner, pink Izod-clad preppies roaming the halls of shiny high schools fighting competitive clique warfare, and moms in Day-Glo leg warmers sweating to a Jane Fonda workout record. This was perhaps maybe two percent of America. It existed… I saw it on a trip to Los Angeles in 1986 and it was full-on rad. But for the vast majority of us it was a rather dire grey time with no cell phones or internet. Hell, growing up my house didn’t even have a microwave, VCR, and cable TV until halfway through the decade. This compilation clearly fits into the former, distilling the decade down to a hot pink Mohawk.

 
NW2Now that I think about it there’s another level of eighties stratification. On the one hand you had the glistening pop sphere that dominated the charts. Bubblegum and other generally squeaky-clean genres that said little… but said it loudly. And then there was that subterranean world that flowed darkly and deeply below the surface, a nameless entity that pop plundered periodically for its style. So vast, it had no name, no cohesive single style that one could hang a hat on. Towards the end of the eighties this undercurrent became more codified… more marketable… and began to be known by names such as ‘Indie’ and ‘Alternative.’ This compilation without question fits into that first camp, the likes of Siouxsie and Concrete Blonde need not apply. Although Robert Smith managed to sneak in somehow.

 
NW3And then there’s the whole early eighties/late eighties thing. Stylistically there’s a sharp difference between the two, and that division can be drawn pretty much at the half-decade mark. Early eighties was dominated by New Wave (capital ‘N’ capital ‘W’) with its fondness for synthesizers and neon, but by 1985 that style was swiftly falling out of favor, to be replaced by a leaner and far less fifties-style kitsch aesthetic. The gulf between Devo and New Kids on the Block (both appear here) is vast; they have nothing in common save for appearing on the head and ass ends of the decade, respectively. This compilation (thankfully) spends a vast majority of its time in the pre-1985 big hair period, with only a spattering of crap like Bobby McFerrin and later-day B-52’s.

 
And then there’s, well don’t get me started on the heavy US bias on display here. I guess that’s to be expected since this IS an American product meant for consumption by Americans, but it paints a weird and highly exclusive picture. Suffice it to say you won’t be finding any Toyah or Kate Bush in this collection, while artists like Bananrama and Thomas Dolby are pegged as One-Hit Wonders at best…

 
The packaging is exactly what you’d expect, sizzling like a radioactive avocado and nail polish. So many eighties’ design clichés are packed per square inch that the whole affair threatens to collapse in on itself in a riot of neon at any moment. At this point in the game, some 30 years on, even a blind chimp knows enough of the decade’s style to throw together a passable design. Where the package really shines though is in its excess- hefty gatefold multi-chambered case, seven garish CDs, and a colorful (if not remedial) square-bound booklet that sizzles with style over substance.

 

 

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The tunes themselves are a mixed bag, but at 142 tracks there’s more than enough to go around. They range from predictable yet good (‘Whip It’, ‘Mickey’, ‘867-5309’), to the slightly surprising (‘Pac-Man Fever’, ‘Genius of Love’, ‘Voices Scary’) to the downright crappy (‘Sister Christian’, ‘Keep Your Hands to Yourself’, ‘Let’s Hear it For the Boy’.) There’s also more than a few soundtrack/TV show themes thrown in to spice up the mix a little, but with ditties like ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Theme from the Greatest American Hero’ I would have been happier with a few more B-list songs.

 
Overall I’d have to call this a great little set for what it is. There’s more than enough good stuff on here to entertain for hours on a long car trip and I think ultimately I think that’s what Rhino were after- a disposable glimpse into a disposable decade. Totally.

 

 

The massive track list:

Disc 1 (21 tracks)
1. “Whip It” — Devo 2:39 (1980)
2. “Video Killed the Radio Star” — The Buggles 3:27 (1979)
3. “Empire Strikes Back (Medley)” — Meco 3:03 (1980)
4. “Another One Bites the Dust” — Queen 3:34 (1980)
5. “Celebration” — Kool & the Gang 3:43 (1981)
6. “The Breaks (Pt. 1)” — Kurtis Blow 4:09 (1980)
7. “Let My Love Open the Door” — Pete Townshend 2:44 (1980)
8. “Call Me” — Blondie 3:32 (1980)
9. “Keep on Loving You” — REO Speedwagon 3:22 (1981)
10. “Turning Japanese” — The Vapors 3:44 (1980)
11. “Lost in Love” — Air Supply 3:54 (1980)
12. “9 to 5” — Dolly Parton 2:46 (1980)
13. “I Love a Rainy Night” — Eddie Rabbitt 3:10 (1980)
14. “Sailing” — Christopher Cross 4:16 (1980)
15. “Just the Two of Us” — Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers 3:58 (1981)
16. “Cars” — Gary Numan 3:57 (1980)
17. “Ah! Leah!” — Donnie Iris 3:43 (1980)
18. “Sweetheart” — Franke and the Knockouts 3:49 (1981)
19. “Shake It Up” — The Cars 3:34 (1981)
20. “General Hospi-Tale” — The Afternoon Delights 4:01 (1981)
21. “The Stroke” — Billy Squier 3:37 (1981)

