The Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1980s: 10-1

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December 24, 2015 by billysparrow

Here we are. The thinking is through. The last flip-flop has taken place. The list is set. It’s all over.

Until, probably, three nights from now, when my head will hit the pillow and I start to wonder if Cyndi Lauper should have made the Top 40. Or if I should’ve switched Billy Ocean and the Bangles. Or if the fact that “Love Touch” is still in my head means I should’ve given it greater consideration.

What I’m saying is this whole list (and I’m including the Top 200 of the Top 40 at the end of this post) is subject to change at any moment, on any sleepless night, or any long car ride with the ’80s on 8 playing.

Don’t hold me to any of this.

Just hold me.

(Previous installments here, here, and here.)

10. “Spies Like Us,” Paul McCartney (Peaked at #7, 2/8/86)

If you surveyed a million people and asked them for their Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1980s (and, hey, if you’ve got the time, have at it), I do not know if one other person would have this song in the Top 10. And if you got done with that survey and went on to survey a million Beatles fans to ask them what their favorite Paul McCartney song was, I can’t imagine this song would fall of of anyone’s lips.

It is, I will admit, probably not McCartney’s best-written song. But (yes, here it comes), it is my favorite song by Paul McCartney. It’s dumb. Very dumb. But so was the movie, and I like that too–not as much as I love this song, though. Whenever I hear it, my heart leaps with joy (or that could be a preexisting condition; I should go to a doctor). And by the time that final frenzied “Spies Like Us” section comes around, I am downright giddy and the dance party has begun, assuming I am alone in my apartment while listening. Please knock before you enter.

My imagined universal Beatles fan disgust regarding my love of this song–and the accompanying feeling of guilt–almost compelled me to push this out of the Top 10. But I just couldn’t do it.

9. “Shakedown,” Bob Seger (Peaked at #1, 8/1/87)

This one from “Beverly Hills Cop II” (which I’ve never seen) makes it back-to-back soundtrack songs to start the Top 10. And it’s an Oscar-nominated soundtrack song to boot. It lost to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” which appears nowhere even in my Top 200, so I hope Bob Seger appreciates that I am providing him with some well-deserved vindication.

The song still sounds as good to me as when I first bought the 45, and, once again, the breakdown (shakedown, takedown) at the end makes me giddy every time I hear it. I’m giddier than you thought, no?

By the way, back to the Academy Awards: I’m not sure why, but Little Richard sang the song on the Oscars telecast. And if you’ve ever wanted to see Little Richard not having fun on stage, here you go:

8. “Hip to Be Square,” Huey Lewis & The News (Peaked at #3, 12/13/86)

So, this is not a soundtrack song per se, but it sure is in a memorable scene in “American Psycho” (here’s a link, but, if you don’t know what I’m talking about and you’re a little squeamish about blood, let’s forget this parenthetical aside ever happened). And it’s one of (sorry, partial spoiler there) my all-time favorite Huey songs. However, to the best of my recollection, I never bought this on 45. “Jacob’s Ladder”? You bet (signed and on my wall). “I Know What I Like”? Absolutely (still has the Ames price tag on it). But not this one. Seriously, who can figure me out?

Much to my dismay, Huey and the boys rarely perform this live anymore (has “American Psycho” ruined it for them?), or at least not the times I’ve seen them. And I see them pretty much at least once a year. Because, yes, I’m that awesome. So, c’mon, guys, put it back in the rotation. How about “Fore!” in its entirety for its 30th anniversary next year?

7. “I’m Alright,” Kenny Loggins (Peaked at #7, 10/18/80)

Back to the soundtrack songs, and, for my money, the greatest offering from the King of the Soundtrack, Mr. Kenny Loggins. I feel like I was aware of this song before I even saw “Caddyshack,” but I don’t know how that can be true. It was definitely the thing I liked most about “Caddyshack” for a while (I like the movie fine, though).

