It has fallen to me to work up a play list for background music for cocktails, dinner and then after dinner chat for my Winslow, Arizona, Class of 1983 Thirty-year Reunion. I’m a professional DJ, how hard can it be? Well, my first pass was 9 hours of music and we have only 3 hours- that’s about 45 songs and I had chosen 130. After I looked at what I had put in, some got taken back out because of what I learned on Sesame Street as a child- the thing where you try to figure out which of these things doesn’t belong in a group of similar things. Several songs just didn’t fit the bigger, overall ‘flavor’ after the list was completed. There was still 8 hours of music.
It was interesting to hear a block of music from a time period. We were in high school from 1980 to 1983 and I chose from our junior high years, 1977ish through early college years, 1985 or so. There were country artists, R&B artists, what is now “Classic” rock and what was “New Wave” at the time and some straight pop music that crossed genres. The Cars were one of those bands that your rock friends could listen to and say- “See, I’m listening to some New Wave too” Your New Wave friends could listen to them and say, “See, I’m listening to Rock too” Strangely, the country artists were the ones that didn’t stand the test of time very well. They sounded more dated than some of the others. Eddie Rabbit, Kenny Rogers, Don Williams and others sounded like lightweights. Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” from 1976 sounds as fresh as ever, I’d say it’s still ahead of its time. I chose Styx’s “Best of Times from 1981. Styx blessed our lives for the most part with the exception of a major misstep with 1983’s “Mr.Roboto”. Best of Times sounds fresh while Mr. Roboto sounds very dated. Gary Numan’s “Cars” was included and it’s a shame that that song was his one hit in America as it is not very representative of his wider body of music. It came off as a bit of a novelty. James Taylor and Neil Diamond had a couple of big hit songs in our high school years but with some hindsight, they seem like artists before our time so they got the ax.
I began my DJ career back when live bands still played most school and church dances. If somebody stuck their head in the door and saw a DJ they would turn up their nose and go find something else to do. It was starting to switch to DJs and I have always tried to take all of the good things that a band brings to the table- showmanship, stage presence etc and add all of the good things that a live DJ brings- repertoire, volume control etc. I tell you that so I can say that my Class of ’83 play list included Doobie Brother’s “China Grove” even though that was before our time but every band who ever played, played that song because of it’s classic guitar riff.
I included The Eagles’ “Take it Easy” because… one should! Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” was included even though it kinda proved to be a one hit wonder. He won best new artist Grammy that year and then mostly disappeard other than a couple of other singles that charted only on the strength of ‘Sailing’ as opposed to their own merit. Sailing still took me right back to Winslow where I first heard it.
There are several songs that are not danceable. I had to think back to those high school dances and what was played. I DJd many of those dances… hmmm… what did I play? I’m a Styx fan and I contend that “Come Sail Away” is one of the great songs of the rock catalogue, but it’s not danceable but that’s not why it wasn’t included- I threw it over the edge in favor of “Best of Times” for this setting since it’s background music. I included other songs that I don’t have occasion to play as a DJ very often. Journey was huge while we were in high school- I chose “Separate Ways” instead of the obvious “Don’t Stop Believing” That song is the biggest downloaded song in digital music history. It’s almost always in ITunes top 100. It’s been played and played and it will probably be on the classic rock radio as my classmates road trip to Winslow for the reunion from points unknown. It has taken on a new meaning and significance than perhaps we REALLY remember it had at the time- even for the two generations that have been born since it was ‘ours’ in 1981. I think that “Separate Ways” will take our minds back to that time and place better than “Don’t Stop Believing” would in this setting. I included AC/DC’s “Back in Black” instead of “You Shook me” for similar reasons.
For good measure, I threw in a few TV theme songs to spice it up. Dukes of Hazzard, Laverne and Shirley, The Love Boat, Three’s Company etc.
There’s still 7 hours of music here. What did I miss? What are the songs you want me to throw the hell off of this list? What are the songs that remind you of your first kiss? Your first beer? Remind you of your friends from Winslow?
