Tag: music

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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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

Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 7

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

As summer gets going in full force and just after Murika! celebrated its birthday – we make the turn in every #1 song of the 1980s. Looking at the 22 songs which hit number one during this month – there are some of the really emblematic songs of the MTV era in particular. A couple of these songs stink, and the end of decade is much more wobbly in retrospect – even if it was the wheelhouse of my pop culture awakening.

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel (1980) – The first of Billy Joel’s three number ones in the decade, this is one of those super early 80s songs which do not really resemble the decade at all. It also – especially in the video – is very dated obviously. What I found interesting is that the guitar and general tone is somewhat similar to more outwardly rockabilly stuff, particularly The Stray Cats when they hit a couple of years later. That was a lot cooler though. (27 points)

“The One That You Love” by Air Supply (1981) – Interrupting two stints totalling 9 weeks at the top for “Bette Davis Eyes”, this was Air Supply’s one number one – although they had a long list of simpering soft love songs around that time. This song is fairly typical of the duo’s ouevre – it’s the sort of combination of earnestness and execrable quality which really allows them and Peter Cetera to glow in the dark a bit here. I had never seen the video until I sat down to type this – so I am tempted to give this a higher score due to – let’s just say a wee bit of camp – but I refrain. (20 points)

“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League (1982) – This is definitely one of the defining videos and songs of the early MTV 80s. This sort of synthesizer laden pop would be a fixture in the decade clearly, and this is one of the better versions of it. Everything, including the video works here. (38 points)

“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (1982) – By the time Rocky III rolled around, the heroic archetype of the first two films had evolved into a formula with the comic book villains (Clubber Lang, hello!). Thankfully, we got Rocky Balboa and Creed to give Rocky some soul at the end – but that does not mean Rocky III was not fun on its own. It also spawned a theme which is every bit the iconic equivalent of Bill Condi’s classic theme for the original. This song has survived – and still works for that purpose of getting the gang amped up. It is clearly way up on any list like this. (44 points)

“Every Breath You Take” by The Police (1983) – This was the #1 song of 1983, and one of the top wedding songs of the decade. As everybody knows by now, that was not what Sting intended. This has always amused me of course, although in a sense when art goes into the domain – it’s value is defined somewhat by what the audience things and interprets, no? I certainly have always found it more haunting than romantic – but who am I? It is not my favorite Police song (“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” is better, although “Roxanne” is not), but it certainly deserves to be mentioned on the list. (44 points)

“When Doves Cry” by Prince (1984) – This is pretty clearly beyond reproach. The famous song without a bass – the legendary opening riff … from one of the decade’s very best albums. It was sampled in MC Hammer’s highest charting song, and it is a song which has remained timeless. It has every reasonable argument to be #1 on this list – but I prefer “Kiss” funky minimalism from the Prince (and one of his other number ones has grown a ton as I’ve gotten older). Game, blouses. (49 points)

“Sussudio” by Phil Collins (1985) – This was a song I enjoyed quite a bit in my youth – I have given positive views on Phil Collins before more gently. At the same time, this song has not aged particularly well. It has not done anything bad – it’s not a bad song. It just has more of a blah feel now. A good, albeit thoroughly unremarkable up tempo. (33 points)

“A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran (1985) – The band’s other number 1 song – the trivia note here is that it is one of the biggest hits of the Bond themes. Only “Nobody Does it Better” and “Goldfinger” itself can claim a seat at the table. Certainly it is the most silly delightful video of any song associated with the franchise. I have pointed this out, but John Taylor has largely defeated aging. (38 points)

“Everytime You Go Away” by Paul Young (1985) – You have to admire the rock solid mulletude in the video. This is one of those easy listening sort of ballads which is a little better than the simpering worst of Peter Cetera (though lacking in the unintentional comedy). There are songs which deserve more space in this missive. As a tip, I am a big fan of Young’s Chi-Lite’s cover, “Oh Girl”. Listen to that instead. (29 points)

“There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” by Billy Ocean (1986) – Of Ocean’s biggest hits, this is the one you probably forgot. I know I did. It really does feel like you had to have one of these ballads if you were a big star in the decade. It is slightly better than you’d expect – but just slightly. (28 points)

“Holding Back the Years” by Simply Red (1986) – This is the sort of song which time helps out. This is a better song than I remember when I was younger. This is squarely in the adult contemporary space (to use industry jibber jabber) and one of the better songs of that ilk on this list. It is not the form which will score too high for me, but this is distinctly better than some of its peers. (32 points)

“Invisible Touch” by Genesis (1986) – Genesis is one of the weakest bands to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Seriously. What is funny is that the band is hailed as a progressive rock icon – which certainly describes their 4-man incarnation I suppose. But the Genesis who was actually successful happened after Gabriel left and Phil Collins took over the lead. Can you name anything Genesis did with Peter Gabriel? Now Genesis was extremely successful in the post-Gabriel incarnation, with this being their biggest hit. But a good, cheeky, pop band is not the sort of thing I’d call legendary. Nobody is putting Toto in the Hall either. But that has nothing to do with this song, which is never unpleasant to encounter. (34 points)

“Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel (1986) – Ah, but Peter Gabriel DID leave Genesis for his super interesting solo career. Gabriel has always done his own thing, always interesting – sometimes intersecting with mainstream pop, but not necessarily. What is there to say about “Sledgehammer”? It’s one of the most recognized (and best) videos ever made – it was one of the earliest Ardman Animation gigs (Wallace and Gromit), and really one of the best uses of the medium. The song itself still holds up as well. (42 points)

“Alone” by Heart (1987) – Heart and Chicago are very similar sort of arcs to me. Both of them had these cool, frankly kind of kick-ass rock bands in the 1970s – there are entries which come on classic rock or whatever and still work great. But the bands biggest commercial successes took place in the 1980s via balladeering and clear corruption to satisfy Top 40. This is a perfect example, and not surprising it was one of the biggest hits of 1987. Ann Wilson’s voice salvages whatever can be salvaged ultimately here. (32 points)

“Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson (1988) – Look, he’s gone hard! It is a sign of Jackson’s pull, like how he got Eddie Van Halen to a solo on “Beat It”, that he got Billy Idol’s guitarist for this. This is one of Jackson’s more atmospheric, interesting songs – it stands outside of his more danceable or softer songs. Like Janet Jackson did in 1990 with “Black Cat” this sort of interpretation of a hard rock song is not one of the songs which is easily remembered, but it works out to be one of his better ones. (37 points)

“The Flame” by Cheap Trick (1988) – Sometimes, when it comes to the “monster ballads” it’s just personal taste. This is objectively not as good a song as, say, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”. But this is distinctly better than some of the similarly mawkish soft rock songs which made it big. Of course, like Heart, some of their earlier work colors my thinking here. (35 points)

“Hold On To the Nights” by Richard Marx (1988) – The first #1 for one of the great mullets of the decade. He had another similar ballad in 1989. That was better. (29 points)

“Roll With It” by Steve Winwood (1988) – When I was a kid, Michelob was advertised a lot on TV. Not Michelob Ultra (there was no Michelob Ultra). In 1988, Michelob was selling themselves as the beer of the night – and they used classic rock guys among the pitchmen. It helped Eric Clapton make a return and helped promote Steve Winwood’s Roll With It album. The title track, one of the biggest hits of 1988, is one of my favorite songs of the decade. I do think the video helped – it really does fit the style the song evokes. Just a genuinely excellent rock song. (45 points)

“Baby Don’t Forget My Number” by Milli Vanilli (1989) – As I had talked about in the Number 2s piece, Milli Vanilli’s music would absolutely play on Top 40 stations now. They are one of those bands who have been erased from the record due to that scandal – but honestly, if you look at the music produced, you have to admit that it’s largely solid silly dance pop. (34 points)

“Good Thing” by Fine Young Cannibals (1989) – Interestingly, “She Drives Me Crazy” has probably survived better, and it probably should have. The falsetto, the video – it is a distinctive song. This song, their second #1 is significantly more “normal” – less interesting but a better song in the vein of a “Roll With It”. I like the piano solo – which was not something you got much of in the decade. (33 points)

“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Simply Red (1989) – Simply Red was covered earlier. Squarely in the adult contemporary zone here, this Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes cover was the band’s second #1. This song did not improve on the Melvin version – and while perfectly okay, is certainly not as good as their other #1. (30 points)

“Toy Soldiers” by Martika (1989) – I can’t believe this happened. As I have pointed out before, my pop culture awareness occured around late 1988-1989. I knew this song was bad even then. Wikipedia tells me this song is about her friend’s cocaine addiction – which is more poignant if you are trying to get me to change my mind. Whatever heft it gives the lyrics – there is a lack in lots of other areas, singing, guitar solo – that musically it sounds like umpteen other ballads. (20 points)

After 7 months, the big board:

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

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)

SINGLE:

LIVE:

“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

Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 5

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

After a brief foray to look at the songs which just missed #1, back to our regularly scheduled programming.  As we add songs – looking through the month of May in the 1980s, the list starts to add songs which evoke summer – and some of the biggest songs of them all.

