September 2010

#72 – Richard Marx – “Right Here Waiting” – (1989)

Check out the cover art of Repeat Offender. Richard Marx looks like a cross between John Cougar Mellencamp and Billy Ray Cyrus. Cheap shots at his appearance aside, Richard Marx was a Billboard powerhouse near the end of the 80s. “Right Here Waiting” was his third #1 single on the Hot 100. Power ballads were just hitting their maximum worst at about this time and this one really avoids most of the clichés. It’s way more soft rock and adult contemporary – which is its saving grace. It was his final #1 (is it safe to assume he’s done?) but certainly not his last hit.

#73 – Glass Tiger – “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” – (1986)

This was the first single from Canadian band Glass Tiger. It was also their biggest, hitting #1 in Canada and #2 in the United States. The band’s debut album, The Thin Red Line was produced by Bryan Adams’ songwriting partner and Bryan Adams sings background vocals on this track (by this time he as a big star in his own right, so I find it kind of odd that he’d agree to back up a completely unknown band). But he did, the song was a hit, and everyone forgot that he was even there to begin with.

#74 – Loverboy – “Working for the Weekend” – (1981)

“Working for the Weekend” is an upbeat pop rock song from the otherwise Canadian hard rock band Loverboy. The song has popped up all over the place. The Todd dances to it during air band tryouts on “Scrubs” – wearing what I can only assume are the same pants featured on the cover of Loverboy’s 1981 album Get Lucky. It’s featured in a pretty funny scene from the Adam Sandler movie Click. Most famously, perhaps, it was used in the famous Chippendales sketch on “Saturday Night Live” where Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley dance to it (I can’t find the video).

#75 – Dire Straits – “Money for Nothing” – (1985)

Check out the video for this. How ahead of its time was that? 3-D computer animation in 1985? Yeah. Anyway, the single version of this song is about 4 minutes shorter than the album cut. It mostly gets get of the extended beginning, and I have to recommend the album version. Mark Knopfler wrote the lyrics in an electronics store, which is the source of the electronics store-based lyrics. He also wrote down some of the things that the guy working there was saying about MTV that was playing on the TVs. This is the source of some of the “controversial” lyrics. Apparently, repeating something someone else said because it makes for one hell of a catchy song makes you either racist or sexist or homophobic. This song went to #1 in the U.S. and Sting received songwriting credit for coming up with the line “I want my MTV.”

#76 – Sergio Mendes – “Never Gonna Let You Go” – (1983)

How Sergio Mendes ended up with a #4 hit with this song is really strange. It was written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. It was recorded by Dionne Warwick the year before he released it. And he doesn’t do any of the singing – that’s done by Joe Pizzulo and Leza Miller (that’s an above-average number of “Z”s even for two people). Apparently, Mendes chose to “do” this song, whatever it was that he did – bandleader? – because he wanted to change the pace of the album up, as in slow it down. Regardless of its muddled origins, it’s a pretty good example of 80s roaring pop ballad type songs.

#77 – The Human League – “Don’t You Want Me” – (1981)

“You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” is how this opens, but you know this song before it even gets that far. From the opening synthesizer hits you know what you’re in for. This is among the very finest synthpop songs of all time. It went to #1 in the U.S. and The Human League could never quite match its success even though they tried. They had plenty of other singles but only a few of them are worth noting, and none were as big as this.

#78 – The Pointer Sisters – “Neutron Dance” – (1983)

The Pointer Sisters were three sisters from Oakland whose best and biggest hits (there were multiple) were the kind of upbeat dance track characterized by the “Neutron Dance.” This particular song stands out for one big reason: its inclusion on the soundtrack of one of the very best movies of the decade, Beverly Hills Cop. In fact, it is the opening song to the movie, where Axel is in the back of a stolen truck of cigarettes being chased through Detroit. And this song playing in the background makes for the perfect match and preview of what to expect from the rest of the movie.

