Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

There was a noticeable drop off in the quality of the music from 1986 to 1987.  Many more of the Billboard Top 100 from 1987 had a gimmicky quality to them, and as a result they were pushed off the list.  The style of music was obviously changing as power ballads with great melodies and lyrics were replaced with trite dance tunes from groups like Wang Chung and others.  I found this list much harder to compile because many of the songs with sing-able melodies were, for lack of a better term, gay.  I found myself forcing songs like, “Somewhere Out There”, “Only In My Dreams”, “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and “Lady In Red” off the list for this very reason.  I have to be honest, most of the songs on this list would not have even been considered for the 1983-1985 lists, but you have to go with what you have.

20. “Open Your Heart”, Madonna- Madonna was hitting her stride when she released True Blue.  This song typified the dance music style that dominated her music for the next four or five years.  It is upbeat and causes you to tap you feet when you listen to it.  I chose it over the title track from this album.

19. “Faith”, George Michael- Speaking of gay, coming in at number nineteen we have this little ditty by George Michael that was one of the most popular songs of the year.  It definitely had a strong melody, and you almost have to move when you hear it.  By this time, George Michael had realized that Wham was nothing without him, so he decided to destroy them by leaving the band and going out on his own.  I found his flamboyant arrogance to be off-putting.

18. “Mony Mony”, Billy Idol- I found Billy Idol’s act fairly off-putting also, but much less gay than George Michael’s.  Idol came across as the guy with the biggest case of short-man’s syndrome in the music business.  He was always taking a swing at the screen, and his music often reflected this quality.  I put this song on the list because of its staying power and popularity on movie soundtracks.  Idol shouted his vocals more often than he sang them, but his songs were catchy if also very gimmicky.

17. “We’ll Be Together”, Sting- I like sting, and his tenor vocals quite a bit, but this would probably not even make my top ten songs featuring him.  It is very upbeat and different from most of his other stuff.  It is definitely quirky, and the video reminds me of later Janet Jackson material.

16.  “Electric Blue”, Icehouse- It took an Australian group to carry on the tradition of bands like Naked Eyes, The Thompson Twins and Simple Minds in 1987.  The keyboard sound is very 1980s as is the whole tone on the tenor vocals.  The girl in the video is also Hot!

15. “Bad”, Michael Jackson- Again, I found myself trying to keep this song off the list because of the whole pedophilia thing, but it was simply too big of a song for me to do so.  The tune is unmistakable as it begins with the guitarist hammering out six heavily distorted notes before the drums kick in.  There is no other song that is more associated with Michael Jackson.

14. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Def Leppard- This is one of those songs that I had no idea what the lyrics were.  I don’t even remember what crazy words I substituted for the actually lyrics, but I am sure they were funny.  It is the epitome of the rock anthem, and almost forces the listener to stand up and clap his hands above his head (very ’80s).

13. “Little Lies”, Fleetwood Mac- This instrumentation in this song is very 1980s from the keyboard, to the drums and the guitar.  As I have said earlier, I did not start listening to Pop/Rock music until the 1980s, and as a result I did not know anything about Fleetwood Mac’s earlier work.  I also did not like hype, so when they had their comeback in the ’80s, I was taken aback by all of the hype that went along with it.  This set me against them early on.  As I have grown older, I have realized that their music was pretty good.  Linday Buckingham has a nice voice, and the melody of the song is easy to sing along with.  I always said back then, that Stevie Nicks must have sold her soul to the devil (yes, I heard the witch rumors) for good looks and fame, because ‘Lord knows she can’t sing.”  That may have been a little harsh too.  She was nice to look at, but her voice had a very different tone to it.  It sounded like she was a smoker, but she hit her notes, and her tone still had a full sound.

12. “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Bon Jovi- The acoustic guitar part on this song is what makes the song.  Even the lead guitar has a picked sound that conveys the old west sound that is the point of the song.  Jon Bon Jovi is very affected, but that is what you get with these guys, and you should not expect anything else.  The song is very commercial, and has been used for products as well as theme songs for television programs.

11. “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, Crowded House- For anyone who grew up in the ’80s, this is known as the “hey-now” song.  As far as being able to sing along with a memorable melody goes, it does not get much better than this.  The baritone/second tenor voice of the lead singer is also easy to sing along with (at least for me).  His vocal has a very good tone to it, and the chorus is well backed by other singers.

10. “The Finer Things”, Steve Winwood- This is my personal favorite song by Winwood.  The keyboard and sax set a mellow mood at the beginning of the song.  Winwood has a pretty high voice, but the chorus is still good to sing along with, even if you have to sing an octave below him.  It is bubbly and upbeat but he keeps it from going the way of a group like Wham, for instance.

9. “(I Just) Died In Your Arms”, Cutting Crew- The staccato keyboard with the cello at the beginning of the song set a good 80’s mood for the song.  When the guitar and drums come in, it becomes a standard 80’s power ballad, and that’s a good thing.  The vocal is good, but I was creeped out when I read the Wiki for this song.  It says, “The words ‘I just died in your arms tonight’ originally came to Van Eede while he was having sex with his girlfriend [I’ll have to try that.  Usually I just think about baseball.], ‘death’ being an often-used metaphor for orgasm.”  This would be the lyrical equivalent of too much information.  However, I find his thought processes to be strange.  I know I’m not the one who usually thinks about death while I’m making love.

8. “Mandolin Rain”, Bruce Hornsby and the Range- Hornsby’s strong piano chops are highlighted throughout this song.  This song is cool and melow.  It in no way makes you want to do anything very active while you listen to it.  Hornsby’s vocals are excellent and easy to listen to.

I have a memory of this song associated with Six Flags Over Texas.  During my junior and senior years in high school, I had a car and a season pass to Six Flags ($44.00, greatness).  I would go all summer long, once or twice a week.  That year I remember that Six Flags had ponied-up and bought Bose speakers that piped music throughout the park, especially for those standing in line.  The only problem was that they only had about 25 minutes of music on the loop that they were playing, so you got to hear the same songs over and over as you stood in line all summer long.  “Mandolin Rain” was one of the songs, and I bet I heard it 1,000 times at the park that summer.  It says something that I still can listen to it and enjoy it today.

7. “In Too Deep”, Genesis- This was the second song released off their mega-album Invisible Touch, and it is clearly influenced by Collins’ extremely successful solo albums that were released prior to it.  The song is much slower and subdued than much of the older Genesis material.  It has a very nice acoustic quality that comes from dual acoustic guitars, and a grand paino.  It has one of my favorite vocals from Phil Collins, and I chose it over “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”.

I went to the Invisible Touch concert when it came to Dallas.  Unfortunately, I was unimpressed.  “Mama” was dark and great, but, for the most part it was just a bunch of Abacab stuff, which I did not know at the time.  He did not even sing “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” even though the concert was sponsored by Michelob.  He didn’t sing one Phil Collins’ song, and Mike and the Mechanics did not do any of their stuff.  I learned another thing that night.  You can have too many 10 minute drum solos in a concert.  There was no encore, and finally it was over.  I later heard that Collins’ was sporting a 102 degree temperature during the concert, but I still felt short-changed by the whole thing.

6. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes- This is one of the best duets of the 1980s.  Bill Medley is better known as a Righteous Brother, and he can definitely bring the vocals.  The song’s popularity was increased by the fact that it was associated with the huge 80s chick flick Dirty Dancing.  The harmony is great, and the chorus builds to a point where the two singers sound enraptured.

5. “Alone”, Heart- Anne Wilson and Heart continued their dominance of the mid-eighties with another of their signature power ballads.  The soft start with the piano/keyboard at the beginning of the song with Anne Wilson’s softer voice sounds great.  Then, chorus the powers in and provides the signature Heart sound.   If you want to win American Idol, do a great version of this song (see Carrie Underwood).

4. “The Next Time I Fall”, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant- In the summer of 1986, I got very involved with a youth group at one of the local churches in my home town.  I also got into CCM (Christian Contemporary Music for the heathens out there), just as it was hitting its zenith.  Amy Grant was the biggest name in CCM at the time.  As her popularity continued to grow, she began to experiment with crossing-over into popular music.  First, her Unguarded album failed to mention God anywhere, and many CCM fans noted that the songs could be as much about a boyfriend as about God.  Then, she actually released a few songs onto the secular (not Christain, again for you heathens) market.

I remember that there was actually a debate on the local radio station (KOJO, later KLTY) in Dallas as to whether her music should be played at all on their station any more.  I knew that these ideas were wrong-headed even as a pompous high school kid.  Christianity can be very divisive and counter to its own goals a lot of the time.  Here we had a young woman who could have drawn more people to their station and the religion by crossing-over into mainstream music, but the first thought was to drive her away.

It’s funny to listen to CCM today.  As sad as it has become, one thing is easy to see.  They have reversed their attitudes, and any secular song that could be reinterpreted with a positive Godly message is re-recorded by Christian Artists (almost always not as well as the original).

As far as the duet mentioned above goes, it was one of my favorites of the decade.  Cetera definitely has the lead role in the song, but Grant’s harmonies are what make it great.  She also looks good in the video.  The original version with the heavily synthesized keyboard sound was good, but there is a live version with a full orchestra that sounds even better.

3. “Will You Still Love Me?”, Chicago- Fans of any successful group in the 80s would wait on pins and needles for the inevitable news that their favorite band had broken up (or a key member had died).  The worst part was that it was often career suicide for all involved.  This, however, was not the case for Peter Cetera and Chicago.  He left the band shortly after it finished recording Chicago 17 in 1985, but both he and the band experienced great success with their next albums.  Chicago replaced Cetera with Jerry Scheff and picked up right where they left off recording great love songs and power ballads.  “Will You Still Love Me” is a great example of one of these.  Scheff actually sounds a lot like Cetera on the vocal, and the keyboard/piano led instrumentation picks up right where Chicago 17 left off.  The orchestral backing on the song sounds great, but the strings and light horns do not deliver the standard “Tower of Power” horn sound that is expected from Chicago.

2. “Doing It All For My Baby”, Huey Lewis and The News- Once again, Lewis delivered the be-bop style that his fans looked for.  I love the horns and Hammond organ sound at the beginning and throughout the song.  Lewis’ vocal is as good as ever.  Topping out at #93 on the Billboard Top 100 for the year, this song is easily the most underrated song of his career.  I have a tip for anyone who wants to hear this song.  Download it from Itunes.  The video is 7:53 long, it is horrible, and you will never be able to get that part of your life or the part of you that died as you watched it back.

1. “With Or Without You”, U2- I explained on an earlier post that I was not a fan of U2 in the 80s, and I don’t even know why.  Let me say now, that if for no other reason than their two big songs of 1987, “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, they are a great band.  I committed at the start of this not to put more than one song from a given group on any year’s list, but either one of these two songs would have held the top spot in 1987.  I had a hard time choosing which one I like best, and it came down to popular culture and the inclusion of “With or Without You” in the seminal episode of Friends that made the decision for me.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

 

 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

20. “My Hometown”, Bruce Springsteen- I wasn’t a big Springsteen fan when I was growing up, and I’m still not.  While I consider myself to be a patriotic American, I found his trademark anthem “Born in the U.S.A.” to be way too affected for my tastes.  However, I have to admit that I like some of his slower stuff.  This song has a nice nostalgic message and a cool electric organ part.  Springsteen keeps a nice tone to his vocal throughout the song.  It actually reminds me more of a Billy Joel song in style and lyrics.

19. “The Way It Is”, Bruce Hornsby and the Range- The keyboard part sets the mood at the beginning of this song.  Then, it gets even cooler (word?) when the drums and the rest of the band come in with a jazzy feel.  Hornsby has a nice tone to his voice and just enough grit to keep it serious.  The song has a very pretty, whole sound, but the tempo keeps it from being easy listening.  The most interesting thing about this song is that it tackles a very unusual subject for eighties pop: racism and the American Civil Rights Movement.  You would never get that from the tune and tone of the song.

18. “Stuck With You”, Huey Lewis and The News- This song continued Lewis’ string of hits throughout the mid-eighties.  The video for the song was dreadfully cheesy even though it did have a hottie, but the bee-bop style gave fans of the band exactly what they had grown to expect from them.

17. “Human”, Human League- This song reminds you of “Shout” by Tears for Fears with a forceful beginning and dark baseline, but then the keyboard comes in and lightens the mood considerably.  To call this band androgynous would be an understatement.  Tammy Fae is only slightly less made up than the lead singer.  The tone to the vocal and the DX7 keyboard make the song.  The spoken word in the middle a little cheesy.

16. “Greatest Love Of All”, Whitney Houston- Whitney Houston hit her stride with this song.  She is a powerhouse and the song is a showcase for her vocals.  The tender, positive message of the lyrics was refreshing and different from most of her love songs.  The song makes even more sense when you know that the writer was a mother with terminal breast cancer.  I chose over it “How Will I Know” which also charted the same year.

15. “Glory Of Love”, Peter Cetera- This was the first song released by Cetera after he left Chicago and was released on his Solitude/Solitaire and again on the soundtrack to the Karate Kid Part II for which it earned him an Oscar and a Golden Globe.  It is a power ballad in the Cetera/Chicago style, and features his unmistakable tenor vocals.  The piano and string parts round-out the song nicely.  The horns in the song are quite different from those to be found in a traditional Chicago song, and are much more orchestral in tone, but they go well.

