Not much went wrong during Carnival 2016 in PTown last week. But if anyone deserves a spanking, it’s the many DJs around town who knew that this year’s theme was “Back to the ’80s” – but refused to play music from the era. I’m a better DJ of this stuff, and I can prove it with a Top Five List.
Sunday night at Purgatory just below the Gifford House, the man behind the turntables started things off well enough with a trancey set that featured loops of “The Sounds of Silence” and other well-known hits of yesteryear, thrumming within the mix and surfacing just long enough to dispel the monotony that can ruin a night when you feel like you’re just moving from one foot to another and checking out the people dancing nearby as the lights change color.
Elsewhere in town – from the “official” car of the Chamber of Commerce blaring ’80s hits to the restaurants and clubwear stores – the merchants seemed to embrace the theme just as much as the tourists who’d come to celebrate. Miami Sound Machine (featuring Gloria Estefan), Culture Club (with frontman Boy George) and Wham! (George Michael in his squeaky clean “Choose Life” phase) were everywhere, and if you blinked twice, you’d swear the calendar read 1989.
But by Wednesday, after two nights at the Boatslip for the daily tea dance and the annual “booze cruise” (dubbed “The Love Boat” for this year alone), it became clear that the deejays had no intention of granting any wish to turn back time. That night at the Atlantic House (known locally and lovingly as “The A Hole’), a handful of ’80s obscurities made it onto the turntables but no appearance from Prince, no Duran Duran, no Erasure, no Go-Go’s or any of the other bands that ruled the dance floor three decades ago. And that’s the way it continued through the rest of the week. Even ’80s gems like The Communards’ “Never Can Say Goodbye” which I have heard before at tea dance when it wasn’t anywhere near the theme of the week, were left in the dust for generic thump-thump-thump EDM beats.
So, I thought, rather than complain any more about the lackluster use of a terrific theme, I would simply post what I think are some of the best dance tracks of the ’80s and see if any of you out there agree.
Number One: Did I hear the girl-powered original of “Funkytown” By Lipps Inc. last week? Sure did. Did I hear this sizzling dance track from 1986? Nope. Check out the Aussie cuties doing their version of “Funkytown” below.
Number Two: So . . . yes, I think it’s a good idea with a multi-generational audience like the dancing queens and the disco bunnies who’ve come up behind them to play songs (at least occaisionally) that both groups can relate to. This was a hit in the ’60s for it’s composer, Tommy James of the Shondells, but I do think we can say that Billy Idol took the testosterone up a notch or two with his cover of “Mony Mony.”
Number Three: We’re all still missing Prince, and what better way to say so than to use something from his commercial breakthrough, Purple Rain? This is neither as frantic as “Let’s Go Crazy” nor as funky as “When Doves Cry.” What the medley of “I Would Die 4 U” does have going for it is the incredible seven-minute journey from one song into the furious finalé of the second. As his purple majesty would say if he were here, “Check it all out!”
Number Four: No Madonna, Michael, Prince: No ’80s. They paved the way, and if we’re all tired of hearing “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough,” there’s a wealth of other MJ out there. And while someone did try to pass off “Vogue” as ’80s music (it came out at the dawn of the ’90s), there are terrific Madonna tracks that, even all these years later, don’t get enough spins. Here’s “Where’s the Party” from True Blue, which she dedicated to then-husband Sean Penn, “the coolest guy in the universe.”
Number Five: Where’s the Party? It’s in the celebrants, not in the deejays’ playlists. Pay attention to your audience and you’ll never get it wrong – which is why I’ll finish (with a bonus to come) with this rendition of “Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Communards. This was a hit three times in 15 years, first by the Jackson 5 as a pop soul ballad, then as a disco classic by Gloria Gaynor, and finally as a Britlectric dancefloor throwdown. I’ve seen people at tea dance in PTown screaming throughout this song when it makes its appearance. Where was it last week?
And here’s that bonus: Just to show how well music from the ’80s still does its job, the producers of HBO’s Looking decided to close an episode with Erasure’s “Give A Little Respect.” Here’s just a snippet. And the next time someone says, “let’s dance to some ’80s music,” you know that today’s EDM draws directly from that reservoir. It rocked then, and it rocks still.
Last modified: March 13, 2018