Top 10 '80s Pop Songs

This is one of our favorite topics of discussion at NPR Music: What was the worst and best decade for pop music? We'll post a survey later asking you what you think, but I say the worst is the '80s.

For me, the production and instrumentation in the '80s ruined popular music. I'm referring specifically to Top 40 songs you could hear on the radio. It was so over-the-top. The production was gaudy, with hard-edged synths and electric drums overpowering the melodies. Part of the problem was that these were fairly new instruments, and we hadn't learned how to finesse them yet.

My dislike of '80s pop music has earned me a reputation among friends as a cranky killjoy who just doesn't get it. But, as with all cranky killjoys, the truth is that I secretly loved a number of songs from back then, but never would have admitted as much.

Here are the Top 10 '80s pop songs I secretly loved. When they came on the car radio, I'd roll up the windows so no one would hear and then crank the volume.

In no particular order:

1. "Head Over Heels" by Tears for Fears, from the 1985 album Songs from the Big Chair

I remember getting into an argument in my high-school cafeteria with someone who asserted that Tears for Fears was one of the greatest bands ever, but there's some great tension in this song. It builds with a sweeping synth solo at about the 1:30 mark, and peaks with what I thought was a pretty awesome phase-shifting drum fill at 2:45.

2. "Life in a Northern Town" by The Dream Academy from the band's self-titled 1985 debut

I never knew what this song was about, but it always got me a little misty-eyed. It really takes me back hearing it now.

3. "Too Much Time on My Hands" by Styx from the 1981 album Paradise Theater

I played keyboards in a cover band in high school, and this was one of my favorite songs to do. One year, we performed for the high-school Christmas dance. At one point, while jamming that opening synth line, I looked out into the audience and saw someone breakdancing. I really thought we'd made it.

4. "Close (to the Edit)" by The Art of Noise, from the 1984 album Who's Afraid of The Art of Noise?

This is a brilliant video. But it was the bluesy bass line and quirky industrial samples used for beats that made me fall in love. I searched around to see where the little girl in the video is now, but didn't find anything.

5. "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield, from his 1981 album Working Class Dog

This is probably my most embarrassing confession, but this does have a really catchy guitar line and melody. I fell in love with it again after it appeared in the film Boogie Nights.

6. "Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Peter Schilling, from his 1983 album Error in the System

I believe that this was conceived as some sort of a sequel to David Bowie's "Major Tom." It's got an incredibly cheesy synth line driving it. But there was something addictive about the melody, and the chorus — kicked off with the 4-3-2-1 countdown — was a favorite sing-along of mine.

7. "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby, from the 1982 album The Golden Age of Wireless

This may be my favorite pop song from the '80s. It's funny, catchy, funky, strange. Thomas Dolby never had another hit like it — though he continues to make records — but he did go on to develop software used to encode and play Internet audio. He also came up with a company that makes synthesizers for cell phones and software to manage ringtones. A real scientist!

8. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by The Eurythmics from the 1983 album of the same name

Another great bass line. And I love Annie Lennox's voice. The song and video both have a fantastic darkness to them that I never would have guessed was a theme I'd love. But now, looking back and looking over the kind of music I like today, I can see the connections.

9. "99 Luftballoons" by Nena, released in 1983

I had to play a version of this song in high-school pep band, which you'd think would have ruined it for me. But for some reason, it could always make me drive my car faster.

10. "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red from the 1985 album Picture Book

This is basically smooth jazz, so I should have hated it, but I didn't. I still love it today. Mick Hucknall had (probably still has) a beautiful voice, and there was a nice wistfulness to the song I really connected with.

What are yours?



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Mister Mister, "Broken Wings." I got SO stupidly excited whenever it came on the radio.

Sent by Hilary | 4:19 PM | 8-15-2008

(Robin) I agree with you 100% on the 80s being the worst decade for pop music (and those were my formative years). I also agree that Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" is awesome.

However, even more awesome, and still in heavy rotation on my running iPod, is the Go-Go's "Head Over Heels".

And I don't know if Guns-n-Roses counts as pop music, but "Sweet Child O' Mine" is impossible to dismiss as well. (GNR's original version, not the completely emasculated Sheryl Crow monstrosity).

