Top 100 Songs of the 80’s

Before getting off the plane in 1983 to Michael Jackson utterly ruling the airwaves — I can’t hear “Beat It” without being transported back in time and feeling the fear/excitement of a kid immigrating to New York City — I can remember hearing Toto’s “Rosanna” on Radio Miraflores in Lima, Peru and am pretty sure Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” and Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” are the first music videos I ever saw.  But I didn’t really discover music until I had gotten off that plane.
American Pop music went hand in hand with all the American TV shows and movies I had seen as a kid in Peru, and which had convinced me that the USA must be paradise on earth.  And so it was shocking for me to see poor people, urban housing projects and burned down buildings on my way in from the airport.  Also since I thought there were mainly only white people in America ’cause of those same TV shows, I was surprised to see “foreigners” (non-white Americans) driving new cars, etc.  The perception of syndicated American Television had dictated the reality of my fairly comfortable childhood.
But now I was being thrown into the “dumb class” as NYC public schools used to do to immigrant kids on arrival (though I quickly realized my Peruvian catholic school education > NYC public School 4th grade).  Elmhurst, Queens still had a lot of Irish/Italians, a then fast-growing Asian population, but I was taken to the side and welcomed into the class by a Ricky Martin looking Puerto Rican kid who showed me the ropes. I was in for one hell of a culture clash.  The social construct of “race” was also different here and as I started realizing I didn’t look like the average American on those TV shows it all started building social confusion.  Throughout this early time Top 40 Pop radio was always blasting, particularly on weekends when my mom had us help her clean the house as Casey Kasem would count them down.  I learned to love all that sugary Pop (and my parents rarely played Latin music now as they wanted us to learn English).

To further add to the mix, in the summer my brother and I went to the Lost Battalion Hall summer camp. We were two of the few kids who were not from the Lefrak City projects that surrounded the camp.  It was here I heard my first Ghetto Blasters — blasting Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show” and me noticing it sounded like the Inspector Gadget theme — and saw kids breakdancing on cardboard boxes with open laced Adidas and Pumas.  Now apart from starting to learn I wasn’t one of the white kids on American TV, here was a whole unsung part of American culture that hadn’t been syndicated to Peru, and one I didn’t realize I had much more in common with than fictional TV shows.  Around this time Video Music Box had also come out on channel 31, the first Ever TV show about Hip-Hop music — I went from watching Sesame Street to learn English, to Hip-Hop videos.  Both of these events taught me about the urban experience in NYC that I had not gotten from TV, and this new art form which was a schizophrenic sonic collage of music that fascinated my young mind.

In Junior High I hung out with the Metal heads, Anthrax’s “I’m the Man” being the first Metal song I ever heard  (which itself was Metal learning about Rap). And so it was (Golden Age) Hip-Hop that first started talking to me and started to help me build a sense of self during the era when Hip-Hop music taught black folks that although they might also stand outside the “regular” American culture seen on TV and movies; they had their own to be proud of.  All this culminated with Public Enemy raging against the status quo while championing knowledge of self on top of mind-blowing sonic cacophonies.  By the time I got to a racially kinetic “guido High School” on the border of Queens and Brooklyn; I would abscond from most social life to just go home and blast Rap music.  As the 80’s went on Casey Kasem no longer counted down the songs I liked, so I started creating my own countdowns, which is why this otherwise impossible list was easy to compile.

The 80’s and the music I listened to has sort of followed that timeline, lots of innocent good Pop music, slowly fading into more Hip-Hop and more rebellious sounds by adolescence.  I wouldn’t really really discover Punk and Hardcore until Hip-Hop had lost its bite and sense of self later in the 90’s.

As for the songs themselves, a lot are the obvious classics we share from the 80’s zeitgeist (Metallica, Floyd, G’N’R, Michael Jackson) and Pop acts that I’m glad have stood the test of time. Even as a musician myself now; I’m neither embarrassed of INXS nor George Michael (RIP) as a solid rock band and multi-instrumentalist composer respectively. Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” is arguably the baddest hard rock song of the 80’s (and punkier and more Metal when they play it live).  The Rakim, Last Poets, Kool & the Gang, kitchen sink-sampling “Pump Up The Volume” at No.3 has had a whole book written about its many samples and execution. And my number one song has the interesting honor of having inspired a whole genre of music and accompanying movie. Scratch is a fantastic documentary about Turntablism but a thread throughout the film is that most of its stars (DJ Shadow, Babu, Qbert, etc.) got into DJing because of this song.  Finally, without realizing it my top three songs ended up all being voiceless percussive instrumentals—prophesizing (inspiring?) my becoming a drummer in the future.









