We live in a list-crazy society. Long, drawn-out lists are pretty much the only thing that airs on VH1. At the end of the year, newspapers became almost unreadable because of all the lists about top stories of the year filling those gaping news holes. The good news (pun?) is that the papers will be dead in a few years so that won’t be a problem any more (I kid, I kid. I love newspapers and think they’ll be around for at least 20 more years). If someone comes up with a thought-provoking well-reasoned article, nobody will read it. If all those nuggets of information are picked apart and put in list format, everyone will. It's just the way things are.
Here’s my contribution to the ADD generation with a list that hasn’t been done before, at least according to a quick Google search. Not just the best songs from the 1980s. Not just the best songs about foreign places, either. Rather, this is the best of both worlds: the top 80s songs about foreign places.
Istanbul by They Might Be Giants: It’s technically a cover, and conflicting information says that the song came out in either 1989 or 1991. Still, it’s a great song and was immortalized in an episode of Tiny Toons.
Jerusalem by Alphaville: The lyrics are a bit incomprehensible, like many of the German band’s songs, but still pretty powerful. I’m not Jewish and I’ve never been to Israel, but for some reason this song fills me with nationalistic pride for the country.
Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses: This song doesn’t exactly fit the criteria of the list, although I suppose it can be argued that it does. All I know is that I've never been where both the grass is green and the girls are pretty.
5. Kathmandu by Bob Seger
5. Kathmandu by Bob Seger
I think the lyrics say it all.
I'm tired of looking at the TV news.Aren’t we all?
I'm tired of driving hard and paying dues.
I figure, baby, I've got nothing to lose,
I'm tired of being blue.
4. Big in Japan by Alphaville
I love me some Alphaville. This song is a dark and moody, yet instantly catchy and hummable. The music video is goofy fun.
3. Panama by Van Halen
This is the first (and only) true rock song to crack the top five, but that speaks more of my recent obsession with electronica and synth pop than anything else. I have nothing but kind words to say about this song.
2. Africa by Toto
I’m going to get off topic for a moment, but I’ve dated a lot of awful girls in my life. In high school, there was this particularly excellent girlfriend of mine. This was ‘our song’ for no particular reason except that it was fun to hum while driving together. I haven’t met many girls that cool since.
1. One Night in Bankok by Murray Head
No other song captures the feel of a place, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner, like this song does. In 2007 I decided to study abroad in Thailand, so I did as much research as I could on the country. This tune, from the musical Chess, was part of my education I’m afraid to admit. Some of the lyrics were quite true as I found, particularly the line that goes “if you’re lucky then the god’s a she.” Long story.