Sent by Sheila | 4:30 PM | 8-15-2008

I could argue in favor of many great 80s bands and songs... but here's one I really love that doesn't get a lot of respect due to it's 'one hit wonder' status: Big Country's "In A Big Country" from The Crossing.

I didn't grow up with this song (I was two when it came out), so I don't know how annoying this song probably became if it really was played on the radio all the time. But I've always found the song, and especially the chorus and great guitar hooks, incredibly catchy and memorable. It's just a perfectly constructed pop song.

Sent by Mike Katzif, NPR | 5:10 PM | 8-15-2008

I painfully agree with you for the most part, although there's nothing in this world that's going to convince me to give Rick Springfield a shout out. And I had my fair share of bad singles (I grew up in Canada in the 80's. You think it was bad in the States? You didn't have to deal with Gowan and Platinum Blonde). But what I remember was full albums. And I remember the album that gave me the most pause in the 80's. Prince's Purple Rain. Sure, it's recognized as genius now, but I remember secretly taping it off a girl friend and using hieroglyphs that I developed just for its label so no one would recognize it in my tape collection.
As for the music from the 80's that I still love and probably never should have? Well, Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome still strikes me as the best pop album of all time. And there's always been something about Rebel Yell that's really turned my crank. Go figure.

Sent by David McLean | 8:21 PM | 8-15-2008

The eighties, the era of videos was about the visuals not the music - with a special emphasis on the haircuts in the visuals.!But the last 10 years were worse music for me.

Sent by Tom Hendricks | 10:24 PM | 8-15-2008

According to that fount of Wisdom and Accuracy, Wikipedia, "Life in A Northern Town" was a tribute to Nick Drake.

Funny, but even as a twelve year old in the 80's, I still got a sense of nostalgia from that song. Oh, and the Winter of 1963 was one of the coldest on record for England. I though it was reference to the Cold War, but I was wrong.

I did grow up with it, and I still love Big Country's "In a Big Country", and have it on my iPod. I also have "Fields of Fire" as well.

Sent by racerabbit | 10:58 PM | 8-15-2008

I'm totally with you on Big Country. There is a song on the most recent Sunset Rubdown record called "The Taming of the Hands" that comes close to "In a Big Country" in anthemic tone and ambition and massiveness. I'm stubbornly longing for Sunset Rubdown to go full circle and cover Big Country as an encore.

Sent by Spitzer | 5:44 PM | 8-16-2008

I disagree on the 80s being the crappiest decade for music. Its a decade that gave us

The Clash early 80's:
1980 Sandinista!
1982 Combat Rock

All he best REM:
# Murmur (1983)
# Reckoning (1984)
# Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
# Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)
# Document (1987)
# Green (1988)

Huscker Du, Sonic Youth Peter Gabriel .....

If you look for crap you'll find it, if you look for quality you'll find it too. For some reason crap rises to the top of popularity in any decade, these in the 80's, Disco in the 70's, Perry Como in the 60s (sorry Perry).

I always thought that music in my high school years (75-78) was crappy, but it was only the AM pop music, since there was late Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Santana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band. You just have to look elsewhere foe good music.

Sent by Steve | 7:43 PM | 8-16-2008

The 80s was a great decade for pop music because it produced such weird, oddball hits:

-"The Safety Dance"
-Weird Al Yankovic, "Fat"
-Gary Numan, "Cars" mention a few. None of these could become hits in today's popular music environment! (also see Thomas Dolby above)

Sent by Steve Nelson | 4:39 AM | 8-17-2008

'tis a fine'll always be hard to make one that everyone can agree on.

Sent by hmd1987 | 3:27 PM | 8-17-2008

I really get into INXS' - "Never Tear Us Apart", punctuated by that driving rhythm. "Don't dream it's over" by Crowded House is also an interesting 80's pop song. Who uses the the lyric "deluge" in a pop song and gets away with it?!

Sent by Mary E. | 5:51 PM | 8-17-2008

My secret loves are all from the 90's (I was born in 89) I must admit, Boyz II Men, Goo Goo Dolls, ABBA, and the Hairspray soundtrack, are all big loves of mine. Then again, I balance out things like hairspray with my extensive Tom Waits collection. Life is all about balance, right?

Sent by Jeff C. | 6:29 PM | 8-17-2008

These are some of the obvious ones to me. Although My favorites from these artists usually dont fall into the singles category. These songs definitly had a large influence on me and my tastes when I was growing up...

Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence
Nine Inch Nails - Head Like A Hole
Ministry - Every Day is Halloween
The Cure - Close to me
Front 242 - Headhunter
U2 - With or Without you
New Order - Bizzare Love Triangle
The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peek-A-Boo
Sisters of Mercy - This Corrosion

Sent by Dave Pelletier | 12:50 PM | 8-18-2008

HOW on earth did I forget!

Burning down the house by the talking heads!

Sent by Dave Pelletier | 12:52 PM | 8-18-2008

The problem I have with music from the '80's has to do with production value. Too many trite studio sounds that both date the music and lessen the quality of the recorded song. That said, a lot of great songs came from artists like: XTC, U2, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, etc. And those are just the big guns! Thank God for the UK.

Sent by Michael | 1:56 PM | 8-18-2008

A couple of posts agreed that the 80s were the worst decade for pop music, but I didn't get that from Robin's blog. I got that 80s production values hurt pop music.

Production values notwithstanding, the 80s are arguably the greatest decade for pop music (not album oriented, but pop music--hit singles that crossed all genre).

Sure you had the mega-sellers like Michael Jackson, the Police, U2, Prince and Springsteen who all had terrific hit-laden albums, but Mtv ushered in a whole host of left of the dial groups that made music that spoke to my generation. We were no longer encumbered by my older brother's and cousin's music - this was music that was new and ours.

See Talk Talk It's my life
Naked Eyes Something to Remind me
REM So. Central Rain
Police Every Little thing she Does is magic
Psych Furs Ghost in You & Love My Way
the Fixx - ONe thing leads 2 Another
the Clash - Rock the Casbah
English Beat - Save it for later/I Confess
The Style council - my ever changing moods
The The - This is the day
Tears for Fears - Mad World

So many more...

Sent by Ed | 3:47 PM | 8-18-2008

The Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" should definitely be represented... "Once in a Lifetime" is the obvious favorite, but I love the whole album.

Sent by Sara | 4:01 PM | 8-18-2008

When I think of the 80s, I think of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven", The Smith's "Girlfriend in a Coma", and lots of Elton John songs, and even more songs by Phil Collins.

Sent by Rob | 4:07 PM | 8-18-2008

Also, Joe Jackson. Don't forget him.

Sent by Rob | 4:09 PM | 8-18-2008

This seems something as a corollary to the recent "sound of a generation" discussion. I'd imagine most of us GenX types will take serious offense to your slagging our decade. As Steve notes above in the comments, "if you look for crap, you'll find it" and namechecks some iconic bands like REM and Husker Du came from the 80s.

There are albums from the 80s that are 20-25 years old that still sound fresh today and no one has come close to the originality of the sound and lyrics. "Black Celebration," "So," "Strangeways, Here We Come," "Ocean Rain," "Days of Wine and Roses," a certain Big Black album whose title probably isn't fit for the NPR web site, "Fables of the Reconstruction" etc.

Your list of top pop songs is on both sides of fence separating the good 80s and cheeseball 80s, in my opinion. Eurythmics, Art of Noise and Tears for Fears were very good to great, but "Major Tom," "99 Luftballons" and Styx?!?! Surely you can't be serious.

There was a ton of great music in the '80s. But I was referring specifically to stuff you heard on Top 40 radio stations. Your fellow Gen-xer, rh

Sent by Tim F. | 4:09 PM | 8-18-2008

Wow. So many great ones. I think some of these have been mentioned, but here goes anyway:

The Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel Of Love
Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over
XTC - King For A Day
Tears For Fears - Head Over Heels
Eurythmics - Would I Lie To You?
Duran Duran - New Moon On Monday
Echo & The Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar
David & David - Welcome To The Boomtown
U2 - Pride

Sent by Jalyn Henton | 4:10 PM | 8-18-2008

Man, this has just opened the floodgates. A few that come to mind:

Prefab Sprout - "When Love Breaks Down"
OMD- "Souvenir"
The English Beat - "I Confess"
The Waterboys - "The Whole of the Moon"
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions - "Are you ready to be Heartbroken"
XTC - "Mayor of Simpleton"
China Crisis - "Arizona Sky"
The The - "The Beat(en) Generation"
The Cure - "Close to Me"
The Bolshoi - "Sunday Morning"

and oh so many many more...

