ACDC_Back_in_BlackAC/DC– “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” – (1980)

This song was the last track on Back in Black and the final single released from the album. Interestingly, this was the highest charting song from this album in the U.K., peaking at #15.

41b2nxwzv1lJohn Williams – “20th Century Fox Fanfare” – (1980)

You probably didn’t notice, but a few months ago I did three songs in a row: the first with “16” in the title, then “17” and “18.” This week we are doing 19-21 and there aren’t a whole lot of songs with “20” in the title, hence this. The iconic 20th Century Fox intro music was originally composed and recorded by Alfred Newman in 1933 and later updated to the version we now recognize in 1954. John Williams recorded a new version of it in 1980 for The Empire Strikes Back. It was later released on a Star Wars box set in 1993 (see image). Not sure there’s a more iconic sound to start a movie… other than maybe MGM’s lion roar… but we won’t feature that here…

steely_dan_-_gauchoSteely Dan – “Hey Nineteen” – (1980)

Not a lot of rock songs from the 1980s could be described as “beautiful.” I submit this as the exception. The jazzy instruments and overall mellow sound – coupled with classic Steely Dan vocals – add to a great, smooth soft rock tune. It actually peaked at #10 on the Hot 100. Synthesizers were in in ’80 and this track makes perfect use of them without overdoing it. It is my favorite Steely Dan song.

220px-Barbra-streisand-guilty-albumBarbra Streisand – Woman In Love – 1980

I’m not a Barbra Streisand fan – in any way, shape or form. I do not get her appeal and growing up, I was never quite sure why she was even famous. That said, this is a song, that, when it came on the other day, I did not find myself skipping to the next song. It has a kind of brooding to it that’s actually pretty interesting. It was a Hot 100 #1 and was her biggest (and most recent major) hit.

dianaDiana Ross – I’m Coming Out – 1980

This song, famously sampled (and perhaps, in this case, the sample is more famous than the original song) in “Mo Money, Mo Problems” by the Notorious B.I.G. It was a top five hit for Diana Ross from what would be her final major hit-producing album in 1980 – quite the run for someone who got her start singing Motown back in the early 1960s. A complete transformation.

The Doobie Brothers – “Real Love” – (1980)

This was one of the Doobie Brothers last big hits – reaching #5 on the Hot 100. It’s classic Michael McDonald vocals and classic soft rock. I love this sound from the Doobie Brothers – sort of late-70s/early-80s soft rock with a touch of synth and the definitive voice of this kind of music from McDonald.

Billy Joel – “Don’t Ask Me Why” – (1980)

“Don’t Ask Me Why” was the fourth single form Billy Joel’s huge 1980 album Glass Houses. It was a top 20 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at #19. One thing people often overlook about Billy Joel is that he dabbles in so many different styles. For instance, this song appears on a mostly rock-oriented album – but it is more folk-like (like his earlier music). But it also features a Latin paino solo and kind of a worldbeat backing track.

AC/DC – “Given the Dog a Bone” – (1980)

Here’s another non-single track from the greatest rock-n-roll album of all time. Don’t agree that it’s the best? Well it’s the second-best-selling album of all time behind Thriller. AC/DC is a band known for their sexual innuendo and this track is a fine example of that. Can’t figure it out? I find that hard to believe, but congratulations on your innocence.

AC/DC – “What Do You Do For Money Honey” – (1980)

There’s something about the opening chords of this song that make it seem like it could be any AC/DC song – but I’m sure there are people who think all their songs sound the same. This song was the third track from Back in Black – which happens to be one of the greatest albums in rock history. It was never a single, but it’s one of the songs I like the most on the album – mostly for Brian Johnson’s quick-lyric’d “whaddya do for money honey how do you get your kicks” semi-rap.

Madness – “Baggy Trousers” – (1980)

Madness is an awesome band. They put out some awesome songs in the 1980s. This is one of the most famous. It came out during a time when ska revival was in its prime and New Wave was just getting started. There’s also some punk in there as well. Madness was one of the leading bands of the ska punk scene (originating with 2 Tone, which throws New Wave in there too). One reason I like Madness is that they’re fun – their songs aren’t dark and depressing – they’re upbeat and happy. And you really can’t get much more upbeat and happy than a song like this, about baggy trousers of all things.

Stephanie Mills – “Never Knew Love Like This Before” – (1980)

This Grammy Award-winning disco tune from 1980 was the biggest hit if Stephanie Mills’ career. It still gets regular radio airplay and could be considered one of the definitive songs typical of this sound – it’s right up there with Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer. Except that Stephanie Mills isn’t nearly as widely known. This is a song that I didn’t have for a long time until – even hearing it on the radio I always assumed that of course I have it. You’ll most likely recognize it instantly.

