Before I get into the song list, I’ll go ahead and throw out my favorites from the other decades that I won’t be writing long comprehensive posts about.

Top 5 Songs of the 50’s

  1. Peggy Sue Got Married  (Buddy Holly)
  2. Mack the Knife  (Bobby Darin)
  3. Heartbeat  (Buddy Holly)
  4. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes  (The Platters)
  5. Crying, Waiting, Hoping  (Buddy Holly)

Top 5 Songs of the 60’s

  1. Mrs. Robinson  (Simon & Garfunkel)
  2. Help  (The Beatles)
  3. Wouldn’t It Be Nice  (The Beach Boys)
  4. For What It’s Worth  (Buffalo Springfield)
  5. Eve of Destruction  (Barry McGuire)

Top 5 Songs of the 70’s

  1. Born to Run  (Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band)  –  #1 all-time
  2. London Calling  (The Clash)
  3. Imagine  (John Lennon)
  4. I Don’t Like Mondays  (Boomtown Rats)
  5. Baba O’Riley  (The Who)

Top 5 Songs of the 00’s

  1. The Rising  (Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band)
  2. Light Rail Coyote  (Sleater-Kinney)
  3. Walk On  (U2)
  4. All These Things That I’ve Done  (The Killers)
  5. Jesus of Suburbia  (Green Day)

Top 5 Songs of the 10’s

  1. Land of Hope and Dreams  (Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band)
  2. Bury Our Friends  (Sleater-Kinney)
  3. Song of the Lonely Mountain  (Neil Finn)
  4. Radioactive  (Imagine Dragons)
  5. You Told the Drunks I Knew Karate  (Zoey Van Goey)

note:  I haven’t tended to include songs from Musicals in these lists, but if I did, my top five would definitely include “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” and “Another Day of Sun”.

Each song will list the rank, the song title, a line from the song, the musical artist, the songwriters, the year of release and what kind of song it is (if it’s a single, I’ll list its highest chart position if I can find it – using and noting the U.K. position if it didn’t chart in the U.S. or if it charted significantly higher in the U.K.) and a brief piece on the song.  I didn’t include any links on the songs themselves because they’re mostly pretty easy to find on YouTube and including all the links is a really time-consuming process.

#250  –  I Want Your Sex

  • “Talk to your sister, I am a lover”
  • George Michael
  • George Michael
  • 1987
  • single from Faith  (#2)
  • I still remember watching this in that crappy motel room in Eugene and my mother just being in utter shock, but damn was my sister Stacy enjoying it.  This was a brand new George Michael, a world away from what he had been in Wham.  He had found a beat and he had started moving to it.  It’s really the horns that make the song, giving it one of the most danceable beats of the entire decade.

#249  –  Steppin’ Out

  • “So tired of all the darkness in our lives”
  • Joe Jackson
  • Joe Jackson
  • 1982
  • single from Night and Day  (#6)
  • This was one of the last songs on this list that I became a fan of.  I always knew of Joe Jackson because my brother had the album Night and Day but I had never listened to it.  But, in 2001, first, Tori Amos released her covers album Strange Little Girls and I sought out Jackson’s “Real Men” from the same album and I got an 80’s compilation that had this song on it (I Want My 80’s Box) and I realized how great it was and how much I had been missing.

#248  –  The Killing Moon

  • “So cruelly you kissed me”
  • Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch,Les Pattinson, Pete de Freitas
  • 1984
  • single from Ocean Rain  (#9 – U.K.)
  • In 1994, a new AM station came on the air in Portland, OR (“Rock and roll the way it was meant to sound.  Cranked up and pushed out through some crappy AM radio” was the ad) and it played mostly alternative songs from the 80’s and 90’s and this was one of them.  Actually, there is a chance I had forgotten it from when I listened to a lot of Echo on a trip to DC in 1988 because of a girl I liked.  This song is used effectively in Donnie Darko and it also makes an appearance in Grosse Pointe Blank.  Echo feels like the band that often gets overlooked when looking at the great alternative bands of the 80’s.  In spite of what Barry might think, Jesus and the Mary Chain, with one notable exception listed below, aren’t nearly as good as Echo.

#247  –  She Bop

  • “They say I better stop or I’ll go blind”
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Cyndi Lauper, Stephen Broughton Lunt, Gary Corbett, Rick Chertoff
  • 1984
  • single from She’s so Unusual  (#3)
  • I knew of this song but didn’t know the song that much itself – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time” were the hits that were burned in my brain while growing up.  But, in the late 90’s, when I was collecting vinyl (cheaper than cds and I could use it to decide what I wanted on cd later – this was me being frugal not being a hipster) and first actually got She’s So Unusual, this was the song that stuck most with me, especially its memorable opening bassline.  Of course, by that time I was old enough to understand what the lyrics were about (it’s a song so dirty it was one of the Filthy Fifteen that helped prompt the formation of the PMRC) and that just added to the fun of it.

#246  –  Heartbreak Beat

  • “And the world don’t stop every time that you call”
  • The Psychedelic Furs
  • Richard Butler, John Ashton, Tim Butler
  • 1986  (album, 1987)
  • single from Midnight to Midnight  (#26)
  • We’re only five songs in and this is the third song that I got into because of that Portland AM station.  It kept sending my roommate Jamie and I to go searching for the great songs they kept playing.  But this (and the two before) were also available to me on mix-tapes that my sister Stacy had left behind when she went off to Washington DC.  It also didn’t hurt that I was discovering the band at the same that Richard Butler’s new band, Love Spit Love, was releasing one of the single best songs of the 90’s: “Am I Wrong”.

#245  –  Let’s Go to Bed

  • “I don’t want it if you don’t”
  • The Cure
  • Robert Smith, Laurence Tolhurst
  • 1982
  • single  (#44 – U.K.)
  • I got into The Cure in the early 90’s, not because of “Lovesong” or “Friday I’m in Love” but because of a mix tape I heard that had “Pictures of You” on it.  After that, I borrowed Stacy’s copy of Staring at the Sea and started listening to all those early great Cure singles.  Little did I know that I would have to wait basically all of college for The Cure to finally release a new album (though the tour ended up with them playing the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (the Schnitz) in Portland, a venue much too small for a band like The Cure and more suited to Tori Amos or Bruce Springsteen solo with a guitar and harmonica, both of whom I also saw there and The Cure played for 3 1/2 hours, basically played every single off their current album and basically every song on Staring at the Sea and I came out of the concert stone deaf for several hours – one of the best shows I have ever seen).  This song not only has the sexual vibe about it, but also a great beat to it that makes it danceable while you’re trying to use it to seduce someone.

#244  –  Mayor of Simpleton

  • “I don’t know how to write a big hit song”
  • XTC
  • Andy Partridge
  • 1989
  • single from Oranges & Lemons  (#72)
  • This one goes out to Jamie Lucero.  In the year that we roomed together in college, as we were chasing down songs played on the AM station, he got really into XTC (helped by our RC who was a huge XTC fan).  Some of their songs were a bit esoteric for me but I grew to really like the band; a few songs of theirs in particular I grew to fiercely love.  This is the first of three XTC songs on this list.  Like another of their songs on this list, this doesn’t seem like a warm love song, but in fact that’s what it is.  This is the only XTC song to ever hit the Hot 100 in the U.S., making them, by one definition, a one-hit wonder.

#243  –  Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)

  • “Let’s exchange the experience”
  • Kate Bush
  • Kate Bush
  • 1985
  • single from Hounds of Love  (#30)
  • I heard this song the first time by accident.  I was on a plane back from London in January of 1996 and there was a station that had a good playlist (about 30 songs that played over and over again) and this was one of two songs that I had never heard before but immediately loved (“Conquistador” by Procul Harum was the other) and so I wrote it down and tracked it down on 45 as soon as I got back to Portland.  I liked both the esoteric lyrics, the pounding bass and drums and the bizarre, but fascinating vocal performance from Kate Bush.  It would only be later that I would track down her “Wuthering Heights” and discover I would also love that (though I’m lukewarm on most of her other music).

#242  –  A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall

  • “Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden”
  • Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians
  • Bob Dylan
  • 1989
  • single from Born on the Fourth of July soundtrack  (#83 – U.K.)
  • I wrote about this version of this song when I ranked it #2 among all Dylan covers all-time.  It was the song that helped introduce me to Bob Dylan and I was stunned, given my original lukewarm reaction to “What I Am” (not helped by it being over-played in those early days of VH-1) how much I loved this song.  It was the reason I bought the soundtrack.  I much prefer it to the original Dylan version because that it a simple folk song (with brilliant lyrics) while this is a folk rock song and musically, the band brings much more to this version.

#241  –  Pink Houses

  • “He says ‘Lord this must be my destination'”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp
  • John Mellencamp
  • 1983
  • single from Uh-Huh  (#8)
  • As John Mellencamp’s stage name evolved, so did his music.  When he first started going by Johnny Cougar (at his label’s insistence), the music was pretty bad.  On his first album as John Cougar, he had “I Need a Lover”, his first great song and his final Cougar album, American Fool, had “Jack & Diane” (see below) and “Hurts So Good”.  Then came Uh-Huh and he was at least going by John Cougar Mellencamp and it included songs like “Authority Song”, “Crumblin’ Down”, and most importantly, “Pink Houses”.  This slice of Americana has been used by everyone from the left (John Edwards) to the right (those pricks at NOM whom Mellencamp sent a cease-and-desist letter) but it’s simply a picture of a country that is changing, not a plea to keep things the same.  That recognition of the past and the change that comes is part of what makes Mellencamp’s songs so good and why they don’t work when trying to make things stay the same.

#240  –  Walking on Sunshine

  • “I don’t want to spend my whole life just waiting for you”
  • Katrina and the Waves
  • Kimberly Rew
  • 1985
  • single from Katrina and the Waves  (#9)
  • Barry was wrong on Echo but he’s right on this (although I like Belle and Sebastian).  If you need something to kick things off on a Monday morning, then what better song could there be than “Walking on Sunshine”?  It’s a burst of fresh energy, from that opening drum beat to the scream and the way the other instruments kick in.  This song may never have hit #1 but I would argue that it is probably one of the 20 best known pop songs from the entire decade.  That it has been used so many times in films does not diminish the effect that this song has on people when they hear it.  The song originally was faster, if you can believe it, when it was recorded in 1983 but it was re-recorded for the band’s major label debut and that’s the version that became such a hit.

#239  –  Come Dancing

  • “Come on sister have yourself a ball”
  • The Kinks
  • Ray Davies
  • 1982  (album, 1983)
  • single from State of Confusion  (#6)
  • When I first started listening to this song as a kid I had an awareness that The Kinks were a 60’s band, so I assumed this was a 60’s song.  Little did I know that this was essentially a comeback hit, almost not even released in the U.S. because we have no history with “dance halls” but it turned out to be, not only the band’s first Top 40 hit in five years and first Top 10 since 1970 but their most successful single ever in the States.  It has wonderful of horns and a great feel of nostalgia.  While my sister is very different than the sister in the song and it’s my brother who introduced me to the song, it’s Stacy that the song makes me think of.

#238  –  99 Luftballoons

  • “Hielten sich für Captain Kirk”
  • Nena
  • Uwe Fahrenkrog-PetersenCarlo Karges
  • 1983
  • single from Nena  (#2)
  • I first heard this on a mixtape that I think actually belonged to my younger sister (the amount of music I got from her is minuscule because she is my little sister after all).  I loved the melody and the beat and the way it was so easy to dance to it.  It was years and years later when I bought the song on 45 that I realized, by flipping it over, that there was an English language version.  That version is neat (because it makes the anti-war theme clear to those of us who don’t speak German because we use languages with vowels) but isn’t nearly as satisfying as the original (partially because the last line should be reversed to get it closer to a rhyme) even if it does have one amazing line: “If I could find a souvenier  /  Just to prove the world was here”.

#237  –  Big in Japan

  • “Neon on my naked skin”
  • Alphaville
  • Bernhard Lloyd, Marian Gold, Frank Mertens
  • 1984
  • single from Forever Young  (#66, #8 – U.K.)
  • From a song by a German band that charted big in German to a German band that sings in English for some reason.  This is what happens when you look things up on Wikipedia: you discover that a song you’ve loved for over 25 years is about two lovers on drugs.  It’s not what I picture when I think about the song “Big in Japan” but I suppose it makes sense.  I first heard Alphaville because someone owned a mix tape with “Forever Young” on it and that song hooked me for life.  I eventually found The Alphaville Singles Collection which just has two versions each of four songs but this was one of them.  The danceable beat to this song means that it gets added to songs like “Till Death Do Us Part” (see later in the list) for songs where the lyrics actually countermand the music in some way which you would think would be to the detriment to the song but actually isn’t.

#236  –  You Might Think

  • “You might think I’m delirious”
  • The Cars
  • Ric Ocasek
  • 1984
  • single from Heartbeat City  (#7)
  • This songs owes its success to three things: a great musical hook, solid repetitive lyrics that make it easy to sing and one of the most creative videos of the time.  It was the winner of Video of the Year at the initial MTV Video Music Awards (over “Thriller) and I ranked it at #15 for the decade (and it was parodied brilliantly in “Don’t Lost My Number”).  This was a song that I was a fan of when it first came out because I saw the video so many times.

#235  –  We Belong

  • “Have we become a habit? Do we distort the facts?”
  • Pat Benatar
  • David Eric Lowen, Dan Navarro
  • 1984
  • single from Tropico  (#5)
  • Pat Benatar was one of the stars who was already rising before MTV debuted (two Top 20 hits in 1980) but once the station came out was almost inescapable.  That’s because she had an array of hits and they were all really good.  This song would be one of her biggest hits, though there is one I think is better (see below).  But I think this was the song I knew first and when I bought her greatest hits collection, Best Shots, when I went off to college, this was the first song to make it onto a mix tape (to be fair, the other song was already on a mix tape thanks to the 45).  The Bangles would later cover the song for a tribute album to the songwriters (one of whom has ALS) but it’s very similar to the Benatar original.  It would also be sung by Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect 2 but then you’d have to watch Pitch Perfect 2 and I can’t honestly recommend that.

#234  –  Whip It

  • “Before the cream sits out too long  /  You must whip it”
  • Devo
  • Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh
  • 1980
  • single from Freedom of Choice  (#17)
  • What to make of Devo?  It’s not surprising that they were art students but that they were Amerian art students.  Still, they had an idea and they ran with it, getting a major label contract and performing their unique take on “Satisfaction” on SNL in 1978.  Then came “Whip It”, with the headgear and the video and everything that was strange about the band was also refreshing.  It’s a short song (2:39, the 10th shortest song on the list) and just a silly burst of energy but one that continues to resonate through the years.

#233  –  Ceremony

  • This is why events unnerve me
  • New Order
  • Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner
  • 1981
  • single  (#34 – U.K.)
  • This was one of the last songs written and recorded by Joy Division.  The original studio recording wouldn’t surface until 1997 though the live version would come out on the 1981 compilation Still.  But before that, New Order had taken their own stab at it, the first single by the new band looking for their direction without Ian Curtis.  It’s dark and masterful and helps make the transition from the earlier, darker, more bass-driven band to the synth driven band that would become global superstars.  The song’s bass would show why Peter Hook had been so important to the sound of Joy Division.  The song would also, masterfully, be covered by Radiohead for a webcast in 2007.

#232  –  People are People

  • “It just takes a while to travel from your head to your fists”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1984
  • single from Some Great Reward  (#13)
  • As I mentioned in the Albums post about this album, certain things could influence what you listened to.  In the 80’s, I rarely listened to regular radio stations.  I grew up with my siblings music, with MTV, with KROQ.  I’m always amazed when I look at certain songs and see what their actual chart position was.  I would have sworn, growing up, that this was a #1 hit (in fact it took almost a year to reach #13).  It was one of the songs I heard the most in 1984 and 85 and a result it would be years before I could sit back and listen to it and just realize how good it was, from the pounding dance beat to the message (a bit too unsubtle, not only for me, but for Martin Gore himself and that’s one of the reasons the band hasn’t played it live in almost 20 years).  But this song helped finally make the band in the States; it was the ninth consecutive Top 25 single for them in the UK but the first Top 100 single in the States.  The electronic beat also helped make the band stars in Germany as this was the first of an astounding 26 Top 10 singles there.

#231  –  Watching the Wheels

  • “When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall”
  • John Lennon
  • John Lennon
  • 1980, single released in 1981
  • single from Double Fantasy  (#10)
  • I always liked this song but I think it was the trailer for Wonder Boys that made me realize exactly how much I liked it.  It’s Lennon’s meditation on the five years he spent away from the music industry raising his son and about how he didn’t have any regrets.  It’s the finest song off an album that has been under-appreciated, both because of the timing (Lennon was murdered right after the release) and because the Ono songs can be distracting.

#230  –  Silver

  • “You’re living proof at my fingertips”
  • Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson, Pete de Freitas
  • 1984
  • single from Ocean Rain  (#30 – U.K.)
  • While “The Killing Moon” was the song that helped draw me back into Echo after so many years, it was this song, one of the treasures I found on a mix tape of my sister’s that really won me over.  This might be the first song on the list that I have absolutely no idea what it’s about.  Doesn’t matter.  Brilliant music, brilliant singing.

#229  –  Smooth Criminal

  • “Mouth to mouth, resuscitation, sounding heartbeats – intimidation”
  • Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson
  • 1987, single released in 1988
  • single from Bad  (#7)
  • If you’re going to do a greatest hits collection after only four albums it might seem a bit too early.  But when those four albums have produced 21 Top 10 hits and 11 Billboard #1 singles it’s actually a question of what gets cut.  And what got cut was the song from Bad that only hit #7 because that album had four #1 hits.  Which makes HIStory a good greatest hits but an incomplete one because it lacks the best song off one of the albums.  It’s the pounding beat that really does it.  The lyrics don’t really matter (and I wondered for years about the use of the name Annie until I learned it had to do with CPR training).

#228  –  The Great Commandment

  • “Believe the scholars, read the readings”
  • Camouflage
  • Heiko Maile, Marcus Meyn and Oliver Kreyssig
  • 1987, album released in 1988
  • single from Voices & Images  (#59)
  • As mentioned above, “People are People” helped make Depeche Mode into massive stars in Germany.  So it’s only inevitable that a band would come out of Germany that would sound exactly like them.  It’s a bit strange that we’re less than 25 songs in and this is the third German band, but there you go.  When I roomed with Jamie and we were both big Depeche Mode fans we found Camouflage and Cause and Effect and both sounded like Depeche Mode rip-offs but Camouflage had at least produced this one fantastic song, with another great pulsing beat (I know, I’m writing that a lot).  They sound so much like Depeche Mode in this song that I considered putting them on a DM mix tape.