Sent by Elmo | 4:24 PM | 8-18-2008

Blancmange - Living on the Ceiling

Sent by Julia | 5:29 PM | 8-18-2008

Even though the 80's may lack the political or groundbreaking significance of the 60's, it is still my favorite decade of music purely for the reason that it had such diversity. Whether it was new wave music, some disco, "corporate rock", college rock, power pop, hair metal, beginning of hip-hop, rap, hard rock at the end of the decade, I loved it all.

It's easy to pick the "cool" songs of the 80's, but how about the songs you shouldn't love, but do. My 10 top ten list of "uncool" songs of the 80's that I love to listen to are:

10.Just Like (Starting Over) - John Lennonn
9.Out of Touch - Daryl Hall
8.Ghostbusters - Ray Parker, Jr.
7.The Tide Is High - Blondie
6.Sweet Dreams - Eurythmics
5.Africa - Toto
4.What Have I Done To Deserve This? Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield
3.Like a Prayer - Madonna
2. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me - Culture Club
1. Say, Say, Say - by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney - super cheese song, but from two of the biggest acts of all time, it's hard to get it out of your head!

Sent by Tony | 5:46 PM | 8-18-2008

This was strange! The only song of the ten I knew was the Eurythmics 'Sweet Dreams', so I only listened to two others because of the description he gave. And both of them turned out to be by British groups! It is no wonder he doesn't really understand the song about a northern would have to have lived in similar circumstances in Britain in that era to know how it feels. Nevertheless, the atmosphere comes across...and then 'I'll Keep Holding On...'...smooth, but not jazz! I am, if you hadn't guessed, an ex-pat Brit from that era.
And my favourite decade was the sixties, anything by the Beatles, lots by the Who, the Stones, the Searchers, the Shadows...too many to name.

Sent by Hilary Cox | 6:34 PM | 8-18-2008

I'm utterly over the moon for the 80s. Having been born in 1980, I obviously have nostalgia on my side, but all the same, I think most people who dismiss the 80s as a musical wasteland are just put off by the era's dominant production techniques (with the most salient example being the rise of the synthesizer and wane of the guitar). We're still very much under the spell of Nirvana, I think, and as such tend to view keyboards askance. This ideology is not lost on me, and honestly I do find the decade's punk and post-punk offerings (Mission of Burma, Sonic Youth, Pixies, New Order, Minutemen) overall more nourishing. But I'm not going to get into that here. Let's talk pop.

Here are my top ten radio hits of the 80s:

1. U2: With or Without You
2. Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time
3. Michael Jackson: Billie Jean
4. The Police: Every Breath You Take
5. Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime
6. The Police: Wrapped Around Your Finger
7. Tears for Fears: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Head Over Heels gets an honorable mention; this one to me is the real classic)
8. The Cure: Just Like Heaven
9. Phil Collins: In the Air Tonight
10. a-ha: Take On Me

Sent by Will | 6:39 PM | 8-18-2008

Here are my favorites, confining it to ten:

Every Breath You Take -- The Police
Dancing in the Dark -- Springsteen
With or Without You -- U2
Time After Time -- Cyndi Lauper
Drive -- the Cars
Don't Dream It's Over -- Crowded House
Missing You -- John Waite
Don't Get Me Wrong -- the Pretenders
Sweet Dreams -- the Eurythmics
Don't You Forget About Me -- Simple Minds
Red Red Wine -- UB40

Sent by Jane | 7:23 PM | 8-18-2008

By the time I graduated ('90), pop music had been reduced to the likes of C&C Music Factory and hairbands. But growing up when Casey Kasem's American Top 40 was all the rage, there were some decent tunes that are still ok today. My personal overplayed faves are:

Sting - Fortress Around Your Heart
Don Henley - Boys of the Summer
Genesis - Illegal Alien
REM - The One I Love
U2 - Still Haven't Found...
and of course,
Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar on Me

Sent by Nate | 7:55 PM | 8-18-2008

There were a lot of great singles in the 80's but not very many great Pop albums. Most of them seemed to have 1-2 great sons and a whole lot of filler.