“Funkytown” by Lipps, Inc (1980) – This is definitely evidence that not everything that endures is that good. Given what was available in the disco, or back end of disco – it is hard to call this a particularly distinguished entry. That said, whether it is via Dumb and Dumber or whatever, this is certainly one of the most well known dance songs of all time. But I cannot generate much enthusiasm here. (29 points)

“Morning Train (9 to 5)” by Sheena Easton (1981) – This might be the strangest number one song of the entire decade. It is clearly one of the worst – indeed, this has nothing in common with the rest of Easton’s 80s career. Seriously – if you have any recollection of Sheena Easton, it was going to be for her hooking up with Prince in the “Sign O The Times” era. Or even earlier – songs that evoke aerobics, like you know …

But no – her biggest hit was actually THIS song – which seems to comparatively have been done with a lobotomy. (20 points)

“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (1981) – The biggest single of 1981, Carnes was one of those – like Dolly Parton and Eddie Rabbitt – who found success under the country crossover trend which took hold at the beginning of the decade. By the fates of many of the songs in this part of the decade, this song should not have aged as well as it has. It’s not a great song – but it has endured. (30 points)

“Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis (1982) – Ah, one of those songs that is so well known as to be cliche. It is hard to even type this without lapsing into that slow motion. This is probably the best movie song of the decade – not the best song in a movie – but in terms of evoking the movie (or running generally). Few songs have fit its subject better. (36 points)

“Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder (1982) – This was one of the biggest hits of 1982, so that can’t be denied. But of the big hits of the decade, it is among the most dated. OF course it was a huge hit – a collaboration of two of the most illustrious composers of their time. But honestly – I’d rush past this if I had to put together a tribute. It’s fame and whatnot carry this to a higher score than it frankly deserves. (31 points)

“Let’s Dance” by David Bowie (1983) – Bowie’s second number one, it was well known that Let’s Dance was put together with radio in mind. Bowie hired Nile Rodgers as a hitmaker to get him some commercial pop. Bowie was not a fan of this part of his era – which is not surprising given what an uncompromising artist he was. At the same time, he sells himself short. Sure this was pure pop – but it was an excellent example of the form. (38 points)

“Flashdance … What a Feeling” by Irene Cara (1983) – Cara had a big hit with another dance movie title in 1980 with “Fame”. Flashdance itself was a disposable movie, but definitely a piece of 1980s time capsule material. The song is indelible – although about 40% of the time I am not sure if that is a good thing. (34 points)

“Hello” by Lionel Richie (1984) – Oh my. There is a lot to unpack here. This is a typical lousy Lionel Richie croon-fest – even if it is his most well known one. Normally, this would be good for a real toilet bowl score – but the video is pretty great. This is one of those narrative ones, where “Hello” is a tale of romance where Richie is touched by a blind love. At the end she presents him something she sculpted which is “how I see you” which looks less like Richie than 1984 vintage John Oates. Hey if it’s going to suck, might as well get a laugh. (28 points)

“Let’s Hear it for the Boy” by DeNiece Williams (1984) – The other big hit and Oscar nominated song from Footloose, this was DeNiece Williams’ biggest hit. It’s silly – in so many ways, the video, the tempo – for years I kept thinking this was a Lisa Lisa song. This song is okay enough, but has not aged well. (29 points)

“Crazy for You” by Madonna (1985) – Madonna’s 2nd number one, this was yet another movie song (Vision Quest, which features a very early Linda Fiorentino, known for Men in Black for you but probably The Last Seduction for me) Madonna would have a lot of big hits which would define cultural zeitgeist blah blah blah. We can move on now, right? (24 points)

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (1985) – One of the metrics I have tinkered with is “Capture the 1980s” and really will any song fit the bill better than this one? It was the central song from one of the most well known and “80s” of 1980s movies (The Breakfast Club). This song’s pop historical importance is beyond consensus at this point, even if Simple Minds themselves only had a brief flicker. (42 points)

“Everything She Wants” by Wham! (1985) – Sort of the forgotten child of Wham’s three biggest hits – but it probably shouldn’t be. It’s still a good song in its own right. At the same time, I still had to remember that this happened, so there you go. (32 points)

“Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer (1986) – Like the Simple Minds song earlier, the story of the decade cannot be written without this song. The videos clearly shape the endurance of this song, but hey – there you go. As a rock song, this has survived – and largely on merit. Palmer had a terrific rock singer voice. But then, there are the models – who are clearly there as objects – the background images for almost any memory of Palmer. (37 points)

“West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys (1986) – The second perfect score so far, this is The Pet Shop Boys biggest US hit. This is an objectively flawless synth-new wave song which hits all the markers. The lyrics have some social consciousness for them, the song has not dated in any meaningful way. When I put this on to find the video clip, I listened to it seven more times. Like the songs at the very top of this list, this is both a great example of the 1980s, and transcendent – it’s one of the best songs of this or any other decade. (50 points)

“Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston (1986) – The last and biggest single from her debut album, this is one of the songs most indelibly etched on my elementary school childhood. I remember doing it in music class in 3rd/4th grade. Not all of Whitney’s ballads were good – most were kind of simpering. But this is an order of magnitude above it, and still works on its cheesy, intended level. (41 points)

“(I Just) Died in Your Arms” by Cutting Crew (1987) – While the Pet Shop Boys and Whitney Houston were among the most enduring acts of the decade. In fact, a lot of the higher ranked songs on this list are things which endured because of enduring artists. And then, you have this – one of the best songs of the decade for my money – but dropped in from space by a band who would not do anything else I’d remember again. The song’s importance is hard to argue – but it’s quality as a pop song isn’t. (42 points)

