TBT: The 80’s You Remember Never Existed

Keep the Fire Kenny Loggins

Luckily, your selective memory has protected you from things like the image above.

In a vintage fern bar somewhere in some small Florida beach town, there’s a forty-something couple in matching white polyester pants and Hawaiian shirts, bombed on Slippery Nipples and dancing to Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”. These two people are probably the only people alive who remember and enjoy the “real” music of the 80’s. I love it when people start reminiscing about all the great music of that decade, and proceed to name bands like Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, New Order, the Pet Shop Boys, or the Pixies. Because that simply was not, in reality, the music of the 80’s. Although it may have been in some people’s reality, particularly those people whose reality was shaped by dark dance floors and copious quantities of alcohol and other drugs.

But in the real reality, things were much different. A fact that is overlooked even in the erudite commentary of a piece like Justin Erik Halldór Smith’s Against Eighties Music, which features a picture of The Cure’s Robert Smith and references Stereo MCs, who didn’t really even break until 1993. No, the fact is that if – like me – you readily remember an endless stream of masterful electronica and epically brilliant alternative bands, you were probably doing what I was doing, which was hiding in a club behind a drug haze to escape the horror of the pop music that was REALLY dominating the airwaves and record sales. Below is a year-by-year look at the best-selling music of the 80’s. No wonder we stayed out all night dancing to the club music most of us remember, and then slept all day. We were just trying to avoid accidentally hearing this crap by accidentally turning on the radio or something!


Billboard Top Ten – 1980

The very first year of the decade is a perfect introduction to the horror that awaits us. Blondie is enjoying their last hit before breaking up, as is Pink Floyd, with the now 23-times-platinum The Wall. But dear God, look at the rest of that list! The Captain and Tennille? Olivia Newton-John? Bette Fucking Midler?

1 – Call Me, Blondie
2 – Another Brick In the Wall, Pink Floyd
3 – Magic, Olivia Newton-John
4 – Rock With You, Michael Jackson
5 – Do That to Me One More Time, Captain and Tennille
6 – Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen
7 – Coming Up, Paul McCartney
8 – Designer Music, Lipps, Inc
9 – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, Billy Joel
10 – The Rose, Bette Midler

Admit it though. You have a strange urge to pick up at least ONE of these tunes, DON’T you!

As a special treat, we’re adding number 11, so we have an excuse to include one of the real highlights of the 80’s, the Village People introducing Rupert Holmes performing “The Piña Colada Song”:


Billboard Top Ten – 1981

The horror fully takes hold. Thank you, Kool and The Gang for saving the airwaves from the otherwise relentless terror of the likes of Kenny Rogers, Rick Springfield, and REO Speedwagon. My apologies to those of you who still tear up when you hear REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You”.

1 – Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes
2 – Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
3 – Good Lady of Toronto, Kenny Rogers
4 – (Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon
5 – Jessie’s Girl, Rick Springfield
6 – Celebration, Kool and The Gang
7 – Kiss On My List, Daryl Hall and John Oates
8 – I Love a Rainy Night, Eddie Rabbitt
9 – 9 to 5, Dolly Parton
10 – Keep On Loving You, REO Speedwagon


Billboard Top Ten – 1982

Human League breaks into the top ten with their innovative (and never to be repeated) synthpop superhit. The fact that John Cougar appears twice on this list and Olivia Newton-John tops it sort of says it all, but one can’t help noticing that an aging former Beatle keeps showing up.

1 – Physical, Olivia Newton-John
2 – Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
3 – I Love Rock N Roll, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
4 – Ebony and Ivory, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
5 – Centerfold, J Geils Band
6 – Don’t You Want M, Human League
7 – Jack & Diane, John Cougar
8 – Hurts So Good, John Cougar
9 – Abracadabra, Steve Miller Band
10 – Hard to Say I’m Sorry, Chicago


Billboard Top Ten – 1983

Wow. Eurythmics! How eighties! This list is otherwise dominated by overproduced superstars entering their “still almost hip maturing artist” phase. I feel like I’m being generous here. By the way, did you know that Men At Work was successfully sued by the rights holders of “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree”?

