Released: July 1987
Featuring a fistful of samples, this pivotal rap tune would be the foundation of a number of soul numbers including tracks from Soul II Soul and Enigma. But it was Rakim’s brilliantly humble rap that elevated this track into the realms of the truly legendary.
Released: September 1986
A shiny bauble of pure pop goodness from the fab four. Like the yang to 'Blue Monday'’s ying, this track was a tripped out love song to a strange relationship. Hooky’s bass was delicate and pounding and Bernard Sumner’s vocal line was deceptively boyish.
Released: July 1985
A goth love song? What next? Robert Smith’s beautiful slice of pounding acoustic-pop was a surging, multi-tracked work of wonder that continued the band's run of brilliant singles, following ‘The Love Cats’ and preceding ‘Close To Me’.
Released: December 1988
‘Buffalo Stance’ came along at a time when dance, hip-hop and pop were creating thrilling hybrids (see also 'Salt N Pepa's 'Push It' and Tone Loc's 'Funky Cold Medina'). Punk survivor Cherry sounded effortlessly in control as she rapped about her crew (based on the very real Buffalo crew), making the listener feel totally part of her world. And what a chorus.
Released: May 1984
Released as the lead single from his seminal Purple Rain album and film, the bass-free 'When Doves Cry' was a thing of graceful beauty. A slice of Freudian autography, the deceptively simple music was played by the man himself. A generation uniting number that would alter Prince’s career, confirming his place as a titan of 80s pop.
Released: June 1981
Unemployment, social unrest and racial tension powered ‘Ghost Town’, which caught the multi-cultural Specials at a politically febrile moment in time. The people of Britain were “getting angry”, and this was mirrored in the song's haunting production and sense of dislocation. More than a pop song, this was a brilliant piece of art-as-social-comment.
Released: October 1980
Talking Heads and Brian Eno created this most postmodern of tracks. David Byrne's genius lyric about melting away in suburbia (and the existential crisis that ensues) was one thing. But combining it with a gigantic gospel-tinged chorus the world could sing along to? That was the real master-stroke.
Released: August 1984
US label boss Seymour Stein said it was “the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ of the 80s,” and he wasn’t far off. Sounding like nothing else in the Smiths cannon, it paired Morrissey’s most painfully personal lyric with Marr’s most musically inventive soundscape (he later cited obscure disco songs as influences). The result was indie gold.
Released: April 1980
Released one month before Ian Curtis’ death, NME's original review called the song a “tombstone”. It eerily prefigured the future. Curtis’ lyrics read like a suicide note (“There’s a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold,”) but there's something weirdly uplifting about the way the song hurtles towards that final chorus.
Released: March 1983
The biggest selling 12” of all time was a pivotal moment in dance music. Mixing cold wave sentiment with the disco influence of Sylvester and Donna Summer, the result was a stunning explosion of drum machines, wibbly synths and Bernard Sumner’s no-nonsense vocal style. Nearly 30 years later, it still sounds amazingly modern.