big hair, tight pants

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The movie is pretty much what you'd expect from this picture and that's okay 

THE songs listed below are those required for a Rock of Ages (movie) playlist. I watched it with friends and realized that despite my initial thought that these were not the 80s songs of me or my people (new wave anglophiles), I knew them all. And many brought (unexpected) joy! So we determined a proper, original artist rebuilt soundtrack was necessary. Everything from the movie, except for We Built This City which brings no joy to anyone at any time as far as I can tell.

I started writing this several weeks ago but I wasn’t happy with how it was turning out. So I decided some in depth listening was in order. First listen (apart from the short versions in the movie) was over computer speakers while doing something else - obviously this is no good for thinking about any individual song - my established favorites would stand out and everything else ran together. Next was in the car - there are many car references below and this is why - which is great for assessing how the music makes me FEEL, but road noise makes it tough to suss out particulars. After that, it’s been earbuds plugged directly into earholes which is not always the best for everything, but it is great for helping me hear lyrics. I’m generally not a lyrics person (I know), but if I was having an especially good or bad time, I tried to pay extra attention to see if I could figure out why. I’ve got new respect for some of the lyrics, but some remain forever dopey. (Which is true of all songs from all genres from all time.)

(I go back and forth on whether or not I should have included all these pictures. I was going to take them out, but they make me laugh and I seriously scalded my eyeballs finding them - I've seen things I can't un-see -  and don't want that effort to be for naught.)

Night Ranger
1. Sister Christian - Night Ranger (1984): the big thing here for me is MOTORIN’, as I suspect it is for most people. I can endure the guitar solo because it gets me back to MOTORIN. I can’t say that these lyrics really make much sense, but maybe that’s because MOTORIN’ just takes over everything. If I was making up a story from what I think the song is about: Sister Christian is a nun on a motorcycle road trip who rebuffs would be earnest suitors because her love (after The Lord) is The Road. Would-be earnest suitors take it personally when she leaves them in the dust, but they shouldn’t because that’s just her nature. MOTORIN’

David Lee Roth

2. Just Like Paradise - David Lee Roth (1988): There’s no denying the vital energy of David Lee Roth, except this song is 1 minute too long. UPON FURTHER LISTENING: This is one of the songs on the list about happiness (desired or experienced) with a romantic partner. Dave sounds like a confident adult here - he’s happy, and he appreciates it in the moment. Things are good and he’s going to see where it goes. I’m not picking up any weird rockstar mind games from this. Well played and no longer too long. (Read this interview with DLR  - you won’t be sorry!)

3. Nothin’ but a Good Time - Poison (1988): Ugh, Poison. I’m trying. This is a little better on earbuds, but I put it in my ears and my ears reject it. This should be a fun song but it’s full of false joy and fluffed up machismo. It sounds calculated, which is an unfair complaint because lots of songs are calculated. Calculation is not a crime! Maybe I don’t like it because it doesn’t sound like they’re even having a good time? Maybe I’d like it better if someone else was singing? It bums me out a little because if there is a Poison song that I would like, this should be it.

Foreigner as young wizards
4. Juke Box Hero - Foreigner (1981): bombastic and dramatic but I still dig it. Just going by the title (and hollering JUKE. BOX. HERO at the appropriate moments) I thought this was their version of The Who’s Pinball Wizard. Like, this guy is really good at playing the jukebox! He picks the perfect songs and they play at the perfect times for his personal life drama! Is the tale of a young man who excels at a task requiring coins in a slot one of the seven basic plots? Stepping away from my wizard fever dreams reveals that the titular hero is playing a guitar (in the pouring rain!) and his songs APPEAR on a jukebox. He’s gotta keep on rocking or he will revert to pre-jukebox hero status, which is bad I guess. I can’t help it and I don’t want to help it: I like Foreigner, with or without wizards.

Joan Jett. I make this face every time I hear this song.

5. I Love Rock N’ Roll - Joan Jett (1982): I love this song forever and always. JOAN JETT! Effortlessly badass, aggressively romantic. Roller rink anthem for all time. Dimes in this jukebox forever and ever.

Pat Benatar
6. Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar (1979): BENATAR! I love her take no bullshit tough femininity. Plus her voice is huge. Put up your dukes let’s get down to it. PUT UP YOUR DUKES.

Lou Gramm is waiting
7. Waiting For a Girl Like You - Foreigner (1982): plinky synthesizers, plaintive wailing - I have a hard time believing that he doesn’t say this to all the girls. But relative perceived sincerity doesn’t really matter when you’re singing along with the windows down. Waiting for yoooOOOOOOOuuu.