Some memorable songs that shaped (and warped) my youth during the 80's were:

She Blinded me with Science - Thomas Dolby
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight - Genesis.
Pump up the Volume - M|A|R|R|S
Hot for Teacher - Van Halen
Burning Down the House - Talking Heads
Pull My Strings - Dead Kennedys
King of Pain - The Police
Money for Nothing - Dire Straits
Rock the Casbah - The Clash
Thriller - Michael Jackson (I can't believe this didn't make anyone's list!)

Sure a few aren't exactly Pop music, but they were recorded in the right decade.

Sent by Andrew Bouc | 8:11 PM | 8-18-2008

I must admit that I loved all things INXS in the 80's. Still do.

But shamefully, I also loved the song,
"Betty Davis Eyes" By Kim Carnes

I still love "Rock with You" by Michael Jackson. Ahhh. The 80's...

Sent by Monica | 9:58 PM | 8-18-2008

My library includes at least one from these artists using the "gaudy sound":

Kate Bush
David Sylvian
Peter Gabriel
Robert Palmer
Adrian Belew
Lionel Richie
Steve Winwood (so not him)

For the Hall of Fame, I vote to include "I Dream of Sheep" by Bush and "Red Rain" by Gabriel.

Sent by David Armes | 2:42 AM | 8-19-2008

Oh shoot! I forgot "Perfect Way" by Scritti Politti.

Sent by Jalyn Henton | 8:38 AM | 8-19-2008

I have to disagree with your condemnation of the '80s. True, many artists were trying to use technology that they didn't understand yet, but musically, there was much more risk and musicality than most of today's pop music. The variety of music from punk to pop was much more diverse than what is out there now. Without the 80's, the whole Indie and Subpop movements would have been taken as abrasive and forced. I for one think that the 80's were a great decade for music and a transitional decade that brought us to where we are now.
Ten of my favorites:
Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (ALL tracks recorded in stereo)
Alan Parsons Project
Thomas Dolby
Men At Work
Tears for Fears

Sent by Mark | 9:36 AM | 8-19-2008

Definitely not the 10 best songs, but my picks for 10 of the best random songs of the '80s:

Screaming Blue Messiahs -- Wild Blue Yonder
U2 -- Celebration
INXS -- Don't Change
Replacements -- Alex Chilton
Missing Persons -- Walking in LA
English Beat -- Too Nice To Talk To
Roxy Music -- Oh Yeah
Mission To Burma -- Revolver
Police -- Driven to Tears
Simple Minds -- The American

Sent by Worldwide Viking | 10:23 AM | 8-19-2008

in no particular order:

- "A New England," Billy Bragg
- "Beds are Burning," Midnight Oil
- "Sunday Bloody Sunday," U2
- "The Mayor of Simpleton," XTC
- "Devil Inside," INXS
- "Love and Mercy," Brian Wilson
- "Can U Dig It," PWEI
- "Uncomplicated," Elvis Costello
- "Brass Monkey," The Beastie Boys
- "Our House," Madness

Sent by Mac Coldwell | 11:02 AM | 8-19-2008

Top 40 Pop music.. comparing crap to crap. You're saying Top 40 70's music was better? You must be nuts. Glam and Disco is the best thing out of the 70's and I doubt you were a fan. You smell like an Eagles or a Clapton fan. pure garbage.

The 80's brought romanticism to pop music (Tears for Fears and OMD are great examples... The Cure! New Order, etc)which is a major contribution to post-modern sound of the 90's. Emo/punk rock emerging and pagan influenced techno.... not top 40 90's..

Keeping the decades constrained to Top 40 makes this a worthless discussion.

Sent by daniel | 11:03 AM | 8-19-2008

I'm enjoying the debate here as to "what qualifies as pop." I think it's any music popular in the mass market. Rap, in other words, can be pop.

As to the topic at hand...
10) "Sewing the Seeds of Love" by Tears for Fears. This is epic pop and in many ways the last cry of that wonderful synthetic produced within an inch of it's life music that dominated the charts in the 80's before everything got grungy and stripped down.
9) "Beat it" by Michael Jackson.
8) "Missionary Man" by the Eurythmics.
7) "Master of Puppets" by Metallica.
6) "Up on the Sun" by The Meat Puppets.
5) "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant.
4) "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins.
3) "Party at Ground Zero" by Fishbone.
2) "Pretty in Pink" by The Psychedelic Furs.
1) "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen. Everything you need to know about the 80's is wrapped up in that song and the country's reaction to it.

