The 1980s’ Most Gloriously Absurd Song Lyrics


As we mentioned earlier this week in our regular streaming album roundup, we have something of a soft spot for 1980s rockers The Cult, mainly because they were so absurd that it was somewhat endearing, from Ian Astbury’s curious Native American obsession through Billy Duffy’s haircuts to writing songs with titles like “Aphrodisiac Jacket” and “Earth Mofo.” Amongst other things, they were also responsible for some of the ’80s most gloriously silly lyrics — and that‘s saying something, because the ’80s were home to lyrics that were very, very silly indeed. So silly, in fact, that we’re celebrating this week’s release of The Cult’s Choice of Weapon by collecting some of our favorite examples after the jump. All together now: “Take your seaside arms and write the next line!”

Toto — “Africa”

Best bit: “I know that I must do what’s right/ As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”

The gold standard for ’80s absurdity. Honestly, it’s hard to know where to begin with this: the weird post-colonial vision of Africa as dark, exotic wonderland of wild dogs and wise old men and distant drums, or the nonsensical chorus, or the above lyric, which is surely the most hilariously silly couplet anyone ever tried to cram into a verse structure built to accommodate about 14 less syllables. (And, of course, there’s the fact that Kilimanjaro isn’t even remotely close to the Serengeti.)

The Cult — “Love Removal Machine”

Best bit: “Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, I fell from the sky/ Yesterday you blew my mind/ Oh yeah”

No, we have no idea what a “love removal machine” is, either. We’re not sure we want to, to be honest.

Europe — “The Final Countdown”

Best bit: “We’re heading for Venus and still we stand tall/ ‘Cause maybe they’ve seen us and welcome us all”

It’s something of a blessing that this song’s insanely catchy synth riff overshadows its lyrics, which are an earnest discussion of the possibility of flying to Venus to hang out with friendly extraterrestrials. We do admire the restraint showed by vocalist Joey Tempest (possibly not his real name) in not extending the “Venus”/”seen us” rhyme to its obvious conclusion, though.

Van Halen — “Why Can’t This Be Love?”

Best bit: “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time”

Well, quite.

Spandau Ballet — “True”

Best bit: “Take your seaside arms and write the next line/ Oh, I want the truth to be known”

“I still get berated for the line ‘Take your seaside arms,'” Gary Kemp complained to the Guardian last week, “but it’s straight out of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.” That’s as it may be, but Nabokov’s “seaside limbs” image had some sort of context to give it meaning. “True” had, um, a sax solo.

Phil Collins — “Sussudio”

Best bit: “I feel so good if I just say the word/ Sussudio, just say the word!”


The Police — “De Do Do Do”

Best bit: “And when their eloquence escapes me/ Their logic ties me up and rapes me”

As if writing a song based around the chorus “De do do do/ De da da da” wasn’t bad enough, Sting chose to include two verses that scan like kindergarten rhymes and an ill-advised rape metaphor for good measure. Nice one, Sting!

Michael Sembello — “Maniac”

Best bit: “It can cut you like a knife if the fight becomes the fire/ On the wire between will and what will be”

The most over-dramatic song about dancing, ever. We understand that you need to go beyond, “There’s a girl/ And she really likes dancing/ The end” — but even so, hyperbole can only take you so far. This song demonstrates exactly how far.

The Beach Boys — “Kokomo”

Best bit: “Aruba, Jamaica, oooh, I wanna take ya/ Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama”

Brian Wilson wrote Pet Sounds and Smile. Mike Love wrote this. Sigh.

Starship — “We Built This City”

Best bit: “Who counts the money, underneath the bar/ Who rides the wrecking ball into our guitars?”

Remember the kerfuffle when Blender named this the worst song ever? They may well have been right, y’know. Also, why and how would anyone — even an evil corporate stooge — ride a wrecking ball into a guitar? And finally: Grace Slick, how could you?