#227  –  I Want You Now

  • “I want you now, tomorrow won’t do”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1987
  • album track from Music for the Masses
  • I did not deliberately place this song after “The Great Commandment” but it fits.  One of the ironies of Depeche Mode is that songwriter Martin Gore usually sings on one song per album and that song is almost always one of the best songs on the album.  Case in point, “I Want You Now”, the best song on a very good album full of hits like “Never Let Me Down Again” and “Strangelove”.  It also seems to be the songs about heart-break and heartache that Gore sings on (see also “Somebody” and “A Question of Lust”, both later on this list), perhaps because the higher tone of his voice works better for such songs.  Either way, from the breathing that begins and ends the song, to the music, to the heartfelt lyrics, this is one of the best Depeche Mode songs ever and the first non-single on the list.

#226  –  Begin the Begin

  • “The insurgency began and you missed it”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe
  • 1986
  • album track from Lifes Rich Pageant
  • Though this song was never released as a single it’s always been a core part of R.E.M.’s live act, even kicking off their induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  This song kicked off a new, more rocking version of R.E.M., moving away a bit from the jangling college rock that had been a hallmark of their first three albums.  In spite of the esoteric lyrics, you can see where Michael Stipe is going with this song, an introspective look at historical America.

#225  –  Walk of Life

  • “He got the action, he got the motion”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler
  • 1985
  • single from Brothers in Arms  (#7)
  • Did the video come first for me?  Or was it the synthesizers?  Or was it just the happy-go-lucky way that Mark Knopfler sings the song?  If you listen to the song and then watch the video, which is mostly a bunch of sports bloopers, you’ll wonder what they have to do with each other.  But isn’t all that fun on screen just a version of the walk of life?  Who knows?  But the song is catchy as all hell.

#224  –  Fight the Power

  • “Our freedom of speech is freedom or death”
  • Public Enemy
  • Carlton Ridenhour, Eric Sadler, Hank Boxley, Keith Boxley
  • 1989
  • single, later featured on Fear of a Black Planet  (#29 – U.K.)
  • Is this is the greatest hip hop song ever recorded?  I suspect I wouldn’t be the only person to suggest that.  It powers through with energy in Do the Right Thing and it helped make Public Enemy one of the most well-known recording acts at work.  It works, not only because of its pounding beat, but because of the universality of the lyrics at the same time that it is so specific about what was going on in African-American communities at the time (and is still going on).

#223  –  Everyday is Like Sunday

  • “Come armageddon”
  • Morrissey
  • Morrissey, Stephen Street
  • 1988
  • single from Viva Hate  (#9 – U.K.)
  • I first heard this song on the cd single to “Candy Everybody Wants” covered by 10,000 Maniacs.  As often happens when I hear a cover that I love, I went back and found the original and found myself loving it, easily my favorite of all of Morrissey’s solo work.  It’s supposedly inspired by On the Beach, which makes perfect sense if you’ve ever read the book.  For someone like me, who has always dreaded Sundays, with that long dark teatime of the soul, this song perfectly encapsulates the day.  While the name of Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate, was a perfect title for a collection of his work, when I made my own Morrissey greatest hits, I took my title from this song: “Come Armageddon”.

#222  –  Tainted Love

  • “The love we share seems to go nowhere”
  • Soft Cell
  • Ed Cobb
  • 1981
  • single  (#8; #1 – U.K.)
  • Arriving between “Cars” and “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Tainted Love” broke through just at the right time for the ascent of synth-pop.  Soft Cell would never do much of anything on the charts ever again but the song rose to #1 in the U.K. and eventually hit the Billboard charts as well, getting up to #8.

#221  –  A Little Respect

  • What religion or reason could drive a man to forsake his lover”
  • Erasure
  • Vince Clarke, Andy Bell
  • 1988
  • single from The Innocents  (#14)
  • And here’s one of the founders of the synth-pop sound and the one who has stuck with it the longest.  The song would later be covered by Wheatus and it’s an interesting cover in that it is different (guitars instead of synths) but is also almost exactly the same, perhaps because the singers sing in basically the same range as Andy Bell.  It makes me wonder if I find the song satisfying or pointless or maybe a little of both (and Veronica thinks the video is the most compelling part of the cover).

#220  –  Mr. Roboto

  • Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto”
  • Styx
  • Dennis DeYoung
  • 1983
  • single from Kilroy Was Here  (#3)
  • This is one of the few songs I remember really liking before I start making mix tapes in junior high.  This is my favorite Styx song, which might sound like faint praise, but I actually rather like Styx and that means it beats out songs like “Come Sail Away”, “The Grand Illusion” and “Show Me the Way”.

#219  –  Yoda

  • “The long-term contract I had to sign says I’ll be making these movies ’til the end of time”
  • Weird Al Yankovic
  • Weird Al Yankovic, Ray Davies
  • 1985
  • album track from Dare to Be Stupid
  • As mentioned in the albums post, I first heard this song in July of 1985 and instantly loved it.  I had no idea at the time that it was a parody.  I knew Weird Al did that, of course, because, like most people, the first Weird Al song I really knew was “Eat It” but I definitely didn’t know “Lola” at the time (though I recognized other songs on the album as having been parodies).  I simply thought it was hilarious the way it perfectly caught the feel (“I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed  /  But remember if you kill him then you’ll be unemployed”).  There have been various attempts over the years to make humorous songs about Star Wars but the only two successful ones in my opinion are the two by Weird Al.

#218  –  Oh L’Amour

  • “Oh love of my heart why leave me alone?”
  • Erasure
  • Vince Clarke, Andy Bell
  • 1986
  • single from Wonderland  (#85 – U.K.)
  • The best song written by Andy Bell and since that’s a list that includes “A Little Respect”, “Always”, “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Nobody’s Diary” and “Only You” that is definitely not faint praise.  As I said above, no songwriter like Clarke has so embraced and continued to embrace synth-pop and it really shines through here.  Oddly, not a hit at all in either the U.S. or the U.K..

#217  –  I Am a Patriot

  • “I ain’t no democrat, sure ain’t no republican”
  • Jackson Browne
  • Steven Van Zandt
  • 1989
  • album track from World in Motion
  • I got into Jackson Browne in college when I first heard “I’m Alive” and he was one of the first artists I collected on vinyl.  To me, this was the star track of all those albums, even more than great songs like “The Pretender”, “Running on Empty” or “Lawyers in Love” even though, ironically, Browne didn’t write it.  It’s a song that cries out to be sung loudly and for people to listen to the lyrics.  I won Veronica over with it after she first heard Eddie Vedder sing it in concert back in 2000.  Pearl Jam covers it a lot and if you listen to the lyrics you’ll know why.

#216  –  And We Danced

  • “She was a be-bop baby on a hard day’s night”
  • The Hooters
  • Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman
  • 1985
  • single from Nervous Night  (#21)
  • Am I alone in having bands that I think of as One-Hit Wonders even if they aren’t?  Bands like a-ha, Chris De Burgh, Cutting Crew, A Flock of Seagulls and John Parr all had multiple singles but if you pressed me, I couldn’t name more than one song by any of them.  Which brings me to The Hooters.  Looking at their discography, they have three Top 40 hits and four other singles that made the Top 100.  As far as my memory stretches, they have one song, and it’s a fantastic single called “And We Danced”.  It starts with the Hohner melodica and those beautiful notes and then turns into a great rock song that is also extremely easy to dance to (if you can dance, which I can’t).  The song also had a good video which I remember seeing about 600 times growing up (partially because we recorded it off MTV).

#215  –  Kiss Off

  • “Ten, ten, ten, ten, is for everything, everything, everything”
  • Violent Femmes
  • Gordon Gano
  • 1983
  • album track from Violent Femmes
  • I first heard the Violent Femmes in high school when I watched the video for “American Music” on 120 Minutes.  But I know when this song became a part of my life.  It was in September of 1993 and we were painting our hall and the girl I was in love with, who also happened to be my R.A. was painting with me.  I had grabbed one of my sister’s mix tapes from home and this song came on.  She was singing along, but then when the countdown started, “I take one, one, one ’cause you left me”, she was getting into it and by the time we were down to the end of the countdown, “I take nine, nine, nine for the lost gods  /  Ten, ten, ten, ten is for everything, everything, everything” she was losing it and I was losing it and I knew that this song was one I was going to love forever.  The next week or so, Add It Up came out and I bought it and it had the live version of the song which I later put on a mix tape for her which she loved.

#214  –  Eat It

  • “Have a big dinner, have a light snack”
  • Weird Al Yankovic
  • Weird Al Yankovic, Michael Jackson
  • 1984
  • single from Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D  (#12)
  • There’s no question that this was the first Weird Al song that I knew.  It was probably the first Weird Al song that most people knew, as this was his only Top 40 hit during his first decade of work.  It was a savagely brilliant parody, made even more brilliant by how perfectly it nailed the video as well (especially that opening scene).  It might not be his best parody (which might be “Smells Like Nirvana”) and it’s not his funniest (I have to go with “Achy Breaky Song”) but it’s the one that helped make him a star and it deserved to.

#213  –  Time After Time

  • “Secrets stolen from deep inside”
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman
  • 1984
  • single from She’s So Unusual  (#1)
  • Certainly the most heart-breakingly beautiful song on She’s so Unusual and one that I think resonates with almost everyone.  If you need any better proof, then just think of “You know this song already?”  “Of course I do, everyone knows this song, it’s amazing.”  It still works.  If it can bring April and Ann together, then it can do anything.  It is also the first Billboard #1 on this list, which, if you compare it to the other post, you will know that means that 37 other #1 singles will appear above it (technically not true, as at least one of those songs was a 1979 song not eligible for this post).

#212  –  Minutes to Memories

  • “This is my life, it’s what I’ve chosen to do”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp
  • John Mellencamp, George M. Green
  • 1985
  • album track from Scarecrow
  • Emerging from the ridiculous name of Johnny Cougar that had been laid upon him by his label, John Mellencamp was also slowly bringing forth songs that came from his home and his heart.  On Scarecrow he would find the perfect balance, with an array of hits, but one of the best songs is this one, the fourth track, stuck in between the hits “Small Town” and “Lonely Ol’ Night”.  It’s a fairly simple song, but it’s a nice nod to what we learn from older generations and what we choose to pass down.

#211  –  Rock the Casbah

  • “Degenerate the faithful with that crazy Casbah sound”
  • The Clash
  • The Clash
  • 1982
  • single from Combat Rock  (#8)
  • With that piano coming in it was clear that this wasn’t the same Clash that had burned things down in 1977.  This was the biggest single of their career in the States and a symbol of the end, as this would be the last album with the full lineup.  I resisted this song for a long time, not because it’s not great but because it was the one Clash song that everyone seemed to know.

#210  –  Independence Day

  • “The darkness of this house has got the best of us”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1980
  • album track from The River
  • When I first bought The River the only single I knew was “Hungry Heart”.  But as soon as I started listening to the album, several of the songs swept me away with their dark visions of relationships.  This was one that affected me so much that I wrote my own lyrics to the tune, titled “New Year’s Eve”, trying to turn the father-son relationship into a relationship between lovers but with the same sense of loss.  It’s one of the darker songs on the album because it’s one of the ones originally written for Darkness on the Edge of Town.  It was never a single, but it was released on the European version of “The River” 45.

#209  –  World Leader Pretend

  • “I’ve a rich understanding of my finest defenses”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry  /  Buck  /  Mills  /  Stipe
  • 1988
  • album track from Green
  • Who does this?  Who places one of the silliest, most nonsensical songs, a song like “Stand” in between two incredible deep, moving songs, one personal (“You are the Everything”) and one political?  And yet, is this a political song?  Or is it yet another personal song from a band that hadn’t done a whole lot of those in their first several albums?  Either way, it’s still one of the best songs to ever come out of one of America’s greatest bands, not only lyrically (which are amazing) but also musically, with good use of a pedal steel guitar, cello and piano, none of which you normally hear in an R.E.M. song.

#208  –  Don’t Come Around Here No More

  • “You tangle up my emotions”
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  • Tom Petty, David A. Stewart
  • 1985
  • single from Southern Accents  (#13)
  • You could make the claim that his song belongs on this list simply because of the video, which is among the more stylish of the decade.  But songs have to be great in their own right as well as this song is, from that opening guitar intro to the use of the sitar through the basic chorus.

#207  –  Centerfield

  • “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today”
  • John Fogerty
  • John Fogerty
  • 1985
  • single from Centerfield  (#44)
  • Originally the b-side to “Rock and Roll Girls” (although also the title track of the album, of course), which went to #20, the constant airplay of the song ended up with it getting released as a single in its own right.  It is a song that has become a standard for baseball stadiums around the country and it deserves to be, with a great rock and roll beat and lyrics that really show a respect and love for the game, what will always be my game.

#206  –  We Got the Beat

  • “Go-go music really makes us dance”
  • The Go-Go’s
  • Charlotte Caffey
  • 1981, single released in 1982
  • single from Beauty and the Beat  (#2)
  • When I was in elementary school, it was almost required for every girl to like the Go-Go’s.  Part of that was that they were the first all-female group to play their own instruments to have major chart success but part of it was that they were just a great and fun band.  Like with “Walking on Sunshine”, there was an original version of this song before the one that hit it big.  That version, a demo from before the Go-Go’s were signed to IRS shows their punk roots while the hit version shows the New Wave band that they evolved into.  With one of the best drum and guitar openings of the decade, it’s one of the catchiest songs of the decade and rightly helped (along with “Our Lips Are Sealed”, which just missed the Top 250) make their debut album a massive success.  Ironically, given the prominence of the Go-Go’s as an all-girl band, this song were kept out of the top spot on the Billboard Top 100 by Joan Jett, who had previously been in an all-girl band.

#205  –  The Boy in the Bubble

  • “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts”
  • Paul Simon
  • Paul Simon
  • 1986, single released in 1987
  • single from Graceland  (#86; #26 – U.K.)
  • How many songs inspire you to write a poem?  Well this one did, or more specifically, that line quoted above did.  I won’t put up the poem because I don’t like to share my poetry for the most part, but it was called Billboard #1 Single, which is ironic since this song, in spite of its brilliant lyrics (perhaps the best on Graceland, an album blessed with great lyrics) and fantastic music couldn’t even make the Top 80.

#204  –  You Give Love a Bad Name

  • “An angel’s smile is what you sell”
  • Bon Jovi
  • Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child
  • 1986
  • single from Slippery When Wet  (#1)
  • I have a distinct memory of this song which doesn’t match a certain aspect of reality, meaning either I’m misremembering it after 31 years or my brother set me up.  In the summer of 1986, my brother Kelly and I started sharing a room which made no sense because while I idolized him, I also annoyed him and we had massively different hours (he was up late with friends or a summer job, I fell asleep early and woke up early) but, hey, it was only during summers and vacations because he would be off at college and my parents needed to give my sisters each their own room before they destroyed the house or killed each other (but really, my parents were more worried about the house).  I remember him coming in late one night (late for me, maybe 10?) and putting in a cd that he had clearly just bought.  The first few seconds were fairly quiet and I thought I could fall asleep (which I almost had already) when suddenly out blares “Shot through the heart!  You’re to blame!” and suddenly I was wide awake.  But this isn’t the opening song on the album.  Did he skip the first one?  And was that on purpose?  Was it because it was the hit song or was it just to wake me up, probably in revenge for many mornings when I probably woke him up because I was 11 and loud and woke up early while he liked to sleep until noon?  Either way, this was my introduction, not just to the song, but to Bon Jovi as well, a band I eventually grew to really like, in spite of their ridiculous hair.

#203  –  Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns

  • “Dreams like this must die”
  • Mother Love Bone
  • Jeff Ament, Bruce Fairweather, Greg Gilmore, Stone Gossard, Andrew Wood
  • 1989
  • album track from the EP Shine
  • This song, on the other hand, I didn’t hear until years later.  But as I would watch Pearl Jam grow in the 90’s and learn their history and dive backwards to figure out where they came from, it became clear that “Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns” was the pinnacle of what had come before them.  In some ways, the most tragic heroin song on this list (of which there are apparently a lot) because Andrew Wood, of course, would die of an overdose.  Rolling Stone would list on the 50 Greatest Songs over 7 Minutes.  Pearl Jam started covering it during their second decade and there are several great live Pearl Jam versions available.

#202  –  Spirit of ’76

  • “A sign stands over the door that says ‘four lads who shook the world'”
  • The Alarm
  • Eddie McDonald & Mike Peters
  • 1985
  • single from Strength  (#22 – U.K.)
  • This was a song that took me a long time to really enjoy and my sister Stacy is clearly at fault in this.  She was a big Alarm fan (I have a tape of one of their concerts she clearly recorded surreptitiously at Irvine Meadows) and during a family vacation in 1987 about which the less said the better, we would struggle to find radio stations in northern California and in the cultural wasteland of 1987 Oregon (and all the stations we could find seemed to be playing “Luka” all the god damn time) and so Stacy taught this song to Alison and the two of them drove me insane by singing it all the damn time.  It wouldn’t be until I discovered “Rain in the Summertime” and then bought Standards in the summer of 94 that I finally was able to see how good a song it was, how it was built on the individual instruments, especially some really great guitar work and earned it’s length (it’s over seven minutes).

#201  –  The One I Love

  • “A simple prop to occupy my time”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1987
  • single from Document  (#9)
  • Great songs can exist in a variety of formats.  Like this song, for instance, which is a great rock song (and a misinterpreted one at that because the opening line (and title) means people stop paying attention, but it’s a far cry from the grand winner in a decade that includes “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Every Breath You Take”) with a great drum beat to kick it off and then some awesome guitar work.  But now look at this version from a concert I was at in 2001.  It now becomes a much more haunting song and you can feel the pain in it.

#200  –  Invisible Sun

  • “It’s dark all day and it glows all night”
  • The Police
  • Sting
  • 1981
  • single from Ghost in the Machine  (#2 – U.K.)
  • This wasn’t part of that first group of Police songs I knew, the ones with the great videos (“Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”) but I started to listen to it after my brother got Every Breath You Take: The Singles.  It also captured my attention more when I started looking at the videos my siblings had recorded off MTV in the 80’s, including the Police reunion on the 1986 Amnesty International Tour and there’s a great moment when Bono comes out to sing this with Sting.

#199  –  Live to Tell

  • “A man can tell a thousand lies, I’ve learned my lesson well”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Stephen Leonard
  • 1986
  • single from True Blue  (#1)
  • In some ways, Madonna was the flip side to Kenny Loggins, providing hit songs to soundtracks like Vision Quest, Desperately Seeking Susan, At Close Range and Who’s That Girl, except that she also put out amazing albums, she is still delivering songs for soundtracks and, with all due respect to Loggins, her film songs are considerably better.  This previously existed as an instrumental from Stephen Leonard but when he played it for Madonna she wrote lyrics and put it in At Close Range.  The song far outlived the fame of the film.

#198  –  Town Called Malice

  • “Stop apologising for the things you’ve never done”
  • The Jam
  • Paul Weller
  • 1982
  • single from The Gift  (#1 – U.K.)
  • The first British #1 on the list that didn’t hit #1 in the States (in fact, it only charted on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart) but not in the Top 10 on that list (yes, all 10 are above this one).  Did The Jam’s revival of mod count as being a New Wave band?  Either way, this is Weller’s great, rocking celebration of his hometown of Woking.

