The Perfect ’80s Playlist for a Wine-Splashed Affair
The popular music of the ‘80s had something for every music fan. There was the preening theatricality of hair metal and new wave, the sexy subversion of Prince and Madonna, the lighters-in-the-air stadium rock of Springsteen and AC/DC and the mellow escapism of new age and quiet storm. Hip-hop moved from good-time old school into its transformative golden age, the humanization of synthesizer-based music threatened to render instruments obsolete and MTV created mega-superstars while also driving people to discover ever-more-specific underground subcultures.
Both the glories and pitfalls of drinking alcohol—and cutting loose in general—were hot topics in 80s music, and alcohol metaphors popped up everywhere. With respect to the many odes to beer, whiskey, gin, tequila and people who like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, here are some wine (and wine-adjacent) tunes whose titles alone will help get the party started. You’ll never have to hear “Red, Red Wine” again.
Pro tip: Fire up this playlist when hosting an iconic ’80s-themed dinner party.
“Drinking About My Baby,” The Damned (1980)
One of the first (and best) pop-punk drinking songs, this deserves a place on any party playlist for fans of the genre. It’s a tears-in-my-wine barstool lament for an ex, but framed as a cheery singalong. It’s surprising the thinking/drinking pun isn’t more widely used, but then “Don’t stop drinking about tomorrow” might not have gotten Clinton elected.
Next up: John Cale “Dying on the Vine” (1985)
“Have a Drink on Me,” AC/DC (1980)
Gloriously irresponsible and irresistible, this song mentions just about every consumable liquid imaginable. It’s designed to be a drinking anthem, and 43 years later, it’s still popular on the hard-rock party circuit. But with age, thankfully, comes wisdom: “I’m tryin’ to walk a straight line / On sour mash and cheap wine” is no longer aspirational.
Next up: “Juices Like Wine,” Celtic Frost (1988)
“Me & My Wine,” Def Leppard (1981)
This isn’t the first time “wine” has been rhymed with “fine,” but hey, if it ain’t broke, keep pouring. Def Leppard (who launched their own beer in 2018) are still recording and touring, though today when they sing, “I’m doing fine with just me and my wine,” it probably refers to a fine glass consumed on the sofa and not the floor of a subway station.
Next up: “Wine, Women, an’ Song,” Whitesnake (1981)
“The Art Of Parties,” Japan (1981)
This cult band was far ahead of time and still sounds otherworldly, a far cry from the synth pop they were often lumped in with. Here, Mick Karn’s elastic fretless bass groove sets the stage for a cryptic song that works as well on the dance floor as it does as background music. It’s an elegant choice for entertaining.
Next up: “Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne,” Suicide (1980)
“Red Wine and Whisky,” Katrina And The Waves (1984)
Like AC/DC, these power-poppers (best known for “Walking On Sunshine”) suffer the drawbacks of combining whisky and wine. When Katrina Leskanich sings, “Red wine and whisky all the time / We had a lot of money but we blew it down the line,” you can’t help but lament their failure to invest in Jayer, Screaming Eagle and Pappy Van Winkle.
Next up: “Get The Balance Right!,” Depeche Mode (1983)
“Champagne of Rap,” Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (1985)
This track’s opening line—”Why don’t we pop the cork, let’s make a toast”—is a good way to start any party. From the eponymous album, “Champagne of Rap” is this early rap duo’s self-appointed nickname, a point driven home by the luxury living extolled here. “We got computers, telex and cellular phones / We even got security in front of our homes… Champagne is sittin’ on our table / ‘Cause babydoll we are able.”
Next up: “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” Beastie Boys (1986)
“Happy Hour,” The Housemartins (1986)
Best known in the U.S. as an early band of Fatboy Slim, the Housemartins’ wry English sensibility might appeal to fans of the Smiths or XTC. This perky number is ostensibly about the hollow promises of after-work happy hours, but also subtly exposes the band’s proud socialist leanings.
Next up: “The Power of Positive Drinking,” Lou Reed (1980)
“Pull Up the Cork,” Ini Kamoze (1986)
Most reggae fans know Kamoze for his 1994 hit “Here Comes The Hotstepper,” but this less-known track employs a lovely wine metaphor. When he says “pull up the cork,” it’s to urge you to let your voice out and use it as an agent for change. “Pull up the cork and pour it on / ‘Tis the beginning of a new dawn”.
Next up: “Nipple to the Bottle,” Grace Jones (1982)
“Where’s the Party,” Madonna (1986)
It wouldn’t be an ‘80s playlist without Madonna, and this song from True Blue is about how hitting the club on the weekends can take the sting out of everyday adult responsibilities. It’s not about wine or even drinking per se, but—unlike the era’s braggadocio drinking songs—a reminder of how winding down can be rejuvenating rather than destructive.
Next up: “Partyman,” Prince (1989)
“Strawberry Wine,” My Bloody Valentine (1987)
Though it’s not on most streaming services, fans of noisy guitar music should seek out this blurry early song by these shoegaze icons. The lyrics are all but indiscernible, but aurally it sounds like what drinking a bottle (or three) of very strong strawberry wine might feel like.
Next up: “The Days of Wine and Roses,” Dream Syndicate (1982)
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
Published on May 30, 2023