What are you favorite obscure creepy 80's songs?
June 7, 2010 2:54 PM   Subscribe

What are some less-frequently played 80's dance songs? The creepier the vibe the better.

Trying to pick out music for an 80's party that will refuse to play the typical 80's songs one might expect (White Wedding, Tainted Love, My Sherona, Take on Me... I think you get the idea.) Instant recognition is fine, as we are playing some well known songs from artists that just don't get played because of other obvious choices that get picked. Lesser known songs are also welcome, and I actually think it'd be even better if they sound vaguely familiar but you can't quite place it. Mainly, we just want songs that will be great to dance to. I know this definition is hard to pin down but any song that has a creepy feeling to it is a plus. Thanks!
posted by I, Slobot to Media & Arts (71 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
There's an internet station called "Radio Nigel" that plays more alternative 80s -- check it out for ideas (or just play it at your party!)
posted by kestrel251 at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2010

I don't know about creepy-- well, OK, I find it creepy-- but for sheer WTF factor, very little can beat Toto Coelo's "I Eat Cannibals Part 1."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2010

Soft Cell - Sex Dwarf
posted by dino terror at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

This, or this perhaps?
posted by timsteil at 3:00 PM on June 7, 2010

You don't get much more 80's creepy than a song that starts with air raid sirens: 'Two Tribes' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Also, Art of Noise, 'Close to the Edit'
posted by The Mysterious Mr. F at 3:06 PM on June 7, 2010

I believe this is what you are looking for.

A lot of their other stuff is also good.
posted by fire&wings at 3:10 PM on June 7, 2010

Jesus Built My Hotrod - Ministry
Human Fly - Cramps
So Alive - Love and Rockets
Head On - Jesus and Mary Chain
The Killing Jar - Siouxsie and the Banshees
One Night in Bangkok - Murrat Head
Red Right Hand - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
posted by Fifi Firefox at 3:10 PM on June 7, 2010

Icehouse by Icehouse
posted by davebush at 3:10 PM on June 7, 2010

Not that obscure but good for the creep factor: Shriekback, "Nemesis"
posted by neroli at 3:17 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Desperate But Not Serious - Adam Ant
posted by corey flood at 3:17 PM on June 7, 2010

Bela Lugosi's Dead. Ok, apparently that came out in 1979, but come on, work with me, people!
posted by adamrice at 3:20 PM on June 7, 2010

EBN/OZU - Aeiou Sometimes Y
posted by Dmenet at 3:21 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe Visage - Fade to Grey.
posted by rhizome at 3:25 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came in to say Sex Dwarf by Soft Cell but someone beat me to it. Seriously though, best 80s dance song ever and it fits the creepy bill.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2010

There's that song by the Violent Femmes about throwing his daughter down a well.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Close to Me by The Cure is a fantastic dance song.
posted by gyusan at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret by Soft Cell is full of good stuff, not just Sex Dwarf and Tainted Love. But if you have to pick one, it's Sex Dwarf.

"Isn't it nice, sugar and spice,
Luring disco dollies to a life of vice ..."
posted by filthy light thief at 3:33 PM on June 7, 2010

I genuinely think Skatt Bros - Walk the Night is exactly the sort of thing you're looking for
posted by derbs at 3:34 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, Shriekback - good call on that one.
posted by davebush at 3:39 PM on June 7, 2010

I too came to suggest Sex Dwarf, but since I've been beat, how about Oingo Boingo - Little Girls?
posted by oreofuchi at 3:42 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came here to suggest Shriekback, but davebush and neroli beat me to it. It fits your description better than anything else, I think.
posted by umbú at 3:44 PM on June 7, 2010

One more suggestion for danceable 80's stuff with a hint of creepy: Prince. So much awesomeness there. If you don't know, it's time you learned!

Also, that "I always feel like, somebody's watchin' mee-eee" song.
posted by dino terror at 3:45 PM on June 7, 2010

"Go" by Tones on Tail came instantly to my mind. That and " Talk to me" by Iam Siam

Dittoing good call on the Shreikback
posted by newpotato at 3:47 PM on June 7, 2010

Shannon - "Do You Want To Get Away?"
posted by Joe Beese at 3:47 PM on June 7, 2010

Cabaret Voltaire: Warm. Creepy and sexy!
posted by Skot at 3:49 PM on June 7, 2010

Definitely check out some pre-sellout OMD.
Maid of Orleans
Enola Gay
Genetic Engineering
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:50 PM on June 7, 2010

Goodbye Horses
posted by phrontist at 3:50 PM on June 7, 2010

Secession, if you can find it. Pretty much their entire album "A Dark Enchantment" should work, plus is it full of samples from the Charles Manson story. Sneakyville and the Wolf come to mind.

