My 80s Dance Set List from Detcon 1

I’ve been getting requests for the set list of songs that went into the 80s dance I DJ’ed at Detcon 1. I had a source list — songs that I selected as the ones ready to queue up — of 346 songs, with everyone from Africa Bamabaata to Cher to Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy to Ozzy Osbourne on it. Of those, I ended up playing 45 songs, or about 13% of the available playlist. Those songs (as best as I can remember them — I was busy DJing at the time) are listed below, alphabetically by song as opposed to by order of play.

For those wondering how I chose which songs I was going to play, the answer is outside of the first two songs (“Let’s Go Crazy” and “Dancing With Myself”) two songs at midnight (“Time Warp” and “Rock Lobster”) and the final song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”)*, I just read what the crowd seemed to be into, and also took requests. The overriding DJ philosophy was to give that particular crowd at that particular dance as much fun as possible over the course of three hours.

And now, without further ado:

The Detcon 1 80s Dance Set List!

Addicted to Love — Robert Palmer

Beat It — Michael Jackson

Bizarre Love Triangle — New Order

Blister in the Sun — Violent Femmes

Call Me — Blondie

Cars — Gary Numan

Dancing With Myself — Billy Idol

Dead Man’s Party — Oingo Boingo

Don’t You (Forget About Me) — Simple Minds

Genius of Love — Tom Tom Club

The Glamorous Life — Shelia E

Head Like a Hole — Nine Inch Nails

Hungry Like the Wolf — Duran Duran

I Feel For You — Chaka Khan

I’m So Excited — Pointer Sisters

I Want Candy — Bow Wow Wow

Jungle Love — The Time

Just Like Heaven — The Cure

Kiss — Prince

Let’s Dance — David Bowie

Let’s Go Crazy — Prince

A Little Respect — Erasure

Lucky Star — Madonna

Master and Servant — Depeche Mode

Mirror in the Bathroom — English Beat

Miss You Much — Janet Jackson

My Sharona — The Knack

Pour Some Sugar On Me — Def Leppard

Relax — Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Rock This Town — Stray Cats

Safety Dance — Men Without Hats

Sexual Healing — Marvin Gaye

Situation — Yaz(oo)

Sledgehammer — Peter Gabriel

Smooth Criminal — Michael Jackson

Super Freak — Rick James

Tainted Love — Soft Cell

Take On Me — a-ha

True — Spandau Ballet

Under Pressure — Queen with David Bowie

Walk Like an Egyptian — The Bangles

We Got the Beat — Go-Gos

* There were three songs not from the 80s that were played: “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (because it’s a Michigan SF/F convention tradition to play that song at midnight); “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s (because I thought it the best song to follow “Time Warp”); and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (because it was the last song of the dance, and I think the song pretty much closed the door on the 80s era of music).

Also, because I haven’t said it before: Thanks to the Detcon 1 folks, and particularly Detcon 1 head Tammy Coxen, for asking me to DJ the dance. I had a ton of fun doing it, and I think the folks at the dance had a lot of fun as well. It was a personal highlight of a convention that was already pretty damn terrific.

49 Comments on “My 80s Dance Set List from Detcon 1”

  1. Caveat: I may have missed a song or two from the dance; I am trying to reconstruct from memory two days later.

    For those who want to see the whole playlist I compiled: Man, that would really be a pain in my ass to do, because it’s hundreds of songs long.

    Also, my universal response to “why didn’t you play [insert song here]?” or “Why did you play [insert song here]?” is: Because I was trying to make this particular crowd of dancers as happy as humanly possible, and these were the songs that seemed to be doing the trick.

  2. I’m a bit surprised (and slightly unnerved) at how easily and quickly many of those songs immediately popped into my head on reading their title. Most have since popped back out. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending), “Hungry like the Wolf” appears to have gotten stuck.

  3. I was in mourning in the 80s for Led Zeppelin, not that you danced to their music. Anyway, you can figure the kind of music I like, and thereby understand how it is that I don’t even recognize some of those musicians in your playlist. Even so I can tell that it would have been hard for anyone to not get out on the floor and move it!

  4. I think I’m a little frightened that I could put that playlist together in iTunes without having to set foot in the store once*. (I’m even more frightened by how much I’m actively considering doing just that!)

    *Admittedly, the version of the Timewarp that I own isn’t from the original Rocky Horror but an 80s remix thingy – but somehow that seems to be as appropriate as the original

  5. I was a proud 80s metalhead. However I was also a DJ with a regular gig working the youth center dance every other Friday night, so I also know every song on the list. I tended to play more power ballads, but then the youth center crowd was definitely looking at the dance as a prelude to more close contact later in the night, so they wanted a healthy dose of slow songs.

  6. Memories of life in the 80s watching MTV just smacked me in the head like an astronaut statue. Thanks for the list. There’s several that I must buy and include on my iPod. It sounds like you did an awesome job – I wish I could have been there. The lack of any dance skills notwithstanding, I sure as heck would’ve made a fool out of myself anyway.