“With or Without You” by U2 (1987) – I’ve seen U2 twice, both on lucky breaks. While they are not my favorite band or anything – at a certain point you don’t turn the chance to see an act of that magnitude down, especially when you only had to pay face value for the tickets. They were good both times, even if they were promoting largely meh albums. And of course – even while promoting, say “Vertigo”, they were not going to leave without stuff from this vintage. This song, the first of their two #1 songs, does not need much explanation. It’s one of their signature songs, one of the best pop songs ever made, and that it unleashed Bono on the world ever since is not the song’s fault. (50 points)

“Wishing Well” by Terrence Trent D’Arby (1988) – When I listen to the weekly Top 40 on Sirius XM, when they do 1988 and this song comes up, the DJ always notes the same story, about how Terrence Trent D’Arby declared his debut as the most important album since Sgt Pepper, the sort of deluded, lofty claim that is now reserved for rappers (specifically rappers whose name rhymes with Munyay Test). While clearly that did not work out – his lone #1 remains an earworm with a hook which is hard to get out of your head. (and that is a compliment, mostly) (35 points)

“Anything for You” by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine (1988) – As is typical, a band who produced some pretty good up-tempo, fun dance music – has its first #1 with a croony ballad. There is not much to say here – aside from hoping this turned into “The Rhythm is Gonna Get You” (31 points)

“One More Try” by George Michael (1988) – I think this ended up one of the best selling singles of the calendar year. Again, the lure of the ballad to the top of the charts. It was not the best ballad on the Faith album – “Kissing a Fool” is pretty clearly a better song both musically and vocally. It’s good by simpering ballad standards, but that is about it. (36 points)

“I’ll Be There For You” by Bon Jovi (1989) – The band’s fourth #1, and it’s least. It has not survived the way “Living on a Prayer” has, and has frankly, been drowned out by numerous other successful, better monster ballads. I will note that it seems the band’s hair looks especially well conditioned here – I am not sure if that is worth extra credit. (33 points)

“Forever Your Girl” by Paula Abdul (1989) – This is one of the songs which I like much better now than I did in 1989. I guess it was partly being inundated with her popularity – the way any popular artist on the radio starts to grate. This is probably not as well known now as “Straight Up”, but it is a catchier song with a cheekier video (kids help) – even if there is no Arsenio Hall cameo. (35 points)

So – through the Month of May – we are up to exactly 100 songs. The current scoreboard? See below, complete with a new #1.

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 Rapture Blondie
22 Man in the Mirror Michael Jackson
23 Careless Whisper Wham featuring George Michael
24 Footloose Kenny Loggins
25 Walk Like an Egyptian Bangles
26 Karma Chameleon Culture Club
27 I Love Rock and Roll Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
28 Celebration Kool and the Gang
29 So Emotional Whitney Houston
30 Two Hearts Phil Collins
31 Need You Tonight INXS
32 Call Me Blondie
33 Let’s Dance David Bowie
34 Never Gonna Give You Up Rick Astley
35 Every Rose Has Its Thorn Poison
36 My Prerogative Bobby Brown
37 Got My Mind Set on You George Harrison
38 Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car Billy Ocean
39 Addicted to Love Robert Palmer
40 Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes
41 Forever Your Girl Paula Abdul
42 Maneater Darryl Hall and John Oates
43 Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 Pink Floyd
44 Rock Me Amadeus Falco
45 Chariots of Fire Vangelis
46 Open Your Heart Madonna
47 One More Try George Michael
48 Wishing Well Terrence Trent D’Arby
49 The Way You Make Me Feel Michael Jackson
50 Say, Say, Say Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
51 9 to 5 Dolly Parton
52 Straight Up Paula Abdul
53 The Look Roxette
54 I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) Aretha Franklin and George Michael
55 Flashdance … What a Feeling Irene Cara
56 That’s What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick
57 Physical Olivia Newton John
58 I Can’t Go For That Hall and Oates
59 I’ll Be There For You Bon Jovi
60 Crazy Little Thing Called Love Queen
61 Everything She Wants Wham
62 Africa Toto
63 Come on Eileen Dexy’s Midnight Runners
64 These Dreams Heart
65 Anything For You Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
66 Ebony and Ivory Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
67 The Living Years Mike and the Mechanics
68 At This Moment Billy Vera and the Beaters
69 Bette Davis Eyes Kim Carnes
70 She Drives Me Crazy Fine Young Cannibals
71 Eternal Flame The Bangles
72 Kyrie Mr. Mister
73 Shake You Down Gregory Abbott
74 Kiss Is On My List Hall and Oates
75 Funkytown Lipps, Inc
76 Let’s Hear It for the Boy DeNiece Williams
77 Keep on Loving You REO Speedwagon
78 Hello Lionel Richie
79 I Love a Rainy Night Eddie Rabbitt
80 Lost in Your Eyes Debbie Gibson
81 Say You, Say Me Lionel Richie
82 Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now Starship
83 (Just Like) Starting Over John Lennon
84 Crazy for You Madonna
85 Seasons Change Expose
86 Can’t Fight This Feeling REO Speedwagon
87 One More Night Phil Collins
88 I Want to Know What Love Is Foreigner
89 Escape (The Pina Colada Song) Rupert Holmes
90 Sara Starship
91 Lean on Me Club Nouveau
92 Baby, Come to Me Patti Austin and James Ingram
93 Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) Phil Collins
94 Where Do Broken Hearts Go Whitney Houston
95 Could’ve Been Tiffany
96 Do That To Me One More Time Captain and Tennille
97 Jacob’s Ladder Huey Lewis and the News
98 Morning Train (Nine to Five) Sheena Easton
99 When I’m With You Sheriff
100 Please Don’t Go KC and the Sunshine Band

