Various Artists: Pure 80’s Hits

Various Artists
Pure 80's Hits

Every generation winds up rediscovering themselves through pop culture nostalgia crazes. However, I still cannot fathom the interest in the 1980s that causes such quickie compilations as this one to be released. How many ’80s collections are out there now? I own too many as it stands; including two volumes of VH1’s The Big 80’s and then entire Living in Oblivion series. I thought at one time that they’d be good things to have when guests were over. Who doesn’t thrill to the sounds of “Come on Eileen” or “Centerfold” again and again? Well, I’m thrilling to them less and less as time goes by. Yes, they were tunes that were huge when I was growing up, and they do spark a little nostalgia in me, but after a while there comes a time to stop reissuing the same crap over and over. I’ve yet to own an ’80s collection that didn’t fail in some way. Pure 80’s Hits is no exception.

“Once upon a time, greed was good, New Wave was new and ties were skinny. Nearly every band had a drum machine and a synthesizer, and not everyone yet had their MTV. Welcome back to the Eighties.” So goes the intro paragraph to the press release for this disc. If that’s as exciting as it gets, then I don’t wanna re-live the decade of excess. I shudder to think about all the insane neon-colored clothes I owned (not to mention about a half-dozen pairs of jams AND a Michael Jackson “Beat It” jacket; I clearly was insane), the Rubik’s cube I never solved, and tons of horrible movies like the Porky’s series, or the endless Police Academy sequels. The songs on this disc might make you recall similar things (If in fact you’re old enough to remember. I sincerely hope you are.) and send you into nightmarish flashbacks.

As these kinds of things go, the record label offering this has been so kind enough to offer a couple “rarities” in an attempt to make this collection necessary. In this disc’s case, the honors go to both the 12″ mix of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me”, which suffers a lot from the same things that plagued other remixes of ’80s tunes, namely a bigger beat and some extra keyboard noodling, and The Plimsouls’ “A Million Miles Away”. I had a hard time even recalling the latter tune, and usually I recall pretty much everything unnecessary about disposable music like this.

There are a couple of things here that don’t always show up on collections of this nature. I don’t remember the last time I saw Rick Springfield’s “Human Touch” given the nod (usually, the more popular “Jessie’s Girl” gets picked), and the inclusion of Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” is a nice little break from such items as Duran Duran’s “Notorious” and Berlin’s “No More Words” (How did Berlin ever make it, anyway?). And if you’re going to pick a Level 42 tune, it’s usually best to go with the expected “Something About You”, a song that definitely still holds up from this era instead of “Lessons In Love” which was chosen instead.

Personally, I was happy to see both The Outfield’s “Your Love” (I still remember watching that video for it every time it came on) and Swing Out Sister’s “Breakout”. Which leads me to ask if anyone still liked the once very likable Swing Out Sister after their second album? To me, they just kinda took their jazz leanings too seriously and forgot what it was like to make solid tunes such as “Twilight World”, “Fooled By a Smile”, or “Breakout”. However, John Waite’s “Missing You” is still horrid, as is Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”, and Glass Tiger’s (?!) “Don’t Forget About Me (When I’m Gone)”. Sure, you might get that flicker of fun hearing these songs again the first time around, but then you hear them and think of choosing something else to listen to instead.

So what does that leave? A smattering of merely OK things. Take your pick from the still chock full o’ goodness “Need You Tonight” by INXS, “Some Like It Hot” by The Power Station (And who told those guys it was a good idea to reform last decade?), Tears For Fears’ “Head Over Heels” (Don’t make me think about that damn monkey in the library again!), Kim Wilde’s tasty “Kids In America”, Johnny Hates Jazz’s limp “Shattered Dreams”, and Dan Hartman’s faux soul groove “I Can Dream About You” from album of same name (I own it!) and horrid soundtrack to that rotten movie Streets of Fire. But, to cap this whole jumbled mess of retro hits off, we are treated once again to Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”! Why is this song always included? It sucks, sucked when it was first released, and it will continue to suck no matter how many times we are forced to remember it. I refuse to change my mind out this one.

So there you have it. Nineteen tracks of pure ’80s potpourri. Not exactly the mix you were hoping for? Hey, join the crowd. I figure that one of these days Rhino Records will put the ultimate ’80s box set together, filled with all the truly essential items and obscurities. They’re good like that, you know. Until then, we’ll have to make do with things like Pure 80’s Hits. But chances are, you probably already own many of these songs on other collections, or feel that 80% of this is unnecessary as I do. Ha! Eighty percent! What a pun! Ahem. Yeah. Now please put something else on.