Keith Bergman, contributor
In 1982, choreographer-turned-singer Toni Basil was riding high on the success of “Mickey,” a gigantic worldwide pop hit and a genuinely great piece of bubblegum songwriting. Eager to strike while the iron was hot, her label released another single from her “Word of Mouth” album. Though it sported a cover of the David Essex hit “Rock On” and three Devo songs (!), some bright bulb decided to risk Basil’s longev
ity on a different tune.
“Shoppin’ From A To Z” is, to put it mildly, the shittiest song ever committed to wax, and yes, I’ve heard most Creed songs and the Alvin and the Chipmunks “Chipmunk Punk” album (which contains a Billy Joel cover. “You May Be Right” punk rock? Fuck you, Alvin). The song allegedly showcases performances from the members of Devo, and it sounds like their early 80s stuff, building up into a dancey crescendo before Basil chirps:
“Good girls shop / bad girls shop / shoppin’ / from A to Z”
The centerpiece of this lyrical tour de force, besides that chorus, is an alphabetized shopping list where Toni says a letter of the alphabet, and then a chorus of idiots yells out a grocery item (“C! Carrots! D! Dog food!”). Did you miss any? Don’t worry, after Basil moans “oh no, I lost my list? Did I FORGET anything?” we recap the whole fucking thing. This time around you get wacky assholes yelling out words like “RELISH!” and “LIVER!” in comical voices that’ll make your local morning zoo crew sound like Goddamn Baudelaire.
The video somehow makes the song worse, and I’m not sure how. It may be the Sesame Street-style A’s and Z’s floating through the air in 1982 green-screen glory, or the hammy dancing and overacting from the overdressed dipshits cartwheeling down the aisle of some rented-out Ralph’s in the Valley (complete with tape over the brand names of the products on the shelves). Constant flashing buzzwords like “40% OFF!” and “USDA CHOICE” pop up on the screen like herpes flareups while Basil, a guy who looks like an off-brand Max Headroom, and some little kid all cavort with terrible extras.
The video ends with Toni, Max Headroom and the kid, exhausted. They pass out around a dinner table, while animated dollar signs pop up out of their two full shopping bags (paper, not plastic, this is 1982). One can only assume they represent the actual two dollars recouped by the record company for this ludicrous, glopped-up monument to 1980s excess and lack of attention to the deep cuts. Then again, this was the same year the Steve Miller Band sang “abra, abracadabra / I wanna reach out and grab ya” and made a shit-ton of money, so what do I know?