The Eighties were a great time to be alive, and one of the best decades as a civilization to be a kid in. Despite the constant threat of Soviet nuclear annihilation, there were huge technical leaps forward in technology and marketing. We were constantly bombarded every week by awesome new toys, new music, and all sorts of other fluorescent-colored diversions. I really miss those simple days and have tended to gloss over some of the finer details, wishing to remember exactly what some of them were. With access to the flood of information that is at our fingertips these days through the internet, almost anything from your childhood can be found if you look hard enough. If you are anything like me and can only remember the tiniest (and strangest) bits and pieces of things, they can be re-discovered through a fair amount of concentrated effort and dumb luck.
So sprawl out on the shag carpeting with me and take turns playing on the Pachinko machine mounted on the faux-wood walls across from the terrifying wallpaper, as we wax nostalgic on some of the strange things we were subjected to as wide-eyed impressionable children of the Eighties.
Many nights I spent sitting up and listening to the public access channel 12, which flashed community happenings in several obnoxious colors in ASCII font. It wasn’t really much for watching or reading, but it played really good music that was popular at the time, which in retrospect, was probably violating all sorts of copyright laws. They played Nena’s 99 Luftbaloons, all sorts of Michael Jackson tunes, and one in particular I had fondness for but never had any idea what it was called or who it was by.
Years went by and I was gambling in the mountains when I heard it played over the P.A. system in one of the connecting hallways and it reignited a desire to try and discover it, especially since I had failed to not install the Shazam app on my phone. As much as I heard it as a kid, I could not recall any lyrics, or much of the music. I just remembered a large amount of the pivotal saxophone solo in the middle and the melody of the bad ass backing vocals (which, in my opinion, were the strongest parts of the song).
Who I thought it was: “Songs About My Hoo-Ha” by The Pointer Sisters
What it ended up actually being: Melissa Manchester’s “You Should Hear How She Talks About You”
Method of discovery: Google
I searched though catalog after catalog of Pointer Sister songs, going through all of them and coming up empty handed time after time. I remembered the pivotal part of the song involved a sax solo, so as a final crapshoot, I googled “cheesiest saxophone solos 80’s” and that spawned all sorts of results where I fell down a rabbit hole of easy-listening monstrosities and finally ended up coming across it. The song is a bit too light for my taste these days, but hearing it brings back wonderful memories of sitting in a dark basement staring at gibberish on TV.
Music Videos –
The 80’s had MTV to funnel music directly to you on television if you were away from a radio/record player/tape player (but only if you were one the few kids who had the privilege of cable TV). I remember being absolutely terrified of the Thriller video, and that dominated the rotation on MTV for several years. Watching Michael Jackson turning into that big muskrat thing with emphysema was the definitely the scariest part. Other bands saw this phenomenon and tried to cash in on making occult-themed videos. One that I vaguely remembered was a video of a hair metal band putting a Hungry Man Dinner in the microwave that spawned a Goulie who then proceeded to eat the guy’s face off while he played video games.
What I Thought it Was: “Gremlins Shit In My Marie Calender’s” by Stryper
What it Ended Up Being: “T.V. Dinners” by ZZ Top
Method of discovery: Google Image Search for “tv dinner monster”
Ok, so this discovery was a far cry from being a hair-metal band, but they did have large amounts of hair, only it was stuck on their faces like they were time-traveling, duck-hunting dipshits from the 2010’s. I will say in retrospect that the song is atrociously bad and the guys in ZZ Top should consider this song ever getting airplay a miracle akin to Jesus moonwalking across the Dead Sea. The music is so repetitive, so simplistic, so grating, and the lyrics are all about the love of frozen food. Somewhere, there is a guy who had an unsuccessful lobotomy that is getting screwed out of an authoring credit for helping write this trash. Here’s a sample:
“I like the enchiladas, and the teriyaki too. I even like the chicken if…. the sauce is not too blue.”
I’ve written some idiotic lyrics in songs, but not even my arena-rock themed “Ode To Pubes” comes close to that level of dangerous stupid. I recommend that you should be proactive and mute the video, but still gaze upon it for the awful production value. They only spent a budget of five dollars and spent about two hours animating the little monster that looks like the love child of Stripe the Gremlin and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The games the guy is playing on his 15 televisions looks like something from the Sega CD library. There’s nothing really scary about this video other than the fact that it was fucking terrible and actually made.
