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

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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