Tuesday, April 15, 2008

1. Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)

Found On: Speaking In Tongues (1983)

What does it mean to feel at home? Talking Heads manage to answer the question by being charmingly oblique and disarmingly direct all at once. Musically, the song feels like home should: warm, relaxed and familiar.

2. Madonna - Borderline

Found On: Madonna (1983)
Picked By: MT

Something in the way this song sounds just won't let me be. I don't want to be its prisoner, but I don't really want to be free either.

3. O.M.D. - If You Leave

Found On: Pretty In Pink (1986)

Duckie and Andy at the prom, the fateful reunion with Blaine in the parking lot, "I always believed in you." Nuff said.

4. B-52s - Roam

Found On: Cosmic Thing (1989)

Though it’s a far cry from their Rock Lobster roots and doesn’t even feature signature hype man Fred Schneider on vocals, this is a beauty. With Debbie and Cindy harmonizing over a hand-clappy arrangement, the song could easily have been a ‘60s hit. And you'll not find a better road trippin' song.

5. Dire Straits - Romeo & Juliet

Found On: Making Movies (1980)

When you listen to the lyrics of this song you see a love affair play out before your eyes. The melody is all over the place, but somehow completely in synch with the story the song tells. It’s tried and true, worth singing and swaying to every time, a fact displayed by the many artists that have covered it. - SB

6. U2 - With Or Without You

Found On: The Joshua Tree (1986)

This is what it’s like to fall for someone you know is bad news.

7. They Might Be Giants - Don't Let's Start

Found On: They Might Be Giants (1986)
Picked By: SA

Jittery nerd rock at its finest. Beside fun nonsense lyrics like “wake up and smell the cat food in your bank account” stands a surprisingly dark sentiment: “No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful / Everybody dies frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful.”

8. Squeeze – Tempted

Found On: East Side Story (1981)
Picked By: EV

So Paul Carrack steps in on two very talented vocalists (Difford and Tilbrook) and gives Squeeze their most soulful, memorable and beloved song ever. Not quite fair, but there’s no crying in rock ‘n’ roll.

9. Prince and the Revolution - Raspberry Beret

Found On: Around The World In A Day (1985)

A Dylanish story song about Prince’s first time getting it on. I wouldn’t change a note, ‘cause, baby, it’s the most.

10. Guns 'N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Found On: Appetite For Destruction (1987)
Picked By: SB

Oh Axel, you old softie. We’d never hear that crazy mo-fo be more honest, open, nostalgic, romantic and vulnerable than he was on this super-ballad. And that part at the end where Slash solos for about two minutes and Axel starts moaning “Where do we go now?” helped them keep their street cred.

11. Bangles - Manic Monday

Found On: Different Light (1985)

Legend has it that Prince was so smitten with Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs that he gave this song to them. The Bangles' girl - group sound just happened to dovetail exactly with the Beatley style The Artist was writing in at that time and the combination was as nice as a kiss by a crystal blue Italian stream.

12. Elton John - I'm Still Standing

Found On: Too Low For Zero (1983)

He’s had a few comebacks in his career, but no song reintroduced Sir Reginald Dwight better than this one. It’s not just an ‘80s I Will Survive, it’s a declaration of purpose and strength. And is there any better to say you’re rejuvenated than to claim you’re “feelin’ like a little kid”?

13. 'Til Tuesday - (Believed You Were) Lucky

Found On: Everything's Different Now (1987)

A song that demonstrates all of Aimee Mann's considerable gifts as a songwriter as she bids adieu to a lover who couldn't quite get his shit together. Listen as she goes from thinking her lost love believed in love, to wishing it were so, to wishing it for him in the future, as she laments him and lets him go. Just as life could be, this song is %@^*ing great. - RN

14. John Lennon - Watching The Wheels

Found On: Double Fantasy (1980)

This song makes me smile wistfully every time I hear it. As Lennon sings about being happy now that he's "no longer riding on the merry-go-round," it's impossible to hear the words and not remember that he would be shot dead soon after singing them. Knowing that he was at peace makes it a little easier to accept Lennon's untimely death. - RN

15. Cyndi Lauper - Time After Time

Found On: She's So Unusual (1984)

She certainly WAS unusual. Lauper played the helium-voiced ditz on Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, lionized mastubation in She Bop and and then dropped this instant-classic ballad, all on the same album! And she sang the Pee Wee's Playhouse theme.

16. Bananarama - Cruel Summer

Found On: Bananarama (1984)

Even though this is the perfect summer song (duh!), I always see Daniel LaRusso riding his bike to school on the first day, after getting his ass handed to him the night before by Johnny. And then he didn’t even make the soccer team!

17. Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Everyday I Write The Book

Found On: Punch The Clock (1983)

Ah, the story of my life, no? - SA

I think a lot of people feel that way about this one.

18. Tom Petty - Free Fallin'

Found On: Full Moon Fever (1989)

Quite possibly the most famous song about a good girl and a bad boy ever sung, with trippy lyrics about Jesus and America and horses and vampires. - RN

19. Tears For Fears - Head Over Heels

Found On: Songs From The Big Chair (1985)
Picked By: BG

Head Over Heels captures the feelings of a deep crush with pinpoint accuracy: Sometimes it brims with hope ("this is my four-leaf clover!") and other times it wallows in desperation ("you're just, just, just wasting time").

20. Aretha Franklin & George Michael - I Knew You Were Waiting For Me

Found On: Aretha (1986)

George Michael represents well on this we - made - it - through - the - hard - times duet, even out-singing Aretha, who's no slouch herself.

21. Erasure: A Little Respect

Found On: The Innocents (1988)

"I'm so in love with you/ I'll be forever blue..." Of Erasure's many hits, this is the most irresistible. And the lyrics "What religion or reason/ Could drive a man to forsake his lover?" betray the never-a-secret sexual inclinations of singer Andy Bell... - RN

22. Madness - Our House

Found On: Madness (1983)
Picked By: SA

The tale of an urban family that sticks together was the singular American hit single for a band with quite a bit of quality work to their name. The best part of this song, hands down is the “sister’s saying in her sleep: ah-ahh-ah-ah” bit.

23. Tina Turner – We Don’t Need Another Hero

Found On: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

If you don't admit that this song is *&#%ing amazing, I will send you into the Thunderdome to fight Master Blaster. And bonus to Tina for including the word "Thunderdome" in the lyrics.

24. Joey Scarbury - Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)

Found On: America's Greatest Hero (1981)
Picked By: BG

I'm not ashamed to admit I get chills when I listen to this. Okay, maybe I'm a little ashamed.

25. Traveling Wilburys - Handle With Care

Found On: Volume One (1988)

A warm little ditty from five men who, together, comprised the supergroup to end supergroups: Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. The power of the song radiates outward from the perfect chorus: " I'm so tired of being lonely/ I still have some love to give/ Won't you show me that you really care?" A highlight of rock history. - RN

26. Janet Jackson - Love Will Never Do (Without You)

Found On: Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)
Picked By: SB

I don't know why Janet had to be so negative. Consider this title: Love Will Do (With You). Better, isn't it?

27. Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance

Found On: Rhythm Of Youth (1983)
Picked By: SB

I have a vivid memory of seeing this video at my grandparents’ house on a Saturday morning. It still evokes that nostalgic feeling. Try to find the version where they spell S-A-F-E-T-Y.

28. Billy Joel - The Longest Time

Found On: An Innocent Man (1983)
Picked By: BG

An Innocent Man found Joel paying tribute to the music of his youth. The Longest Time is a street-corner doo-wop song, and you never hear mention of the fact that it's a capalla! That's right; there's nothing but melody, harmony and finger-snaps. How many OTHER top 15 a capella songs can you name? (Don't Worry Be Happy doesn't count).

29. Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)

Found On: The Breakfast Club (1985)

One of the best soundtrack songs of all time. - MT

I question the location of the parentheses, but I love the song nonetheless.

30. Thompson Twins - Hold Me Now

Found On: Quick Step & Side Kick (1983)

Some facts to consider: 1) As of this recording there were actually 6 people in the band. 2) The group took its name from the French graphic novel series Tintin, which features two identical characters named Thompson and Thompson.

31. Paula Abdul - Forever Your Girl (Single)

Found On: Forever Your Girl (1988)

OK, it's not the greatest "I'm gonna love you forever" song even performed. (That would be God Only Knows.) But it's sincere, it's poppy, and it's infectious. Oh, and it self-references: "Listen as I tell it to the world!" - RN

32. Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes

Found On: So (1986)

Another great soundtrack decision (Say Anything) by Cameron Crowe. I love Gabriel's voice in this song. - MT

33. Def Leppard - Photograph

Found On: Pyromania (1983)

Whoa-oh! My junior and senior years of college I had a radio show at the school station and I annoyingly opened every show with Def Leppard’s Photograph. Given the immaculate production, multiple hooks and amazing harmonies it's hard to believe this was ever considered metal.

34. Madonna - Papa Don't Preach

Found On: True Blue (1986)
Picked By: SB

A rare controversial moment from the queen of '80s pop.

35. The Alan Parsons Project - Eye In The Sky

Found On: Eye In The Sky (1982)
Picked By: BG

Alan Parsons was an engineer for Pink Floyd and his own band’s sound is not far removed. Though the title of the song seems to indicate a silly sci-fi bent, the song is actually a straight-ahead indictment of a deceptive lover.