I have mentioned this before (I think on a blog, but who has time to look these things up?), but the fact that Kenny Loggins jams the word “magistrate” into a song that hit the Top 40 is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in pop music history. And then there’s that decision to throw in the “dip dip dip dip” and, the true clincher, the “boom boom boom” at the end of the bridge (another Moment of Giddiness). It is a masterpiece.

6. “Come As You Are,” Peter Wolf (Peaked at #15, 5/2/87)

I sure love the J. Geils Band (with or without J. Geils; the current touring version is the latter), and they placed three songs in the Top 200, but this one’s the highest-ranking Peter Wolf vocal on the list and, I think, one of the great overlooked songs of the 1980s. Like a lot of J. Geils Band stuff, it’s infectious, and it makes you want to start it right over again when you hit the end. Well, it makes me do that. I guess I shouldn’t speak for you. Maybe you’re a jerk. The Internet is full of them.

It’s a great video, too, as who doesn’t want to watch Peter Wolf hop around nonstop for three minutes? (Again, jerks, I guess.) I tend to think I’m one of the few people who appreciates this song and video, but last week, I swear I heard someone say “Oh, shut up, dog” just as Wolf does at the beginning of the video. Or maybe I’m just losing my mind and hearing things. That actually seems more plausible.

5.  “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” Billy Ocean (Peaked at #1, 4/16/88)

Back to my man Billy Ocean, with his highest-charting song on the countdown. If I could only hear one Billy Ocean song for the rest of my life, well, I’d probably just shoot myself, because who would want to live if you could only hear one Billy Ocean song for the rest of your life? What kind of terrible life would that be? I feel like I might throw up just thinking about it.

But this is at the top of the Billy Ocean hit parade for me. I don’t think I paid all that much attention to the verses when I was younger, so it took me by surprise later in life when I was watching the lyrics come across a karaoke screen and discovered that “Touch my bumper” is a line in the song. And ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out what his bumper is. His hip? His ass? His penis? And what does “get in the backseat” mean? I should probably come up with other things to think about.

I suppose I could’ve asked him in person, because, yes, I’ve met Billy Ocean! Twice. The first time, my camera was crapping out and the guy I’d asked to take the picture couldn’t be bothered to help me rectify the situation. But redemption came a year or so later at a free concert in Long Island, after watching a woman trying to sneak a peek at Mr. Ocean while he was changing after the show. Amazingly, he still came out to sign autographs and taking pictures after spotting said woman in the peeping act.


4. “Midnight Blue,” Lou Gramm (Peaked at #5, 4/18/87)

This one is probably just as underappreciated as “Come As You Are,” and, truthfully, it’s the only Lou Gramm vocal I care about at all. And that’s probably kept me from seeing Lou Gramm in concert. I don’t want to hear any of the Foreigner songs at all. I would just want to hear him sing this 12 to 15 times in a row. Sadly, I don’t think this will happen. So Lou Gramm is the only lead singer in the Top 5 I don’t have a photo with. I sense your disappointment, and I apologize.

If I’m in the right mood (or wrong mood, depending on your perspective on life), this song makes me emotional for reasons I cannot quite pinpoint. The line “My following days are over/Now I just gotta follow through” always gets me, and then sometimes “I won’t say where/And I don’t know when/But soon there’s gonna come a day, baby/I’ll be back again” gets me. Now that I read that, though, I sense a touch of menace with the “won’t say where” line (“won’t” instead of “can’t” gives me pause). And the previous Billy Ocean song oozes with menace, too. So perhaps I’m a psychopath who loves songs about creepy dudes who menace women.

Anyway, cool song.

3. “Power of Love,” Huey Lewis & The News (Peaked at #1, 8/31/85)

Top of the Huey hit parade. Top of the soundtrack hit parade. What more can be said? It is an iconic song of the 1980s, and if hearing those first few notes has no impact on you, it’s probably gonna be an uphill climb for a friendship with me. And, unlike “Hip to Be Square,” this one is a staple in the Huey and the News live show (“Back in Time” less so, but I’ve still heard that live more times than “Hip to Be Square”), and it is almost always the number-one crowd pleaser.