Disc 2 (20 tracks)
1. “Dancing with Myself” — Billy Idol 3:19 (1981)
2. “Working for the Weekend” — Loverboy 3:41 (1981)
3. “Jessie’s Girl” — Rick Springfield 3:15 (1981)
4. “Genius of Love” — Tom Tom Club 3:30 (1981)
5. “Centerfold” — The J. Geils Band 3:38 (1982)
6. “At This Moment” — Billy Vera & the Beaters 4:14 (1986)
7. “Harden My Heart” — Quarterflash 3:37 (1982)
8. “Hold on Loosely” — .38 Special 3:55 (1981)
9. “Theme from ‘Greatest American Hero’ (Believe It or Not)” — Joey Scarbury 3:14 (1981)
10. “Take Off” — Bob and Doug McKenzie 2:43 (1981)
11. “Super Freak (Pt. 1)” — Rick James 3:20 (1981)
12. “867-5309/Jenny” — Tommy Tutone 3:47 (1982)
13. “Bette Davis Eyes” — Kim Carnes 3:45 (1981)
14. “Time” — The Alan Parsons Project 4:32 (1981)
15. “Gloria” — Laura Branigan 4:52 (1982)
16. “Maneater” — Hall & Oates 4:32 (1982)
17. “The Theme from Hill Street Blues” — Mike Post 3:14 (1981)
18. “Valley Girl” — Frank Zappa with Moon Unit 3:48 (1982)
19. “Da Da Da (I Don’t Love You You Don’t Love Me Aha Aha Aha)” — Trio 3:25 (1981)
20. “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” — The Gap Band 4:03 (1982)

Disc 3 (21 tracks)
1. “Hungry Like the Wolf” — Duran Duran 4:05 (1982)
2. “The Look of Love (Pt. 1)” — ABC 3:31 (1982)
3. “Tainted Love” — Soft Cell 2:42 (1981)
4. “Rock This Town” — Stray Cats 2:40 (1982)
5. “Lies” — Thompson Twins 3:14 (1983)
6. “Words” — Missing Persons 4:24 (1982)
7. “Don’t You Want Me” — The Human League 3:58 (1981)
8. “Love Plus One” — Haircut 100 3:37 (1982)
9. “Down Under” — Men at Work 3:43 (1982)
10. “Steppin’ Out” — Joe Jackson 3:47 (1982)
11. “I Want Candy” — Bow Wow Wow 2:46 (1982)
12. “Come On Eileen” — Dexys Midnight Runners 4:14 (1983)
13. “Mickey” — Toni Basil 3:27 (1982)
14. “Twilight Zone” — Golden Earring 4:51 (1982)
15. “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” — Melissa Manchester 3:58 (1982)
16. “Key Largo” — Bertie Higgins 3:07 (1982)
17. “Pac-Man Fever” — Buckner & Garcia 3:55 (1982)
18. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” — Bonnie Tyler 5:35 (1983)
19. “Africa” — Toto 4:19 (1983)
20. “Goodbye to You” — Scandal 3:47 (1982)
21. “Puttin’ on the Ritz” — Taco 3:25 (1982)

Disc 4 (20 tracks)
1. “Jeopardy” — The Greg Kihn Band 3:47 (1983)
2. “She Blinded Me with Science” — Thomas Dolby 3:42 (1982)
3. “Electric Avenue” — Eddy Grant 3:49 (1982)
4. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — Eurythmics 3:36 (1983)
5. “Our House” — Madness 3:23 (1982)
6. “The Salt in My Tears” — Martin Briley 3:30 (1983)
7. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” — Cyndi Lauper 3:53 (1983)
8. “Talking in Your Sleep” — The Romantics 3:57 (1983)
9. “Major Tom (Coming Home)” — Peter Schilling 4:12 (1983)
10. “Always Something There to Remind Me” — Naked Eyes 3:41 (1983)
11. “In a Big Country” — Big Country 3:55 (1983)
12. “One Thing Leads to Another” — The Fixx 3:24 (1983)
13. “Der Kommisar” — After the Fire 4:08 (1983)
14. “Suddenly Last Summer” — The Motels 3:42 (1983)
15. “Karma Chameleon” — Culture Club 4:08 (1984)
16. “Let’s Go to Bed” — The Cure 3:34 (1982)
17. “Too Shy” — Kajagoogoo 3:36 (1983)
18. “Maniac” — Michael Sembello 4:11 (1983)
19. “Sister Christian” — Night Ranger 4:21 (1984)
20. “Cum on Feel the Noize” — Quiet Riot 3:27 (1984)

