CLUAS - Irish indie music webzine
CLUAS on Facebook CLUAS on MySpace CLUAS on Twitter

Ten Great Naff Songs of the Eighties

The decade that in its lowest moments gave us the Rubik's cube, a Flock of Seagulls, leg warmers and Moonlighting also threw up a few miserable musical moments that have managed - puzzlingly - to mature into contemporary classics. Here's a selection of ten such gems as nominated by various visitors to CLUAS.

Captain Sensible 'Wot'

Wham 'Freedom'

Cover Image"I've been to the East and I've been to the West/But the girls I like most are the ones undressed." Hmm, okay. Who would have thought that Captain Sensible, the Damned's guitarist and resident loony, would leave that esteemed (?) group to reinvent himself as a purveyor of bright & happy dance hits? "Wot" was the sort of wacky early-1980's Euro-synth pop that left most of my AC/DC- and Van Halen-obsessed American friends scratching their heads and saying, who is this idiot, where did he come from, and what's his problem, anyway? "Wot" is indeed a pretty dumb song, but that didn't stop me from buying the American version of the Captain's album. I still play "Wot" every now and then at 80's theme parties, and it never fails to get people dancing and shouting the "Wooah!" refrain. (Submitted by Chris Houlihan) coverAfter getting over their early career fascination with stuffing shuttle cocks down their pants Wham it seems got down to the deadly serious business of crafting great pop tunes. 'Freedom' though had to be top of their pile but, because of the curse of musical prejudice, it took me 15 bloody years to cop the fact. A Friday evening a few months ago, unannounced, it drifted out of the car radio and it was then, as I gradually fell into shock, I realised that under those layers of production, blatant brass sections and lady Di perms there lurked an unquestionably brilliant song. Sure, if you excuse the indulgence, may I even contend a song with an effective melancholy in its lyric. It was a perplexing discovery, right down to the brilliant piano groove at the end. Listen just a little more carefully the next time it slips into your eardrum and see if you too cop it. It might just wake you up before you say 'no, no'. (eh, my profound apologies for that last line but who could have resisted it?).  (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill).

Kajagoogoo 'Too Shy'

Nena '99 red ballons'

SS Pic 1 -Limahl & CrowBig hair, fretless bass and eerily Muppet-like features. These guys had all of the above, and less. While I never bought the single, I did spend 90p on a copy of Smash Hits to get my hands on Limahl's Joycean lyrics (feck off, I was ten!) Just in case you are having trouble recalling that Pulitzer Prize winning chorus: "You're Too Shy Shy/Hush Hush Eye To Eye...." It's all coming back now isn't it? Sorry. There's only one word, okay maybe two, that come to mind when thinking of Limahl, the odious lead singer: Git and Ponce. These words don't get out and about much here in the States so this is a welcome exercise. "Too Shy" is one of those songs that sum up British pop in the the 80's. Catchy chorus, 86 synth tracks and, oh yeah, utterly vapid on every level. So, unless you were a pubescent girl in 1982, chances are you weren't upset my the band's meteoric descent into obscurity. (Submitted by Conor Maguire). Probably one of the catchiest pop tunes of the eighties, Nena's 99 Red Balloons is - believe it or not -one of the ....ahem..... all-time great protest songs. No, hear me out!! Remember that couplet from the first verse "Back at base, bugs in the software/Flash the message, "Something's out there""? Yes, it was all inspired by the real life occurrence of when the US mistakenly identified a flock of geese as a pre-emptive nuclear strike in the early eighties. The song continues to describe the scrambling of the fighter planes, the dropping of the bomb, until finally Nena is "...standin' pretty in this dust that was a city/If I could find a souvenir just to prove the world was here..." Devastating stuff. You'll never dance to it again, will you! (Submitted by Steve McNulty).

