The Best 80s Music ~ Top 100 of the Decade (page 2 of 3)
From #70 - #35 of the best music of the 80s!
“Livin' in the Eighties”
Crazy Train (1980) by Ozzy Osbourne - #70
Known for his bombastic behavior and decades of substance abuse, Ozzy Osbourne has very loudly cranked out music of angst for a very, very long time, first as the lead singer of British heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath, then as a solo artist.
Crazy Train is not only his first solo release and his biggest hit, it is also a very surprising enigma. Here's a man famously known for partying to the extreme and for insane behavior (such as biting the head off of a dove and urinating on the Alamo) yet in Crazy Train he creates a song that is musically complex with lyrics that feature an insightful commentary on the politics of the Cold War Era.
Tell Me When It's Over (1982) by The Dream Syndicate - #69
A leader of LA's "paisley underground" (which also saw the creation of bands such as Bangles and The Three O'Clock) The Dream Syndicate was one of those bands which influenced many, while not tasting commercial succes of its own.
The pure guitar pop of Tell Me When It's Over is a great representation of the sound the band created and passed on to others
White Wedding (1982) by Billy Idol - #68
Another veteran of the London punk scene, Billy Idol fronted the band Generation X in the 1970s. Idol headed into the 80s solo and with a very clear vision of the style he was shooting for: namely to wed the genres of punk and dance music.
As he snarled his way through the angry and danceable White Wedding it was obvious that he had achieved his goal.
Open Your Eyes (1985) by Lords of the New Church - #67
Lords of the New Church were trendsetters in the genre of gothic rock.
The band, formed by former members of high-profile punk bands, was active through most of the decade and scored a minor hit with their rather creepy cover of Madonna's Like a Virgin. But it is this tune which, for many, is their signature work.
Fairytale of New York (1988) by The Pogues - #66
The Pogues were an Irish band, as in a very, very Irish band. Utilizing traditional Celtic instruments and arrangements and featuring a lead singer who did not in any way shape or form try to make himself sound more American, The Pogues brought raucous pub music to many new ears and inspired many of the Celtic bands out there today.
Every Word Means No (1983) by Let's Active - #65
Though not a particularly well-known song from a not particularly well-known group, this one is important because it is the work of one of the most important unsung heroes of music: Mitch Easter. The 80s saw the creation of small studios and the rise of the DIY indie music approach that so influenced the path that music took in the decades to follow (right up to bedroom recordings of the present day) and this man was the one who first got that ball rolling.
Easter started one of the first indie recording studios (the Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, NC) in his parents' garage. There he could get a professional sound while charging a fraction of the price of a "real" studio, and because of what he could offer, he recorded and produced most of the bands in the first wave of indies, including R.E.M. (it was here that the band recorded their classic Radio Free Europe). Easter's own band, Let's Active, never achieved the success of some of the bands that he produced, but certainly showcased his talent and a jangle-y guitar style that influenced many other bands.
Just Like Honey (1985) by The Jesus and Mary Chain - #64
The Jesus and Mary Chain was one of the first groups to take distorted guitars and mold them into atmospheres. There wasn't a name for that yet in the 80s as these guys were one of the first bands to head down that road.
If you like your music drowning in a sea of reverb, this is the song for you.
World Shut Your Mouth (1986) by Julian Cope - #63
Here Julian Cope abandons the "neo psychedelia" which had gained him so much attention in The Teardrop Explodes and turns instead to a punchy, straight-ahead rock tune.
Cities in Dust (1986) by Siouxsie & The Banshees - #62
Siouxsie & The Banshees were initially formed as a punk group by members of "The Bromley Contingent," a group of early fans of The Sex Pistols. But they quickly became more than just another Pistols knockoff, as the band experimented with different styles and atmospheres.
Arguably their finest achievement was the gothic synth-textured Cities in Dust, which is certainly the perfect theme song for the post apocalypse.
Life in a Northern Town (1985) by The Dream Academy - #61
At a time when "hippie" was an unpopular word in the music industry, along comes a band with a very hippie sound (re-branded as "dream pop") which shoots up the charts with a song about Nick Drake.
Invisible Sun (1981) by The Police - #60
With Ghost in the Machine Sting first dove into the dark and somber side of his songwriting (the side which produced his biggest hit, Every Breath You Take). The bulk of this 80s album from The Police is both bleak and beautiful. The political lyrics of Invisible Sun are a lament on living through wartime.
The song is unique for a few reasons, firstly it was one of the first times that the band had utilized synthesizer (a big, ominous pseudo-string sound) and secondly, Sting, known at the time for his high-pitched singing, performs this tune in a low mournful drone.
A Girl in Trouble (1984) by Romeo Void - #59
A staple in the early days of MTV, Girl in Trouble is an oddly downkey but danceable little number punctuated by an echoey saxophone part and a suitable followup to Romeo Void's previous hit Never Say Never.
Don't You Forget About Me (1985) by Simple Minds - #58
Who doesn't know this song? One of the most popular songs of the 80s, from one of the most popular movies of the 80s. Enough said. (except maybe "enjoy that fantastic drum break").
Ship of Fools (1987) by World Party - #57
The album Private Revolution was credited to World Party, but World Party was essentially Karl Wallinger (formerly of The Waterboys) creating a band sound by recording each of the parts himself.
The sound is convincingly band-like and Ship of Fools rocks with an environmental message.
Oblivious (1983) by Aztec Camera - #56
A bouncy little pop tune penned and recorded by a teenager. Sounds iffy when you state it like that, but Oblivious is one fine tune. 80s music at its finest, folks.
Everywhere I Go (1986) by The Call - #55
The Call was one of those bands that seemed like it should have been much more famous than it ever was.
