Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 9

Click for links to: Series 8,  Series 7,  Series 6,  Series 5Series 4,  Series 3, Series 2, and Series 1 and a quick study of #2 songs

This is probably my favorite month so far in this project.  First of all, the top of the big board changes – with one of the great rock songs ever made.  But we also get one of the best songs from a dreary year (1980), one of the silliest videos ever made, and another video which is one of the defining videos in MTV’s history.

“Upside Down” by Diana Ross (1980) – Based on the magic he weaved with Chic in 1978, Nile Rodgers managed to keep himself as a producer for other artists.  In 1983, he helmed David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album when Bowie wanted a more commercially successful sound.  Diana Ross wanted the same from him in 1980, and so came the album which spawned her late career dance classics like “I’m Coming Out” and this song.  It takes a true grinch to not get seduced by the beat and tempo here.  (36 points)

“Abracadabra” by Steve Miller Band (1982) – Steve Miller’s biggest hit is one of the weirdest cases.  On one hand, yeah – it’s a catchy hook, and I actually kind of enjoy Sugar Ray’s cover of this song.  But – this is a pretty terrible song as Miller did it.  Lyrically it’s pretty silly.  That along is not disqualification, but given Miller’s quality – it is pretty trifle.  “I wanna reach out and grab ya”.  On the bright side, my daughter liked that there was a song called Abracadabra. (26 points)

“Hard to Say I’m Sorry” by Chicago (1982) – Wow, is this hard to listen to.  Of course, it’s Peter Cetera which we’ve covered before.  About this point, Chicago – who actually was a pretty rocking band in the 1970s had figured out that their best commercial success could come from balladeering.  Their first #1 song was 1976’s “If You Leave Me Now” – a solid display of simpering Cetera-led crooning – so you can see the dollar signs at work here.  The result of this change is a terrible, overearnest ballad which lacks the jazz/horns influence which permeated their best work.  (25 points)

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics (1983) – This was Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox’s biggest hit as a duo, even though “Here Comes the Rain Again” is a better song.  This is one of those songs everybody knows – and the video is one of the early things I remember from Classic MTV.  I have to admit, for my money Lennox’s voice is one of the very best in the rock/pop genre – although this song does not explore the depths of that.  Like “Jump” by Van Halen, a lot of the score here is more impact than song related.  (37 points)

“Maniac” by Michael Sembello (1983) – This is the second of the two big hits from Flashdance, and actually it is hard to pick between the two in terms of cultural impact and what have you.  Both songs seem pretty well known.  Ultimately I kind of like this song better – both as a song and, kind of a better theme song of the two.  “Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night …”.  (32 points)

“Tell Her About It” by Billy Joel (1983) – This is one of those songs I forgot even happened.  This came from the An Innocent Man album.  This was the #1, although I think every organism remembers “Uptown Girl” much more.  This song is  fun tribute to the sort of music Joel listened to as a kid – and I do like the Ed Sullivan scenario outlined here.  (31 points)

“What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner (1984) – This ended up as the #2 song for all of 1984 – arguably the best pop music year on this list.  Tina Turner’s marriage to Ike Turner, the fallout and her comeback is the stuff of legend.  Like Patti LaBelle having a number one song in 1986 – the idea of a 40-something like Tina Turner having a #1 single in 2017 is beyond what my tiny pee brain can handle.  The song itself still works – with her voice and the very strong baseline.  (40 points)

“Missing You” by John Waite (1984) – The first of Jon Waite’s two number one songs in the decade – this is the better one.  Actually this might be one of the better pure songs on the list, even if misses some of the cultural markers songs higher on the list have.  The radio clicker often stops if this comes on.  The dated dramatic story in the video gets some solid kitch points here. (34 points)

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince and the Revolution (1984) – Do I have to rate EVERY Prince song on this list in the Top 10?  Well, I could.  But a song does have to finish 4th.  I guess I will go with the most conventional of the four – the searing opening to Purple Rain, even with its fabulous “sermon” at the start of the proceedings.  This is a song without reproach – except that I liked others better.  (43 points)

“Saint Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” by John Parr (1985) – If I remember right, Saint Elmo’s Fire was a terrible movie – or at least one of the more forgettable pieces of the Brat Pack era.  However, this is actually a better song than the movie deserves (and better than say “If You Leave” though not as good as “Don’t You Forget About Me” – and John Parr’s hairstyle is just wonderful.  (36 points)

“Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits (1986) – Is this Dire Straits’ best song?  Of course not.  I take “Sultans of Swing” every day, and probably even “Walk of Life” from the same Brothers In Arms album which spawned their biggest hit.  But – like “Ghostbusters” theme, how do you fight this?  You have a catchy hook, some excellent guitar work with some cheeky lyrics (even the homophobic 2nd verse is really done by a character in the song – which I missed when I was a kid), and a video everybody knows.  No rack and stack of the MTV era can leave this out. (42 points)

“Venus” by Bananarama (1986) – A song like this really illustrates the funny thing about the music video form.  There are a lot of cheesy videos – and this is among the very silliest.  At the same time, a silly video can elevate the right song in a lot of ways.  Of course, it can also turn it into the subject of a Beavis and Butthead interstitial – but that only usually happened when the song sucked too.  Shocking Blue had a #1 with this song in 1970 but I will defend this version to the death as the vastly superior one.  Indeed, combine this with the absolutely ridiculous video and it’s very very hard not to smile. (38 points)