14. “Take Me Home”, Phil Collins- The staccato percussion at the beginning of the song sounds like rain in a good way, but by the time the song hits the chorus it has sort of an anthem quality.  This is more easily understood when one realizes that the full sound of the vocals is bolstered by both Sting and Peter Gabriel among others.  Most people associate the song with fond memories of home, but Collins claimed that it was about a patient in a mental institution and likened it to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

13.  “Livin’ On a Prayer”, Bon Jovi- The anthem style of this song and the bass line make you tap your toes as you sing along.  It is really just a straight up rock & roll song with Jon Bon Jovi singing in his quasi rock/metal style.  This song has become the trade mark of the band, and experienced a revival during the weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

12. “Alive and Kicking”, Simple Minds- It was clear from the production value of the video, that the band had a budget of about 50 cents to spend on it, but I was afraid while watching it that the bassist would fall off the edge of the cliff that he was standing on.  As for the song, it continued with the same style that their mega hit from the year before, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” delivered.  The vocal is strong and clear, the percussion continues to deliver a punch, and the piano solos are memorable.

11. “If You Leave”, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark- The vocal is very much like the one found in the previous listing for Simply Minds.  It has the same strong whole tone to it.  However, the whisper quality that the vocals take on when they get to the chorus makes the song more interesting.  The synth-keyboards drive the song from beginning to end with a nice sax solo thrown on the middle.

10. “No One Is To Blame”, Howard Jones- There are several incarnations of this song out there.  My favorite is the one that starts out with the light percussion and keyboard.  It is really nice to listen to.  Jones voice, as always, sounds great on the song.  I think that Howard Jones may be the most underrated artist of the 1980s.

9. “True Colors”, Cyndi Lauper- She may have been hard to look at, but Cyndi Lauper could deliver a great song when she tried in the middle 1980s when she tried, before the drugs destroyed her career.  “True Colors” was the first single released of her follow-up to her mega album, She’s So Unusual, and was the title track.  It was the only good song on the album, but it was a very good one.  The soft guitar with percussion that is the main instrumentation throughout the song is very nice, as is the soft tone of Lauper’s voice and her ability to deliver emotion.  If you are going to listen to her version of the song, you need to know, that she has very little diction, and her dress in the video makes it unwatchable.  However, the lyrics are what make this song truly great, and I have sung it to my daughter since she was a tiny baby.  It has proved its staying power by being used in ad campaigns by seven different products world-wide.  I would like to know how much money she made off of Kodak alone.

8.  “Higher Love”, Steve Winwood- This song has an upbeat island quality to the rhythm and the instrumentation.  Winwood’s vocal is kind of a Bill Medley meets Huey Lewis sound.  It has a little edge, but still a good tenor tone to it. The backing vocals are great, and remind me Howard Jones’ back-up singers.  The music video, once again, looks like someone spent about a dollar on it, but for some reason MTV nominated it for an award, which it did not win.

7. “Your Love”, Outfield- This song has a cool rock & roll feel to it, and the vocals sound great.  The lead singer’s voice goes so high that it is practically impossible to sing along with, unless you sing an octave lower than he does, but it is still one of my favorite 80s songs.  It is the most tender song ever written about a guy who just wants to screw a girl behind his girlfriend’s back without any consequences.  How could a girl possibly say no to a proposal like that?

I have a memory that sort of goes along with this song.  The stars had aligned in the summer of 1986.  My favorite band, Journey, had gotten back together with Steve Perry to produce their last decent album, Raised on Radio.  It, of course, was no where near as good as their precious stuff, but I rushed out to buy it, and quickly knew every song.  Journey was coming to Dallas that summer, and I rushed out to buy my tickets.  It got even better, their opening act was slated to be The Outfield, my favorite new group.  Greatness.

Tragedy struck a few weeks before the Dallas concert.  Apparently, A bass amp fell on the head of a member of The Outfield, and they were scratched from the Dallas show.  Glass Tiger of “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” fame was inserted in their place.  I don’t know why, but I have always been bitter that I had Glass Tiger foisted on me instead of getting to hear The Outfield.

To be honest, Glass Tiger was pretty cheesy in concert.  The lead singer had the whole 80s big curly hair thing going on, and the white, rocker, sequined-jacket worn open with no shirt underneath.  He sat down on the edge of the stage and blatantly pandered to the girls in the front row as if they were actually there to see him.

My bitterness was pretty focused by then.  My seats were on the second row on the left side of the stage, and there was a gangway for the singers to walk almost up to where we were sitting right in front of us.  I had my lighter, as all good fans at a concert did in those days, and when he made his way up the gangway right in front of me, I lit the lighter, and threw ‘the bird’ (flipped him off) up for him to see in perfect backlight.  He did not even make it to the end of the gangway, but immediately turned around, and went to the gangway on the other side of the arena where he sang for some time.  Giggle.

I still have hardness in my heart toward this band for upstaging The Outfield (even if they really had nothing to do with it), and that is probably why they did not make my list.

6. “Never”, Heart- Heart continued their dominance as the biggest female group of the 1980s with “Never.”  I chose this or over the softer, “These Dreams” because it was a much bigger it, but they are both great songs.  Anne Wilson’s voice dominates this song, as it does all Heart songs.  This is another song that can be heard yearly on American Idol, and it usually either makes or breaks the contestants.

5.  “West End Girls”, Pet Shop Boys- I had to have at least one song from the Pet Shop Boys on my lists, and that song had to be West End Girls.  The bass-line is the most memorable part of this song.  It has a funky quality to it, and the vocal, while spoken in the verses, has a nice tone in the chorus.  The song and lyrics are obviously concerned about something, but I was never quite sure what it was until I read on Wiki, that the song is a social commentary “inspired by T.S. Elliot’s poem The Waste Land.”

4.  “Sledgehammer”, Peter Gabriel- This song would probably make anyone’s top 10 songs of the 80s list.  It was everywhere in the summer of 1986.  The surreal quality of the video and the cool stop-motion animation make it arguably the best music video ever.  It has won the most MTV music video awards (nine), and is the most played video ever (according to MTV).  Gabriel sings with a quirky style, and is backed by a big band funky horn section that sounds great.  The Japanese synthesized flute solo in the middle of the song always makes me think of dancing chickens.  The R&B background singers at the end of the song are also very good.

3.  “Addicted To Love”, Robert Palmer- This was another great 80s song and video.  You only have to hear one Robert Palmer song to know his rock & roll style, and you only have to see one of his videos to understand his main marketing technique: Sexy girls in semi sheer black tights and no bras sell.  And, boy do they.  I was a pretty traditional guy growing up in the 80s.  I liked the hot, pretty girl, and I was always turned-off by the hot, dirty or skanky girl.  When Robert Palmer came along with his pseudo-gothic girls, I was faced with a dilemma.  Those girls were definitely not traditional, but they were also definitely hot.  Eventually, I stopped wondering why, and decided to just enjoy the show.

2.  “Broken Wings”, Mr. Mister- I made these lists a while ago, and have been writing the blurbs about each one as I prepare to publish them.  When I went back to the 1986 list, I immediately realized that I had made a mistake.  One of my rules from the beginning was that I was not going to put more than one song from any group on the same list.  However, when I opened the 1986 list back up, I realized that I had two songs from the same group at the #2 and #3 spots.  It was just a careless error, but it underscored to me how much I liked both of these songs when I tried to decide which of them to actually include at #2.  In the end “Broken Wings” barely beat-out “Kyrie.”  The iconic bass line with the brush on snare at the beginning of the song let you know what song you listening to from the first couple of notes.  Together with the keyboards, they give the song an eerie and ethereal feel.  The vocal has a whole and strong tone that is easy to sing along with, and when it gets to the “Let us in…” lyric, it soars (good effect in a song about wings).