#197  –  People Have the Power

  • “I believe everything we dream will come to pass through our union”
  • Patti Smith
  • Patti Smith, Fred Smith
  • 1988
  • single from Dream of Life  (#97 – U.K.)
  • In four years in the late 70’s, The Patti Smith Group released four albums, two of which are among the greatest ever recorded (Horses, Easter) and another of which is one of the best of the decade (Wave).  Then she broke up the band and spent eight years with her husband raising their kids before finally emerging with one album before taking another hiatus.  That album, Dream of Life, is a bit of a mixed bag but it contains “People Have the Power”, a fantastic song that would later be used by any number of great artists, including R.E.M. and Eddie Vedder (see here), U2 (see here) and Bruce Springsteen (with some friends here).  That so many of my favorite artists love this song says it all.  It works so well as an anthem because the people who sing it fiercely believe in it.

#196  –  Making Love out of Nothing At All

  • “Every star in the sky is taking aim at your eyes like a spotlight”
  • Air Supply
  • Jim Steinman
  • 1983
  • single from Greatest Hits  (#2)
  • I am not ashamed to admit that one of the first pieces of music I ever asked for was Air Supply’s Greatest Hits.  Okay, that’s not true; I’m totally ashamed of it.  Their music is schmaltzy and sappy and “Even the Nights Are Better”, the song that really made me ask for it (and my sister – I should bring my sister Stacy into this well of shame since it was a present we both asked for and we got it together) has not aged well in my mind though that didn’t stop me from including several of their songs on my Schmaltz cd’s (other highlights include Neil Diamond, John Denver, Barry Manilow and Kenny Rogers, because if I’m going to admit this, I’ll go all the way).  But this song, the one new track for the collection is one of the all-time great schmaltzy songs, a big Jim Steinman piano driven ballad (which is great, because the piano is always played by Roy Bittan, Springsteen’s brilliant professor of musicology) that was actually kept out of the #1 spot in the States by Jim Steinman’s other big 1983 ballad, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.  It is to the credit of vocalist Russell Hitchcock that he is good enough that their 2005 acoustic recording of the song is quite good even absent the piano.  If you like the song you should also probably give a listen to the original demo of the song by Rory Dodd.

#195  –  Redemption Song

  • “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers
  • Bob Marley
  • 1980
  • single from Uprising
  • Is this the Bob Marley song that least sounds like a Bob Marley song?  It is certainly one of the most subdued of his songs, lacking a reggae beat, instead just him singing with an acoustic guitar.  He was already in pain from the cancer that would kill him when he wrote and recorded it.  Yet, it is a plea from the mind and the heart and the song that seems to most endure, ranking at #66 all-time for Rolling Stone.

#194  –  Charlotte Sometimes

  • “She hopes to open shadowed eyes”
  • The Cure
  • Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Lol Tolhurst
  • 1981
  • single  (#44 – U.K.)
  • Showing that he could be influenced by a wide range of literature, this time Robert Smith would go with a British children’s book for one of his darkest, most moody songs.

#193  –  King of Pain

  • “There’s a little black spot on the sun today”
  • The Police
  • Sting
  • 1983
  • single from Synchronicity  (#3)
  • While “Every Breath You Take” (also about Sting’s wife) had been less obvious to lots of listeners, it was clear that this song was about a broken heart.  Sting had retreated to Jamaica and this song came to him one day as he looked up at the sun and came up with those first couple of memorable lines.  This song would be parodied by Weird Al on his 1984 album as “King of Suede”.

#192  –  The Stand

  • “Four men at a grave in silence, hats bowed down in grace”
  • The Alarm
  • Mike Peters, Eddie MacDonald, Dave Sharp
  • 1983
  • single from The Alarm e.p. (#86 – U.K.)
  • Surely the greatest song ever inspired by a Stephen King novel and let’s hope it stays that way.  This was the first Alarm song I liked, long before I got interested in their other music and it’s because the book has long been one of my favorites (I first read it in seventh grade).  I loved the way it referenced the book, but I also liked the harmonica and guitars.  This song was a single from the band’s first e.p., then a shorter version of it appeared on their first full album, Declaration.  Since the e.p. wasn’t originally released on cd, my brother had this on one of the old mini cd singles that actually came with plastic to keep it centered on the spinner because it was smaller than a usual cd.

#191  –  Blasphemous Rumours

  • “Summer’s day as she passed away, birds were singing in the summer sky”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1984
  • single from Some Great Reward  (#16 – U.K.)
  • In the summer of 1985, my cousin Erika and my sister Stacy decided they wanted to start making music videos.  They made a pretty hilariously hammy “Every Breath You Take” and then they decided to make one for “Blasphemous Rumours”.  I was brought in to record the video, which mainly consisted of trying to film the opening verse, with Stacy playing the daughter.  What I mainly remember is that Erika was supposed to pretend slap Stacy and she slapped her really hard.  But all of that meant that this was one of the songs I really knew by heart because we were playing the song as we recorded the video and so I listened to it a lot.  It’s tragic and painful to listen to, but it also makes you wonder how the world works.  It also gave me a phrase that doesn’t exist.  I misheard the line “thank the lord for small mercies” as “thank the lord, forceful mercies”.  I figured the girl didn’t die because of a forceful mercy.  I still think it would be a brilliant phrase had they actually sang it, which they didn’t.

#190  –  Small Town

  • “Used to day dream in that small town, another boring romantic that’s me”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp
  • John Mellencamp
  • 1985
  • single from Scarecrow  (#6)
  • I am not from a small town.  I have never been from a small town and though I have lived in one (Forest Grove), it was also a suburb of a big city, so it’s not really the same thing.  But songs like this have helped give me a sense of small towns that I have used to create them when I write.  I understand the feeling, not because I have felt it, but because Mellencamp expresses it so well.

#189  –  Cemetry Gates

  • “Keats and Yeats are on your side while Wilde is on mine”
  • The Smiths
  • Morrissey  /  Johnny Marr
  • 1986
  • album track from The Queen is Dead
  • I have mentioned in several posts above that I found some of my sister’s tapes when I was in college.  I didn’t just find them and listen to them then.  They became part of my life and many of those songs have appeared on this list and several others came close.  I still have some of those tapes, including this one on the right, where I first heard this song (which she misspelled, or spelled correctly and Morrissey misspelled if you want to go with that).  It immediately became one of my favorite Smiths songs and has stayed that way for over 20 years.  By the way, I can’t explain why Three Little Birds, a song I could gladly go the rest of my life without ever hearing again (thank f’ing christ that Shane Victorino no longer plays for the Red Sox) is on a tape that is entirely made up of 80’s alternative songs.

#188  –  So Far Away

  • “I’m tired of being in love and being all alone”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler
  • 1985, U.S. single released in 1986
  • single from Brothers in Arms  (#20; #19 – U.K.)
  • The brilliant first track on Brothers in Arms, with some wonderful slide guitar, this was actually the lead single from the album in the U.K. but it would end up being the third (and final) single from the album in the States.  There is a nice live version of this song on Real Live Roadrunning where Knopfler sings with Emmylou Harris.

#187  –  Need You Tonight / Mediate

  • “Don’t suffocate on your own hate”
  • INXS
  • Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchence
  • 1987
  • single from Kick  (#1)
  • This is a problem with cd’s.  On live recordings, introductions often get pushed into the track before.  And sometimes songs that really should be just one track are two and when you play things on shuffle, they won’t play together (“Brain Damage / Eclipse” on Dark Side of the Moon is another example).  But these two songs flow into each other on Kick and were made into a single video, transitioning from animation to a riff on the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” video.  And it just works perfectly, going from the great guitar riff in this song (which came to Farriss while in a cab at a hotel and he told the driver he needed to go grab something and came back an hour later with a recorded riff) to the continual rhymes in “Mediate”.

#186  –  Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

  • “My best friend told me what you did last night”
  • Wham!
  • George Michael
  • 1984
  • single from Make It Big  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • One of the most danceable songs of the 80’s and one that continues to resonate.  It appeared in Zoolander 2, Sausage Party, Sing and The LEGO Batman Movie before George Michael died (and the video appeared in T2: Trainspotting reminding us to “Choose Life”).  This was the song that really made Wham.  Their first album had given them four Top 10 singles in the U.K. but they hadn’t even hit the U.S. Top 40 but this song hit #1 after just two weeks in Britain and also went to #1 in the States.  It was just infectious, you couldn’t escape from it and it’s so much fun you wouldn’t want to.

#185  –  Rattlesnakes

  • “She looks like Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront
  • Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
  • Lloyd Cole, Neil Clark
  • 1984
  • single from Rattlesnakes  (#59 – U.K.)
  • In 2001, Tori Amos released an album of covers of songs written by men.  While the songs I already knew I didn’t really go for (“Heart of Gold”, “Enjoy the Silence”), some of the songs I liked the best were ones I didn’t know, namely this and “Real Men” and both of them made me seek out the originals.  It turned out in both of those cases, I would love the originals, while also loving what Tori would do with them.  Because I had gotten used to Tori’s version for a couple of years before I heard this original, I was unprepared for the great guitar work on the song and the more I listen to the song, the more I love it.

#184  –  Late in the Evening

  • “I learned to play some lead guitar, I was underage in this funky bar”
  • Paul Simon
  • Paul Simon
  • 1980
  • single from One Trick Pony  (#6)
  • The opening track from the soundtrack to the film written by and starring Simon, this is a great rock song with a great driving beat which meant of course that the Academy completely ignored it while nominating “9 to 5”.  On Live in New York, when Simon sings about “stepping outside to smoke a j” the crowd goes nuts.

#183  –  Voices Carry

  • “In the dark I like to read his mind”
  • ‘Til Tuesday
  • Robert Holmes / Aimee Mann / Michael Hausman / Joey Pesce
  • 1985
  • single from Voices Carry  (#8)
  • Lots of bands break up with the lead singer (who is often the lead songwriter as well) going solo.  But it’s much rarer for that person to be female.  But Aimee Mann’s thoughtful lyrics were the driving force in ‘Til Tuesday (indeed, her lyrics here were originally sung to a female and were changed due to label pressure – I would love to hear the original) and it’s not really a surprise that she would eventually take off on her own and have such a fantastic solo career.

#182  –  Livin’ on a Prayer

  • “We get to hold on to what we got  /  It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”
  • Bon Jovi
  • Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child
  • 1986
  • single from Slippery When Wet  (#1)
  • By the end of my first semester of junior high, I guarantee that every single female at Cerro Villa knew this song by heart.  It would take me a bit longer, thanks to having been scarred a bit at first by “You Give Love a Bad Name”.  Time would seem to indicate that those girls weren’t alone.  The video has been viewed on YouTube over 350 million times and VH-1 had it voted the best song of the decade.  It’s a great song and one that resonates but still only the second best song off the album, even this far up the countdown.

#181  –  Let My Love Open the Door

  • “When everybody keeps retreating you can’t seem to get enough”
  • Pete Townshend
  • Pete Townshend
  • 1980
  • single from Empty Glass  (#9)
  • In spite of the hideous picture sleeve, this is a fantastic love song.  Unlike lots of songwriters, his solo stuff doesn’t just sound like a single from his own bandm but is very much his own.  There is, of course, an alternate version of this song, slowed down and used to good effect in Grosse Pointe Blank.  The original is still the best, but that version is great as well.  You can also find covers of this by Pearl Jam.

#180  –  Take My Breath Away

  • “Watching every motion in my foolish lover’s game”
  • Berlin
  • Giorgio Moroder, Tom Whitlock
  • 1986
  • single from Top Gun: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • The Oscar winner for Best Original Song and a deserving choice (if you don’t count the three eligible songs that weren’t nominated that are above it on this list).  A truly great ballad used to good effect in the film even if the film in question is pretty dumb.  It’s also the second song on the list that hit #1 both in the US and the UK.

#179  –  Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

  • “It’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me that ends up getting wet”
  • The Police
  • Sting
  • 1981
  • single from Ghost in the Machine  (#3; #1 – U.K.)
  • One of the earliest Police songs by composition (written before Andy Summers was even playing with them) but put aside for years because the original demo didn’t really sound like a Police song.  When they finally put it together as a band, the result of course was one of the band’s most beloved songs.

#178  –  In Too Deep

  • “You know I love you but I just can’t take this”
  • Genesis
  • Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford
  • 1986
  • single from Invisible Touch  (#4)
  • Usually I will prefer the British charts over the American ones but this is one case where I don’t.  Invisible Touch, one of the albums I have listened to the most in my life produced five singles, all of which went Top 10 in the US and none of which made the Top 10 in the UK even though Genesis is a British band.  This song appeared on the album but had been written and recorded for the film Mona Lisa, where it is brilliantly used.  It is also used well in American Psycho before Patrick starts going all psycho on the women.

#177  –  Don’t Let’s Start

  • “This is the worst part”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • John Flansburgh, John Linnell
  • 1986
  • single from They Might Be Giants
  • I often think of this as being the opening song on their first album but it’s actually the fourth song.  That’s because it’s such a great song to kick things off and it was the band’s first single.  In the video, they move around at high speed but were filmed in slow motion and sped up so it’s hilarious to listen to them talking about making the video.  This song actually charted in Australia, getting all the way up to #94.  I once saw the opening act for TMBG sing this song which was a surreal experience (and I’m sure they must have cleared it with the band first).

#176  –  Earn Enough for Us

  • “I’ve been praying all the week through, at home, at work and on the bus”
  • XTC
  • Andy Partridge
  • 1986
  • album track from Skylarking
  • This might not sound like a beautiful love song, but it’s actually exactly what it is and it’s one I love to sing at top volume to Veronica.  Released as a single in Canada and Australia but not in the UK or US, which doesn’t matter since XTC singles almost never went anywhere anyway.

#175  –  The Ties That Bind

  • “I would rather feel the hurt inside”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1980
  • album track from The River
  • Originally the title track for the one lp album that would have been Springsteen’s 1979 release but it ended up simply being the opening track to the 2 lp release that became The River.  Originally written and first performed on the Darkness tour, it would help set the stage for the human connections that bring the songs on The River together over the despair on Darkness.  And, of course, it has a kick-ass sax solo from Clarence.  There’s a slightly different mix available on the original 1 lp version on the box set The Ties That Bind.

#174  –  The Reflex

  • “Every little thing the reflex does leave you answered with a question mark”
  • Duran Duran
  • Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor, Nick Rhodes
  • 1983, single released in 1984
  • single from Seven and the Ragged Tiger  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • Like most Duran Duran songs, I have no idea what this is about.  But that doesn’t stop it from being a truly fantastic dance song.  One of two songs that kept “Dancing in the Dark” at #2 and prevented Springsteen from ever having a #1 hit.

#173  –  Freedom

  • “But you know that I forgive you, just this once, twice, forever”
  • Wham!
  • George Michael
  • 1984
  • single from Make It Big  (#3; #1 – U.K.)
  • Good lord did Stacy have a thing for George Michael.  I have a videotape that has the world premiere of this video on MTV from September of 1985.  The best song that Wham! would do as a group.  It took real guts for George Michael to use the same title for his hit song in 1990 but that’s one of the greatest dance songs ever recorded (I would possibly rate it second all-time behind “Twist or Shout”).

#172  –  Wanted Dead or Alive

  • “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride”
  • Bon Jovi
  • Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora
  • 1986; single released in 1987
  • single from Slippery When Wet  (#7)
  • “You Give Love a Bad Name” was the song where I first noticed Bon Jovi and the one where Stacy went bonkers for their lead singer.  “Livin’ on a Prayer” was the song that every girl in middle school loved.  But in the end, for almost every person I know, including, obviously me, “Wanted Dead or Alive” is the best song the band would ever record.  In fact, I remember my friend John not liking “Blaze of Glory” that much because he thought it ripped off “Wanted Dead or Alive” too much.

#171  –  Total Eclipse of the Heart

  • “Every now and then I fall apart”
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Jim Steinman
  • 1983
  • single from Faster Than the Speed of Night  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • A memorable epic song once again penned by Jim Steinman (which means, of course, piano by Roy Bittan and this one also has Max Weinberg on drums – at least they got to be on a #1 hit) with a just as memorable video (which apparently freaked Tyler out during the making of it).  There was a very popular cover by Nicki French but I much prefer the cover by Tori Amos which is more in the style of the original.

#170  –  A Month of Sundays

  • “I saw a sign on Easy Street, said be prepared to stop”
  • Don Henley
  • Don Henley
  • 1984
  • b-side to “The Boys of Summer”
  • A soft piano tune that was used originally as the b-side to “The Boys of Summer” but which was subsequently included on cd releases of Building the Perfect Beast.  A beautiful mournful elegy for an America that was already disappearing.

#169  –  Leningrad

  • “Cold war kids are hard to kill under their desks in an air raid drill”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1989
  • single from Storm Front  (#53 – U.K.)
  • Released as a single overseas but not in the U.S., this was the song I discovered when I first listened to Storm Front in its entirety.  It’s one of Joel’s most moving songs and it didn’t feel so different from my own experience growing up, still practicing drills, because nothing stops a nuclear bomb like hiding under your desk.

#168  –  Fast Car

  • “I had a feeling I could be someone”
  • Tracy Chapman
  • Tracy Chapman
  • 1988
  • single from Tracy Chapman  (#6)
  • It took me a long time to get into this song, partially because I hate the song “Give Me Just One Reason” and so it made me reticent to listen to any Tracy Chapman.  At some point in late 97 / early 98, I finally really listened to it and I was astounded at what a powerful song it was, how in folk music you could get a black female perspective.  Certainly one of the most moving songs of the decade.  There is a cover by Jonas Blue that was a big hit and it is fucking appalling.

#167  –  Sacrifice

  • “It’s a human sign when things go wrong”
  • Elton John
  • Elton John, Bernie Taupin
  • 1989
  • single from Sleeping with the Past  (#18; #1 – U.K.)
  • I remember getting into an argument with someone in my dorm about this song with her insisting it was called “Cold Cold Heart” until I finally went back to my dorm room, grabbed the tape single and then threw it at her, pointing out the title.  As Veronica will tell you, I am rarely wrong and it is a bad idea to be insistent that I am wrong unless you have triple-checked yourself.  But the song is beautiful.  There is a fantastic cover of this song by Sinead O’Connor, the only worthwhile song on the star-studded but disappointing tribute album Two Rooms.

#166  –  Brothers in Arms

  • “There’s so many different worlds, so many different suns”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler
  • 1985
  • single from Brothers in Arms  (#16)
  • Another great song that I only heard when listening to the full album because it wasn’t released as a single in the States.  Written in response to the Falklands War, this song was supposedly the first ever cd single.  A fantastic closing song to one of the best albums of the decade.

#165  –  Should I Stay or Should I Go

  • “If I go there will be trouble and if I stay it will be double”
  • The Clash
  • Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Joe Strummer
  • 1982
  • single from Combat Rock  (#45)
  • It starts with that great guitar riff and then we get just that little guitar twang and is that maybe the best part of a fantastic song?  It’s hard to decide, when listening to Combat Rock, what the best song on the album is between “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, “Rock the Casbah” or “Straight to Hell”, but I think most days this is what only what I would pick, but most people (since Rolling Stone listed it on their greatest songs of all-time).

