My favorite songs of the 1980s

I gathered up all the songs I rated “awesome” in a decade – this time from the 80s.

And while the individual years weren’t ranked in numerical order, this decade summary is. Once again, this order is based on how I feel right now. Today. Sitting at a computer. Whereas my preference while driving around town would probably result in a different order…and sitting on the deck in the sun with a beer would generate yet another order.

The 80s started off very weak according to my tastes. I hated the fake drums – that may have been the worst part of 80s music. And 1981 had just 44 songs rated “not bad” or better, 1985 and 1986 each had just two songs rated “awesome”. But as I put each year’s list together I was astonished to realize how many songs I love. In the mid-80s there were a lot of great slow songs. And in the late 80s some rock’n roll greats emerged. And without having yet looked at the 90s, I wondered if 1989 was my favorite year for music.

In forcing myself to give a ‘hard’ ranking of these songs – I found it to be a real struggle once I got to the final 40. These 40 songs I truly love and they differ to widely in style and rhythm. Now I remember why I don’t give ‘hard’ rankings in the year-by-year lists! Oh man, by the time I got into the Top 20 I may as well have thrown darts. Elite, elite tunes of several genres.

Just missing the Top 100 included Michael Jackson’s Beat It, Safety Dance (Men Without Hats), I Build This Garden For Us (Lenny Kravitz), Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburys), Lil’ Devil (The Cult), About A Girl (Nirvana), Hold Me Now (Thompson Twins), No Sleep Till Brooklyn (Beastie Boys), Superman (R.E.M.) and the groundbreaking Run-D.M.C. version of Walk This Way

100. Jane Says  – Jane’s Addiction (1988)

99. Blame It On The Rain  – Milli Vanilli (1989)

Back when I was 16, I couldn’t understand why they took the Grammies away from the imposters who lip-synced the songs and didn’t give them to the actual singers. The actual vocalists should have been given the Grammies! Does anyone really think that the true vocalists had anything to do with the scam? Hell no, they were pawns. Today, now that I’m 45, I…still don’t understand. The singers of the songs that won the awards should get the awards! Anyhoo. If you like my main type of music (strong leanings towards Rock, especially Classic Rock and Alt Rock), you probably don’t like Milli Vanilli songs. But I get sucked in by catchy tunes, and this controversy hasn’t swayed me from enjoying these guys. Whoever they may be.

98. Free Fallin’  – Tom Petty (1989)

97. Welcome To The Jungle  – Guns N’ Roses (1987)

This would be a Top 20 song on most lists of this sort. Certainly in my circles. And for the intro, it certainly should be. Hell, the intro to this song is probably Top 10 all time for me. But after the first 30 seconds, it doesn’t resonate with me as much. It becomes average. But man, that intro is so great that it physically lifts the entire song into greatness along with it.

96. You Give Love a Bad Name  – Bon Jovi (1986)

95. Raspberry Beret  – Prince (1985)

Another song that I seem to be alone amongst my friends in liking. It just caught on with me right away.

94. Glory Days  – Bruce Springsteen (1984)

One of the first cassette tapes I owned. And this was my favorite song on it. Even over Born in the USA, which I loved.

93. End Of The Line  – The Traveling Wilburys (1988)

92. Walk Like An Egyptian  – Bangles (1986)

I think this band deserves to be in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame (especially looking at some of the weak bands already in there – ahem, Yes). And the Bangles would be a shoe-in if there wasn’t so much infighting and, to me, jealousy of the rest of the band with regards to Susanna Hoffs. Hoffs’ voice is incredible. I could listen to her all day.

91. Fall On Me  – R.E.M. (1986)

Such an underrated R.E.M. song…

90. Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)  – Cinderella (1988)

89. Faith  – George Michael (1987)

88. Pride (In The Name Of Love)  – U2 (1984)

87. We’re Not Gonna Take It  – Twisted Sister (1984)

I actually re-enacted the scene, as a kid (you hope!), having my sister drag me down the stairs by my hair.

86. Let’s Go Crazy  – Prince (1984)

85. Livin’ on a Prayer  – Bon Jovi (1986)

84. Boy Inside the Man – Tom Cochrane and Red Rider (1986)

83. Africa – Toto (1982)

82. The Look  – Roxette (1988)

81. Union Of The Snake – Duran Duran (1983)

My favorite song by Duran Duran, beating out New Moon On Monday (just missed the list) and Hungry Like the Wolf (also just missing the Top 100).

80. One Gun – 54-40 (1987)

Here is where we being the songs I had classified as “Awesome”, 80 of them in total for the 1980s. This is a Canadian band that never seemed to be anyone’s favorite, and yet they had longevity. They never put out top-to-bottom great albums, but each album always had two or three great songs on it. After a dozen years or so this quietly added up to 15 or 20 very good songs – enough for a great concert. Yet 54-40 only played small venues. If you’re Canadian, you’ve been exposed to their music and probably know several of their songs. But if you went to a concert, you would be surprised to discover that you know most of what they play. This is the song that, to me, put them on the map.

79. Need You Tonight  – INXS (1987)

78. Push It  – Salt N Pepa (1987)

Reminds me of teen dances, back in Grade 8…

77. Legs  – ZZ Top (1983)

Back in the 80s, the videos from ZZ Top’s Eliminator were legendary, featuring this one…

76. Blister In The Sun – Violent Femmes (1982)

75. Jack & Diane – John Mellencamp (1982)

74. Slow and Low – Beastie Boys (1987)

From the album that defined the summer of ’87 for me…

73. Angel  – Aerosmith (1987)

72. Rag Doll  – Aerosmith (1987)

71. Brilliant Disguise  – Bruce Springsteen (1987)

70. Last American Exit – The Tragically Hip (1987)

Before they were anything, the Hip put out an EP. The entire EP was actually quite good and certainly 1000 times better than their last couple of albums as their style changed and their music took a turn for the worst. This is the best song on that album.

69. Father Figure  – George Michael (1987)

The first song for which I can remember dancing to with a girl.

68. The Way You Make Me Feel  – Michael Jackson (1987)

67. Touch Of Grey  – Grateful Dead (1987)

66. The Tide Is High   – Blondie (1980)

65. Another One Bites The Dust   – Queen (1980)

If you’re a guy in your mid- to late-40s, then you might think about the Junkyard Dog when you hear this song, even to this day.

64. All Through The Night  – Cyndi Lauper (1983)

I love her voice. The song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is a fun song that women love at receptions and parties, but it doesn’t do her voice justice. This song does.

63. They Don’t Know  – Tracey Ullman (1983)

I always stop what I’m doing if this song comes on, or watch the video if that’s the case. Just a fun song with a good melody. And hey, a Paul McCartney cameo doesn’t hurt. It’s so amazing that Ullman played a huge role in making The Simpsons a reality. Simpson’s shorts appeared on the Tracey Ullman Show when they’d go to commercial, and it was then spun off into it’s own show.

62. Sharp Dressed Man  – ZZ Top (1983)

61. Islands in the Stream  – Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (1983)

60. Hysteria  – Def Leppard (1987)

59. Alone  – Heart (1987)

58. Stand  – R.E.M. (1988)

57. Super Trouper   – ABBA (1980)

56. Hard Habit To Break  – Chicago (1984)

55. Coming Home  – Cinderella (1988)

54. Eternal Flame  – Bangles (1988)

53. Just Like Paradise  – David Lee Roth (1988)

52. I Go Blind – 54-40 (1986)

51. Traveling Riverside Blues – Led Zeppelin (1982)

Top 50 on next page…

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