Pat Benatar – “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” – (1980)

The “official” video that is on YouTube for this song is horrible. Literally, it’s fans screaming at a concert for more than the first entire minute – at which point I hit “back” and looked for another video. This is Pat Benatar’s signature song and it’s really the only one I can tolerate, although it’s seriously wearing on my nerves as I listen to it right now. It was a Top Ten hit and it’s popular at sporting events and you’ve probably heard it a thousand times.

#1 – AC/DC – “Back in Black” – (1980)

So for our #1 rock song of the 80s, we go to the beginning of the decade for AC/DC’s rebound album. Bon Scott was the lead singer of AC/DC beginning in 1974 and when he died in 1980, the band brought in Brian Johnson. As Scott’s awesome lyrics helped launch the band into the big time, he wasn’t someone that could easily be replaced. This song was their tribute to him and it rocks. It was a Top 40 hit in the U.S. – which is good, but not great. But it was songs like this that shot this album to the top. Back in Black went on to sell 49 million copies – making it the second highest-selling album of all time. Which goes to show you the boundary-less appeal of AC/DC – a hard rock and heavy metal band that made it big in the mainstream. It’s the greatest rock album of all time. Period. And it’s title song is the best rock song of the 80s.

#8 – Ozzy Osbourne – “Crazy Train” – (1980)

From “All aboaarrrd” to Ozzy’s signature insane laugh to Randy Rhoads pounding yet somehow seemingly fun guitar, “Crazy Train” is the definitive Ozzy song. Like most metal songs, this song surely has some deep, underlying meaning… that nobody should or does care about. Sad, not-so-fun Fact: the ringtone version of this song (yes, Billboard actually tracks such things), was certified Double Platinum. Who cares? If you’ve never listened to Ozzy Osbourne, which is slightly understandable, this is the song to hear if you wanna know what his music is all about.

#20 – Motörhead – “Ace of Spades” – (1980)

Are there other Motorhead songs? (Yeah, I didn’t put the umlaut on the O… it’s too much effort). Motorhead are from England, which you wouldn’t be able to discern because of the deep-voiced yelling going on in this song. I’m not a fan of metal, especially speed metal – but this song is awesome. It’s the song they are most known for.

The Waitresses – “I Know What Boys Like” – (1982)

The Waitresses were a new wave band from Akron, Ohio and this was their biggest non-Christmas themed hit – hitting #62 in 1982. It was originally released in 1980 but failed to do anything. Yes, the song is somewhat nerve-grating, which is why if you want to see what this band was capable of, you need to check out their 1981 Christmas hit “Christmas Wrapping” which is actually quite good. The Waitresses had disappeared by 1984.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Redemption Song” – (1980)

One of the people I was on the trip with was a walking Bob Marley jukebox. She could sing any of his songs on command. This is an easy one to sing because when Bob did it (originally) it was acoustic and just him and a fairly quiet guitar. There was a full band version released in 2001 (and it’s pretty good – definitely more upbeat than this version).

The Whispers – “And the Beat Goes On” – (1980)

This is the song Will Smith sampled for “Miami” but it’s good enough on its own – it didn’t need any Fresh(Prince)ening . The Whispers were highly underrated as an R&B group… The Commodores got all the attention (and airplay… on the pop stations at least). This is a great post-disco soul dance track. It’s just plain funky.

The Vapors – “Turning Japanese” – (1980)

This is what the English band The Vapors is known for. There’s always been a rumor that this song is some kind of euphemism, but I fail to make the connection that this song is about anything.

#17 – Hall & Oates – “You Make My Dreams” – (1980)

This is one of the all-time catchiest songs. Ever. And it only made it to #5. Hall & Oates had a few #1s in their career and when I look at most of them I think, “Why?” Why weren’t songs like this #1? It’s popped up here and there over the years. It as in The Wedding Singer and, quite popularly, (500) Days of Summer – in which, I think, may be one of the greatest dance sequences ever. But my favorite appearance of it was a spoof of it done on SNL about Barack Obama.

#35 – Kool & the Gang – “Celebration” – (1980)

This is one of those songs that everybody has heard. If you live in a modern society, then you’ve heard this song – I have no doubt. Kool & the Gang had a string of hits in the 70s and they kicked off the 80s in style, hitting #1 with this song. It dominated radio for a while and it really has never gone away since. It’s catchy and fun and a staple at weddings everywhere. It’s an all-time classic song that I can’t see never being popular at, well, celebrations.

#40 – Benny Mardones – “Into the Night” – (1980)

Gotta love that unnecessary piano – this song screams “80s.” “Into the Night” was originally released in 1980 and it went to #11 on the Hot 100. Then, for whatever reason, it was added back into radio playlists in 1989 when it re-charted and again made it into the top 20. This was the only hit for Benny Mardones (although it was technically a hit twice, so is he still a one-hit wonder?). Mr. Mardones was from Cleveland even though I always assumed he was Cuban, and I don’t know why… (Cuba-Cleveland, what’s the difference?).

#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.

#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…”