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Mad World is a Great Reason to Revisit the Crazy 1980s

Photo courtesy of Abrams Image

Big hair, shoulder pads, and synthesizers are the first things that come to mind when thinking about the 1980s. But a new book, Mad World, aims to change our perceptions about the New Wave sounds and day-glo sights that defined pop culture in the decade of Thatcher and Reagan.

Mad World reveals the stories behind some of the biggest songs of the 1980s with interviews from the coiffed pop stars who made us “Shout” (Tears for Fears) and bop along to “Whip It” (Devo), “She Blinded Me with Science” (Thomas Dolby) and “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (Simple Minds). How did Adam Ant influence Michael Jackson’s style? Why did “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” mark the end of an era? Fights, breakups, band secrets – it’s all here.

As authors Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein (both longtime journalists) revisit 36 songs from those awesome days – some radio hits, others cult classics – they tap into their inner music geeks to find out how so many artists transformed personal tragedies, brutal childhoods, and Cold War fears into totally tubular ditties that made us turn up the volume on our boomboxes.

Each chapter provides commentary that puts the music in cultural, political and even geographical context.

Mad World maintains the diversity of the New Wave musical landscape by juxtaposing lighter, one-hit wonders such as Kajagoogo’s “Too Shy” and Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” with the enduring melancholy of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the megahit balladry of Spandau Ballet’s “True.”

Nick Rhodes, founding member and keyboardist for Duran Duran reminisces about the 1980s in the book’s thoughtful forward: “Idiosyncratic and eccentric songs often mingled in the mainstream charts,” he writes. “The public was open-minded, and there was a true appreciation for the currency of ideas and imagination. One thing that remains as true today as it was in the eighties: While those in their teens and early 20s have a limited musical vocabulary, they remain the key source for change in music. Possibly it’s a youthful energy, a swagger, a blinkered belief that they are right.”

Many tomes about Rock and Roll exist, but Mad World is one of the first to give artists from the 1980s another day in the sun: the interviews in the book are priceless. This is one time machine you need to ride! (Hot tubs strictly optional.)


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