40 Best Tracks of the 80s
1. Michael Jackson - "Billie Jean"
Q calls it "unspeakably funky, from the bassline, courtesy of Louis Johnson (of '70s funkers The Brothers Johnson), to Jackson's own super-taut synthesizer arrangement."
I was never a fan of any of his songs... and number 1? Really?
2. New Order - "Blue Monday"
Q: "New Order's immaculate art-disco classic invented alternative dance music and prepared the world for acid house."
"True Faith" did better on the UK charts (it got to #4, "Blue Monday" to #9). I don't think that means it's better, but Q cites chart position a lot during their list, as though it's pretty good evidence. No quibble with "Blue Monday". New Order had several 80s singles that deserve a high place on the list. Hard to go wrong.
3. Prince - "Kiss"
4. Run DMC Feat. Aerosmith - "Walk This Way"
5. Guns N' Roses - "Sweet Child O' Mine"
6. The Clash - "Should I Stay Or Should I Go"
7. Bruce Springsteen - "Born In The USA"
8. Pet Shop Boys - "West End Girls"
Q: "Tennant and Lowe's melancholy tribute to sleazy '80s Soho and Gerrard Street's now sadly departed Dive Bar gave them a transatlantic Number 1, and established their blend of dance-pop joy and wistful social commentary."
9. Madonna - "Into The Groove"
Q: "Madge's first UK chart-topper, distilling the sound of mid-'80s New York clubland into something flirty and new. Featured in the film Desperately Seeking Susan, resistance was futile."
10. The Specials - "Ghost Town" (available on Ghost Town)
Q: "Released with prescience in '81 as riots roared across the inner cities of London, Birmingham and Liverpool, Ghost Town hit Number 1 while describing an apocalyptic Britain."
11. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - "Relax"
12. Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Q: "The title his epitaph, frontman Ian Curtis was inspired by anxiety about his epilepsy and marriage to pen this soaring, heartfelt rebuff to happy endings."
13. NWA - "Fuck Tha Police"
14. The Smiths - "How Soon Is Now"
15. The Jam - "Going Underground"
16. Soft Cell - "Tainted Love"
17. The La's - "There She Goes"
18. U2 - "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
19. Blondie - "Rapture"
20. Depeche Mode - "Personal Jesus"
Q: "The thumping beats could demolish walls, as slide guitar and stabbing bass accompany vocals that echo like the Devil stubbing his toe on the Grand Canyon."
I checked the release date, as I don't think of it as an 80s song. The single was released in August of 1989, and it's on Violator, which came out in 1990. It squeaks in, but it's borderline. If chart position's an important factor, why not choose "People Are People"? It reached #4 on the UK chart in 1984 (no Depeche single has landed higher; only 1997's "Barrel of a Gun" and 2005's "Precious" have tied it). Or mayhaps "Just Can't Get Enough", the first Depeche single to crack the top ten; it hit #8 in the UK in 1981. Neither is one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs of the 80s, and I love the group... I think both are very well-known and thought of as classic 80s songs, though.
21. David Bowie - "Let's Dance"
22. Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five - "The Message"
23. Dexys Midnight Runners - "Geno" (available on Searching for the Young Soul Rebels )
Q: "The look was On The Waterfront street tough but the sound was Stax soul as filtered through the passionate, barmy lens of ex-punk Kevin Rowland."
24. R.E.M. - "The One I Love"
25. Van Halen - "Jump"
26. Morrissey "Everyday Is Like Sunday"
27. Stevie Wonder - "Masterblaster (Jammin')"
28. The Stranglers - "Golden Brown"
29. M/A/R/S - "Pump Up The Volume"
30. Grace Jones - "Slave To The Rhythm"
31. Motorhead - "Ace Of Spades"
32. The Rolling Stones - "Start Me Up"
33. Neil Young - "Rockin' In The Free World"
34. Billy Bragg - "A New England"
35. Dinosour Jr. - "Freak Scene"
36. Madness - "Baggy Trousers"
37. Don Henley - "The Boys Of Summer" (available on Actual Miles: Henley's Greatest Hits )
Q: "Eagles drummer laments lost love and ideals on a peerless slice of Californian soft rock. The indelible image of "a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" seals its classic status."
38. Bob Dylan - "Blind Willie McTell"
39. The Waterboys - "The Whole Of The Moon"
40. Culture Club - "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me"
Q: "The plaintive reggae-soul of their first Number 1 introduced the planet to Boy George, the cuddly gender-bender, who preferred a cup of tea to shagging - before becoming 1986's most high-profile smack addict, that is."
Oh, how I hated this song, partly due to how omnipresent it was, partly because I found it grating in a whiny sort of way. Years later I found it no longer bothered me, but at the time... ugh!
~ Reasoning for all the tracks and other 80s-related articles in the magazine ~