I don’t recall ever seeing the long version of this video with Doc Brown before embarking on this endeavor, so, hey, at least something’s come out of it.

And, oh yeah, met Huey too. At a Nick Lowe show in Brooklyn, so it was completely unexpected. And very exciting.


2. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” Georgia Satellites (Peaked at #2, 2/21/87)

Fresh off finishing #2 in the Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1990s, Dan Baird returns to the runner-up position with this one, probably the first indication of the kind of music I would grow up to love most. It’s another one of those songs that was unlike anything else on the radio or MTV at the time, and it hit my ears just right. The signed (by Baird) 45 sleeve is on my wall next to the signed Huey “Jacob’s Ladder,” and it was a tough decision between Dan and the Satellites and Huey and the News for this slot. But the Satellites just eked it out in the battle being fought in my head, on the strength of Dan’s vocal performance. It’s a better video, too, though that did not influence my decision.

This isn’t my favorite Satellites song, or even my favorite on their debut album. That’d be “Battleship Chains,” not sung by Dan, but also owned on 45. Alas, that only made it to #86 on the Billboard charts. But both songs kick a helluva lot of ass. And Dan Baird’s still doing it with his band Homemade Sin. Catch them when they tour the southeast and northeast in a few months.

After seeing him a few times live (with the fabulous Yayhoos as well as Homemade Sin), I finally bugged Dan for a photo in Syracuse earlier this year.


1. “Walking on Sunshine,” Katrina & the Waves (Peaked at #9, 6/22/85)

There is something just wrong and unfixable if this song does not make you, yes, giddy when you hear it. That beat. Those horns. The vocals. I’m not saying it has to be your #1. You just have to admit that it’s a monster of an infectious pop song. OK, you don’t have to admit. But you should admit it. It’s the right thing to do.

I saw the Waves-less Katrina twice this year. The first time was at the Iridium, nominally a jazz club but willing to book whatever will get people in the door. It’s a bit of a stuffy place, and Katrina and her band put on a decidedly unstuffy show, so it was an odd fit. I didn’t see anyone get up when she played “Walking on Sunshine.” And I shamefully admit that I stayed seated too because I didn’t want to block anyone’s view. That was the wrong decision.

But it was partially because of this wrong decision (but mainly because I enjoyed the show despite the audience) that I went out a few nights later to see her play a last-minute show at The Bitter End, which, like the Iridium, has tables, but is decidedly less stuffy and also has some standing room. So I stood to the side of the stage and watched the show, bopping along by my lonesome. And when the first notes of “Walking on Sunshine” hit, I was glad to see girls in the table up front get up to dance. And then they sat down 20 seconds later. Because people are the worst.

If we are in a room together when “Walking on Sunshine” comes on and you just sit there motionless, you are dead to me. Whoa oh!

I was sure as shit walking on sunshine when I saw how this photo of me and Katrina after the Iridium show came out.


And so we come to the end of our little adventure. But, before I go, here’s the Top 200 of the Top 40 of the 1980s for your enjoyment. I will spare you more commentary on the other 160 songs, but there are some great ones that didn’t make the cut for the main countdown and a few of those that if I’d packed in a few more listens might’ve edged their way in (chief among them “I Wish I Had a Girl,” “Dreamtime,” and “Love Touch”). I just had to let go at some point. I hope you understand. Actually, I don’t, but that seemed like something I should say right there.

And if you want to watch videos of the songs (save most of the Prince ones, though I’m really enjoying Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s cover of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”), you can find a YouTube playlist for 200-101 here and 100-1 here.

(Numbers after their ranking are their peak chart position; you’ll have to look up the dates yourself. Or just do something more constructive with your time.)

