weird_al_yankovic_-_dare_to_be_stupidWeird Al Yankovic – “Yoda” – (1985)

Weird Al is the master of parody songs and he’s also great at writing songs about very specific things, like Star Wars. “Yoda” is a parody of The Kinks’ brilliant “Lola.” And, while Weird Al didn’t write the original music for this song, his lyrics are every bit as brilliant as the original. This song is weird because he had to get permission both from The Kinks and George Lucas. 

220px-LikeAVirgin1984Madonna – “Into the Groove” – (1985)

Madonna’s second studio album Like a Virgin had its share of hits none more dance-worthy than this track, which wasn’t originally included on the album’s release. It was added for a 1985 re-release after being used in the film Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna stared. It’s a synth-infused 80s dance track and a fine example of early Madonna.

Sade – “Is It a Crime” – (1985)

Sade’s second album, Promises, had big shoes to fill because Diamond Life was incredible. This album had three singles and “Is It a Crime” was the third and final one. It was also the least successful of the three – and while that’s understandable considering the other two, it’s still a great song with soulful vocals, roaring sax, and haunting music. Sade is truly one of the greatest musical acts ever.

Animotion – “Obsession” – (1985)

Animotion was a new wave band from San Francisco that came together in 1983. This was their best-known song and it was actually a synthpop cover of a little known duet by Holly Knight and Michael Des Barres. The Animotion version has become a staple of 1980s new wave and in 1984, it was a top ten hit on the Hot 100.

USA for Africa – “We are the World” – (1985)

Charity singles. The U.K. goes crazy for them and has them all the time. It doesn’t work so well here in the U.S. Perhaps it’s because this track. I’m not sure. It’s definitely cheesy and a part of 1980s culture. This was a group of singers who came together to perform a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and sell it to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The whole thing was inspired by Band Aid (from the U.K.). It ended up raising $100 million and selling over 20 million copies (impressive). Annoyingly, USA for Africa stands for “United Support of Artists for Africa” and that’s because a few of the artists weren’t American. Here’s everyone other than Jackson and Richie who were involved: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof (who was responsible for Band Aid), both Hall and Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson (the one from the Jackson 5… not the one from American Idol), Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News (the whole band), Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, all three Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder. Yeah, pretty impressive. Look at how many of those people are respectable and/or legendary (many of them) and think about how that would play out today. Do we really need Bieber and Kesha and company coming together for charity? That’s the exact reason charity singles don’t work in the U.S. anymore. The current crop of North American are trash. Also: not how hilariously out of place Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan sound here.

Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne – “You’re a Friend of Mine” – (1985)

I guess if part of song being “very 80s” is a raging saxophone, then Clarence Clemons is your man. Clemons – who you might not know by name – you definitely know by his performance. Until his death in 2011, he was the saxophone player in the E. Street Band, backing Bruce Springsteen since 1972. This was Clemons’ only solo hit and his association with The Boss didn’t hurt sales figures. Jackson Browne is guest musician and vocalist here – and his then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah also provided backing vocals. Weird.

Dionne Warwick & Friends – “That’s What Friends Are For” – (1985)

This song was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Rod Stewart recorded it originally but it was Dionne Warwick’s version that went to #1. Well, Dionne Warwick and friends. Those friends? Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder. Pretty impressive friends. Well name-dropped, Dionne. This was a charity single to benefit AIDS research. It’s one of those tunes that everybody knows.

Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin – “Separate Lives” – (1985)

“Separate Lives” was a #1 hit on the Hot100 and the theme song from the film White Nights. This is one of those #1 hits that I look back on and go “Really?” I’m not sure I’ve heard this on the radio in the last 20 years. It was written by Stephen Bishop and he got an Oscar nomination for it. That’s about the highlight here.

Phil Collins – “Take Me Home” – (1985)

Phil Collins had a lot of hits in the 80s and No Jacket Required was responsible for a good number of them. I like this song because it has that good mid-80s sound with a drum machine and electric keyboard. It was a top 10 hit on the Hot 100. This song also takes over two and a half minutes to reach the chorus… which seems like a really long time. And the music video must’ve taken forever too because it seems to have been shot in quite a few major world cities. Fun fact: apparently Sting and Peter Gabriel both provided backing vocals for this track.

#3 – Duran Duran – “A View to Kill” – (1985)

Another Golden Globe winning Bond theme, “A View to Kill” was performed by one of the biggest bands in the world. The beginning of the song is kind of annoying – it has that obnoxious Bond orchestral hit… but then by the time the chorus comes around it really kicks in and rocks… “Until we dance, into the fire…” The chorus makes it sound less like a Bond theme and more like a hit song that was opted into a movie as the theme. It was a #1 in the U.S. and many other countries (only hit #2 in the U.K.).

Bruce Springsteen – “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – (1985)

This awesome live version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” was released by The Boss in 1985. It’s one of my favorite tunes by him. The song was originally written in 1934 by John Frederick Coots & Haven Gillespie and first performed on Eddie Cantor’s radio show. It was an overnight success and has been recorded by everyone under the sun ever since. This is the best version – with that blaring sax and Bruce’s raspy lyrics. All the best Christmas songs have saxophone solos, it seems. This is good stuff.

#24 – Anthrax – “Madhouse” – (1985)

From glam metal to thrash metal we arrive at Anthrax, a band known mainly for their guitarist, Scott Ian (the bands only consistent member from the beginning), who shows up regularly on those VH1 shows where they countdown lists of stuff or mock a certain decade. This song didn’t even chart, but for some reason it’s one of their more well known songs. Maybe it’s because the video they made for this song was banned by MTV.

Tears for Fears – “Head Over Heels” – (1985)

Tears for Fears was one of, if not the, greatest new wave band of the 1980s. This was their fourth single from their massive album, Songs from the Big Chair. It is one of the three gigantic singles from that album (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout” being the others). This one isn’t as big as those two, but it’s just as good.

The Cult – “She Sells Sanctuary” – (1985)

This is an awesome song from English rock band The Cult. I’ve seen this song described as “post-punk” but I don’t know what I’d consider it. It sounds so different from almost everything else… It’s definitely rock but it’s peppy and up-beat but short of being pop. It’s an easy song to just rock out to. It’s just really, really good.

Whitney Houston – “How Will I Know” – (1985)

This was the third single from Whitney’s debut album. Apparently, Janet Jackson was originally offered this song but turned it down and you can kind of tell because it’s very up-beat and dance-y compared to the other giant singles from this album – and this was when Janet was pumping out great dance track after great dance track. This is the best track from that album and was Whitney’s second #1.

The Outfield – “Your Love” – (1985)

“Josie’s on a vacation far away – Come around and talk it over. So many things that I wanna say – You know I like my girls a little bit older. I just wanna use your love tonight – I don’t wanna lose your love tonight.” The lyrics to this song are fairly famous – you can sing along after the first line but most people don’t know who sings it. “Is that The Cars?” No, it’s not. This was a top ten hit in the U.S. and the song that the band is most well-known for. It’s good.

Prince & the Revolution – “Raspberry Beret” – (1985)

Yeah, this is a hard one to find on YouTube because Prince is notoriously finicky when it comes to his music. The version I linked to sounds very Chipmunk-ish. “Raspberry Beret” was the biggest single from 1985’s Around the World in a Day, and it’s the only one that still gets any significant airplay. I’d like to think that this song made berets really popular but I have no evidence to support this. Although, anyone who wears a raspberry beret must feel quite special.

Baltimora – “Tarzan Boy” – (1985)

Baltimora was a synthpop group from Italy and this was their international hit. It’s kind of a strange song – known mainly for the “oh-oh-oh-oh” sang in Tarzan-style. The song charted in the U.S. – and stayed on the Hot 100 for over six months, hitting a high of 13. It charted better in a handful of European countries, staying at #1 in France for over a month. The song sounds like something that would have been sampled endlessly but it really hasn’t. Maybe I’ll go write a hip-hop track that uses this.

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.

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.

Simple Minds – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – (1985)

From one of the definitive movies of the decade comes one of the definitive songs. Yeah, it wasn’t on the countdown because I think “Alive and Kicking” is amazing, but this should not go overlooked. It’s probably the most obvious song absent from the list. It was a #1 in the U.S., The Netherlands, and Canada. It is most famous for its inclusion in the final scene of The Breakfast Club.

#16 – Tears for Fears – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – (1985)

The beginning of this song is great. The middle and the end are also great. But you know it from that beginning little note. The song is very up tempo but the lyrics are generally relaxed and subdued but build toward the chorus. That contradiction really gives the song some soul. Tears for Fears (Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith) wrote numerous great songs but this is the best even though “Shout” was bigger.

#24 – Robert Palmer – “Addicted to Love” – (1985)

Robert Palmer had some great non-hair influenced 80s rock songs and this is the very best of them. His voice is quite amazing as is the Elvis-ish twang in his voice when certain words are sung. There’s real lip-curling badassery behind the lyrics – it really does evoke images of Elvis – not that Robert Palmer was Elvis or had his voice, just the vocal delivery is similar in some ways. The music video was also the first to kick off the “Robert Palmer look” that I think of every time I hear his name: women with pale skin in black clothing, dark makeup and bright red lipstick. When I think of Robert Palmer that is what I think it. He used it in multiple videos and it’s kind of his look (although it wasn’t really him donning it). Robert Palmer kicked ass in the 80s and died of a heart attack at age 54 in 2003.

#34 – DeBarge – “Rhythm of the Night” – (1985)

DeBarge is one of my favorite bands to randomly bring up in a conversation, because not many people in today’s society really know what I’m talking about. If you ask someone if they know El DeBarge, they look at you, not sure what you’re asking them. But then there are people who remember them – and this song. “Rhythm of the Night” has the 80s-calypso beat that made so many 80s songs feel so tropical. There are so many 80s hit songs that feel like they should’ve been in Cocktail. This song was written by Diane Warren, who has written about half of the huge hits you’ve heard in the past 30 years (okay, not really). But this song really gave her career a boost. It was a #3 single in the U.S. – a feat DeBarge could never match.