Disc 5 (20 tracks)
1. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” — Yes 3:51 (1983)
2. “Mr. Roboto” — Styx 4:49 (1983)
3. “I’m So Excited” — The Pointer Sisters 3:50 (1984)
4. “Back on the Chain Gang” — The Pretenders 3:53 (1982)
5. “I Want to Know What Love Is” — Foreigner 5:00 (1984)
6. “Sunglasses at Night” — Corey Hart 3:54 (1984)
7. “Missing You” — John Waite 4:02 (1984)
8. “99 Luftballons” — Nena 3:53 (1983)
9. “Tenderness” — General Public 3:31 (1984)
10. “They Don’t Know” — Tracey Ullman 3:01 (1983)
11. “Heaven” — Bryan Adams 3:58 (1985)
12. “White Horse” — Laid Back 3:53 (1983)
13. “Let the Music Play” — Shannon 4:31 (1983)
14. “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” — Deniece Williams 4:10 (1984)
15. “Cool It Now” — New Edition 4:09 (1984)
16. “Ghostbusters” — Ray Parker, Jr. 4:00 (1984)
17. “Footloose” — Kenny Loggins 3:44 (1984)
18. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — Twisted Sister 3:39 (1984)
19. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” — Scorpions 4:12 (1984)
20. “The Glamorous Life” — Sheila E. 3:42 (1984)

Disc 6 (20 tracks)
1. “Obsession” — Animotion 3:58 (1985)
2. “Shout” — Tears for Fears 4:06 (1985)
3. “Take on Me” — a-ha 3:47 (1985)
4. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” — Simple Minds 4:20 (1985)
5. “Walking on Sunshine” — Katrina and the Waves 3:59 (1985)
6. “Voices Carry” — ‘Til Tuesday 4:23 (1985)
7. “Weird Science” — Oingo Boingo 3:49 (1985)
8. “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” — Dead or Alive 3:17 (1985)
9. “Miami Vice Theme” — Jan Hammer 2:27 (1985)
10. “Life in a Northern Town” — The Dream Academy 4:17 (1986)
11. “Kyrie” — Mr. Mister 4:15 (1985)
12. “Everytime You Go Away” — Paul Young 4:16 (1985)
13. “We Built This City” — Starship 4:56 (1985)
14. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” — John Parr 4:10 (1985)
15. “Addicted to Love” — Robert Palmer 4:01 (1986)
16. “Axel F” — Harold Faltermeyer 3:01 (1985)
17. “Rhythm of the Night” — DeBarge 3:54 (1985)
18. “You Look Marvelous” — Billy Crystal 3:58 (1985)
19. “Heartbeat” — Don Johnson 4:17 (1986)
20. “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” — Wang Chung 4:11 (1986)

Disc 7 (20 tracks)
1. “Venus” — Bananarama 3:50 (1986)
2. “Walk Like an Egyptian” — The Bangles 3:23 (1986)
3. “Paranoimia” — Art of Noise and Max Headroom 3:18 (1986)
4. “If You Leave” — Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 4:26 (1986)
5. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” — The Georgia Satellites 3:24 (1986)
6. “What You Need” — INXS 3:35 (1986)
7. “Walk This Way” — Run-D.M.C. 3:39 (1986)
8. “Rumors” — Timex Social Club 3:33 (1986)
9. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” — Crowded House 3:57 (1987)
10. “Holding Back the Years” — Simply Red 4:12 (1986)
11. “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” — New Kids on the Block 3:57 (1989)
12. “Tuff Enuff” — The Fabulous Thunderbirds 3:23 (1986)
13. “Since You’ve Been Gone” — The Outfield 4:13 (1987)
14. “Only in My Dreams” — Debbie Gibson 3:52 (1987)
15. “Never Gonna Give You Up” — Rick Astley 3:32 (1988)
16. “La Bamba” — Los Lobos 2:54 (1987)
17. “Wild, Wild West” — The Escape Club 4:06 (1988)
18. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — Bobby McFerrin 3:55 (1988)
19. “Right Here Waiting” — Richard Marx 4:25 (1989)
20. “Roam” — The B-52’s 4:04 (1989)

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