#164  –  Sweet Child o’ Mine

  • “Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place where as a child I’d hide”
  • Guns N’ Roses
  • Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler
  • 1987; single released in 1988
  • single from Appetite for Destruction  (#1)
  • Another album that had three amazing stand-out songs that are hard to choose between.  But in the end, I have to go with this one.  It’s not my #1 GnR song (that would be “November Rain”) but it’s close.  It kicks in with one of the all-time great guitar solos, a reminder that Slash was probably the most talented member of the band.  Of the three big singles on the album this was the one that most showed off their range and that they weren’t just a partying hard rock band.

#163  –  Tell Her About It

  • “You don’t want somebody telling you the way to stay in someone’s soul”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1983
  • single from An Innocent Man  (#1)
  • More than just a great reference on Scrubs, more than just a great video (though it is a great video), it is also a great song.  I often think of An Innocent Man as another “three great singles” album but that’s not really true because there were lots of great singles, it’s just that only three of them ended up on Greatest Hits Vol. 2.  This is Joel’s ode to Motown, part of an album of musical references to his childhood and teenage years.

#162  –  Sledgehammer

  • “This can be my testimony”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1986
  • single from So  (#1)
  • When I was putting together my post on 80’s lyrics that boggle the mind, my college roommate Jonathan Miller was sending me suggestions, one of which was “anything from Sledgehammer”.  It’s true the lyrics are strange.  The video is fascinating but also strange.  When I was a kid I didn’t think much of the song other than the video.  It was years later, when I was more seriously into music and I first listened to So all the way through that I realized what a great song it was and how well it worked with the rest of the album.  It was always be remembered for the video (winning 9 VMA awards, still a record) but the song is great.

#161  –  Goodnight Saigon

  • “Remember Charlie, remember Baker, they left their childhood on every acre”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1982
  • single from The Nylon Curtain  (#56)
  • Does it say something about how much Billy Joel feels about this song that it was included on his Greatest Hits while only charting to #56 while much bigger hits like “An Innocent Man”, “Leave A Tender Moment Alone” and “Keeping the Faith” were not?  That’s because it’s a beautiful, moving song that really speaks to the cost of Vietnam

#160  –  Red Rain

  • “This place is so quiet”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1986
  • single from So  (#46 – U.K.)
  • The opening song from So really sets the stage for the album with the fantastic music and the ethereal images in the song.  It’s one of Gabriel’s best songs, which is reflected in its inclusion in various compilations since its original release in spite of not being a hit single.

#159  –  Centerfold

  • “I hope that when this issue’s gone I’ll see you when your clothes are on”
  • J. Geils Band
  • Seth Justman
  • 1981
  • single from Freeze Frame  (#1)
  • Not only was this song a #1 hit but it stayed there for six weeks and Billboard currently lists it as the 4th biggest song of 1982 (in spite of a 1981 release – songs are listed in the year where they peaked).  A fantastic song with a great harmonica solo to start it off.  One of those songs from the 80’s that everyone seems to know.

#158  –  Jump

  • “I ain’t the worst that you’ve seen”
  • Van Halen
  • Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth
  • 1983; album released in 1984
  • single from 1984  (#1)
  • The third biggest song of 1984 according to Billboard.  How odd, of course, that the biggest success that Van Halen would see would be in a song where Eddie is busy playing the synth and while there is a guitar solo, it’s not the instrumental focus (that irony would come back in my favorite Van Halen song, “Right Now”).  As a kid, this was probably the only Van Halen song I knew really well.  It wouldn’t be until the release of “Right Now” that I would become more interested in their music.

#157  –  The Night is Still Young

  • “No more separations where you have to say good night to a telephone”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1985
  • single from Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2  (#34)
  • The rare time where a new song is written for a Greatest Hits collection and it turns out to be completely worth it (other examples: “You’re Only Human” (also on this album), “Bad Day” (R.E.M.), “The Hands That Built America” (U2)).  It’s a moving song about a disintegrating relationship and almost the polar opposite of “You’re Only Human”, the other new song for the collection.

#156  –  Everything Counts

  • “The handshake seals the contract”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1983
  • single from Construction Time Again  (#6 – U.K.)
  • It’s hard to know what version of this song I might mean.  It has been remixed numerous times (the cd release of Construction Time Again alone had two versions) and it’s also got a great live version from 101 that charted to #22 in the U.K..  Specifically, I am referring to the “long version” known as “Everything Counts (In Larger Amounts)” in the U.K., the 7:21 version that concludes Construction Time Again.  It is a great example of synth pop and what can be done with it in remixing.  There might not be a better musical genre for remixing and this is one of the best examples (I would say the best example if not for the 2004 version of “Enjoy the Silence”).

#155  –  Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

  • “I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks  /  Let’s make lots of money”
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe
  • 1985; 1986
  • single  (#10)
  • The first Pet Shop Boys I ever had on tape, recording it after hearing it one of the mix tapes in my brother John’s car when he was home for Christmas.  It was originally released in 1985 and didn’t even make the Top 100 but when re-released after the smash hit of “West End Girls” it went all the way to #1o (and #11 in the U.K., the only Pet Shops Boys single to ever chart higher in the U.S. than in the U.K.).

#154  –  Shock the Monkey

  • “Don’t like it but I guess I’m learning”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1982
  • single from Security  (#29)
  • Though we had MTV from its inception (it was in the cable package that we got when we moved to Orange in August of 1981, the same month it debuted) this is the first video I actually ever remember watching and boy did it melt my brain, to the point where it was years before I could truly appreciate how great the song was.

#153  –  Always on My Mind

  • “Little things I should have said and done”
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, Mark James
  • 1987
  • single  (#4; #1 – U.K.)
  • The Pet Shop Boys are a great band and Tennant and Lowe are a great song-writing team, with songs such as “West End Girls”, “Opportunities”, “What Have I Done to Deserve This”, “Can You Forgive Her” and “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk”.  So why is it that so many of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs are covers, from “Always on My Mind” to “Go West” to “Somewhere” to “What Keeps Mankind Alive”?  Is it because they give their own inflection to songs that come from Elvis, the Village People, Sondheim / Bernstein and Brecht?  That they find the brilliance in the lyrics and original melody and bring something new with the instrumentation?  Either way, this is my #1 Pet Shops Boys song of the decade.  I never liked the Willie Nelson version and find it ridiculous that it won the Grammy for Song of the Year eleven years after it was written but Elvis’ version is my favorite Elvis song by far (it has over 4 times as many plays on my iTunes as all the other Elvis songs combined).  It is one of the more interesting Christmas #1’s in British chart history.

#152  –  Touch of Grey

  • “The words he knows are all obscene”
  • Grateful Dead
  • Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter
  • 1987
  • single from In the Dark  (#9)
  • The only Grateful Dead song I have ever liked and I’m not alone since it went to #9, which makes it their only Top 40 hit and makes them technically a One-Hit Wonder.  I used to have the picture sleeve for the 45 but I gave it to Jonathan.  It had a fold-out poster listing the tour dates for 1987 and right there on it was July 19 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, the night we got stuck in the horrible motel because everything else in town was full.  Not a great welcome to Eugene for us and I’ve never taken to it in the years since.  Great video for the song, which features Bill Walton’s Celtics jacket.

#151  –  Why Can’t This Be Love

  • “I tell myself only fool rush in”
  • Van Halen
  • Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Alex Van Halen
  • 1986
  • single from 5150  (#3)
  • The first single from the Sammy Hagar era made it clear that Van Halen was picking right up where it had left off.  In fact, it was doing even better, with Eddie given more free reign on the guitar (although he is also on the keyboard here) and no more covers that David Lee Roth was trying to push on the band.  I have a great memory of being on a road trip to California and my friend George saying “You know what Van Halen song is really great?  ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’.”  Jamie and I both stared at him and pointed out that we were listening to “Why Can’t This Be Love”.  “Oh,” George replied.  “Well, it’s a great song!”

#150  –  The Late Great Johnny Ace

  • “I was living in London with the girl from the song before”
  • Paul Simon
  • Paul Simon
  • 1983
  • album track from Hearts and Bones
  • One of two beautiful songs that marked singer reactions to the death of John Lennon.  This is a few different songs in one, transitioning from Simon’s teenage years to his time in London then to Lennon’s death.  It’s the final song on Hearts and Bones and a wonderful closing song.

#149  –  Shadows of the Night

  • “Ransom my heart but baby don’t look back”
  • Pat Benatar
  • D. L. Byron
  • 1982
  • single from Get Nervous  (#13)
  • When I first started making my own mixtapes, after getting a Walkman in 1987, this was one of the first I included, on E’s Songs III.  I am realizing as writing this post that this should have been listed at #3 for Best Covers of 80’s Songs in the original post but I didn’t know it was a cover (let alone that it was the third recorded version).  My favorite Pat Benatar song.

#148  –  Dancing in the Dark

  • “You can’t start a fire without a spark”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1984
  • single from Born in the U.S.A.  (#2)
  • We’re getting into the Born in the U.S.A. portion of the list here as you will quickly see.  It’s always been hard to decide the best songs from that album because so many of the singles are so great.  This is still the biggest single in Springsteen’s career but was kept out of the top spot by “The Reflex” and “When Doves Cry” (damn the man formerly known as Prince, Springsteen wrote in the liner notes for Greatest Hits).  The video helped kickstart Courtney Cox’s career but we can hardly blame Springsteen for Friends.  The video was directed by Brian De Palma and kick-started Springsteen getting really big name directors for his videos.  This was the last song recorded for the album because Jon Landau wanted a hit single.

#147  –  Sexual Healing

  • “When I get that feeling, I need sexual healing”
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Marvin Gaye, Odell Brown, David Ritz
  • 1982
  • single from Midnight Love  (#3)
  • The big comeback song for Marvin Gaye, following leaving Motown, his divorce and dealing with drug addictions.  One of the great all-time turn-on songs (though lagging slightly behind Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”).

#146  –  Faith

  • “I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body”
  • George Michael
  • George Michael
  • 1987
  • single from Faith  (#1)
  • Not only a #1 hit (although it only went to #2 in the U.K.) but the biggest single of 1987 according to Billboard.  Aside from how great the song is to dance to (unless you’re a white boy in public) and how sexy it is, there is also the fun that can be had with it and the image it made of George Michael.

#145  –  Born in the U.S.A.

  • “Born down in a dead man’s town”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1984
  • single from Born in the U.S.A.  (#9)
  • The song that most points out the importance of listening to the actual lyrics and not just the chorus.  This is a brilliant bitter take on the state of the U.S. in the Reagan Era.  The opening line “born down in a dead man’s town” has stuck with me for over 30 years.  This song is one of the reasons that this was the first album I ever listened to in its entirety and the first album I ever owned (taping it off my brother).  The brilliance of the song would become more obvious in 1998 when Springsteen would officially release the original recorded version of this song from the Nebraska sessions, showing that it was a dark and mournful song when the chorus wasn’t backed by such rousing music.  It would later be parodyed by Cheech and Chong as “Born in East L.A.” and would be remade as “Banned in the U.S.A.” by 2 Live Crew with Springsteen’s permission.

#144  –  I Don’t Remember

  • “I’ve got empty heart and empty bed”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1980
  • single from Peter Gabriel (III)  (#107)
  • A year and a half ago driving home from Vermont this song came on a mix cd and I asked Veronica what the title was, commenting “I Don’t Remember”.  So she looked it up (before the chorus started playing) and then stared at me.  What was surprising was that I waited so long to put this on a mix cd because it’s an absolutely brilliant song, one of Gabriel’s best singles and one which couldn’t even crack the Top 100.

#143  –  Drive

  • “Who’s gonna tell you when it’s too late”
  • The Cars
  • Ric Ocasek
  • 1984
  • single from Heartbeat City  (#3)
  • Sung by the bassist, this song is very different than almost every other great Cars song.  As a New Wave band, they were fun and sometimes silly and their songs had great beats.  But this is a heartfelt ballad and one of the most memorable such songs of the 80’s.

#142  –  My Hometown

  • “Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said ‘son take a good look around'”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1984, single released in 1985
  • single from Born in the U.S.A.  (#6)
  • The seventh and final single from Born in the U.S.A., released a year and a half after the album and also the seventh and final single to reach the Top 10.  A beautiful album closer to provide a counterpoint to the great dance vibes in “Dancing in the Dark” and, at least for now, my #1 single off the album (though not my #1 song – see below).  The single was also a big deal because it finally released the Springsteen version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” which had been playing on radios for years (and had been released once before on a little known children’s record).  In fact, I have this song on tape single for precisely that reason (before the song was released on cd on a Christmas album in the mid 90’s).  I actually have a bootleg performance of U2 singing this song on the Joshua Tree tour which melted my brain at the time, a combination of my two favorite musical artists.

#141  –  If You Were Here

  • “Just like the rain I’ll always be falling”
  • Thompson Twins
  • Tom Bailey
  • 1983
  • album track from Quick Step and Side Kick
  • Would this song be remembered if not for its use at the end of Sixteen Candles?  It’s one of the most perfect uses of a song in a film and its inclusion on the soundtrack probably considerably boosted its visibility.  A simply beautiful song.

#140  –  Mexican Radio

  • “I wish I was in Tijuana, eating barbecued iguana”
  • Wall of Voodoo
  • Wall of Voodoo
  • 1982, single released in 1983
  • single from Call of the West  (#58)
  • A fascinating funny song that people love to sing along to even if they don’t know all the words.  The line quoted above is certainly one of the more memorable (and funny) lines from the decade, though it looks very weird seeing it there in print instead of singing it along to the fascinating beat that moves through the song.

#139  –  No Myth

  • “What if I were Romeo in black jeans”
  • Michael Penn
  • Michael Penn
  • 1989
  • single from March  (#13)
  • I remember Parul Doshi and Joanna Israel singing the line up above over and over again because they didn’t know any of the other lines in the song.  That was annoying at the time but it’s a fond memory now, especially since they were both very nice (and cute).  This is a great singer-songwriter song that put Michael Penn on the map (as opposed to just being the younger brother of an actor who, at the time, was still considered more of a lunatic than a great actor) although, in spite of his great song “This & That” which followed this one, never got him back into the Top 40 again.

#138  –  Ask

  • “If it’s not love, then it’s the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb that will bring us together”
  • The Smiths
  • Johnny Marr, Morrissey
  • 1986
  • single  (#14 – U.K.)
  • One of the catchiest songs ever recorded.  My friend Mark Vanderzanden used to write the quote above all over the place and attribute it to Morrissey and I would tell him he either needed to attribute to both Morrissey and Marr or to the Smiths.  This was backed with “Cemetry Gates” as a b-side making it the rare example where both sides of a single make the list (though not the only one).

#137  –  Learning to Fly

  • “Into the distance, a ribbon of black”
  • Pink Floyd
  • David Gilmour, Anthony Moore, Bob Ezrin, Jon Carin
  • 1987
  • single from A Momentary Lapse of Reason  (#70)
  • Easily the best Floyd sing of the post-Waters era with only “Lost for Words” and “On the Turning Away” even coming close.  It’s got a great guitar riff that runs through it.  I must admit I was disappointed to learn years later that it was actually about Gilmour learning to fly planes.  I prefer my songs to be a bit more metaphorical.  Gilmour has also confirmed that it’s also about striking out on their own without Waters and I like that a lot more.

#136  –  Find a Way to My Heart

  • “There’s a reason I hide my heart, out of sight, out of mind”
  • Phil Collins
  • Phil Collins
  • 1989
  • album track from …But Seriously
  • When I first started dating Veronica and made her two mix tapes, I included two Phil Collins and one Genesis song, never dreaming she wouldn’t like his singing.  So, when I was writing “a different corner“, I had the idea of one person who loved Phil Collins being in love with someone who hated him.  I had her sing this song to herself because it’s a beautiful song, the wonderful final track on But Seriously and one of the great all-time final album tracks and because it’s a song that perfectly reflected how she was feeling.

#135  –  Running to Stand Still

  • “You’ve got to cry without weeping, talk without speaking”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • album track from The Joshua Tree
  • If you look carefully at my Top 100 U2 songs, you can tell how many U2 songs appear from here forward on the countdown.  I will try not to repeat lyrics unless I really feel it’s necessary and I won’t say too much about the U2 songs since they are covered in the original post (note the college anecdote about this song in that post).  This is yet another song about heroin on the countdown and we’re still not done.

#134  –  Never Tear Us Apart

  • “Don’t ask me what you know is true”
  • INXS
  • Andrew Farris, Michael Hutchence
  • 1987, single released in 1988
  • single from Kick  (#7)
  • Would this be the consensus best song from Kick?  I think it would be and quite probably the consensus pick for best INXS song of all-time though I personally would go with “The Stairs”.  Amazingly, in their native Australia this song didn’t even go Top 10, peaking at #14.

#133  –  Free Fallin’

  • “All the vampires walking through the valley move west down Ventura Boulevard”
  • Tom Petty
  • Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne
  • 1989
  • single from Full Moon Fever  (#7)
  • A quintessential L.A. song for those of who lived there at the time, with mentions of Reseda and Ventura Boulevard.  Surprisingly not my #1 Tom Petty song of all-time but it’s at #2 and I think it’s a lot of people’s #1.

#132  –  Most of the Time

  • “Most of the time, I’m strong enough not to hate”
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan
  • 1989
  • album track from Oh Mercy
  • The first track on the second side of Oh Mercy, the 1989 album from Dylan that was his best work in well over a decade.  I ranked it #5 all-time among Dylan songs when I did my list.  You can read more about it in that post.  Used brilliantly in High Fidelity.

#131  –  Veronica

  • “Is it all in that pretty little head of yours what goes on in that place in the dark”
  • Elvis Costello
  • Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney
  • 1989
  • single from Spike  (#19)
  • In what was still kind of early days for VH-1, I used to watch their Top 20 countdown each Sunday and this was one of the songs I was always desperately trying to hear.  Of course, in the spring of 1989 I never could have imagined being married to someone named Veronica or that she would hate the song because it’s about a woman disappearing into the darkness of Alzheimer’s.  My #1 Elvis Costello song by quite a ways.  Costello would also sing a song with my sister Alison’s name and I hate it (which has nothing to do with my relationship with my sister and that’s serious, not sarcasm – I just hate the song).

#130  –  Don’t Lose My Number

  • “They came at night leaving fear behind”
  • Phil Collins
  • Phil Collins
  • 1985
  • single from No Jacket Required  (#4)
  • I lose Veronica on my countdown for a second straight song.  A big hit from Phil’s big mid-decades album yet somehow it would be left off his 1998 best-of collection much to my annoyance.  One of my favorite of his solo sings, my love began but definitely didn’t end with the hilarious video that brilliantly ridiculed several other videos from the time.  But, I have to admit, I have no idea what the song is about or why it switches from first to third person which is why it also got included here.

