Here are the Biggest One-Hit Wonders of the ’80s

Dexy's Midnight Runners

Did you know there was a National One-Hit Wonders Day? Why in the world someone would choose to honor some a dubious distinction is beyond me. I go back and forth in mind on this: Would I want to be called a one-hit wonder? On one hand, it means I did hit pay dirt with a song in my chosen profession. On the other hand, it means I ONLY hit pay dirt with one song in my chosen profession. Damned if you do or don’t in this world, amiright?

Eons ago here at Stuck in the ’80s, we did a series of podcasts on one-hit wonders in the ’80s. We went year by year and tried to single out the bands who struck gold only once. We got a lot of grief over our list, if memory serves. Yes, it’s a subjective list for sure. Here are the links to each show if you’d like to relive podcasting history.

One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s:

1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989

Vote for Stuck in the ’80s for the People’s Choice Podcast Awards

After 14 years and 511 episodes, Stuck in the ’80s has been around the track a time or two. We’ve hosted trivia sessions on four voyages of The 80s Cruise. We’ve interviewed four of the original MTV veejays. And we’ve shared a story or two (or two hundred) about how the decade we love still influences us today.

We figured it’s now time to see how we stack up against our competition. Stuck in the ’80s is competing in the “entertainment category” for the 14th Annual People’s Choice Podcast Awards. For this award, it’s all up to the listeners. You will decide if we’re worthy or not.

To vote, simply go to podcastawards.com, get your email verified (yes, I know that’s a pain – I’m sorry) and vote for Stuck in the ’80s in the entertainment category. Feel free to vote for other podcasts in other categories. The nomination period goes through July 30th. We appreciate the support!

Sad songs in disguise: ‘Together in Electric Dreams’

It’s ironic that songs that seem so positive and life-affirming can be dissected apart and suddenly seem like real kicks to the gut. That happened to me this morning when listening to Phil Oakey singing “Together in Electric Dreams.”

“I only knew you for a while, I never saw your smile
Till it was time to go, time to go away (time to go away)
Sometimes it’s hard to recognise, love comes as a surprise
And it’s too late, it’s just too late to stay, too late to stay”

What the hell, Phil? The frontman for The Human League partners with the great Giorgio Moroder for this pure slice of pop heaven, which was featured in the 1984 movie of the same name. Good luck finding a copy of the movie that will play on DVD players in the U.S. and Canada. (I did find a version of it on YouTube though.)

The movie was largely panned by critics – it has 44 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – though Siskel & Ebert curiously gave it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, crediting its “genuine sweetness.” That’s what I used to think of when I hear the song.

“We’ll always be together, however far it seems (love never ends)
We’ll always be together, together in electric dreams”

Aww, my heart just melts. And then, Phil and Giorgio fill it back up with air and pop it.

“Because the friendship that you gave
Has taught me to be brave
No matter where I go
I’ll never find a better prize (find a better prize)

Though you’re miles and miles away, I see you every day
I don’t have to try, I just close my eyes, I close my eyes”

Wait! She’s gone? (Or he’s gone – the specifics don’t matter.) So this is a song about being happy that true love is gone. And the vision of that love haunts you every day. And you’ll never find its equivalent? Holy hell. Are you sure this wasn’t written by Depeche Mode?

“We’ll always be together, however far it seems (love never ends)
We’ll always be together, together in electric dreams”

No, no. Too late now for the chorus again and that mumbo jumbo contradiction.

Truth by told, it’s probably best not to dissect songs you love too much. This tune – recorded in a single take, Phil once told me – was a top 10 hit in the UK and Australia. The Human League – often erroneously credited for the song – often includes it as an encore in live performances.

I’ll still play it on my headphones and quietly sob – it was also once my phone’s ring tone – but now, I just cry … and I close my eyes.

“We’ll always be together, however far it seems (love never ends)
We’ll always be together, together in electric dreams”

Listen to our ‘Planes Trains and Automobiles’ episode from 2006

Back in 2006, when the world was still new and full of wonderment, the gang at Stuck in the ’80s recorded a podcast on the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It’s the standard-bearer of movies about Thanksgiving – in the ’80s or any other decade.

