Ah, the 80s. Whether you were donning your finest spandex and getting tiddly on Cinzano or putting on the leathers and devil-fingering to Guns'n'Roses, it'll still go down as the most diverse, eclectic and extravagant decade in recent cultural history. We had New Order and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, U2, Prince and Cyndi Lauper, Springsteen, INXS, Bananarama, Duran Duran and the list goes on. Here, however, we whittle down a decade of societal decadence and political decay into the 100 tracks that defined it. Words: Ben Hewitt, Matthew Horton, Priya Elan

90'Velocity Girl'

It wasn’t just a key song in the C86 tape movement, it was a key moment in Primal Scream’s career. ‘Velocity Girl’ was a great slice of vintage eighties jangle pop - a style and sound that the band would distance themselves from with ‘Screamadelica’ , but from the teen-misfit of the title to the energized bolt of the music, this was a perfect moment of 80s indie Britpop.

89'French Kiss'

The Triple X-rated nature of this track should not overshadow how absolutely vital it was to the nascent commercial dance scene. It would later become a building block of the ever-influential Chicago House movement. Perhaps its key trick was the slowing down/speeding up of the track mid song. A club anthem on a par with its natural predecessor, Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’.

88'Atlantic City'

As a storyteller, Springsteen is unsurpassed and so it was with 1982’s ‘Atlantic City’, with this particular tale pairing a musical sparseness with lyrical complexity. Filled with subtle references to the Mafia and the dangerous side of Vegas, it centered on the story of two young lovers on the run, which gave the track an added resonance.


Originally penned as an attempt to re-create the disco thrust of ‘Heart Of Glass’, with ‘Atomic’ Debbie Harry and keyboardist Jimmy Destri actually created something that was stranger still. Mixing spaghetti western guitar parts, a circular bass solo and lyrics that suggested complete nuclear annihilation, it was one of Blondie’s most experimental and jaw dropping singles.

86'House Of Fun'

Originally called ‘The Chemist Façade’, Madness’ most ridiculously happy tune was actually about the horror of going to the pharmacy to buy condoms for the first time. Appropriately enough, the song was anchored by some bright ska rhythms, Suggs’ nervy vocal style and a general sense of mischievousness which pervaded everything.


A brooding soul number that quaked with emotional turmoil, Cecil and Linda Womack’s biggest song was perhaps one of the saddest duets of all time, connecting a loss of rhythm with a loss of love. It would prove a natural fit for The xx ,who memorably covered the song years later.

84'Tainted Love'

A Number one in 17 countries, Marc Almond and Dave Ball stepped out the British avant-garde synthpop scene to produce something that was a pure pop statement of intent. The drama of Almond’s delivery went perfectly with the chilly brooding synth lines Ball had crafted. Their career would sidestep into darker territories subsequently, but this was their flushed, pop peak.

83'Sit Down'

Written by Tim Booth during a period of feeling isolated, the anthemic qualities of the track were picked up by students everywhere, as James became part of the Madchester scene and the legend of ‘Sit Down’ grew and grew. The youthful, Smiths-ian lyrics tapped into the universal sense of questioning that everyone could relate to. It became their trademark song, and for good reason.

82'She Bangs The Drums'

‘She Bangs The Drums’ saw the Roses tipping their caps to the ephemeral moments one has with a new sweetheart, with John Squire later comparing it to "staying up til dawn and watching the sun come up with someone you love.” The penetrating bass, and the ‘endless summer’ vibe of the music, expressed these emotions with perfect eloquence.


Depending on what mood Dave Lee Roth was in, the charismatic vocalist used to tell journalists that ‘Jump’ was either about a man standing on a ledge about to… or a stripper. Whatever the truth was, it gave them their first US Number One and successfully managed to reinvent Van Halen as a synth-using pop rock band who weren’t afraid of massive, massive hooks.

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