1 – Every Breath You Take, Police
2 – Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
3 – Flashdance…What A Feeling, Irene Cara
4 – Down Under, Men At Work
5 – Beat It, Michael Jackson
6 – Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler
7 – Maneater, Daryl Hall and John Oates
8 – Baby, Come to Me, Patti Austin and James Ingram
9 – Maniac, Michael Sembello
10 – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Eurythmics


Billboard Top Ten – 1984

Thank you Prince, for breaking up the monotony of 70’s superstar revivals and supergroup travesties. Although it should be pointed out that Aztec Camera’s brilliant acoustic cover of Jump would have been impossible without Van Halen’s synth-drizzled version. Oh. Hi Boy George! Welcome to the 80’s!

1 – When Doves Cry, Prince
2 – What’s Love Got to Do With It, Tina Turner
3 – Say Say SaySay Say Say, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
4 – Footloose, Kenny Loggins
5 – Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now), Phil Collins
6 – Jump, Van Halen
7 – Hello, Lionel Richie
8 – Owner of a Lonely Heart, Yes
9 – Ghostbusters, Ray Parker Jr
10 – Karma Chameleon, Culture Club


Billboard Top Ten – 1985

Wait. What’s this? Tears For Fears and A-Ha? Are the eighties finally arriving?

1 – Careless Whisper, Wham!
2 – Like a Virgin, Madonna
3 – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham!
4 – I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner
5 – I Feel for You, Chaka Khan
6 – Out of Touch, Daryl Hall and John Oates
7 – Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears For Fears
8 – Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
9 – Crazy for You, Madonna
10 – Take On Me, A-Ha


Billboard Top Ten – 1986

Oh. Never mind. Although it’s always good to see a hard working R&B guy like Robert Palmer making a few bucks.

1 – That’s What Friends Are For, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight
2 – Say You, Say Me, Lionel Richie
3 – I Miss You, Klymaxx
4 – On My Own, Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald
5 – Broken Wings, Mr Mister
6 – How Will I Know, Whitney Houston
7 – Party All The Time, Eddie Murphy
8 – Burning Heart, Survivor
9 – Kyrie, Mr Mister
10 – Addicted to Love, Robert Palmer


Billboard Top Ten – 1987

Well well well. Looky here. The Bangles at number one! An accomplishment quickly rendered meaningless by #2 through #10.

1 – Walk Like an Egyptian, Bangles
2 – Alone, Heart
3 – Shake You Down, Gregory Abbott
4 – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Whitney Houston
5 – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Starship
6 – C’est la vie, Robbie Nevil
7 – Here I Go Again, Whitesnake
8 – The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby and the Range
9 – Shakedown, Bob Seger
10 – Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi


Billboard Top Ten – 1988

Um, hello eighties? Are you there? And look. Another damn ex-Beatle. 1988’s greatest gift to us is probably “The Rickroll Song”

1 – Faith, George Michael
2 – Need You Tonight, INXS
3 – Got My Mind Set On You, George Harrison
4 – Never Gonna Give You Up, Rick Astley
5 – Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns N’ Roses
6 – So Emotional, Whitney Houston
7 – Heaven Is a Place On Earth, Belinda Carlisle
8 – Could’ve Been, Tiffany
9 – Hands to Heaven, Breathe
10 – Roll With It, Steve Winwood


Billboard Top Ten – 1989

Here we are, the final year of the 80’s, and what do we have? One of the greatest bands of the 70’s at number one.

1 – Look Away, Chicago
2 – My Prerogative, Bobby Brown
3 – Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison
4 – Straight Up, Paula Abdul
5 – Miss You Much, Janet Jackson
6 – Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul
7 – Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler
8 – Girl You Know Its True, Milli Vanilli
9 – Baby, I Love Your Way / Freebird, Will To Power
10 – Giving You the Best That I Got, Anita Baker

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