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We Are The '80s Review

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Aah, the '80s. Where are those snapshots, anyway? The ones where you have big hair and are acting all too sexy for your shirt? They're probably in that shoebox in your closet, mixed in with your official Journey fan club kit and that autographed Huey Lewis poster. Your memorabilia may give you a laugh or bring you to tears, but one thing's for sure---there's no better way to revisit the past than with that era's popular music. With the first seven releases in their We Are The '80s series Legacy Records chronicles some of the decade's biggest hit-makers along with a couple of groups that rode the New Wave to fame.

A Flock of Seagulls
Aurora Borealis comes in view, indeed. Would these guys have been as big if MTV hadn't of had them in power rotation with songs like "I Ran (So Far Away)," "Space Age Love Song" and "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)"? Around the water cooler, on the loading dock and in the neighborhood bar the conversation was all the same---"What's with that guy's hair?!?" And while singer Mike Score looked like he might have a nest of seagulls atop his head, the band quickly found its self competing with acts like the Human League for chart position and number one synth group. The Flock had a relatively short heyday but it was packed with goodies like "Telecommunication" and "(It's Not Me) Talking," both produced by Be Bop Deluxe's guitar genius, Bill Nelson. This set contains one track previously unavailable on CD, 1984's b-side to "The More You Live, the More You Love;" "Lost Control."

The Bangles
Mary Anne or Ginger? The Go Go's or the Bangles? Yes the girls played all of their own instruments and played them well on hits like "Manic Monday," "If She Knew What She Wants" and their driving remake of Paul Simon's "Hazy Shade of Winter." Led by the diminutive Susanna Hoffs, airy melodies and sweet harmonies were the specialty of these upbeat ladies who topped the charts with jangly numbers like "Hero Takes a Fall" and "Going Down to Liverpool." And there probably wasn't a person in the country that at one time or another in the '80s didn't "Walk like an Egyptian." Not quite the Macarena but the song started a phenomenon that had everyone shaking like Cleopatra to the rattle of a tambourine. A cover of Alex Chilton's sublime "September Gurls" lies among the bigger hits along with "Complicated Girl" where the band gets a little side help from Paulinho Da Costa and guitar whiz David Lindley.

Bow Wow Wow
The band put together by Malcolm McLaren, who put together the Sex Pistols, still wants candy and will be experiencing a resurgence of sorts this fall. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine has remixed "I Want Candy" and "Fools Rush In" for their appearance on the soundtrack to filmmaker Sofia Coppola's upcoming Marie Antoinette. Not only that, but the film's Marie character is based on a cross between the historical figure and Bow Wow Wow lead singer Annabella Lwin. So the Mohawked lead singer and her band will be getting tons of press thanks to the Kirsten Dunst/Jason Schwartzman vehicle and a tour with Devo is also in the works. In the meantime you can groove to "Louis Quatorze," "Aphrodisiac," "I'm a TV Savage" and many others on this blast from the past.

I don't think singer Mike Reno wears his (at one time ubiquitous) head band anymore, but this Canadian quintet is still on the concert circuit, playing over a hundred dates a year. What's more, they have their original line-up intact except for bassist Scott Smith who was declared lost at sea after a boating accident in 2000. It seemed like every one of their hits became everyman's anthem, dealing with easy to understand situations like party, party, party. "Turn Me Loose," "Working for the Weekend" and "The Kid is Hot Tonight" all sounded great blaring out of the Camaro with the T-top off on the way to the liquor store with a just-cashed paycheck. "When It's Over" and "Hot Girls in Love" rued not having the girl and celebrated repeatedly having the girl, respectively, while "Loving Every Minute of It" needs no explanation. Contains the band's duet with Ann Wilson of Heart, "Almost Paradise."

Eddie Money
Yes, it's true. Young Eddie Mahoney wanted to be a cop. He went to the New York City Police Academy with the hopes of impressing his father. But the singer had a fortuitous meeting with rock impresario Bill Graham and soon, with a couple of letters missing from his surname, started climbing the star ladder. The rest of the story played out in three and a half minute bursts---"I Wanna Go Back," "Think I'm In Love," "Shakin'" and "Walk on Water." Money's biggest hit came in 1986 when he got to duet with the legendary Ronnie Spector on "Take Me Home Tonight/Be My Baby." And in case you've forgotten, a lot of those greasy sax solos in Money's songs were played by Eddie himself. The only other guest on this retrospective is Valerie Carter who ties on the big love with Money on the hopeful "Let's Be Lovers Again."

Another of the great female voices of the '80s, Patty Smyth led Scandal up the charts with stories of love and love lost with "Goodbye To You," "Love's Got a Line on You," "Hands Tied" and of course, bang bang, "The Warrior." Not their biggest hit, but the band was at their best on The Warrior with the slow-burn sensuality and mystery of "Beat of a Heart." "All My Life," previously only available as the b-side of "Goodbye to You" is included along with three tracks from 1982 that have never been released until now. "Grow So Wise," although a great showcase for Smyth's smoky vocal, is a bit down tempo for Scandal while "If You Leave Me" is more what you would expect from the band; "I'm Here Tonight" is a powerful cut that probably would have been a minor hit if it had of been released back in the day.

Rick Springfield
Countless young men were actually wishing they had "Jessie's Girl" as they sang along to Springfield's monster hit, but even more of them were probably wishing they were Springfield himself. And that probably would have worked out okay for the dreamers as the Australian rocker who also portrayed Dr. Noah Drake on the TV soap opera General Hospital still has panties thrown at him to this day. "I've Done Everything for You," "Don't Talk to Strangers," "I Get Excited" and the arena-rocking "Affair of the Heart" were just a few of the numbers that had 'em swooning in the aisles and spending at the record store. Some of Springfield's lesser-known material is included, notably the silky sax-filled "Don't Walk Away" and the pounding dance number "Celebrate Youth."

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