My favorite songs of 1981


In 1981 I was seven years old. Solo debuts from Phil Collins and Billy Idol are released, three young teens in New York get together for the first time and later decide to call themselves the Beastie Boys… and a little venture called MTV made its debut.

My memories of 1981 involve music playing on the little radio in the kitchen every morning before school. And I remember the older kids at our campground always playing I Love Rock And Roll, as well as Jesse’s Girl. I can also remember Elvira playing on TV (probably HeeHaw or Sha-na-na or something like that). MTV debuted on the air on August 1, 1981 with a 1979 song called Video Killed the Radio Star (The Buggles).

Unlike most rankings, I won’t be simply tossing these up in a numerical order. Because I know better than anybody that on some days, some songs kick more ass than other songs. A song that is ranked 14th today could very well rank 1st tomorrow, if it suddenly comes on the radio during the perfect moment. So I’ll group them:
Not Bad
…with inter-group splitting.

First, video clips of my favorites from 1981.

23 Solid Songs from 1981

Waiting For A Girl Like You  – Foreigner

Bette Davis Eyes  – Kim Carnes

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic  – The Police

Just Between You and Me  – April Wine

Mickey  – Toni Basil

Shake It Up  – The Cars

The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)  – Greg Kihn Band

Just Can’t Get Enough  – Depeche Mode

Rock This Town – Stray Cats

Our Lips Are Sealed  – The Go-Gos

Private Eyes  – Hall & Oates

Spirits In The Material World  – The Police

Tainted Love  – Soft Cell

Waiting On A Friend  – The Rolling Stones

The Stroke – Billy Squier

All Those Years Ago  – George Harrison

The Waiting Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Juke Box Hero Foreigner

Stray Cat Strut Stray Cats

I remember learning this song in music class waaay back in grade 5 or 6…

One of Us ABBA

You Make My Dreams Hall & Oates

This one makes an odd choice as the goal song for the Toronto Maple Leafs

More Than I Can Say Leo Sayer

At This Moment Billy Vera

16 Great Songs from 1981

Elvira  – The Oak Ridge Boys

Leather And Lace  – Stevie Nicks and Don Henley

Take It On The Run  – REO Speedwagon

Angel Of The Morning – Juice Newton

Every Woman In the World – Air Supply

Probably my favorite from one of the, let’s face it, sappiest bands out there. The kings of the love song.

Mony Mony – Billy Idol

Centerfold  – J. Geils Band

Don’t You Want Me  – The Human League

The One That You Love  – Air Supply

Beatles Medley – Stars On 45

Here is the long version…because who doesn’t want more Beatles?

Tom Sawyer  – Rush

Freeze-Frame – J. Geils Band

Under Pressure  – Queen

Invisible Sun  – The Police

6 Truly Awesome Songs from 1981

Queen Of Hearts – Juice Newton

Never played in any circle of friends I’ve been in. I don’t even think my parents played it. I have no idea why I’ve known it and grown to like Queen Of Hearts so much. But I do.

Don’t Stop Believin’  – Journey

Big song had a big resurgence thanks to the series finale of The Sopranos. Now it’s played everywhere and anywhere.

I Love Rock And Roll  – Joan Jett

Written and performed by The Arrows, Joan Jett took this version of the song to another level. I remember living on a court in Stratford and I was eight years old. The 10- or 11-year-olds on the other side of the court played this song constantly through the summer. Loud enough to be heard on my side. I remember one of those kids over there was named Caroline. Today she’s a he, and his name is Mike. The only person I have ever met, as far as I know, to have a sex change. This song reminds me of this. I know it’s an odd thing to remember or think about, but it is what it is.

Jessie’s Girl  – Rick Springfield

Start Me Up  – The Rolling Stones

One of my favorite songs by The Stones. And man do I wish I had an outfit like Mick’s here. No really. Okay, not really.

In The Air Tonight  – Phil Collins

If you want to skip ahead to the awesome drum part (my kids get a kick out of it today), go to 3:10…

I put the above songs on a YouTube playlist here.

