If I were on VH1

The following, taken from here but also appearing on other boards, appears to be an accurate take of VH1’s Top 100 songs of the ’80s.

One of these days, I should live-blog one of these things so you, my three or four readers, can experience the joy of hearing me talk back to some of the vapid mediocrities trotted out for such shows. This one was a particularly mixed bag — Barenaked Ladies were great as always, and Thomas Dolby brought some much-needed intellectual heft to the proceedings. Others … not so much. (My co-worker, of course, was fantastic. Brilliant. Should have used her more. Seriously, she was pretty good.)

So if I’d been on the show, here’s what I would’ve said. I’ve also watched songs 41-100, so if I remember any comments worth rebutting, I’ll include.

01 Bon Jovi / “Livin’ on a Prayer” 1986

OK, fine. One of many songs on this list that have earned a grudging respect from me over the years, though I still don’t care for the vocal delivery. Or the “whoap … whoap … dug dug dug … whoap … whoap” guitar.

02 Def Leppard / “Pour Some Sugar On Me” 1987

Hey, can we have some shots of backstage-worthy women in the crowd, just in case we miss the subtlety of the metaphor? We can? Excellent!

03 Duran Duran / “Hungry Like the Wolf” 1982

When I was 12, there were several aspects of the lyrics and the video that I knew I was supposed to find sexy, even if I didn’t quite understand why. Now, 24 years later, I still don’t quite understand. Great song, but the album version lays it on a bit thick with the squeals that uncomfortably straddle the line between “orgasm” and “getting mauled by a herd of hyenas.”

04 Michael Jackson / “Billie Jean” 1982

Great talent — the songwriting, the singing, the dancing. Whatever happened to him?

05 Prince / “When Doves Cry” 1984

Hated it in high school. Grew to respect it 10 years later. Found it tedious 20 years later. Any song with “Touch, if you will, my stomach” as a key lyric has veered from artistic to pretentious.

06 Hall & Oates / “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” 1981

Funny how they managed to sneak such a catchy hook into such a sleepy song.

07 Guns N’ Roses / Sweet Child O’ Mine 1987

Great guitar riff, unforgettable chorus, but I got really tired of all my sexually adventurous classmates finding deep meaning in chanting “Where do we go now?” 800 times.

08 Madonna / “Like a Virgin” 1984

I’m surprised this song isn’t covered more often. Great hooks, dated production.

09 Run-D.M.C. / “Walk This Way” 1986


As a song, the Public Enemy-Anthrax collaboration on “Bring the Noise” was better. As a cultural event, this was unforgettable. And necessary, bringing hip-hop out of the margins and showing its possibilities as a melting pot of styles. Seemed to help Aerosmith’s career just a bit as well.

10 AC/DC / “You Shook Me All Night Long” 1980

Knocking me out with those American thighs, indeed. AC/DC was one of those rare bands that can make a plodding drum beat and guitar riff work.

11 Journey / Don’t Stop Believin’ 1981

Lost a lot of cred with me when I heard a live version in which Steve Perry wailed, “Just a city boy … born and raised in (pause, as if checking a set list) PHILADELPHIA!” But it worked. Journey got a lot of mileage of having Neil Schon adding the power to Jonathan Cain’s power ballads.

12 Whitney Houston / “How Will I Know” 1985

For years, I didn’t recognize the word “Screech” as a character on Saved By the Bell. I recognized it as Houston’s vocal style here.

13 U2 / “With Or Without You” 1984

I had to hear this song about 10 times to realize how brilliant it was. One the best fadeouts in rock history, as The Edge echoes Bono’s longing in his guitar.

14 The Bangles / “Walk Like an Egyptian” 1986

Aside from the fact that I, like every boy my age, had a major crush on Susanna Hoffs (and I still would, if I weren’t married), this song is insubtantial. I liked all the Bangles, but Susanna was the only reason to watch this video. They did better songs — many of them on this album.

15 Van Halen / “Jump” 1984

You can almost read Dave’s mind — “Awww, man, he’s serious about playing keyboards. I’d better amp up the Diamond Dave routine to sell this one.” The creative tension worked.

16 INXS / “Need You Tonight” 1987

I think it was Charles M. Smith — I know it was in Musician magazine — describing this song as a completely sincere pick-up attempt. Not sexist, not demeaning, just a polite yet direct way of saying, “Hey, I’d really like to sleep with you.” It’s actually far less sleazy than, say, Dave Matthews’ Crash.

17 Whitesnake / “Here I Go Again” 1982

HEEERE I GO AGAIN ON THE CARRRRR HOOD. STEALING FROM THE ONLY BAND I EVER KNO-OWWW! LIKE LED ZEPPELIN, I SURE WISH THAT WE WERRRRE …

18 Dexy’s Midnight Runners / “Come On Eileen” 1982

Underrated. Easy to make fun of the guy for spending half the video showing off his armpits (even worse, check out the pencil-thin 1950s suave look he’s trying now), but the song was terrific.

19 Cyndi Lauper / “Time after Time” 1984

It was tough for Cyndi Lauper to switch gears like this after pushing the She’s So Unusual character. No wonder I didn’t think it worked.

20 Rick Springfield / “Jessie’s Girl” 1981

I think Jessie’s girl would probably take off with Rick. Especially after realizing it’s spelled “J-e-s-s-I-e.” That’s a girl’s spelling.

21 Michael Jackson / “Beat It” 1982

Even in my Top 40-hating high school days, I had to give it up for this song. And the video. And the guitar solo.

22 The Cure / “Just Like Heaven” 1987

Did the Cure have to record a ton of gloomy songs just so the upbeat ones would stand out? It worked. This song is perfect. Great guitar riff over the atmospheric keyboards, well-timed pushes from the drums … pop songs don’t get better than this.