36. Scandal - The Warrior

Found On: The Warrior (1984)

Patty Smyth later joined Don Henley in Adult Contemporary land, but when she came out of the box she was a sassy Pat Benatar type. I usually don’t condone violence, but damn if I don’t enjoy the “bang bang” part.

37. Chris De Burgh - The Lady In Red

Found On: Into The Light (1986)

Sooooo gloriously cheesy. It sounds swooning and romantic, but I always wonder if his wife/girlfriend is a bit offended that he hasn’t said all of these nice things before, especially when he sings, “I hardly know this beauty by my side.” Was she homely before?

38. Howard Jones - Things Can Only Get Better

Found On: Dream Into Action (1985)

I wonder if any non-programmed instruments were actually used on this song? For all I know, Howard Jones is actually a robot. And are there any lyrics more optimistic than “whoa - oh - oh - oh - oh - oh - oh - oh - oh”?

39. R.E.M. - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Found On: Document (1987)

Proof that feeling like events are inevitably proceeding toward the demise of all living beings never goes out of style. And who can resist that rapid-fire delivery of the verses alongside the plaintive-but-optimistic chorus? - RN

40. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

Found On: Rattlesnakes (1984)

A jangly acoustic strum announces a very talented songwriter. This may have the best title on the list. Later on Lloyd asks, “What will it take to wipe that smile off your face?” Well, not this song.

41. The Police - Every Breath You Take

Found On: Synchronicity (1983)

Okay, so the lyrics are creep city. But musically this is one of those rare songs that seems like it was divinely inspired, perfect in every way. As if that weren’t enough it features the BEST. BRIDGE. EVER.

42. Prince - Sign O' The Times

Found On: Sign O' The Times (1987)

In less than 4 minutes, the man that most people associate with sex (and more sex) waxes philosophical on AIDS, gangs, the media, crack, marijuana, heroin, hurricanes, teen pregnancy, poverty and the space program. And then, apropos of nothing, he adds that he wants to have a baby and name him Nate. Good stuff.

43. Katrina and the Waves - Walkin' On Sunshine

Found On: Katrina and the Waves (1985)
Picked By: EV

The perfect opener for your Monday morning mix tape.

44. Duran Duran - Hungry Like The Wolf

Found On: Rio (1982)

Energetic and compelling. You just can’t help but sing along. Simon has such a cool voice; it can be breathy on one song and full, like a mouth coated with butterscotch, in the next. - SA

45. Madonna - Crazy For You

Found On: Vision Quest (1984)

Pretty sure the first time I heard this song it triggered an early stage of puberty. The romantic feelings it conjured were undirected, but palpable.

46. Janet Jackson - Control

Found On: Control (1986)

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis added their Minneapolis funk to Janet's self-empowerment, looks and dance skills for commercial gold. I must admit the message is diminished a bit by Janet's less-than-controlled later years (the nipple, a series of forgettable albums) but at the time, it was thrilling.

47. Michael Jackson - Leave Me Alone

Found On: Bad (1987)

Even in his heyday Michael was feeling put upon. Each of multi-tracked vocals on the chorus is impassioned and desperate. The collage / stop-motion video (featured in the film Moonwalker) actually showed a sense of humor, with Bubbles the chimp and the Elephant Man both making appearances.

48. Peter Schilling - Major Tom (Coming Home)

Found On: Error In The System (1982)

Here we have a retelling of David Bowie’s ‘60s hit Space Oddity, but with a twist! In German Schilling’s version, Major Tom is actually happy to be leaving. As far as I can tell he’s an alien, and that’s the reason he has ignored ground control and broken away! He’s going home! This song also features one of the best choruses of the ‘80s: “Earth below us / Drifting, falling / Floating weightless / Coming home!”

49. Public Enemy - Bring The Noise

Found On: It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1986)

Some might tell you that Fight The Power is superior, but this one sold us their non-conformist message earlier and more effectively. Besides being a rallying cry against racism and complacency, it's also pretty funny, at one point shouting out to both Sonny Bono and Yoko Ono.

50. Eddy Grant - Electric Avenue

Found On: Killer On The Rampage (1983)

My mom bought me the 45 of this song and I LOVED it. It’s no wonder why it appealed to my 6-year-old self. Eddy Grant looked like a Muppet, the synth part sounds like it’s being played by Jabba the Hutt’s house band and Electric Avenue seems to be the likely location of the Electric Company. Listening to it now, I’m struck by the social conscience (“dealing in multiplication and they still can’t feed everyone”) and the potential drug references (“and then we take it higher”).