A Song From My Electric Youth

Nov 19th, 2008 // 14 Comments


I have a connection at Razor and Tie, and he sends me all manner of amazing compilations from time to time. One of them, Teen Riot!, is pretty much wall-to-wall jamz, and listening to it taught me a lot of things about the bubblegum pop of my youth: Lisa Lisa (with or without Full Force) still rocks; so does “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q; “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” is so minimalist that it barely qualifies as a song (it’s, like, a drum machine and a synth); and “Cool It Now” is great, but it clocks in at around six minutes, which is too long by about half. (Was there a single edit?) Anyway, the biggest surprise to me (besides Color Me Badd not being all that, er, bad) was Debbie Gibson’s “Only In My Dreams,” which really holds up after all these years.



Sure, it borrows heavily from Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” in tone and layering of high scritchy-scratchy guitar and programming, but it moves, driven by a real vocalist rolling real vocal takes in a real studio. It’s a trifle of a song, but it’s an accomplished trifle of a song, and it serves as a reminder of how not-accomplished so many of our recent pop trifles are.

Check this live clip for further proof:

Doing research for this, I found out Debbie–now Deborah, sorry–was in Playboy? What?! When did that happen? I didn’t look. I remember getting the Belinda Carlisle issue and being really excited, only to have that emotion followed immediately by a crushing wave of guilt. (I prefer my naked lady-ogling to be guilt-free.)

Debbie Gibson – Only In My Dreams [YouTube]
Teen Riot! [Musicspace]

  1. MayhemintheHood

    Her collaboration with The Circle Jerks stands out as her best work, in my opinion.

  2. Anonymous

    Fully agree that the song is a cut above pop dross–and even more impressive for the fact that its auteur (writer/producer/singer) was in her mid-teens at the time.

  3. katesilver

    “Girlfriend” over “Mercedes Boy”? I begs to diff’! Man, I could assemble this on my iPod in ten minutes … for better or worse.

  4. brasstax

    Belinda Carlisle is 82.7% plastic now, Lucas. It’s almost like you were looking at a mannequin.

  5. Chris N.

    I never feel guilty about ogling naked ladies.

  6. Audif Jackson Winters III

    Debbie wrote and produced her own shit. She was no Tiffany. Although she wasn’t a patch on Robin Sparkles.

    Also, I bought my sister Electric Youth perfume for Christmas in 1989, and it was cheap, so thanks Deb.

  7. Mick Kraut

    Growing up Catholic, I am used to feelings of guilt and shame with any and all nudity…

    Showering? CHECK
    Doctor’s Office? CHECK
    Sexual activity? DOUBLE CHECK
    Self abuse? check…

  8. Maura Johnston

    @Mick Kraut: hahaha. oh man, maybe we need an idolator branch of ‘recovering catholics anonymous.’

  9. CapnCalamity

    I prefer “Foolish Beat” myself, but this one works too.

    Also, Color Me Badd still holds up. “Slow Motion” is sickkkkkk.

  10. Mick Kraut

    @Maura Johnston: Oh how fun that would be!

    One of my favorite riffs on the theme is from Family Guy when Peter goes to the library to find a book on how to potty train Stewie…the librarian hands him “EVERYBODY POOPS” to which Peter replies, “We’re Catholic”. The librarian then hands him a book titled “Youre a bad bad baby and that is concentrated evil coming out of you”…

    That about sums it up dont it?

  11. Audif Jackson Winters III

    I think things as a Catholic kid were way worse pre-Internets. I mean, you didn’t even really know other kids were all doing the same shameful things you were doing. You were the only one, and God was mad!

  12. Maura Johnston

    @Audif Jackson Winters III: but it’s just as bad now for those of us who really abstained from all that stuff. oh, what we were missing…

  13. Maura Johnston

    @Maura Johnston: (haha way to show your late bloomerhood, miss cool girl)

  14. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    @Maura Johnston: That’s what the internet is for, using anonymity to admit to things you’d normally keep private. Oh, that’s your real name, uh, nevermind. (And you don’t have to blame only Catholicism. I usually blame Nancy Reagan and her “just say no” campaign. It was just so effective. I mean, she went on Different Strokes and everything.)

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