Interlude – #2 Songs of the 1980s

(for links to the #1s so far click for Series 1, Series 2, Series 3 and Series 4)

After a survey of the first four months of number one songs in the 1980s, it is pretty clear that there are no real baseline qualities for what gets to the Top of the Pops. There are good, and clearly, there are very bad. So clearly being #1 is not sufficient criteria for pop immortality. Indeed, there is a rich history of #2 songs in the decade – here are my favorite from each year.

1980 – “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl” by The Spinners. 1980 was not a difficult call among #2s. The silver medal is really more gloriously cheesy than actually good (“Ride Like the Wind” by Christopher Cross). The Spinners are not a vocal group who rolls off the tongue the same way you get from say The Temptations or The Four Tops, but you look at the record and they had a ton of songs everybody knows. “Could it be I’m Falling in Love”, “Rubberband Man”, “Then Came You”. This cover is one of their best. Extra points for the suits.

1981 – “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington Jr/Bill Withers. 1981 was a tough competition for #2s. Indeed, both George Harrison (“All Those Years Ago”) and John Lennon had #2s (Lennon’s “Woman” being his finest song). But despite how much of a Beatles fan I am – Washington’s music and Wither’s vocals are just too much.

1982 – “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Gos. This was held out of the #1 spot by “I Love Rock and Roll” – and of course it is the Go-Go’s signature song. This is one of the songs that has not really dated – it still kicks ass.

1983 – “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant. This was tricky – as Culture Club had a pair of number 2 hits in 1983 – including “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Time (Clock of the Heart)” (“Time won’t give me time” – has any philosopher expressed the problem with life better?) But this reggae-pop tune is one of the real earworms of the decade. It’s appeal is a bit more time capsule – but it still works, “oy!!!”

1984 – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. This was a very very tough field with “Purple Rain” and “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell (which still features the most amazing guest vocal credit in history given the artists actual obscurity). But while seeing multiple people belt out “Purple Rain” in karaoke – Lauper’s signature song is more fun and memorable (or maybe I am nostalgic for Capitan Lou Albano) – and she really can sing.

1985 – “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins. This is one of my favorite disposable pop songs ever. Bailey, the high voice in Earth, Wind and Fire, only really had this as his big pop solo success. This song has everything good pop music has – a great hook, something to falsetto to, and an energetic beat. Considering “Raspberry Beret” and “You Belong to the City” by Glenn Frey were among 1985’s candidates (and if we are honest “Raspberry Beret” is a better song), coming out on top took something.

1986 – “Manic Monday” by the Bangles. When I am feeling snarky, I cite this as Prince’s best song. Certainly this is an objectively perfect song – both musically and lyrically. No case of the Mondays has ever been expressed better.

1987 – “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael. Just like how “Billie Jean” was actually not the first single on Thriller, actually THIS was the first single released from George Michael’s explosion onto the solo scene. If I remember correctly, this song was featured in the second Beverly Hills Cop movie. Either way, I remember this being amazingly controversial when it came out – even if it seems rather tame now. It’s doubly funny given his own sexual orientation. As I have noted before – among closeted singers, Michael was remarkably convincing in 1987.

1988 – “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by Pet Shop Boys. I noted above that The Spinners were one of those bands where you kind of don’t realize just how many hits they produced. They weren’t exactly obscure – just not something which leaps to mind. In perusing 1980s music for this missive – or just First Wave on Sirius, you forget how successful (and good) the Pet Shop Boys were. One of the more successful duos in history (and I think the most among Brits) – this is one of their biggest hits. Dusty Springfield’s hairdo is a bit unfortunate and dated though.