1.  “Say You, Say Me”, Lionel Richie- This is my personal favorite song by Richie.  The lyrics have a positive message about people getting along and understanding each other.  It was in the great date movie, White Nights for which it earned an Oscar and a golden Globe, but did not appear on the soundtrack.  Richie released the song on his Dancing on the Ceiling album after it had already hit number one in December the year before (1985) as a single.  The music has a creepy, reverb quality that is highly synthesized, but it is the vocal that is great.  If I hear this song on the radio today, I can’t help but sing with it, and when it is over, I always want to hear it again.  Greatness.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

20.  “Careless Whisper”, Wham!- My gay-dar was working well by the time the George Michael led group came along.  This probably explains why I did not care for them too much.  However, I’ll have to admit that they had some huge hits in the mid 80s containing very catchy tunes.  The problem with Wham was that their bubbly style made them seem like a male version of the Go-Gos, and that is not a good thing.  That is why I ended up choosing “Careless Whisper” with its ballad style over their bigger hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”

19.  “Saving All My Love For You”, Whitney Houston- I tend to react negatively to hype, and Whitney got a lot of it when her voice blasted onto the scene, but even back then I could not deny that she was a great singer.  Her songs are not easy to sing along with, for the most part, because they are all a showcase for her incredible vocals.  I chose “Saving All My Love For You” over “You Give Good Love”, but they both are about the same.

18.  “Separate Lives”, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin- This is easily one of the best duets of the 80s.  Her voice and style of singing hold up well with his as they trade off throughout the song.  It reached #1 in the Billboard Top 100, and was featured on the soundtrack to the great date movie, White Nights.

17.  “One More Night”, Phil Collins- As I did in 1984, I will treat the duet above as a group performance, and include another song by Phil Collins as a result.  “One More Night” was one of four songs that charted off Collins’ great album, No Jacket Required.  I had the album, and like most of the albums that I really liked in that era, I wore it out.  I would know any song off of it if I heard it today, and there are some that did not even chart that I liked a lot such as “Long, Long Way to Go” that featured Sting singing the backup vocals.

16.  “We Belong”, Pat Benatar- This was always my favorite Pat Benatar song.  It was a departure from her earlier ‘rocker-girl’ music and it featured a nice melody and vocal.  I’m not sure if it is a guitar or a keyboard at the beginning of the song but in any case, it is iconic, and I immediately knew the song when heard it at the end of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.  That scene where Sacha Baron Cohen is chasing Will Ferrell down the track is classic, and I will probably always associate this song with it in the future.

15.  “We Are The World”, U.S.A. For Africa- Anyone that was young during this era knows this song.  It was a great song, and it was great to see that many of the most popular singers in the world at that time could get together for a good cause.  If this were done today, it would undoubtedly feature Bono, which ever 80s or 90s groups were coming out with a new album, recent groups whose popularity is waning (see Britney Spears), the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and all the failed American Idol winners and finalists.  But, the original truly pulled in the powerhouses of pop music at the time.  Solos included: Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Kim Carnes, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Daryl Hall, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Bruce Springsteen, Al Jarreau, and James Ingram.  Other artists included: Randy Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Tito Jackson, JaToya Jackson, The Pointer Sisters, Lindsey Buckingham, Jackie Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Jeffery Osborne, Sheila E., Bob Geldof, Bette Midler, John Oates and Dan Aykroyd (odd).  Awesome.  And, it could never be done today.  What, no Bono?

14.  “The Search Is Over”, Survivor- This song continued Survivor’s string of great power ballads.  The lead vocals have a nice tone to them, and the song is easy to sing along with.  I chose it over “I Can’t Hold Back” from the same year.

13.  “Lay Your Hands On Me”, Thompson Twins- I love the whole tone to the vocals on this song, and the choral part is even better.  This song was released on their Here’s To the Future album which was the 6th album released in five years for the prolific androgynous British band.

12.  “What About Love”, Heart- Heart burst on the pop scene in 1985 with the release of their debut album, Heart.  It was a smash hit for sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, as was their first of many hits, “What About Love.”  The band led by Ann Wison’s strong vocals was one of the dominant groups in pop music for the next few years, and was easily the biggest girl band of the decade.  Routinely, their songs are attempted by contestants on American Idol, and just as routinely, those contestants are roundly criticized because their vocals are not near as good or as strong as Ann Wilson’s vocals.

11.  “Things Can Only Get Better”, Howard Jones- Howard Jones is a great keyboardist, and I love his vocals.  All of his melodies pop, and are easy to sing along with.  I would recommend his The Best of Howard Jones from 1993 to anyone.  The backup singers, made up of the members of the female backup group, Afrodiziak (genius) sound great and help to make the song.

10.  “Money For Nothing”, Dire Straits- This is one of the iconic songs of the 80s.  It would be one of the best one-hit-wonders if the band had not had another hit, but their success never again approached the popularity of this song.  It, of course, begins with Sting’s unmistakable falsetto vocals ethereally asking for his MTV with a keyboard appropriately setting the eerie mood.  Then, the guitar bangs in with the very recognizable riff that continues throughout the song, and it takes off as a tribute to the easily attained fame and riches to be found in the music industry.  The vocals, described by lead singer Mark Knopfler as Sprechstimme, are by definition, vocals that fall somewhere between speaking and singing.  There was some controversy at the time involving the lines containing the words “chimpanzee” and “faggot”, and there were accusations of sexism, racism and homophobia leveled against the band which they denied.  The video filled with cool animation was groundbreaking for MTV, and it was one of their most played that year.

9.  “The Power Of Love”, Huey Lewis and The News- This and “Back in Time” were both featured in the 80s hit movie Back to the Future.  “The Power of Love” has all the qualities of a great Huey Lewis song, strong vocals, big band sound, and a bopping 50s-like rock and roll beat.  I remember seeing Huey Lewis in concert in the 80s.  It was one of the best that I ever saw.  He had the Tower Of Power horn section with him, and at one point, every person with the stage crew, the band and the horn section were on stage at the same time singing and dancing to their doo-wop sound with leather jackets on.

8.  “Material Girl”, Madonna- I chose “Material Girl” over “Crazy For You” and “Live To Tell” because it is the song that I think of when I think of Madonna.  The video with her playing the part of Marilyn Monroe from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was great.  She looked sexier to me with her clothes on in this video than she did in later videos when she took them off.  Her voice has a good, if squeaky, tone to it that matches the Monroe’s vibe.

7.  “Heaven”, Bryan Adams- This and “Cuts Like a Knife” are my two favorite Bryan Adams’ songs.  I liked this song a lot because I could sing it, and it was a cool power ballad.  It still gets a lot of play, and can be heard every season on American Idol.

6.  “You’re The Inspiration”, Chicago- This is probably the most popular song Chicago ever recorded (and that is a lot of songs), but it is not my personal favorite- that would be “Love Me Tomorrow”- or even my favorite from Chicago 17- that would be the unreleased “Remember the Feeling.”  However, that does not mean it is not a great song.  Peter Certera proved, once and for all, that Bill Champlin should be a backup singer for the group with this song.  Certera left the band shortly thereafter.

5.  “Head Over Heels”, Tears For Fears- This was another great hit for the semi-androgynous British pop band.  The key board part that sounds like falling rain as it repeatedly moves down the scale let’s you know what song you are listening to from the beginning.  The lead vocals are very clean, and the backup falsetto vocals match nicely on the verses and chorus.  I chose this song over their bigger hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” because I like it better, but they are both great songs.

4.  “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, Simple Minds- What a youth rebellion anthem!  I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than this.  Every child of the 80s reading this sees Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club walking away with his fist (for some reason) in the air in a defiant statement that said, “You might burn me with cigarettes, but I’m still too cool even for myself!”  The song is cool too.  It was the class song for thousands of senior classes that year (pretty much all of the classes that were not gay enough to choose “Friends” as their class song).

3.  “Can’t Fight This Feeling”, REO Speedwagon- Have you ever had a friend who you could not stand to be around when he was with his girlfriend?  When I was in college my roommate was going out with my girlfriend’s roommate (We both eventually married these ladies- I asked mine out first.  He married his first).  There was really no avoiding being around them quite a bit.  The problem was, for instance, at night as I would be watching television in our living room, he would be on the phone with her calling her pet names likes ‘Snoogums” and such.  They would get to the end of he conversation, and then would come the ‘I love you’, ‘no, I love you more’ session (five minutes minimum), and then the ‘hang up’, ‘no, you hang up’ session which rarely ended before I was contemplating ending my own life.

Then there was being with them.  You were never really with them.  They were with each other in their own little world getting as close as the clothes on them would allow, and calling each other pet names in sweet high pitched voices totally oblivious of the fact that every around them was visibly ill.  I swear.  I had to eventually sit my roommate down and explain the concept of ‘too cute’ to him.

All during this time, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was their song.  He played it all the time.  She played it all the time.  They played it all the time.

I think it says a lot about the greatness of this song that through all of that, I still liked it.  And, here it is at #3 on my 1985 list.  It’s probably better than that even, but I hold a long grudge.

2.  “Take On Me”, A-Ha- This song is another of the great one-hit-wonder songs of the 80s.  The Norwegian pop band A-Ha, fronted by Morten Harket, used this song to feature his soaring vocals that hit before-unseen heights for a male voice in popular music.  It also has a signature keyboard part that makes the song instantly recognizable.  The video for this song was one of the most popular of the 80s featuring a sappy love story between a guy in a comic and a girl.  What made it special was its use of animation and real-life video in the same frames bringing the comic book characters to life, then having them interact with the real-life characters almost seamlessly.  The girl is very cute also.

1.  “I Want To Know What Love Is”, Foreigner- What a great song.  This may be the best power ballad of all time.  The vocals are great, and adding the gospel choir brought it to a whole new level.  The keyboard, as with most good power ballads, is great also.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

 

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

1984 continues the run of great hits that came with the middle of the 1980s.  I had real problems narrowing the list down to 20 for this year.  As a result, from thus point, at least through 1986, I will give a list of songs that almost made the cut at the end.

20.  “Uptown Girl”, Billy Joel- This song was one of the many hits off his Innocent Man album.  It continues the be-bop style that was found in “Tell Her About It”.  The video featured his then wife Christy Brinkley looking very nice, and Joel as a mechanic.  It’s a fun song, and I chose it over his other hit from that year, “An Innocent Man”.

19.  “Say Say Say”, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson- This is the third duet featuring McCartney to chart in a two year period, and the second for the team of Jackson and McCartney.  The other Jackson/McCartney song was “The Girl Is Mine”, and the third duet was the Stevie Wonder/McCartney hit “Ebony and Ivory”.  “Say Say Say” is a fun song, and it stayed in Billboard’s #1 slot for six weeks which was impressive considering the other great music that was out that year.

18.  “Here Comes The Rain Again”, Eurythmics- This is the second song from the Annie Lennox led band to make one of my lists.  It carries on many of the qualities of their earlier hit, “Sweet Dreams” including great vocals, keyboards , and a prominent use of stringed instruments (not just guitars).  Lennox’s voice has a smoky affectedness to it that makes it interesting to listen to.

17.  “I Can Dream About You”, Dan Hartman- This is definitely a one-hit-wonder from a guy I could not have named if you had paid me, but I could easily sing the song a the way through though.  It has a very catchy melody that moves along briskly and is easy to follow.

16.  “Easy Lover”, Phillip Bailey duet with Phil Collins- This is one of my top three duets of the 1980s.  The two Phils’ voices sound great together.  Collins is great as usual, and Bailey shows that he really has some pipes and range when he takes over for his verses.  For those who do not know, Phillip Bailey sang with Earth Wind and Fire before he teamed up with Collins.  He later had a solo career in Christian Contemporary Music, and finally rejoined his old band, re-billed as Phillip Bailey and Earth Wind and Fire to continue releasing music on the Christian charts.

15.  “Sister Christian”, Night Ranger- This was a great Power Ballad by a one-hit-wonder band, and recounts the coming of age of a young woman.  In the video, the band is stereotypically 80s from the hair to the dress.  The song is a very good representation of a power ballad sung by a ‘hard rock group.  It begins with a nice, soft keyboard and vocal, but by the chorus has developed into a full-fledged power ballad.

14.  “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, The Police- This is one of my favorite Police songs.  It has a subdued sultry tone that at times seems almost haunting.  The main instrument in the verses in the chime, and it sounds great as a punctuator for Stings voice.  The melody is easy to sing and memorable, and video looks great with the candles everywhere in a sort of maze.

13.  “Hold Me Now”, Thompson Twins- This is a very nice, easy to sing song by one of the many semi-androgynous British New Wave bands of the 80s.

12.  “Oh Sherrie”, Steve Perry- Steve Perry finally decided that the best way to showcase his great vocal ability was to dump his band, and in 1983 he released his first solo hit, “Oh Sherrie”.  It is a great song that begins with him belting out the first line a cappella.  The background vocals are also nice on this song.

11. “Legs”, ZZ Top- This was the biggest in a strong if hits by the iconic and very hairy guitar band.  Even their guitars were hairy, but ZZ Top was just cool.  I remember the video with that super-hot girl in it.  Nice.  I went to their Eliminator tour, and saw them on the fourth night of four sold out shows at reunion arena in Dallas.  It was great, even though they played a lot of old stuff I had never heard before.  The stage was the dashboard of the car from the video, and halfway through the show it morphed into the control panel for the space shuttle.  This concert was my first exposure to large groups of people smoking pot.

