January 19, 2008

1980s Party Playlist

January 2008: My wife and I threw a birthday party for me at the local Elks lodge. We dragged my turntable, speakers, and an old receiver borrowed from my Dad from the back of my little Honda, we hung up some of my vintage 1980s T-shirts on the wall, and dressed up like the way we thought was cool in 1986 (see right).
Anticipation is half the fun, so I worked out a playlist in advance. I didn't have a mixer, so the transitions were all going to stink, but I wanted to be prepared. Besides bringing almost all of the 60 songs on vinyl, I also burned CD-Rs of the playlist and borrowed my wife's laptop + iTunes to play music too. I don't remember exactly how closely we stuck to the playlist, so I've edited the list below to reflect as many of the changes as I can recall.
Fifteen songs per hour is average, but many of these are extended remixes from 12-inch singles, so these 60 songs are closer to 5 hours of music.
I have learned the hard way not to start off too big. At the beginning of a party, no one's dancing yet anyway. The first half hour at least should be mood-setting, almost background music.
  1. Is It Love • Mr. Mister: Not many people give a crap about Mr. Mister, and I must be the only person on Earth who still remembers this song. I got the LP from the RCA Record & Tape Club. That's how old school I am.
  2. You Might Think • The Cars
  3. Sanctify Yourself • Simple Minds
  4. Raspberry Beret • Prince & The Revolution: Midtempo and not really danceable, but everyone loves Prince.
  5. Sussudio • Phil Collins
  6. Sledgehammer (extended dance remix) • Peter Gabriel: Petey was my first concert (the tour for this album in 1987) and I bought all the 12" singles for the So LP.
  7. We Close Our Eyes (club mix) • Go West: File next to Mr Mister under "Bands Only I Remember Anymore"
  8. Say Say Say • Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
  9. Like a Virgin (extended dance remix) • Madonna: There's lots of Madonna on this playlist. She never fails!
  10. Be Near Me (munich mix) • ABC
  11. Too Shy • Kajagoogoo
  12. Dancing In The Dark (blaster mix) • Bruce Springsteen released three 12 inch singles from the album Born In The U.S.A. comprised of disco-fied remixes by dance producer Arthur Baker. This is the best of the bunch.
  13. Freeway of Love (Extended Remix) • Aretha Franklin
  14. Two Hearts (club mix) • I was totally surprised to find a 12 inch single of U2 remixes from so early in their career. I own several remixes of songs from Rattle & Hum and Achtung Baby, but finding this vinyl was a total surprise. The remix is tasteful, and seems to preserve Larry Mullen's original drum track.
  15. Love Bites • Def Leppard
Here's the "Late 80s English Alternative" section:
  1. Why Can't I Be You? • The Cure
  2. Kiss Me On The Bus • The Replacements
  3. This Charming Man • The Smiths
  4. Just Can't Get Enough • Depeche Mode
  5. Bizarre Love Triangle • New Order
  6. New Sensation (nicks mix) • INXS
  7. I Cant Wait (dutch mix) • Nu Shooz
  8. I'll Tumble 4 Ya (12" remix) • Culture Club
  9. Borderline (new mix) • Madonna
  10. Drive • The Cars: A note on ballads. Only play 1 at a time, and space them out, every 20 or 30 minutes max.
  11. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go • Wham!
Here's the "Late 80s Novelty Hip Hop" section:
  1. Hey Ladies • Beastie Boys
  2. Bust a Move • Young MC
  3. Me Myself And I • De La Soul
  4. Wild Wild Life (extended mix) • Talking Heads
  5. Escapade • Janet Jackson
  6. Big Time • Peter Gabriel
  7. Something About You • Level 42
  8. Poison Arrow (remix) • ABC
  9. Angel (extended dance remix) • Madonna
  10. Hello • Lionel Richie
  11. Rio • Duran Duran
  12. Tenderness • General Public: Nobody knows this band, but everyone loves the song.
  13. Steppin' Out • Joe Jackson
  14. True • Spandau Ballet
  15. Don't You Want Me • The Human League
  16. The Safety Dance • Men Without Hats: People LOVE dancing to this song. Any dance song which is also a novelty hit song works great.
  17. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) • Whitney Houston
  18. Billie Jean • Michael Jackson
  19. Heaven • Bryan Adams
  20. I Feel For You • Chaka Khan
  21. Material Girl (extended dance remix) • Madonna
  22. Things Can Only Get Better • Howard Jones
  23. Take On Me • A-Ha
  24. That's Why They Call It the Blues • Elton John
  25. Come On Eileen • Dexy's Midnight Runners: Another must-have.
  26. Angel • Aerosmith
  27. Hungry Like The Wolf • Duran Duran
  28. Girls Just Want To Have Fun • Cyndi Lauper
  29. When I Think Of You • Janet Jackson
  30. Relax • Frankie Goes To Hollywood
  31. Dancing With Myself • Billy Idol: People literally rushed to the dance floor like someone threw hundred-dollar bills everywhere.
  32. Let's Go Crazy • Prince & The Revolution: The ideal last-song capper.
What did I take away from hosting my first live dance party?
  • People like to dance to novelty hits from their youth.
  • People like to dance to songs they know already. I tried playing some very danceable Style Council ("My Ever-Changing Moods"), and nobody danced. "But this song shows how cool I am!" I thought to myself. On the flip side (not literally), I didn't want to play "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" because it is hopelessly uncool. My wife forced me to play it AND SHE WAS RIGHT. The whole crowd danced their asses off.
  • Don't blow your wad right away. I hosted a dance party once where the first five songs were super hot and danceable, yet everyone was still saying "hi" and settling in, so no one danced.
  • I didn't think anyone would dance to "Dancing With Myself", but it really worked.
  • If you want to rock the "jacket with the sleeves pushed up" look (see my photo, top), you have to roll them up BEFORE you put the jacket on.