Thursday, November 16, 2006

Creating an '80s Song List Ain't So Easy

After mulling over the VH1 "100 Greatest Songs of the '80s" list, I decided to compile my own list of 20. If you know anything about me, you should know that one of the phrases most often heard coming from my mouth is, "Oh, that's one of my favorite songs!" Therefore, this task was sure to be difficult. So, I had to impose some rules on myself to make it a bit easier.

Rule #1: All songs must have charted on either the Billboard Hot 100 or the Pop Singles chart. (I believe the "Pop Singles" chart was the Hot 100 prior to 1984.) This will prevent me from agonizing over which of the zillion obscure, random '80s tracks I love the most, which would cause my brain to explode. I flat-out broke this rule once and slightly bent it another time. I'll explain the reasons when I get to those songs.

Rule #2: No song can be a repeat from VH1's list. I made up this rule because as I was thinking of songs to put on my list, I noticed that none of them were on the VH1 list anyway. However, I ended up with two repeats. No biggie. Two exceptions to the rule is fine.

Rule #3: Anyone doing tasteless or vulgar movements will be disqualified. Woops, sorry...wrong list. *Ahem* The third rule is that no artist can be represented more than once. Guess what? I broke this rule too. Just once. It had to be done.

Even with these three rules in place, I still managed to go over the 20 mark, so I thought I'd make a Top 25 list. Then I went over 25 and ended up with a Top 30 list. Of course, my OCD won't allow me to do a Top 30 because that's just not a good list number. So, my final list is a Top 40 and, effective immediately, I have turned my brain off in order to avoid spending the entire week formulating a Top 1000 list.

Now I have 40 songs and the daunting task of ranking them ahead of me. Why did I want to do this again??

Here we go. I'm going to do my best not to over-think the order too much.

BeckEye's Top 40 Songs of the '80s:

40. "Midnight Blue," Lou Gramm - Lou has always been one of my favorite rock singers. I just love his voice. I got into an argument with my brother once because he said that Roger Daltrey was a better singer than Lou. Now that I think of it, he was probably right about Roger. Lou still has some sweet pipes though.

39. "Human Touch," Rick Springfield - I mentioned this song before when complaining about "Jessie's Girl." It's always been my favorite Rick tune. If you haven't seen it, you must check out the video on YouTube. It's so wonderfully cheesy. One of the lamest videos ever, really. Trust me. But, good Lord, Rick was a hottie back then.

38. "Situation," Yaz - I was so into Brit-pop in the '80s that I used to read a UK magazine called Star Hits. No one I ask ever seems to remember that, so if any of you do please let me know. Alison Moyet was often written about in that mag, which is probably the only reason I knew she existed. She could definitely belt it out. I didn't really follow her or Yaz but this song's appeal is undeniable. You can't not dance to it.

37. "It's Raining Men," The Weather Girls - I originally had J. Geils Band's "Centerfold" here but I changed my mind. I like "Centerfold," but I don't get all that excited when I hear it now. I still love this song for its delightful campiness. It's such fun to sing along with. And not just if you're a chick or a gay man. I know a few straight men who secretly dig this too.

36. "Should I Stay or Should I Go," The Clash - Proof that punk can be melodic and accessible.

35. "Express Yourself," Madonna - If I were still a dopey little kid, Madonna would probably have 10 songs on my list. But I'm all grown up now and, looking back, not many of her songs have really stood the test of time as far as I'm concerned. This one came out near the end of the '80s, and I think it's her best.

34. "I Want To Break Free," Queen - Most of Queen's best stuff came out in the '70s, but they were still cool in the '80s. I actually had a hard time choosing between this and "Radio Ga-Ga," an incredibly underrated song. I eventually went for this one because it's too catchy to ignore.

33. "No Myth," Michael Penn - This just got in under the wire, coming out in 1989. It's just a great song with a very Neil Finn vibe, which is probably why I like it so much. However, Michael lost points with me when I heard that he refuses to play this song live. Oh no, the true art-eest had a mainstream hit. If he's so offended by his radio success, why doesn't he give all the money he made from it back?

32. "Fool in the Rain," Led Zeppelin - This just got in under the other end of the wire, hitting the charts in 1980. Soon after, Bonham was dead and the greatest rock band ever was no more.

