Way-Back Playback: The 1980s

Jul 18, 2013

By James Sandham

I don’t know if a week at the cottage has just done my head in or what, but lately I’ve been in the mood for music from the ’80s. Songs that once struck me as just plain… well, stupid… now have a certain luster. They’re fun, flippant, frivolous and… uh, festive?

Before I get carried away with attempts at alliteration (there it is again), perhaps I’d better just cut to the chase. So without further ado, let’s take a trip back to the decade of big hair, padded shoulders, neon – and some of the most awesome tunes around.

Eddie Murphy – “Party All the Time”

Oooooh yeah. Can you feel that? That is the ’80s coursing through your eardrums and right into your bloodstream. Few things encapsulate the music of the decade more succinctly than this song by this man. I mean, Eddie Murphy was practically synonymous with the 1980s, a master of film, standup and, with “Party All the Time,” of radio hits as well. While, admittedly, much of his other musical output didn’t come across as successfully as this song, don’t discount him yet. Did you know he’s back behind the mic? This time rocking a reggae track with none other than Snoop Dogg’s latest incarnation, Snoop Lion!

Eddie Murphy feat. Snoop Lion – “Redlight”


Lionel Richie – “All Night Long”

OK, back to the business at hand: ’80s hits. If there’s one hit-maker/’80s icon who can rival Eddie Murphy, it would have to be Lionel Richie. I mean, listen to this song. Are you kidding me?! This is such a crazy fusion of genres – calypso, pop, EZ rock, traditional African drumming – yet it works, and it works beautifully. Not to mention that dancing. This is what the ’80s was all about: possibility, positivity and pastels (damn, there’s that alliteration again). Definitely a classic.


a-ha – “Take On Me”

Now let’s break it down a bit with a slower ’80s jam courtesy of Oslo, Norway’s a-ha. I can’t get enough of the video either – this was cutting edge for its time and at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards it was nominated for eight awards, winning six: Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Direction, Best Special Effects and Viewer’s Choice. It also got a nomination that year for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the 13th American Music Awards. Interesting fact: a-ha performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 1998 before going on to record four more studio albums in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2009, the last of which went platinum in Germany. Who knew these guys were still around?!


Kim Carnes – “Bette Davis Eyes”

Alright, if we’re talking ’80s slow jams, there’s no way we can’t include this gem. I gotta say, I’m not a huge fan of the rest of Kim Carnes’ catalogue, but on the power of this song alone I am a fan of hers for life. I don’t know what this says about me, but I could probably just listen to this one on repeat for… well, a while. Quite a while. It has been done.


Kim Mitchell – “Go for a Soda”

Last of all, let’s round off our list with a little homegrown ’80s talent. I’m speaking, of course, about Kim Mitchell, a.k.a. the soundtrack to all of my in-laws’ backyard summer patio parties and also the subject of one of the Trailer Park Boys’ best lines ever. Let’s all just take a moment to bask in its glory.