Sent by Eric L | 2:52 PM | 8-19-2008

Crowded House "Don't Dream It's Over" will always be one of my stranded on a desert island songs.

Yes, that's a great one, too. - rh

Sent by Andie Reid | 4:28 PM | 8-19-2008

Ditto to "Beds Are Burning," "Don't Dream It's Over," "Lips Like Sugar," "Our House," and "In a Big Country." And thank you for reminding me of "Life In a Northern Town."

I would also add "Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins, and how about "88 Lines About 44 Women" by Nails?

Sent by Gerald Burris | 7:00 PM | 8-19-2008

For pop music I agree that the 80's took a turn for the worse, but each decade since has continued this trend...bland product...form over substance...great looking pop stars with music as a by-product...very unfortunate.

Sent by Kronkaphone | 2:14 PM | 8-20-2008

There was so much to love and hate about the 80s. But i think we really can all agree to hate Huey Lewis and the News, can't we?

Sent by CWOODS | 5:00 PM | 8-20-2008

I think you make a great case for 10 worst videos rather than songs. (except art of noise, a video ahead of its time). I think the MTV brought down the production values as video began to supplant the importance of the music itself.

Sent by Lou Ann | 1:52 AM | 8-21-2008

I feel like the 80's started well and ended badly. Like it is hard to compare 1982 to 1989 and think you are in the same decade. 1984 was also a pretty good year. But I am hard pressed to remember much coming out in 1988-89 that I really liked. In 1989, I remember hair metal bands, Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli on Top 40 radio, where in 1984 you were hearing Simple Minds, Duran Duran, OMD, the Police and U2 in the top 40. So yes, hit radio sort of took a nose dive back then. I am not sure it has ever recovered.

Sent by Jeff P | 4:57 PM | 8-21-2008

No one has slammed the 90's yet! Overblown, super-synthsized hip-hop and pop music. Look at Billboard Top 10 for 1990-99 and you'll find a lot of crap.

Sent by Lisa | 10:11 AM | 8-22-2008

I got very curious about Major Tom after you mentioned it in your list. After realizing I-tunes only had a German version and doing some research about that, I stumbled across an even worse video of the song being performed live in German. Peter Schilling is obviously in love with his own melody (parts of it are transcendent, I agree). It is very Devo-esque. (I wonder if this was pre-Devo or post-Devo?) I laughed out loud as I watched it. (youtube)

Sent by Lou ann | 1:25 AM | 8-23-2008

I was a big fan of the British New Wave sound, and no band did it better than Squeeze. Their entire catalog (save a few overproduced oddities) was classic. Difford and Tilbrook were great songwriters. Tempted and Black Coffee in Bed are but the tip of a very big iceberg.

Sent by Cheryl | 7:49 PM | 8-24-2008

Wasn't "Everybody wants to Rule the World" the best Tears for Fears Tune? It's the only one I remember liking and the guitar part rocks. Also, I loved the inclusion of "99 LuftBalloons" but the German version is so much better. What about The Cure, The Police, and didn't Achtung Baby by U2 come out in the 80's--oops 1991.

Also there was some artist that didn't pursue the synth dance sound that produced some great work. I was going to mention Neil Young, but then....And if we are taking about "that" sound, shouldn't Wham be on the list?

I think you mean Wham! with an exclamation mark. For me it's "Head Over Heels" all the way. But honestly, they were a great band with a lot of great songs. -- rh

Sent by Niklas Andersson | 5:10 PM | 8-28-2008

I am late joining these comments, but feel quite passionately about:

Whole of the Moon - The Waterboys
Once in a Lifetime - Talking Heads
Don't Get Me Wrong - Pretenders
In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
Close to Me - Cure
Boy in the Bubble - Paul Simon
Joey - Concrete Blonde
Great Southern Land - Ice House
Love witll tear us apart - Joy Division

Keeping in mind that I was aged 2 - 12 during the 80s...

So how did you come to this music later? - rh

Sent by Harriet | 9:22 PM | 8-28-2008

It wasn't later! My dad helped my buy all those albums when I was small and we'd dance around the living room to them (Graceland still makes me dance in living rooms)

After that he introduced me to the 70s, which inspired me even more. So by then I'd bypassed the first half of the 90s, and came in at the release of The Bends, aged 15. Which suited me perfectly!