#79 – Blondie – “The Tide is High” – (1980)

This song was originally done by The Paragons in 1967 but it wasn’t a hit in the slightest sense of the word. Blondie covered it for their 1980 album Autoamerican – and they added a very nice reggae beat. Blondie had a bigger hit the same year with (“Call Me”) but I like “The Tide is High” better. Perhaps it’s for the prophetic lyrics: “I’m gonna be your number one” – and it was… this song was their third #1 hit in the U.S.

#80 – The Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star” – (1980)

Sure, this song was technically released as a single in 1979, but the album, The Age of Plastic, didn’t come out until 1980. That, and this was the first music video played on then-brand-new MTV in 1981. I think it solidly qualifies as “an 80s song.” I think the title of the song is pretty much self explanatory as far as themes go. I wouldn’t call it prophetic, as MTV (in the days of yore, when they played music) helped the spread of music much the same way radio did so many years before. As far as MTV being good or evil for the progression of music you could argue either way – although appearance became increasingly more important than quality. But now I almost long for the days of music videos as the only place you can really find them is YouTube and that’s not nearly as fun as TV.

#81 – Lionel Richie – “All Night Long (All Night)” – (1983)

Well if that album cover doesn’t scream “1980s” then I don’t know what will. Mr. Richie, you could certainly rock a moustache. I love Lionel Richie’s fake Jamaican accent that he uses while singing this song (especially near the beginning). It’s weird but I guess it’s okay because the song does contain some kind of Jamaican chant. The popular “fiesta forever” line of this song has now been sampled in Enrique Iglesias’s new song “I Like It.” But Enrique’s sample didn’t chart as high as this one. Lionel hit #1 on the Hot 100 at the end of 1983.

#82 – Golden Earring – “Twilight Zone” – (1982)

Some people know this as “When the Bullet Hits the Bone.” I’ve always known it as “Twilight Zone” (its actual title) but the reasoning for the alternate title is that it is said more often (and in the chorus). I’m not going to go through and count, but I’m pretty sure the words “twilight zone” are said a fair amount as well. The beginning of this song has spoken word: “Somewhere early in the morning… It’s 2 a.m.” Then the actual singing (by the actual lead singer) that starts with the now repeated line: “It’s 2 a.m.” The next few lines are also repeated spoken word style by the guitarist. I don’t know why but that gives off a really cool, almost scary, effect. The album version of this song is a few seconds short of 8 minutes, but the single was about 20 seconds under five minutes – I recommend the full album cut. This song made it to #10 on the Hot 100 and it isn’t necessarily a good example of 80s rock music (I think hair bands – these guys were Dutch) but it’s still an awesome song.

#83 – Crowded House – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” – (1986)

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” was the biggest international hit for Australia’s Crowded House – hitting #2 on the Hot 100. It has appeared in numerous television shows and commercials. It’s that perfect “ending song” because of its title and repetitive chorus – a finale song. But I think my favorite appearance of Crowded House on television was a reference to them on Flight of the Conchords. The band, Flight of the Conchords (who is from New Zealand), is trying to arrange some kind of deal with their manager, Murray (in present time – taking place almost 15 years after Crowded House broke up). The band offers a split of 80/20 in their favor and Murray balks, saying: “Not even Crowded House gets 80/20.”

#84 – Toto – “Africa” – (1982)

This was one of two #1s for Toto. This song has a unique sound and even the band said that they didn’t think it sounded like the rest of their stuff – and was almost left off the album. How many songs can you name where the word “Serengeti” are sung? You can hear the shaker in the background and apparently there is a cowbell in there too… it’s hard to pick it out though because the music is so complete.

#85 – Steve Perry – “Oh Sherrie” – (1984)

I love randomly shouting “Should’ve been gooone.” The music video may be the farthest thing from exceptional, but this track certainly is not. Steve Perry has an amazing voice. This was Perry’s first solo single (at the time he was still in Journey) and it hit #3 in the U.S. It was definitely his biggest solo hit – and it is better than a handful of Journey hits. I guess I could just keep doting on Steve Perry but I think I should probably stop.