31. "Why Can't This Be Love?," Van Halen - Sorry, all you Van Halen purists! VH's first single with Sammy Hagar on vox is my all-time favorite in the band's history. Overall, I'd still go with the David Lee Roth days, but I adore this song. And I never really had a problem with Sammy. He had great teeth.

30. "Mary's Prayer," Danny Wilson - A total one-hit wonder, this Scottish trio used their 15 minutes wisely with a truly beautiful song. I think this may have later popped up in There's Something About Mary, which is unfortunate. I never saw the appeal of that movie, and I'm a Ben Stiller fan.

29. "The Promise," When in Rome - Another pretty song by a one-hitter. Maybe this one's just slightly prettier? Actually, thinking on it now, I'm kind of tempted to switch this out with the Danny Wilson song. NO! I must stop thinking too much and press on!

28. "In My Dreams," Dokken - Oh, how I loved Dokken. They were always overlooked in favor of the Poisons and Ratts of the day. I guess Don Dokken's hair just couldn't compete with C.C. Deville's. Whose could? Anyway, this was always my favorite song of theirs and it was also probably their biggest hit. I saw them live (minus George Lynch and Jeff Pilson) about five years ago with Ratt (minus Stephen Pearcy), LA Guns (who I missed) and Warrant (who didn't bother to show). They played a great set with this as the final song, of course, and Don could still hit those great high notes.

27. "She Don't Know Me," Bon Jovi - It was never a huge hit but, yes, this song charted. A lot of people forget that this song existed, but it's always been my favorite Bon Jovi tune. When "Runaway" first came out, I didn't like it. This was the next single, and the one that made me a fan.

26. "She's A Beauty," The Tubes - Great opening guitar riff, great vocals and harmonies. This is pretty much a perfect pop song. And Fee Waybill is one of the three most important people in the world, you know.

25. "Brilliant Disguise," Bruce Springsteen - I don't think this song gets the props it deserves. Maybe it's because this was post-E Street Band and a lot of fans didn't like Bruce's new "sensitive married man" persona. Whatever. It includes one of my favorite Springsteen lyrics ever, "God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of."

24. "No Reply At All," Genesis - Genesis songs seemed to get crappier the further into the '80s they got. This one was obviously near the beginning of the decade, and I can not listen to this song without belting it out along with Phil while playing air drums and trumpet. What a great, groovy bass line this song has...and then they bring in the horns and it's just bliss. I have a real thing for bass. And horns. And hand claps. Did I mention this song has those too? Maybe this should be further up my list.

23. "Alive and Kicking," Simple Minds - I'm sure that "Don't You (Forget About Me)" would be in my Top 100, but it doesn't beat this other Simple Minds song. The best part is the end after that sweet little piano break, and then it slowly starts to build with the bass and drums and that kick-ass backup singer, and then all of a sudden it busts into a chorus sing-along. So good.

22. "Time (Clock of the Heart)," Culture Club - Boy George may have been a wacko, but his voice was as smooth as silk. I've never been a big fan of "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?," which seems to get all the love. This is the Club's best song, in my opinion.

21. "Head Over Heels," The Go-Go's - I love the piano on this track. The Go-Go's were so good at crafting catchy tunes, but this one grabbed me the most.

20. "The Reflex," Duran Duran - When I hear this song, I immediately think of Simon's black and white jacket from the video. From 1983 - 1985, I searched high and low for a jacket like that but never found one that was just right.

19. "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns N' Roses - Repeat #1 from the VH1 list. It's not a power ballad, but a hard rock love song. Major difference.

18. "Ways to Be Wicked," Lone Justice - Other than MTV, I don't think this song got much exposure. Their biggest hit, "Shelter," came a couple of years after this. I loved Lone Justice immediately and, even though they didn't stay together for too long, Maria McKee remains one of my favorite female singers.

17. "Come Back and Stay," Paul Young - This was Paul's first hit, but it was soon overshadowed by the huge success of "Everytime You Go Away."

16. "Goodbye to You," Scandal - The battle-cry for any woman looking to go out and dance with her friends after dumping some jerk. What a fun song this is. I've always loved Patty Smyth's voice. I wonder what those Van Halen purists would have done if she had taken the gig as lead singer instead of Sammy Hagar, as Eddie Van Halen originally wanted?

