Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 8

Click for links to, Series 7,  Series 6,  Series 5Series 4,  Series 3, Series 2, and Series 1 and a quick study of #2 songs

Wow, it has been a while.  But – I am trying to not make this a throwaway exercise, hopefully the September entries will come sooner.

“Magic” by Olivia Newton-John (1980) – Apparently this song was featured in a movie – which I was not aware of. (Xanadu) I was equally unaware that Newton-John was in it. This is her 2nd entry in the 1980s list here – and the more forgettable one. It is definitely emblematic of that 70s-80s pop transition, but it is really hard to remember anything about this song, or to generate any real feeling. (28 points)

“Sailing” by Christopher Cross (1980) – Among the many pleasures of Sirius XM is the Yacht Rock Radio channel, devoted to the best of soft rock from the 1970s and 1980s. A lot of this music is dreadful – and a lot of it seems to fit in the “white guys playing jazz sort of” category. (Boz Scaggs leaps to mind) But some of it is good – even if it is a little ironic (like basically everything involving Michael McDonald) – and it is a good station to put on as background noise. Christopher Cross’ first number one song is the epitome of the smooth, easy listening sort of thing – and it’s even yacht related! Even with this stuff going, it’s not very good – all the negative qualities of soft rock and simpering ballads crashing together. (22 points)

“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield (1981) – This is one of the best rock songs ever made – and one of the very best pure songs on this list. And of all the great 1980s songs – perhaps this is the most coverable. I remember one of my co-workers who was in a band observing how often he rocked out to it while doing shows. Lyrically, the sentiment is something everybody who has ever been single can at least cop to at some point. It was the song which was #1 on my sister’s birthday in 1981 too, which doesn’t hurt. (50 points)

“Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (1981) – From a film of the same name, this would be Diana Ross’ biggest solo hit, and the first #1 in Richie’s remarkable run in the 1980s. To call this sentimental would be a wild understatement. I do try to be fair to these songs – to not show a systemic bias against slow ballads. But I am nodding off typing this. (23 points)

“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr (1984) – Who doesn’t know this song? If you are talking to someone my age, the answer is “nobody” – but I’d like to think it extends further than that. It is almost hard to evaluate it as a piece of music anyway – does anyone ever really feel like listening to this song? That said, as a theme song to a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s as indelible as any John Williams movie theme. There is a cheesy cuteness hearing it now – but really the ranking here is do to its ubiquity as a cultural artifact. (34 points)

“Shout” by Tears for Fears (1985) – The other #1 from the Songs from the Big Chair album, this is one of the most effective hooks of all the songs on this list. “Shout, shot, let it all out” bores into the skull indelibly every time I listen to this song. I don’t like it quite as much as “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, but they are both of a piece as high quality 80s entries. (36 points)

“The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News (1985) – A lot of what applies for “Ghostbusters” applies here – Back to the Future is one of the most successful, well known movies from the decade – and of course this was the big soundtrack song. Unlike Parker’s song – this one still holds as a song … the movie is not necessary for this song to have value. Of course, Huey Lewis’ music is a little cheesy – with its roots in bar band and doo-wop music. But, on the other side, the band never pretends it is anything else, and it does work on that level. (40 points)

“Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera (1986) – Everything about Peter Cetera is genuinely funny – the vacant eyes (like he joined Scientology), the simpering ballads, his performance in videos, especially when he is showing himself getting into a song. This is a really terrible song, but the video of him makes me laugh every time? How to reconcile? So we split the difference. (27 points)

“Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna (1986) – The second single from Madonna’s True Blue album, this is a pretty good example of the sort of more “issue oriented” pop songs of the time. Of course, this song is about abortion, which certainly did not make it less controversial at the time. And the story oriented videos are always more dated looking now. I do have to give a bonus for a Danny Aiello guest starring role. This is not the best of her mid 80s stuff, but it has managed to still not sound dated compared to other songs on this list. (37 poins)