I had all sorts of crazy toys growing up. There were blinking LED football games, a giant Hulk doll that could be deflated into bizarre (and phallic) shapes, a Rubik’s Snake, and the most mysterious of all, a red phone toy that took 14 AA batteries. When turned on, beeped in strange patterns and made absolutely no sense to me. It was something that resembled the Simon game, but unlike Simon, it was monochromatic and only utilized red LEDs. This bizarre telephone game was beyond my comprehension at the time, and only seemed to serve a single purpose. The damn thing had the most obnoxious habit of somehow getting turned on and emitting random noises when something shifted on top of it while it was sitting in our toy box, almost always in the dark.
What I Thought it was: “Prince and The New Power Generation’s Dial-A-Skank”
What it Ended up Being: Merlin, by Parker Brothers
How I found it: Google, with Wikipedia filling in the blanks
I googled “Red Phone Game 80’s” and the first thing to pop up was a Wikipedia entry on the Merlin toy that originally came out in 1978. It was filled with all sorts of cool information on it, yet still did not have a whole lot of explanation to how it worked. I still think it was some sort of testing unit to try and find out if you were one of the gifted kids if you could actually manage to make it do anything. Now I know why I never made it into the “gifted and talented” sub-group in elementary school, even though I thought it was due to all the paste I ingested as a child.
Everyone knows most of the awesome cartoons came out in the 80’s. We had He-Man, the gay version of He-Man (known as She-Ra), the Thundercats, and that horrible knockoff Ghostbusters cartoon that had Grape Ape chasing around ghosts in a Ford Model-T. These animated shows were also our first exposure to thematic drama. There was the creepy love story between Inspector Gadget and Penny, the deaths of major characters aboard the Super Space Fortress Macross every episode, and the ever-present constant sexual tension on The Smurfs. Then there was one show that was filled with nothing bat shit lunacy. It only came on Sundays around 4am in the morning. It was so over the top that was the closest thing to an acid trip you could partake of at our age. I know, what you are thinking, is that I had the most erratic sleep schedule of any kid you have ever met. That’s a pretty accurate assessment.
From what I could remember, it was a Native American guy fighting his way through the center of the earth which was hollow and populated by those little bowling pin animals from Lil’ Abner. I remember the plot was really strange and watching it was always a surreal and confusing experience.
What I thought It was: “Johnny Quest Goes Straight To Hell”
What it Ended Up Being: “Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea”
Method of discovery: YouTube video documenting the “Top 300 cartoon intros of the 80’s”
The reason the plot lines and thematic elements are so strange is because this is a cartoon imported from France with lots of drunken editing and screwy dubbing. The artwork style changes so much that it looks like it has been pieced together from several different cartoons of varying quality. Some is of the characters and backgrounds are detailed, and then suddenly interjected with enemies look like deformed line drawings from Supercomputer and Mr. Chips. After discovering what this was as an adult, I watched several episodes on the internet and could not follow even the slightest amount of it. This cartoon was clearly made for no other purpose than to be confusing as shit to anyone unfortunate to watch it. I think I will happily go back to watching Inspector Gadget hoping that I will someday find the missing episode that has him attempt to deploy his go-go-gadget helicopter, and he accidentally pulls out his go-go-gadget-cock.
I remember that the food in the 80’s was the absolute best with all of the licensing tie-ins associated with every possible food product. We had Nintendo Mario & Link Cereal, Ninja Turtle Green Filling Pies, Koala Yummies….the list of all the awesome preservative-injected foodstuffs goes on forever. But I remembered one of the most integral frozen treats of my youth. They were Jell-O Pudding Pops. I did not need a google search to remember these, but I’m appalled they haven’t been in store shelves in quite a long time. According to the food sleuths of the internet, they disappeared from the populace sometime in the early nineties. The chocolate and vanilla swirly ones were the best damn freezer burnt desert ever and I remember going through these by the truck load, narrowly avoiding diabetes as a youth. These things kicked the shit out of Otter Pops. Fuck Otter Pops, man.
Dear Jell-O, please bring back the almighty Pudding Pop (Bill Cosby optional).