Listen to my playlists on Spotify

Here is the complete list:

Awesome – 1 Don’t Stop Believin’ Journey
Awesome – 1 I Love Rock And Roll Joan Jett
Awesome – 1 Jessie’s Girl Rick Springfield
Awesome – 1 Start Me Up The Rolling Stones
Awesome – 5 In The Air Tonight Phil Collins
Awesome – 5 Queen Of Hearts Juice Newton
Great – 7 Elvira The Oak Ridge Boys
Great – 7 Leather And Lace Stevie Nicks and Don Henley
Great – 7 Take It On The Run REO Speedwagon
Great – 7 Angel Of The Morning Juice Newton
Great – 7 Every Woman In the World Air Supply
Great – 12 Mony Mony Billy Idol
Great – 12 Centerfold J. Geils Band
Great – 12 Don’t You Want Me The Human League
Great – 12 The One That You Love Air Supply
Great – 12 Beatles Medley Stars On 45
Great – 12 Tom Sawyer Rush
Great – 12 Freeze-Frame J. Geils Band
Great – 12 Under Pressure Queen
Great – 12 Invisible Sun The Police
Great – 12 Edge of Seventeen Stevie Nicks
Great – 12 Limelight Rush
Solid – 23 Waiting For A Girl Like You Foreigner
Solid – 23 Bette Davis Eyes Kim Carnes
Solid – 23 Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic The Police
Solid – 23 Just Between You and Me April Wine
Solid – 23 Mickey Toni Basil
Solid – 23 Shake It Up The Cars
Solid – 23 The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) Greg Kihn Band
Solid – 30 Just Can’t Get Enough Depeche Mode
Solid – 30 Rock This Town Stray Cats
Solid – 30 Our Lips Are Sealed The Go-Gos
Solid – 30 Private Eyes Hall & Oates
Solid – 30 Spirits In The Material World The Police
Solid – 30 Tainted Love Soft Cell
Solid – 30 Waiting On A Friend The Rolling Stones
Solid – 30 The Stroke Billy Squier
Solid – 30 All Those Years Ago George Harrison
Solid – 30 The Waiting Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Solid – 30 Juke Box Hero Foreigner
Solid – 30 Stray Cat Strut Stray Cats
Solid – 30 One of Us ABBA
Solid – 30 You Make My Dreams Hall & Oates
Solid – 30 More Than I Can Say Leo Sayer
Solid – 30 At This Moment Billy Vera
Not Bad – 46 Ain’t Even Done With the Night John Mellencamp
Not Bad – 46 Der Kommissar Falco
Not Bad – 46 Unchained Van Halen
Not Bad – 46 Believe It or Not Joey Scarbury
Not Bad – 46 Celebration Kool & the Gang
Not Bad – 46 Girls On Film Duran Duran
Not Bad – 46 Gloria U2
Not Bad – 46 Tempted Squeeze
Not Bad – 46 Urgent Foreigner
Not Bad – 46 YYZ Rush
Not Bad – 46 The Boy From New York City Manhattan Transfer
Not Bad – 46 Flying High Again Ozzy Osbourne
Not Bad – 58 Burnin’ For You Blue Öyster Cult
Not Bad – 58 For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) AC/DC
Not Bad – 58 Lunatic Fringe Red Rider
Not Bad – 58 Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
Not Bad – 58 Super Freak Rick James
Not Bad – 58 The Voice The Moody Blues
Not Bad – 58 You Better You Bet The Who
Not Bad – 58 Who’s Crying Now Journey
Not Bad – 58 Hold On Tight Electric Light Orchestra
Not Bad – 58 Working For the Weekend Loverboy
Not Bad – 58 Young Turks Rod Stewart
Not Bad – 58 Hang Fire The Rolling Stones
Not Bad – 58 Let’s Get It Up AC/DC
Not Bad – 58 Never Say Never Romeo Void
Not Bad – 58 Fight the Good Fight Triumph
Not Bad – 58 Magic Power Triumph

1980  1981  1982  1983  1984  1985  1986  1987  1988  1989

1960s          1970s          1980s          1990s


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