1989 – “Love Song” by The Cure. Speaking of First Wave, we come to the kings of mopey ballads, the Cure. One of the inexplicable things about Top 40 radio is how a classic mopey love song like “Just Like Heaven” barely nicked the Top 40 – but this gets to #2. I’m not complaining, this is a terrific song in its own right. I’m just noting that you would never pick this over “Just Like Heaven”

BONUS: Back to 1988. Interestingly Def Leppard would hit number one – but not with their signature song. Growing up, this would always be very high when MTV did their Top 100 videos of all time. This was a #2 as well. And as long as there are people dancing for money – did they know this was the song’s eternal destiny? Did Jack White know that his ultimate legacy will be a hook pep bands play? I don’t know.

BONUS 2: Back to 1989. Can people really deal honestly with the idea that Milli Vanilli, by dance-pop standards, was actually good? The scandal of their lip syncing is well known – but you can’t unhear the songs. Given how manufactured so many pop singers are in 2017 – you still have to give a hat tip to the songs produced. Milli Vanilli might be a punch line – but “Girl You Know It’s True” would still work.

Every #1 Song of the 1980s – Series 4

Click for links to Series 3, Series 2, and Series 1 

As we head into Easter, it seemed more than due time to get us through April in this survey of the 1980s.  You can go to the bottom of this entry for the full tally.  Looking at this list, there is a lot of iconic 80s stuff – not all of it is good, but there are a good number which clearly would fit within the framework of “things which I’d show space aliens who wanted to know the milieu.”

“Another Brick In the Wall, Part 2” by Pink Floyd (1980) – Pink Floyd’s only #1 and last chart hit. If you think about it – it seems weird that Pink Floyd had any sort of success on charts like these. But of course this was from The Wall, pretty clearly the most f’ed up musical in movie (or theater) history. Of course, it means the imagery was remarkable – it’s Floyd, expect no less. Like a lot of the early early 80s, it stands outside of the decade. It’s not my favorite song on the soundtrack of course, so a little gets dinged there. (36 points)

“Call Me” by Blondie (1980) – The year-end #1 song of 1980, Blondie is one of the acts which has not dated meaningfully. Unlike other music of the early early 80s, you can see Blondie’s resonance further on in the decade, even as other artists were more synth based. The New Wave was a defining idea for the decade and Blondie clearly is among the leaders. This is not my favorite Blondie song – but that says more about the catalog. (38 points)

“Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon (1981) – One of the earlier examples of the power ballad format, this was the first of two Speedwagon #1s. For some reason, I always get REO and Supertramp confused when I hear them on the radio. Either way, like Supertramp, REO are on the list with Bachman Turner Overdrive of bands I’d banish from Classic Rock on the grounds they are not classic to anybody. That being said, I am reminded of an old Letterman Top 10 list, “Ways to make Arafat [the former PLO leader] Angry” and one was “Ask him why he doesn’t call it PLO Speedwagon anymore.” (28 points)

“Rapture” by Blondie (1981) – Is this the first occurrence of “rap” on a pop track? I don’t know. There is a shout-out to Fab 5 Freddy though. Like most other Blondie, this is a pretty great song. It is hard to add much more. (40 points)

“Kiss Is On My List” by Hall and Oates (1981) – One of the more forgettable of the Hall and Oates entries on this list. There is nothing “wrong” here – it is a good hook, but overall the song is not as catchy as their other number ones and no visual accompaniment as memorable/ridiculous. (29 points)

“I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (1982) – Coincidentally, I was listening to an old top 40 from 1982 during this song’s 7-week run at the top. It held off the Go-Go’s signature “We Got the Beat”, which will undoubtedly be part of a compilation of great #2s of the decade (if I ever get around to it). Sometimes noting a song like this was among the most successful hit singles of the 80s make me think teenagers then had better taste. This Arrows cover being a #1 now would be unthinkable. This is just an iconic, garage-band sort of rock song – it takes a heart of stone to resist. (38 points)

“Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners (1983) – What is more “of a decade” than a band which you would never hear of again? Dexy’s Midnight Runners certainly qualifies – and this song has persisted, just by simply being so unusual. All these years later, I am not sure if it is good – but I can’t get rid of it either. (31 points)

“Beat It” by Michael Jackson (1983) – The follow up to “Billie Jean” in 1983. Has anybody since the Beatles loaded up like this? Possibly Jackson, in 1970 (“ABC”, “I Want You Back”) and 1979 (“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”, “Rock With You”). While other artists were better and you sensed songs being ripped from their hearts, Jackson was a master at entertainment craft, and this song exemplifies that as well as any. The driving beat, the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo in the middle, connected with the dancing and visuals. “Billie Jean” deserves its place, but this is the song I prefer of the two. (49 points)

“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins (1984) – The biggest hit of the 80’s soundtrack king’s various 80’s movie hits. My four year old knows and likes this song – which given this seems appropriate. When I was younger, I thought “Danger Zone” was better – but time, parenthood and frankly good sense has righted the ship. It is a silly movie with a silly title song and it takes a total grinch to fight it. (39 points)

“Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” by Phil Collins (1984) – I like Phil Collins, as noted before. And certainly his voice is one of the indelible parts of 1980s pop music. And when an earnest movie wanted an earnest theme, there he was. It is the sort of ballad which gets #1s and Oscar nominations. It is also hard to stomach, even then. (22 points)

“Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon (1985) – Wait, REO, again? Weren’t we just here? Aside from the hair, there is nothing to see here. (24 points)

“One More Night” by Phil Collins (1985) – One of the big hits from Collins’ No Jacket Required, which had a lot of hits. Alas, all of them are better – I am not sure if I will be uniformly derisive of all of Collins’ ballads, but this is not a good start. (24 points)

“We Are The World” by USA For Africa (1985) – Really, there is nothing more “80s” than this. A song for a cause with all of the big artists of the day, written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. You have a separate shot of Michael Jackson dropped in where he sings his part in one of his shiny Capitain Crunch uniforms. Playing “name that celebrity” never gets old when watching this. I like the separate solo takes by Dylan (which seems from another song – as is often the case with Dylan) and Bruce Springsteen, who sounds like he is on the toilet. (42 points)

“Sara” by Starship (1986) – When I heard “White Rabbit” for the first time as a teenager, I wondered if Jefferson Airplane offered the most drugged out band I had ever heard. Now I realize that Grace Slick must have really been messed up when she agreed to return to Starship for it’s (very successful) 1980’s incarnation. They hit #1 three times, and this is the least offensive of the songs. (23 points)

“These Dreams” by Heart (1986) – An interesting side post (if I ever get to it) should cover the final #1 pop hits for many bands who are pretty darn great or respectable. This was Heart’s breakthrough – and of course it is not a very good song compared to some of their 70s best. It’s not even their best #1 – but that is neither here nor there. Despite Heart’s core as a kick ass rock band, this is pretty darn cheesy. (31 points)

“Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco (1986) – Another artist who has since disappeared, Falco broke through in the States via other artists’ cover of his stuff, most notably “Der Komissar”. This is a song which is very much a time capsule of 1986 – I even remember the chorus from hearing it in grade school. Listening to it now, it does actually grow in stature though. It sits in the same sort of “time capsule” zone as things like dance crazes, The Macarena, Ray Stevens in the 70s. But it really is a superior version of 80s synth-pop. (36 points)

“Kiss” by Prince (1986) – And here we are, the first 50. Prince had four number ones in the 1980s, and surely the stuff from Purple Rain deserves its plaudits. “When Doves Cry” is a great song, with its amazing guitar and lack of a bass. “Kiss” on the other hand, is remarkably stripped down – almost perfect piece of minimalist funk. The lyrics are playful and sexy, and the riff is one of the most addictive in pop history. It’s one of the great songs of the Rock and Roll Era. (50 points)

“Jacob’s Ladder” by Huey Lewis and the News (1987) – Huey Lewis’ third and final number one, I barely remembered this song. Looking at it now, I still don’t remember it. It lacks the garage band or doo-wop sorts of elements which typified the band’s best work. Why did I type so much about this? (21 points)

“Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau (1987) – Along with P Diddy’s, “Public Enemy Number One”, this belongs on the rare air of worst covers ever made. That is gets any score at all comes from the strength of the Withers original, and how I pine for it after hearing this. (23 points)

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship (1987) – “Sara” is a better song. But this is a more memorable, and stupider video. Much like Chicago in the 1980s, the distance traveled from the band’s beginning to this point is astonishing, and hard to stomach. (26 points)

“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” by Aretha Franklin and George Michael (1987) – Another song I don’t really have a lot to add to. Both singers sound terrific here, and this is just a solid effort overall. It deserves its success. (34 points)

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley (1988) – Would this song have a high score without the Rickroll phenomenon? Probably not. But Rick Astley himself notes that it clearly has helped his work survive, and it is a good thing too. Is this clearly cheesy 80s Britpop? Heck yeah, but it is a very good example of it – it’s cheese does not detract from it’s ability to make me happy when I hear it. (38 points)

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (1988) – For a while, I thought this was the best single released from the Bad album. Heck, I can’t imagine being able to tell my children how real life, like real news, stopped for an album release – but that’s where Michael Jackson was when this album rolled off the shelves. This is still my favorite of the five #1s, although “Smooth Criminal” is clearly the best of the charting singles. (40 points)

“Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” by Billy Ocean (1988) – Everything about this makes me giggle: the ridiculous video, the starting command “Hey, you – get into my car” which reads as rather threatening now, and the song itself which is just a good piece of cheesy 80s popular RnB. (37 points)

“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston (1988) – A simpering Whitney Houston ballad – the silly video is not enough to redeem it even as kitsch. But it is clearly of a style which is chart catnip. (22 points)

