An 80sxchange Dance Mix: Volume 1

For my newest article, I want to make a little change of pace. While this will be a music-related article, it's not about a specific album. I would instead like to offer up some thoughts on a random selection of 80s dance songs harvested from mix CDs I made a few years ago. I don't listen to my CD player anymore, instead preferring an MP3 player which can hold at least 80 hours of music, as opposed to CDs, which can only hold less than 80 minutes of music. The technology may change, but my love for the songs remains the same.

To start us off, we all remember the classic HBO Feature Presentation theme from the 80s. Did you know, though, that there was a pop version of that theme?

I was taken aback in a good way when I first came across this several years ago. This song, composed by Ferdinand Jay, could really rock a dance floor if someone ever decided to play it at a club. This pop version takes a classic theme from our youth and gives it a grown-up sheen. The guitars are wailing, the synths are percolating, and the horns? They're amazing. It's very reminiscent of James Brown's 80s work.

Instrumentals were often as successful in the 80s as songs with vocals, and I have no doubt that this could've landed on the charts if released as a single. While Showtime made excellent use of The Pointer Sisters' I'm So Excited for the Showtime Excitement campaign, they still had to go outside to get a memorable sound. HBO had their own composers, though, and this is a dynamite track. Apparently, there are also lyrics for the HBO theme as well. I'd love to hear that version come out to play someday.

The next track on our dance mix is Melissa Manchester's Night Creatures, from her 1985 album Energy.

I wish more people had heard of Night Creatures. This song, written for Melissa by the late, great George Duke, is the tale of someone who feels repressed from having fun, but gradually finds themselves expanding their horizons to get up and get down. We've all felt, at times, as though we weren't the types who could be wild and loose. We've all felt inhibited, whether by choice or circumstance. Night Creatures is a song that speaks to the idea that it's noble and right to let loose. I like that idea.

Based on the lyrical concept, I'm surprised that more people haven't done horror-themed YouTube videos set to this song. Maybe not so much now in the wake of Leaving Neverland, but for years, people making horror-themed YouTube videos would automatically jump to Michael Jackson's Thriller. If they wanted to go in a more rock-oriented direction, they might choose something by Misfits or The Cramps. I think Night Creatures would be an excellent song to add to the horror mix, but even if it doesn't happen, I would suggest replacing Thriller with Night Creatures in your next Halloween playlist.

For more about Melissa Manchester's thought on the album Energy, check out my 2020 interview with her for Pop Geeks:

Moving to a more rock-oriented song, the next track in our dance mix is Peter Wolf's I Need You Tonight.

I first heard this song on VH1 Classic, now MTV Classic, in the early 00s. The music video, with its' Miami Vice influence, impressed me with its' visuals. As to the lyrics, the song spoke to a desperation for human connection that I was feeling in the early 00s. I was feeling very lonely for much of the 00s. Whether it was because of my pop cultural tastes, the way I expressed those tastes, or the political concept I now deeply regret supporting, I felt very much alone. Wolf's lyrics and vocals spoke to that connection I needed. I would eventually find it, but it took a long time to get there.

As to VH1/MTV Classic, I stopped watching it in the mid-00s after they started adding 90s music to the station. This would be a bone of contention between me and other retro pop culture fans in the mid-00s. Some would tell me about how they were playing 80s music on classic rock stations in the 90s as a reason why I shouldn't be annoyed by VH1 Classic playing 90s music in the 00s. What I wasn't able to explain at the time was that, for a long time, the 80s has been the black sheep of pop-cultural decades. Even in the first bloom of 80s nostalgia, there was a whole lot of snarking going on, and the snark about the 80s is still happening today, albeit to a lesser degree.

To read more of my thoughts about this subject, check out this Pop Geeks article I wrote as the 2010s were drawing to a close: