Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

See list criteria here.

20.  America”, Neil Diamond– Neil Diamond was not my favorite artist growing up, but his music has grown on me as I have aged.  Where I would have turned him off in the 80s, now I will listen to his music, and all of his songs have strong choruses.  I like the patriotic aspect of this song also.

19.  “Morning Train (Nine To Five)”, Sheena Easton– This song was huge at the time (maybe to the point if overplay), and it has catchy (almost monotonous) beat.  You could count on hearing this song on the way to work every day for about two years.  “For Your Eyes Only” was also a very good song released by Sheena Easton in this year, and it was hard to choose between the two.

18.  “Young Turks”, Rod Stewart  I was never a big Rod Stewart fan what with the whole stomach-pumping rumors and all (Yes, I know it was all untrue now, but we did not have Snopes back then, and we were stuck with the rumors we had.  By, the time the truth was revealed, the damage was done).  That all being said, this song has a strong melody, and his voice does not sound so much like sand paper in this song.

17.  “Leader of the Band”, Dan Fogelberg– I always really liked this song, and it was easy for me to apply it to the relationship that I had with my own father.  Since his death, it only seems to apply better.  Same Old Lang Syne” was also a great song that was released in the same year and charted higher than “Leader of the Band”, but I just like “Leader of the Band” more.

16.  “Shake It Up”, The Cars– This is the first great Cars’ song of the 80s.  It has the quirky, syncopated style that eventually style that eventually becomes a staple of Cars’ music.

15.  “Arthur’s Theme”, Christopher Cross– I doesn’t get much more melodic or sing-able than the theme from the movie Arthur, though it is a little on the soft rock side of the scale.  It will always be one of the best movie theme songs.

14.  “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, The Police– This is another upbeat and very good release for the British punk band.  It is the kind of tune that stays in your head in a good way.

13.  “Jessie’s Girl”, Rick Springfield– I have always thought of Rick Springfield as ‘Bruce Springstein without the edge’.  This was a huge hit at the time with a chorus that was easy to sing along with.

12.  “Who Can It Be Now?”, Men at Work– This is the first song released by the quirky group from Australia, and is my second favorite Men at Work song.  I have fond memories of this group because it was my ‘gateway drug’ from Country to Pop music.  I was a big fan right up to the point that I rented their “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” concert video.  My ‘gay-dar’ was not as precisely tuned at that time, but when I saw Colin Hay and the rest of the members of the band prancing around on the stage, I slotted the band with what became an ever growing number of androgynous, quasi-gay 80s bands that put out decent music, but whose concerts I would never go to.

11.  “Urgent”, Foreigner– This was the first hit off of Foreigner’s mega album “4”.  The percussion and keyboards (keyboards supplied by the great Thomas Dolby) has a nice syncopated quality that usually causes the listener to tap his foot or nod his head.

10.  “Our Lips Are Sealed”, The Go Go’s– This was the lead song off The Go Go’s debut album “Beauty and the Beat”.  Belinda Carlisle lent her nice, sexy vocals to the band’s sometimes overly energetic style.  This song stayed on the charts for over a year, an impressive feat for any 80s hit.

9.  “You Make My Dreams”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– This is second song from the early 80s powerhouse Hall and Oates, and is the last single to be released from “Voices”.  Like several of the other songs.  This song almost has a 50s doo-wop feel to it, and I like it better than the Mega-hit “Private Eyes” which was the first song off of the album of the same name.  “Private Eyes” is a little too-cool-for-school for me, and it does not have the staying power of its predecessor.  I chose this song over “Kiss On My List” which I also like a lot.

8.  “The Tide Is High”, Blondie– The main problem that I had with Blondie was Debbie Harry and her ‘Children of the Corn’ eyes.  I found her hard to look at, but she was a beauty compared with that horse-faced Toni Basil.  The Tide is High is a pretty mellow song for this group, but I like it better than anything else that they released.

7.  “Endless Love”, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie– With this song, Lionel Richie began to make a name for himself outside of the Commodores.  It is still Ross’s best selling hit, and the harmonies between Ross and Richie are superb.  The only downside to it is that it was title song of a dreadful movie starring Brooke Shields.

6.  “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, Pat Benatar– Pat Benatar is the best and most prolific rocker-girl of the early 80s, and this song is vintage Benatar, complete with ricochet sounds.  She is one of the few rocker-girls that did not seem screechy to me when she would belt it out.

5.  “The One That You Love”, Air Supply– For some reason, Air Supply decided to confuse all of its fans in 1981 by releasing a song with the very pronounced chorus ‘Here I am, the one that you love’ and another song named “Here I am” that only used these words at the very first of the song, and had a chorus that said, ‘Just when I thought I was over you….”  This was all unnecessarily confusing, though I like both songs.

4.  “Celebration”, Kool and The Gang– This song held the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100 for six weeks, and charted for over a year.  Its disco-funk chorus, of course, had a great beat and base line.  This song is still a staple at most wedding receptions.

3.  “Don’t Stop Believing”, Journey– This release from the great Journey album ‘Escape’ is the signature song for the band today.  It is another of the harder songs that are more associated with Graham Nash by many Journey fans than Steve Perry.  The song recently received a revival when it was featured prominently in the last episode of The Sopranos.  “Who’s Crying Now” was also released this year.

2.  “Keep On Loving You”, REO Speedwagon– This is a truly great song by a band that would become an 80s power ballad staple.  “Take It On The Run” was also recorded in this year, but for me, there was no question which of the two was the best song.  It was played on MTV’s first day, and still can be heard regularly today.  It was released on the album Hi Fidelity, and was one of two great songs on this album.

1.  “In The Air Tonight”, Phil Collins– This is my favorite Phil Collins song ever, and one of my favorite songs of all time.  It is dark and edgy, and led to one of the greatest urban legends of all time.  Supposedly, Phil had written the song about an evil man who had allowed one of his friends to drown when they were on a trip to the beach.  According to the legend, Phil later invited the evil man to a concert, and sang the song to him.  Of course, when Phil was asked about this, he did not know what the hell the reporter was talking about.  He simply expressed the truth that this song like “Against All Odds” was written during a tough divorce from his wife.  I’m sure that he and Ben Folds could get together and write a song that would force the listener to commit suicide.  True 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 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 1987

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

See list criteria here.

20. “Against The Wind”, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band– 1980 was tough.  Most of the music on this list would not have had a chance to be included in the 1985 list, for example.  That being said, I still consider all of these songs to be listenable, and still hear them from time to time.  This song is one of those songs.  It is nice and mellow.

19. “Don’t Bring Me Down”, Electric Light Orchestra– I remember hearing this song ad nauseum just as I was beginning to pay attention to popular music.  Whenever I think of ELO, this is the song that comes to mind.  It has a good guitar and base line that is hard to forget.

18. “Sailing, Christopher Cross”– This song is not good to listen to when you are driving, and trying to stay awake.  I like it better than “Ride Like The Wind, and I will have to admit that I usually sing along with it when I am alone.

17. “The Rose”, Bette Midler– I have to confess that I really like this song, even though I think that today it would be a little more adult contemporary than pop.  It is extremely sing-able.  I just wish someone else had released it, because few people whip me more than Bette Midler.

16. “Longer”, Dan Fogelberg– I really like Dan Fogelberg’s voice.  He definitely sings ‘singer’s songs,’ and he is also a little more adult contemporary.

15.  “Still”, Commodores– This was one of the first songs to give the world a glimpse into the greatness that was to come from Lionel Richie.  It’s a little short, and is more forgettable than a lot of other songs because it doesn’t really have a chorus.

14.  “Refugee”, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers– One of the most sing-able of the Tom Petty songs.

13.  “Everybody Wants Some”, Van Halen– I put this one on the list because it is not terrible, and because after looking, I noticed that there was not another Van Halen song on the list.  I also like the Better Off Dead link.

12.  “I’m Alright” – Kenny Loggins– I noticed that I did not have any Kenny Loggins on the list either, so it was easy to add this song in a bad year.  I like the Caddyshack tie-in to this song also.

11.  “Another One Bites the Dust”, Queen– “We are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” were not available, so I chose this song.  It has a strong baseline, but it is not a singer’s song.

10.  “Magic”, Olivia Newton-John– This is also way down on my list of favorite songs, but I probably would not turn the radio if it were on.  She has better stuff, but it was not available to choose from in 1980.

9.  “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd– I’m not a big Pink Floyd fan, and I really think that they are one of the most overrated bands of all time (see The Grateful Dead for another).  This tune, however, is pretty good, and it does not beat me like Another Brick in the Wall.  The drug theme is a little troubling.

8.  “You’re Only Lonely”, J.D. Souther– This song has more of a 70s soft rock feel to it, but that being said, it is still a very sing-able song.

7.  “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ “, Journey– Now we are talking 80s music.  I personally like the Journey power ballads better, but there are a lot of people who like the more rocking Graham Nash stuff like this.  It’s still pretty good, and I like it better than their other 1980 hit “Any Way You Want It” (still not bad).

6.  “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, The Police– The first big 80s hit in a strong group of 80s Police hits.  You generally do not mistake The Police for any other band.  Sting’s unique vocals combined with the band’s upbeat style paved the way for many other British punk bands.

5.  “Kiss on My List”, Hall & Oates– I chose this song over two other good Hall & Oates songs from the same year, “Wait For Me, Daryl Hall” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”.  From this point, Hall & Oates became an 80s staple for the next few years.

4.  “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me”, Billy Joel- Billy Joel foreshadowed his future greatness in 1980 with the release of Glass Houses.  This song was pretty strong for 1980, and still enjoys quite a bit of play today.  “You May Be Right” was also released this year.

3.  “The Long Run”, The Eagles– 1980 signaled the end to one of the greatest runs in the history of rock and roll music.  Most of the Eagles 70s music is incorrectly associated with the 80s (though it is more like modern country music than anything else).  Heartache Tonight” and “I Can’t Tell You Why” are two other great Eagle’s songs from 1980.  These are not the best Eagles songs of all time, but they are all the 80s have to offer, and they are still pretty good.

2.  “Cool Change”, Little River Band– I love this song.  It is extremely sing-able, and very cool in a John Denver, “Calypso” kind of way.

1.  “All Out Of Love”, Air Supply– The release of this great song in the same year with “Lost In Love” and “Every Woman in the World to Me” started Air Supply’s dominance of early 80s pop music.  Their tunes are very melodic and pretty sing-able, though the short one (Russell Hitchcock) has an extremely high vocal range which often leaves the listener repeatedly changing keys when trying to sing along.  Their looks may have been a bit off-putting, but it was a hell of an organization what with midget and Frankenstein and all.

Seriously, these guys were a brush with greatness for me.  In high school, I had season tickets to Six Flags in Arlington, Texas.  At the time, you could see any singing group that came to the park’s theatre for the price of admission plus $4.  Since I had a season ticket, I could see all of the concerts for a mere $4, so I did. 

One night, I saw Air Supply there.  It was a good concert, and as my friends and I left the show we decided to ride the ‘plane ride.’  As we got to the front of the line, Air Supply stepped in front of us to ride the next time the planes stopped.  There they were, one an Aryan giant, and the other an Australian midget.  The short one looked even shorter without his odd elevator shoes.  They rode in the plane right in front of me, and as the flight ended, we all went our own ways.  I went back to Lewisville, and I assumed they went back to Lilliput.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

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

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 Song from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987