(Or Scraping the Bottom of the Top of the Barrel)
By Scott Creney
As Billy Joel sang in his 1984 top 20 hit ‘Keeping The Faith’, “The good old days weren’t always good/Tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems”. It seems like you hear more and more people these days going on about how much they enjoy 80s music. Well of course they do, they only have to listen to the good stuff. Even the 80s show on the local soft rock station avoids the truly awful stuff from that decade.
What people fail to realize is the stuff they’re listening to today accounted for a very, very small part of what you heard back then on a day-to-day basis. As someone who grew up in the 80s and listened to Top 40 radio up until 1987-88, I’m here to tell people just how bad it actually was.
All chart listings and memories are from the USA because that’s where I grew up. If someone wants to do a UK version, they’re more than welcome to it. Australia’s a whole other subject.
Now people will never agree on what’s bad, but I’ve tried to choose songs that are as close to unimpeachably bad as possible — songs with no redeeming value whatsoever. I mean, we can enjoy Phil Collins on some level, but I tried to find songs that would qualify as outright fucking torture. I can’t even laugh at these. I wanted songs that nobody could possibly defend, except on the level of “well, I liked it back then”.
It’s nice to imagine a decade where New Order/Depeche Mode/The Smiths/R.E.M./The Cure ruled the world. But that shit made up less than 0.2% of what you heard on Top 40 radio (and remember that those bands were the acceptable face of the underground — a band like the Pixies didn’t stand a fucking chance). And even the pop music you think of when you think of the 80s (Prince/Madonna/Bruce/etc.) made up less than 5% of what you heard on the radio.
All of these songs were ubiquitous. They were in the Top 10 of the US charts. They permeated the culture and colored everyone’s life.
There will be a nice conclusion at the end, but let’s get right to the parade of shit. And oh yeah, I started looking at the charts from 1986 and stopped around the beginning of 1988 — a little over two years — because I already had way more of this stuff than I needed.