More Hidden Treasures: 1980s Music

After my first blog on this subject, I received a few comments about omissions. Admittedly, the list left out some really fine artists.

Here are some more.

The Payolas – Led by Paul Hyde and Bob Rock, this Canadian band blended new wave, power-pop and rock into a few hits like “Eyes of a Stranger” and “You’re the Only Love.” Bob Rock went on to become a big name producer of Motley Crue and Metallica.

The English Beat – A funky combination of ska, new wave and R&B, this British band reimagined songs like “Tears of a Clown” and their originals like “I Confess” and “Save It For Later.” They splintered into Fine Young Cannibals and General Public. Lead singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling tours with his version of the band and they are damn exciting to see live.

Talk Talk – Synth-pop band utilizing a layered keyboards and punchy rhythms to define their sound. This was danceable music. Their first successful single was “Talk Talk” followed by “It’s Your Life” and “Such a Shame.”

Swing Out Sister – A British trio who specialized in big pop arrangements with sophisticated musical construction. Their first hit was “Breakout” which nominated for a Grammy Award. “Surrender” and “Twilight World” followed. In later years, the band embraced different styles with mixed success and are still together as a duo.

The Jeff Healey Band – A guitarist who played it on his lap like a steel guitar. Healey was blind, but you would never know it. He played the blues with a rock style which gave his sound a unique feel. “Angel Eyes” was his first hit. Healey had very rich, soulful vocals. He was also known for appearing in the film Road House as the bar band. A few years later he switched from the blues to jazz, releasing several CDs before his death from cancer.

‘Til Tuesday – Their most notable song, from their debut album was the title track, “Voices Carry” and helped them win the MTV award for best new artist. The band included Aimee Mann, who would go on to a successful solo career.

Fine Young Cannibals – An offshoot of The English Beat. Soul and funk were their specialty. David Steele and Andy Cox joined with vocalist Roland Gift. Their second album produced hits like “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing.” The album was nominated for Album of the Year, topped charts and sold more than two million copies in the U.S. The band never recorded another album.

The BoDeans – This band had a world of promise but never seemed to capture the right sound. They had a very natural rock sound but got caught up in a more contemporary direction. Working with producers T-Bone Burnett, Mike Campbell and Jerry Harrison failed to find a successful sound for their material. For a band voted by Rolling Stone was the best new American band, they deserve more mainstream success.

The Call – A West Coast rock band that never achieved much mainstream success, even though they released a number of albums during the decade. Their style, hard to define, was smart and unlike anyone else. Michael Been was the main songwriter. “Walls Come Down” and “Let the Day Begin” were notable songs.

Martin Briley – As a session player and songwriter for hire, Briley found moderate success on his own during the 1980s with his album One Night With a Stranger, which included the single “The Salt in My Tears.” In more recent years, Briley has written songs for numerous headliners.

Bourgeois Tagg – Was a duo of Brent Bourgeois and Larry Tagg. They released two albums before breaking up. They released their self-titled album in 1986, followed by Yoyo a year later, produced by Todd Rundgren. “Mutual Surrender” and “I Don’t Mind At All” were along their best tracks.

David + David – This duo was not together very long, but their debut album, Boomtown was a moderate hit with “Welcome to the Boomtown” before they broke up. They went back to session work.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD) – The band helped create the electronic sound of the 1980s. They used an experimental sound that flirted with straight pop, dance beats and other variations. The band had a lot of success early in the decade but their sound did not prove lasting.

Benny Mardones – Benny was around for a long time and scored his only hit with “Into the Night.” It was a soaring, soulful song that actually charted twice in the decade.

The Romantics – They were an upbeat power-pop band that looked New Wavish with their big hair and costumes. They would have been at home in 1964 with their raucous energy and good looks. Their biggest hit was “What I Like About You” that snappy, rocking song, followed by “Talking in Your Sleep.”

Fashion – Originally a British punk band that turned into synth band. Their 1982 album Fabrique was their best and had those melodic pop grooves including “Dressed to Kill” and “Love Shadow.”

Timbuk 3 Greeting From Timbuk3 was a surprise hit, mainly from the unlikely hit, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.” Folk-rock have a place in the decades jumble of genres. Timbuk 3 wrote some wily, sardonic music about life in America. Then-married Pat McDonald and Barbara K played all the instruments on the album, it was a low-tech affair. Future albums over the next 10 years did not have the hit as their debut did, so of course they did not meet expectations and broke up.

Katrina and the Waves – One of the biggest hits of the era was “Walking on Sunshine” from their 1985 album. Variations of the band had been around for about a decade before this huge hit. The band was dropped by their label after their next album and would not have another hit for another decade, before fading again from sight.

One thought on “More Hidden Treasures: 1980s Music

  1. Admittedly, I don’t know the majority of the songs on your list.

    I remember listening to the Jeff Healey Band’s debut album. Healey was an amazing guitarist.

    Fine Young Cannibals were over-exposed on the radio in Germany and, frankly, drove me crazy – not a good thing! 🙂

    I dug Katrina and the Waves. Their third (eponymous) album was fun. They fell of my radar screen thereafter.

    I also liked that Romantics tune.


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