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”.
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