Released: August 1988
We could talk about Axl’s screeching vocal, of course, but there’s only one real reason why ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ is beloved of so many air-guitar aficionados, and that’s Slash – both with the lurching arpeggios of his intro and the subsequent face-melting, wah-wah-wanking solo that’s amongst the best fretwork of all time.
Released: February 1982
A song about the colonization of Native Americans in the New World could have been as dreary and sanctimonious as fuck, but Iron Maiden spit in the face of anyone who dare call them preachy. Instead, ‘Run To The Hills’ is an adrenaline-fuelled rush of conflict, all galloping drums and hammer-blow guitars that makes the blood-thump of battle ring in your ears.
Released: October 1988
A sampling masterpiece from Bomb The Bass, aka producer Tim Simenon, who lays down an explosive foundation of bowel-slackening beats before weaving in random snippets of sound from, amongst others, Thunderbirds and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly over the top. Knitting together so many disconnected sounds could have sounded haphazard and slapdash; instead, it’s impressively seamless and skilful.
John Hughes’ classic teen flick gave ‘Pretty In Pink’ a new lease of life five years after its initial release – and also spurred the Furs into re-recording a fluffier, more radio-friendly version of the track, too – but it’s the jagged original that still sounds best, with Steve Lilywhite’s visceral production lending a dark edge to the strop-pop guitars.
Released: June 1989
A slinky, sexy R&B number that pissed a load of people off when they bought Soul II Soul’s debut LP ‘Club Classics Vol. One’ and discovered the album only had an a cappella version of the track. In fairness, it’s not hard to understand their gripe – as soulful as Caron Wheeler’s vocal was, it’s the steely, condensed-breath production of Jazzie B and Nellee Hooper that’s its real calling-card.
Released: December 1989
The genius of Graham Massey and his Manchester raveheads was to take the standard building blocks of techno and house, before twisting and molding them into something else entirely. And so it was with ‘Pacific State’, a mixture of sexy saxaphone skronking and brain-burrowing bass so relentless it could worm its way into your noggin and stay there forever more.
Released: May 1984
‘Two Tribes’ was the follow-up to the censor-baiting ‘Relax’, but it was a monster hit in its own right – even though it didn’t induce the same foaming-mouth fury as its predecessor, it still topped the UK charts for nine weeks. Holly Johnson still wasn't playing it safe, marrying lyrics about the Cold War to the foreboding march of a keyboard being bashed to within an inch of its life.
Released: October 1987
Robert Smith aims solely at the heartstrings with a gorgeous, gilt-edged guitar line and some of his most unabashedly starry-eyed and soppy lyrics to date. The purists may grumble it lacks the blackened romanticism of The Cure at their most cutting edge, but it’s nice to hear old Bob sounding so utterly besotted – even if his paramour does, admittedly, go AWOL by the time he’s done.
Released: May 1981
Splutters into life with the wheezing strains of a dusty harmonica before exploding into a full-blown yarn of a dwindling country economy in which times are hard and work is scarce to find. Yet there’s something about The Boss’s masculine-yet-balmy vocal that’s immensely comforting; dreams are dashed, the river runs dry, but somehow, everything is gonna be alright.
Released: March 1980
A worthy first UK Number One for Messr Weller, ‘Going Underground’ will forever be one of The Jam’s finest cuts. Propelled by war-hammer drums and the bomb-like stomp of him thwacking his guitar, it also has some of the Modfather’s finest lyrics to boot as its righteous damnation of the Government’s nukes-over-society policy cemented his place as one of the UK’s greatest social commentators.