Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday 80s Flashback for February 17, 2012

 Source: via Wayne on Pinterest

[Where We're Going, We Don't Need a Theme] -- This has been an odd week. On one hand, I have been immersed in re-remembering the 80s because I started reading Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, a novel of the near future in which people are obsessed with solving puzzles left by a man obsessed with the 80s (that is all-too-short a description of the book; you really should click the link and read the synopsis so you can see how much you need this book). On the other hand, I just have not been able to focus on figuring out a theme for today's Flashback. I keep wondering, how will I know if I have picked the right theme, or even the right songs for that theme? I mean, figuring out a flashback isn't exactly on the same level as trying to answer where do broken hearts go, right? And, normally, I don't think I would get so emotional about something like this, but I care about my fellow 80s-philes. I want to deliver a quality experience. And, although the argument could be made for doing a retrospective of Whitney Houston hits this week, I'm going to go with the first few songs mentioned in Cline's novel. What are the songs for this week? Read and hear more after the break.

Flashback #1"I'm all dressed up with nowhere to go. Walkin' with a dead man over my shoulder."

The last will and testament of James Halliday, the 80s-obsessed software mogul in Ready Player One, was a short film with a contest announcement. The film, called Anorak’s Invitation after Halliday's well-known wizard avatar, kicked off with a meticulous re-creation of Oingo Boingo's video for "Dead Man's Party." Only in this video, Halliday's younger self appeared amidst a throng of digitally inserted mourners. As one does when an Oingo Boingo song plays, Halliday grins and dances maniacally.

Oingo Boingo was formed in 1972 as something of a musical theater troupe. By the early 80s, they had changed their focus to be more of a rock band. There are various theories for this, but none are important. They released their fourth album, Dead Man's Party, in 1985. The title track was featured on the soundtrack for the 1986 film, Back to School, as well as several TV episodes. The dancing skeletons in the original video kind of became a symbol of the band. And here is some food for thought: The man who led this band is the same man who later gave us the film soundtracks to Batman, Batman Returns, and Edward Scissorhands.

Flashback #2"Well there's nothing to lose | And there's nothing to prove."

Ready Player One only indirectly mentions this next flashback. During the Wade Watt's scene-by-scene recollection of the Halliday video, Watt notes a moment when Halliday is truly dancing with himself (that is, everyone else on screen has faded from view). First released as a single by Gen X in 1980, the song didn't get much traction on the charts. In 1981, however, Gen X's lead singer, Billy Idol, remixed the song for his first solo album, Don't Stop, and had himself a hit. Idol's version peaked at #27 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, and it claimed the #2 spot on the U.S. Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. Idol's video (among others) was later satirized by David Lee Roth in the music video for "Just a Gigolo" (1985). Considering what a caricature Roth became, the fact that he was satirizing other artists at one time is quite the irony. Anyway, here is Billy Idol with "Dancing with Myself." 

Flashback #3"They tried to break us, looks like they'll try again."

Somewhere between their first and fourth albums, Duran Duran were dubbed "The Fab Five." As this was an obvious comparison to The Beatles, and as I did not find the Durans to be remotely in the same league as John, Paul, George, and Ringo, I was put off of their brand of New Wave for a good while. I was eventually won over, but I still refuse to consider them fab. Anyway, Duran Duran released a live album in 1984: Arena. This album was intended to cap off, and capitalize on, their successful 83/84 tour. Critics felt it was too polished to truly be a live record, but that didn't hurt sales at all. Speaking of polish, the album included one new studio piece as the single: "The Wild Boys." The song was based on an idea from the band's long-time video director, Russell Mulcahy, who wanted to make a full-length feature film of the 1971 novel The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead by William S. Burroughs. They never made the feature film, but they did make one long video.

In Ready Player One, "The Wild Boys" is playing when we first see Watt in The Basement, an exclusive online hangout created by Watt's one and only friend, who is known as Aech (pronounced like the letter "H").

Enjoy the long version of Duran Duran's video for "Wild Boys" (over seven minutes long!).

[Edit 10/30/15: The actual music video is no longer available, so until I can find another source for it, here is an audio only YouTube video for the "Wilder Than Wild Boys Extended Mix"). 

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

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