  1. 9 “Walking on Sunshine,” Katrina & the Waves
  2. 2 “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” Georgia Satellites
  3. 1 “Power of Love,” Huey Lewis & the News
  4. 5 “Midnight Blue,” Lou Gramm
  5. 1 “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” Billy Ocean
  6. 15 “Come As You Are,” Peter Wolf
  7. 7 “I’m Alright,” Kenny Loggins
  8. 3 “Hip to Be Square,” Huey Lewis & the News
  9. 1 “Shakedown,” Bob Seger
  10. 7 “Spies Like Us,” Paul McCartney
  11. 1 “Let’s Go Crazy,” Prince & the Revolution
  12. 2 “Electric Avenue,” Eddy Grant
  13. 7 “The Warrior,” Scandal Featuring Patty Smyth
  14. 1 “Walk Like an Egyptian,” The Bangles
  15. 6 “Come Dancing,” The Kinks
  16. 25 “Wild Wild Life,” Talking Heads
  17. 8 “Heart and Soul,” Huey Lewis & the News
  18. 2 “Easy Lover,” Philip Bailey & Phil Collins
  19. 12 “Goody Two Shoes,” Adam Ant
  20. 2 “Hazy Shade Of Winter,” The Bangles
  21. 2 “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going,” Billy Ocean
  22. 36 “The Bird,” The Time
  23. 19 “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King,” ELO
  24. 23 “You Can Call Me Al,” Paul Simon
  25. 18 “You’re a Friend Of Mine,” Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne
  26. 6 “Word Up,” Cameo
  27. 1 “I Love a Rainy Night,” Eddie Rabbitt
  28. 36 “Someday, Someway,” Marshall Crenshaw
  29. 8 “Delirious,” Prince
  30. 18 “Give It Up,” K.C.
  31. 14 “Every Little Kiss,” Bruce Hornsby & the Range
  32. 1 “Shake You Down,” Gregory Abbott
  33. 14 “I Wanna Go Back,” Eddie Money
  34. 34 “I Will Be There,” Glass Tiger
  35. 19 “The Waiting,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  36. 7 “Life in a Northern Town,” Dream Academy
  37. 5 “Nobody Told Me,” John Lennon
  38. 9 “The Rain,” Oran “Juice” Jones
  39. 16 “That’s the Way,” Katrina & the Waves
  40. 3 “Why Can’t This Be Love,” Van Halen
  41. 2 “Simply Irresistible,” Robert Palmer
  42. 3 “Jump (For My Love),” The Pointer Sisters
  43. 5 “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” Michael Jackson
  44. 18 “Jammin’ Me,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  45. 15 “The Authority Song,” John Cougar Mellencamp
  46. 15 “I’m That Type Of Guy,” L.L. Cool J
  47. 20 “I Wish I Had A Girl,” Henry Lee Summer
  48. 9 “You Got It,” Roy Orbison
  49. 16 “The Twist,” The Fat Boys & Chubby Checker
  50. 11 “The Promise,” When In Rome
  51. 11 “Romeo’s Tune,” Steve Forbert
  52. 5 “Always on My Mind,” Willie Nelson
  53. 8 “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  54. 6 “Late in the Evening,” Paul Simon
  55. 5 “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off,” Jermaine Stewart
  56. 21 “Come On, Let’s Go,” Los Lobos
  57. 37 “Do You Want Crying,” Katrina & the Waves
  58. 6 “Neutron Dance,” The Pointer Sisters
  59. 23 “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” Tom Petty
  60. 19 “All Fired Up,” Pat Benatar
  61. 5 “Waiting for a Star to Fall,” Boy Meets Girl
  62. 18 “Don’t Let Go,” Isaac Hayes
  63. 34 “Holding Out for a Hero,” Bonnie Tyler
  64. 20 “Jungle Love,” The Time
  65. 5 “Dreamtime,” Daryl Hall
  66. 1 “Centerfold,” The J. Geils Band