“The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics (1989) – With this, Mike Rutherford became the third Genesis member to get to #1, one of only two bands to have produced such prolific solo work. (no points for figuring out the other band) This song about the difficulty of communication actually is kind of resonant – especially now as an old fogey. It’s a bit more somber than other stuff that hit in the decade – but unlike a lot of those entries, it’s actually fairly good. (30 points)

“Eternal Flame” by The Bangles (1989) – Oh, the rock ballad. The Bangles were not immune, though clearly doing this was not a consensus opinion. They broke up four months later. This is an okay song I guess – but the crass commercialness of it – hey, a ballad – and leaning into girly stuff which sells in our patriarchal cultural paradigm etc etc – ick! (30 points)

“The Look” by Roxette (1989) – Somewhere between the one-hit wonder, and the enduring superstars is something like Roxette. The Swedish duo’s shelf life was short (2 years?), but remarkably successful. This was their first US hit and (self evidently) their first #1. “Listen to Your Heart” has endured more just by the covers it has inspired, but this is a pretty good 80s song. I still like the hook a lot. (34 points)

“She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals (1989) – I think their The Raw and The Cooked (a terrific title) was the top selling album of 1989. This is a very hard song to forget because of Roland Gift’s falsetto throughout. It’s also a very hard song to get out of my head when it enters – although most of the time this reality is annoying. (30 points)

“Like A Prayer” by Madonna (1989) – We end the survey of the 80s through April with one of the biggest deals I can remember as a kid with pop music. Pepsi was sponsoring the launch of the video – and it was supposed to get this huge rollout, until the video itself appeared. Then, of course, with its religious imagery and such – Madonna was tempting derision from those who find derision professionally, as she often does. That said, the plundering of gospel here does make for a pretty good song – and a video which can poke various bears gets extra points anyway. (42 points)

Whew, the scoreboard through April.

Song Artist
1 Kiss Prince
2 Beat It Michael Jackson
3 Billie Jean Michael Jackson
4 Rock With You Michael Jackson
5 Father Figure George Michael
6 Jump Van Halen
7 Livin on a Prayer Bon Jovi
8 Down Under Men At Work
9 Faith George Michael
10 How Will I Know Whitney Houston
11 Like a Virgin Madonna
12 The Tide Is High Blondie
13 Centerfold J Geils Band
14 We Are the World USA For Africa
15 Like A Prayer Madonna
16 Rapture Blondie
17 Man in the Mirror Michael Jackson
18 Careless Whisper Wham featuring George Michael
19 Footloose Kenny Loggins
20 Walk Like an Egyptian Bangles
21 Karma Chameleon Culture Club
22 I Love Rock and Roll Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
23 Celebration Kool and the Gang
24 So Emotional Whitney Houston
25 Two Hearts Phil Collins
26 Need You Tonight INXS
27 Call Me Blondie
28 Never Gonna Give You Up Rick Astley
29 Every Rose Has Its Thorn Poison
30 My Prerogative Bobby Brown
31 Got My Mind Set on You George Harrison
32 Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car Billy Ocean
33 Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes
34 Maneater Darryl Hall and John Oates
35 Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2 Pink Floyd
36 Rock Me Amadeus Falco
37 Open Your Heart Madonna
38 The Way You Make Me Feel Michael Jackson
39 Say, Say, Say Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
40 9 to 5 Dolly Parton
41 Straight Up Paula Abdul
42 The Look Roxette
43 I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) Aretha Franklin and George Michael
44 That’s What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick
45 Physical Olivia Newton John
46 I Can’t Go For That Hall and Oates
47 Crazy Little Thing Called Love Queen
48 Africa Toto
49 Come on Eileen Dexy’s Midnight Runners
50 These Dreams Heart
51 The Living Years Mike and the Mechanics
52 At This Moment Billy Vera and the Beaters
53 She Drives Me Crazy Fine Young Cannibals
54 Eternal Flame The Bangles
55 Kyrie Mr. Mister
56 Shake You Down Gregory Abbott
57 Kiss Is On My List Hall and Oates
58 Keep on Loving You REO Speedwagon
59 I Love a Rainy Night Eddie Rabbitt
60 Lost in Your Eyes Debbie Gibson
61 Say You, Say Me Lionel Richie
62 Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now Starship
63 (Just Like) Starting Over John Lennon
64 Seasons Change Expose
65 Can’t Fight This Feeling REO Speedwagon
66 One More Night Phil Collins
67 I Want to Know What Love Is Foreigner
68 Escape (The Pina Colada Song) Rupert Holmes
69 Sara Starship
70 Lean on Me Club Nouveau
71 Baby, Come to Me Patti Austin and James Ingram
72 Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) Phil Collins
73 Where Do Broken Hearts Go Whitney Houston
74 Could’ve Been Tiffany
75 Do That To Me One More Time Captain and Tennille
76 Jacob’s Ladder Huey Lewis and the News
77 When I’m With You Sheriff
78 Please Don’t Go KC and the Sunshine Band