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Girl Bands of the 80’s

25 Apr


Prior to the 80’s there was plenty of  female solo artists but only a few All Girl Groups that had hit songs,  most of these were part of RnB sound of Motown featuring African-American  women.   Not until the “Runaways” of the late 70’s did an all girl band  write, sing and play their own music  make it to the top of the charts.  The decades to follow made the “Girl Bands” a  commodity but in the 80’s it was still rare for all female groups to have any commercial success.  The Spice Girls, En Vogue,  All Saints, Pussy Cat Dolls, Girlicious, Dixie Chicks, Be Good Tanyas, Destiny’s Child, Girls Aloud and Bikini Kill all owe some respect to their sisters from the 80’s.


The British trio consisting of life long childhood  friends  Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward met up with  Sara D while studying fashion journalism together in 1979; recorded their first hit “Cruel Summer” on their 2nd album   featured in the Karate Kid soundtrack in 1983.  The bands original image  British Tomboy Punk  later gave way to a more sexually aggressive and slick image in 1986 for the hit song and video “Venus”   as the music became more dance oriented.  The girls biggest hit “I Heard A Rumour” 1987 was a full-blown glam dance video straight from Madonna with wardrobe and boy toy background dancers to match.  Banarama appeared in the original Band Aid video “Do They Know Its Christmas” and Band Aid II in 1989.  They continue today as a duo.


Sisters, Debbie and Vicki Peterson were joined by Susanna Hoffs and Annette Zilinskas formed in Los Angeles in 1981 as “The Bangs” changing the name to “The Bangles”  due to a legal issue.  Zilinskas was replaced in 83 with Michael Steele from the “Runaways”  The Bangels had numerous hits with the quirky “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Going Down to Liverpool”  as it featured Leonard Nimoy in the video.    Manic Monday written by Prince was their 2nd best-selling single after “Eternal Flame”.

Go Go’s

The Go Go’s had a classic 80’s new wave pop sound that made music history as the first all women band to both write their own music and play instruments to a billboard #1 song.  Fronted by Belinda Carlisle with Jane Wiedlin, Kathy Valentine, Gina Schock and Charlotte Caffey this early 80’s band had many hits that preceded the music video.   The debut album “Beauty and The Beat” 1981 went double platinum selling more than 3 million copies.  The band split in 1985 due to personality conflicts and creative differences but in reality it was due to the ongoing drug addiction of some of the band members mainly Belinda Carlisle that would not be openly discussed until 20 years later.   All members of the group went on to successful solo careers  and write for todays popular stars;  Charlotte Caffey penned hits for Keith Urban and Gina Schock for Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.  There have been many reunion tours over the years including a new one in 2011.

Vanity 6 

Susan, Vanity and Brenda. Vanity 6


The purple great one “Prince” said he created this trio in his own musical image as female.  Denise Matthews, Susan Moonsie, and Brenda Bennett survived for only one album.  Along the way Mathews a Canadian B movie actress took the stage name Vanity and Prince tarted the group up to perform in high heels and lingerie; lyrics of songs matched their appearance. Their second single release “Nasty Girl” was featured in “Beverly Hills Cop” and hollywood teen sex romp “Private School” 1983.  Vanity and Prince appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in the same year.  Vanity who was dating Prince at the time was staring opposite him in the film “Purple Rain” abruptly quit and ended the relationship when offered a solo record deal.  Apollonia took over lead duties of the band and in the movie.  The band was renamed Apollonia 6.  The six is rumoured to be used as it represented the number of breasts in the band.


1985 saw the first all female rap group form and make hit records for the next 15 years.  Cheryl James (“Salt”, now Cheryl Wray), Sandra Denton (“Pepa”), and Deidra “Dee Dee” Roper (Spinderella)  were overtly sexual and controversial in their songs, ushering in a new era and genre of music for women. Salt n Pepa continue on today celebrating their 25th anniversary on Oprah.


