Once again, Chris Rooney digs deep into his sack.
Ho! Ho! Ho! and Oy, Vey! / Here are 11 fun songs you should play / A holiday mixtape about games and toys / For all the naughty or nice New Wave girls and boys!
To listen via Spotify, or to check out our other mixtapes, click here.
Visage, “Mind Of A Toy” (1981)
Frontman Steve Strange might the only member from Visage who got any face time, but the group also included Ultravox’s Robin Simon on guitar.
Recommended Game: Simon, the electronic memory game with the slogan, “Simon’s a computer, Simon has a brain, you either do what Simon says or else go down the drain!”
Peter Gabriel, “Games Without Frontiers” (1980)
Gabriel was inspired by a long-running TV show called Jeux Sans Frontières broadcast in several European countries in which teams of bizarrely-dressed neighbors would compete in games of skill.
Recommended Game: The premise of the show sounds oddly familiar to the fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons that was particularly popular with pre-adolescent males in the late 70s and early 80s before home video game consoles became so ubiquitous.
Altered Images, “Real Toys” (1981)
Altered Images singer Claire Grogan in many ways is a living embodiment of the popular toy, Barbie – cute, blonde, stylish and a poppy chirpy singing voice to boot. Heck, Altered Images even had an album called Pinky Blue, which are probably Barbie’s two favorite colors.
Recommended Toy: Barbie, the bestselling dress-up doll for the last 50 years
Level 42, “Love Games” (1981)
Many popular arcade video games in the 1980s had multiple levels players had to complete in order to advance. Level 42 seems like nothing compared to the 256 possible levels in a game of Ms. Pac-Man.
Recommended Game: Love is in the air during the first Act between levels in Ms. Pac-Man. Both she and her love interest, Pac-Man are chased by ghosts until they collide and kiss.
Toyah, “I Want To Be Free” (1981)
Even before she was a singer, Toyah Willcox exercised her rebel instincts by experimenting with hair color and style. To this day she doesn’t know why her parents gave her the unusual name of “Toyah”.
Recommended Toy: Launched as a TV show tie-in, the Barbiesque doll named Jem was a rock star like Toyah sporting a shocking pink head of hair and was “Truly Outrageous” according to the show’s theme song.
Echo & The Bunnymen, “The Game” (1988)
Ian McColloch’s piercing lyrics, “Through the crying hours / Of your glitter years / All the living out / Of your tinsel tears / And the midnight trains / I never made / ‘Cause I’d already /Played… the game” foresees the Bunnymen’s Annus Horribilis. McCulloch would quit the band shortly after this and drummer Pete de Freitas died in a motorcycle accident the following year.
Recommended Game: Banned in the United States the same year as the release of The Bunnymen’s song, the popular backyard game of Lawn Darts apparently caused a lot of injuries and one fatality. There was even a 1989 song written about them by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities called “Lawn Dart” which lamented their removal from the shelves at K-Mart.
Lene Lovich, “New Toy” (1981)
Making fun of consumer culture, Lene was sick of her television, radio and vacuum cleaner that she demanded a new toy in her life.
Recommended Toy: The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to introduce her to the 1980 Toy of The Year, the Rubik’s Cube. With over 350 million sold, it is widely considered today to be the world’s best-selling toy.
Yello, “Vicious Games” (1985)
The Swiss synthpop duo had to try hard to hop over the English Channel and the Atlantic to market themselves to a larger English-speaking audience. In the end, they were met with modest success in the British pop charts and American club charts.
Recommended Game: Frogger challenged the player to help a frog avoid being viciously run over by automobiles while crossing a busy road. By the mid 1980s, many households had home video game consoles like Atari that played many of the popular arcade games including Frogger.
The Toy Dolls, “Nellie The Elephant” (1984)
Pop punkers The Toy Dolls were known for not taking themselves or their songs too seriously when recording parodies of popular songs. Their cover of the 50s children’s song “Nellie The Elephant” was their sole hit.
Recommended Toy: While adoptable Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were the “it” toy in 1985, along came the Garbage Pail Kids series of trading cards that parodied the dolls. Each Garbage Pail Kid character had some comical abnormality, deformity or terrible fate paid off with a humorous, word play name.
The Psychedelic Furs, “Only a Game” (1984)
In order to win a pink Entertainment wedge, answer this question: Before settling on the name “The Psychedelic Furs,” what other moniker did the band playing under during their early days? Answer: “The Europeans”.
Recommended Game: Trivial Pursuit, the board game that tested your general knowledge and popular culture questions peaked in popularity back in 1984, a year in which over 20 million games were sold.
Duran Duran, “Bedroom Toys” (2004)
Ahem, well… Duran Duran’s song and companion video might actually be more fitting for Santa’s naughty list.
Recommended Toy: We’ll leave that to the grown-ups.