Freur 'Doot Doot'

Cliff Richard, "Wired for Sound"

Photo of FreurA great lost track that sums up the 80s. . . . the lyrics probably don't mean anything, bloody difficult to dance to, sounded like it was created by aliens. The band? FREUR . . . .they were represented by a squiggle (long before Prince nicked the idea), came from Wales. Wish I still had the album. Whatever became of Freur - They became 'lager lager lager lager' UNDERWORLD..... (Submitted by Peter Fitzpatrick). There were not too many attempts by our Cliff to define the decade but along with Living Doll (with the Young Ones) he at least left us yet another legacy - the video a perfect slice of glorious 80s life, roller-skating around the streets of England, glam (presumably celibate?) gals at his side and high only on Life!! (Submitted by Ian Stalvies). 

Mel and Kim 'Respectable'

Sabrina 'Boys Boys Boys'

Coming home from school in the late eighties it was sadly always a quick bee-line to watch Pat Sharp on Sky and the latest bunch of feisty, unadulterated pop videos. That was where I came across the perfect late eighties pop pleasure of Mel & Kim, twin sisters who strutted their lovely legs in perfect stone-washed jeans, years before Nick Kamen made Levi's 501 a hip thing with the first legendary, epoque defining Levi's ad. When 'Respectable'  came out some thought it was about cups of Irish tea (thanks to that rap of 'Tay, tay, tay, te-te-te-te-te tay-tay...) but in fact it was about something far more nutritious like, uh, looking respectable in the eighties (a nigh impossible task). Shortly after its release Kim was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few years later. But she left behind this little respectable legacy of truly admirable naffness. A cup-a-tay anyone? (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill). I offer no defense to the charge that I have nominated one of the worst songs of the eighties. But there are two big reasons why Sabrina appears in this compendium... Remember Sabrina's appearance on Top Of The Pops ( back when it was still essential )? Back in the days of Kylie and Jason and live transmission. I remember the slo-mo camera shots, her chest bulging and I willing them to escape, to claim their freedom!! And then when, with her final exuberant leap, they finally did .... well, let's just say for a pubescent boy it was a seminal moment. In more ways than one...... (Submitted by Anon(!))

Europe 
'The Final Countdown'

Howard Jones
'Like to get to know you well'

Oh how we laughed. Joey Tempest and his Euro-rockers tried to ape the debauched Motley Crue look, but all we got was this. Joey's curly perm - the cue for European men to think  tight ripped denim and awful leather jackets were the last word in cool. And the music? Well, from the opening triumphant keyboard riff, this one rocks. Europe were so, well, Europe. The continent hadn't heard a sound as big as this since the third battle of Ypres. All together now - "We're heading for Venus-nus-nus-nus....." (Submitted by Bulstrode) To mention "naff" and the "eighties" in the same breath is a sure guarantee that Howard Jones is going to creep in to the conservation. ALL of his songs were NAFF but his piece de resistance had to be the unforgettable "Like to get to know you well". Its lyrics were as all his other annoying ditties, i.e. the title repeated over and over. After his 36th refrain of "Like to get to know you well" I think we'd gotten the message. Then there was that mane of bleached hair hung over his forehead (anyone seen him lately? his head now resembles a lion that underwent Chemotherapy). Anyway I have to admit I was a regular in those typical eighties' haunts that, like the Flock of Seagulls' haircuts, cropped up all over Dublin. I'm talking about DISCO BARS, the brightly coloured establishments you could only enter if you knew all the words to Nick Kershaw's "The Riddle" and wore a fluorescent pink or green shirt. I remember one evening "throwing off my mental chains" and chatting up some brightly coloured feline with a discussion on how cool it was to live in the eighties where a guy with a name like HOWARD could become a megastar. Sure you could never do that in the nineties. Or could you? (Submitted by Willie).

 

Also make sure you check out the other ten lists:
(bullet) ten great film soundtracks
(bullet) ten great one-hit wonders
(bullet) ten great hidden album tracks
(bullet) ten great b-sides
(bullet) ten great debut albums
(bullet) ten great rock & pop instrumentals
(bullet) ten great cover versions
(bullet) ten great album openers
(bullet) ten great Irish singles that time forgot

 

Subscribe to the CLUAS email newsletter:

E-mail address: number of newsletter subscribers

Check out as well the archive of newsletters we have sent out over the years.