Here it is:
ELO- Don’t bring me down, AC/DC- Back in Black, Adam Ant- Goody Two Shoes, Bryan Adams- Run to you, Alabama- Mountain Music, Andrea True Connection- More, More, More, April Wine- Just between you and me, Asia- Heat of the Moment, BT Express- Do it, Bad Company- Rock and Roll Fantasy, Toni Basil- Mickey, Bee Gees- Tragedy, Pat Benatar- Hit me with your Best Shot, Big Country- In a Big Country, Blondie- Heart of Glass, Boston- More than a Feeling, David Bowie- Let’s Dance, Brick- Dazz, Buggles- Video Killed the Radio Star, Cars- Let’s Go, Cheap Trick- I Want you to Want me, Chicago- Hard to Say I’m Sorry, Clash- Rock the Casbah, Christopher Cross- Sailing, Culture Club- Do you Really Want to Hurt me?, Charlie Daniels- Devil Went Down to Georgia, Def Leppard- Photograph, Depeche Mode- Just Can’t Get Enough, Devo- Whip it, Dexy’s Midnight Runners- Come on Eileen, Thomas Dolby- She Blinded me with Science, Doobie Brothers- China Grove, Duran Duran- Hungry like the Wolf, Eagles- Take it Easy, Earth, Wind & Fire- September, Sheena Easton- Morning Train, Yvonne Elliman- If I Can’t Have You, Emotions- Best of my Love, Eurythmics- Sweet Dreams, Falco- Der Kommisar, Fleetwood Mac, Go Your Own Way, Flock of Seagulls- I Ran, Foreigner- Hot Blooded, Gloria Gaynor- I Will Survive, J. Giels Band- Centerfold, Go-gos- We Got the Beat, Hall and Oates- You Make my Dreams, Patrick Hernandez- Born to be Alive, Billy Idol- Dancing with Myself, Rick James- Give it to me, Jefferson Starship- Find your way Back, Joan Jett- I love Rock and Roll, Billy Joel- You may be Right, Journey- Separate Ways, Kajagoogoo- Too Shy, Katrina and the Waves- Walking on Sunshine, KC and the Sunshine Band- Keep it Coming Love, Kiss- I Was Made for Loving you, Kool and the Gang- Get Down on it, Kraftwerk- Pocket Calculator, Cyndi Lauper- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Huey Lewis and the News- Do you Believe in Love?, Loverboy- Turn me Loose, M- Pop Music, Madonna- Borderline, John Cougar Mellencamp- Jack and Diane, Men at Work- Who Can it be Now?, Men Without Hats- Safety Dance, Steve Miller- Rock’n Me, Motels- Only the Lonely, Nena- 99 Luftballoons, Olivia Newton-John- Physical, Gary Numan- Cars, Ozzy Osbourne- Crazy Train, Pink Floyd- Another Brick in the Wall, Pointer Sisters- Fire, Police- De do do do, De da da da, Pretenders- Brass in Pocket, Queen- Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Eddie Rabbitt- I Love a Rainy Night, REO Speedwagon- Keep on Loving you, Lionel Richie- All Night Long, Kenny Rogers- Coward of the County, Rollin Stones- Start me up, Rush- Tom Sawyer, Saga- On the Loose, Leo Sayer- More than I Can Say, Frankie Smith- Double Dutch Bus, Sparks- Angst in my Pants, Split Enz- I got you, Billy Squier- The Stroke, Stephen Bishop- On and on, Rod Stewart- Do you Think I’m Sexy?, Stray Cats- Rock This Town, Styx- Best of Times, Sugarhill Gang- Rapper’s Delight, Donna Summer- I Feel Love, Survivor- Eye of the Tiger, Thin Lizzy- Boys are Back in Town, Toto- Hold the Line, U2- New Year’s Day, Van Halen- Dance the Night Away, Zapp- More Bounce to the Ounce, 38 Special- Caught up in you.