When I think of 80’s music I think of hair metal bands, synthesisers and hair metal bands playing synthesisers. I’m not a big fan of any of those things so naturally I don’t care much for 80’s music.
You can blame it on Nirvana, I suppose. The band seemed so intent on rebelling against everything the 80’s stood for (the focus on image, the smooth-as-honey guitars, the electronic flourishes, the gravity-defying hair, the dance floor friendliness) that when I became a fan it was like swearing an allegiance to the 90’s. I immediately denounced the previous decade as an era of misguided fools who were yet to be awoken by the power of grunge.
My stance on this has softened over the years however, and recently this NME article helped remind me of some of the great songs that the 80’s produced. It also inspired me to list my own 20 favourite tracks from the decade …
20. Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time (1984)
I was going to start off with a Spinal Tap song until I realised I didn’t have any female vocalists in my list, which seemed messed up. So maybe this is a bit of a cop-out. Still, I’ve realised I definitely have a soft spot for this track, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why – after all it’s not that different to many other ballads from the decade. Perhaps it’s the funky haircut she flaunts in the video.
See Also: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
19. Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun (1983)
No matter where I am when I hear this song, I feel a need to clap my hands during those opening snare hits.
See Also: Kiss Off
18. The Flaming Lips – Love Yer Brain (1987)
Back in this post I said that this was the best of the The Flaming Lips’ work from the 80’s. It was apparently written after a drug addict friend of the band committed suicide.
See Also: One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning
17. Nirvana – Love Buzz (1988)
This, Nirvana’s first single, was a cover of a track by 60’s group, Shocking Blue. The band used the simple riff and the verse as a frame work to hang plenty of noisy distorted guitars and screams from. The result was one of the best tracks on their debut album, Bleach.
See Also: Blew, About a Girl, School
16. Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over (1986)
Crowded House were one of my Dad’s favourite bands, and I used to dislike them for that reason alone. Now I have to admit they made some fantastic pop music.
See Also: Better Be Home Soon, Into Temptation
15. The Church – Under the Milky Way (1988)
One of the first things that helped me get over my vendetta against 80’s music was the film Donnie Darko. The soundtrack is comprised of songs from the decade and they all work brilliantly. Case in point, this track, which is featured prominently during a party scene.
See Also: To be honest, I’m not familiar with any of their other songs.
14. Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Higher Ground (1989)
Another band more known for their 90’s output doing a kick-ass cover at the tail end of the 80’s. But where Nirvana’s track would have been practically unknown if they hadn’t hit it big years later, Higher Ground was a successful single that gave the Chilli Peppers their first big push into the mainstream.
See Also: Fight Like a Brave
13. U2 – New Year’s Day (1983)
It’s hard to imagine now, but there once was a time when U2 weren’t a massive, stadium-filling, platinum-selling, behemoth of a rock band. This is the song that started to change all that. The band already had a top ten hit or two in their home country of Ireland, and after this track was sent out across the oceans the rest of the world sat up and took notice too.
See Also: Sunday Bloody Sunday, With or Without You
12. The Clash – Rock the Casbah (1982)
It’s not usually well liked by Clash purists but it’s hard to deny the appeal of this song. It gets the toes tapping more than anything the band ever recorded and though it’s not as overtly political as much of their work, it has enough of a brain that it shouldn’t be just disregarded as big, dumb fun.
See Also: Should I Stay or Should I Go
11. Nine Inch Nails – Head Like A Hole (1989)
Trent Reznor’s ode to being really angry scrapes into the 80’s by the slimmest of margins (the single was actually released in 1990 but the album it’s from was released in 1989).
See Also: Something I Can Never Have, Sin