#129  –  Blister in the Sun

  • “Big hands, I know you’re the one”
  • Violent Femmes
  • Gordon Gano
  • 1983
  • album track from Violent Femmes
  • I would say it’s everybody’s favorite Violent Femmes song (including Veronica) except that my favorite Violent Femmes song is probably “American Music”, though it’s close.  When this song played (for the second time in the film) over the end credits of Grosse Pointe Blank, starting with that kick ass guitar, my friend Dane and I started singing at top volume and our friend George got up and left the theater and waited for us outside.  Apparently not actually about masturbation no matter what you might have heard, which means “Captain Jack” is still the best song about masturbation (sorry, “I Touch Myself”).

#128  –  Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)

  • “There’s nothing left here to remind me”
  • Phil Collins
  • Phil Collins
  • 1984
  • single from Against All Odds: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  (#1)
  • Originally written during the sessions for Face Value then re-written for the film when he was asked to contribute a song, this would become the first solo #1 for Collins.  Not only would he not be asked to sing it at the Oscars (it was badly lip-synched by Ann Reinking) but the song would lose to “I Just Called to Say I Love You” which is even worse.  It does win the Nighthawk.  While Collins’ 1998 collection Hits wouldn’t have “Don’t Lose My Number”, it was extremely helpful for gathering his 80’s soundtrack songs in one place on cd.  Covered as a duet by Mariah Carey and Westlake that is actually not horrible.

#127  –  Head Like a Hole

  • “You’re going to get what you deserve”
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Trent Reznor
  • 1989, single released in 1990
  • single from Pretty Hate Machine  (#109)
  • Released as a “single” but that’s hardly the right description of a 10 track disc that is longer than the original album, but, hey, that’s Trent Reznor.  This was the song that proved what Trent was capable of, with some musical brilliance and a considerable dose of anger.  I still think it’s his best song.

#126  –  Crazy for You

  • “Swaying room as the music starts”
  • Madonna
  • John Bettis, John Lind
  • 1985
  • single from Vision Quest Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  (#1)
  • A notable song for a number of reasons.  First, it was the song that knocked “We Are the World” out of the #1 spot.  Second, it was the first ballad for Madonna, kicking off a long career of great ballads.  Third, it was her first soundtrack offering, something which she would quickly become brilliant at.  Sadly, not nominated at the Oscars even though it definitely deserved to be.  We’re entering the Madonna stretch, with 3 more Madonna songs appearing in the next 15 spots.

#125  –  Finest Worksong

  • “The time to rise has been engaged”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1987, single released in 1988
  • single from Document  (#50 – U.K.)
  • I became a big fan of R.E.M. in the months just before the release of Out of Time but that album just cemented it.  Sadly, because they didn’t tour for that or Automatic, I couldn’t finally see them live until 1995, on the Monster Tour, by which time they had a lot of new fans who weren’t much familiar with any of their older work.  “Finest Worksong” opened the encore and you could see an immediate dichotomy among the fans with the older fans, the ones who knew the albums before Green went bonkers and started dancing and singing while the other half just kind of enjoyed the song.  This was their last single for IRS.

#124  –  Wild Wild Life

  • “Things fall apart, it’s scientific”
  • Talking Heads
  • David Byrne
  • 1986
  • single from True Stories  (#25)
  • Yet another brilliant song from a soundtrack and yet another Academy failure as this was passed over completely.  Not only the best song from True Stories but also possibly the best moment in the film as well, with so many people in the cast getting up to sing it at a club.  Having the single is great as well because as a b-side you get the version of “People Like Us” from the film with John Goodman on lead vocals.

#123  –  True

  • “Why do I find it hard to write the next line”
  • Spandau Ballet
  • Gary Kemp
  • 1983
  • single from True  (#4; #1 – U.K.)
  • Am I the only one who lumps this song in their brain along with “Superfreak” and “Under Pressure”?  If you can’t see the connection, then just think of “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”, “U Can’t Touch This” and “Ice Ice Baby”, all of which are pale imitations of the songs which provided the original music, although “Set Adrift” is the best of those, perhaps because the music and harmony that is borrowed from this song is so good.

#122  –  Papa Don’t Preach

  • “Daddy, daddy, if you could only see just how good he’s been treating me”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Brian Elliot
  • 1986
  • single from True Blue  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • When this song first came out I was confused, wondering if maybe Madonna’s father was a preacher.  I took the single quite literally, but hey, I was 11.  It was a massive hit, going #1 in a lot of countries (and the video wasn’t hurt by the use of a real actor, Danny Aiello, as the father) and it deserved to be because it’s got an issue and yet is still a great, rather danceable song.

#121  –  Walk Like an Egyptian

  • “All the cops in the donut shop say way-o, way-o”
  • The Bangles
  • Liam Sternberg
  • 1986
  • single from Different Light  (#1)
  • I remember when the video for this first hit and I was blown away.  This was an all-female group with some kick-ass guitar playing, some magnificent whistling in place of a verse at one point and a lead singer that made me fall for her with one look.  It was a great song that totally rocked and I wasn’t the only one who thought so, since it ended being the 2nd biggest single of all 1986 according to Billboard.

#120  –  Everybody Wants to Rule the World

  • “Welcome to your life, there’s no turning back”
  • Tears for Fears
  • Roland Orzabel, Ian Stanley, Chris Hughes
  • 1985
  • single from Songs from the Big Chair  (#1)
  • Sort of like “Dancing in the Dark”, this was the last song recorded for the album and it was made deliberately in an attempt to find chart success.  Well, it certainly did, going all the way to #1 (and #2 in the U.K.).  It has a great use at the end of Real Genius which opened just five months after the single was released (and will be a future RCM).  There is version by Lorde from one of the Hunger Games films and I give her credit for being original in her version but any credit I give stops with that.

#119  –  One More Minute

  • “I’m stranded all alone in the gas station of love and I have to use the self-service pumps”
  • Weird Al Yankovic
  • Al Yankovic
  • 1985
  • single from Dare to Be Stupid
  • Easily one of the funniest songs ever recorded, a great little doo-wop number that also happens to be the biggest brush-off in history.  I happen to be a fan of list songs, whose examples can range from Dylan (“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”) to Sondheim (“A Little Priest”) and this is one of the best.

#118  –  Just Like Honey

  • “Listen to the girl as she takes on half the world”
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • William Reid, Jim Reid
  • 1985
  • single from Psychocandy  (#45 – U.K.)
  • From a song that I knew soon after it was first released in 1985 to a song from the same year that I didn’t know until it was included in that brilliant ending scene of Lost in Translation, one of the great all-time film endings.  From the second that the drum beat begins (one I was familiar with from “Be My Baby”), I knew this was a song I was going to love.  I may not agree with Barry about The Jesus and Mary Chain but this once they absolutely hit it perfectly.

#117  –  I Will Follow

  • “If you walk away walk away, I walk away walk away”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1980
  • single from Boy  (#81)
  • The third most played song in U2’s history, showing how much of a fan favorite it is, it was one of the first singles, though it wouldn’t actually hit the Top 100 until 1983 after War and Under a Blood Red Sky had begun their chart success.  You can read more in the Top 100 U2 songs post where it placed at #27.

#116  –  True Blue

  • “I never knew love before until you walked through my door”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Stephen Bray
  • 1986
  • single from True Blue  (#3; #1 – U.K.)
  • I remember this song from the video contest that MTV had where you could make a video and send it in.  It has always been one of my favorite Madonna songs and it was one of two songs that I really thought should have been on The Immaculate Collection (along with “Who’s That Girl”) and its exclusion eventually lead to me buying the album.  A wonderful song to dance to even if you don’t know to dance.

#115  –  “40”

  • “I waited patiently for the lord, he inclined and heard my cry”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1983
  • album track from War
  • When I first heard the song I wondered if they used the word “sing” or “song” forty times in the song and if that’s where the title came from but the number didn’t add up (and could change in live versions which is relevant since I first heard the wonderful live version from Under a Blood Red Sky before the version on War) before I read Unforgettable Fire: The Definitive Biography of U2 and learned that it was based on the 40th Psalm.  I learned more about the song which you can find here where it ended up at #24 (and has a link to the best live version).  Lots of U2 concerts (including the one I attended in July of 2015) end with the crowd walking out singing “How long” just like in the version from Under a Blood Red Sky.

#114  –  Jack and Diane

  • “A little ditty about Jack and Diane, two American kids growing up in the heartland”
  • John Cougar
  • John Mellencamp
  • 1982
  • single from American Fool  (#1)
  • Strange things can happen when you record a song.  For instance, you might have trouble playing together as a band and to help keep the tempo, you include clapping, intending to take it off and then discovering the song only works properly if you keep it.  Mellencamp would later reference this song in his under-appreciated 1998 song “Eden is Burning”.

#113  –  Till Death Do Us Part

  • “Our luck is running out of time, I’m not in love with you anymore”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Stephen Leonard
  • 1989
  • album track from Like a Prayer
  • The first time I listened to Like a Prayer as an entire album this song blew me away.  I was amazed at how the tempo and beat of the song was a complete contrast to the painful, personal lyrics.  It’s about the dissolution of a marriage (almost certainly her marriage to Sean Penn) and it’s hard to listen to and yet surprisingly catchy as well and is certainly one of the best album tracks of the decade.

#112  –  Ant

  • “But you think that’s okay while you’re sleeping”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • John Linnell, John Flansburgh
  • 1989
  • b-side to “Birdhouse in Your Soul”
  • A brilliant, funny little TMBG b-side that I used in a story that can be found here.

#111  –  I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

  • “It won’t be long before you and me run to the place in our hearts where we hide”
  • Elton John
  • Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Davey Johnstone
  • 1983
  • single from Too Low for Zero  (#4)
  • This was probably the first Elton John song I ever knew, as it was played on the radio a lot when I was a kid.  But it would be years before I would realize how great a song it was.  Part of what makes the song work so well is Stevie Wonder on the harmonica.

#110  –  Rain on the Scarecrow

  • “Son I’m just sorry there’s no legacy for you now”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp
  • John Mellencamp, George M. Green
  • 1985, single released in 1986
  • single from Scarecrow  (#21)
  • The fourth single release from the album and it didn’t do nearly as well as the first three (which all went Top 10) but this, to me, has always been the best song on a great album that has no bad songs.  From those opening notes that also helped set the stage for the entire album I was sucked in.

#109  –  Oh Father

  • “You can’t hurt me now”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Patrick Leonard
  • 1989
  • single from Like a Prayer  (#20)
  • In spite of being a Top 20 single, I wouldn’t know this song until I bought Madonna’s ballads compilation Something to Remember when it was released in 1995.  It was one of the songs that pointed me towards buying the entire album Like a Prayer when I realized how many great songs were on it.  It was actually her first single since “Borderline” not to go Top 5 even though it’s one of her most musically fascinating songs because of the instrumentation.  My brain sticks this song together with the Cranberries’ “Ode to My Family” for the underlying pain in the song that is somewhat ambiguous about familial relationships.

#108  –  Mean to Me

  • “She came all the way from America, she had a blind date with destiny”
  • Crowded House
  • Neil Finn
  • 1986
  • single from Crowded House
  • As mentioned before, I finally tracked down Crowded House in 1993 after finally learning the name of the song (“Don’t Dream It’s Over”) and the band that sang it.  So I got the album out of the library and sat and listened to it and this opening song just completely won me over.  It continues to completely win me over every time I listen to it and if “Don’t Dream It’s Over” were not one of the greatest songs ever recorded, it would probably be my favorite song by the band.

#107  –  La Bamba

  • “Yo no soy molinaro, soy capitan”
  • Los Lobos
  • Ritchie Valens
  • 1987
  • single from La Bamba Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • My parents weren’t rock and roll people.  My mother listens to easy listening (I used to go to bed to the same Peter, Paul & Mary compliation every night) and my dad likes classical and jazz.  So, for a long time growing up, I heard what my siblings listened to, and I missed out on older music, especially 50’s music.  What really turned me onto 50’s music were the movies, most notably Stand by Me and La Bamba.  I would eventually go back and listen to the original Ritchie Valens’ recordings, but the Los Lobos version of “La Bamba” will always be my favorite and it is one of the great covers of all-time.

#106  –  Panic

  • “Burn down the disco, hang the blessed dj”
  • The Smiths
  • Johnny Marr, Morrissey
  • 1986
  • single  (#11 – U.K.)
  • In 1996, Rhino Records, that fantastic label that scours the vaults, released three cds called Hang the DJ.  They were Modern Rock collections covering three years (1986, 1987, 1988) and the first one was a hell of a cd as you can see here, with a number of songs from this countdown.  It got its title, as the liner notes explained, from the song “Panic” and that’s why it was the opening track.  They are all great collections and if you don’t have much in the way of Modern Rock (80’s alternative), then these are definitely the place to start.

#105  –  Tougher Than the Rest

  • “So somebody ran out, left somebody’s heart in a mess”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1987
  • single from Tunnel of Love  (#13 – U.K.)
  • Released as a single overseas but not in the U.S., this is one of those songs that I love because the instrumentation builds.  First, we get the drum beat.  Then comes the organ, followed by the guitar.  It’s also a beautiful song that speaks to the pain but also the support in relationships.  It was the perfect song as the background to a fractured relationship here.

#104  –  Stand

  • “Listen to reason, the season is calling”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1988, single released in 1989
  • single from Green  (#6)
  • The first song I ever knew by R.E.M. and I knew so little about them that I had no idea the dancers in the video weren’t the band.  But I knew I loved the song and it helped get me into the band in the months preceding the release of Out of Time.  This song, as the band admits, is completely ridiculous.  But it is also one of their most beloved songs and it rightly ended up on their 2003 greatest hits compilation (which my friend Tavis, who is a bigger R.E.M. fan than I predicted it would not).

#103  –  Check It Out

  • “A million young poets screaming out their words”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp
  • John Mellencamp
  • 1987, single released in 1988
  • single from The Lonesome Jubilee  (#14)
  • It’s an accordion.  For years, I kept trying to figure out what instrument makes the glorious music that kicks off this song and I have finally got it nailed down.  And the song doesn’t even have to rely on that, since the lyrics are so fantastic.  I remember my Poetry professor mentioning the lyrics to this song before I ever knew the song, specifically that opening line “A million young poets screaming out their words”.  My favorite Mellencamp song.

#102  –  Empty Garden  (Hey Hey, Johnny)

  • “What happened here as the New York sunset disappeared”
  • Elton John
  • Elton John, Bernie Taupin
  • 1982
  • single from Jump Up!  (#13)
  • Does anybody eulogize better than Elton John?  He’s gotten Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Ryan White and Princess Diana and the irony of course, is that he doesn’t write lyrics.  Yet, all of these songs are among the best he has ever recorded.  This is my friend John’s favorite Elton song by a long way.  It’s actually the second tribute to John Lennon on this list, after “The Late Great Johnny Ace”.

#101  –  Bankrobber

  • “A lifetime serving one machine is ten times worse than prison”
  • The Clash
  • Joe Strummer, Mick Jones
  • 1980
  • single  (#12 – U.K.)
  • I got into the Clash in college because of “London Calling”.  That song alone was so incredibly brilliant that it made me go out and buy The Story of The Clash Vol. 1 without having heard any of the other songs on the album.  This was the first song on that collection that really won me over and helped make me a big Clash fan.

#100  –  I Melt With You

  • “Making love to you was never second best”
  • Modern English
  • Modern English
  • 1982
  • single from After the Snow  (#78)
  • Not technically on my one-hit wonder list because it didn’t make the Top 40 but generally considered one of the best one-hit wonders of the decade (VH-1 ranked it #7).  This song is about a couple making love during nuclear destruction.  Am I the only one who used to accidentally write on mix tapes that this song was by Melted English?  One of several songs on the list that was covered by another band for the soundtrack to Sky High.

#99  –  Material Girl

  • “Experience has made me rich”
  • Madonna
  • Peter Brown, Robert Rans
  • 1984, single released in 1985
  • single from Like a Virgin  (#2)
  • When I was in the fifth grade, a bunch of us wanted to start a band called The Materials.  “Holiday”, “Borderline” and even “Like a Virgin” hadn’t made that much of an impression on us, but good god did the video for “Material Girl” knock us flat.  I don’t know if Madonna was planning on appealing to a bunch of ten year olds but she sure as hell did.  It didn’t hurt, of course, that it’s an absolutely fantastic song with a wonderful beat.

#98  –  Untitled

  • “Hopelessly adrift in the eyes of the ghost again”
  • The Cure
  • Robert Smith, Boris Williams, Simon Gallup,Roger O’Donnell, Porl Thompson and Lol Tolhurst
  • 1989
  • album track from Disintegration
  • A perfect example of a great closing song with its long instrumental close-out and one of the best album tracks of the decade.  It’s the haunting, fascinating song that closes out Disintegration, one of the best albums of the decade.  It’s really for the best that it’s called “Untitled” because no title could really fit it properly.

#97  –  Here Comes Your Man

  • “You never wait so long”
  • The Pixies
  • Black Francis
  • 1989
  • single from Doolittle
  • I actually came to the Pixies quite late, long after I had even seen Frank Black in concert, opening for Pearl Jam in 1998.  I think it was my friend Tavis who suggested I should listen to them, since they were such an influence on Nirvana.  They didn’t win me over completely but good god did this song become a favorite.  When I watched (500) Days of Summer, I could totally understand Leavitt’s desperate karaoke version of this.  What a perfect song for such a scene.

#96  –  Open Your Heart

  • “Don’t try to run, I can keep up with you”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Gardner Cole, Peter Rafelson
  • 1986
  • single from True Blue  (#1)
  • Though I liked Madonna’s songs a lot from the minute I first saw the video for “Material Girl”, I didn’t own any of her songs until The Immaculate Collection was released in late 1990.  It says a lot about “Open Your Heart” that it was the first Madonna song to appear on one my mix tapes, just after I bought that tape.  When I needed a song that could connect a mother who grew up in the 80’s with her young daughter, this was the song that immediately sprung to mind.  As such, it is one of a few songs that I think will now always carry that association with me.

#95  –  Eternal Flame

  • “Say my name, sun shines through the rain”
  • The Bangles
  • Susanna Hoffs, Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg
  • 1988, single released in 1989
  • single from Everything  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • In a story that hasn’t yet appeared on the blog but will later, this is one of several actually romantic songs that one of the characters focuses on for a tape for his girlfriend.  It was the second #1 for the Bangles, making them only the third girl group to score multiple #1 hits.  It was also the fifth #1 written by the songwriting team of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg who also wrote “Like a Virgin”, “So Emotional”, “True Colors” and “Alone”.  Madonna may have rocked my world but if there’s one female singer in the decade I’m gonna go for, it’s Susanna Hoffs in that skirt, running her hands through the sand in this video.

#94  –  Somebody

  • “Though things like this make me sick, in a case like this I’ll get away with it”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1984
  • single from Some Great Reward  (#16 – U.K.)
  • I guess we’re in the “songs Erik has written about” portion of the countdown.  When I needed a real love song to fade out for Sarah and Kyle here, this was the song I chose.  Martin Gore actually sang the song completely naked in the studio.  This was the first Depeche Mode single with Gore on lead vocals.