#86 – Tom Petty – “Running Down a Dream” – (1989)

Sure, “Free Fallin'” was a bigger hit (also from 1989’s Full Moon Fever) and when lists are made like by people at VH1 they fall in love with “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (really?). But “Running Down a Dream” is tops when it comes to Tom Petty from the 1980s. The song only made it to #23 when it came out but gets a lot of airplay on classic rock radio stations today.

#87 – Eurythmics – “Here Comes the Rain Again” – (1983)

What!? No “Sweet Dreams?” No, no “Sweet Dreams.” I figure that this list is full of cliché 1980s tracks; it certainly doesn’t need that one added to it. Plus, this song is way cooler. Annie Lennox, although somewhat strange, has an amazing voice and this song exemplifies that more than just about any other track (her big solo hit being the exception). The mixture of synthesizer and what has to be actual strings makes the song quite melodic.

#88 – Love and Rockets – “So Alive” – (1989)

What I love about this song is the steady music and lead vocals. Throughout the whole song they stay relatively constant as far as tempo and volume. It’s the background chorus vocals that really make this song come alive… so alive. The lead vocals are almost spoken word but those backing vocals really add the power to the track. This song made it to #3 on the Hot 100.

#89 – AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long” – (1980)

Back in Black is undeniably one of the greatest rock albums of all time. And it’s certainly one of – if not the – best comeback album of all time. Bon Scott died in February of 1980 and the band then hired Brian Johnson to do the vocals and released the album in July. There are many great AC/DC songs but I think this one stands at the top (if not just barely). It’s a staple at weddings and parties just about everywhere and everyone knows what’s playing when they hear: “She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best damn woman that I ever seen…”

#90 – The Pretenders – “Brass in Pocket” – (1980)

There used to be an “Oldies” radio station here in town and one day they started playing this song. That’s when I knew the “Oldies” were dead. Sure, it’s from 1980, but it is not the “Oldies.” I think this is The Pretenders’ biggest and best-known hit – although certainly not their best. It made it to #14 in the U.S. and was a #1 in the U.K.

#91 – Starship – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” – (1987)

Oh, Starship. Jefferson Airplane was one of the greatest, most important bands of the 60s. Then Jefferson Starship happened. And then it became Starship. No more band history: Grace Slick’s voice is awesome on this track, as cheesy as it may or may not be. It was written by Albert Hammond (who is 1960s awesomeness in his own right) and, of course, Diane Warren – one of the most successful pop-music songwriters of all time. And she wrote a ton of songs for movies and this is one of them. It was used as the theme for the film Mannequin but was also released on Starship’s album No Protection. It hit #1 on the Hot 100. Unfortunately this was as good as it got for Starship in that incarnation.

#92 – Murray Head – “One Night in Bangkok” – (1984)

This song has always struck me as just plain weird. The singing is done by a Swede (Anders Glenmark) and all that Murray Head does is the talking bits (“a show with everything but Yul Brynner”)… which is very weird in and of itself. The song is from the musical Chess and all I know about Chess is that it’s some kind of love story between chess players. Where Bangkok comes in is beyond me. But the song has a strong beat and the difference between the well-sung chorus and the somewhat loony “raps” by Mr. Head. The sung parts actually have a slight haunting quality to them. I like this song. It’s very 80s.

#93 – John Parr – “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” – (1985)

This is another one of those songs that has music that sounds semi-inspirational… like it should have been in Chariots of Fire or something. But it wasn’t. It was the theme from St. Elmo’s Fire. A Brat Pack movie. This song is only available on the soundtrack for the film and was never released on a John Parr album (except in one very rare import release). It was a #1 for Parr on the Hot 100. Seriously, listen to it… can’t you almost picture a montage from Rocky or something?