1. Pete Burns becomes Faye Dunaway! I did know that Dead or Alive frontman (you know… “You spin me right round, baby right round…”) became a woman. That is decade-old news that Mtv already touched upon in their own series of 80s tributes a couple years back. I didn’t, however, see his latest female persona in which Burns has dyed his hair blond, packed his lips full of mumble-inducing Botox, and of course, made an obligatory appearance on a reality-TV show in which D-list celebrities act like assholes to revive their faded popularity. The lead singer of Dexy’s Midnight Runners attempted the same, but keeping it simple: an ugly man who likes to crossdress.
2. Young MC was an economics major who wrote “‘Bust a Move” (look for actor Max Perlich and RHCP bassist Flea!) in about an hour in his dorm room. He, too, made the obligatory reality-TV appearance, though it was a celebrity weight-loss show.
3. Let’s Talk About God, Baby… DJ Jazzy Jeff shows up in Salt & Peppa’s “Push It” video! And, although an incredibly hip duo, they split after about a decade of producing hits because Peppa (or was it Salt?) became the obligatory former badass girl celebrity turned reformed Born-Again (see also Prince’s ex-collaborator, Vanity).
5. When you can’t play, but can rock… Spectacle rock bands like Kiss and Twisted Sister are living proof that it can literally pay to make at least one simple hit party tune. Because even if it is a stupid song (like “Cum On Feel the Noise”), it can be licensed up the ying yang, paying out in royalties long after the music career is over. Case in point: Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Because really, who can take Dee Snyder singing about being a rebellious bad ass when he’s wearing the makeup of a stand-in for Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 80’s music, above all else, really highlights the birth of megalomanic consumer culture. (Duh!)
6. The Clash were dubbed the “only band that mattered” at one time. Or, to quote Vince Noir (who a similar comment about Human League): “Before them, everything else was just tuning up.” VH1 only seems to think there are two members of The Clash (Mick Jones and Joe Strummer are the only two they offered Where Are They Now info on), and even failed to mentioned the late Strummer’s work in film soundtracks, particularly collaborating on several films with cult British director, Alex Cox. Which, considering Strummer’s musical contributions to Sid & Nancy, is especially ironic given the rivalry between punk’s primitive Sex Pistols and the sophisticated Clash.
7. The rivalry among the Police: It’s old news that, despite the number of hits put out by the British trio The Police, the band was increasingly at odds. Guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stuart Copeland both cite Sting’s ego as the major source of contention. In fact, in the 90s, VH1 had developed a celebrity version of music jeopardy that ran for about three episodes. Police guitarist Andy Summers appeared as a guest in the first episode and completely flubbed the Final Jeapordy question at the end purposefully as an opportunity to zing Sting’s ego. It was obviously a had-to-be-there moment.
8. Modern English was a little ticked that their publishing company sold the rights to their “I’ll Stop the World (and Melt With You)” to Burger King since the keyboardist was a vegan. Though, as lead singer Robbie Grey said, “…then again, it was $90 thousand dollars.”
9. Before breaking for commercials, this VH1 special featured pre-concert clips of mega band fans from the 80s. Research suggests that 90% of these fans were big-haired female residents of Northern New Jersey, which in turn correlates with the concentration of Aqua Net sales. I also enjoyed the clip of male heavy metal fans with equally massive bouffants expressing their love for the rebellious music, as illustrated in the hairstyles that might have prevented being employed in “a better job,” though the same research also suggests that hair wasn’t the only decisive factor.
10. Ol’ Whats-Er-Name… These idiots completely failed to mention that Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” was originally a (well-done) R&B song performed by Gloria Jones on the Motown label in the late ’70s. Of course, they mentioned all those who did the song that came after Soft Cell… And okay, college rock superstars, R.E.M., made the list… but where the fuck are their Minnesota rivals, The Replacements?!
11. MTV owns VH1. Given specials run by both on the 80s, it’s hard to believe the corporation behind the original music channel now own so few licenses. It’s the only thing that can explain why the same handful of 100 songs are selected for these kind of filler shows. On a side note, MTV’s last great moment as a channel actually devoted to promoting music was in the late 90s when it aired (in full) the top 500 music videos over the course of several days. What a pity.
13. Ever watch a music video of a song that you have loved for so long only to find out that the band is actually incredibly gay? I don’t mean homosexual, but rather, “ghhheyyyy” (to borrow Ed’s Shaun of the Dead pronunciation) meaning embarrassingly corny? The lead singer of British guitar band, The Cult, loved digging through Prince’s hand-me downs, searching for those frilly shirts and applying the artificial beauty mark. And while true, the catchphrase “gender-bending” has come to frequently define the decade’s music videos, it kept a decent 80s guitar band from gaining more respect. Their songs really weren’t party hits like working-class-esque Journey churned out, nor did they produce the kind of nonsense music that accommodated the theatrics of hair bands from that period. So in conclusion, the manufactured persona was more like a failed PR move. On a side note, Axel Rose’s high hair look in the “Welcome to the Jungle” video looks suspiciously modeled on Rebecca DeMornay’s club look scenes in Starships’s “Sara.”
14. How do you know when you’re watching a re-run countdown filler show about the 80s? The King [of Pop] isn’t dead yet.
15. Almost none of the bands featured in this filler countdown show disappeared. So while 80s fans might feel old for recognizing the songs their younger counterparts might not (or not be quite as obsessed with), the bands got even older. So, everybody wins! Also, I wonder if the guy featured in the clip of the die-hard Frankie Goes to Hollywood fan (dressed in the dark glasses, tux shirt and bowtie rather than the traditional “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirt) who claimed that the British pop sensation wasn’t just another short-lived fad (citing the Beatles as one example) still feels the same way? And more importantly, is still so dedicated so as to wear the same clothes.
16. If a band’s lead singer dies and they replace the lead singer via a contest held on television (INXS) or with members from other successful bands (Queen, Alice in Chains), they should consider writing new material as a new band. Otherwise, they’re more like a cover band.
17. Suzanna Hoffs of the Bangles married the director of Austin Powers. The VH1 special failed to mention Hoff’s own late 80s attempt at movies, particularly in the spectacularly awful Allnighter, which starred Hoffs and was written by her mother.
18. Osama Bin Laden is obsessed with Whitney Houston and once joked to his mistress that he’d kill Bobby Brown? No… no… I’m not making it up. But are they?! I mean, this is the same world in which Michael Jackson is still living!