Everyone knows that I'm 80's guy. I live and breathe the 80's. I still wear pastels and Izods. In my free time I play with a Rubick's Cube. The only video game I'm good at is Asteroids. It's all 80's for me. Consequently, I've been inundated with requests by our legion of diary readers all asking the same question: "Patrick, what were the top 10 songs of the 1980's?"
After much badgering, I have agreed to make THE OFFICIAL LIST OF ALL-TIME BEST SONGS FROM THE 1980's. But here's the rule. These are NOT MY PERSONAL FAVORITE 80's songs. These are the Top 10 songs that best exemplify the 80's. Specifically:
*The song must have been a top 40 hit
*The song must be a technically well-crafted song.
*The song must exemplify the 80's sound (musical technology, mood, artist).
Okay, so here is my totally, awesome, tubular, and gnarly list to the max which is official for all time. No one else's opinion counts.
1) "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. Of course the 80's belonged to Jackson and this song and this video ushered in the smooth, very produced, dance sound that Jackson would ride through the 80's. The throbbing base line and the catchy dance groove was instantly memorable and it flirts with minor keys and has dark lyrics. Total nerds tried to moonwalk, the video blew people away, and dorks like me ran around with one glove on their hand. 2) "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. This song may have been the biggest #1 hit of the 1980's and is the 2nd most played song of all time on the radio (John Lennon's "Imagine" is number one). The song is about someone in denial about their divorce, but it so easily could be anyone's song to the person they love. Andy Summer's repetitive guitar part is one of the best rock hooks ever. 3) Purple Rain" by Prince. Every decade needs a sing-along anthem and Purple Rain was both and anthem and a slow love song. The closing guitar part is considered one of the greatest guitar solos in rock. Clocking in at 8 minutes, Purple Rain (along with "Hey Jude: by the Beatles---another anthemic but slow song) is the longest pop song in history. It was also the song playing when I first danced with a girl. I was later arrested and given a restraining order. Oh my. That was nearly 30 years ago.
4) "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran. Along with Michael Jackson, Duran Duran were the closest thing the 80's had to the Beatles, as far as fan hysteria was concerned. Their best album was and still is "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf" which came out in 1982 began the so-called "Second British Invasion." By the mid-80's, 40% of the songs on the charts were from Britain (explains my obsession with Britain eh?). The video for "Hungry Like the Wolf", like Billie Jean, ushered in the age of MTV and music videos. Filmed on location in Sri Lanka on 35 mm film, "Hungry Like the Wolf" looked like a minature "Raiders of the Lost Ark." And everyone can sing along to the "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" part. 5) "Girls Just Want to Have Fun " by Cyndi Lauper. The 80's are often thought of for their upbeat, catchy, non-substantial lyrics and sounds and this song definitely epitomizes that. It's a great song for a sunny day and a sing-a-long. It's also a very well-produced song being backed by great studio musicians who went on to form "the Hooters." Cindy Lauper's loud, 5 octave range gives the song its chirpy, teenage joy. 6) "Careless Whispers" by George Michael. Although released on a Wham! album, it was George Michael's first solo hit. This slow song can still be heard in elevators, restaurants, and easy-listening stations everyday. This slow song about the betrayal of a lover has a saxophone line that may be one of the most memorable hooks in pop music history(certainly 80's pop music).
7) "Borderline" by Madonna. This may be Madonna's most simple, and beautiful song. Most people (including me) heard it on the radio and thought it was being sung by an African-American girl. It is a black, R & B song sung in Madonna's nasal voice. It's a wistful song about a relationship in trouble. It's not one of her slow ballads or fast, sardonic shock-hits. The instrumentation really captures the 80's sound--some computers and some genuinely good musicians playing together.
8) "Take on Me" by A-ha. This band from Norway was actually very talented but got pegged as being a one-hit wonder in the USA because of this song and its forever memorable video which is half-cartoon and half real. The song is quintessential 80's with its upbeat tempo, catchy hook, and excess of computerization. Sadly the success of this song really diminished Pal Savoy Waaktar's recognition as a writer. Pal, the keyboardist, would go on to write some of the most gorgeous slow ballads in pop music over and over again for the next 20 years, but none of them really got a fair hearing because of the success of Take on Me. 9) "Walk This Way" Run DMC with Aerosmith. Hey, this isn't my favorite song list..it's the songs that best exemplify the 80's. The 80's opened the door for Rap. Although it was around in the late 70's and there were a few minor rap hits in the early 80's, it wasn't until the middle of the decade with this song that Rap started to go big. The use of then-nearly-dead rockers Aerosmith brought rap to a white audience and along with the Beastie Boys, rap was about to take over the music industry within the next 6 years. 10) "Sweet Child O' Mine." There was a lot of heavy metal and so called "hair metal" bands in the 1980's. But those bands got blown off the stage by the hard-driving, dark music of Guns n' Roses. The pride and joy of Indiana, Axl Rose, became a household name with his raspy, demon-possessed sounding voice. This song really ushered the end of the 80's. Released in the summer of 1988, music after this would be darker in rock, darker in rap, and completely computerized in R & B. Well, that's it. The official list of Top Songs from the 1980's from the 80's music king himself. By the way, what were my favorite songs in the 1980's? that would go something like this:
1) "Fascination Street" by the Cure (mind-blowing guitars plus throbbing base-line = greatness).
2) "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2. (truly an anthemic song)
3) "The Winner Takes it All" by Abba. (the same 4 notes over and over yet no one notices--genius songwriters)
4) "Save a Prayer" by Duran Duran. (beautiful and exotic)
5) "Voices Carry" by Til' Tuesday (truly a perfect pop song)
6) "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung (a cool, underrated song).
7) "Hunting High and Low" by A-ha. (one of Pal Waaktar's many gorgeous ballads beautifully song by Morton Harket)
8) "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell (the best of the totally computerized songs...total early 80's Britain New Wave).
9) "With or Without You" by U2 (you can feel the pain of love heart-all over this one. Lovely understated guitar part).
10) "Rapture" Blondie/"Another One Bites the Dust" Queen: Get a two-fer here, since both songs kind of rip-off one of my favorite 70's songs, "Good Times" by Chic as they try to mimic the guitar of Nile Rodgers and the bass line of Bernard Edwards. It's all about the bass line.
Wow! And how many of these are Americans? Zero. No wonder I'm so crazy about the U.K., Ireland, and Northern Europe in general. It explains so much eh?
For the one person still reading this post (me!), My favorite albums would be:
The Soundtrack of Chess the Musical
Frankie Goes to Hollywood-"Welcome to the Pleasuredome"
Duran Duran "Rio."
Prince "Sign O' the Times."
U2 "Unforgettable Fire."
The Cure "Disintegration."