Boingo. Yeah they're pretty well known but how many people actually listen to the lyrics?
posted by geckoinpdx at 3:51 PM on June 7, 2010

Also check out the Suburbs: Waiting, Music for Boys*, and others.

*I haven't listened to this in like 20 years, and I think this particular track might be iffier than I remember it. It's definitely creepy, obscure, and from the 1980s, though.
posted by umbú at 3:52 PM on June 7, 2010

I remember that Talking Heads tunes like Burning Down the House and Life During wartime always filled the dance floor. If you lived anywhere near Hamilton, the local band Teenage Head was always played at house parties (songs like Disgusteen and Let's Shake are fun if you're a drunk guy who normally won't dance).
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:59 PM on June 7, 2010

You want slightly creepy 80s songs you can dance to, eh?

Ministry - Stigmata
Front 242 - Headhunter
Sisters of Mercy - This Corrosion (not really the best Sisters of Mercy song, but it's the one that I remember hearing in clubs the most back then)
The Mission - Over The Hills And Far Away
Love and Rockets - Yin And Yang The Flowerpot Man
Cocteau Twins - Peppermint Pig (12" version)
Siouxie and the Banshees - Cities In Dust
Siouxie and the Banshees - Happy House
The Smiths - Barbarism Begins At Home
The Smiths - Handsome Devil
posted by The World Famous at 4:04 PM on June 7, 2010

Many moons ago I had a 12" of the Talking Heads song 'Swamp' that was well creepy and very danceable.
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:06 PM on June 7, 2010

Cabaret Voltaire - I Want You
Visage - Fade to Grey
A Split Second - Flesh
Anne Clark - Our Darkness
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - Sex On Wheels
Grace Jones - Slave to the Rhythm
Siouxsie & The Banshees - Cities In Dust
Love & Rockets - Ball of Confusion
Tones on Tail - Go!
Nitzer Ebb - Join in the Chant
OMD - Electricity

Skinny Puppy - Dig It
Front 242 - Headhunter
posted by prinado at 4:17 PM on June 7, 2010

Pictures on a String- Comateens
posted by kimdog at 4:46 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me (creeptastic!)
Eddie Money - Take Me Home Tonight
Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning

Pretty much any hit by INXS.
posted by clearly at 5:03 PM on June 7, 2010

Canadian artist Gowan fits the bill, with some deliciously creepy fare:

Criminal Mind
Strange Animal
Moonlight Desires
posted by sueinnyc at 5:04 PM on June 7, 2010

Perhaps icehouse's Hey Little Girl?
posted by wittgenstein at 5:04 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's that song by the Violent Femmes about throwing his daughter down a well.

Country Death Song.

posted by pompomtom at 5:25 PM on June 7, 2010

It's kind of expected by now, but "Goodbye Horses"! I can't find it on Youtube, but there's an amazing edit of the song by Tigersushi's Krikor that doubles up the drums and keeps building without ever getting to the chorus. The same edit series (in fact, the same 12", if I'm remembering correctly) also spawned a Pilooski edit of The The's "Giant".

A bit less famous but with the same creepy associations from the Silence of the Lambs soundtrack: Colin Newman's "Alone". There's also a solo piano take on the CD reissue of the album to wind things down at the end of the night.

Section 25- Looking from a Hilltop
Public Image Ltd- The Order of Death
Severed Heads- Dead Eyes Opened, We Have Come to Bless the House, Big Car
Suicide- Mr Ray
Yello- Daily Disco (1985 single version), Pinball Cha Cha, Bostich, Domingo
Scott Walker- 3
Chris & Cosey- Walking Through Heaven, Sweet Surprise, October (Love Song)
Einstürzende Neubauten- Yü-Gung (Adrian Sherwood Remix)
Heaven 17- Let's All Make a Bomb, Song With No Name, We're Going to Live for a Very Long Time
The Glove- Orgy (and "Perfect Murder," inexplicably nowhere to be found on Youtube)
Propaganda- P-Machinery, Dr Mabuse
Xmal Deutschland- Incubus Succubus, Mondlicht
Act- Absolutely Immune, Snobbery and Decay
Chaz Jankel- Ai No Corrida
Colonel Abrams- Trapped, especially the Hell Interface (aka Boards of Canada) remix
Nicolle Meyer- Nowhere By Mir

Some "further listening" suggestions for acts other people have already mentioned:
The Associates- White Car in Germany
Soft Cell- Entertain Me
Anne Clark- Sleeper in Metropolis
Fad Gadget- Collapsing New People, Life on the Line
Tones on Tail- Performance
Ministry- Twitch. The entire album is perfect from start to finish; one of my favorite underappreciated gems is Over the Shoulder.