The Call combined a huge amount of passion with intelligent and conscious songwriting, such as can be witnessed in the pulsating Everywhere I Go.
Gigantic (1988) by Pixies - #54
Though never achieving much in the area of commercial success in the 80s, Pixies were hugely influential to what was to come in the 90s. Kurt Cobain stated publicly (and often) that his signature musical style, including the quiet/loud/quiet/loud of songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit, was directly influenced by the work of Black Francis and company.
And the waves of influence Cobain made on the 90s was a direct result of the huge impression made on him by these guys (and a girl) on songs such as Gigantic.
In a Big Country (1983) by Big Country - #53
Rock bag pipes anyone? In what certainly had to be a first, the Scottish band Big Country paid homage to their homeland with guitar parts which sounded eerily like bagpipes in a hit song.
The driving catchiness of this tune makes it one of the great one-hit-wonders tunes of all time, and the fact that the band's name is in the song makes sure that you remember who performed this one hit.
Blood & Roses (1986) by The Smithereens - #52
Okay, this has got to be one of the greatest bass lines in all of rock. Can't you feel that?
Hero Takes a Fall (1984) by Bangles - #51
More than a decade before girl bands started to gain serious traction there was Bangles.
This song off of their major label debut places Susanna Hoffs' girlie-girl vocals atop a driving guitar-based pop foundation, a sound which would become quite popular in later years.
Motorcrash (1988) by The Sugarcubes - #50
The Sugarcubes introduced the world to the utter strangeness that was Bjork...and we liked it.
No New Tale to Tell (1987) by Love & Rockets - #49
After the demise of the influential group Bauhaus, a couple of its members turned right around and formed Love and Rockets. No New Tale to Tell ramps up the energy on this great mixture of acoustic and electric guitars.
Prison Bound (1988) by Social Distortion - #48
Social Distortion was one of the leading lights in LA's punk scene. But like many a punk band the group had its share of chaos, eventually landing their lead singer Mike Ness in prison and extended rehabs.
After cleaning up his act, Ness and company returned with an album that blended punk with Johnny Cash, resulting in a genre now referred to as cowpunk. Prison Bound is the definitive example of the genre and an excellent song to play as loud as your speakers will go.
Free World (1989) by Kirsty MacColl - #47
Kirsty MacColl was a songwriter and a featured background singer on many great songs that came out of the British music scene of the 1980s, including songs by The Smiths, The Pogues and Simple Minds.
On the song Free World she recruited friend Johnny Marr for this very fast-tempo track (which features some of Marr's finest work ever) about economic chaos in Thatcher England and Reagan America.
What's the Matter Here? (1987) by 10,000 Maniacs - #46
With a band name that sounds more punk than folk-rock, 10,000 Maniacs had released a few critically acclaimed but smaller-selling albums before What's the Matter Here? brought them into mainstream success.
The song, an odd juxtaposition of a happy, bouncy tune with lyrics about child abuse, highlights Natalie Merchant's vocal talent perfectly.
Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream) (1984) by The Icicle Works - #45
The main draw of this song is the amazing, thumping percussion. For a time in the 80s "tribal drums" were popular in the UK music scene, and many a band took this tribal influence and blended it into pop music, none better than this song which melds the tribal with rock snares for a driving beat.
A Million Things (1986) by The Lucy Show - #44
Though not a big hit by any means, A Million Things by The Lucy Show perfectly encapsulates the sound of mid-80s indie rock.
Worlds Apart (1986) by Cactus World News - #43
It's safe to say that many bands were influenced by the guitar work of U2's The Edge. On this driving song from Ireland's Cactus World News, the influence is obvious. The gigantic feedback-y guitar sends this tune to another level.
One Step Ahead (1981) by Split Enz - #42
Quick: name successful bands rom New Zealand... Split Enz went through many stages from folk to progressive and finally ending up popular with a New Wave style sound, perfectly exemplified by One Step Ahead.
Fronted by brothers Tim and Neil Finn (who later went on to form Crowded House) the band produced a boatload of material before dissolving just when international success started to seem likely.
The Ghost in You (1984) by Psychedelic Furs - #41
A beautiful song from the Furs' full-on synth period. Psychedelic Furs had always worked with a lot more layers than many of their contemporaries, and their deep-dive into this concept produced some wonderful results.
After first experimenting with synths on the Todd-Rundgren-produced Forever Now The Psychedelic Furs followed that up with Mirror Moves, whose overall feel is best exemplified by this song.
I Melt With You (1982) by Modern English - #40
Fantastic production, great lyrics and the best damned hum solo ever recorded.
Gone Daddy Gone (1983) by Violent Femmes - #39
Most of the songs on Violent Femmes' self-title debut are sparse acoustic arrangements similar to what the band played on the street as buskers.
Gone Daddy Gone, however, features not only electric guitar, but you'd also have to admit that the xylophone has not been put to better use on a rock song since Under My Thumb.
Don't Dream It's Over (1986) by Crowded House - #38
After the demise of Split Enz, Neil Finn formed a new band and went to L.A. to try to get a record deal in America. The result was Crowded House, whose single Don't Dream It's Over had a success far surpassing anything from his previous band.
The More You Live the More You Love (1984) by Flock of Seagulls - #37
Though Flock of Seagulls never managed to score another hit the size of their first 80s song, I Ran, they did continue to craft some interesting songs.
The More You Live the More You Love from 1984 was noteworthy in that it was mainly a guitar song rather than the synths for which the band had become famous.
The Stand (1983) by The Alarm - #36
Welsh band The Alarm were best known for playing acoustic guitars very aggressively and building very anthemic, rocking songs upon that very unlikely foundation. In this one, they electrify and take as their subject matter the Stephen King Novel The Stand.