#93  –  I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll

  • “I saw him standing there by the record machine”
  • Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  • Alan Merrill, Jake Hooker
  • 1982
  • single from I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll  (#1)
  • Originally a b-side (then an a-side) for the Arrows in 1975, then recorded by Jett in 1979 with two of the Sex Pistols and released as a b-side, it was re-recorded by her for her second album (her first with the Blackhearts) and become a massive hit, staying at #1 for seven weeks and eventually becoming the third biggest single of 1982 according to Billboard.  A true 80’s classic and the song most closely defining Jett and her career and the subject of the best parody on Weird Al’s first album.

#92  –  In God’s Country

  • “I stand with the sons of Cain, burned by the fire of love”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • single from The Joshua Tree  (#44)
  • Yet another song I have used in my fiction, putting almost the entire song in my novel in your most frail gesture as three of the characters listen to the second side of Joshua Tree and discuss the biblical imagery.  The live version from the film Rattle and Hum has some of my favorite live guitar work from Edge.  It ranked at #23 on my Top 100 U2 songs.

#91  –  Message of Love

  • “Your eyes of blue, like the heavens above”
  • The Pretenders
  • Chrissie Hynde
  • 1980
  • single from Extended Play  (#11 – U.K.)
  • Speaking of great guitar work, this song might have my favorite guitar solo of the entire decade, starting at 1:57 in the song.  This might very well be my favorite song by The Pretenders, a band that is the subject of fierce musical disagreement between Veronica and myself.

#90  –  Biko

  • “When I try to sleep at night I can only dream in red”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1980
  • single from Peter Gabriel  (#38 – U.K.)
  • It’s got that great pounding beat that brings you into the song, the simple chorus keeps you there and when you realize what the song is actually about you wonder how this kind of thing was allowed to happen for so long.  This song would help change the musical tide for Gabriel and for musicians across the world in the way they viewed South Africa while also being the song that really made it clear how world music had influenced Gabriel.

#89  –  Sweetest Thing

  • “This blue-eyed boy and this brown-eyed girl”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • b-side to “Where the Streets Have No Name”
  • The one b-side that every U2 fan knew in the late 80’s.  You can read a lot more of my reaction to it on the U2 post where it came in at #21.

#88  –  Come On Eileen

  • “You in that dress, my thoughts I confess are dirty”
  • Dexys Midnight Runners
  • Kevin Rowland, Jim Paterson, Billy Adams
  • 1982
  • single from Too-Rye-Ay  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • The most beloved One-Hit Wonder of the 80’s?  Only if you’re an American, since “Geno” was a #1 hit in the U.K.  But it’s a song that’s beloved by just about everybody (which means that someone will comment that they hate it).

#87  –  Cities of Dust

  • “Your molten bodies, blanket of cinders”
  • Siouxsie & the Banshees
  • Susan Ballion, Peter Edward Clarke, Steven Severin
  • 1985
  • single from Tinderbox  (#21 – U.K.)
  • I maybe knew this song a little before I bought Hang the DJ (which thankfully included this song, since it’s a 1985 song).  But every time I would listen to it, it would just grow and grow on my all-time list.  There’s definitely an added experience every time I listen to it, much different than the only other Siouxsie song I know well (“Peek-a-Boo”).

#86  –  Skateaway

  • “She’s making movies on location”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler
  • 1980
  • single from Making Movies  (#58)
  • It was my friend John Ramirez who first really got me into Dire Straits.  I knew “Money for Nothing” and “Walk of Life” from the great videos, but he was the one who made me listen to “Romeo and Juliet” and that was what hooked me.  It was years later, once I started collecting old vinyl as a way to learn more artists and their albums (and deciding what to get on cd) that I bought Making Movies and realized it was one of the best albums of the decade.  That first side, with “Tunnel of Love”, “Romeo and Juliet” and “Skateaway” is as good as any side of music on any album ever released and this song, the song which gives the album it’s title is a major reason why, a glorious almost seven minute song with a fantastic groove.

#85  –  The Power of Love

  • “You don’t need no credit card to ride this train”
  • Huey Lewis & the News
  • Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes, Johnny Colla
  • 1985
  • single from Back to the Future: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack  (#1)
  • A song I loved from the very beginning, partially because it’s a film I have loved from the very beginning (the only non-Star Wars film I saw multiple times in the theater prior to high school).  I think it took me at least a few viewings before I realized that it’s the song Marty starts to play before he is stopped by Huey Lewis himself in a hilarious cameo (“I’m afraid you’re just too darned loud.”).  It lost the Oscar to “Say You, Say Me”.

#84  –  Sweet Jane

  • “Heavenly wine and roses seem to whisper to me when you smile”
  • Cowboy Junkies
  • Lou Reed
  • 1988
  • single from The Trinity Session
  • This was the first version I knew of this song and so it was the faster, more rocking original version by The Velvet Underground that sounded different (but no less brilliant).  This version is based on the slowed down version that had on 1969, VU’s live album.  Lou Reed himself has said that this is the best version of the song and it is brilliant.  Made more well-known by its inclusion in Natural Born Killers.

#83  –  Uptown Girl

  • “Maybe someday when my check comes in, she’ll understand what kind of guy I’ve been”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1983
  • single from An Innocent Man  (#3; #1 – U.K.)
  • I am far from the only boy who desperately fell for Christie Brinkley as a kid and this video certainly had something to do with it (my older brother’s subscription to Sports Illustrated, complete with the annual Swimsuit Issue had something else to do with it).  This was the first song by Billy Joel that I really knew and it got me into him and I have never left him no matter how uncool it might be at times.  Irish boy band Westlife covered it in 2001 and it doesn’t suck.

#82  –  Dead Man’s Party

  • “Going to a party where no one’s still alive”
  • Oingo Boingo
  • Danny Elfman
  • 1985; single released in 1986
  • single from Dead Man’s Party
  • When I made my Oingo Boingo Greatest Hits cd and I needed a good title, it suddenly came to me: “Going to a party where no one’s still alive”.  What line to perfectly sum up the band and all their bizarre brilliance.  Wikipedia claims it is best known for being in the film Back to School and if that’s true then people should be ashamed of themselves.  It’s an absolutely brilliant song from one of the most fun, bizarre bands to ever come along and the album itself just barely missed my Top 50 for the decade.

#81  –  (Nothing But) Flowers

  • “And as things fell apart nobody paid much attention”
  • Talking Heads
  • David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
  • 1988
  • single from Naked  (#79 – U.K.)
  • The line quoted above, one of the best of the decade, was an epigraph to American Psycho and was perfectly suited for it.  I wrote a script in college about the last night of college for several friends and I had a character who would go through waves being obsessed with musical artists and at the time, it’s Talking Heads, so the script was filled with Talking Heads songs.  It began with two Talking Heads epigraphs and the line above was one of the them.  The other you’ll find later in the countdown.

#80  –  The Heart of the Matter

  • “I think it’s about forgiveness”
  • Don Henley
  • Don Henley, Mike Campbell, J.D. Souther
  • 1989; single released in 1990
  • single from The End of the Innocence  (#21)
  • A great album closer from a great album.  In spite of the great music in the song, it’s really the lyrics that you need to sit and listen to and then listen to them again because there are few songs that are so completely true.

#79  –  Mothers of the Disappeared

  • “In the trees our sons stand naked, through the walls our daughters cry”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • album track from The Joshua Tree
  • One of the band’s most beautiful songs, ranking at #20 on my Top 100 U2 list.  When U2 played Seattle at the start of their Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour, Eddie Vedder came out on stage and sang it with them (and the concert my brother, cousin and college girlfriend were all at).

#78  –  Ana Ng

  • “We still haven’t walked in the glow of each other’s majestic presence”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • John Linnell, John Flansburgh
  • 1988
  • single from Lincoln
  • A brilliant single from TMBG, the first off their second album has a fantastic beat to it.  And what a brilliant moment in the middle of the song, when it cuts to a spoken word bit with a disturbing sentiment: “I don’t want the world.  I just want your half.”  Possibly Veronica’s favorite TMBG song and that’s saying a lot for a band we both love this much.

#77  –  A Question of Lust

  • “It all of these things and more that keep us together”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1986
  • single from Black Celebration  (#28 – U.K.)
  • I went to see Depeche Mode on the Songs of Faith and Devotion Tour in 1993, just my second concert.  I knew some of their songs but wasn’t yet familiar with the bulk of their back catalog.  This was a different Depeche Mode, as they had started playing actual instruments on this tour.  That made for a brilliant performance with just Alan Wilder on drums and Martin Gore on guitar and vocals.  I became an instant fan of the song and it has been one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs ever since.

#76  –  Rockin’ in the Free World

  • “Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive”
  • Neil Young
  • Neil Young
  • 1989
  • single from Freedom
  • One of those songs that wasn’t actually a hit when it was released as a single (it made it to #2 on the Billboard Rock Charts but didn’t even chart in the Top 100) but instantly became an anthem, helping to begin the movement of grunge rock.  It’s the companion track, in a sense to “Hey Hey My My”, the song that the title of this post references, released ten years later, on the first great Neil Young album since that one, released with an acoustic version to open the album and an electric one to close the album.  Is there a more famous single from this decade that didn’t actually chart?  Pearl Jam, of course, has been doing great live versions of this for years.

#75  –  A Sort of Homecoming

  • “And you hunger for the time, time to heal, desire time”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1984
  • album track from The Unforgettable Fire
  • I’ve never heard it live, because they dropped it from their set before the Foxborough show in 1987 but that’s okay because the studio version has always been the preferred version for me as I mention in my Top 100 post where it ranked at #18.  One of my favorite titles of any U2 song, and indeed, of any song.

#74  –  No Surrender

  • “We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1984
  • album track from Born in the U.S.A.
  • My favorite track off Born in the U.S.A. and one that has inspired me so much that my “high school” novel actually takes its title from the lyrics (Vows to Defend).  Indeed, while the novel isn’t structured around the song, it does provide a lot of inspiration for what happens.

#73  –  This is the Time

  • “Holding you close is like holding the summer sun”
  • Billy Joel
  • Billy Joel
  • 1986
  • single from The Bridge  (#18)
  • This is the opposite song to “A Question of Lust”.  Just a couple of weeks after seeing Depeche Mode, I saw Billy Joel in concert.  When I came back to the dorm, I was in the bathroom talking to someone about the concert when one of the guys from down the hall asked if he played “This is the Time” because it was his favorite Billy Joel song.  This was the first time I ever remember talking to Jonathan Miller, who would eventually be my roommate and one of my closest friends and whose views on 80’s music appeared numerous times in the original post.  It was also what made me realize that though I already had a lot of Billy Joel, the one album I was completely missing was The Bridge (because it was the only post-1985 album I didn’t have which meant it also wasn’t reflected on Greatest Hits, which I did have) and once I listened to it, I realized that this was a beautiful song that was absolutely one of Joel’s best.  He hadn’t played it, by the way.

#72  –  You Can Call Me Al

  • “Who will be me role model now that my role model is gone”
  • Paul Simon
  • Paul Simon
  • 1986
  • single from Graceland  (#23)
  • What do people think of when they hear this song?  Do they think of the goofy, hilarious video with Chevy Chase sitting there, lip-synching the song?  Do they listen to the lyrics and wonder what the hell it’s actually about and what it means?  Why would he call me Betty?  Why should I call him Al?  Or do they listen to the wonderful beat, the horns and just sink into an absolutely fantastic song?  This song was a Top 10 hit in eight countries, but not here, where it took two tries just to crack the Top 40 and still never got past #23.

#71  –  The Way It Is

  • “Just for fun he says ‘get a job'”
  • Bruce Hornsby and the Range
  • Bruce Hornsby
  • 1986
  • single from The Way It Is  (#1)
  • This is a song that a lot of people today, especially those in power, could use a good listen to but they probably wouldn’t get it.  Behind the absolutely amazing piano intro (one I often play on air piano when the song starts and in fact am doing so right now), we get a deep, meaningful song that talks about what it’s like in this country for people who don’t have any power and any way to change their lives and those who would just insist that it’s the way it is.

#70  –  Hawkmoon 269

  • “Like the desert needs rain, like a town needs a name, I need your love”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1988
  • album track from Rattle & Hum
  • In spite of its length (6:22), I intended at one time, to have this song appear, in its entirety, in a screenplay, to be sung by one of the characters.  Ranked at #17 on my Top 100 U2 list.

#69  –  Tunnel of Love

  • “Come and take a low ride with me girl”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler, Richard Rodgers / Oscar Hammerstein
  • 1980
  • single from Making Movies  (#54 – U.K.)
  • The brilliant opening song from Making Movies, kicking off one of music’s best album sides.  The 14 minute version on Alchemy has an even better opening to the song.  This is, amazingly, the lower ranked of two songs by this title in the decade.  Douglas Adams summed up this song pretty well on page 126 of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish: “Mark Knopfler has an extraordinary ability to make a Schecter Custom Statocaster hoot and sing like angels on a Saturday night, exhausted from being good all week and needing a stiff drink.”

#68  –  Billie Jean

  • “Be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth”
  • Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson
  • 1982; single released in 1983
  • single from Thriller  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • The fourth biggest single from 1983, the one that showed that Thriller was going to be a phenomenon and not just a big album.  Him singing this (and moonwalking) on Motown 25 is certainly one of the biggest moments in rock and roll history.  It took me years to really appreciate this song because I was so into “Beat It” as a kid instead.  But that opening music is just so hypnotic.  I have a great memory of a young college freshman who worked with me at Borders dancing to this song because we were playing it on the overhead (Jackson had just died) and singing “Billie Jean has got my lover” and me saying “Stop, just stop!”

#67  –  The Waiting

  • “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart”
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  • Tom Petty
  • 1981
  • single from Hard Promises  (#19)
  • Quite probably my favorite Tom Petty song.  This song played before our wedding as a joke.  We had put 6:00 on the invitations but, to give people extra time, I set things up to start at 6:10.  That included burning a cd that was played as intro music.  At 6:00, this song came on because of course we weren’t actually starting yet and they were waiting.  That was followed by a live version of “Angel of Harlem” which begins with Bono singing “Here Comes the Bride”.  Then the wedding started.  Petty died while I was working on this post.  I’m glad I got to see him in concert, though I will always remember it as the night I chipped my wedding ring.

#66  –  History Never Repeats

  • “Better to jump than hesitate, I need a change and I can’t wait”
  • Split Enz
  • Neil Finn
  • 1981
  • single from Walata  (#63 – U.K.)
  • I came to this song a long way around.  First, I became a fan of Crowded House, Neil Finn’s successor band to Split Enz.  Then, I happened to hear a Pearl Jam cover of this song, a much slower version which I liked a lot.  That lead me to seek out the original, not even knowing at the time that Finn had a band prior to Crowded House.  That lead to a great appreciation for an absolutely fantastic song.

#65  –  Just Like Heaven

  • “You, strange as angels, dancing in the deepest oceans”
  • The Cure
  • Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, Boris Williams, Lol Tolhurst
  • 1987
  • single from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me  (#40)
  • I recently focused on this song in a specific story from Vows to Defend.  It all came down to the phrase “strange as angels” and I made use of that as the main character focuses on that phrase and then eventually starts writing his own song, based around that lyric.  A truly great song with a magnificent drum and guitar opening that turned out to be the Cure’s first Top 40 hit in the U.S., just climbing up to #40.  On the other hand, in the U.K., where the band has always been more appreciated, it was their 11th Top 40 hit.  One of those fascinating songs where the title is said as the last line of the song.

#64  –  Brilliant Disguise

  • “Don’t look too close into the palm of my hand”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1987
  • single from Tunnel of Love  (#5)
  • This song has been interesting for me in a few different ways.  First of all, I tried to learn how to play it on guitar by watching the video, because you can clearly see Springsteen’s hands on the chords as he plays it.  Second, in regards to the last song, the song that the character writes with “strange as angels” is a rewrite of another song because he can’t write music.  I also can’t write music and I once wrote a song with lyrics based around the music to this song.

#63  –  Sowing the Seeds of Love

  • “Politician granny with your high ideals have you no idea how the majority feels”
  • Tears for Fears
  • Roland Orzabel, Curt Smith
  • 1989
  • single from The Seeds of Love  (#2)
  • Back in the days before iTunes, it took me years to get this song.  I had asked for the album for Christmas one year but my friend Jay got me Songs from the Big Chair instead, pointing out (correctly) that it was a much better album and that aside from this song, The Seeds of Love isn’t that good of an album.  So, it wouldn’t be until college, when I met someone who had their greatest hits that I was able to finally tape this song.  It’s still their best song, by a very long ways.  At one point, I had written down all the lyrics in a notebook without even having a copy of the song on tape yet.

#62  –  Industrial Disease

  • “Two men says they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler
  • 1982
  • single from Love Over Gold  (#75)
  • I came to this song late because it wasn’t included on Money for Nothing, the 1988 Dire Straits greatest hits album that was the first thing I owned by the band.  But, after I started collecting vinyl and owned Love Over Gold and listened to this song, I realized it was one of their absolute best songs, far better than most of the songs that actually had been on the compilation.  From the great, long instrumental intro to the song (it takes almost a minute before we get any singing), to the humor in the song (“I don’t how you came to get the Bette Davis’ knees”, “Philosophy is useless, reality is worse”) to the very real social issues at play, it’s a fantastic song.  I used it here when one of the characters plays with the local bar band.

#61  –  Don’t Stand So Close to Me

  • “He starts to shake and cough, just like that old man in the book by Nabokov”
  • The Police
  • Sting
  • 1980
  • single from Zenyatta Mondatta  (#10; #1 – U.K.)
  • While Dire Straits passed over “Industrial Disease” for their greatest hits, what the Police did was far worse, re-recording a terrible new version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and not including the original on Every Breath You Take: The Singles.  Most of the songs I really know from early MTV are from 1983-86 but for some reason, the Police must have been in heavy rotation because I have very good memories of both “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” playing a lot.  When I first heard this song, of course, I had never even heard of Lolita or Nabokov and it would be years before I knew Sting was mis-pronouncing the name.

#60  –  What’s the Matter Here

  • “If I’m the only witness to your madness offer me some words to balance out what I see and what I hear”
  • 10,000 Maniacs
  • Natalie Merchant, Robert Buck
  • 1987; single released in 1988
  • single from In My Tribe  (#80)
  • A poingnant cry against child abuse (my friend Joe’s favorite song about child abuse over “Luka”) that grows through the songs until Natalie sounds like she’s giving a cry of desperation when she gets to that haunting last verse.  The best 10,000 Maniacs song until “These Are Days”.

#59  –  Throwing It All Away

  • “Need I say I love you, need I say I care”
  • Genesis
  • Anthony Banks, Phil Collins, Michael Rutherford
  • 1986
  • single from Invisible Touch  (#4)
  • A song I mostly missed when it was originally released because I was so tied up in the videos to “Invisible Touch”, “In Too Deep”, “Anything She Does” and of course, the brilliant “Land of Confusion”.  It was really the live version on The Way We Walk that made me realize that this was one of the best songs that Genesis had ever recorded, a haunting beautiful song about love after it’s gone.

