BOOK: The 80s Music Compendium - UPDATED 9/15/2015

UPDATED: Scroll down below videos to read my thoughts on Kinzer's book which was delivered shortly after 9PM PST on Monday, September 14th.

There's a very high probability that, if you're reading Herc's Hideaway, you are a listmaker.  The Billboard charts and American Top 40 were my first lists but then The Book Of Lists was published in 1977 when I was eleven.  I discovered the book at my local library, checked it out, read and reread it even though at eleven years old, I had no idea what most of the stuff I was reading was about.  My parents took notice and bought me a People's Almanac soon after and then bought me a paperback version of The Book Of Lists.  It has been one of my favorite books ever since.

Which is why I freaked out a little when I saw the book above on the right on Amazon while searching for another book. Almost as a reflex, I pre-ordered the ebook which is due out tomorrow, September 15, 2015, from Apple.  (If you must know, I prefer Apple's ebooks to those of Amazon.)  If you are thinking about ordering this book at all, do it before it comes out and price goes up.  Then I started researching the book and it's author and this is what I found.  Kinzer is a not yet forty years old music teacher at a charter school in Illinois and was trying to find songs other than classical that had the sounds of certain instruments.  Since the Eighties was his favorite decade of music, he found a list of every song to make Billboard's Hot 100 during the Eighties and began listening to and cataloguing each of the 4,172 songs, almost all of which he found on YouTube, noting not only what instruments he heard but other themes and miscellany of each song.  It took him exactly 365 days to listen to all the songs and almost as long to compile 113 lists and write the book.  Last week, Kinzer did a fifteen minute phone interview with the Dad Rock podcast but back in July he posted a series of videos based on lists from his book, which I've included below.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have not yet read Kinzer's book nor had any contact with him.  I simply came across his book, was fascinated by the possibilities, pre-ordered it and now await its delivery. Once I read the book, I'll weigh in further.

25 Songs From The 80s With Piano Solos

16 Instrumental Hits From The 80s

Twenty 80s Songs With Countermelodies

80s Songs That Use Unusual Instruments

1980s Music in Charts and Graphs

Guess These Mystery Saxophone Solos From The 80s

1980s Remakes of Hit Songs from the 1960s

The newest video, The Longest Guitar Solos Of The 80s, has already been taken down by Warner Music.

My thoughts:
So it took me about half an hour to read this book and the whole time I was scanning the lists, I was thinking to myself that the they should be presented in rows and columns horizontally across the page rather than vertically down the page in one single column as they appeared.  Halfway through the book, the thought had grown nearly all-consuming and I decided to drop the author a note, asking him why he made the format choice he did, going so far as the bring up Gmail and type in his email address (davekinzerbooks@gmail.com).  But I forged ahead in the book, secretly hoping the two of us would have a lot of favorite songs in common on his 189 Best Songs Of The 80s and my gnawing complaint could be quelled somewhat. Turns out we don't have too many songs in common and some of my favorite songs made his 65 Worst Songs Of The 80s list though he redeemed himself a bit with his list of 99 Songs That Deserved To Make The Top-40. That last list was followed with a BONUS CHART! and then ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR (with the capitals being his not mine) which began thusly 
"Challenges associated with ebooks did not allow me to format this book the way I wanted to."
It was as if he was reading my mind.  He goes on to say he wanted to arrange the lists in columns and offered a brief glimpse of one such list formatted as I had imagined.  Then he makes matters much worse by stating 
"If you would prefer that the information in this book be presented in columns, as in the above example, you may be interested in the softcover version.  It is available for purchase online."
In short, I really liked the info in the book but not the presentation of said info.  The lists themselves are fine and dandy and I can see this book being a reference for music teachers and scholars alike.  I have already began making Spotify playlists out of more than several of the lists for possible future Playlisticles here on The Hideaway.  Still, I am too disappointed with Mr. Kinzer for not stating there would be such a huge difference in the ebook and dead tree versions of his book to contact him but if he were to do a sequel, he should cover the Seventies.

More about Kinzer and his book:


  1. Herc, hmmmm sounds interesting. I'd love to hear your thoughts after you've read it (I suspect you'll love it).

  2. Winnerwinnerchickendinner!!!!

  3. At first I thought this piece was about "The Book Of Lists", easily one of my all time favorite books in my pre-team years. Perhaps it began with loving Casey Kasem's radio shows, which lead to "I can make my own random Top 10's." Then I read and was like "wait, this is about an all new book." Right on. Adding to my list.

  4. Herc, after reading the book (it took me a couple hours to skim it) I had the same conclusions as you. I did enjoy the "cover tunes" list as it helped me add a few that was missing from my own "Covered By the 80's" playlist. Like you, I also was concerned with his best and worst lists - especially since some of my fav 80's tunes were on his worst (but then again it was a personal opinion - so I'll cut him a little slack). The format in columns would have been much better (as both you and he noted) - however I think the ebook would have been either shorter using that format. Still, it would have been nicer that way.

    1. Since the ebook has Search, it has redeemed itself somewhat. Searching by year, artist, title has given me a new appreciation for the book. As far as his subjective lists, they are different. He has a slightly different perspective being born in 1977. Like he said, if we don't like his lists, we should make our own. Duh! That's what we've been doing our whole lives.