10.  “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, U2- I have a confession.  I did not like U2 in high school.  I don’t even know why.  As a result, I do not know a lot of their stuff, but as the years have gone by, I have been confronted with the undeniable truth that they recorded some of the great songs of the 80s.  Today, I have a reason not to like them (I don’t see eye to eye with all of Bono’s politics), but I realize that songs like “Pride” are great, and deserve to be in any 80s list.

9.  “Like a Virgin”, Madonna- Madonna made my high school pants go crazy.  Her music before this “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” had a lot more of a be-bop quality.  “Like a Virgin” had a different quality, sexuality, and it worked.  Her slightly nasal voice fit in well with her new attitude.  I still remember her singing this on the VMAs while wearing a hot wedding dress.  Nice.

8.  “Shout”, Tears for Fears- This was the first mega hit for the British pop band.  It has a driving beat that I can still hear as a ‘Boom, Boom, Boom” of the rim-shots in my head as I think about this song.  It is right in a teenager’s wheelhouse with its angst-ridden lyrics that are all about expressing your rage at that age.  Oddly, the angry lyrics and beat are backed up by a very nice vocal, especially in the verses.

7.  “Drive”, Cars- The slow cool sound of this song is a departure from the normally quirky, syncopated style that the band normally put forth.  It showcased Rick Ocasek’s unique vocals, and tackles the unusual subject, for a pop song, of drug abuse.  I chose it over “You Might Think”, which is undeniably a more traditional Cars’ song, simply because I like it better.

6.  “Hard Habit To Break”, Chicago- This was the second release (the first being, “Stay the Night”) from the mega-album, Chicago 17.  It featured dual vocals from Bill Champlin and the rising star, Peter Certera.  This song recaptured the more traditional Chicago big-band sound with a great horn part in the middle while retaining their new Power Ballad style that was seen on Chicago 16.

5.  “If This Is It”, Huey Lewis and The News-  This was the hardest choice that I have had to make between two songs by the same band in the same year on these lists up to this point.  In the end, I chose “If This is It” over “The Heart Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” because I like to do-wap sound in the first one better than the “Rock Around the Clock” style of the second one (though as I write this, it does not sound like a very good reason).  They are both great songs, and Lewis shows his versatility by being able to sing the ballad or the rock song very well.  In the end, I’ll just flip a coin.  Heads it is, and I still choose “If This is It.”

4. “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”, Yes- Guitar is the star instrument in this progressive rock anthem by the British band, Yes, from the distorted guitar at the beginning to the long guitar solo in the middle of the song.  The vocals, provided by lead singer Jon Anderson have an almost hard rock quality which would have worked with a band such as Poison, Metallica or Def Leppard.  The back-up vocal, provided by Trevor Horn, who wrote the song, provides the familiar refrain “Owner of a Lonely Heart!” in the song.  The whole tone to his vocals is a nice contrast to the rocker sound of Anderson.  The video for this song is a surreal journey into the mind of a crazy person, and could have been a predecessor for the Fear Factor show.

3.  “Time After Time”, Cyndi Lauper- Lauper’s persona at the time was a big turn-off to me, but I’ll have to admit, she could write and sing a song very well when she really wanted to.  I still like this song today, and am pleased when I hear it on the radio or in a restaurant.  It gets tons of play, and is often heard in the score of a movie.  It has been covered on about 50 albums including artists such as Willie Nelson and Christian artist Phil Keaggy.  The most memorable appearances in movies include Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Napoleon Dynamite.  It was easy for me to choose this song over her other 1984 whip of a hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

2.  “Hello”, Lionel Richie- After making his mark with the Commodores’ “Three Times a Lady,” and “Still,” and again later with his smash duet with Diana Ross, “Endless Love,”  Richie released his first solo album in 1982 which included the hit, “Truly,” but was otherwise unremarkable.  In 1983, he released his super-album, Can’t Slow Down from which six of the eight songs were released and did well.  The best of these songs was unquestionably “Hello.”  It’s a beautiful love song, and the video featuring Richie who is in love with a blind woman is very memorable. 

I went to see Lionel Richie in concert when I was in high school.  It was a good show with Sheila E. singing in her underwear (hot!), and a superior technical performance when Richie took the stage.  Back then, you had to buy a T-shirt every time you went to a concert, and I bought one that was black with a big Lionel Richie face on it in some puffy raised-up synthetic paint (so gay).  I remember wearing it to Sunday night church (Sunday night was less formal in our church of about 800 regulars).  At the end of the service, I was standing there talking with my buddies when the preacher walked up to me, and tapped me on the back.  “I was just wondering who the black guy was that was staring at me the whole time I was preaching.”  I’m sure I turned red, and I was never quite sure if it was the fact that I wore a concert T-shirt to church that he did not like or the fact that there was a black man on it that he did not like.  In any case, I did not wear that shirt to church again.

1.  “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)”, Phil Collins- I know I am fudging on one of my rules by having “Easy Lover” at #16, and this at number one, but I chose to look at the duet as a different group in this case, much like I would not have a problem putting a Genesis and a Phil Collins song on the same list.  This is one of the most soulful love songs (or ‘my heart has been ripped out’ songs) that you are ever going to hear.  It’s perfect.  The piano part is memorable, and the vocal is great.  I would love to sing along with it, but I can’t make my voice do the kinds of things that Collins can.  This is another song that came on the heals of Collins’ messy divorce, and his pain is evident in the lyrics and vocal.  The song was released as the title song of a movie starring Jeff Bridges and James Wood which was a remake of an old Robert Mitchum movie called Out of the Past.

 

Here is a list of songs I liked that did not make it onto the list in 1984:

“The Warrior”, Scandal

“Almost Paradise”, Mike Reno and Ann Wilson

“Say It Isn’t So”, Daryl Hall and John Oates

“I Just Called To Say I Love You”, Stevie Wonder

“Cruel Summer”, Bananarama

“Missing You”, John Waite

“On The Dark Side”, John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band

“Footloose”, Kenny Loggins

“One Night In Bangkok”, Murray Head

“Joanna”, Kool & The Gang

“God Bless the USA”, Lee Greenwood

“Jump”, Van Halen

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, Wham!

 

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

From 1983-1986 80s music hit its high point.  There was a plethora of good songs released during this four year period, and many were forced off the list that would probably have been included in previous years.

20. “She’s A Beauty”, The Tubes- I love the syncopated style of the guitar and keyboard at the beginning of the song.  The funhouse theme of the video was cool, and the woman in the mermaid suit was hot, hot, hot.

19.  “Up Where We Belong”, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes- Joe Cocker has a face for radio and a voice that is the male version of Fran Drescher, but his hyper-affected style, and gravelly sound proved just right for this great 80s love song.  It was the theme song for the great movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.  The song made a clean sweep of the awards topping the charts, winning a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

18.  “Overkill”, Men At Work- “Overkill” is generally regarded as the best song by the Australian band Men At Work.  It was more mature than many of their early hits, but 80s music had matured faster than the band did, so even though I like it better than “Down Under”, it is further down the list in 1983.