#58  –  The Boys of Summer

  • “I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac”
  • Don Henley
  • Don Henley, Mike Campbell
  • 1984
  • single from Building the Perfect Beast  (#5)
  • This song began with music from Mike Campbell that Tom Petty rejected for Southern Accents so he brought it to Henley who wrote the lyrics (and it must have been rejected early since Henley’s song came out five months before Petty’s album).  The song works because the driving beat of the song (and that great guitar work at the beginning) works so well with the look back at a relationship and a past that has crumbled to dust.  It didn’t hurt that it had a great video.  This is the song that made me a Henley fan and thus lead to my 30 seconds of television being interviewed at an Eagles concert in 1995 which my dad recorded and then gave to my Film prof who showed it in class, talking about how films were immortal, but anyone could be on television.  With “A Month of Sundays” as a b-side, it’s one of the rare a and b combinations that both make the list.

#57  –  I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

  • “And if I haver up, yeah I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you”
  • The Proclaimers
  • Charlie Reid, Craig Reid
  • 1988
  • single from Sunshine on Leith  (#5)
  • A song that seems to gain continual new life.  It was originally released as a single in the UK in 1988 and made it to #11.  In the U.S. it languished without a single release until it was featured in Benny & Joon and in spite of being only the 65th biggest movie of 1993, it spawned new life into the song and it climbed all the way to #5 on the charts (which is why many people think of it as a nineties song).  Then, in 2010, it was used as a cast and crew video for the send off of the David Tennant / Russell Davies era of Doctor Who because Tenant is a huge fan of the song (you can see his joy in the video).  In 2014, Imagine Dragons sang it in Scotland and you can tell how nuts the fan are for it.  In 2015, when Tennant received the Special Recognition at the National Television Awards (an award he clearly didn’t know about in advance as you can see from his reactions), because he’s known as such a fan, they got the Proclaimers there to give the award and play the song on his way up to the stage  This is a song that people just go nuts for and it’s not hard to see why.

#56  –  Everlasting Love

  • “You won’t regret, I’ll come back begging you”
  • U2
  • Buzz Cason, Mac Gayden
  • 1989
  • b-side to “All I Want is You”
  • One of my favorite covers by any band, my favorite cover by U2, my second favorite U2 b-side.  It ranked at #15 in my Top 100 U2 Songs.  This has been a continual Top 40 hit for numerous bands and the version by Love Affair was even a #1 in the U.K. but I hate all of them except this version.  It’s not just that I love Bono’s singing.  It’s the guitar.  No other version uses guitar on the song and that’s what makes it so fantastic (and one of Veronica’s favorite songs).

#55  –  The Comedians

  • “It’s not just that you’re never coming back to me, it’s the bitter way that I was told”
  • Roy Orbison
  • Elvis Costello
  • 1989
  • album track from Mystery Girl
  • What a bizarre trail.  The original version of this song was a track off Costello’s excoriated 1984 album Goodbye Cruel World.  Then, in 1987, it was recorded by Roy Orbison (with Costello among the musicians) for the HBO Special A Black & White Night Live.  In between, it had been quoted at the end of the second issue of Watchmen (which had ended with the Comedian’s funeral).  But the Orbison version sounds nothing like the original Costello version and, except for the chorus, has completely different lyrics.  Still, the version on Mystery Girl, with those lyrics, still says it was written by Costello, so it’s possible Costello wrote the new lyrics, which include the brilliant line quoted above as well as the powerful “It’s always something cruel that laughter drowns.”

#54  –  Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want

  • “So for once in my life, let me get what I want”
  • The Smiths
  • Johnny Marr, Morrissey
  • 1984
  • b-side to “William, It Was Really Nothing”
  • One of the most beautiful b-sides ever recorded and a tune that doesn’t sound like it could come from The Smiths (and if you’re thinking of the version used in Ferris Bueller, that was The Dream Academy, not The Smiths).  In in your most frail gesture, I used it in a scene where someone sings to his love the morning after.

#53  –  If You Leave

  • “I touch you once, I touch you twice”
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper
  • 1986
  • single from Pretty in Pink Soundtrack  (#4)
  • A song that a lot of people would forget the title (because it isn’t used in the chorus).  One of the best songs in the decade written for a film and of course it was passed over for an Oscar nomination

#52  –  Radio Free Europe

  • “Decide yourself if radio’s gonna stay”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1981
  • single  (#78)
  • The year 1981 is important on this one.  That’s when the original Hib-Tone single was released, the first release from R.E.M..  But, it was re-recorded for use on Murmur (and that’s when the single was re-released and charted) and that version is, in my opinion, far inferior.  The band agrees with me and they used the original version on Eponymous (a major reason it was worth buying even if you already had most of what was on it, since this was the only way for years to get the original version on cd).  Lots of bands never come close to a song this good, yet R.E.M. managed it on their first try.

#51  –  Birdhouse in Your Soul

  • “I’d be fired if that were my job after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • John Linnell, John Flansburgh
  • 1989; album released in 1990
  • single from Flood  (#6 – U.K.)
  • The first single released from Flood, coming out in late 1989 (Flood itself, which makes my Top 10 90’s albums, would come out just two weeks into the new decade).  This was the song that initially won me over to TMBG.  I had heard “Istanbul” and thought at the time it was just silly.  But when I first heard “Birdhouse”, I realized that this wasn’t just a funny band, but a rather brilliant one as well.  Because I think of this as a 1990 song, it made me alter the whole countdown from here back to #250, although several of the songs lower down were adjusted back when I realized “Cars” by Gary Numan was a 1979 song that hit the U.S. charts in 1980.

#50  –  Hungry Heart

  • “Everybody needs a place to rest, everybody wants to have a home”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1980
  • single from The River  (#5)
  • It would take a while for me to realize quite how great a song this is.  I didn’t actually know it until I first bought The River in 1994.  I remember it playing in the Sacramento bus station as I was getting dumped.  Years later, I would use for a scene in my novel (even lending its title to the story) that would transform the way I think about the song and perhaps put an aura of melancholy around it every time I hear it now and yet, if anything, it has increased how often I listen to it (and the slightly different mix from the box set).  This was Springsteen’s first smash hit single and it would be his highest charting single until 1984.

#49  –  Invisible Touch

  • “She has a built-in ability to take everything she sees”
  • Genesis
  • Anthony Banks, Phil Collins, Michael Rutherford
  • 1986
  • single from Invisible Touch  (#1)
  • From a song that it took me a while to discover to one that was an instant favorite from pretty much the first second I heard it, back in 1986.  This song was on one of the first mix tapes I ever made and I have loved it ever since.

#48  –  Bizarre Love Triangle

  • “Every time I think of you I feel a shock right through with a bolt of blue”
  • New Order
  • Gilian Gilbert, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner
  • 1986
  • single from Brotherhood  (#98)
  • In some ways, an absolute typical New Order single, with great use of synths, a fantastic beat you can dance to and a title that made it hard for me to find for years because I couldn’t figure out what the song was called since they can’t ever be bothered to give their songs titles that are used in the lyrics.  But, on the other hand, this was a big single for them (it didn’t chart high on the regular charts in the U.S. or U.K. but it huge on the Dance charts in the U.S. and was a #1 on the U.K. Indie chart) and it was actually off one of their albums, as opposed to just being a single release.  The Frente cover from 1994 is brilliant and I’ll have to see if it ends up in my 90’s list.

#47  –  Beat It

  • “It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right”
  • Michael Jackson
  • Michael Jackson
  • 1982; single released in 1983
  • single from Thriller  (#1)
  • It was August of 1994 and Jamie and Lance and I were driving to the coast.  In the car, was a box of my sister’s tapes and we found a copy of Thriller, which none of us had listened to in years.  I remembered that “Beat It” had been a big favorite when I was in elementary school but HIStory hadn’t yet come out and I didn’t actually have any Michael Jackson songs.  So we listened to the tape and when the guitar kicks in, we all instantly said “That’s Eddie!”  It gave kind of a new life to a song that was always brilliant (Grammy for Record of the Year) and that I had always enjoyed but had kind of lost track of.  Still my favorite Michael Jackson song almost 35 years after I first heard it.

#46  –  Summer of ’69

  • “I got my first real six-string, bought it at the Five and Dime”
  • Bryan Adams
  • Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance
  • 1984; single released in 1985
  • single from Reckless  (#5)
  • Another song that I loved right from the start, almost certainly helped by the magnificent video.  But, of course, as I detailed here, it was a cause of some awkward conversations and I can’t imagine ours was the only household to come to this conclusion or to have this embarrassing discussion.  Every time I hear that guitar kick in, it makes me wish I had learned to actually play guitar.

#45  –  With or Without You

  • “See the stone set in your eyes, see the thorn twist in your side”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • single from The Joshua Tree  (#1)
  • What an amazing concept: that this song makes the Top 50 for the decade and that it still actually ranks lower than it’s b-side.  This is the song that essentially made U2 fans out of everyone and it was on the second mix tape I ever made.  It becomes even better when you hear it live, especially when they include the extra verse.  It ranked at #12 on my U2 list.

#44  –  I Love L.A.

  • “Everybody’s very happy ‘cause the sun is shining all the time, looks like another perfect day”
  • Randy Newman
  • Randy Newman
  • 1983
  • single from Trouble in Paradise
  • I wrote about this song a little in this much longer piece dealing with Los Angeles.  It is my favorite song by an artist who went to school with my father from kindergarten to twelfth grade.  It has a great guitar hook (which is ironic, since he’s a piano player), a rousing chorus and a nice little intro that makes fun of other cities.  I watched this video a lot growing up, even though the single never even made the Top 100 and it will continue to be an anthem for me, no matter how conflicted I might actually feel about the city.

#43  –  Do They Know It’s Christmas?

  • “The only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears”
  • Band-Aid
  • Bob Geldof, Midge Ure
  • 1984
  • single  (#13; #1 – U.K.)
  • I gave my nod to Veronica’s irritation at this song here but it will always have a strong pull on my heart.  First of all, it’s a fantastic song and it was recorded for a really good reason.  It basically kick-started the whole notion of doing music for charity and we did our part by buying the 45 and the 12″ that had the extended version of the song (with the “Feed the World” part and the comments from all the artists involved).  The Brits rightly made this a #1 hit while “We are the World”, a far inferior song became a massive hit in the U.S. but this never made it past #13.  I prefer listening to the extended edition and it honestly give me goose bumps whenever I get to Bob Geldof and his message and I think about these artists all coming together and working their asses off in that one day to get this done and released.

#42  –  Under Pressure

  • “It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about”
  • Queen & David Bowie
  • Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, David Bowie
  • 1981
  • single from Hot Space  (#29; #1 – U.K.)
  • Is this is the greatest bassline ever recorded in a song?  Vanilla Ice seemed to think so, since he blatantly stole it, used it as the hook for his one real success and then tried to claim his was different.  But that song is crap compared to this one, with it’s brilliant mixing of the low vocal of David Bowie with the rising falsetto of Freddie Mercury.  Queen had released a lot of great songs in the 70’s and they would release a lot of good songs in the 80’s but this is the only truly great song they would record during the decade.  Quite possibly the best single ever recorded by David Bowie, and that’s saying something.

#41  –  Red Hill Mining Town

  • “I’m hanging on, you’re all that’s left to hold onto”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • album track from The Joshua Tree
  • I ranked this at #11 on my U2 list.  It shouldn’t be as little known as it is because it was originally planned to be the second single from the album but they changed their minds.  But, the lack of a single release and the fact that until the current 30th Anniversary Tour it had never been played live made it one of the least known songs on the album.  But, when I needed a song with powerful lyrics to drive someone out of their room because she can’t tolerate her ex-boyfriend’s U2 obsession, this was the song I went with.

#40  –  Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

  • “Do you wonder if heaven is true?”
  • Love and Rockets
  • Love and Rockets
  • 1987
  • album track from Earth, Sun, Moon
  • This was one of the first songs I learned from Stacy’s mix tapes left behind when she was at college.  The first time I heard this song, it completely floored me, with a simply folk rock guitar and then a saxophone and a haunting notion that this one thing holds us all together.  Though it would be the single “No New Tale to Tell” that would help make the album known, it was this song and “Here on Earth” that really spoke to me when I would buy it in college, after a couple of years of listening to this song over and over.

#39  –  Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

  • “If you’ve got a blacklist I wanna be on it.”
  • Billy Bragg
  • Billy Bragg
  • 1988
  • single from Workers Playtime  (#52 – U.K.)
  • Another song I learned from the Hang the DJ cd’s, this time the one from 1988.  I was not familiar with Billy Bragg at all when I first bought the cd, but after listening to this song for years, I learned more about him and eventually a great line from this song would be the title of my homemade best of Billy Bragg (“Mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is”).  But every line from this song is caustic and brilliant and points the way towards his socialist folk roots while the music (as the liner notes from the Hang the DJ disc points out) points towards his future music, with more instruments involved than he had been using on his first few albums.  If you don’t know the lyrics for this song, you really should listen to it right now.

#38  –  The Price You Pay

  • “Do you remember the story of the Promised Land?”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1980
  • album track from The River
  • One of the best album tracks from a singer who has given us many of the greatest.  I listened to this for a few years and I always knew it was a good song.  But then, it struck me at one point that it was a perfect song to use in a scene in in your most frail gesture and suddenly I began to listen to the song with a new ear.  It became, not just about the brilliant lyrics but about the way all the instruments come together, from the drums and piano that open the song, to the way all the other instruments work as one throughout the song.  This is one of the songs on The River that has a different version included in The Ties That Bind, a version that includes a verse not in the original released version.

#37  –  All I Want is You

  • “You say you’ll give me eyes in a moon of blindness”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1988
  • single from Rattle & Hum  (#83; #4 – U.K.)
  • The final song on Rattle & Hum and one of the most beautiful album closers ever recorded.  This song can be used as a beautiful love song, but it can also be seen as a sign of something that is gone (for proof of that, just look at its brilliant use at the end of Contagion).  There is a cover by the Irish band Bellefire that is fine but it shows how much the strings mean to the song because their lack of strings really leaves the song a bit lackluster in spite of their beautiful vocals.  This song ranked at #10 on my U2 list and also was in the Top 10 for both my brothers.  This is the part of the countdown that starts to be dominated by my two favorite musical artists.

#36  –  Dear God

  • “We all need a big reduction in the amount of fear”
  • XTC
  • Andy Partridge
  • 1986; single released in 1987
  • b-side to “Grass”; single from Skylarking  (#99 – U.K.)
  • Originally left off Skylarking at the insistence of a Virgin exec, the song was then included as the b-side to “Grass” but radio airplay made fans angry it wasn’t on the album and then it was added back to the album and eventually released as a single in its own right, though that single barely made the charts in the U.K. and didn’t make the Top 100 here.  It has been covered (solidly) by Sarah McLachlan and the XTC box set Coat of Many Cupboards has the original band demo without the child singing at the start and end (my XTC greatest hits uses the released version in the chronological spot and then ends with the original band demo).  It’s used brilliantly in the new film version of It.

#35  –  Luminous Times (Hold on to Love)

  • “I love you ’cause I need to, not because I need you”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • b-side to “With or Without You”
  • By 1993, I thought I had every U2 song ever released, after getting hold of a tape that belonged to Stacy that had their b-sides and even their early songs that hadn’t been on albums (like “A Celebration”).  But it turned out I was missing this song, which is ironic, since it was the b-side to their most successful single.  I ended up getting soon after on cd single and was completely floored the first time I listened to it.  I have tried not to repeat quotes here that I used for the U2 songs on my U2 list (where this placed 9th) but in this case (and other, below), the line is so much to me what this song is about, one of the most haunting lines of the decade, that I felt I had to use it again.

#34  –  Be True

  • “You deserve better than this, little girl can’t you see it’s true”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1981
  • b-side to “Fade Away”
  • I first heard this song as the live version used on the Chimes of Freedom ep.  I liked that version a lot, but I was blown away when Tracks was released in 1998 and I finally got to hear the original version (while I had collected all the b-sides from Born in the USA, I had never found any pre-84 Springsteen 45).  It’s got such amazing energy, with the piano and the sax solo.  When I needed a song for one character to sing to another at the conclusion of “a different corner”, a character who was established as a big believer in Springsteen, this was the song I went with.  My favorite Springsteen b-side, hands down and one of my favorite b-sides by any artist ever.

#33  –  Atlantic City

  • “Well everything dies baby, that’s a fact but maybe everything that dies someday comes back”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1982
  • single from Nebraska
  • As I mentioned in my albums post, I bought Nebraska having never listened to a song from it.  While I was impressed with the entire album the first time I heard it, this was the song that really blew me away.  Once again, it came down mainly to one line, although it’s a line in the chorus (and quoted above) so it’s repeated in the song.  That notion that everything that dies someday comes back is one that has always stuck with me and I think it’s one of Springsteen’s best lines (and you’ll find it more than once in sleeps now the angels).  There have been numerous live versions and none of them ever worked for me as well as the original version which is part of what makes me think that Springsteen was right in the way he ended up releasing Nebraska.

#32  –  One Tree Hill

  • “I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • single from The Joshua Tree
  • Released as a single only in New Zealand and Australia (“In God’s Country” was released here) because of its inspiration (read the Wikipedia article if you don’t know the story behind it), it hit #1 in New Zealand (the third of eight singles that hit #1 there because they love U2).  Another rare example where I use the same quote as I did in my U2 list (where this song finished 8th) because that line (and the way it is sung in the live version linked on the list) says so much about what I love about this song.

#31  –  Tunnel of Love

  • “There’s a room of shadows that gets so dark brother it’s easy for two people to lose each other”
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1987
  • single from Tunnel of Love  (#9)
  • In in your most frail gesture, I needed a song that someone could get up and sing to another person and this was the one I went with, even borrowing the phrase “a room of shadows” for that part of the story.  While Springsteen had ditched the E Street Band as a whole for the album, he would still use parts of the band and this is the best song on the album in part because it’s one of the songs that makes good use of parts of the band (with Roy Bittan on synth, Nils Lofgren on lead guitar and Max Weinberg on drums).  Springsteen is right.  It ought to be easy, it ought to be simple enough.  But you do have to learn to live with what you can’t rise above.

#30  –  Personal Jesus

  • “Reach out and touch faith”
  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • 1989
  • single from Violator  (#28)
  • The first single from Violator, released a whopping seven months before the album (which is why it made it into this 80’s list and not the 90’s like the rest of the album), this was also the band’s first US Top 40 hit since “People are People” and only their second overall.  I have a fantastic memory of this song from when I saw Depeche Mode in concert in October of 1993, because when they would sing “reach out and touch faith”, the lights would go from the band out to the audience and you could see all 11,000 people in the Memorial Coliseum reaching out for the band.  A fantastic song but not even my #1 song from the album as you’ll see when the 90’s list is posted.