15. "Missing You," John Waite - I've been made fun of for liking John Waite and I really don't give a shit. I like his voice and I love this song. It was one of those rare songs that was ridiculously overplayed, yet I never got sick of it. But, even though I like Tina Turner, I can't stand her cover of this.

14. "Everyday I Write The Book," Elvis Costello - Great song. Great lyrics. Here's a funny misheard lyric from me. I originally thought the line, "I'm a man with a mission in two or three editions," was "An Amana machine with two or three dishes." Now, I knew those couldn't really be the lyrics but I could not decipher what he was singing for the longest time. I don't think Amana even makes dishwashers. As if they did, those lyrics would make so much more sense within that song. Ignore my rambling. Let's just move on to #13.

13. "Good Times," INXS with Jimmy Barnes - I've mentioned this song several times before on this blog, so it should be no surprise that it's on my list. It's just an awesome groove.

12. "Bizarre Love Triangle," New Order - Here is where I bent Rule #1. This song hit #4 on the "Dance Hits" chart when it came out in 1986. For some reason, it ended up on the Hot 100 in 1995. Two possible reasons: 1) It was included on the soundtrack to the 1994 movie, Threesome, 2) It was included in a New Order Greatest Hits compilation released in 1995. So, technically it has been in the Hot 100, just not during it's original release. Make sense? Oh, who cares! There was no way I wasn't going to include this song on my list. It's more addictive than crack.

11. "Foolin'," Def Leppard - Say what you will about Def Leppard, but I love them. I had such a mad crush on Joe Elliott back in the day. I love his messy blonde shag. I love his tight pants that, no doubt, help him achieve that high-pitched wailing that I also love. I love that this song made s-s-s-stuttering cool.

10. "Edge of Seventeen," Stevie Nicks - My girl! Stevie is the ultimate rock goddess. She wasn't too smart for breaking up with Lindsey Buckingham, but hey, she was on coke at the time.

9. "Only the Lonely," The Motels - I can't even explain why I love this song so much, I just always have. It's got that bit of theatrical drama that I tend to go for, and Martha Davis's vocals are gorgeous. She's one of the three most important people in the world too, you know. (I hope someone is getting that joke.)

8. "Don't Dream It's Over," Crowded House - Personally, I think just about every song these guys created could've been a hit. And even though they had five songs on the Hot 100, two of which were in the Top 40, they're still considered a one-hit wonder by many people. That pisses me off. I could listen to Neil Finn's voice for days. It's better than chocolate.

7. "Something About You," Level 42 - I really liked these guys and assumed they would be around for a long time. They had a nice little funk-pop thing going on. This was their biggest hit, but they had some other good songs like, "Leaving Me Now," and "Lessons in Love."

6. "Kiss," Prince - My second and final repeat from VH1's list. Even though it's widely assumed by many that this is my favorite Prince song, it's actually a very close second. My true favorite of his is "Baby I'm a Star" from the Purple Rain soundtrack. I chose to follow my chart rule here, so "Kiss" wins out.

5. "Kayleigh," Marillion - These guys were pretty popular in the UK, but this was their one big hit in the States. It's such a beautiful love song but somehow manages to remain fairly "manly." If you've never heard the song, go watch the video now. Obviously, these guys weren't exactly camera-friendly which explains why they didn't thrive in the MTV era.

4. "The Unforgettable Fire," U2 - Rule #1 is officially broken. I don't care that this song never charted. When I thought of my favorite '80s songs, this was actually the 4th song that popped into my head. Perfectly understated guitar, unyielding drum beat, picture-painting lyrics and Bono's earnest vocals all combine to create one brilliant song. And that last verse/bridge is so beautiful. Gives me chills every time.

3. "New Moon on Monday," Duran Duran - Rule #3 is officially broken. No band was a bigger part of my youth than the double D. They're still a big part of my life! This has always been my favorite song of theirs, and the video is my fave too. Check it out.

2. "Wouldn't It Be Good," Nik Kershaw - I featured this video here before, so I won't get too in-depth with my comments. I just love this song!

