Is it really only the lonely who play?

For decades, the wisdom of 1980s songs has led and guided us. But are their claims true?

Is it really only the lonely who play?It’s time to set the record straight once and for all. Claims made in 1980s song lyrics—true or false?

There’s nothin’ left to talk about
Unless it’s horizontally

—Olivia Newton-John

FALSE. Have you discussed the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, the magnetic properties of iron-based superconductors or how drunk studio execs must have been to green-light Xanadu? Didn’t think so.

It’s like I told you
Only the lonely can play

—The Motels

TRUE. We’re talking about sudoku, yes?

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues


TRUE, but incomplete. For instance, top researchers have concluded that some like it hot whereas some sweat when the heat is on. Further to that point, some feel the heat and decide that they can’t go on. To sum up, it is widely believed that some guys have all the luck while some guys have all the pain/do nothing but complain.

In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice ’cross the mountainside

—Big Country

FALSE. There’s no way a lover’s voice can stay with you ’cross the entire mountainside (obvious exception: if you’re making it with the Ricola guy).

Time can never mend
The careless whispers of a good friend


TRUE. FYI, time also makes for a flimsy gauze with which to staunch arterial bleeding.

Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ’n’ roll

—Bob Seger

This is so TRUE. Music had so much more “soul” when it was licensed to a global automotive corporation and used to market a line of pickup trucks as possessing a durability similar to that of “a rock.”

We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

—Billy Joel

TRUE. Everyone remembers how Billy Joel and his contemporaries selflessly tried to banish evil and misfortune from the world with strippers and coke parties. Somehow, they came up short.

We’re living in a powder keg
and giving off sparks

—Bonnie Tyler

If TRUE, then definitely UNWISE. The powder keg’s landlord specifically warned against that kind of thing. For God’s sake, it’s all right there in the lease.

You can look at the menu
But you just can’t eat

—Howard Jones

TRUE, I guess. Hard to say for sure—no artist before has ever likened the emotional strain of forbidden love to the experience of trying to get served at McDonald’s while shirtless.

Might as well jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.
Might as well jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.
Get it and jump. Jump!
Go ahead, jump.

—Van Halen

TRUE. Hard to argue, really—they build a pretty convincing case.

The problem’s plain to see: too much technology
Machines to save our lives. Machines dehumanize.


TRUE and FALSE. Sure, they dehumanize. But they also instantly transform pieces of whole fruit into delicious juice. The debate continues.

If you want to find all the cops
They’re hanging out in the doughnut shop.

—The Bangles

Not only is this TRUE, it is also AMUSING, insofar as the cops are now being served their doughnuts by former members of the Bangles.

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doodoo
Doo doo

—Duran Duran (Hungry Like the Wolf)

FALSE. As definitely proved years earlier by the Police, the factual answer is De Do Do Do De Da Da Da.