#29  –  Take on Me

  • “You’re all the things I’ve got to remember”
  • A-ha
  • Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket, Pål Waaktaar
  • 1984; 1985
  • single from Hunting High and Low  (#1)
  • Yet another song like “Walking on Sunshine” that didn’t hit when it was first released, then was redone and ended up becoming a smash hit.  Part of that was certainly the video which was one of the most beloved videos of the decade and today is often cited as one of the greatest videos of all-time (it was #1 on my own list of best videos of the decade and Veronica agreed with that assessment).  I think the video might have had more to do with it than the remix but the synths really help.  There are few synth-pop songs that so demand that you play air-synth along with it as this one.

#28  –  Money for Nothing

  • “I should have learned to play the guitar”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler, Sting
  • 1985
  • single from Brothers in Arms  (#1)
  • These two songs, while musically incredibly different, have a number of similarities.  Both were #1 hits in the US in 1985 (only two weeks apart) while neither quite managed to get to #1 in the UK.  Both of them were massive hit videos and are generally cited among the greatest videos ever made.  Both of them demand air instruments.  The guitar solo on this song is so great that it actually blew out my friend John’s speakers.  When Weird Al requested the rights to do a parody of this in 1989, Knopfler’s one condition was that he play the guitar solo.

#27  –  Forever Young

  • “Let us die young or let us live forever”
  • Alphaville
  • Bernhard Lloyd, Marian Gold, Frank Mertens
  • 1984
  • single from Forever Young  (#65)
  • The rare song on this list that I actually got from my younger sister, Alison.  She had it from a friend of hers on some tape that ended up in my car and I became obsessed with the song, later even getting the dance version which is ridiculous because who makes a dance version of one of the most depressing songs ever recorded?  It would be the first song on one of the first themed mix tapes I would ever make (Depression and Romance, one on each side) alongside such songs as “Cat’s in the Cradle”, “I Don’t Like Mondays”, “Dust in the Wind” and “Blasphemous Rumours”.

#26  –  Once in a Lifetime

  • “Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us”
  • Talking Heads
  • David Byrne, Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
  • 1980; single released in 1981; live single released in 1985
  • single from Remain in Light  (#14 – U.K.); single from Stop Making Sense  (#91)
  • Back at #81 I mentioned the screenplay that had two epigraphs from the Talking Heads.  The line quoted here is the other one.  That line so perfectly suited this character.  It’s one of the reasons that I much prefer the live version of the song, because Byrne puts so much emphasis on that line in the live version, really capturing its desperate cry.

#25  –  Blaze of Glory

  • “It’s funny how they shoot you down when your head is help up high”
  • The Alarm
  • Eddie MacDonald, Mike Peters, David Sharp
  • 1984
  • album track from Declaration
  • Back to my writing again.  When I was working on “a different corner“, I needed a good song that made use of a lot of instruments to build together that a band could play together before leaving the stage for a little bit and I went with this one because it begins with that fantastic instrumental bit (especially the harmonica).  From the day I bought Standards in the summer of 1994, this had been my favorite Alarm song.  In spite of its length (6:05), it is in the Top 50 of my all-time played songs on my home iTunes (since 2009) with only four longer songs above it.

#24  –  You are the Everything

  • “Sometimes I feel like I can’t even sing”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1988
  • album track from Green
  • There are songs that become everybody’s favorite without every being a single.  This is a perfect example.  While “Stand” and “Orange Crush” were the big hits from Green, I think just about everyone I know thinks that “You are the Everything” is not only the best song on the album but one of the best songs R.E.M. has ever recorded.  In 1992, when I made a mix tape of my absolute favorite songs (putting them in order of how much I loved them) this song was actually second on that tape, behind only “Pride” and even ahead of “Born to Run”.  That’s how much I loved it.  I still love it (although obviously not quite that much).  It is soft and beautiful and haunting, even if it has a line that utterly mystifying (see here, although for a potential explanation, see the comments on that post).

#23  –  The River

  • “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true”
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • 1980; single released in 1981
  • single from The River
  • A song that was released as a single only in Europe but is, by my estimation, his best song of the decade.  I remember the first time I heard it, after buying the album in the spring of 1994 and being floored when it came to the end of the song and he sings those haunting lines: “Now those memories come back to haunt me, they haunt me like a curse  /  Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true or is something worse  /  That sends me down to the river”.  That main line of course is used multiple times in sleeps now the angels.  I used it in in your most frail gesture as well, where one character describes the song as “a Tom Hardy novel compressed into five minutes”.

#22  –  Land of Confusion

  • “I won’t be coming home tonight  /  My generation will put it right”
  • Genesis
  • Anthony Banks, Philip Collins, Michael Rutherford
  • 1986
  • single from Invisible Touch  (#4)
  • When I first knew this song, I was so enamored of the video (with its satirical Spitting Image puppets lampooning, among other things, both Reagan and Prince) that it was a long time before I realized how great the actual song was, especially Collins’ drumming.  Over the years, this has moved continually up and I would say that today it is my favorite Genesis song and given how much Genesis I own (one of the few bands I still have a lot of vinyal for because I have a lot of bootleg vinyl that used to belong to Kari’s uncle as well as video collections that also came from him) that’s saying a lot.

#21  –  Beds are Burning

  • “The western desert lives and breathes in 45 degrees”
  • Midnight Oil
  • Rob Hirst, Jim Moginie, Peter Garrett
  • 1987
  • single from Diesel and Dust  (#17)
  • My #1 Australian song of all-time?  It’s close between this and “The Stairs” by INXS.  This song made Midnight Oil technically a One-Hit Wonder in the US which is astounding when you think about songs like “The Dead Heart” and “Blue Sky Mining”.  I remember having to explain to my college roommate George that 45 degrees was, in fact, a real desert temperature because it was being measured in celsius and thus was approximately 123 degrees Fahrenheit.  Covered as an all-star tribute to help combat global warming in 2009 but that version is terrible and just highlights how brilliant the original version is.  Midnight Oil performed this to close the Sydney Olympics and it perfectly highlighted the political power of this song (see here for the recording and the explanation).  One of the best political songs ever written but people outside Australia don’t tend to think about how political it is.

#20  –  Sunday Bloody Sunday

  • “How long must we sing this song”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1983
  • single from War
  • The song that introduced our family to U2 when my brother heard the live version on a jukebox not long after getting to college in 1983.  Like “Beds are Burning”, it’s a political song with a lot more resonance in the band’s home country.  The best version, in my opinion, is the version in the film Rattle & Hum, where Bono lets loose all of his fury at the terrorists who had been damaging his country for his entire lifetime.  It ranked at #7 on my Top 100 U2 songs.

#19  –  Take Me Home

  • “Because I’ve been a prisoner all my life”
  • Phil Collins
  • Phil Collins
  • 1985
  • single from No Jacket Required  (#7)
  • I think maybe from this first time I ever heard this song, it became my favorite Phil Collins song.  It was one of the few songs on his Serious Hits Live that wasn’t significantly weaker than the original studio recording (I had that tape when it first came out because it was the first chance to get a lot of his movie singles in one place but the versions really, for the most part, aren’t that good and Jonathan Miller, who likes Phil Collins, used to refer to it as Serious Lounge Live).  It’s a long song (almost six minutes in the studio recording and over eight in the live version) but I continually play it over and over again.  I also love the video, with shots of Collins from all around the world taken during his tour.

#18  –  Temptation

  • “Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve got blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes”
  • New Order
  • Gilian Gilbert, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner
  • 1982
  • single  (#29 – U.K.)
  • This is the opposite of “Take Me Home” in that the former wasn’t ruined by its later live version but that this song, in my opinion, was greatly improved in the new recording done in 1987 for Substance.  The original is quite a good song but the 1987 version is an absolute masterpiece, the best song from one of the best bands of the decade.  I was already a fan of the song long before Kelly MacDonald sat on Ewan’s bedside and sang it to him (in a heroin withdrawal fever dream) in Trainspotting but that certainly cemented it in my brain.

#17  –  In Between Days

  • “Go on, go on, just walk away”
  • The Cure
  • Robert Smith
  • 1985
  • single from The Head on the Door  (#15 – U.K.)
  • Though, surprisingly not my favorite Cure song (there’s one more down below), it is the most played Cure song in my iTunes partially because it’s over four minutes shorter than the other remaining song.  It has one of the most brilliant drum openings to a song ever recorded and sometimes I click back to the beginning of the song right after I’ve started it just to hear the drums again.  It was brilliantly covered by Ben Folds in which he makes use of the piano for that opening drum bit.

#16  –  Where the Streets Have No Name

  • “We’re still building and burning down love”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1987
  • single from The Joshua Tree  (#13)
  • The best album opener ever.  Not that better songs haven’t been the first song on an album (though it’s been rare), but the slow open, as the guitar gradually comes in, then joined by the other instruments, with a kind of ethereal sound that would make the entire album, creates an atmosphere that permeates through the whole experience.  On my U2 list (where I ranked it #5 all-time), I talk about a lot of the great live recordings.  To me, this is the perfect example of why chart performance is irrelevant, in that this only reached #13 even though it’s the best song on the album and one of the weakest songs on the album (“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”) went to #1.

#15  –  She’s a Mystery to Me

  • “Daylight comes, our heaven turns to hell”
  • Roy Orbison
  • Bono, Edge
  • 1989
  • single from Mystery Girl  (#27)
  • I wouldn’t actually hear this song until college when my roommate Jonathan played it for me because radio stations (and video stations) focused on “You Got It”.  But Bono and Edge’s song is brilliantly brought to life by Orbison’s haunting vocals.  It only placed at #22 on my U2 list but that’s using their version of the song (I have a bootleg recording of the band singing it in concert in Rotterdam in 1990 but it wouldn’t get an official release from U2 until 2011) and it’s Orbison’s original recording that is the perfect one.

#14  –  Closer to Fine

  • “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear”
  • Indigo Girls
  • Emily Saliers
  • 1989
  • single from Indigo Girls  (#52)
  • The reason I first bought their self-titled album and the reason I became a fan of the band in the first place.  Absolutely one of the greatest folk-rock songs of all-time.  It’s a song you really need to listen to because there are very few songs as lyrically brilliant as this one.

#13  –  Romeo and Juliet

  • “There’s a place for us, you know the movie song”
  • Dire Straits
  • Mark Knopfler
  • 1980
  • single from Making Movies  (#8 – U.K.)
  • The first song that Veronica and I danced to at our wedding and it was not chance.  Though I knew the songs from Brothers in Arms when they played on MTV in the mid-80’s, this was the first Dire Straits song I ever owned because John Ramirez played it for me, knowing it would speak to the romantic in me.  As I write this, Dire Straits has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time and it astounds me that they have not already been in for 20 years.  That’s just ridiculous.  I have a story that uses the verses of this song to tell a story in between the parts of the story.

#12  –  She’s an Angel

  • “When you’re following an angel doesn’t mean you have to throw your body off a building”
  • They Might Be Giants
  • John Linnell, John Flansburgh
  • 1986
  • album track from They Might Be Giants
  • One of the first songs Veronica and I danced to after “Romeo and Juliet” at our wedding.  When I was becoming a TMBG fan, my sophomore year in college, I borrowed their first album from a friend and then went back to him and said “I’ve just heard one of the most deep and moving songs I’ve ever heard”, which isn’t someone usually says to describe a TMBG song.  But this song had instantly become my favorite TMBG song upon one listen and it has continued to be my favorite.  His thought as to what song I had just listened to and been moved by?  “Youth Culture Killed My Dog”.

#11  –  Like a Prayer

  • “I hear your voice, it’s like an angel sighing”
  • Madonna
  • Madonna, Patrick Leonard
  • 1989
  • single from Like a Prayer  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • That I think this is, by a considerable margin, Madonna’s best song is probably not surprising.  It was a #1 hit in at least 15 different countries and is the biggest song off her best album.  I think a lot of people would rank it as her best song (including Veronica).  That this video is also the one where I find Madonna to be the most attractive is probably a much less popular opinion and reflects both my lack of interest in blondes and my thing for a woman in a slip.

#10  –  Pictures of You

  • “I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel”
  • The Cure
  • Boris Williams, Simon Gallup,Roger O’Donnell, Robert Smith, Porl Thompson and Lol Tolhurst
  • 1989; single released in 1990
  • single from Disintegration  (#19)
  • I first heard this on somebody’s mix tape and the long intro had it in for me before I ever even reached the lyrics.  We’re almost two minutes into the song before we first to get to those haunting lyrics “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you that I almost believe that they’re real.”  I have always loved layered songs, songs in which the instruments come in one by one and there are few examples in rock history that do this better than this song.  When I got to college this song would be a haunting reminder of any failed relationship, as I am wont to sit there and stare at pictures, because for me, like Faulkner, the past is never dead.  It’s not even past.

#9  –  Don’t You (Forget About Me)

  • “I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it baby”
  • Simple Minds
  • Keith Forsey, Steve Schiff
  • 1985
  • single from The Breakfast Club (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)  (#1)
  • Best Picture is the award at the Oscars that people love to complain about the most.  Citizen Kane didn’t win.  Singin’ in the Rain wasn’t nominated.  Crash won over Brokeback Mountain.  But let’s not forget Best Song.  Specifically, let’s not forget the year 1985 when “The Power of Love” and “Separate Lives” lost to “Say You, Say Me” while “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, one of the very best songs ever written for a film, one that is permanently identified with that film (as you can see from this ridiculously goofy video here that Veronica loves because she knows the people involved) failed to even receive a nomination.

#8  –  How Soon is Now?

  • “I am human and I need to be loved”
  • The Smith
  • Johnny Marr, Morrissey
  • 1984
  • b-side to “William, It Was Really Nothing”
  • Oh, The Smiths.  What other band releases a good single and then backs it with two of the best songs they will ever record, two of the very greatest b-sides of all-time, with one of them becoming so popular that it will not only become a single in its own right (charting to #24 in 1985) but one that will also get re-released and climb the singles chart again, this time even higher (to #16 in 1992) and would be regarded by many (including me, obviously) as one of the greatest songs of the decade, if not the best song of the decade?  And what is the most famous thing about the song?  Is it that amazing oscillating guitar chord (with, amusingly, a b-side on the single’s release called “Oscillate Wildly”) or that haunting cry “I am human and I need to be loved.”  And is the Smiths version even the most well-known today, because we have to consider the Love Spit Love version that was the theme to Charmed for all eight seasons that the show ran.

#7  –  Bad

  • “If I could, through myself, set your spirit free”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1984
  • album track from The Unforgettable Fire
  • The #2 song on my U2 list and the one that was most beloved by the group as a whole who had contributed to the list.  It is also, I promise, the last song on the list about heroin addiction.  Though I have been listening to live versions of it since I first knew the song (the version from Live Aid which I have had on video since July of 1985 has now been played on my iTunes 121 times which means, not including the times I have listened to it in my car, on my work laptop or on my phone, I have spent almost 25½  hours since September of 2009 listening to that version of the song alone which doesn’t include the 10 other versions on my iTunes, all of which run over 6:00 and several of which have been listened to multiple times, adding several more hours to the list), I only finally heard it performed live in person back in June and it was amazing, especially the moments where “all the stars come out”.

#6  –  Every Breath You Take

  • “Oh can’t you see you belong to me”
  • The Police
  • Sting
  • 1983
  • single from Synchronicity  (#1; #1 – U.K.)
  • One of the most commercially successful songs ever recorded and one that is bound and determined by hopeless idiots to be misunderstood as a romantic song that gets played at weddings.  It was Sting’s response to leaving his wife for her best friend and being haunted by the notion of obsessively watching someone.  It would be, not just a #1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, but the biggest single of the year in each country and one of the biggest selling singles of the entire decade.  Sting would brilliantly parody his own song in “Love is the Seventh Wave” on his first solo album.

#5  –  In Your Eyes

  • “When I want to run away, I drive off in my car”
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Peter Gabriel
  • 1986
  • single from So  (#26)
  • From a song that was a massive hit to one that didn’t get the appreciation it deserved on the charts.  Indeed, in 1990, it would be left off Gabriel’s first best-of collection Shaking the Tree.  Certainly the appreciation of the song because of Say Anything hadn’t really built to a big point yet (the film, like the song, was a slow burn in being appreciated).  But let’s remember that it works so well in Say Anything because it’s such a brilliant song to begin with.  You can see that in the different versions of the song, including the “special mix” that I have on the 12″ (because as far as I know it’s never been released on cd) and the almost 12 minute long live version from Secret World Live.

#4  –  Love Will Tear Us Apart

  • “Why is the bedroom so cold”
  • Joy Division
  • Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner
  • 1980
  • single  (#13 – U.K.)
  • When your wife has the title of a song inscribed on your tombstone, you know that’s the one you’ll be remembered for (and that you’ve pissed her off, given the title).  Written in 1979, recorded in March of 1980, the single wouldn’t be released until after Ian Curtis’ suicide in May.  It is, in sound, in theme, the defining song of Joy Division and has been, from the very first time I ever heard it, one of my absolute favorite songs.

#3  –  Don’t Dream It’s Over

  • “You know that they won’t win”
  • Crowded House
  • Neil Finn
  • 1986
  • single from Crowded House  (#2)
  • The song that eluded me for years because, 1 – I didn’t know what the title was (all I really knew was the “hey now hey now” part) and 2 – I didn’t know who sang it (I thought it was Tears for Fears).  I finally got it in the spring of 1993 and have played it hundreds or possibly even thousands of times since.  It was the next year that I realized how highly I thought of the song.  I made two mix tapes for my young sister to go off to college with, one of classic rock and one of modern rock so that she would have more expanded musical horizons in college.  This was the first song on the modern rock tape and I realized it was because it was one of the greatest “modern rock” songs of all-time and it belonged there right at the top of the list (and the tape).

#2  –  It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

  • “Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline”
  • R.E.M.
  • Berry / Buck / Mills / Stipe
  • 1987
  • single from Document  (#69)
  • You don’t think if people could go back and retroactively buy this single and make it a #1 they wouldn’t?  Every time that drum beat kicks in, everyone goes nuts.  It’s the concert closer for one of the most defining bands for my generation.  They always close with it and you know the concert’s not done until they’ve played it.  That includes, this magnificent version at Groundwork (a concert I was at) where Eddie Vedder came out and sang it with them.  Or the Unplugged version where they had to get the words off a computer.  It was the first song played at our wedding reception because Veronica insists it’s a song that defines what a wedding is – literally the end of the world as you know it and you do feel fine.

#1  –  Pride (In the Name of Love)

  • “One man betrayed with a kiss”
  • U2
  • U2
  • 1984
  • single from The Unforgettable Fire  (#33; #3 – U.K.)
  • My favorite song from the time I was ten years old and the one (aside from “Born in the U.S.A.”) that taught me that a great song and a social consciousness could go hand in hand.  I remember, before the live version on Rattle & Hum explaining to classmates that this song was about Martin Luther King.  I have been lucky with it in concert as it is one of only two non-Joshua Tree songs that I have heard all three times I have seen U2 in concert (“One” is the other).  As mentioned in the U2 post (where it was obviously #1), the performance in Boston in 2015 was especially moving, even more so now in light of our plans to eventually leave Boston.