23 Cyndi Lauper / “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” 1984

I respect Cyndi Lauper these days. Still don’t like her songs. There’s a camp value to seeing the old wrestlers trying to scold the “naughty” Cyndi for … what exactly? Coloring her hair? Wearing a goofy hat? That’s it, young lady — you’re grounded!

24 A-Ha / “Take On Me” 1985

I maintain that these guys were NOT one-hit wonders. They did a Bond song, for Pete’s sake, plus the excellent The Sun Always Shines on TV. But yeah, this was huge. If you don’t like that video, you probably have issues.

25 Go-Go’s / “Our Lips Are Sealed” 1981

I liked a few other Go-Go’s songs better than this one, but it’s fine. Not your typical bubblegum fare.

I’ll come back to this. Here’s the rest of the list.

26 Guns N’ Roses / “Welcome to the Jungle” 1987
27 Kajagoogoo / “Too Shy” 1984
28 Wham! / “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” 1984
29 Talking Heads / Burning Down the House 1983
30 Pat Benatar / “Love is a Battlefield” 1983
31 Queen and David Bowie / “Under Pressure” 1981
32 Night Ranger / “Sister Christian” 1983
33 Soft Cell / “Tainted Love” 1981
34 Poison / “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” 1988
35 Phil Collins / “In the Air Tonight” 1981
36 Tommy Tutone / “867-5309 / Jenny” 1981
37 Aerosmith / “Janie’s Got a Gun” 1989
38 U2 / “Pride (In the Name of Love)” 1984
39 Modern English / “I Melt With You” 1982
40 The B-52’s / “Love Shack” 1989
41 Mötley Crüe / “Dr. Feelgood” 1989
42 The Clash / “London Calling” 1982
43 ABC / “Look of Love (Part One)” 1982
44 Bananarama / “Cruel Summer” 1984
45 Janet Jackson / “Nasty” 1986
46 The Police / “Every Breath You Take” 1983
47 Twisted Sister / “We’re Not Gonna Take It” 1984
48 Bruce Springsteen / “Born in the U.S.A.” 1984
49 Beastie Boys / “Fight For Your Right” 1986
50 Eurythmics / “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” 1983
51 Ratt / “Round and Round” 1984
52 Dead or Alive / “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” 1985
53 Billy Idol / “White Wedding” 1988
54 Salt-N-Pepa / “Push It” 1986
55 A Flock of Seagulls / “I Ran (So Far Away)” 1982
56 Bonnie Tyler / “Total Eclipse of the Heart” 1983
57 Toni Basil / “Mickey” 1981
58 Culture Club / “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” 1982
59 John Mellencamp / “Jack & Diane” 1982
60 Young M.C. / “Bust a Move” 1989
61 Styx / “Mr. Roboto” 1983
62 Berlin / “Take My Breath Away” 1986
63 Devo / “Whip It” 1980
64 Paula Abdul / “Straight Up” 1988
65 Foreigner / “I Want to Know What Love Is” 1984
66 Depeche Mode / “Just Can’t Get Enough” 1981
67 REO Speedwagon / “Keep On Loving You” 1980
68 Public Enemy / “Fight the Power” 1988
69 R.E.M / “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” 1980
70 Joan Jett & The Blackhearts/ “I Love Rock N’ Roll” 1981
71 Rick James / “Super Freak” 1981
72 The Fixx / “One Thing Leads to Another” 1983
73 Nena / “99 Luftbaloons” 1983
74 George Michael / “Faith” 1987
75 Prince / “Little Red Corvette” 1983
76 Thomas Dolby / “She Blinded Me With Science” 1982
77 New Edition / “Candy Girl” 1983
78 Blondie / “Call Me” 1980
79 Human League / “Don’t You Want Me?” 1981
80 Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock / “It Takes Two” 1988
81 Cameo / “Word Up!” 1986
82 Squeeze / “Tempted” 1981
83 Prince / “Kiss” 1986
84 Lionel Richie / All Night Long (All Night) 1983
85 Robert Palmer / “Addicted to Love” 1985
86 Bow Wow Wow / “I Want Candy” 1982
87 Falco / “Rock Me Amadeus 1986
88 Chaka Khan / “Ain’t Nobody” 1989
89 The Pretenders / “Brass in Pocket” 1980
90 Tone-Loc / “Wild Thing” 1989
91 Katrina and The Waves / “Walking On Sunshine” 1983
92 New Kids on the Block / “You Got It (The Right Stuff) 1988
93 Gary Numan / “Cars” 1980
94 The Rolling Stones / “Start Me Up” 1981
95 Debbie Gibson / “Only in My Dreams” 1987
96 Men at Work / “Down Under” 1982
97 The Romantics / “What I Like About You” 1980
98 Bobby Brown / “My Perogative” 1988
99 Wang Chung / “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” 1986
100 Loverboy / “Working for the Weekend” 1981

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4 Responses to If I were on VH1

  1. Lex says:

    They include Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and don’t include Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening,” a far superior song.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I sincerely look forward to later installments of this. Although I’ve spent far too much time on this damn list already…

  3. TD in Seattle suburbs says:

    Prince and Madonna ahead of AC/DC’s “…All Night Long”? Knowing that this was for videos (thus making the following a moot point), the only song this could lose to would be Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. Glad to see INXS in there though. Great band.

  4. Michael says:

    Is it really possible that “Don’t You Forget About Me” is not in the Top 100 songs of the 80’s?

    IMHO< it's either Take On Me or the above for "most "80's" song of all time." Baffling.

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