“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin (1986) – An Oscar winner, this is the sappy love song from Top Gun, which is one of those classic examples of a movie being afraid to be gay.  One of the most exciting filmgoing experience was being able to take a gay friend who had never seen this movie to see it on a big screen.  They should have played this song over the Maverick and Iceman scenes.  There was not one second where the Kelly McGillis stuff is remotely convincing.  So – the song?  I – oh never mind. (27 points)

“Stuck With You” by Huey Lewis and the News (1986) – There were a lot of silly videos in the 1980s.  If you don’t believe me, look two videos up from this one.  Huey Lewis and the News were consistent in producing some of the more fun ones.  They were silly too – but Lewis was clearly in on the joke.  It makes sense, as the band always seemed to have sort of the right attitude about its own music.  They had their bar band and doo wop influences – they played songs they and the people liked and that was enough.  No ripping out artistic bone marrow here.  This was the first single from their Fore! album – and I like the doo-wop oriented stylings here, probably more than the Billy Joel one earlier.  I am not a very objective judge here though.  (34 points)

“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” by Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett (1987) – I remember “Bad” being the first single from Bad, but it turns out it wasn’t the case.  The first single was this duet with his protege Siedah Garrett.  Originally Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston were envisioned as partners but both declined – but it works out pretty well here.  I am sure I have written this before, but it is hard to truly articulate to kiddos in today’s diffuse media culture just how culturally important Michael Jackson was.  This, his follow up to what was only the best selling album of all time, was not just a music event – it was actual news.  Time stopped for this, in a way that just wouldn’t happen now – yes, not even with Taylor Swift.  (36 points)

“Didn’t We Almost Have It All” by Whitney Houston (1987) – I have written a lot about Whitney Houston over this series, and given how many number ones she had, how could I not?  Given the circumstances of her downfall, this song is obviously kind of eerie.  That said, her ballads have not aged as well as some of her peppier stuff. (“Greatest Love of All” or “Saving All My Love” notwithstanding)  But it is what it is. (30 points)

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (1988) – And then, we land here.  This was Guns N’Roses first chart single, and their only #1.  It also is clearly the best song on this series so far, and the one which will survive the longest as something truly special.  “Livin on a Prayer” has kept going as a great song to find at a wedding or in a bar to sing along to – this is just a magnificent song that has not dated at all.  I have railed against sappy love songs throughout these missives, yet a absolutely sentimental sap-fest here gets the highest praise.  Slash’s driving riff apparently was inspired by a scale practice exercise, and he found a sound in the guitar which (if I recall correctly in a Rolling Stone piece) he said he had trouble imitating because he was so blitzed during the entire thing.  (or was it during shows, or was it all of the above?)  Everything works – the 1940s standard lyrical sentiment, Slash’s guitar work, the driving coda to finish.  If “West End Girls” was to be knocked out of the number one spot – best it be by absolute quality. (50 points)

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin (1988) – Is there a greater juxtaposition than a rock opus like “Sweet Child of Mine” getting bumped from its #1 position in 1988 by the only a capella song to hit #1 in the decade?  This was originally recorded for the soundtrack to Cocktail, and the video has a role for a very famous sadly gone star.  Certainly everybody has used “Don’t Worry. Be Happy” as a mantra – but I wonder how much they remember the song that spawned it?  McFerrin is a really unique artist, and certainly no other song in the decade sounded like this. (32 points)

“Cold Hearted” by Paula Abdul (1989) – This actually ended up being the biggest hit from the Forever Your Girl album.  It is my least favorite of the three.  I remember not really liking Paula Abdul back then – if nothing else due to just how often these songs came on the radio.  I had to listen to this again to remember what it was.  30 years later, it’s extremely hard to get any energy here. (32 points)

“Hangin’ Tough” by New Kids on the Block (1989) – If “Sweet Child O’Mine” has not dated in any real way, this is the counterpoint.  This was the first flirtation with rap/chant/stomp, whatever the F it is the New Kids were doing.  This did not lead to them shortening things to NKOTB, but you see the inexorable descent here.  Unlike Bananarama, this song is just not good enough for the ridiculous video to make things better.  Indeed, it makes things more awkward. (25 points)

“Don’t Wanna Lose You” by Gloria Estefan (1989) – Gloria Estefan’s second #1, this was a staple of VH1 when I was a kid, when VH1 was the “adult” alternative to the videos on MTV.  The vocal work here is good – she is a terrific performer.  I just never really cared.  Yawn!  (30 points)

“Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” by Milli Vanilli (1989) – I liked this more when I was a kid than now.  As I noted in the #2s piece, Milli Vanilli scandal had terrible repercussions – but the music itself would still play.  It was not sung by the duo, but the songs themselves were fairly good pop songs.  Now this ballad is actually not a good song – but it’s bad in the soppy love ballad sort of way – and not some extraordinary act of terribleness. (such as “Please Don’t Go”)  (29 points)

The big board through September is below:

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