Decade by Decade Music: 1980s

When I was a kid, I always had the hardest time going to sleep at night. Not much has changed since then (I am so obviously a night owl!), but way back my parents would always turn on the radio in my room to easy-listening. Actually, let's be straight, they started with kid songs and only changed it up as I got older. At some point "The Wheels on the Bus" becomes more annoying than calming, let's be real. :) Of course along with the easy-listening genre comes 80s music in a BIG way. In this selection of 80s music, I tried to mix it up and include a variety – rock + love songs, because in no world ever could Bon Jovi be considered relaxing!

To have a look back at the other posts I've written in this series, click on the links below:

40s • 50s • 60s • 70s

1. Starship – "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (buy)

Featured in the 1980 romantic comedy "Mannequin" starring Andrew McCarthy (which I haven't seen), the feel-good song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April of 1987 and received an academy award nomination for "Best Original Song" at the 60th Academy Awards ceremony. Albert Hammond, co-writer of "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now", said–of the song–that "the song came from his impending marriage to his live-in girlfriend of seven years, after his divorce from a previous wife was finalized". He claimed that "It's almost like they've stopped me from marrying this woman for seven years, and they haven't succeeded. They're not gonna stop me doing it." (wikipedia) Since that time, the song has been featured in various commercials and movies and has been covered by a variety of artists.

2. Whitney Houston – "The Greatest Love of All" (buy)

Songs in movies saw the greatest success in the 1980s, and "The Greatest Love of All" was one such song. Only, for Whitney Houston, the song was more of a breaking point as she broke into the music scene with this song included on her debut self-titled album Whitney Houston. "The Greatest Love of All" was the seventh song to go to radio from her debut album and spent 3 weeks in the number one spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May of that year. "The Greatest Love All" was one of Houston's biggest hits following "I Will Always Love You" and "I Want to Dance With Somebody", and this was reflected even after her death when the single re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. Clearly some songs never disappear from the public eye (or ear).

3. George Harrison – "Got My Mind Set On You" (buy)

The last of the Beatle's solo #1 hits, "Got My Mind Set On You" was released in 1987 as a cover of a song originally recorded by James Ray in 1962. The song ranked #3 on the Billboard chart for 1988. Two music videos were produced for this song, the first of which was a love story and the second (above) features dancing furniture, knick-knacks, and animals with Harrison completing a backflip midway through. "Got My Mind Set On You" reached peak position in many countries and was also covered by Weird Al Yankovic. After all, your song is not a hit until it is covered by Weird Al! :)

4. Bon Jovi – "Livin' On A Prayer" (buy)

Honestly I've probably listened to this song like 15,000 times over the course of my life. How can you not like it? It's so uplifting. Even in the worst of situations, the point is – love conquers all. :)

The song was released in late 1986 and gave the band their first number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and their second consecutive number one on the Billboard Hot 100. "Livin' On A Prayer" is about a working class couple, Tommy and Gina, who are struggling to make a living. The first half of the music video (in black and white) shows the band rehearsing and prepping for a show while the second half was filmed during the show at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Certified as gold in 4 countries, Bon Jovi's signature song has sold more than 800,000 copies in the US and can currently be found on music video games like Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2. It was also chosen, over any of the band's newer songs, to be played at 2010 grammys signifying its long-range success.

5. David Bowie & Queen – "Under Pressure" (buy)

My first experience with this song was at the young age of 12, when the song was over 15 years old. I must admit: I fell pretty quickly. If "Livin' On A Prayer" is uplifting, "Under Pressure" is a challenge. 

"And love dares you to care for
 the people on the edge of the night 
And love dares you to change our way 
of caring about ourselves"

David Bowie originally came to the studio to record a song called "Cool Cat" with Queen. Later the vocals for that song were removed, but the five musicians began working on a song that would require more than Queen or David Bowie could do by themselves. Queen had been working on a song called "Feel Like", but it just wasn't coming together the way they wanted. This is where David Bowie enters. Together, the five musicians worked tirelessly until the song was finally completed. Because both Queen and David Bowie had concert touring commitments, director David Mallot put together stock footage of concepts that indicated being "under pressure".

Upon completion the song didn't fare as well in the US–reaching no. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100–as it did in other countries. Notably, the song had the most success in the UK, the home location for the musicians where it reached number 1 and hit a silver certification.

6. Steve Perry – "Oh Sherrie" (buy)

Better known as the lead singer in the band Journey, Steve Perry released "Oh Sherrie", an honorary Journey song, as part of his first solo album "Street Talk" in 1984. For the longest time the song only aggravated me with the incessant "Oh Sherries", but then I discovered the music video which was a parody on other music videos of the time. Start with a story that makes no sense and doesn't fit the video at all and simplify it down to the basics. In other words, Perry went from a stupid director's cut that included a scene from before the dawn of time and made the video focus on what he is singing about – his relationship with real life girlfriend Sherrie Swafford. The song was a hit making it to number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The love story on the other hand? Not so much. Sherrie Swafford and Steve Perry have remained friends all these years later though.

7. Def Leppard – "Love Bites" (buy)

Power ballad from 1987, the song was originally brought to them by Robert John "Mutt" Lange as a country song, something they had never done or considered before. The band tweaked the song to what it is today and was released shortly after "Pour Some Sugar On Me" souring quickly to the top of the charts hitting number one where it stayed for a week.

8. Daryl Hall & John Oates – "You Make My Dreams Come True" (buy)

Dear Daryl Hall and John Oates, please forgive me. This scene from 500 Days of Summer far surpasses your music video from the 80s.

Anyway, this song as part of their ninth studio album, was released in 1981 and topped the charts at number 5. Coincidentally, Daryl Hall, years later, listed this as one of his Top 5 Hall & Oates songs in the October 2009 edition of Entertainment Weekly. He explained: "It's funny - it's ubiquitous, especially now. I think because it's such a happy song, just a pure expression of joy. And it's set to a really old-time-gospel kind of groove" (source). Seriously, you can't help but smile when you hear this song. :)

9. Whitesnake – "Here I Go Again" (buy)

British rock band Whitesnake came to the forefront of the music scene in 1987 with the release of the radio-mix, chart topper "Here I Go Again". The song is credited in a number of films, tv series, and it is listed on several music-oriented videogames like Rock Band 3. In the song Coverdale sings about his breakup with his first wife Julie. While Coverdale was well known in the UK after leaving the band Deep Purple, he wasn't as well known in the US until the 1987 version of this song was released. Frontman, Coverdale, was thrilled when the song was used in 2010's The Fighter featuring Christian Bale. He said "I [didn't] know how good it [was] going to be, but to see Christian Bale, 'Batman' singing your tune, are you kidding! It was amazing, very uplifting and inspiring. I thought the movie was great" (source). People from all walks of life are able to connect with "Here I Go Again" which has kept it in mainstream pop culture since the 80s.

10. The Proclaimers – "(I Would Walk) 500 Miles" (buy)

America was a bit obsessed with overseas stars in the 1980s; The Proclaimers were no exception. Released in the 1980s, the song failed to make the Billboard Top 100 cut until 5 years later in 1993 following its appearance in the movie Benny and Joon starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson. The song was written rather quickly, 45 minutes tops, and writer, Craig Reid recalled that he knew "it was a good song, maybe even a single, but I had no idea how popular it would become" (wikipedia).

I had a really hard time keeping this list at 10. After all, where is Foreigner, Journey (not Steve Perry), Billy Joel ("We Didn't Start the Fire"), and Bryan Adams? *Sigh* There are so many artists I simply didn't have room for on this list! What are some of your favorite songs and artists from the 80s? Did I miss anything you would have included?

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