...okay, wow, that was a bit more than I meant to post. There's tons of awesome stuff in this vein, though, and this thread is full of it.
posted by Merzbau at 6:31 PM on June 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh man, how did I forget:
Flash and the Pan- Walking in the Rain, Midnight Man
posted by Merzbau at 6:40 PM on June 7, 2010

obsession- animotion. creepy.
posted by millipede at 6:57 PM on June 7, 2010

Romeo Void - Never Say Never
Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear the Reaper (because there's never enough cowbell)
Herbie Hancock - Rockit (maybe only creepy to me because I can't hear the song without thinking about the creepy video)
posted by contrariwise at 7:34 PM on June 7, 2010

"Hey St. Peter" - Flash & The Pan
"Living On Video" - Trans-X
"Paranoimia" - Art Of Noise
"Friends of Mr. Cairo" - Jon Anderson & Vangelis
"Everyday Is Halloween" - Ministry
posted by SisterHavana at 7:43 PM on June 7, 2010

Was not was- Wheel me out.
Yoko Ono- Walking on thin ice.
B52s- Mesopotamia
posted by jade east at 7:46 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ghost Rider- Suicide

Same Old Madness- Ministry

Metal- Gary Neuman

Dancing- Bauhaus

Isolation- Joy Division

Carven- Liquid Liquid

The Cutter- Echo & the Bunnymen

None of these are that obscure, but they're some tracks that I play out often that fit the sound.
posted by ryaninoakland at 8:12 PM on June 7, 2010

Dominatrix - The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight
Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Funky Stuff
Was (not Was)-Wheel Me Out
PiL - Rise
Laid Back - White Horse
Age of Chance - Kiss
Liquid Liquid - Optimo
Lola - Wax the Van
Yello - Bostich
posted by hydrophonic at 8:22 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

DEVO had a few nicely creepy danceable songs.

Try: Going Under, Peek-A-Boo (very creepy!), and Deep Sleep.
posted by SansPoint at 8:27 PM on June 7, 2010

Killing Joke - Eighties

Actually, pretty much the entire early Killing Joke catalog would count as semi obscure creepy danceable 80's music. But "Eighties" seems like the obvious answer.
posted by alikins at 8:32 PM on June 7, 2010

Surprised there's only one New Order song recommended so far, but my favorite by them is actually Temptation (7" version).
posted by General Malaise at 8:34 PM on June 7, 2010

Ca Plan Pour Moi -- Plastic Bertrand

Swear -- Tim Scott

Teenage Kicks -- The Undertones

Oh, hell, just pick up Just Say Yesterday, it's a trove of unsettling 80s goodness.
posted by lore at 8:36 PM on June 7, 2010

Berlin - Metro, Sex, or really anything else off of Pleasure Victim.
posted by donnagirl at 8:37 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Specials- Ghost Town

...I think it's creepy, anyway.
posted by rebel_rebel at 8:37 PM on June 7, 2010

Dancing with Tears in My Eyes by Ultravox -- all about rushing home to have a last roll in the hay with your lover because the bombs have been launched and OMG we're all gonna die. Ah, the Cold War!

Also, it's a little harder to dance to, but there's always Ultravox's spectacularly chilly and evocative Vienna. And there's always Fade to Grey by Visage, which included a couple of members of Ultravox. (Bonus: Steve Strange of Visage is one of the dancers in Bowie's Ashes to Ashes, which is sort of the Grande Dame of deliciously creepy early '80s songs.)
posted by scody at 11:11 PM on June 7, 2010

Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung. It's a great song and the part about playing on your baby's darkest fears qualifies it as creepy.
posted by kostia at 7:09 AM on June 8, 2010

Depeche Mode's Question of Time is a bit creepy.
posted by swerve at 9:04 AM on June 8, 2010

Er ... Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun? The song gets danceable once she starts shooting.

Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads
posted by jabberjaw at 11:16 AM on June 8, 2010

It came out in '77, but it was played in the 80's! It's not like radios just stopped playing songs from the late 70's once the calendar turned to 1980! But yeah, it came out in '77.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:06 PM on June 8, 2010

Another vote for Oingo Boingo -- "When the Lights Go Out" comes to mind...
posted by yjon at 5:02 PM on June 8, 2010

Click Click - The Sack
Tones on Tail - Twist

Alas everything else I can think of that fits creepy most wouldn't consider danceable.
posted by squeak at 7:51 PM on June 8, 2010

Also, if you can rip the audio from youtube videos, you can throw some quirky into your dance party with Al Jourgensen from Ministry singing about Shasta Cola and/or Gary Numan singing about 7UP. Refreshing! [via]
posted by shannonm at 9:28 AM on June 10, 2010

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