Top 10 Pop/Rock Songs of the 80’s – 1984

My last Top 10 of the 80’s post was on Jan 23rd. My computer crashed and it has taken me until now to remake my 1984 list – mainly because I’m lazy. For the reason I started this list and the criteria I used, check out my 1980 list. The others can be found at 1981, 1982 and 1983.

The way that I compile these lists is by going into iTunes, creating a playlist, and then moving every song from the Billboard Top 100 of that year that I even remotely like over to that list. I then go back through and remove songs until I get to the top 10. 1984’s initial list was much bigger than any other year – I think around 49 songs. But it seemed like 84 was the easiest so far to get down to 10 because there were several songs that I new had to be in the top 10.

So here we go…

10. I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Elton John – This is probably my favorite Elton John song. It has a slow gospel feel to it and is just an outstanding melodic ballad. Elton John has one of the most distinctive voices in pop and this is a great vocal performance by him. John had a bit of a resurgence in his carreer in the mid-80’s and this was his biggest hit. Two things about this song that put it over some of the others: 1) The bass in this song has a good, percussive sound. 2) It was used for the montage of Peter being in a wheelchair for all of 45 minutes on Family Guy.

9. You Might Think, The Cars – I really wanted to include “Magic” by the Cars in the top 10 for this year because I think the melody of the chorus is one of their best, but “You Might Think” is a better overall song. Bouncy and upbeat, the Cars did a perfect job of melding traditional rock instrumentation (guitars, piano, bass) with New Wave instrumentation (synths, digitized drums). I have a vivid memory of the video for this song, especially the fly with the Rick Ocasek head, and it won Video of the Year at the first MTV Video Music Awards show.

8. Say, Say, Say, Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – This song was huge (I think it was #2 overall for the year). Michael Jackson was at the height of his Thriller popularity. McCartney had been having a bit of a comeback. Both of these guys were masterful writers of melodic pop songs so you know that anything they wrote together almost had to be great. Back then there was a phenomenon that was kind of a precursor to the Karaoke craze. There were booths, usually in malls, where you could go and record yourself singing with an accompaniment track and then they would sell you a cassette of the results. The first time I ever did this, a friend of mine and I recorded “Say, Say, Say”. The Jackson part was so high, that my friend had a hard time hitting it. They had to slow the track down to lower the key so it ended up being this really slow version of the song. But did it impress the ladies, you’re asking? No. No it did not.

7. Missing You, John Waite – This is one of those songs that puts me in a nostalgic mood. I can remember specific things that I was doing while this song was on the radio. And of course it reminds me of the melodramatic fellings one has when you’re young and sparring with the fairer sex. I’m pretty sure that the girl that I used the Texas Rangers analogy on was on my mind every time I heard this song in ’84.

6. Sunglasses At Night, Corey Hart – I remember where I was the first time I heard this song. I was in the Comic Zone picking up the latest copies of The Flash, Green Lantern and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars which means not only that I have a pretty good memory but also that I am such a nerd. This song still sounds really cool to me. The opening keyboards sound vaguely ominous. The first part of the chorus has the really cheesy synth line but is redeemed in the second part by the great guitar riff. Hart’s vocal has a vague rebel-without-a-cause feel to it that really makes the song. 

5. Let’s Go Crazy, Prince – From the opening church organ over which Prince gives his weird sermon to the closing spastic guitar solo this song reeks of over-the-top, look-at-me-I’m-the-next-Hendrix arrogance. But it’s also a really bad ass song. This may not be my favorite song off of Purple Rain (that would probably be “Baby I’m A Star” or “Darling Nikki”) but it’s my favorite of the hits from it. This is Prince at his apocalyptic best.

4. If This Is It, Huey Lewis & The News – Once again, this is a song that makes me think about a girl. The song explores the classic love-me-or-leave-me theme and does it well. Huey Lewis has a great knack for mixing 50’s doo-wop style with contemporary sounds. This is one of his best melodies and one of his best vocals as well.

3. Against All Odds, Phil Collins – So much has been written about this song that it’s hard to say anything original. If you don’t already know, Collins wrote most of his songs from this period about his ex-wife. Think he was bitter? This has got to be the best vocal performance Collins ever laid down on vinyl. It’s hard to think of any other song that conveys such raw, genuine emotion.  

2. Hard Habit To Break, Chicago – As I’ve stated before, I’m a fan of the sappy love song and this one is the sappiest. Chicago had a very distinctive sound for their 80’s albums and “Hard Habit to Break” is typical of that sound. The lush background music, the overly processed vocals and of course the horns all combine to create a real gem of a song. I also like the dual lead vocal bit.

1. Sister Christian, Night Ranger – More than any other song, this song says 80’s to me. The build up to the chorus still gives me that feeling where you just want to turn it up as loud as it will go. The song (which was written about one of the band member’s sister) starts out as a straight forward ballad with just piano and vocals and then turns into a soaring power ballad when the rest of the band kicks in for the chorus. This song always makes it onto my road-trip mixes.

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3 thoughts on “Top 10 Pop/Rock Songs of the 80’s – 1984

  1. Those are all great, I have a real affinity to the British invasion of the 80’s and wanted to throw out “Whisper to a Scream” by The Icicle Works, and “Mirror in the Bathroom” by The English Beat, who later splintered into General Public and Fine Young Cannibals.

  2. Michael,

    I’m probably going to do several posts that will cover some of the more obscure music I like after I finish the Billboard stuff.

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