AD'S ULTIMATE 80'S TOP 50
It goes without saying that I hope everyone is keeping well and safe (and sane) during this difficult time for us all.
I’m not going to dwell on serious matters, I think we’ve all had enough of that. And to be honest, I wasn’t even sure whether to put a blog out there at this point in time, it seems so trivial, when there are much bigger issues going on in the world. It’s hard setting the right tone, and so easy to get it wrong. I’m not the most tactful person at the best of times!
However, that said, I keep seeing and hearing this expression, ‘A bit of light relief...’ being bandied about, especially on social media. And I think on the whole that has been a fantastic thing. I have certainly chuckled at some of the stuff I have been sent. What I’ve also loved is the dark humour and inventiveness this lockdown has brought out in people. I love that families and friends are doing online quizzes together for example (I love a quiz!), including emoji quizzes of band names or film titles, which I have received and compiled and sent myself. These are great fun!
Now, for those of you who do know me well, I guess you know I am mad about music and that I love compiling top 10s/20s/50s of my favourite things. Songs, albums, books, films etc. I actually agonise over this stuff (think the fab John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity) I’m such an idiot! I have also always loved compiling playlists of bands and artists. The only difference being that I used to do it on cassette tapes, now I do it on Spotify (other music service providers are available!).
I have also, I guess, become a bit synonymous with the 80’s and 80’s nostalgia. My two main novels are set in the 80’s, and it is my favourite decade for music, both pop and alternative/indie. I can’t get enough of those classic 80’s films either – The Lost Boys, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day off, Stand by Me, Weird Science etc. and have watched them over and over again.
So, with this in mind and for your entertainment, I have compiled my ultimate 80’s top 50 pop songs. And, trust me, this has been a long time in the making, not something that has been thrown together or put out there lightly! To nail it down to 50 songs was a nightmare!
Now, when I do these things – I’ll let you in on a little secret – I impose these strange rules and regulations on myself that sometimes even I don’t understand the rationale behind! For example, I wanted this top 50 to be what I would consider ‘pure 80’s pop’ (OK, hands up, admittedly, my tastes are always going to be a little darker than the average and in the main, more guitar-based). And when I say ‘pure pop’, I mean that Top of the Pops/school disco/80’s pop nostalgia vibe.
For example, I strictly haven’t allowed myself to include any of my favourite bands or artists, which are all pretty much considered ‘alternative’, despite being mainly at their peak during the 80’s – The Smiths, The Cure, Kate Bush, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, New Order, The Cult, REM etc. What was more 80’s than the Smiths or Kate Bush for Christ’s sake? But, no. Not allowed. Also, no album tracks that didn’t make the Top 40 and no Christmas songs either. But why would you even want a Christmas song in there, I hear you cry! Well, I happen to consider ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood two of the greatest 80’s songs ever – and both would have possibly made it onto this list. I also love The Flying Pickets acapella cover of ‘Only You’ – another 80’s Christmas-time number one. And, sshh, whisper it, but ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, too.
I know this list is going to drive you mad and be very controversial (maybe I’m being a bit ambitious as to how much interest anyone is actually going to show on this! Haha!). So, here are some noticeable absentees that I am fully aware of before you all start kicking off…
Absent Artists and Bands
Michael Jackson. What! How could I!? Sorry, even ‘Billie Jean’ (which would have been my top choice) didn’t sneak in.
Prince. ‘Purple Rain’/ ‘When Doves Cry’… I know!
Madness. Sorry ‘Nutty Boys’ fans, I know they were quintessential 80’s and so popular, but they never quite did it for me.
Eurythmics. No ‘Sweet Dreams’? Criminal!
I could go on… But this just hammers home for me how many artists the 80’s spawned, or were the heyday for some of the biggest hitters in pop history.
Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns n Roses. Arguably, one of the greatest songs of all time, but I just don’t associate it with the 80’s.
With or Without You – U2. Ditto with this song.
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman. Ditto with this song.
Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi. Just heard it too many bloody times! (plus I prefer my choice by New Jersey’s ‘Hair Metal’ rockers).
Don’t You Want Me Baby? – Human League. Arguably the most famous/popular 80’s song ever. Just not for me.
Take on Me – Aha
Vienna – Ultravox
Tainted Love – Soft Cell. Ditto with these songs.
Relax/Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Ditto with these songs by Frankie.
West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys. Classic 80’s. Fab song. Just not my fave by them.
OK, why so much Madonna, you may ask? Love her or hate her, for me she is the queen of pop and the greatest artist of the 80’s (pure pop, so I’m not including Kate Bush!) I honestly could have put up to ten songs by her in a top 50 80’s playlist, but forced myself to have no more than 4! Papa Don’t Preach, Material Girl, La Isla Bonita, Borderline, Live to Tell, Open Your Heart. I could go on…
It is the same with Cyndi Lauper, but to a lesser extent: Time After Time etc…and also with Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and Erasure. Fantastic 80’s bands, all with so many great hits to choose from.
If you are wondering what my absolute faves are, it is pretty much the first 10 songs in the left-hand column in that order. Only You by Yazoo is one of my top 5 songs of all time, never mind just 80’s. The rest of the playlist is in random order.
So, without further ado, here is the hallowed list…
Only You – Yazoo Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen Sometimes – Erasure
Crazy for You – Madonna Always on My Mind – Pet Shop Boys
Mad World – Tears for Fears Tell it To My Heart – Taylor Dayne
A Little Respect – Erasure The Motive – Then Jerico
Push It – Salt-N-Pepa You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
Like a Prayer – Madonna Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Come on Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners Rush Hour – Jane Wiedlin
Absolute Beginners – David Bowie Kayleigh - Marillion
Gold – Spandau Ballet Freedom – Wham!
Mickey – Toni Basil Like a Virgin – Madonna
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper Live it Up – Mental as Anything
Let’s Go All The Way – Sly Fox Sign Your Name – Terence Trent D’Arby
New Life – Depeche Mode True – Spandau Ballet
Addicted to Love – Robert Palmer You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) – Dead or Alive
New Sensation – INXS Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – Soft Cell
Manic Monday – The Bangles Poison – Alice Cooper
Hungry Eyes – Eric Carmen Into the Groove – Madonna
Kids in America – Kim Wilde Every Breath You Take – The Police
Kiss Me – Stephen ‘TinTin’ Duffy Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
Money For Nothing – Dire Straits Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads
Alone – Heart The Power of Love – Huey Lewis and The News
Gimme All Your Lovin’ – ZZ Top I Drove All Night – Cyndi Lauper
The Look of Love – ABC Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran
All Through the Night – Cyndi Lauper Super Trouper – Abba
I know, there’s no accounting for taste! I tried to keep the 🧀 (still can’t say that word in this context) to a minimum, I promise. And, woah! Wait a minute, Talking Heads are considered ‘alternative’. And as for Abba, they’re not an 80’s group, they’re 70’s! Well, both of those songs are 80’s hits, and are both in my top 50. I didn’t say I couldn’t bend my own rules!
Interestingly, looking at this list, it struck me (pleasingly) that these songs span the whole decade – from 1980 to 1989. They are all personal to me. This is my musical story of the 80’s…
What is yours?
Love Adam. x
PS…For those fellow music aficionados out there, here are a couple of pop trivia questions based on songs/artists in this top 50.
1. Bizarrely, in 1985, three different songs entitled ‘The Power of Love’ were in the UK Top Ten at different points. Two of them have already featured in this blog, but who was the other one by (a gorgeous song that so very nearly made it on here at number 52!)?
2. As mentioned, surprisingly, not a single hit by Prince made it on here with him as a singer. However, he was the songwriter of one of the hits on here. Do you know which one?
3. And for a bonus point… another Prince one… What other huge hit that just missed the 80’s by one month (Jan. 1990), sung by an Irish singer, was also penned by Prince?