My Top 10 Albums of the 80’s:

10.  Metallica – …And Justice For All
9.    Pink Floyd – The Wall
8.   Guns ‘N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
7.   3rd Bass – The Cactus Album
6.   The D.O.C. – No One Can Do It Better
5.   De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
4.   George Michael – Faith
3.   Michael Jackson – Thriller
2.   Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
1.   INXS – Kick

My Top 100 Songs of the 80’s:

100. Beastie Boys – The New Style
99.   Beastie Boys – No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn
98.   The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star
97.   Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul
96.   Blondie – Heart Of Glass
95.   LL Cool J – I’m Bad
94.   Glass Tiger – Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone
93.   Newclews – Jam On It
92.   Love and Rockets – So Alive
91.   New Order – Blue Monday
90.   Bananarama – Cruel Summer
89.   Bobby Brown – My Prerogative
88.   The Moody Blues – In Your Wildest Dreams
87.   Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
86.   Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
85 .   Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
84 .   Pink Floyd – Learning to Fly
83 .   U2 – Pride (In the Name of Love)
82.   Huey Lewis & The News – The Power Of Love
81 .   Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme
80.   Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
79 .   Till Tuesday – Voices Carry
78 .   Pink Floyd – Mother
77 .   Yaz – Situation (Move Out)
76 .   Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)
75 .   Prince – Kiss
74 .   Slick Rick – Children’s Story
73 .   Slayer – Angel Of Death
72 .   Bananarama – Venus (The Shocking Blue cover)
71 .   Stevie Wonder – I Just Called To Say I Love You
70 .   Erasure – Chains Of Love
69.   Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out
68.   Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)
67.   Run-DMC – Rock Box
66.   Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen
65.   AC/DC – Back In Black
64.   The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
63.   John Lennon – Woman
62.   The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
61.   Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance
60.   Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love
59.   Blondie – The Tide Is High
58.   Big Daddy Kane – Set It Off
57.   Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
56.   UB40 – Red Red Wine
55.   Dire Straits – The Walk of Life
54.   Robert Palmer – Addicted To Love
53.   Enya – Orinoco Flow
52.   Twin Hype – Do It To The Crowd
51 .   Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full (Coldcut’s 8 Minutes of Funk remix)
50 .   Blondie – Rapture
49 .   Genesis – Land Of Confusion
48 .   Public Enemy – Louder Than A Bomb
47 .   Run-DMC – King Of Rock
46.   George Michael – I Want Your Sex
45.   Belle Stars – Iko, Iko
44.   De La Soul – Say No Go
43.   Prince – Batdance
42.   Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar on Me
41.   Guns ‘N’ Roses – Paradise City







40.   3rd Bass – Steppin’ To The A.M.
39.   3rd Bass – The Gas Face
38.   N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton
37.   EPMD – So Wat Cha Sayin’
36.   De La Soul – Me Myself And I
35.   Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams
34.   Tears For Fears – Sowing the Seeds Of Love
33.   Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover)
32.   Metallica – One
31.   Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians – What I Am
30.   Guns ‘N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle
29.   Mr. Mister – Broken Wings
28.   The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
27.   The Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian
26.   Lipps Inc. – Funky Town (moremix)
25.   MC Lyte – Cha, Cha, Cha
24.   INXS – New Sensation
23.   Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – It Takes Two
22.   LL Cool J – Rock the Bells
21.   Public Enemy – Rebel Without A Pause
20.   The Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter
19.   LL Cool J – Jack The Ripper
18.   Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Starting Something
17.   Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
16.   Public Enemy – Night Of The Living Baseheads
15.   INXS – What You Need
14.   Michael Jackson – Beat It
13.   A-Ha – Take On Me
12.   Run-DMC feat. Aerosmith – Walk This Way (Moremix)
11.   Men At Work – Down Under
10.   Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf

9 .   The Divine Styler – Ain’t Sayin Nothin

8 .   Living Colour – Cult of Personality

7 .   The D.O.C. – It’s Funky Enough

6.   Beastie Boys – Hey Ladies

5 .   INXS – Devil Inside

4 .   Information Society – What’s On Your Mind

3 .   M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume (Radio Edit)

2 .   Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F

1 .   Herbie Hancock feat. Grand Mixer DST – Rockit

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