Initially formed  in Miami (1984) Expose released a 12 inch single to take advantage of  the new radio format of  House/Club/Dance mixes for major urban markets that evolved into  “Freestyle”.  The group was reformed in 86 with an entire new lineup of women Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno and Ann Curless and signals the first commercial  packaging of an all Female Group as they were selected by Miami Disc Jockey and Producer Lewis Martineé along with his partners at Pantera Productions.   The group was the first to hold the record of  4 top 10 billboard hits from a debut album.  They disbanded in 1995 after only 3 albums but with sales of 25 million records.

Pointer Sisters

Once again a Sister Act makes it big in the 80’s.  The Pointers, Ruth, Anita, June and Bonnie began as a quartet in 1973 reaching commercial success in the 80’s as a trio recording 10 top 10 hits between 1979 and 1985; Bonnie left to pursue a solo career.  With the advent of MTV the sisters were put into heavy video rotation with now classics “Im so Excited”  “Jump”  and “Neutron Dance” which was featured in Eddie Murphy’s movie hit  “Beverley Hills Cop”


Another very late 80’s girl group in the freestyle genre assembled as a studio project  by Robert Clivillés and David Cole (C+C Fun Factory) for the dance club scene, had an unexpected hit and thus the group was put together with  April Harris , Michelle Visage , and Idalis DeLeon.

Sweet Sensation

Sisters Margie and Mari Fernandez joined with Betty LeBron to form this all female Puerto Rican  Freestyle  Dance music group based out of New York in 1986.  Mari was replace in 1989 with Sheila Vega and in 91 Margie & Sheila were replaced by 3 new members, Belle, Maya, & Jenae, making them a quartet.  By 1992 the group disappeared. Their debut album Take It While It’s Hot  1989 spawned 5 hit singles

 Cover Girls

Another New York based Freestyle Dance music trio formed by music promoter and dance club owner Sal Abbatiell that went through 8 performers from 87-96.  ” Show Me” the debut album, 1987 released 5 singles, 2 became top 100 hits “Because of You” and “Promise Me” a 12 inch single named after the album. 


Started in 1981 this funk dance oriented group had a few hits that broke the top 100 on the charts, doing a bit better on the RnB charts. 1984 – 1987 saw the most activity with 3 albums and nine singles.  By the end of the decade the group of six was a trio.



 Company B

Company as a Trio

And yet another Freestyle group from the late 80’s from the producer driven trend of all girl dance groups.  Company B had a #1 hit on the Dance charts that crossed over to the pop chart making it to #21.  They were able to hold it together long enough to record 4 albums with 6 singles released and 8 girls rotating through the band.  They were known for platinum wigs.



Formed in 1980, spending most of the decade as an opening act for Ozzy, Scorpion and Bon Jovi they got their shot when EMI signed them to a record deal in 1988 to get a piece of the pie from the growing commercial success of other all girl groups. Their self titled album was followed by one other in  1990. “Edge of a Broken Heart” is there only hit.  What makes the band unique was Glam and Hard Rock has had only a handful of  female bands over the past 30 years. 

Mary Jane Girls

The protogees of “Rick James”  this funk, disco and RnB group were to take on Prince and Vanity 6.  They stuck around just long enough to record two albums that went gold in 83 and 85 with 8 songs that cracked the top 100 chart in either the dance or RnB list.  “In My House” made it to #7 in the US and #1 on the dance chart.

80’s Teen Pop Stars

17 Apr

Justin Beiber

Justin Beiber

Nothing new here that was exclusive to the 80’s.  Teens and pop music have been around  since Frank Sinatra.  Long before the numerous American  Idol and  Americas Got Talent TV shows;  the Beibs, Miley Cyrus the Jonas Brothers and a hundred others there was Star Search 1983 – 1995.  With the assistance of the hot new media at the time the “music video” the 80’s managed to produce a few teen pop sensations. Without Twitter, You Tube and other social media sharing platforms to perpetually market the mediocrity of the talent  many to the 80’s teen stars shone brightly for a very brief time.


TIFFANY (Darwish)

The original 80’s singing star went by just Tiffany.  Not to be confused with the numerous other Tiffany’s that are around: Selby, Evans, Keys, Fallon, Mulhern, Taylor, Thiessen most of which appear to be Playboy playmates.  In 1987 Tiffany released her first album and had a a hit with the cover  “I Think We Are Alone Now”.  Like all great teen pop stars there were immediate follow-up albums in  88 and 89 but no more hits.  She went on to pose in playboy in 2002 and appear in 2007 VH1 Celebrity Fit Club going from 152 lbs to 124.