  67. 23 “Train in Vain (Stand By Me),” The Clash
  68. 16 “Dance Hall Days,” Wang Chung
  69. 13 “What You Get Is What You See,” Tina Turner
  70. 3 “Buffalo Stance,” Neneh Cherry
  71. 27 “Money Changes Everything,” Cyndi Lauper
  72. 12 “Kiss Me Deadly,” Lita Ford
  73. 14 “Modern Love,” David Bowie
  74. 36 “Turning Japanese,” The Vapors
  75. 1 “When Doves Cry,” Prince
  76. 5 “The Valley Road,” Bruce Hornsby & the Range
  77. 5 “In Your Room,” The Bangles
  78. 1 “Footloose,” Kenny Loggins
  79. 8 “Nobody’s Fool,” Kenny Loggins
  80. 22 “No Easy Way Out,” Robert Tepper
  81. 25 “Kiss the Bride,” Elton John
  82. 19 “Veronica,” Elvis Costello
  83. 9 “Let My Love Open the Door,” Pete Townsend
  84. 10 “Got a Hold on Me,” Christine McVie
  85. 1 “Come On Eileen,” Dexys Midnight Runners
  86. 2 “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper
  87. 7 “Walk the Dinosaur,” Was Not Was
  88. 6 “Love Touch,” Rod Stewart
  89. 5 “Glory Days,” Bruce Springsteen
  90. 2 “Lover Boy,” Billy Ocean
  91. 3 “Change of Heart,” Cyndi Lauper
  92. 4 “Walk This Way,” Run DMC & Aerosmith
  93. 7 “Dancing in the Street,” Mick Jagger & David Bowie
  94. 8 “Voices Carry,” Til Tuesday
  95. 1 “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler
  96. 1 “Islands in the Stream,” Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton
  97. 18 “Keepin’ the Faith,” Billy Joel
  98. 10 “She’s a Beauty,” The Tubes
  99. 37 “Back in Black,” AC/DC
  100. 10 “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” Prince
  101. 1 “Jack and Diane,” John Cougar
  102. 2 “Gloria,” Laura Branigan
  103. 21 “And We Danced,” The Hooters
  104. 9 “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” Annie Lennox & Al Green
  105. 1 “Living Years,” Mike & The Mechanics
  106. 8 “War,” Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  107. 3 “Freedom,” Wham!
  108. 8 “All Cried Out,” Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam With Full Force
  109. 33 “The Kid’s American,” Matthew Wilder
  110. 3 “Make Me Lose Control,” Eric Carmen
  111. 5 “Would I Lie To You?,” Eurythmics
  112. 4 “No One Is to Blame,” Howard Jones
  113. 23 “No More Words,” Berlin
  114. 1 “Glory of Love,” Peter Cetera
  115. 20 “On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson
  116. 5 “When Smokey Sings,” ABC
  117. 38 “Love Stinks,” The J. Geils Band
  118. 31 “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” The Gap Band
  119. 1 “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” Daryl Hall and John Oates
  120. 36 “It Takes Two,” Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock
  121. 4 “Living in America,” James Brown
  122. 5 “Method of Modern Love,” Daryl Hall & John Oates
  123. 10 “Far From Over,” Frank Stallone
  124. 5 “Sister Christian,” Night Ranger
  125. 6 “That’s All,” Genesis
  126. 7 “Walk of Life,” Dire Straits
  127. 29 “Holiday,” The Other Ones
  128. 1 “Look Away,” Chicago
  129. 7 “On the Dark Side,” Eddie & the Cruisers / John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band
  130. 2 “Raspberry Beret,” Prince & the Revolution
  131. 4 “Heart and Soul,” T’Pau
  132. 9 “Rush Hour,” Jane Wiedlin