Sent by Harriet | 10:48 PM | 8-28-2008

just about anything by 'Shriekback'. See the movie 'Manhunter' and listen...not to Iron Butterfly, but to some of the other cuts. They released maybe 6 albums in total and there are 'Best of' cd compilatins.

Sent by JT | 3:09 AM | 9-3-2008

Cool! I had no idea the "Hey!" sample in Prodigy's "Firestarter" was from the Art of Noise.

Sent by Nick | 12:58 PM | 9-3-2008

Life in a Northern Town references heavily the north of England. Basically Britain's industrial rust belt, at a time of steady decline. A period Nick Drake lived through.
Although oddly, Nick Drake was in fact from the south.
I suppose it could be strictly interpretted as a tribute to him, but not about him.
The English video features Manchester. As i understand it, the American version has parts of industrial US.

Sent by Brendan | 12:26 PM | 9-4-2008

I'm listening to the song "Here I Stand and Face the Rain" by A-ha at the moment... wow. If only their songs had escaped the 80s production trap, this would be a band more highly regarded-- excellent songwriting.

Sent by J. Rob | 12:02 AM | 9-10-2008

one song ---

DJ Sven and MC Miker - the holiday rap

Sent by 0dizzzzel | 3:30 PM | 9-12-2008

"Only You" by Yaz, aka Yazoo

Sent by Laurence | 12:50 PM | 9-16-2008

U2 - Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Police - De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da
Police - Message In A Bottle
Police - Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Police - Every Breath You Take
Prince - Little Red Corvette
Prince - Purple Rain
Sting - We'll Be Together
Sting - Fragile
Michael Jackson - Beat It
Bruce Springsteen - Born In The USA
Bruce Springsteen - Tougher Than The Rest

For me, the 80s were defined musically by U2, The Police, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Springsteen. Everybody else was just trying to pump themselves up to be as huge as these acts, hence the overproduced crap we tend to think of when we generalize about 80s pop/rock. True, R.E.M. made some good music, Tears for Fears, Aimee Mann, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, Clapton, the Stones, and even Dylan managed to pull out a few decent songs from in the low ebb of his career. But in terms of doing something new and influencing other musicians, I think U2 made the greatest single album (The Joshua Tree), Sting and The Police had the broadest range of great individual songs, and Prince and Michael Jackson brought a brand new bag of r&b into pop. And Springsteen dominated the mid-'80s as he began to mature in a way few rock & roll artists ever do.

I have spoken. What was the question?

Sent by Jim Howard | 6:34 PM | 9-16-2008

Oh, and I forgot Peter Gabriel. The album with "Solsbury Hill" is from around '77 or '78, but anticipates some of the overproduced '80s music referenced in comments here--especially that muddy version of "Here Comes the Flood," a truly great song (a better version came in the '80s on *Shaking the Tree*). The early '80s gave us "Shock the Monkey," which is far from the best song on an album that first stuns you with "Rhythm of the Heat" and then slays you with "San Jacinto." A few years later, "In Your Eyes" becomes maybe the most iconic movie soundtrack moment ever, and "Sledgehammer" redefines music video. When I think about it, I can't believe I left Peter Gabriel off the list.

Or Paul Simon, whose two best albums are from the '80s: *Graceland* (I'd nominate "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" for top ten songs of the decade) and *The Rhythm of the Saints* ("The Obvious Child," "Proof," "Born at the Right Time").

Or Tom Waits. Is there a place in this pop-oriented discussion for the astounding *Swordfishtrombones* and *Rain Dogs* albums? "Downtown Train" and "Time" from the latter, and just about everything from the former. Popular, no. Mindblowing, yes.

And I would also like to mention XTC's "Mayor of Simpleton" and The English Beat's "Save It For Later."

Thanks for shaking the memories loose. I wouldn't have said so before, but a lot of my favorite music was made in the '80s.

Sent by Jim Howard | 10:13 PM | 9-16-2008

1. Journey - Don't Stop Believing
2. REM - It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
3. U2 - With or Without You
4. The Cure - Close to Me
5. a-ha - Take on Me
6. Madness - Our House
7. Devo - Whip It
8. Soft Cell - Tainted Love
9. Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come on Eileen
10. Fine Young Cannibals - She Drives Me Crazy.

Sent by Ross | 10:23 AM | 9-22-2008