Tiffany hit single I Think We Are Alone Now


Debbie Gibson

Debbie Gibson made history the same year as Tiffany 1987,  as the youngest female (17) to write , produce and perform a #1 hit single on the Billboard chart.  Debbie had some talent recording 6 songs that made the top 10 in the late 80’s.  She continued into the 90’s without further hits.  She dabbled in  TV and Movies for the past 20 years and did record a hit in Japan in 2010.  Debbie also did the Playboy pose in 2005.  Debbie and Tiffany starred together in Mega Python vs Gatoroid 2011.

Debbie Gibson the 80s


Debbie Gibson 2005 Playboy



Bonus marks to you if  you remember Menudo, the Puerto Rican all Boy Band formed in the late 70’s reaching stardom in 1981 with the Album Quiero Ser.   Menudo is a popular Mexican  soup of jumbled bits from the cow’s stomach and possibly other parts explains the ever-changing line up of singers as they were kicked out upon  their 18 birthday. Menudo did not release an English language album untill a full year after touring the United States in 1983.  Ricky Martin is a Mendo alumni 1984-1989.  A total of  31 boys were part of the band between 1977 and 1995.  By the mid 90’s the   Boys were slightly older, up to 20 years in age and from many different Spanish-speaking countries.  It is unknown if any members have posed nude.

Menudo late 70s


Menudo with Ricky Martin

Hair Bands

20 Mar


Every musical era has its corresponding hairstyle… Beehive, Pompadour, Afro, Mop Top, long, short, straight or curly but the birth of the music video pushed music and hair into a symbiotic art form.  The relationship between hair and music cut across all the music genres of the 80’s with one defining characteristic shared  “Big Hair”.   This led to the term “Hair Band” to describe bands that were noted as much for their hair as music.  Hair Bands are often singularly associated with Glam and Metal music but some of the best Hair came from the New Wave and Punk movement. Whether spiked, teased, gelled, mohawk, coloured, beaded or rat tailed the 80’s had a lot of hair.  Here are some of my favourites from bands that may have not gotten their full recognition in the 80’s.

Flock of Seagulls, Mike Score

Platinum Blonde

Mary Jane Girls

Kid n Play

Billy Idol

Twisted Sister, Dee Snider

Taylor Dayne

Boy George



Thompson Twins

Howard Jones

Who You Gonna Call?

10 Mar

Summer of 84 saw Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray team up once again with producer/director Ivan Reiteman along with Annie Pots, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis and Ernie Hudson make the 32 nd biggest grossing  film of all time. (adjusted for inflation)  The movie ran for 7 weeks at number one, being displaced by Prince’s Purple Rain after a week it regained top spot and held the number 1 position for another 6 weeks.

The Music

Gohstbusters was true 80’s phenomenon being  the first film to officially reach #1 at the box office, MTV video and the  Billboard music chart.   Ray Parker Jr. earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.   The theme   song “Who You Gonna Call”  was reported to be worth an extra $20 million to the box office take.   Despite the success and popularity of the song  Huey Lewis sued Parker  for plagiarism claiming the melody was stolen from his “I Want A New Drug”  hit, recorded in 83.  Lewis was originally asked  to write the title song but declined as he was working on the music for Back to The Future at the time.  There was a settlement reached out of court with an agreement not to mention the suit.  Lewis  breached the agreement on the VH1 show ” Behind the Music” years later.