Some 12 years later, I honestly can’t remember a think we said in the show. My memory works great when it comes to recalling stories from the ’80s, but from the last 12 years? Eh, not so much. In any case, I figure a fair number of ’80s fans are looking for some podcasts to load onto ye olden iPhone for the holiday travel ahead this weekend, so here it is. Enjoy.

Dennis DeYoung talks unlikely hits and robot masks

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times on Feb. 22, 2012.

In the early 1960s, Dennis DeYoung was just a 14-year-old with an accordion and a mission: to make a few bucks with his friends performing at weddings around his Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. A TV show changed all that.

“It was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan,” Dennis told me during a phone interview that went a lot longer than the planned hour. “If you talk to any baby boomer guys in rock bands, I would believe 80 percent would tell the same story. It was an epiphany.”

DeYoung retired his accordion for a set of keyboards and co-founded a band that would go on to achieve platinum sales success and fill stadiums with fans from the late ’70s through mid ’80s: Styx.

A battle over music direction coupled with health problems led to DeYoung’s dismissal from the band in 1999. But he still performs the music of Styx for fans around the world, while his old bandmates continue on with a new lead singer.

I spoke with the singer – long a hero of mine – a few weeks before he was scheduled to perform with the Florida Orchestra in Clearwater, Fla. Dennis was touring the nation, performing the hits he wrote with his own hand-picked band and local orchestras.

“The music lends itself to orchestration,” DeYoung says. “This is no condemnation of Chuck Berry, who I greatly admire. But Chuck Berry’s music will not translate as well to orchestration because of its very three-chord rock ‘n’ roll nature. It is the music of the artists that are more pretentious, pompous or closer to the kind of big dramatic stylings that orchestras are good with.”

“I wanted to make the rock band the focus; the orchestra is the sixth member,” he said. “I went one step further in incorporating actual pieces of classical music, trying to weave them within the confines and structures of the hit records that we had — which only pointed out clearly how absolutely c—– my songs were compared to Mozart.”

Here are some more highlights from our conversation:

Continue reading

After 13 years, Stuck in the ’80s blog needs a new home

For 13 years, the award-winning Stuck in the 80s blog has been hosted and supported by the amazing group of journalists and managers at the Tampa Bay Times. That will change in a few weeks. The new home of the blog will be the same place that has hosted our podcast for the last six years – our website here at sit80s.com.

As we transition from our old home to new one, we hope to transform this website into a more dynamic and exciting destination. We plan to redesign the pages and find better ways to offer you the entertainment you’ve come to love over the last 13 years.

When I founded the podcast and blog back in 2005 – more of a mid-life crisis reaction to my 20th high school reunion – I never dreamed we’d survive more than a dozen episodes or posts. For the first seven years of the blog, I posted 365 days a year – breaking that streak only once, I believe, for the day my father passed away. It’s carried me places I’d never imagine – from ’80s-themed vacations all over the world to co-hosting podcasts in New Zealand, to interviewing my hero Steve Perry and more.

In a few short months, we’ll record our 500th episode of the show live on board The 80s Cruise featuring a special group of icons from the ’80s as our interview subjects.

When I left the Times in 2012, the newspaper asked to continue hosting the blog, and I was thrilled to say yes. The Times and I have celebrated milestones together, even though I now live 90 miles away. I wish my colleagues there all the best as they pursue a new direction for their own digital operations.

In the meantime, I will refocus my energies on giving Stuck in the ’80s a second life – maybe a third one, depending on how you score things. I won’t be alone. A group of close friends, co-hosts and ’80s family will be there all the way. Stuck in the ’80s would be nothing without you all. And so, as we embark on this future together, I invite you – as always – to share your thoughts, suggestions and encouragement.

Life does move pretty fast. We’ve taken 13 years to look around so far. Let’s take another few years to see where the journey takes us next.

Hopelessly stuck in the ’80s,
Spearsy….