  133. 5 “Better Be Good to Me,” Tina Turner
  134. 3 “True Blue,” Madonna
  135. 5 “Elvira,” The Oak Ridge Boys
  136. 13 “Panama,” Van Halen
  137. 12 “Wipe Out,” Fat Boys & Beach Boys
  138. 1 “Against All Odds,” Phil Collins
  139. 1 “Karma Chameleon,” Culture Club
  140. 5 “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams
  141. 7 “Private Dancer,” Tina Turner
  142. 5 “Drivin’ My Life Away,” Eddie Rabbitt
  143. 15 “Refugee,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  144. 29 “Under Pressure,” Queen and David Bowie
  145. 14 “The Longest Time,” Billy Joel
  146. 24 “Take It Easy,” Andy Taylor
  147. 20 “Pop Goes the World,” Men Without Hats
  148. 4 “One Good Woman,” Peter Cetera
  149. 4 “Take Me Home Tonight,” Eddie Money
  150. 16 “Yankee Rose,” David Lee Roth
  151. 7 “Do You Believe in Love,” Huey Lewis & the News
  152. 7 “Something So Strong,” Crowded House
  153. 3 “One Night in Bangkok,” Murray Head
  154. 8 “Pink Houses,” John Cougar Mellencamp
  155. 6 “Breakout,” Swing Out Sister
  156. 9 “Valerie,” Steve Winwood
  157. 2 “Somewhere Out There,” Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram
  158. 10 “A Matter of Trust,” Billy Joel
  159. 8 “Always Something There to Remind Me,” Naked Eyes
  160. 3 “Oh, Sherrie,” Steve Perry
  161. 1 “Lost in Emotion,” Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam
  162. 1 “Faith,” George Michael
  163. 1 “Could’ve Been,” Tiffany
  164. 19 “So Far Away,” Dire Straits
  165. 35 “You Shook Me All Night Long,” AC/DC
  166. 4 “867-5309/Jenny,” Tommy Tutone
  167. 4 “Freeze-Frame,” The J. Geils Band
  168. 1 “Jacob’s Ladder,” Huey Lewis & the News
  169. 26 “Face the Face,” Pete Townshend
  170. 23 “Mary’s Prayer,” Danny Wilson
  171. 11 “This Little Girl,” Gary U.S. Bonds
  172. 1 “All Night Long (All Night),” Lionel Richie
  173. 20 “Pressure,” Billy Joel
  174. 5 “All Through the Night,” Cyndi Lauper
  175. 1 “Live to Tell,” Madonna
  176. 3 “Emotional Rescue,” The Rolling Stones
  177. 10 “Tender Love,” Force MD’s
  178. 10 “Modern Woman,” Billy Joel
  179. 20 “Run, Runaway,” Slade
  180. 9 “Walk on Water,” Eddie Money
  181. 19 “Seven Wonders,” Fleetwood Mac
  182. 4 “Don’t Disturb This Groove,” The System
  183. 17 “Love Is the Seventh Wave,” Sting
  184. 1 “On My Own,” Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald
  185. 39 “Don’t Look Down – The Sequel,” Go West
  186. 6 “I Want a New Drug,” Huey Lewis & the News
  187. 15 “It’s Only Love,” Bryan Adams & Tina Turner
  188. 2 “Purple Rain,” Prince
  189. 3 “Nasty,” Janet Jackson
  190. 4 “Hold Me,” Fleetwood Mac
  191. 1 “Every Time You Go Away,” Paul Young
  192. 1 “Separate Lives,” Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin
  193. 1 “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Tina Turner
  194. 2 “99 Luftballons,” Nena
  195. 10 “Just Got Paid,” Johnny Kemp
  196. 4 “Mandolin Rain,” Bruce Hornsby & the Range
  197. 5 “Paradise City,” Guns N’ Roses
  198. 20 “Rock and Roll Girls,” John Fogerty
  199. 1 “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel
  200. 1 “Batdance,” Prince

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