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

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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