Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 6

Click for links to Series 5Series 4,  Series 3, Series 2, and Series 1 and a quick study of #2 songs

June does not have as many new additions as May. A number of those songs had pretty long runs at the top. Either way, I am happy to not have 28 new entries or whatever.

“Coming Up” by Paul McCartney (1980) – This was McCartney’s last number one song, this song actually had a pretty interesting history. It was released in the States as a single with a live version from Glasgow as the B-Side. Indeed, it was the live version of the song which got more radio airplay and traction. Indeed, putting the original single side by side with McCartney doing it live shows it. It’s a lot better as a live song – faster, more energetic – the vocal filtering in the record version just doesn’t work. (31 points)



“Stars on 45 Medley” by Stars on 45 (1981) – Okay, last time I talked about Sheena Easton’s “Morning Train” as the strangest number one of the decade – I retract. This medley of old hits – a dance mix I presume – is the strangest. I am not sure if this is supposed to be a precursor to stuff like DJ Shadow or not, but it seems too clunky for that. It feels like a Wedding DJ performance as much as anything. The nice thing is that they play a lot of cool old songs. But come on – listening to it now, it is hard that it was a major single, let alone a #1. (24 points)

“Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (1984) – There is a lot of real solid 80s markers here. The hairstyle, the story-video. This was the number one from Lauper’s She’s So Unusual album – and of course it’s a ballad. But – it’s a good one, an unusually well written one. Also – while Lauper had a distinctive look and seemed like a pop creation – she really can sing. (“I Drove All Night” from 1989 is my favorite example of this) This song decidedly holds up (37 points)

“The Reflex” by Duran Duran (1984) – Hoo boy. Duran Duran’s first #1 song – which made it I believe as a hyped “first single from a new album” thing which comes up quite a bit. There is nothing about this video or song that doesn’t seem dated and trapped in the 1980s. It reminds me of an amusing story Greg Proops told on his The Smartest Man in the World (which I recommend you avail yourself of) podcast about seeing them recently. Simon Le Bron, even at his advanced age is basically the same guy – including flashing his tongue to the audience – yuck! Of course bassist John Taylor seems to have stopped aging. What this is a long way of saying that while this is a fairly unremarkable Duran Duran song compared to others – it is quite the time capsule. (34 points)

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (1985) – Pretty clearly one of the best known songs of the decade. It has had a lot of staying power since – it was the theme to Dennis Miller Live for years. The Songs from the Big Chair album was a massive seller in 1985, and this is the more durable of the two number ones, although “Shout” is plenty good. (41 points)

“Heaven” by Bryan Adams (1985) – Oh, the heartstrings are tugged. This ballad (there is that word again) was the number one from Adams’ Reckless album. This is typical stuff – not terrible, but more terrible when you see how it opened up his career to much more atrocious stuff (see Robin Hood). (31 points)

“Live To Tell” by Madonna (1986) – Both featured on Madonna’s True Blue album and the film At Close Range, which starred her husband-at-the-time Sean Penn, listening to this now feels like constant droning. This is a long enough post – life is short. It did remind me that they were married though, and made a bad movie together.

“On My Own” by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald (1986) – Really, it is inconceivable that a song like this would even be a major release now – let alone a number one. LaBelle and McDonald were big names – but clearly more adult contemporary now, than the exceedingly young pop stars of now. They weren’t has-beens – but they both achieved fame in the 1970s. But here is a duet, recorded in different cities – with LaBelle’s distinctive voice and McDonald’s rather glorious beard. But there is not much distinctive otherwise. (25 points)

“You Keep Me Hanging On” by Kim Wilde (1987) – One of the very few British solo women to ever have a number one, Kim Wilde actually had a big international hit in 1981 with “Kids in America”, which is probably more famous now than this. Of course, this is a cover of The Supremes classic – one of the best Motown songs of them all. Of course, Wilde covers it in a frankly, very archetypally 1980s way. It is a corruption of a Motown classic – no doubt – but thankfully the song itself is good enough to pull this through. (29 points)

“Always” by Atlantic Starr (1987) – First of all, Atlantic Starr sounds like a tech startup – not an 80s R&B group. One thing that is interesting for the genre is the co-ed leads. Usually, now a slow jam would be a male singer covered in sweat singing something to try to get the ladies to feel his muscles. So in that vein, this is a much different sort of ballad. But – it’s another easy listening sort of ballad which was amazingly successful in the decade, and I am trying not to nod off here. This is a hard genre to score high for me – but this might actually be better than I am going to give it credit for, but sorry. (26 points)