Filthy Fifteen

19 Feb

The Parent Music Resource Centre (PMRC) led by Tipper Gore, then wife of former Vice President of the USA  Al Gore and a group that became known as the “Washington Wives”  due to their husbands high-powered political positions  were responsible for pressuring the recording industry to label music deemed offensive to display this label in 1985

The PMRC used a list of 15 songs  the “Filthy Fifteen” in a series of  Senate hearings to pressure the recording industry into a voluntary compliance with the warning label.  This label had many ramifications that are still felt in 2011.  And now for your enjoyment …

1 Prince Darling Nikki
2 Sheena Easton Sugar Walls sex
3 Judas Priest Eat Me Alive sex
4 Vanity Strap on Robbie Baby sex
5 Mötley Crüe Bastard violence
6 AC/DC Let Me Put My Love Into You sex
7 Twisted Sister We’re Not Gonna Take It violence
8 Madonna Dress You Up sex
9 W.A.S.P. Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) sex
10 Def Leppard High ‘n Dry drug and alcohol use
11 Mercyful Fate Into The Coven occult
12 Black Sabbath Trashed drug and alcohol use
13 Mary Jane Girls In My House sex
14 Venom Possessed occult
15 Cyndi Lauper She-Bop sex, masturbation

How Many Balloons?

18 Feb

The 70’s had Ban The Bomb and the 80’s No Nukes.  This was the height of the cold war with Ronald Reagan leading the pack of  “Hawks” on both sides.  The former Soviet Union was still under harsh communist rule with a quick succession of leaders in the early 80’s before Mikail Gorbachev came to power in 1985.  Gorbachev, best remembered  for his birth mark resembling a map of southeast Asia could be described as a “Dove” in comparison to his predessors and Reagan.


The  80’s saw mass protest marches on both sides of the US/Canadian border and across the pond, Western Europe joined the No Nuke movement  as they were in the fallout zone between the States and the  USSR.  Major cities across North America experienced crowds of  100,ooo people, the largest crowds since the Vietnam War.  Even conservative cities like Toronto had protest marches topping 100,000 people, complete with the RCMP filming the crowd.  I was convinced for years that CISIS had a file with my picture in Ottawa for taking part in peace marches and various protests, as I was a semi regular on the circuit. 


The big difference this time is the protestors cut across all demographics and once again musical genres.  Just like in the 60’s music played a big part in the No Nukes movement.  Springsteen, Jacksone Brown, the Doobies, Tom Petty, Carly Simon and Crosby, Stills and Nash were outspoken playing a number of concerts supporting Nuclear Disarmament.  The 80’s were the last decade to produce top bands with commercial hit political protest songs.  Rap was just begining to appear but it’s protest was directed more internally than outward.   Probally the biggest hit that personified the  80’s No Nuke movement was Germanys,  Nena with  “99 Luftballons”.  Originally sung in German, 1983, it became an international hit when re-recorded in English in 1984.  The 83 live video consisting of only the band is raw and commonly believed to be a truer song.  By 1984 MTV was in full bloom and the band got the TV video treatment.  For the most part this was her only success outside of Germany even though she has officially released over 29 albulms, 48 singles and featured in 8 films.  The song is still played often, played for an hour straight on MTV classic during a 2006 Huricane Catrina fundraiser as a donor gave $35,000 for the privledge and Nena herself  re-recorded the original in 2000.  I have included the original German version for you.



She’s A Maniac!

17 Feb

This is how I remember Jennifer Beals in Flashdance 1983.

I’m sure there was more to the movie than this but at the age of 17 there wasn’t much else about the movie I can remember.       

Maybe for this also!


The movie spawned the fashion of over sized sweat shirts and leg warmers with a bit of help from Jane Fonda and the Aerobercise fad.  Hot on the heels of “Fame” 1980, Flashdance helped  to popularize the dance movie genre. Foot Loose, Heavenly Bodies, Breakin and Dirty Dancing  and many more were to follow.  The soundtrack had 2 hits: She’s A Maniac and Irene Cara’s What A Feeling.

Only 20 at the time of the movie,  Beals plays 18 year old Alex  who welds by day and dreams of dancing at a prestigous academy, while working as an exotic dancer but not the kind that actually strips.  As most dance movies there is not a lot of plot.  Still it was the 3rd highest grossing movie of 83.  Beals has continuously worked throughout the years, best known for her work on the L Word and starring in a new Police Drama entitled Chicago Code, premiering February 2011.

Jennifer Beals Chicago Code 2011

Jennifer Beals Chicago Code 2011


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