Extreme leans into the wind machine

8. More Than Words - Extreme (1990): I know this song was a mellow jam for a lot of people in 1990 but it sounds all my bullshit alarms. (Does this mean I have no magic in my heart? ) It presents as romantic (because there are bongos??), but when I listen to the lyrics they back up my vague unease. It’s not about a FEELING that’s more than words, but rather Mr. Extreme cooing that his lady should just shut up and SHOW HIM if you know what he means and he thinks that you do since he’s pointing to his junk. This just comes off as gross emotional manipulation to me. Ladies, dump this loser.


9. Heaven - Warrant (1989): I like their notion of Heaven being some kind of happy domestic life, but I can’t stop making the face I make every time he refers to his love object as “that little girl.” UGH (I’m making it now). Compare this to Just Like Paradise above - David Lee Roth is all “holy shit! this is great RIGHT NOW” and this guy is “someday soon it won’t be so bad, probably. Maybe after I get a raise and you reach the age of majority and your friends stop being such bitches.” Major belt-along chorus, though.

Richie Sambora in a  hat
10. Wanted Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi (1986): SO MUCH DELICIOUS JERSEY COWBOY DRAMA.

Lou Gramm of Foreigner

11. I Want to Know What Love Is - Foreigner (1984): This is the same in general area as the Extreme song above: I want to know what love is/ I want you to show me, but it does not gross me out! These dudes sound like they mean it, I think because the singer is vulnerable - he’s known heartache and pain! But he digs you, girl! He wants to know what love is! He wants you (YOU) to show him (yr boobs, probably. But still).

Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister

12. I Wanna Rock- Twisted Sister (1984): Simple in concept, enjoyable in execution. He knows what he wants, and what he wants is TO ROCK. The end.

Def Leppard

13. Pour Some Sugar On Me - Def Leppard (1987): Okay, so this song is completely unsubtle, made of lyrics cribbed from Double Entendres for Dummies. Take the bottle/ shake it up, etc. There is very little mystery, it’s full of 80s hair metal excess… and yet I like it now and I liked it then! I don’t know what to tell you - is this really better than that Poison song above? Objectively, I have no idea. Subjectively, 1000 times better.

14. Harden My Heart - Quarterflash (1981): so much SAXOPHONE! Is there a more 80s instrument than the saxophone? But this is a great singalong song. In my mind, she’s singing this to the ’more than words’ dude. “You never had a clue, but it’s time you got the news.”


15. Shadows of the Night - Pat Benatar (1979): I love her voice, and I love her whole take on things - she sings as a cool, wise older sister explaining life to the rest of us. As mere human mortals without Anthem Powers, we make mistakes! But magnanimous Benatar understands and will be there for our belt-along needs. I want this to be playing behind a montage where I turn into a powerful yet benevolent 1980s wizard. My cloak will have shoulder pads and my bangs will be impervious to all weather.

16. Here I go again - Whitesnake (1987): The lyrics are TERRIBLE like a drifter I was born to walk alone and because I know what it means/ to walk along the lonely street of dreams, but so help me Mr. Whitesnake has a really great voice for this kind of song and I have to give it to him. There’s some weird chimey bits in the background that mark this as egregiously eighties, but I must give it my grudging respect.

REO Speedwagon

17. Can't Fight This Feeling - REO Speedwagon (1984): AAAARGH. I can’t fight this feeling any longer, either. This song is so dumb! “it’s time to bring this ship into the shore/ and throw away the oars forever” (no oars on a ship, my sister pointed out immediately). But I must admit there’s a dopey sweetness to it.

18. Any Way You Want It - Journey (1980): I used to roller skate really fast to this song, so it’s associated in my mind with that giddy feeling. Hooo-oooooooo-oooooooooo-ooooOOOld oooon!


19. Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison (1988): Even with its cowboys and their sad, sad songs I can only get into this song a little. My guess is that this was the favorite song of whoever held the lighter concession at the arena.


20. Rock You Like a Hurricane - Scorpions (1984): They just want to melt your face with the power of their guitars. Maybe my eyes will melt first.

Twisted Sister

21. We’re Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister (1984): I appreciate how they state their purpose at the beginning and never deviate from it. They’re not gonna take it, so don’t even try to give it to them.


22. Don’t Stop Believing - Journey (1981): This song is massively overexposed (GLEE, etc.) but it still makes me happy in its way. (Heaven is a funky moose: a tribute to America)  As a band, Journey is tied to many of the Florida roller rink memories of my childhood and will always have a little piece of my cheeseball heart.

Guns N' Roses

23. Paradise City - Guns N' Roses (1987): Hearing this for the first time in a million years while in a car with road noise meant all lyrics except for the chorus were a mystery. So we’re left with take me down to paradise city/ where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. You’re designing paradise and those are your only two requirements? Done and done! BUT THEN I get home and listen closer and of course it’s a song about social injustice and I feel like a jerk. The song is several orders of magnitude better than many others on this list (::coughPoisoncough::) and has a propulsive quality that may lead to excessive freeway speeds.

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