“Head to Toe” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (1987) – Ah, this is more like it. I was about to fall asleep after the run of ballads before this. Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam was a freestyle band who had a couple of number ones in 1987, this being the first. In aesthetic, pacing, and hook – this is clearly something which is a time capsule from the mid 80s. Seriously, I’m talking about right down to the solid mulletude sported all around, including the afro-style ones. This is the sort of song which is hard to resist – even as I can call it trifle. (34 points)

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston (1987) – As the first single from Whitney Houston’s follow-up to her star making debut, this song did not really even have to be good to get to the top of the charts. (indeed, later is a terrific example of this) As you can discern from this series – I cannot discuss Whitney rationally. The songs are trifle – and she largely did not write them. And I have given thumbs down to songs like this before – but the performer really matters. Seriously (to paraphrase Bill Simmons), when you watch shows like American Idol or The Voice or any other extrusion, basically television has a subgenre dedicated essentially to finding Whitney Houston again. (36 points)

“Together Forever” by Rick Astley (1988) – The non-RickRoll of Astley’s two trips to the top of the chart, I actually like this song better. I remember it being one of the preset sequences on a keyboard we owned when I was a kid, and indeed the hook is really really catchy. The heavy production and heaping spoonfulls of bells and keyboards is very typical of some of the really successful Britpop of the decade, whether it be this stuff or Swing Out Sister, and stuff like that. Everything about this – the video with the overexposed filter, so they look even pastier than in real life – takes me back. It is an immensely charming, very dated piece. (37 points)

“Foolish Beat” by Debbie Gibson (1988) – Bless her heart, Debbie Gibson did write her own songs, which put her above Tiffany in the “mall pop” battle which took place in 1987-88 when they both burst on the scene. “Could’ve Been” by Tiffany was one of the worst #1 songs of the decade. And of course, for Gibson – it took … wait for it … a soppy ballad to get her first #1. But this is decidedly better than Tiffany, and as a self-written expression of teenage mopiness, I give some credit. It’s not especially simpering considering – which is a relief. Extra credit for the prominent sax solo, which really is something you don’t get anymore. (30 points)

“Rock On” by Michael Damian (1989) – A cover of David Essex’s 1973 hit, one of the worst pop songs of the 1970s, Michael Damian – who if I recall correctly, was on a soap opera at the time – delivers a cover which, while awful, is probably about as good as you can do with this song. That said, Essex had the excuse of doing the song first, where it might have been considered experimental. Either way, this song being made to service Dream A Little Dream, the terrible two Coreys film, is all too appropriate. (20 points)

“Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler (1989) – This is one of those songs which I have to grudgingly acknowledge is well written, from a Bert Bachrach “hitmaker” sort of perspective. The song’s shelf life has been considerable – probably fairly. But, come on now. It is simpering, soppy, everything else – that it is a fairly good example of it is not enough for me to revisit this for my pleasure. (23 points)

“I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” by New Kids on the Block (1989) – Oh dear. I guess we’d have to wrestle with this at some point. I have friends who attended their concert a couple of years ago (?) – still getting fired up, moaning for their favorite kid (probably somewhat hipster ironically, but still). The nostalgia is powerful – and certainly the stuff in 1989 came out right at the beginning of my time of being aware of this stuff. But I did not really like this much at the time. (I will have to confess to other songs though) But of course, this is the sort of boy band manufactured ballad to get – well, in Tom Jones, it would have involved having lingerie thrown at them. NKOTB was a legitimate phenomenon then of course, and this was their first #1 – and the first single to prominently feature Jordan Knight’s high voice. I’m not sure if that is a plus. (26 points)

“Satisfied” by Richard Marx (1989) – The first single from Richard Marx’s (at the time) long-awaited follow up to his very successful debut – this song did not have to be good to hit the top. There are a ton of parts from the “80s song parts” store – the guitar solo in particular. This song has not really aged well for me – although the guitar riff is catchier than I perceived when I listened to it again. But the sound – especially with the subtle organ in the back is pretty dated. At the same time, there is enough silly here, especially in the video – the mullet, the heavy bag at the beginning, Marx’s attempts to look hard – that to give some “good-bad-video” points. (32 points)

The score now, with half a year of #1s?  Of course, we have the rest of the summer to go – and I know (and you can probably identify) some songs which are pretty clearly going to hit pretty darn high here.

