April 2011

John Cougar – “Hurts So Good” – (1982)

This was a serious contender to make the list and at the last second I substituted “Pink Houses” in for it. I like this one better… but man, if there was ever a music video that can really ruin a song for you, this is it. Why is he wearing a leather shirt, bandana and chaps? Man, the 80s were weird.

Wang Chung – “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” – (1986)

“Everybody Have Fun Tonight” is the most famous song from London-based New Wave band Wang Chung. The band was popular enough in the early 80s that The Cars were actually opening for them. That cannot be right. The music video for this song is seizure-worthy – so be careful. There is still much debate about what exactly the lyrics “everybody Wang Chung tonight” actually means. There’s no denying that it definitely sounds dirty.

Phil Collins – “Sussudio” – (1985)

Phil Collins claims that he was playing around with a drum machine when he wrote this song – is that how he wrote all of his songs? That and he just made up the word “sussudio,” which has a nice ring to it but it doesn’t really mean anything. This song was a #1 in the U.S. and one of four top 10s (and two #1s) from No Jacket Required – one of Collins’ most successful solo albums. Phil Collins recently announced that he is retiring from performing, which sucks because I never got to see him live.

‘Til Tuesday – “Voices Carry” – (1985)

The title track from ‘Til Tuesday’s debut album, “Voices Carry” was written by front-woman Aimee Mann – who I always pictured as having been in a slightly more kick-ass band than ‘Til Tuesday. Well, I don’t really know much about the band as this was kind of their signature hit and all. Maybe it’s the New Wave thing – I picture Aimee Mann as being in a more rock-oriented setting like 10,000 Maniacs or something but then again it probably has more to do with whatever inane associated I have between her and Natalie Merchant.

Prince & the Revolution – “When Doves Cry” – (1984)

This was the biggest song from Purple Rain and the biggest selling single of 1984. It was a #1 all over the world and remains one of Prince’s best known songs. It shows up on a lot of lists of the “Greatest Songs Ever” yet it didn’t even make our countdown of songs of the 80s. After hearing this song countless times, I really don’t know what doves sound like when they cry, despite Prince’s best efforts to inform me. I very much doubt they sound like a drum machine and awesome guitar solos, but what do I know?

ABC – “The Look of Love” – (1982)

This was a #1 in Canada and a top ten in the U.K., Sweden, and Australia. ABC was a great synthpop group – yes, I’m aware that many people consider that an oxymoron. The Lexicon of Love was the band’s first – and best – album. It contained their best singles and it was basically downhill from the starts, which kind of sucks, but that’s pretty much the music business in a nutshell.

T’Pau – “Heart and Soul” – (1987)

This song has a lovely mid-to-late 80s beat – like it should be in the opening credits/scenes of a Tom Cruise movie from the same period. The lyrics come on strong when singer Carol Decker belting out the chorus which I would post here if I were able to cross-check it with a lyrics website. But I can’t because every lyrics website it full of pop up ads that are probably jamming my computer with adware. Hooray, internet!

Janet Jackson – “Escapade” – (1989)

Rhythm Nation. Again. This really was a huge album and I think this might be the most well-known song from it (although I have nothing to back up that opinion). Yeah, I know this single was released in 1990, but the album came out in 1989 – so maybe this song would have been put to better use on our forthcoming (and very brief) list of songs that sound like they come from a different decade than they technically did. I like the random shout-out to Minneapolis in this song. How random.

Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance” – (1982)

Men Without Hats were Canadian? I thought they were from Australia, but I guess I was confusing them with Men at Work. Men without hats at work. Yeah, it’s kind of a weird song. “We can dance if we want to; we can leave your friends behind. Because your friends don’t dance if they don’t dance then they’re no friends of mine.” That’s the chorus that comes round and round. Someone I worked with once asked another employee if she had ever heard of “The Safety Dance.” She said “No.” Then he proceeded to play for her, via YouTube, some 15 minutes worth of the song. Moral of the story: if anyone ever asks you if you’ve heard this song, please, for the love of your coworkers, just say, “Yes.”

Whitney Houston – “Saving All My Love for You” – (1985)

Nice buzz cut, Whitney. She looked a little crazy many, many years before she actually went crazy. “Saving All My Love for You” was the second hit for Whitney off of her self-titled debut album. It was her fist #1 hit – and the first of a streak of seven consecutive, which is amazing. Imagine every song you release over a period of a number of years going to #1. You’d feel invincible. Maybe that explains her odd behavior later in life.

Violent Femmes – “Blister in the Sun” – (1982)

This song is wonderfully bare. They could’ve packed it with another five instruments to make it seem a little fuller but that would have been foolish. Some of the lyrics in this song are whispered and then the next lines are yelled. That, with the sophomoric sounding music makes this song seem like it was done by a bunch of amateurs. But amateurs don’t have big mainstream success (okay, well some do). I don’t really know much about the Violent Femmes except that I know some people who drove two hours to see a free concert by the band and I thought they were crazy.

U2 – “Where the Streets Have No Name” – (1987)

This was track no. 1 on The Joshua Tree – it’s always nice when that opening track is at least good so when you pop the album in and hit play you don’t have to skip around to find something decent. But I think “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a little better than decent. I’m sure (because Bono was involved) that this song has some kind of deep meaning, but I always considered how much it would piss me off to live in a town where the streets actually had no name. The pulsating guitar, with the percussion to match it, gives this song a wonderfully up-tempo feel. It’s one of U2’s best.

John Cougar – “Jack and Diane” – (1982)

This is one of the biggest songs of the 80s – I chose “Pink Houses” for the countdown because this seemed too obvious, but in reality this was a far bigger hit and far more important in 80s music and the career of John Mellencamp, who at this time was going by John Cougar. It was his biggest hit – a #1 for four weeks in the fall of 1982. Jack and Diane became defining characters of the 80s. Everyone knows who they are and everyone knows about the Tastee-Freez. This song oozes nostalgia about American youth – a theme throughout most of the Mellencamp catalog.