17.  “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”, Eurythmics- This was the first big hit for the band that was fronted by Annie Lennox.  Her strong alto vocals matched well with the synthesized sound of the music.  The video is very surreal, and features the Lennox and keyboardist Robert Crash in a field with cows and cellos at one point.  This song proved that the synthesizer alone had the ability to make a song that was distinctively 80s.

16.  “Photograph”, Def Leppard- Def Leppard pulled hard rock music into the pop music genre.  They were the first (and really the only) hard rock group that I have ever liked.  Their songs were still very melodic and singable.  All you really need to say is, “One armed drummer!”

15.  “Electric Avenue”, Eddy Grant- Eddie Grant was just cool.  The synthesizer and bass give this song a disco-funk feel.  You have to move when you hear this song, and it is still played quite a bit today.

14.  “Der Kommissar”, After The Fire- This song was released the year before in German by the unknown (at that time) Falco, and it was the B-side a few years later on “Rock Me Amadeus”.  After the Fire released the song in English in 1983.  The song is still very popular today, and has been repeatedly sampled by Hip Hop artists.  Most notably it was the basis for MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” in the 90s.  When I hear it, I see myself looking down at the Frogger machine at the local skating rink as I was growing up.  You could count on hearing it about once an hour.

13.  “Modern Love”, David Bowie- This is easily my favorite David Bowie song.  The beginning of the song almost sounds like and Eagles’ song, until the keyboard and Bowie enter.  The song is upbeat, toe-tapping, and the sax part is nice.  The background singers really make the song.  If I had liked Bowie more at the time, this probably would have been one of my favorite songs of the 80s.

12.  “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”, Air Supply-  This song signaled the end of Air Supply’s run, but it was a great way to end it.  The beginning with just the keyboard is iconic, and the tenor’s voice seems to go into the stratosphere.  The song is still heard often today.

11.  “Tell Her About It”, Billy Joel- The bee-bop style with the horn back-up in this song is excellent.  Billy Joel proved again that he could sing almost any style with this song.  The Rodney Dangerfield appearance in the video is nice.

10.  “She Blinded Me With Science”, Thomas Dolby- This song features a great keyboard player providing some great keyboards.  You know the song in about two notes.  It is a little quirky with the weird old man screaming, “Science!”, but that chick in the video with the violin drawn on her back may have the best figure that I’ve ever seen.

9.  “Cuts Like a Knife”, Bryan Adams- I always liked the tone of Bryan Adams voice.  This sing one of the all-time great “na-na” songs, and is easy to sing along with.  I like it better than his other hit from that year, “Straight From the Heart.”

8.  “Maneater”, Daryl Hall and John Oates- You know this song in just a couple of notes.  The baseline with the echoing, whammy keyboard sound is memorable, but the sax makes the song.  This is one of my favorite Hall & Oates songs.  According to Hall, Kelly LeBrock was the inspiration for the song.  I remember those legs from Woman in Red, and I have to admit they inspired my 14 year old hormones quite a lot.  This is another Hall & Oates song that is sampled a lot by Hip Hop groups.  I chose it over “One on One” which also charted this year.

7.  “Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson- I really did not want to put any Michael Jackson songs on the list, what with all of the pedophilia and all, but I just had to include the greatness of Billy Jean.  Most people regard it as his best song, and it carries with it the complicated issue of teen pregnancy.  The bass line and percussion part are iconic.  The addition of an orchestra made the feel of the music much deeper and less disco, than it would have seemed without it.  The song garnered two Grammies for Jackson, and the video featured the stylistic dance style that because a hallmark of Jackson videos in the next few years.

6.  “Every Breath You Take”, The Police- This is one of the best of the Police songs.  It is a little more of a vocal feature for Sting, and a lot more mellow than some of their earlier releases.

5.  “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, Bonnie Tyler- I love this song, and it is the rare true female power ballad.  The piano is the feature instrument with a memorable four note repetition.  The piano is great but not as great as Bonnie Tyler’s vocal.  She’s incredible, and the emotion that she conveys with her vocal is moving.  The background vocal is also an important part of the song.  It is interesting to note that the song was inspired Wuthering Heights.

4.  “Faithfully”, Journey- This is the second of the two great and enduring power ballads by Journey to make it onto the list.  You can find some of Steve Perry’s best vocals on this song.  I chose it over “Separate Ways” and “Send Her My Love” both of which are great songs.

3.  “Africa”, Toto- This is the second and last great song for this band of musical ringers.  The keyboard part carries the song.  The vocal has an ethereal quality until it hits the chorus, and then it soars.

2.  “Always Something There To Remind Me”, Naked Eyes-  This song and the #1 song on this list from 1983 would probably make my top ten for the who decade. They both still get a lot of play, and you can hear them almost anywhere.  The four note keyboard part is iconic, and stays in your head.  In the end, this song is just cool, and is why chose it over their other great hit, “Promises Promises” from the same year.

1.  “Come On Eileen”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners-  1983 presented us with several great one-hit-wonders, including the number one hit which I consider the greatest to be the best one-hit-wonders of the 80s.  This song exposed me to my own Irish musical heritage, eventually leading me to other music like Folk Like Us, The Chieftains, Lorenna McKennitt and even Enya.  I love the sound of an Irish fiddle, and this song definitely delivers.  I liked this song so much that I eventually bought an imported album called The Very Best of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.  What could go wrong?  I mean they claimed that this album contained the very best music that Dexy’s Midnight Runners had to offer.  After listening to all 25 songs (most of which were a whip), I realized that I knew two of them, period.  They were “Come On Eileen” and the live version of “Come On Eileen”.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

 

 

 

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1985

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

 Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

20.  “Twilight Zone”, Golden Earring- This was one of the first videos I ever saw before I had MTV, and we had to wait for Friday Night Videos to be shown on one of the local UHF channels in the Dallas area.  It was the first video to feature a cinematic storyline, and it would make my Top Ten One Hit Wonders List (maybe I’ll have to do that sometime).  The song was very edgy with a great strong guitar part and a four note baseline that every bassist learned as quickly a he picked one up.  It charted through 1983 for the Dutch band, but there was so much great music in 1983 that I pushed this one back so that I could get more into that year.

19.  “The Safety Dance”, Men Without Hats- The video for this one had everything:  medieval setting, hot girl, weird lead singer prancing around, irritating echo, and creepy dwarf, all swirling around singing a song that somehow championed safe sex.  The tune was catchy, and employing the cheer-like tactic of spelling out the word harkened back to the days of the Village People, and their mega-hit “YMCA”.  It would also make the Top Ten One Hit Wonders List.

18.  “I Melt with You” Modern English- This is the first hit by the British new wave band Modern English.  It has a great chorus, and is easy and enjoyable to sing along with.  It had a popular video, and was featured in the Nicholas Cage star vehicle Valley Girl.

