The Music Club

The Innocent ’80s

First, let me try to solve your theological puzzle: Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth? I’ll take Axl Rose any day.

As for your defense of Hall and Oates: Someone who loves Hall and Oates thinks he can kick my ass? We need look no further for evidence of the damage ‘80s pop inflicted on American manhood. It turned otherwise red-blooded American men into the kind of people who wore floppy haircuts and collarless shirts and grooved to “Method of Modern Love.” What will you propose next—Phil Collins, underappreciated genius?

Since I seem obsessed with macho this morning, I should concede how right you are about the long-term consequences of the rap-rock-metal merger. ” Walk This Way” is, I suppose, godfather to Limp Bizkit and all the other seedy, vicious, and generally tuneless mook-moron thrashy-rappy music of recent years. The ‘80s may have suffered from a testosterone shortage, but today we are being poisoned by it. Still, better Limp Bizkit than Chicago. 

Chicago is one of the curious absences from Like, Omigod. You can understand why ‘80s megastars who still have fabulous careers—see my earlier list of no-shows—wouldn’t want to associate with such a quirky, easy-to-ridicule project. What I don’t understand is why so many lesser lights skipped out on the Rhino set. Does Tiffany’s star really shine so bright today that she can afford to shun Like, Omigod? Have Men Without Hats made so much money off “Safety Dance,” that they can spare the extra royalties? Is Weird Al too big for Rhino? Does A Flock of Seagulls believe its career would be tarnished if Rhino buyers could listen to “I Ran”?

The ‘80s, of course, were the decade of the PMRC and Tipper Gore’s crusade against violent, smutty music. (I may have been the only teen-ager in America who liked the PMRC, mostly because I thought Tipper was so cool.) But listening to Like, Omigod is a funny reminder of how innocent ‘80s music actually was, at least compared to today’s charts. ‘80s pop may have been bad, but it was rarely vicious or obscene. I listened and listened for murder, rape, gunplay, and general raunch, and heard none. In “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” girls just want to have fun. The Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed,” doesn’t get specific. J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” is promising—naked model, etc.—but nothing dirty happens. Even the metal hits of the ‘80s are mild by ‘02s ’ standards. Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” actually seems to be about loneliness, not masturbation. Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” is nowhere near as filthy as its title. The dirtiest track on Like, Omigod, in fact, may be “Walk This Way”—a song that Aerosmith wrote in 1975. That’s right—the ‘80s were an age of sweetness and naivete.