egregious ’80′s music: we built this city (starship)

my nominee for worst song of the 1980s. quite possibly one of the worst ever.

by the time the classic rock group jefferson airplane / jefferson starship had morphed into starship, times indeed had changed. for one thing, no one in the band was legally permitted to use the terms jefferson or airplane when they performed. that left them as simply starship: a band consisting of a bunch of guys around founding member grace slick (she with the haircut i’ve worn on and off for the past 30 years.)

anyway, everything about we built this city screamed of the bad, commercialistic state of the music industry in the mid-1980s. sure, the music industry is always commercial — but this song is like an emblem of that crass, homogenized, pre-digested pap that was served up to people… and sadly, they loved it. (at least, they did at the time.) the song speaks of los angeles, but the band allowed different radio stations to dub traffic reports over part of the song as it played to make it seem much more local. to ensure airplay, an MTV executive had a voice-over part in the song.

you might be interested in knowing that bernie taupin, sir elton john’s longtime musical collaborator, is partially responsible for this one. (bad, bernie!)

in 2004, blender magazine decided this to be the worst song of the 1980s, and i quite agree. one of the magazine’s contributors locked himself up and listened only to this song for a 24-hour marathon.  one wonders whether the powers that be ought to have considered this prior to interrogations at gitmo.

as an aside, i was always troubled by a particular part of the song:

Marconi plays the Mamba,
Listen to the radio
Don’t you remember?
We built this city
We built this city on rock and roll!

thanks to the magic that is google, i now know the correct lyrics. but for years, i thought they were singing about a high school friend of mine. i couldn’t figure out for the life of me why they would have the nerve to sing marc cote (pronounced ko-tee) plays the mamba. listen to the radio. as an artist, he would never, EVER, allow himself to be attached to such a collosal trainwreck of a song. i am much relieved to know this to be true.

knee deep in the hoopla? i think they were knee deep in a completely different substance.

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10 Responses to “egregious ’80′s music: we built this city (starship)”

  1. I admit, I loved this song when it came out – but I have no arguments against anything you say here. What a great last post for November!

  2. aw, thanks, elaine!! now, i can rest and worry about whether people will send me bad albums in the mail ;-)

  3. Agreed wholeheartedly! And thanks for the Marc Cote reference — always nice to think of friends on a dreary November day. BTW, Marc is doing great, as I’m sure you know. He was at the reunion last summer with his wife. I can forward you his website if you don’t already have it. xoxo

  4. That was indeed an atrocious song. I’m so glad to say that I haven’t heard it in many years. Sadly, though, even without playing the video you linked, I now have it stuck in my head. Have you considered offering palatable antidotes to these songs, to help clear out the nastier earworms?

  5. Excellent choice!!

    Can you explain where “Jefferson” went? What happened with that?

    • basically, grandy, jefferson went away, thanks to a bunch of lawyers who would sue if this particular incarnation used it in their name. yet this bunch wanted somehow to be known as a long-lost relative, if you will, of jefferson airplane / jefferson starship. hence, they were starship, the only bit left.

  6. We built this city
    We built this city on two big rocks…

  7. Congratulations on another successful NaBloPoMo. So many bad ’80s songs. So little days in November. You could probably keep the theme going for a year.

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