August 2010


#94 – Midnight Oil – “Beds Are Burning” – (1987)

Midnight Oil is an Australian band – if you can’t quite place the weird accent at the beginning (or in the rest of) the song. This song, from Diesel and Dust, charted at #17 on the Hot 100 in the U.S. and it is their biggest hit and likely the only one most Americans know. The chorus is fairly well known, “How can we dance when our Earth is turning / How can we sleep while our beds are burning.”

#95 – Jan Hammer – “Crockett’s Theme” – (1987)

This song was originally released as a single in 1987. It didn’t even chart in the U.S. but hit #2 in the U.K. and stayed #1 for a month in the Netherlands. This international success led Mr. Hammer to include the track on his 1988 album Escape from Television. This song reminds me of Miami Vice more than the show’s actual theme song does. Every time I hear this I can immediately picture Crockett & Tubbs running through Michael Mann’s no-earth-tones dream world. This is one of a handful of songs that actually define the entire decade for me. I’m not quite sure why it’s so low on this list. And don’t hold me to it, but I’m pretty sure this is the only instrumental track on the list.

#96 – ABC – “Poison Arrow” – (1982)

I really enjoy the title of this album, The Lexicon of Love. I’m not sure why. I also really enjoy this song. I think I know why: new wave! This was ABC’s first charting single in the U.S. and it made it to #25. Listen to how the song builds from the point where he starts going “Who broke my heart?” to the point where he starts singing “Shoot that poison arrow…” I love it.

#97 – Yello – “Oh Yeah” – (1985)

Yes, this is the closing song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – one of the best movies of the 80s. This song is mostly electronic beats and synthesized vocals (think T-Pain of 25 years ago). Except there really aren’t much in the way of lyrics to think of other than “The moon… beautiful.” It’s just mostly “chick-a chick-a.” This song only hit #51 on the Hot 100 but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on the radio. Whenever I do hear it, it is usually to the video of Mr. Rooney getting awkwardly onto the school bus at the end of the movie.

#98 – The Clash – “Rock the Casbah” – (1982)

This is the Clash’s best work. It was their highest charting single as well: hitting number 8 on the Hot 100. The lyrics are wonderful: “By order of the prophet / We ban that boogie sound / Degenerate the faithful / With the crazy Casbah sound.” Every verse is full of fun lyrics and words that are either Arabic or Hebrew or whatever in origin. It’s just a fun song.

#99 – Rod Stewart – “Young Turks” – (1981)

Ah, Rod Stewart back when he was still releasing new and original music instead of his semi-annual cover albums full of songs like “Proud Mary” and whatnot. The 1970s Rod Stewart was more of a rocker with a raspy voice. This kicked off the Rod Stewart of the 1980s and 90s who went the more pop route and eventually tried to become a crooner. “Young Turks” almost feels like something from Flashdance with its happening beat. It’s interesting to note that this was the first music video to feature break dancing – for whatever that’s worth.

#100 – Kim Carnes – “Bette Davis Eyes” – (1981)

Kim Carnes’ rough and raspy voice proved just the right thing to take this Jackie DeShannon song to number one in 1981. It was there for nine weeks and it won two big Grammys: song and record of the year. Who would have ever thought a song about Bette Davis would become so popular 30+ years after her prime. I’d be willing to bet that, when the song came out – as well as now – more people know who Bette Davis is because of this song than from her performance in classic movies such as All About Eve. I’d also be willing to bet that more people know this song than know who Kim Carnes is.

Top 100 Songs of the 1980s

So I said we’d be back with another countdown – a shorter countdown – and we are. It’s half as long – and half as labor-intensive – as our 90s countdown and the rules have changed. This time around we made room for one (1) song per artist. So if a band had 5 great songs during the 80s, only one of them is going to make this list. Sorry, Genesis. Also, the songs have been selected based on their “80s-ness.” In other words, when you close your eyes and think of the 1980s, hopefully these are the songs that play in the background of your Miami Vice fantasy. The countdown starts tomorrow. New posts every weekday morning. Enjoy.

There is a flute or some such jazzy instrument at play here that gives off a really cool vibe. The lyrics are kind of wavy and match the tempo of music quite well. Sure, the lyrics sound like they are kind of just repeated over and over but they’re not (I don’t know what this says about Randy Bachman’s songwriting in this particular case). This was not the biggest hit for The Guess Who (not even close) but it still gets some rotation on classic rock stations every now and again and deservedly so, as there are much worse songs that get much more airplay. The album is Canned Wheat from 1969.

Lyrical Sample:

“She’s come undun

She wanted truth but all she got was lies

Came the time to realize

And it was too late.”