Rob Sheffield's Top '80s Summer Cruising SongsReading Talking to Girls About Duran Duran is a nostalgia trip you'll love taking: add Rob Sheffield's exclusive playlist to the mix--featured below, with liner notes--and you'll be ready for some kind of wonderful summer night. You can also sample and download these songs in our custom MP3 playlist.
"Little Red Corvette" (1982) by Prince
This was my get-in-the-zone song the morning of my driver's test. Prince seemed to be promising me that as soon as I had wheels, all sorts of glamorously messed-up ladies would be trying to hop a ride uptown in my love machine. It didn't exactly work out that way, but at least I passed the test and got my license. Thanks, Prince!
"Missing You" (1984) by John Waite
I spent the summer of '84 rolling around Boston in an ice cream truck, selling Bomb Pops and Fudgsicles and Nutty Buddys. And with all due respect to Scarface, I got high on my own supply, which means I spent the summer with one hand on the wheel and another one stuffing my face. I was also listening to the radio 18 hours a day, so I got obsessed with this song. I still get choked up at the "heartbreak overload" part.
"Never Let Me Down Again" (1987) by Depeche Mode
It's weird how bizarre sexual tension fits so well with operating a motor vehicle--you really shouldn't try to drive and feel tragic at the same time, right? But they go hand in hand. No song captures that feeling like this one: just you and your best friend, riding high, leaving the rest of the world eating your dust.
"Is There Something I Should Know?" (1983) by Duran Duran
One summer I worked on a garbage truck on the southeast expressway into Boston, picking up trash on the side of the road: burger wrappers, soda cups, porn mags, the occasional pair of pants. Duran Duran helped get me through it, although I never did figure out what they meant by "You're about as easy as a nuclear war."
"It Takes Two" (1988) by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock
This brings back fond memories of 1988, when "It Takes Two" was pumping out of every car down my street, with the same "Whoop!" "Yeah!" "Whoop!" "Yeah!" James Brown sample rolling on all summer long. Roxanne Shante's "Go On Girl" had the same sample, so by the end of the summer it was hard-wired into my neurons.
"Our Lips Are Sealed" (1980) by The Go-Go's
This song puts anybody in serious danger of a speeding ticket--Gina Schock had to be one of the greatest punk rock drummers who ever banged a gong. I'm sad the Go-Go's had to cancel their farewell tour--but hopefully that just means they'll stick together a little longer.
"Hysteria" (1987) by Def Leppard
This song always reminds me of a cool girl I hung around with in the summer of 1988. She liked setting things on fire, getting both of us thrown out of bars, and Def Leppard. It's funny because this is a classic hair-metal ballad, but with all these glossy keyboards, it sounds like impeccable '80s synth-pop--it could pass for prime New Order or OMD. (Editor's note: Song is available on album only.)
"Left of the Dial" (1985) by The Replacements
It was the summer of '86 when I road-tripped to my first Replacements show, in Providence. Paul Westerberg was standing at the bar before the show, so I stole the Kool butt out of his ashtray and mailed it to a girl I liked in Nova Scotia. She wrote back, "It stinks to high heaven." But I guess that was the kind of stupid romantic gesture only a Replacements fan would make.
"My Prerogative" (1989) by Bobby Brown
Everybody's talking all this stuff about him! Why don't they just let him live! This is a perfectly badass song for prowling the streets, feeling totally invincible. And if the night ends up in the back of a cop car, it makes an excellent soundtrack to kicking out the windows, because that's what Bobby would do.
"Wild in the Streets" (1986) by Bon Jovi
One of the funny things about Jon Le Bon is that his career album, *Slippery When Wet*, is packed with cruising songs as good as "Livin’ on a Prayer." I always think "Wild in the Streets" could have been Bon Jovi's biggest, bonniest and joviest hit, but for some reason they never played it on the radio; it's the one that got away. I also love how Jon yells that nutty "rock me!" during the guitar solo. Someday I pray that Morrissey will cover this--and change it to "Wilde in the Streets." A guy can dream.
From Publishers Weekly
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