The 1980s had a vast variety of impacts on pop culture, particularly on musical creations, but not all of them were of legendary status. In fact, even some of the hits of that era were–for the lack of a better term–downright weird. Here are just a few examples now:
‘She Blinded Me With Science’ by Thomas Dolby
Released in 1982, this song’s title was a play upon the British expression ‘to blind with science’. This expression means to confuse someone on purpose by showing them some very complex, seemingly scientific knowledge.
The lyrics are weird enough; something about a girl who uses technology and science to blindside people. However, there are even stranger elements in its rendition, such as occasional interjections from TV presenter and British scientist Magnus Pyke During the song, Pyke regularly shouts the word ‘Science!’ as well as other lines in the background. He also says his words in an exaggerated mad scientist tone.
While this song does sound very weird and strange, it actually did quite well on the music charts. At its peak, ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ was at No. 5 in the United States, No. 1 in Canada, and No. 49 in the United Kingdom.
‘Funkytown’ by Lipps, Inc.
This song was among the last of the major disco singles. It was written during the band’s stint in Minneapolis, while they were still apprising to move to New York City. ‘Funkytown’ was part of their debut album, and claimed the top spot in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Wes Germany, Austria, Norway, Australia, and the United States music charts.
This song basically expresses a pining for a certain place that will keep them alive, active, and having fun all the time. There are two music videos for ‘Funkytown’ at least with one having a black singer moving his lips to the vocals while the background shows some ladies dancing. The setting is a pub. Debbie Jenner (representing the band in West Germany and the Netherlands) dances and mimes the vocals in another video. However, Cynthia Johnson, who actually sang the vocals, was reportedly never asked about making a video of this song.
This song had no less than 4 weeks at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1980 within the United States. It was also on top of the disco charts in the same year. In fact, it would turn out to be the only American Top 40 hit by Lipps, Inc.
In addition to the repetitive lyrics, this song is also said to be weird due to the singing voice. More than a decade before auto tune was launched, Cynthia Johnson was singing in a vocoderized voice that was almost robotic in nature. She would then bring out a soulful wail, asking to go to her dream party destination. While the song was one of the later contributions to the disco party music scene, it remains one of the most electric offerings from that genre to date.
If you’re looking for more contributions to an 80s playlist, check out some of these top underground music artists of the 80s.
“19” by Paul Hardcastle
What makes this 1985 release somewhat weird is that it’s basically a history lesson in the form of rock ‘n roll. If you’re interested in the one-hit wonders of 80s British music, this work is definitely worth a listen. The song was a pop hit, but an unlikely one, flying to the No. 15 spot soon after its release. It’s also usually said to be the first-ever techno song in mainstream music/ While it’s a dance cut, the inspiration behind ‘19’ is the average age of soldiers in the ABC documentary ‘Vietnam Requiem’. After watching this movie, Hardcastle was struck by the difference between his own activities at the age of 19 and the life of those soldiers. The lyrics soon became the first single on his fourth studio album.
This is a song with a distinct anti-war message, especially with regards to the involvement of the United States in Vietnam at the time. Even today, the PTSD and other ill-effects of the Vietnam War on soldiers are a great concern.
This track was also notable due to being one of the first to use processed and sample speech. There’s also a king of synthetic stutter effects on certain words like ‘destruction’ and ‘nineteen’. There’s some non-speech, crowd noises, re-dubbed sampling, and even a military bugle sound mixed in the lyrics as well. Interview dialogue by Peter Thomas is included out of context, along with news reports from the original documentary. Even after the 80s, the song still remains a powerful and thought-provoking lesson. In 2009, it gained No. 73 on the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s compiled by VH1.
‘19’ had a lot of success on the music charts in the 80s, even going international with its fame. It was at the very top spot in the United Kingdom for at least 5 weeks. It also topped several other countries all over the globe, becoming the most selling single in no less than 13 countries in 1985. Several versions were also spoken by various well-known news anchors in Japanese, French, German, and Spanish.
“Respect Yourself” by Bruce Willis
In 1987, Bruce Willis of Die Hard fame did a cover of a song by the band Staple Singers. This song gave him quite a bit of fame before he became a major movie star; ‘Respect Yourself’ hit No. 5 on the Billboard charts shortly after its release.
The success of this song is all the more unusual because of its genre, which was a mixture of soul and rock. While the lyrics are mostly related to religion, the R&B and gospel group soon had a crossover hit on their hands. Not many soul classics made it to the top places in the charts, so this feat is an uncommon one. The original version by the band itself reached second place on the Hot Soul Singles chart and No. 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It’s one of the more well-known hits from the group, and was included in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. Around 8 years later, it also became No. 468 on Rolling Stone’s compilation of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“The Curly Shuffle” by Jump ‘N The Saddle Band
The Three Stooges–Larry, Curly, and Moe–were certainly very popular in the 80s. It’s hence no surprise that there was a novelty song made about them in 1983. It turned out to be quite a successful effort, as this tribute went to No. 15 on the United States Billboard Hot 100.
Overall, this song is nothing less than a homage to the comedy team behind The Three Stooges film. Its initial recording was by the Jump ‘n the Saddle Band, and the words were penned by Peter Quinn, who was the singer of the group. The release of this song was at the very end of 1983, though it earned its position on the Billboard Top 100 in 1984. The timing was perfect, with the Three Stooges getting a Hollywood Walk of Fame star at the end of August 1983.
The success and widespread interest didn’t stop here, however. The song was released around the same time in Canada by the band The Knuckleheads through Attic Records. The American version was also accessible there at the time, though The Knuckleheads had the hit version. The Canadian RPM Charts listed this song as No. 29 at the time.
This song has Peter Quinn using severely catch phrases of Curly Howards, even mimicking his voice and tone. However, the group was not destined to produce more hits. It only released one more single before their split.
While the music of the 1980s is enjoyed by many today, there are certain songs that will always be in the weird category. This doesn’t mean that they’re not enjoyable or popular. Fans of 80s music might find it interesting to look a bit more closely at such songs and find out the story behind them. There’s also no shortage of weird music being produced in the modern era; it might be a fun idea to make a playlist of them all and play them at your next party. Aside from weird songs from the 80s, here are more interesting 80s events that you may want to read.