Full disclosure: I’ve never had television. No cable, no channels, and for many of my years (including now) – not even a set. I’ve had to make up for lost time, people.
But even then, some pop culture still got to me, little weirdo I was. What makes these 80s videos compelling enough for a re-watch? Most of them are infectious rock ballads that beg us to sing along (admit it!). Some are near-forgotten – and perhaps should stay that way. And there are a few awesome fashion surprises that we should never let dissipate in the mists of time.
Eddie Murphy, “Party all the Time” (1985)
This is pretty much one hundred percent 80s studio hit. You can’t fault anyone for trying: by 1985 Eddie Murphy was box office gold. Maybe you’re too young to remember Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Place, Coming to America, and 48 Hrs. – to name a few! He also was wickedly funny, naughty, and looked good in a pencil thin mustache and a pleather set.
There’s everything to love about this video, not least of all the smiling, bro-slapping affection these roadies and artists give one another before Murphy casually dons his headphones and records a scorching first-take vocal line – in what has to be the phoniest, corniest faux-studio recording vignette of the era. There are like two hundred more people in that recording booth than would be necessary. And the background singer/dancer with the yellow knit dress and midriff cut-out? I can honestly say I’ve never seen that fashion before – or since.
Also, I don’t know that much about cocaine, but Rick James’ enthusiasm in this video (like at 1:05 and 1:35, also literally every other time he’s onscreen) doesn’t seem like sober behavior. And wtf is up with the dude on the right at 2:28?
Rick Springfield, “Don’t Talk to Strangers” (1982)
I’ll bet you thought “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield – the erstwhile hunky soap opera star – was his creepiest song, right? WRONG. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is a nasty, awesome little rock ditty. The lyrics are disturbing enough, but the video brings it home. Rick hunches under a table and fondles his ex-girlfriend’s leg, grasps his guitar neck suggestively while grimacing, and does some window-peeping before finally breaking in. If I was gonna make an MRA mixtape, this would headline.
Billy Ocean, “Loverboy” (1986)
Taking it up a notch – this song is so much fun to sing, like belt out, while driving. If you don’t agree, I just feel sad for you. Billy Ocean’s voice has been known to melt clothes right off.
That said, this video is a smoldering pile of sandpeople dung – despite the epic opening promise of a beachside galloping horse to an awesome guitar riff. Now… you’d have to have literally dwelled inside a cave like the sad-ass one depicted here, not to know what sci-fi franchise the video is co-opting. This video also has the distinction of having the grossest, “I’m totally horny for you” bar stare-down I’ve ever seen (1:57). Think: greasy Fraggle-llama. I love almost every hit Ocean had, and I love that he performs dainty pelvic thrusts in every video he’s done.
John Parr, “Naughty Naughty” (1984)
Melodic yet hard-driving, this rock effort features a man basically begging his lady for sex – and it is pure, wonderful sleaze. Maybe I wouldn’t like the song so much if it wasn’t the opener for one of the sexiest horror scenes in cinema – although damn, come on, it’s a good song. Like the bridge lyric: “With your hair hung down / and your dress riding high / and your eyes burning hot like the sun!”
Given the skeeze, the video is still lots of fun and one of many featuring a blue collar car mechanic hero (and hey – I would double-slap a dude leering at me like that, too!). Bonus: Parr’s “virginal” Lisa Rinna-esque girlfriend (wait… it IS Lisa Rinna!) has some kind of great 80s casual day dress/jogging set going on. And I’ll never say no to whippet-thin 80s vixens flinging their hair and high-kicking, either.
Foreigner, “Urgent” (1981)
I have a love/hate relationship with Foreigner. I think I was exposed to their pervitude at way too young an age. That said, Lou Gramm’s voice is just classic, rivaling that of my favorite rocker/crooner, Joe Elliot of Def Leppard. Gramm can belt out with sincerity either vulnerable, sweet power ballads (“I Want to Know What Love Is” could be directed to a lover – or to the Holy Spirit) – or songs that are basically: SOMETHING IMPORTANT IS HAPPENING IN MY PANTS. This song is the latter, and it’s ridiculous. And I love it! Also Lou. I’m sorry about the jeans. I hope your sperm count revived.
The Cult, “She Sells Sanctuary” (1985)
Speaking of vocal chops: Ian Astbury! Also: bonus points if you knew the lyrics without looking them up! WTF is he saying? It gets easier as the song goes along. Plus, not knowing the lyrics should be no serious impediment to belting out a song.
How old is Mr. Astbury in this video? I want to make out with him. I’m pretty sure I should feel bad about this.
Heart, “Alone” (1987)
A sexy-AF power-ballad off the Bad Animals album, Heart once again proves they dominate, and you shouldn’t even try. Goth before it was mainstream, Ann Wilson alternates between whisper-sultry vocals and the kind of power-vocals that give me goosebumps every time. All while wearing a goddamned mesh veil and enough eyeliner to choke a camel! Nancy flings about in a backless velvet gown – drops it down, then up for high kicks, while flogging her guitar like a phallus! Holy shit! I am getting all hot just writing about it! I had this 45 as a teen, and I listened to it so much that even today I hear the phantom echo of my vinyl skip at three minutes.
Don Johnson, “Heartbeat” (1986)
Wow, so this happened. I didn’t mean to slide this tepid little studio rock single after Heart – but really, there’s nowhere to put it where it doesn’t suffer a bit.
Let’s start with the good: Don Johnson is, and was, so comely! Even bundled in the 80s fashion and some almost-as-bad-as-Mel-Gibson coiffures, he still looks good!
Not a good enough rock song to rate this list, I specifically include this video because it hits me where I live. I suspect if I had to record a rock ballad, the result would be much the same – awkward 80s moves (drop the knee!), and on-pitch but slightly-strained high notes. Note: this is not the only video that figured out Don Johnson was handsome walking around in an urban dystopia. And you might be giggling a little at Mr. Johnson’s album, but trust me – his “Miami Vice” costar did a whole heckuva lot worse.
Don Johnson, “If I Close My Eyes Forever” (1986)
I like Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. He’s being directed to do his Ozzy solo thing here – a bit corny, a bit desperate. Trying to be scary, maybe? But
Lita Ford. She is smoking hot. She’s got the body of a Goddess, the skin of an angel, the hair of a harpy that will rip out my soul! In fact, she may be single-handedly responsible for my bisexuality?
Excuse me, forget any more commentary. I am off to get a pair of jeans JUST like that – and do a little 80’s smokey-eye.