Good Lyrics Of The 1980s

Joni_Mitchell_2004It has to be said, it was a bit easier coming up with good ’80s lyrics than it was to come up with crap ones. I could probably have chosen three or four crackers from many of the artists featured below, but space permits only one.

Maybe it’s not surprising that it was a great decade for lyricists when it was surely one of the most ‘literary’ musical decades to date – it would have to be with people like Bob Dylan, Morrissey, Paddy McAloon, Andy Partridge, Green Gartside, Tracey Thorn, Lloyd Cole, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel and Springsteen around.

So here’s just a sprinkling of my favourites from the ’80s. Let me know yours.

I love you/You pay my rent‘.

PET SHOP BOYS: ‘Rent’

An ’80s manifesto?

 

‘If you ever feel the time/To drop me a loving line/Maybe you should just think twice/I don’t wait around on your advice’.

EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL: ‘Each And Every One’

How’s that for a statement to kick off a recording career?

 

I believe in love/I’ll believe in anything/That’s gonna get me what I want/And get me off my knees’.

LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS: ‘Forest Fire’

Less famous than Lloyd’s rhyming of ‘Mailer’ and ‘tailor’, but gains a lot from his passionate singing of the lines.

 

I want you/It’s the stupid details that my heart is breaking for/It’s the way your shoulders shake and what they’re shaking for’.

ELVIS COSTELLO: ‘I Want You’

Anyone who’s ever been in love (or lust) knows exactly what Mr MacManus means.

 

Hey Mikey/Whatever happened to the f***in’ “Duke Of Earl”?’

RANDY NEWMAN: ‘Mikey’s’

A few years before ‘Money For Nothing’, our protagonist is a bit ‘disillusioned’ with the state of modern music…

 

If you had that house, car, bottle, jar/Your lovers would look like movie stars’.

JONI MITCHELL: ‘The Reoccurring Dream’

Nails the rabid ’80s advertising industry pretty succinctly.

 

‘Lost my shape/Trying to act casual/Can’t stop/I might end up in the hospital’.

TALKING HEADS: ‘Crosseyed And Painless’

One of many brilliant David Byrne first-liners.

 

‘Once there was an angel/An angel and some friends/Who flew around from song to song/Making up the ends’.

DANNY WILSON: ‘Never Gonna Be The Same’

What a beautiful way of describing the songwriting process.

 

Burn down the disco/Hang the blessed DJ’.

THE SMITHS: ‘Panic’

One of many from Mr Morrissey, but I just love the fact that he could smuggle this into the charts.

 

‘Now the moon’s gone to hell/And the sun’s riding high/I must bid you farewell/Every man has to die/But it’s written in the starlight/And every line in your palm/We are fools to make war/On our brothers in arms’.

DIRE STRAITS: ‘Brothers In Arms’

Well, it’s a lot better than Culture Club’s ‘War Song’, isn’t it?

 

Out on the road today/I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac/A little voice inside my head said/Don’t look back, you can never look back…’

DON HENLEY: ‘Boys Of Summer’

The ultimate ’80s baby boomer lyric.

 

‘Hello Johnson/Your mother once gave me a lift back from school/There’s no reason to get so excited/I’d been playing football with the youngsters/Johnson says don’t dramatise/And you can’t even spell salacious’.

PREFAB SPROUT: ‘Horsechimes’

If JD Salinger had been born in County Durham…

 

‘I repeat myself when under stress/I repeat myself when under stress/I repeat…’

KING CRIMSON: ‘Indiscipline’

Adrian Belew almost outdoes Byrne in the ‘neurosis’ department.

 

‘Come back Mum and Dad/You’re growing apart/You know that I’m growing up sad/I need some attention/I shoot into the light’.

PETER GABRIEL: ‘Family Snapshot’

The flashback of a political assassin, daring the listener to sympathise, followed by his final, catastrophic action.

 

‘People say that I’m no good/Painting pictures and carving wood/Be a rich man if I could/But the only job I do well is here on the farm/And it’s breaking my back’.

XTC: ‘Love On A Farmboy’s Wages’

What to say to the parents when they tell you to get a ‘real’ job…

 

So long, child/It’s awful dark’.

DAVID BOWIE: ‘When The Wind Blows’

Dickensian dread from the Dame.

 

I could have been someone/Well, so could anyone’.

THE POGUES/KIRSTY MACCOLL: ‘Fairytale Of New York’

The ultimate put-down. Kirsty is much missed.

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Six 1980s Christmas Songs Not Just For Christmas

3175516482_2745396c60_bCrimbo, eh, readers?

The ’80s certainly has its fair share of duff Christmas tracks, maybe more than most decades, but at least there’s also a lot of variety.

The Christmas number one suddenly had a bit of prestige. Consequently a huge variety of artists tried their luck from Sting, The Eurythmics and U2 to Siouxsie And The Banshees, Jethro Tull and Depeche Mode.

Here are six Christmas singles from the 1980s that I could just about tolerate hearing any time of the year.

6. The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping (1981)

The New York new-wavers’ charmingly-ramshackle little number has only grown in stature as a seasonal favourite despite not even making the UK top 100 on its original December 1981 release.

5. The Three Wise Men: Thanks For Christmas (1983)

XTC in disguise. Andy Partridge came up with this very pleasant but almost totally ignored singalong, unfortunately released smack-bang in the middle of a period when the Swindon three-piece couldn’t get arrested. But what’s really cool about ‘Thanks For Christmas’ is THAT chord change…

4. David Bowie/Bing Crosby: Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (1982)

Just two days on from taping a superb performance of ‘Heroes’ and a duet with Marc Bolan on the ‘Marc’ TV show, Bowie was invited onto Bing’s ‘Merrie Olde Christmas’ to film this great and genuinely surreal clip on 11th September 1977. Apparently the ‘Peace On Earth’ segment of the song was composed on the day of filming (by the show’s music consultants Ian Fraser and Larry Grossman) and rehearsed for only an hour before the cameras rolled – pretty impressive. When finally released as a single in 1982, ‘Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy’ peaked at number three in the chart. Was it an subconscious influence on the wistful ‘Fantastic Voyage‘ released just over a year later?

3. Jona Lewie: Stop The Cavalry (1980)

Nothing says 1980 to me like this strange little Christmas song (though, according to Lewie, it wasn’t intended as such) which peaked at UK number three, only kept off the top spot by two posthumous John Lennon singles.

2. Band Aid: Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984)

Yes, it’s as over-familiar as an uncle’s Boxing Day bear hug, but it retains some power due to its musical-chairs approach, great Boy George vocals and the lack of a proper chorus. I think it was the first 7” single I actually went out and bought.

1. The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl: Fairytale Of New York (1987)

Only the hardest heart could deny the poignancy of this all-time classic. Written, arranged, played and sung with consummate care, this tale of doomed love in the Big Apple reached number two in December 1987.

Happy Christmas to one and all.