“Higher Love” by Steve Winwood (1986) – Winwood’s first #1, I remember seeing this all the time on VH1, back when they played videos – and were the grownup alternative to MTV. (oh those were the days) This is one of those songs which is frankly better than it has to be. I enjoy the more interesting percussion choices used – the sort of thing which got fairly popular during that time period, with Graceland and Peter Gabriel’s eventual direction. This is just generally solid. (34 points)

“Shakedown” by Bob Seger (1987) – There is something kind of sad that THIS is the song which got Bob Seger his only #1. The guy who populated classic rock and various truck commercials throughout the 70s and 80s, the guy who did one of my favorite rock songs of all time (“Night Moves”) – ended up having his biggest pop hit in a disposable opening song to the very disposable sequel to Beverly Hills Cop. It’s not even the best song from the movie. (that’s “I Want Your Sex”) This is decidedly dated now, especially the weirdly hair-band sounding guitar solo. I have no real issue with the song – but come on. (33 points)

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 (1987) – It is hard to approach this song fresh. Who doesn’t know it, and really who can separate it from “With or Without You” or “Where the Streets Have No Name”. The Joshua Tree album is every bit the iconic 80s piece that London Calling, Purple Rain, and Thriller are. This is a great song I have seen performed live, and even today it’s operatic scale still works as intended. If I do not give it the highest possible score, it is only because there are songs I just like better. (48 points)

“Who’s That Girl?” by Madonna (1987) – Really, this encapsulates a ton of time capsule aspects of the 1980s. You have a movie soundtrack providing a number one. Even better, the movie is on of Madonna’s several failed forays into movie acting – and this movie was one of the universally panned ones. That the title song would hit the top was basically preordained, as preordained as her going brunette when she wants to look serious. I also somewhat guiltily enjoy her silly co-opting of latin sounds for this. It is fun to listen to this song as a energetic trifle. (34 points)

“La Bamba” by Los Lobos (1987) – “La Bamba” is a fun song, very easy to sing along with – and certainly a worthy artifact of Ritchie Valens’ all too short life. It was good that Los Lobos, one of the best bands America has produced in the last 30 years, got the crack at it. Like “Shakedown”, it is a bit unfair that this was the band’s biggest commercial success, but there you go. Here is a better example of what Los Lobos CAN do.

Either away, I am still glad to have this version. (42 points)

“Monkey” by George Michael (1988) – If you thought I would look down on this song, you have not been following these missives. This is the final #1 from George Michael’s masterpiece album, and undoubtedly the silliest. Apparently, Paula Abdul choreographed the video, which makes me laugh, since the dance sequences here all make me snort when I watch. It takes a heart of stone to resist an up-tempo dance song wondering why you can’t set your ummm, monkey free. I might have to play this again. (41 points)

“Batdance” by Prince (1989) – Price having his own Youtube channel gives me some mixed feelings. It is great to finally be able to post some pristine videos from his greatest hits. Of course, this never happens if Prince were still alive. “Batdance” (no points for guessing the movie) is the song on this list which has grown in stature the most over time for me. It is not a song for everybody – and I did not fully appreciate it as a kid. But over time, especially with some exposure to rave and industrial and various related forms, it resonates more. It is amazing to see Prince essentially put a bunch of songs and movie clips into a blender and come out with something that works so well. The driving groove carries all of the seemingly discordant pieces and movie dialogue in a way where it fits a coherent whole, somehow. It’s an amazing achievement which only Prince could have done. (48 points)

“Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx (1989) – One of 1989 biggest hits, this is the better of Marx’s two chart topping ballads. It is mushy. I have a hard time really breaking down the ballads – they are all simpering, but some are better. One of the plusses of songs like this is that it is a bit more accessible as far as love songs go. I enjoy “Bump and Grind” as much as anybody, but it is nice that songs like this are there – you get a warm sentiment without necessarily an anatomy class. In some ways, I think, it allows songs like these to be accessible for more flavors of love, as it were. (32 points)

The big board …

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