1. "Beat's So Lonely," Charlie Sexton - Anyone who's been reading my blog regularly should've figured this one out right off the bat. I've featured this video before also. This may be one of my favorite songs ever, not just of the '80s.

One last note - my rules forced me to omit the never-charted "Postcards from Paradise" by Flesh for Lulu, which would've easily made my Top 5.

Then there was the whole Squeeze situation. I like "Tempted," but it's overplayed and, even though Paul Carrack has a mighty fine voice, it has too much of him and not enough Glenn Tilbrook for my taste. "Black Coffee in Bed" is a great song, which did chart on the Hot 100, but I still don't like it as much as "Another Nail for My Heart," "Annie Get Your Gun" or "If It's Love." And I couldn't believe that "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)" was never on any Billboard chart! Aargh. The whole Squeeze thing was driving me mad, so I ended up just leaving them out of this completely, which really bothers me. I loves me some Glenn Tilbrook. No doubt this omission will slowly eat away at me until I make another list.


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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dang this is a great list! I think I have most of these songs on my pod, but I'm missing a few.

Lee Ann said...

Wow, that must have taken a while to compile!
Great list!

Have a wonderful weekend Becky!
~xo

Brooks said...

It's nice to have a true kid of the eighties to compare notes with. I agree with many of these like Simple Minds, Michael Penn's "No Myth" (he did play it live in Atlanta back in '97) New Order and INXS. I knew while scrolling down that I would see Van Halen, but you came out of left field with that song choice. Nothing from "1984"? I am shocked.
Thanks for putting this excellent list together and allowing fellow '80s brats to sift through their mental archives.

Edge said...

Do you know why this is so difficult? Because there was SOOOOOO much good music. Even 39 and 40 were a couple of my favorite songs. I'm guessing every 25-30 years music hits these stages, so one should be coming up, which means that rap should be on it's way out soon.

~Jef

Anonymous said...

Wow--you've been through my vinyl collection!

Not only do you know and love Crowded House and the Finns but also Squeeze and LONE JUSTICE! I love that song!

And Scandal---Oh my-- so many of these were on my band's playlist. Such fun memories!!

Metal Mark said...

Wow, someone else who likes Dokken. I saw them in 1988 and they were very good. I also saw George Lynch's band Lynch Mob in 1992.

Masha said...

what a great list!

Les Becker said...

Oh, I agonize with you over Queen's "Radio Ga-Ga" or "I Want to Break Free"... so much so, in fact, that I'm caught in a loop. Can you come and "break me free" in about 72 hours...?

pia said...

"you must be an angel tonight," something about the way Annie Lennox sang and the music made it the first truly great Walkman song

That was an incredible list, Becky

Anonymous said...

Good List...even for me, as someone who thought the 80's was a down period in music...

But you came up with some beauties...

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling after reading this that you and I probably have a similar music collection. This was a fantastic list!

Alison Moyet has one of the most beautiful voices... and I did read Star Hits! DD was real common in there, thus I bought it.

Bon Jovi's "She Don't Know Me" is my favorite song by them, and it gets no credit.

I agree with what brooks said - it's nice to see such a great list from another 80's kid.

scott said...

Nice list! A few thoughts from my perspective...

Only the Lonely is actually on my shortlist of worst songs of all time. I DESPISE it! It's cool that one song can inspire such varying opinions though...

Mary's Prayer and Come Back and Stay are on constant repeat on my iTunes. I can't believe anybody other than me likes either of those! The video for Come Back and Stay still weirds me out - these creepy ladies with scarves over their heads singing on a cold windy beach... at least that's how I remember it... time to go track it down on Youtube...

And as far as Rick Springfield goes, I've always been partial to Celebrate Youth... a much underrated song!

Oh, and I've never heard any of the songs in your top 5... how bout that...

scott said...

Also, mad props for Culture Club and Michael Penn.

But no Air Supply?!

An80sNut said...

Of course, I used to read Star Hits and something called Smash Hits. Tiger Beat never talked about the U.K. acts but there was some overkill on bands like Curiosity Killed The Cat. Speaking of Yaz.... seeing them live on July 6th. It's the one concert I've always wanted (well... them, Depeche and Erasure on the same bill.)

 

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