Song Artist
1 West End Girls Pet Shop Boys
2 Kiss Prince
3 With or Without You U2
4 Beat It Michael Jackson
5 Billie Jean Michael Jackson
6 Rock With You Michael Jackson
7 Father Figure George Michael
8 Jump Van Halen
9 Livin on a Prayer Bon Jovi
10 Down Under Men At Work
11 Faith George Michael
12 How Will I Know Whitney Houston
13 Like a Virgin Madonna
14 The Tide Is High Blondie
15 Centerfold J Geils Band
16 (I Just) Died in Your Arms Cutting Crew
17 Don’t You (Forget About Me) Simple Minds
18 We Are the World USA For Africa
19 Like A Prayer Madonna
20 Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston
21 Everybody Wants to Rule The World Tears For Fears
22 Rapture Blondie
23 Man in the Mirror Michael Jackson
24 Careless Whisper Wham featuring George Michael
25 Footloose Kenny Loggins
26 Walk Like an Egyptian Bangles
27 Karma Chameleon Culture Club
28 I Love Rock and Roll Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
29 Celebration Kool and the Gang
30 So Emotional Whitney Houston
31 Two Hearts Phil Collins
32 Need You Tonight INXS
33 Call Me Blondie
34 Let’s Dance David Bowie
35 Never Gonna Give You Up Rick Astley
36 Together Forever Rick Astley
37 Time After Time Cyndi Lauper
38 Every Rose Has Its Thorn Poison
39 My Prerogative Bobby Brown
40 Got My Mind Set on You George Harrison
41 Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car Billy Ocean
42 Addicted to Love Robert Palmer
43 Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes
44 I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) Whitney Houston
45 Forever Your Girl Paula Abdul
46 Maneater Darryl Hall and John Oates
47 Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 Pink Floyd
48 Rock Me Amadeus Falco
49 Chariots of Fire Vangelis
50 Open Your Heart Madonna
51 One More Try George Michael
52 Wishing Well Terrence Trent D’Arby
53 The Way You Make Me Feel Michael Jackson
54 Say, Say, Say Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
55 9 to 5 Dolly Parton
56 Straight Up Paula Abdul
57 The Look Roxette
58 Head to Toe Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
59 The Reflex Duran Duran
60 I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) Aretha Franklin and George Michael
61 Flashdance … What a Feeling Irene Cara
62 That’s What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick
63 Physical Olivia Newton John
64 I Can’t Go For That Hall and Oates
65 I’ll Be There For You Bon Jovi
66 Crazy Little Thing Called Love Queen
67 Everything She Wants Wham
68 Africa Toto
69 Satisfied Richard Marx
70 Coming Up Paul McCartney
71 Come on Eileen Dexy’s Midnight Runners
72 These Dreams Heart
73 Anything For You Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
74 Heaven Bryan Adams
75 Ebony and Ivory Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
76 The Living Years Mike and the Mechanics
77 At This Moment Billy Vera and the Beaters
78 Bette Davis Eyes Kim Carnes
79 Foolish Beat Debbie Gibson
80 She Drives Me Crazy Fine Young Cannibals
81 Eternal Flame The Bangles
82 Kyrie Mr. Mister
83 Shake You Down Gregory Abbott
84 You Keep Me Hangin On Kim Wilde
85 Kiss Is On My List Hall and Oates
86 Funkytown Lipps, Inc
87 Let’s Hear It for the Boy DeNiece Williams
88 Keep on Loving You REO Speedwagon
89 Hello Lionel Richie
90 I Love a Rainy Night Eddie Rabbitt
91 Live to Tell Madonna
92 I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) New Kids on the Block
93 Lost in Your Eyes Debbie Gibson
94 Say You, Say Me Lionel Richie
95 Always Atlantic Starr
96 Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now Starship
97 (Just Like) Starting Over John Lennon
98 On My Own Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
99 Crazy for You Madonna
100 Seasons Change Expose
101 Can’t Fight This Feeling REO Speedwagon
102 One More Night Phil Collins
103 I Want to Know What Love Is Foreigner
104 Stars on 45 Medley Stars on 45
105 Escape (The Pina Colada Song) Rupert Holmes
106 Wind Beneath My Wings Bette Midler
107 Sara Starship
108 Lean on Me Club Nouveau
109 Baby, Come to Me Patti Austin and James Ingram
110 Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) Phil Collins
111 Where Do Broken Hearts Go Whitney Houston
112 Could’ve Been Tiffany
113 Do That To Me One More Time Captain and Tennille
114 Jacob’s Ladder Huey Lewis and the News
115 Morning Train (Nine to Five) Sheena Easton
116 When I’m With You Sheriff
117 Rock On Michael Damian
118 Please Don’t Go KC and the Sunshine Band

4 thoughts on “Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 6

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