  7. Did everyone know to lie down on the floor and kick their hands and feet in the air at the appropriate point of Rock Lobster?

    (Or maybe that was just a thing where I’m from?)

  8. Damn, now I wish I hadn’t had to leave early on Saturday. I missed the awesome!

  9. I recognized something like 5 or 6 songs in that list. I am old, I am old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled…

  10. Dead man’s party is such corporate sell out Ongio Bonigo, really should have played “Piggy.” Sounds like a great list..

  11. As a Ready Player One fan, I was super happy to hear Dead Man’s Party. I had been tempted to request it, and then there it was. :)

  12. My Sharona arguably goes with either the 70’s or the 80’s because 1979. But most of it’s play-life I think was 1980+

  13. Suggestion for next playlist – “Scalzi covers the 80s”, nothing but 80s covers…

  14. I don’t recognise many of those but then my musical tastes were formed in the 70s and centre around glam rock :). That looks like a good list to start with tho.

  15. My Sharona was (as pointed out above) 1979.

    As a certified geezer let me say, I hate the 80s!

    And stay off my lawn!

    Seriously, glad you had fun. I’d have been in bed by midnight.


  16. Head Like a Hole was released in March 1990. Though, it was, of course, recorded in the 80’s.

  17. D’oh! You are correct–I meant to look up the release date of Pretty Hate Machine, and screwed up. I still think of it as early 90’s music, though there’s clearly some fudge-factor at the start and end of decades.

  18. This is actually really helpful. We’re at the stage of shoving music onto a laptop to give to our friend who is djing our wedding. So thanks.

  19. Which version of Bizarre Love Triangle? As with most New Order songs there are many different ones, though, as this was a dance set I suspect you would use the 12″ version (my favorite version and possibly my favorite New Order song).

  20. Stewjon:

    I generally kept to single and/or album versions of songs, actually. One, shorter so I could stuff in more songs; Two, they’re generally the versions most people are more familiar with.

  21. Dead Man’s Party is also a Detroit Con tradition.The list is wonderful, sir. The fact that the comments are quibbles is a great sign.

  22. Fantastic list, John. Well, with the exception of Tainted Love which I can’t stand through vast overplaying. But, it is quintessentially 80s. :)

  23. So many songs that were parodied by Weird Al, but NO WEIRD AL?

    You wouldn’t have had to use any of his parodies: “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”, “Dare to Be Stupid” (the DEVO-styled song), or the theme from “UHF” would’ve been semi-familiar.

    Also, it is well documented that The Weird One recorded “My Bologna” in a rest room down the hall from his college radio station in 1979, so “My Sharona” was definitely ’79.

  24. Damn. I really wish I knew how to bi-locate. And time-travel, now, since it’s in the past. My Saturday night was stupendous, but I would love to have danced to this playlist, too!

    I got a three-story bonfire lit by a dragon, with music from bagpipers that look like they’d been teleported in from ancient Scotland and drummers from all over spacetime. I don’t regret my choice in the least.

  25. What a set, I would have danced until I dropped! My only substitution, I would have dropped Head Like a Hole – Nine Inch Nails along with Smooth Criminal (Beat It is sufficient) and swapped in one of the following:
    99 Luftballons – Nena
    Funky Town – Lips Inc.
    Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – If You Leave
    General Public – Tenderness
    You Drive Me Crazy – FCY.

  26. That is a great set list.

    Makes me miss the local dance clubs.

    And being younger.

  27. I always find it interesting when people compile a “best of” or dance compilation for a given decade, particularly the 80’s. I was not a kid back then. Rather, I graduated high school and then college and entered the real world in 86. Even still it is not like I quit listening to “modern” music when I left college.
    Having said that, I recognize many of the songs but there are more that I do not recognize which is odd. I attribute it mostly to type of music. I was not into dance or “bubble-gum” music in the 80’s. I was more a rocker, although many of my friends’ kid brother listened to music from this list apparently. That you were doing a dance it makes sense to choose the music that you did. It is rather hard to dance to Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, Poison, Rush, etc etc.

  28. Nothing by Journey? I would have expected at least one of their songs with you as DJ.

  29. This reads a bit like the soundtrack to “Grosse Pointe Blank” which also featured a dance party with many of those songs. It was set in Detroit, also. Hopefully there were no assassins at this party.

  30. Eric B:

    Journey isn’t really dance music, except for the ballads, which could be slow dances. But I there wasn’t much call for those at this particular dance.

  31. I wandered into 42 North when you were playing “Safety Dance.”

    Briefly I entertained the notion that an Eighties dance playlist might simply consist of playing “Safety Dance” over and over all night.

    Don’t laugh. It could work.

    Then the song ended, and you played something else, breaking my reverie.