Geffen Vintage 80s [1995-1998]

After co-founding and quickly building Asylum Records into a folk/pop powerhouse in the early Seventies with acts like Jackson Browne, the Eagles, and Linda Ronstadt, David Geffen stepped out of the music business and into the motion picture industry. After retiring from Warner Brothers Pictures in 1978, he served as an advisor to Warner Brothers Records before launching another label, Geffen Records, in 1980. It seems more than two dozen record labels launched that year, yet Geffen Records is one of the Freshmen I recall, along with Mirage Records, Qwest Records, Boardwalk Records and Dreamland Records. I should do a feature on the first ten 45s from each label; that could be cool. Here are the first ten singles on Geffen:

495639/80The WandererDonna Summer
4960410/24/80(Just Like) Starting OverJohn Lennon
4963411/80Cold LoveDonna Summer
496441/12/81WomanJohn Lennon
496642/81Who Do You Think You're Foolin'Donna Summer
496832/81Walking On Thin IceYoko Ono
496953/13/81Watching The WheelsJohn Lennon
497224/81Nobody WinsElton John
497887/81ChloeElton John
498029/81No No NoYoko Ono

Geffen's apparent strategy for his new label was to sign iconic superstar acts, beginning with the label's first signing, Donna Summer. Hers were the first single and album released by the new label in September and October 1980, respectively, and I scooped up both, blissfully unaware of her label switch from Casablanca to Geffen until seeing the labels on the records.
Subsequent signings to Geffen Records included (the ill-fated and all-too-brief comeback of) John Lennon, Elton John, Cher, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Don Henley and Joni Mitchell, with the latter two having existing relationships with Geffen himself from their days at Asylum. New acts began appearing on Geffen Records as well, including Asia, Quarterflash, Wang Chung, Berlin and Planet P Project. Geffen also began releasing Broadway cast albums, movie soundtracks, and records by stand-up comedians. As the first decade of Geffen Records came to a close, it had a phenomenal series of hard rock and heavy metal successes with Whitesnake, Aerosmith, and Guns N' Roses. Probably the last Geffen album I bought before the end of the Eighties was the thirty-one track, double-disc Greenpeace charity compilation, Rainbow Warriors.
In 1995, Geffen Records released the first collection of the label's singles from the Eighties titled Geffen Vintage 80s, Vol. I. It features fourteen tracks and is an alternate trip through the decade with many songs not featured on the average Hey! It's The Eighties compilations. I enjoy the opening Wang Chung song but usually skip the closing one though I do enjoy both Berlin tracks. And the whole time I'm listening, conscious that it is a Geffen comp, I'm thinking where's the Lennon, Henley, Guns, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, Hagar, Summer, Gabriel, Tesla, and Elton freakin' John tracks?

timetitleartistHot 100ACRockCash Box
3:58Dance Hall DaysWang Chung162417
5:12French KissinDebbie Harry5751
4:17Riding With The KingJohn Hiatt
5:05Sex (I'm A...)Berlin621057
4:42Goin' SouthboundStan Ridgway8
3:26Ways To Be WickedLone Justice712959
3:05Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like A Rubber Ball)Was (Not Was)109
3:21Our HouseMadness795
3:50No More WordsBerlin232516
3:34A Million Miles AwayThe Plimsouls8211
3:30Take Me To HeartQuarterflash1428615
4:41Emotion In MotionRic Ocasek158118
3:17DesireGene Loves Jezebel
4:47Everybody Have Fun TonightWang Chung2251
A music video collection with the same title was also released on VHS and LaserDisc featuring eleven of the album's songs as music videos. Missing from the video compilation are the Debbie Harry, John Hiatt, and Gene Loves Jezebel tracks. (Click on song titles above to view videos.) The Hiatt track was later covered by Eric Clapton and B.B. King in 2000.

timetitleartistHot 100ACRockCash Box
3:50Heat Of The MomentAsia416
3:51Harden My HeartQuarterflash34114
3:34I Look For LoveJohn Hiatt
4:30In Love With Love (London Mix Edit)Debbie Harry7074
2:56Whirly GirlOxo2829
4:11Take My Breath AwayBerlin131
3:30Your Love Is Driving Me CrazySammy Hagar13325
4:42Is This LoveWhitesnake238132
4:16If I Could Turn Back TimeCher103314
3:24It Must Be LoveMadness3333
4:30Let's GoWang Chung910
4:54What I AmEdie Brickell & New Bohemians73046
3:34Out Of Mind Out Of SightThe Models372233
4:05Why Me?Planet P Project64451

Geffen Vintage 80s, Vol. II, another fourteen track compilation, followed in 1997 though, much to the disappointment of a new breed of collectors, no further multi-artist video collections were released. My Hagar/Cher/Whitesnake itch was indeed scratched a bit with the second volume and I had all but forgotten that Asia and Brickell were on Geffen so those two songs were a pleasant surprise. Still, I wanted more. (Two budget-priced Geffen Goldline compilations of rock and metal from 1998 bearing the Geffen Vintage 80s banner, Rock It! and It Rocks!, are lame and should only be sought for their appalling David McMacken artwork.) Inspired by finding the ad featured at the top of this post in an old issue of ICE (as originally featured HERE), I began to make a make a playlist of my favorite songs on Geffen that were somehow overlooked or otherwise not included for whatever reason$ on those first two compilations. I ended up with several fourteen-song playlists below featuring just about all the artists and songs I remember doing time on Geffen in the Eighties. Your Geffen memories may vary and I encourage you to share in the Comments down below but these are mine. Somebody else is gonna have to do a Geffen Vintage Nineties series, though. I'm out.

Volume III

Volume IV

Volume V

Volume 6

or ALL 6 Volumes in one six hour playlist!


  1. Geffen Records had an iconic logo - that G nestled into a sphere - that grabbed my eye from the get-go.

    As for the compilations, they're fairly nondescript, predictable '90s CD reissue money grabs, but I gotta give them bonus points for the wine-flavored graphics on the covers that wryly acknowledges the "vintage" in the compilation title. I especially like the graphic on volume 2 that shows the wine cooler 4 pack - that just screams '80s to me. And Bruce Willis, too.

  2. As far as the John Lennon singles not appearing, it could stem from Lennon's murder still on everyone's mind (and more likely because Capitol Records reissued Double Fantasy in 1995). And,if you recall, Donna Summer's debut Geffen single was issued BEFORE labels bearing the official Geffen logo were available, so the words GEFFEN RECORDS were printed across the top if some Warner Brothers labels for the initial run. (Summer's contract with Geffen inspired a lawsuit from PolyGram Records,which resulted in Donna releasing her 1983 LP on Mercury instead of Geffen.)