17.  “Sweet Dreams”, Air Supply- This Air Supply song has a synthesized ethereal keyboard sound that is a little different from their other stuff.  The voices almost sound like they are going through a harmonizer.  It was a top ten hit, and I liked it better that their other hit that year, “Even the Nights Are Better.”

16.  “I Can’t Go For That”, Daryl Hall and John Oates- was the fourth Billboard #1 hit for Hall and Oates and the second song released off of the album, Privates Eyes.  It knocked Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” out of the top spot after an amazing 10 weeks at the top of the list.  It also topped the US R&B chart which is unusual for a couple of white guys (one did have a huge ‘fro).  I like it better than “Private Eyes” which also charted in 1982.  It is still one of the most sampled songs by modern Rap and Hip Hop groups.

15.  “Do You Believe In Love”, Huey Lewis and The News- This was the first song to hit the top ten by one of my favorite 80s bands.  Huey Lewis has a great, powerful voice that is easy to listen to, and the band had the coolest looking bassist in the business (I remember buying a pair of those sunglasses and a London Fog trench coat in the early 80s).  The back-up singers’ dissonant harmony helps make the chorus of this one

14.  “I Love Rock N’ Roll”, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts- This is simply a cool song.  She’s got a sexy voice, and the strong beat is hard to forget.   It held Billboard’s #1 slot for 7 weeks.

13.  “Abracadabra”, Steve Miller Band- If you have not had enough whammy-bar in your music lately, check out this hit from the Steve Miller Band.  It is a tune that you hum for the rest of the day once you hear it.

12.  “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Phil Collins- As I said in my criteria for this list, I was not going to include a lot of ‘covers.’  For the most part, I am against the cover.  Unless you are Willie Nelson or Elvis, or unless you do a significantly different and worthy remake of the original, there is no reason to cover it in the first place.  My only other exception to this rule is when I like a cover song better than the original which is extremely rare.  Notable examples of this are Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”, Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” (thank the Lord someone finally removed the voice harmonics and made a good version of this song), and of course the greatness that is Phil Collins’ rerelease of “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  The fun and upbeat style of this song almost forces you to sing along.  I loved the video with Phil and the three back-up Phils (complete with different personalities) singing perfect harmony.  Fun times.

11.  “We Got The Beat”, Go-Go’s- This song was a huge hit for the British all-girl band the Go Gos.  I could still listen to this song in the right atmosphere, but too much of this type of music would make me tired.

10.  “Ebony And Ivory”, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder- This was a great duet that dealt with an unusual topic for Pop Music, racial harmony.  McCartney and Wonder sound very good together.

9.  “Physical”, Olivia Newton-John- This single was huge.  It was not my favorite song ever, what with the workout craze that it helped to start, but I still considered Olivia Newton-John to be the girl who wore the black leather and tights in Grease.  Any chance to see her jumping around in something that was tight-fitting was a bonus.

8.  “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, Foreigner- This is one of the great power ballads of the early eighties.  I really like the tone of Lou Graham’s voice when he sings a ballad.  It is a very nice sound when someone can have an edge to their vocals as they enter their higher range, but still have the tone sound whole without any screeching.  You will find this to be the case with this song.

7.  “Heat Of The Moment”, Asia- The first thing that I think of when I hear this song is the television commercial campaign that accompanied the release of the album.  They were the first band that I associated with a logo (their band name in the shape of a pyramid was iconic).  The use of distortion on the guitar together with the keyboard that sounded like rain dropping at the end of a line sounded good.  I like the strong vocal also.

6.  “Love Me Tomorrow”, Chicago- Chicago 17 may have been a better album from top to bottom, but my two favorite Chicago songs were both from Chicago 16, and they were both released in 1982.  They were of course, “Love Me Tomorrow” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”.  These are two of my all time favorite ballads.  The guitar part in “Love Me Tomorrow” makes it more of a power ballad while the keyboard led melody of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” makes it more of a soft rock song.  Neither song has the Tower of Power horn sound that is usually found on Chicago songs, but they do not suffer for it.  “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” hit #1, but in the end I chose “Love Me Tomorrow” because of the terrible idea that the band had for ending the “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” with “Get Away”.  Most radio stations refused to play the tagged song and opted for an awkward ending that simply truncated the song before “Get Away” could get started.  It was better that way.  The best analogy I could come up with is this.  Imagine Charles Monet painting his famous Lilli Pads, and at the very end, Jackson Pollock is brought in to provide the final touches.  The resulting mess would be the visual equivalent of marrying these two songs together.

In the end, I chose “Love me Tomorrow” because it did not have anything to take away from its greatness.

5.  “Eye Of The Tiger”, Survivor- In a world desperate for more of the good feelings given them by the first two Rocky movies, Stallone and the group Survivor delivered with this song featured in the third installment of the movie.  It was a physical education anthem when I was growing up, and who would not be inspired to run in place a little faster or do their jumping jacks a little harder while listening to this great song.  And at the end of the routine, you always had to suppress the urge to clench your fists and put your arms straight up in the air as if you too were a champion.

4.  “Open Arms”, Journey- This is one of Journey’s two best power ballads (the other being “Faithfully”).  It only reached #2 during its release, but the song has had as much staying power as any song from the 80s.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  As with most of the Journey power ballads, Neil Schon was not a fan.  He said that it “sounded kind of Mary Poppins,” and tried to keep it off the album.  Luckily for the rest of us, sanity prevailed and we were presented with on of the greatest love songs ever.

3.  “Centerfold”, J. Geils Band- I remember my mom finding the 45 for this song in my little sister’s room and throwing it away.  I did not even know she had it, but by the time it was banished, I had already become a big fan of the song on my own.  The quirky sound provided by the keyboard, sax and harmonica is great.  The baseline is good, and I really like the whistle that accompanies the music at the end.  The fade-out to this has you whistling for the rest of the day.  The video provided some nice leggy eye-candy, but my favorite part of it was the reprise when the percussionist really lays it on the snare drum, and we are surprised by the effect as the top of the drum is covered in milk.  Great song.

2.  “Rosanna”, Toto- One of the best songs of the 80s.  The base line lets you know what song playing in a couple of notes.  I love how it builds toward the chorus, then smacks you with a strong rock beat, and a full horn section.  It has a very Chicago-like quality to it.  The video with the hot blonde simply dancing around in a Marylin Monroe style dress while the bad plays is very good.  It is the best song provided by the band, Toto.

1.  “Down Under”, Men at Work- I put this song on the list at #1 as an homage to the kid that I was in 1982.  At the time, I was a goofy 7th grader who was just getting into Pop music, and this was the perfect goofy song for me to really like.  To describe it and the band as quirky, would be an understatement, but the song was huge.  The flute part has a whimsical quality which matches well with the band’s lifestyle.  It was played a lot during the early 80s, and I’m sure Australia is still trying to get away from the association.  Today, I smile when I rarely hear it played somewhere, and I have to admit that I do not remember choosing to play it for myself in the last 15 years.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987

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